Fun in the Snow, 1921

A group of office workers from the Southern Pacific Railroad headquarters in San Francisco on a weekend trip to the snow; taken in Truckee, California, February, 1921. That’s the base of the Donner Party monument behind them.

I’ve spent many hours of the past two weeks scanning and sorting my Aunt Dorothy’s huge accumulation of photographs. It’s taking even longer than I expected because, thanks to modern computer technology, I can now see details that would only have been visible with a magnifying glass a few years ago. I end up trying to revive faded or underexposed prints that were tiny to begin with, and saving faces and clothing details. Also, I am trying to put names to as many faces as possible. So, while I am time-traveling through thousands of images, I will share a few “postcards from a time-traveler.”

Dot Barton (my Aunt Dorothy,) with Jen, Spurr, and Dot Robinson at Truckee, 1921.

Dot B. is wearing a very hairy sweater, and she’s borrowed a huge Tam-o-Shanter from her friend Dottie Biggs.

Dottie Biggs and Dorothy Barton in Truckee, 1921.

It was only by enlarging this section of the photo that I saw the shawl and huge tam on the woman standing behind them.

The woman in the middle is Dottie Biggs, wearing a long, thick sweater. 1921.

Dot Barton and Lloyd Muller in 1921. She is wearing the full-legged knickers that many women wore for sports. Her sweater is not too different from those of 1917. He’s wearing his cloth cap turned backwards…. like a baseball cap in the nineties.

Gladys Spurr and Dot Robinson in 1922.

My Aunt Dorothy, nicknamed Dot, worked in an office with Dot Robertson, Dot Robinson, and Dottie Biggs. It must have been a relief when Adeline and Gladys were hired!

For those who live where snow is a normal event, I should explain that it only snows in San Francisco a couple of times per century.  Some people “go to the snow” on the mountainous eastern side of the state every winter — just to see snow. It seems odd today to think a sweater would be enough protection when the snow is falling, but that’s what all these women are wearing, along with knickers or riding pants.

Gladys Spurr and Dot Robinson face the cold in sweaters and wool twill riding pants. 1921.

Dot Barton’s long sweater has pockets big enough to hold her gloves. She has probably laced gaiters over her legs, with turned-down socks.

Dottie Biggs in a sweater vest over a dark shirt, plus a long, thick sweater. And that wonderful hat…. 1921.

I can’t get enough of that Tam-O-Shanter — and her attitude.

A giant Tam-o-Shanter — very chic in the late teens and early twenties. Notice that she’s wearing earrings and … is that lipstick?

It’s lovely to see the fun they had — almost a hundred years ago.

Why did they want to sit on the roof? Probably because it was there.  Donner Lake, 1921.

Because these young people worked for the SP railroad, they probably took advantage of cheap tickets for weekends at Russian River (in the summer) and at Truckee or Lake Tahoe in the winter. The train from San Francisco through the Sierra Nevada mountains still goes through Truckee on its way to Reno, Nevada and points east.

The “gang” from the SP office may be thinking of some liquid refreshment….  Especially that guy wearing just a shirt and bow tie over his sweater. Sadly for them, Prohibition went into effect in January of 1920. But the sign on the rock was still there in 1921.


Filed under 1920s, Hairstyles, Hats, Makeup & Lipstick, Men's Sportswear, Menswear, Sportswear, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers

10 responses to “Fun in the Snow, 1921

  1. You did do good job. I could see winters fashion!

  2. looks so gorgeous, I was given a 1950s wool ski sweater and I cannot wear it inside for long as its too warm. its a double layer of fine knit and very dense. I also find that any of my vintage cashmere sweaters are far better than new ones – however, I would still prefer my wool and down coat if I was out in the snow!

  3. Ah, the days when people smiled with their lips AND their eyes! These folks look so genuine and in touch with creating their own happy moments. Thank you for sharing photos from my favourite pre-television era! A real treat!

    • Thank you for defining what it is that has me spending hours with these strangers from the past! My aunt was one of four children in a working class family; she expected to earn her own living — which may be true of all the twenty-somethings in these photos. The 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote in the U.S., was passed in August of 1920 — just 6 months before this party in the snow. The easy friendship between the men and women in this group — which I take for granted — would still be impossible in many parts of the world today.

  4. Such treasures! Documents of fashion and California life as well.

  5. Mary Gibson

    Hello, I’m a fan of your blog.  This post is especially interesting because i volunteer up at the Tallac Historic site at South Lake Tahoe.  I have done an exhibition at the site that features clothes that features clothes that visitors might have worn up at the Resort from the 1860s to about 1940.  I have not found such rich photos for winter play !!!   Thank you,Mary GibsonCostume Consultant and HistorianVolunteer at Tallac Historic Site 

    • I’ve written to you to say I have lots of photos from Tahoe in 1931 — I would love to share them. Many can be seen here, but I didn’t connect them to Tahoe when I was writing about them a few years ago.

  6. I love seeing how these young women put together their snow outfits! Those early 20s cardigans were thick and heavy, and with a couple of other layers much have kept them quite toasty!

  7. Pingback: Trying to Put a Name to Forgotten Faces | witness2fashion

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