The Daily Gazette is reprinting excerpts of the late Larry Hart’s long-running column, “Tales of Old Dorp.” Today, Hart remembers a big scandal and a big speed record from February 1921. This column excerpt originally was published Feb. 28, 1978.
Two news items that appeared in the Gazette toward the close of February 1921 were very much a part of the times — but today, 57 years later, we might find them a bit incredible.
One had to do with a veteran dancing master of St. Louis who announced the closing of his dance hall to all public dances “until public tastes and manners improve.”
Professor F. Lester Caindenin declared that public dancing in the past several months had become more immoral and indecent than at any time in the last 30 years. This was the Prohibition Era, the beginning of the Roaring Twenties, and though things would be getting a lot livelier in a few more years, the dancing master was already fed up.
One of his grievances was against the “toddle” or “shuffle” craze, which he said drove decent people off the dance floor. He also said the time had come when dance hall proprietors “must keep a guard at their door to watch “spooners” in automobiles at the curb.
“When young girls come to dances with their bodices cut as low and their skirts as high as possible, and the young men enter the ballroom with whiskey flasks on their hips and a pint or two under their belts, and when such dances as “toddle” and “shuffle” are tolerated, the result is something hard to picture in printable terms,” Caindenin said.
On the morning of Feb. 24 came the big news, in front page headlines, that eight bags of mail had been delivered from San Francisco to New York in a cross-continental mail record time of 33 hours and 20 minutes, beating the old record by two hours and 40 minutes.
The record delivery was accomplished by a team of four airplanes and crews.
Another relay team tried it at the same time but came to grief when one plane crashed at Elko, Nev., killing the pilot, and two others were forced to land because of bad weather.