John D. Bridgers M.D.
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Chapter 14 - "The Roaring Twenties"

"The Roaring Twenties" were not only a wild time socially, but economically, politically and spiritually as well.

Many factors led into this.

Of course, the decade started out as a time of unbridled optimism.

The Great War in Europe had been terminated, and for a brief interval the world hailed Woodrow Wilson as a savior; thought, indeed, a war had been fought to end all wars, and that the world had been made safe for democracy.

The League of Nations had been founded in Switzerland yielding visions of a world government.

But politically this house of cards tumbled when isolationism reared its head in the United States and Wilson suffered a stroke which left him in the White House out of action.

Other problems arose which could be traced to the nation's attempt to prohibit uninhibited thirst.

Spirituous liquors crossed the Atlantic with the first settlers and had ever been a perplexity to free people.

For the first white in the northeastern colonies, whiskey became the medium of exchange just as did tobacco in the South.

One of the first crises George Washington had to handle as president, when the capital was still in Philadelphia, was to lead an armed force west into Pennsylvania and put down "The Whisky Rebellion."

There distillers were resisting paying tariffs on spirits they had brewed.

In time, as cities grew larger and as the population spread across the continent so had spread the saloon and public drunkenness.

As women gained political clout they fought what they deemed a threat to families, and during World War I the Volstead Act was passed by Congress outlawing the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages.


So came the era of prohibition, but as always has been with the nature of people, pleasure would not be denied.

The criminal element organized to bring alcohol, by hook or crook, to the thirsty masses.

Thus did "rum-runners," "boot-leggers," and "speak-easies" all become part of life in these United States -- lawlessness was rampant.

During this time the American consumer and provider alike made deficit spending a way of financial dynamics.

They discovered how indebtedness could fuel ownership and money making.

The twenties were a time of seemingly unprecedented prosperity.

Paper fortunes were being made "buying on the margin," and the average consumer and investor went into hock for all types of goods, property and services.

This was another house of cards that had to fall, and tumble it did on a catastrophic day in the autumn of 1929 when the stock market crashed.

The ensuing depression rapidly became pandemic and the whole world was not only down economically, but had lost its morale.

Very few escaped the ravages of the depression, but for those of us who depended on newspaper publishing for our succor, the duress was delayed.

Merchants and businesses, at first, tried to bolster their sagging fortunes by increasing the advertising and promotion of their trade, so for The Daily Reflector hard times didn't hit 'til a year or so after they had come to plague other enterprises.

But our time came and all of us were hit, but particularly "Crick" and Ruth.

Not only had they been living beyond their means, but had been "living off their fat" -- they had depleted the reserves of Ruth's seemingly copious inheritance.


They had lost their delightful and elegant home and soon moved into Grandmother's rental house which was between ours and that of "Big Dave: and Virginia.

So now our family enclave was complete:

  • Grandmother and "Little Hennie" at the head of the block at Evans and Ninth;
  • The Bridgers just behind;
  • "Crick," Ruth and their girls next door; and
  • "Big Dave," Virginia and their boys on the far corner.

In the same general time period "Crick" ended up in the local hospital.

I remember visiting him there with my folks.

He was flat on his back, but I was told  he had "fallen arches."

This sounded fishy to me, even with the limited insight of a school boy, and I figured the family thought I was either stupid or gullible.

I found out later that he had developed early liver trouble ostensibly from the bootleg whisky he had been drinking, and his doctor told him that he would likely die if he didn't stop drinking.

And he apparently straight away went on the wagon until Roosevelt had the country repeal the 18th amendment and legalized the sale of alcohol again.

A weak beer was brewed with only 3.2% alcohol content, and "Crick" did start drinking this to some extent.

This repeal was done mainly to reduce crime, but it was also a good move politically.

The big thing Roosevelt did for the country in the beginning was to raise hopes -- maybe even 3.2 beer gave some folks a rosy glow.

Much, much later I have learned something else about "Crick's" hospitalization -- these days when my feet hurt it wouldn't be too amiss to go to bed.

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John D. Bridgers M.D. by Carl Bridgers is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Copyright ©