Wicked Wednesday-Back to the Future

Jessie: Still basking in the glow of yesterday’s release, Murder Flies the Coop!

astronomy-3217141_1280As we finish up our series exploring variants of “back” I hope you won’t mind if I tie it to historical mysteries as a way to keep celebrating my love for my Beryl and Edwina series. Those books are set in the the early 1920s and it got me to thinking about things we take for granted now that people in that time would have been surprised by. So, Wickeds, what do you think people living almost a hundred years ago would find shocking or incredible about life as we know it? Or, which things have come into being during the course of your own lifetime that are the most surprising to you?

Sherry: I love Edwina and Beryl so much, Jessie. I think they would both be amazed and delighted by search engines! There is so much information available at our fingertips. Some day I should count how many times in one day I look something up on my phone or computer. With that wealth of information comes the great responsibility of parsing what is true and what isn’t. But I constantly marvel at our ability to look up who that actor is on the TV or what houses in Croatia look like. It’s heaven!

Julie: Huge congratulations, and an even bigger thank you for the latest Beryl and Edwina adventure, Jessie! You glowed the first time you told me about this series, and I’m so pleased that readers are able to enjoy them. The time period you are writing about is a tough one–post WWI England. I loved Agatha Christie novels, and have done a lot of research on her. WWI had a huge impact on her. She was a nurse during the war, which led to her interest in potions and gave her the expertise on poisons she used in her books. The advances in modern medicine are incredible, especially compared to a hundred years ago. As for my lifetime, I’m with Sherry. Smart phones blow my mind, and the web as it exists now can be challenging, but what a connection tool.

Barb’s grandmother, Eleonore Kimbel Taylor in the 1920s

Barb: First of all, congrats again on Murder Flies the Coop, Jessie. I am so excited about this series. All four of my grandparents were born around the turn of the last century. When I knew them in the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s, they were thoroughly modern people. The changes they had seen in their lifetimes were astonishing. Telephones, television, airplanes, and the ubiquity, if not the actual invention, of home electricity and private automobiles. How could all that happen in one lifetime? And yet time marches on. I have often reflected how much my grandfather would have HATED Google. He kept a diary all his adult life, ultimately they spanned more than six decades. Whenever there was a dinner table discussion like, “What year was that hurricane?” “What year were there three huge snowstorms in a row and the snow was six feet high?” “What year did the Verrazano Narrows Bridge open?” He would get out his diaries and give us the answer, which made him the Greatest Living Authority on All Things. Now that everyone at the table could get the answer from a device they can carry in a pocket, it would drive him crazy.

Edith: I am delighted for your new book, Jessie! It’s such a great series. My paternal grandmother Dorothy Henderson Maxwell, born in 1899, was always ahead of her time. She was the first woman to drive halfway across the country in an automobile when she was only eighteen, and I just discovered her very roaring twenties wedding picture.  As a woman skilled at navigating (she always drove the family car, not my grandfather), I think she would be fascinated by GPS and Google Maps. So much information at the ready.

Grandma Dot 3
Edith’s grandmother, Dorothy Henderson Maxwell, in about 1920, at her wedding.

And my father, who fake-broadcast his own radio show when he was nine? He would be all over podcasts! That, and Google.

Liz: Congrats, Jessie! So excited for you. I think smart phones for sure, and really just the breadth and depth of the technology advances overall. It would seem like a different planet to them, I’m sure!

Jessie: I love hearing all your responses! I think Beryl would be surprised at the reality of an international space station. I am certain she would want to visit it but she would be surprised it had arrived so early in time. She also would be very interested in the sorts of improvements made to outdoor clothing with all its extra warmth and or moisture repelling properties. And, as she is a horrid cook would delight in the invention of the microwave. Even she could heat things without burning them  too often!

Edwina would likely be captivated by the internet and all the available information. She would adore Ravelry ( a sort of Facebook for knitters and crocheters), online garden forums and Pinterest. I also think she would enjoy audiobooks as she does so love to listen to radio dramas on the wireless when she thinks Beryl isn’t paying attention!

Readers, which changes since 1920 do you think are the most impressive, impactful – or egregious?

24 Thoughts

  1. I think the biggest change is the shocking loss of civility. The entire concept of noblesse oblige appears to have been lost along the way.

