Quiet Desperation

A century ago wasn’t just any old time


Things were different one hundred years ago. For example, no one wore flip-flops to the airport.

However, there were no flip-flops and few airports. That makes a difference.

They had a presidential inauguration in 1921 too, but not like ours, that’s for sure. The television ratings were terrible. In fact, not a single person watched it on TV.

A nickel if you can tell me who was sworn in.

Hint: He didn’t make it through his term. His pump quit on August 2, 1923.

In 1921, no one on Earth had heard of the Beatles. Imagine that. Or In-N-Out.

But in September of that year, the first White Castle hamburger restaurant opened in Wichita, Kansas.

“The Kid,” starring Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan, was the second highest-grossing film of the year.

Lana Turner was born on February 8 in Wallace, Idaho, a mining town that was known in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth for its “permissive approach” to vice. Wallace’s current population is less than 800.

The Spanish flu had just ended the year before. It infected about one-third of the world’s population.

Until the 1920s started to “roar,” live and recorded music options were limited. It would have been a bad time to be a teenager.

But help was on the way.

Fiszel Czyz was born on March 28, 1921, in Motal, Poland. His brother Lejzor was born in 1917.

The Czyz family moved to New York then to Chicago. Fiszel and Lejzor changed their names to Phil and Leonard Chess and co-founded Chess Records in 1938.

Chess specialized in rhythm and blues as well as jazz and early rock ‘n’ roll.

Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Dale Hawkins, Howlin’ Wolf, the Flamingos, Bo Diddley, Sonny Boy Williamson and John Lee Hooker all recorded for Chess.

But “Suzie Q” (Dale Hawkins) was a long way off in 1921.

“The Kid,” like all films released in 1921, was silent.

The first feature-length “talkie” wasn’t released until October 6, 1927.

However, by 1931 extraordinary advances had been made in the film industry. That was the year “Frankenstein” was released; a 100% film on Rotten Tomatoes in 2021.

Major League Baseball was being played in 1921, just as it will be again soon.

The 1921 season ended when New York Giants beat the New York Yankees in Game 8 of the World Series.

That year, Babe Ruth led MLB with 59 home runs. Bob Meusel — remember him? — was second on the list with 24.

Ironically, the Baby Ruth candy bar was introduced in 1921. But it was not named after the baseball player.

It was named after President Grover Cleveland’s daughter.

Famous people born in 1921: John Glenn, Rodney Dangerfield, Nancy Reagan, Sugar Ray Robinson and Steve Allen, the first host of “The Tonight Show.”

One hundred years seems like a mighty long time, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s not.

“The Maltese Falcon” (movie) is 80 years old. “Dark Side of the Moon” is 48. The final original “Peanuts” comic strip was published 21 years ago.

How is that possible?

Albert Einstein said, “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” That makes (almost) perfect sense to me.

The president’s name? Warren Gamaliel Harding. He was 57 when he died.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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