Throwback Thursday: Partying Through the Decades (Slideshow)
July 17, 2014
Your grandparents used to do what?
Okay, so this is probably technically how your great-grandparents got down, but still, a rent party is pretty genius. In the 1920s, cash-strapped tenants in Harlem would hire a jazz band then pass a hat to pay the musicians. Anything extra went towards apartment rent, which gave rise to New York’s iconic jazz scene during the Harlem Renaissance and helped lots of people avoid eviction.
Speaking of Prohibition-era house parties, they also gave rise to the “cocktail” as we know it. While the upper-crust toured Europe, where partying was cheap and alcohol was legal, the folks back home got creative with their bathtub gin. Next time you enjoy a martini, thank the temperance movement that made them necessary.
No joke, watching a man sit atop a flagpole was considered a spectator sport in the 1920s. In 1924, Hollywood stuntman Shipwreck Kelly accepted a dare to sit on a flagpole for 13 hours. Within weeks, crowds of hundreds of spectators were gathering to watch men attempt to break Kelly’s record. One man sat 12 days, another 17, but finally Shipwreck Kelly reclaimed his record when he lasted a whopping 49 days at the top of a flagpole in front of an audience of 20,000 people. Um, congratulations?
The classic board game may seem old hat now, but in the Depression era, Monopoly was a way to escape the cash-strapped reality of day-to-day life. The game was released in 1935 and sold 20 thousand copies the first week!
The 1920s and 30s saw the rise and fall of the dance marathon, affairs in which couples would dance for days or even weeks to win cash prizes. A quarter gained admission, and audiences could watch as long as they liked. The longest, held in Spokane, WA in 1935, lasted two months!
In the early 1940s, it suddenly became very trendy for young college men to swallow goldfish in front of large crowds. You read that right; they swallowed live goldfish. The fad started when a Harvard freshman named Lothrop Withington (no really, that was his name) swallowed a goldfish on a dare. For some reason, the media took an interest and soon young men were gulping goldfish across the country, so much so that many towns made the weird party trick illegal.
Post-WWII co-ed campuses were odd places where men and women were educated alongside one another, but integration between the sexes was heavily monitored. Panty raids on girls’ dorms were a protest against rigid curfews on campuses. Late at night, hoards of young men would descend upon a girls’ dorm, sacking the rooms and stealing underwear. To be fair, young women of the time didn’t seem to mind; they often threw their lingerie out the window to young men below.
Phone Booth Stuffing
In the late 1950s and early ‘60s, phone booth stuffing was a thing. The fad started in South Africa and quickly became a competitive sport on college campuses across America, Canada, and Britain. The only objective was to jam as many people into a single phone booth as possible. One Canadian group managed to fit 40 people into a single booth!
In the 1970s, Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Tim Rossovich was America’s favorite tough guy, so tough, in fact, that he was in the habit of eating beer mugs and light bulbs in front of spectators. Soon Harvard students were following suite, staging glass-eating exhibitions for classmates. For obvious reasons, authorities shut such displays down, and the trend didn’t last long.
Blame college campuses again, because the 1970s trend of running naked through a crowed area as a political protest can be traced to sunny colleges in Florida and California. Pretty soon, streaking was a fad across the nation, common not just on university quads. Practitioners streaked out of airplanes with parachutes and even across the stage at the 1974 Oscars!