Ollie in the snow, February, 1931. Notice her mannish tie and jodhpurs, and that great knit scarf and patterned socks.
I’m combining these nineteen thirties’ vintage photos of friends enjoying the snow with my annual reminder that the holiday season, with gatherings of far-flung friends and relations, is the perfect time to spend an hour going through old photos with your oldest (and young) friends and relatives. It’s a time to remember those who are gone, celebrate their good times, laugh over the fashions we wore, and — while you’re at it — to put dates and names and comments on the backs of the photos with a pencil or acid-free pen!
My mother in Yosemite, 1930. “Finally enticed the big fellow with sugar lump — got my fingers nipped.”
This picture was taken before my parents were married, and long before I was born. My mother died when I was eight, but I get to know her a little better when she ‘speaks’ through old photographs.
And, of course, I love looking at the clothes!
Sisters, about 1930. Both have dressed for the snow in wool jodhpurs, wool socks, boots, shirts, neckties, knit wool caps, and matching, brushed wool sweaters in different colors.
I know that those jodhpurs were made of heavy, tightly woven wool twill, with many hard-to-fasten buttons down the leg, because my mother still had hers in the 1950s, and I wore them. The twill was so tight that they were almost waterproof.
Weekends in the Snow
In the nineteen twenties and thirties, the automobile — and the train — made it possible for office workers like my aunt and my mother to take weekend trips to “the snow.” Snow almost never falls near San Francisco [just three times in the last century,] but the Sierra mountains were only a few hours away. These photos show groups of friends and co-workers, on trips to Truckee, Tahoe and Yosemite between 1929 and 1931. (If the picture had a processing date on the back, that is the date given, although photos were not always developed the month they were taken! You waited until the whole roll of film was used, which could be weeks later.)
“This sled meets train and takes you to [Tahoe] Tavern. Horses have bells on them, and everybody sings Jingle Bells.” Written on back of photo. 1930.
[You can still take Amtrak from the San Francisco Bay Area through Truckee and the Lake Tahoe Area, to Reno and points East. It’s a great alternative to driving in the snow, and you can fully enjoy the scenery — and spare a thought for the thousands of Chinese immigrants who built that awe-inspiring railroad through the Sierra Mountains.]
This postcard shows the Tahoe Tavern in 1930; my mother wrote “our room” pointing to a window fringed with icicles at lower right.
Postcard of Tahoe Tavern mailed in 1930.
Tourists watching a dogsled race in Tahoe, dated February 1931.
Most of the spectators are dressed for the city, not for skiing. Tahoe was an easy weekend getaway by train in the nineteen twenties and thirties. You could make a few snowballs, have dinner and drinks with friends, and be home the next day.
These photos of my family and their friends show that some people “went to the snow” often enough to justify buying an appropriate outfit, but others just wore what they already had, like “Dip,” in his office slacks and hat (and round tortoise shell frames, like Harold Lloyd.)
“Dip” and Ollie, Feb. 1931.
In this photo. . .
Jonnie and Ollie, February 1931. Ollie looks warm. Jonnie looks cold.
. . .we can see that Ollie is wearing a late 1920’s suit jacket — with nifty double patch pockets — over a sweater and shirt, with tweedy golf knickers, and a different wool scarf. It’s possible that the knickers and jacket were a set; you could buy three matching pieces — jacket, skirt, and knickers — in the 1920’s. Jonnie, on the other hand, looks like he’s wearing his normal, mild-climate work clothes. Brrrr.
My Uncle Holt sometimes dressed for a weekend in the snow as if he were heading for the the golf course:
Is he dressed for snow or golf? 1929 to 1931.
He was a bit of a dandy — a soldier who had his uniforms tailored for him — and here he looks like a silent-film movie director:
Holt in a suede jacket, March 1931.
Here, Holt is sandwiched between his wife and sister-in-law; you can see that the two women have matching striped sweaters. My aunt had several 1930’s pieces in her cedar chest — including wool socks –with a color scheme of cream, burnt orange, and dark olive green; I wouldn’t be surprised if those were the colors on her sweater.
Dot, Holt, and Toots. Circa 1930.
I love Dot’s three-color checkerboard socks. In this photo, we can really see how shaggy those brushed wool sweaters were:
A shaggy brushed wool knit sweater; photo from 1929 to 1931.
Notice that ties were de rigueur.
Jonnie and Ollie, Feb. 1931. Neckties required.
Len, Ollie, Holt, Toots, Charles, and Jonnie. March 1931.
In our T-shirt world, the idea of skiing or sledding in a necktie is bizarre. But it wasn’t always so.
“Dot” at Tahoe, around 1930. Starting in the early 20th century, American women wore jodhpurs and neckties to celebrate freedom of movement that was previously only for males.
Charles, Dot, Toots, Ollie, and Holt. Circa 1930 – 1931.
Now, dig out some of your “Mystery photos” to share with your family and friends before the new year gets busy.
(P.S. That tiny “Oliver Hardy” moustache was always ill-advised on my tall, thin father (at left); he told me he shaved it off in a hurry once he saw “that Hitler fellow” wearing one. Whew.)