Throughout the previous month we learned how children played from the early 20th century into the 21st century. Children always found a way to play no matter their circumstances. Whether it was with a toy, game, or just their imagination, creativity abounded with siblings, friends, and strangers alike.
Can we adults say the same? Or are we too wrapped up in our “to do” list at work and home? Do we routinely say, “I just don’t have the time.” Well, maybe it’s time to make a change and let the kid in you free for awhile.
Wonder how adults played throughout the 20th century? I am really curious how we size up today with our ancestors of the early 20th century. Let’s journey down our own leisure time memory lane to see how our ole time toys and games reflected the play signs of the time.
One other question to ask is “How were we, as adults, also influenced by the toys, games, and play provided for us as children?” Just like the children of the 20th century, adults were significantly impacted by the exploding technologies and inventions coming their way. From the first air conditioner invented by William Carrier in 1902, then the airplane Kitty Hawk along with the Model T by Henry Ford, this was just the beginning within the first decade. From these few, people became more mobile and leisure together with travel became the destination for many.
According to the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) course offered for teachers (https://edsitement.neh.gov/launchpad-having-fun-economics-leisure) titled, Launchpad: Having Fun: The Economics of Leisure (created October 18, 2010), “By 1900, there were more than 29 million people in the American workforce including men, women, and children. Americans worked an average of 59 hours per week and usually received Saturday afternoons and Sundays off. Many companies provided unpaid leave to their employees. How do you think Americans might have spent their leisure time a century ago?” Some examples of the first decade of the 20th century were bike riding, carriage rides, football teams, bathers in the surf like in Atlantic City, even a roller coaster, Loop the Loop in Coney Island, fishing in the Adirondacks, and May Pole Dancing in Central Park, New York.
In another course offered by the NEH, Having Fun: Leisure and Entertainment at the Turn of the Twentieth Century [https://edsitement.neh.gov/lesson-plan/having-fun-leisure-and-entertainment-turn-twentieth-century#sect-thelesson, source: “The People at Play,” World’s Work (1902)], “In a time of profound social and cultural change, the increasingly mechanized urban environment left many feeling anxious. The construction of parks in urban areas, the recommendation of physical exercise as a way to ward off stress, and the rise of spectator sports became part of the leisure landscape in the United States. Vaudeville, dance halls, and motion pictures became popular, while new modes of travel allowed Americans to escape to mountain and seaside resorts.”
Although many of the early century’s mode of leisure, games, and toys for adults continued into the 20th and today, such as card playing, weekend band concerts in the local park, buggy rides into town by our more rural folk, and more, the new inventions and their innovative applications started our nation on an adventurous leisure path that never before existed.
One creative venue actually accelerated all the many ways adults began to play in the early 20th century and beyond. In the next article, this venue will give you something to sing about . . . hint, hint!