A Birthday Trip Outside Of My World

Emma Schepers, Guest Writer

I remember when Henry Ford came to our small town in Gary, Indiana to present his Model T. My little brothers, Charles and Edward, pushed through the crowd and stood on their tippy toes to see above the taped off area. I stood with my head up tall in the back with my father and other small town farmers. I thought my maturity level exceeded other kids. The model T remained the most exciting thing that had occurred since hearing the Panama Canal had opened.

Growing up on a family farm my whole life, I never heard much about the news and economy. I did know one thing though, we struggled financially. My father would remind me every time I wanted a birthday party or a new pair of shoes, so you can imagine the enthusiasm that rushed through my fingertips as I opened the neatly written letter my aunt sent me. It read,

Dear Betty,

Happy early birthday, Darling, it feels like ages since I’ve got to spend time with my favorite girl. You know how I love to travel, so for your eighteenth birthday, I want to take you to New York with me to explore Central Park and Time Square. I plan to do lots of shopping, so pack your bags! I’ll see you in a week.

Much love, Aunt Doris

I jumped off my bed and nearly launched our old barn cat Whiskers off. After explaining to my dad that this opportunity would never happen again, and giving him my best puppy dog eyes, he agreed to let me go. A week later, Aunt Doris drove up our dusty driveway in her bright red LaSalle. When she saw me, she sighed looking me up and down. I didn’t exactly know why. Maybe because I’ve gotten taller? As we left, my little brothers chased the automobile until their legs couldn’t carry them anymore.


The first thing we did when we arrived in the city, was check into the Waldorf Hotel. I’ve only read about it in books and magazines but, oh boy, magnificent chandelier hung gracefully from the ceiling. After many hours of shopping and aunt Doris buying me very fancy clothes, (I would never wear back home), she wanted me to meet an old friend of hers at a bar, but first she insisted that I change my raggedy old clothes into my new dress and scarf.

When we arrived at the bar, I witnessed many women AND men waving signs around outside. Some signs said “Women deserve to vote” and “We want equal job opportunities.” I didn’t know what these meant. Growing up I always did the same labor as my brothers. I had never seen such as protesting back home in Gary. As we went inside, I saw lots of girls in short scandalous dresses with  bright lipstick dancing and drinking. They were edgy but I was intrigued. My eyes widened as I asked aunt Doris, “woah, who are they?” she replied simply with the word, “flappers.” This word I had never heard of, but I was eager to learn about them. I had explored all of Times Square by now and yet this was still the most exciting thing I had ever seen. I wanted to get to know women and find out why and how they were allowed to do such a thing. I started talking to a woman by the name of Ruth and pretty soon I lost the sight of Aunt Doris. This woman’s life was amazing. I had never been introduced to feminism but it seemed different. I enjoyed it because my whole life I’ve worked on my father’s farm working in the fields. A stereotyped “men’s” job had been my life since I was able to walk. I was fascinated by Ruth’s point of view and wondered what my life would be like if I was a flapper. She pulled me out of my seat and began to dance with me. She spun me around and everything was blurry except her. I liked that feeling but when I saw everyone starring in my peripheral I began to pull away but Ruth wouldn’t let me.

As we were dancing, the music suddenly stopped. The owner yelled and commotion started. People were throwing beer and raising their hands. I didn’t hear what the owner had said but instantly a rush of fear flowed through my veins as I screamed for Aunt Doris. I ran outside into the street and peered a bank across the block. I recognized her blue blouse and started running as fast as I could without losing sight of her short figure. She told me about the stock market crash but I didn’t quite understand. I began asking question after question and she explained that since my father owned a farm this downfall in the economy would effect him the most. Prices of crops had dropped by almost half and my fathers farm would potentially end up in a foreclosure. Tears ran down my face and I missed my family more than ever. My time in New York had been divergent, but it was time to head home.




“The Roaring Twenties” History, A&E Networks, 8 November 2010,  https://www.history.com/topics/roaring-twenties/roaring-twenties-history

Pop Culture: 1920” census, Census History Staff, 18 July 2017, https://www.census.gov/history/www/through_the_decades/fast_facts/1920_fast_facts.html

“10 Word Shaping Events That Happened in 1920” mental floss, David W. Brown, http://mentalfloss.com/article/65436/10-world-shaping-events-happened-1920