    1. The tone of discourse lately has been harsh in many quarters. I think that is one reason traditional and cozy mysteries as well as historical ones are proving so popular right now. They give us a break from the fray!

  2. Jessie, what a great question! I have been researching the World War 1 era, and there are many similarities to current society: rise in populism, racial discord, shakeup in social classes, immigration issues, women fighting for agency. It’s a fascinating period…

    To answer your question about impactful changes–radio and refrigeration would be my two as I try to write from that period. People must communicate by letter or telegram, learn news from actual newspapers, etc. Every meal is made fresh or from canned, salted, cured, foods. Talk about work intensive, just to prepare a meal!

  3. First, a thousand congratulations Jessie!
    I think that blow dryers and dishwashers would be mind boggling. Just the thought of not needing a whole evening of staying in to “do my hair” may be a treat. Wait, that could be a double edged sword. It could also take away a perfectly good excuse for staying in if you wanted to avoid something or someone. Still, I’m sticking with my choices.

  4. Hmm, life is so different now from the 1920s it’s hard for me to imagine which change would be the most shocking. But I have to think Beryl and Edwina would be startled to discover so many people in the world jumping online this morning to read about them here on the Wickeds blog!

  5. I read somewhere that the amount of change in the last 100 years is astonishing, given the “normal” rate of change in society. Or something like that.

    Modern medicine gets my vote. So many things people just took for granted as “the way it was” can now be treated or cured. Amazing.

    1. What a thought-provoking response! One of the things I was really interested in for the first book was the advances in modern medicine for the time period because of the injuries sustained during the war. Plastic surgery, for instance, moved ahead by tremendous leaps and bounds. But the sorts of things that are routine now would surely shock them!

  6. Think they would be surprised as how fast you can find information in so many different avenues. At the same time, I think they would be distressed to find out how little folks actually communicate face to face. There is something great that is lost through personal talking – a connection never made maybe. Now instead of going to see the Grand Canyon we see photos and videos and drone film and think we have seen it. Nothing is like seeing and hearing the world through our own God give senses.

    I also think they would be amazed that you can order anything from meals to clothes by mail and have it delivered the next day. Although it can be very handy at times, I think we lose the anticipation of waiting for something which makes getting it all the more exciting. I mean what would Christmas be it if came and was completely over in less than 24 hours!

    They might also be surprised at the speed the world seems to be turning. Everything has to be instant or it’s of no use nowadays. What happened to stopping to smell the roses and stopping to take the time to visit someone just to check on them and give them a smile – which might be the biggest thing they need right at that moment.

    Yes, we have come a long way, but in some ways isn’t the old way better?
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  7. My first thought is about the advances in medicine: organ transplants, joint replacements, spinal fusion surgeries, antibiotics, etc. So many families lost babies and children to illnesses that are now curable within a short time. When one of my sisters was about two years old she became ill. When the pediatrician told my mom what she had, my mother nearly fainted; she had a little brother who died from the same problem. The pediatrician assured her that my sister would be fine, because there are now medications (this was around 1953) that cure it within days. He told her that the common cold was more deadly to children than whatever my sister had. (I don’t remember what it was.) Sure enough, she bounced back within days.

  8. Congratulations, Jessie, on your latest release. So happy for you. Loneliness probably kills more people than we realize. I think the advancement is communications, especially social media, which while a mixed bag, has done a lot to help people feel less isolated.

    1. More and more data is coming out about loneliness lately and the effect it has on health. I think social media is one of those things that can be harnessed for good or for evil and it is nice to spend time daily woth the good part here with all of you!

  9. The internet was the first thing I thought of. After all, it’s how I found all of your books and am able to keep up with so many pen names.

    But in the last 100 years, man has walked on the moon. That would blow away anyone who was alive in the 1920’s for sure.

  10. This had me thinking about the events that have happened in my life time. The Depression, Pearl Harbor, to mention a couple. War two brought about social changes as women were needed to work during the war and went back to being only homemaker. I feel the automatic washing machine and it companion is the biggest gift to woman. The dishwasher was also important. Schools are now changing along with social norms. I and still upset that it alright to answer a phone when talking with another person.
    Congratulations Jess on you new book.

    1. Thanks, Betty Louise! And I agree about phone manners! I tell my kids that just because they are digital natives does not mean they have a right to be rude to people who are not!

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