There’s probably not a person on the planet who hasn’t imagined being transported to another time period on the planet. We Chicks certainly have, and today we’re sharing what period in history we’d return to if we could hop into a time tunnel…
The gaslights are glowing, dear readers. At this very moment, I am packing my little steamer trunk (the one plastered with all those cute, colorful stamps) for the Era of All Things Victorian. I’ve always had a not-so-secret fascination with this time period, specifically in New York City and Boston. (I’ll take those trips across the pond to London and Paris, though). I used to live in a city neighborhood of old brownstones, and around this time of year, when darkness began to fall earlier, I loved to peer into the lovingly (and expensively) restored grand homes with their little iron gates, sparkling chandeliers, and elaborate foyers on my way home from work. The woodwork alone was to die for, not to mention the cozy libraries with leather furniture and massive oak bookshelves. And although you may not see me wearing Victorian-style clothing at conferences, I admit to one drawer of extremely frilly blouses and an original Victoria’s Secret white nightgown and camisole (from back when they sold them in the 80s–when Victoria was that Victoria). I also have two pairs of lace-up boots, one black and one brown. (They remind me of my ice skates, so I’m pretty fast and don’t need a hook). And, of course, I’m very eager to spend extra-hot summers at those grand hotels one reaches by train.
BUT. Underneath all the pretty architecture and manners and seeming romance (my copy of What Would Mrs. Astor Do? literally arrives today, thanks to Amazon Prime rather than horse-and-carriage), I know there were so many reasons this time in history is called The Gilded Age. I won’t even go into them, because they are a real downer–but see The Good Old Days: They were Terrible! if you need the rundown. And as my great-grandparents were Irish immigrants, I’m sure I would have been living in the maid’s quarters with a tiny brass bed and not much else–although that has a certain appeal…All aboooooard!!!!
There are two periods in history I would love to visit: Southern California in the 1960s and New York in the 1920s. Different as both may seem, they actually have something in common: a carefree confidence and enthusiasm eventually snuffed out by disaster. In SoCal’s case, the Manson Murders. In New York’s, the Great Depression.
But I would have loved to enjoy a mid-Sixties BBQ in a home near a SoCal beach, traveling there on empty freeways. And oh, to be in Laurel Canyon during 1967-68 as a hippie chick, lying on the grass listening to Crosby, Stills and Nash jam with Joni Mitchell. Then there’s Gatsby’s Roaring Twenties. Motoring out to Long Island to the massive estates dressed in gorgeous beaded flapper clothes. (Notice I’m quite wealthy in my time travels.)
There are other eras I’d love to visit – the era of silent movies, for one – but for now, these two are on top of my leader board. Did I use that right? Sorry, I’m busy picking out my beaded dress for a Charleston and Champagne party at Oheka Castle.
I assume time machines are pricey and I hate to travel solo, so I’d hitch a ride to the past with some sister Chicks. Like Leslie, I’m only interested in a quick trip and not a permanent move to the past. I have no inclination to live in any era without air-conditioning, indoor plumbing, and anesthesia.
I’d go to Egypt with Leslie just long enough to visit a grand archaeological dig and ride a camel. I’d leave her to soak up 1930s’ Alexandria and catch a large plane with lots of leg room to join Kathy in Hollywood. We’d dress to kill and enjoy cocktails with Myrna Loy and William Powell — if only in a grand movie palace. Should we get tossed trying to crash a cast party or a crime scene, I’m sure Kathy and I could come up with snappy repartee of our own, assuming we’d had a few drinks.
I’d leave Kathy with Bogie and booze, and ask Ellen to pick me up in LA on her way to the 1960s. While we’re there, we might as well travel to Ellen’s home state and catch a bit of Woodstock. El and I would arrive wearing flowers in our hair. And I’ve seen the video, so I’m taking along a rain slicker and galoshes.
Call me a wet-blanket, but I wouldn’t go back to live in any previous time. I feel that I was born and raised in an amazing sweet spot of history and location: after WWII, at a time when America was prosperous and kids still played in the streets and rode our bikes around the neighborhood like some juvenile street gang with baseball cards in our spokes. Yet I was born late enough that I’ve been able to fully embrace the computer age and enjoy the glories of the internet, word-processing, cell phones, and Netflix.
But the primary reason I wouldn’t go back in time is because, as a woman and a lesbian, I appreciate how utterly different my life would have been had I been born even ten years earlier. I was in high school when women’s lib and gay pride first started gaining traction in the United States, and by the time I was an adult, those brave pioneers had forged a path that allowed me to be who I am without anywhere near the fear and discrimination they had suffered.
(Okay, but if I could just temporarily visit a past time and location and then return to the present as soon as I wished? Well, that would be 1930s Alexandria, Egypt. I’ve had a thing for that time and place ever since reading Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet back in my early twenties.)
I grew up watching Bogart and Bacall, Hepburn and Tracy, Grant and Garbo at a Portland repertory theater, so I’ve often imagined myself in the 1930s and 1940s. Not the real 30s and 40s, mind you. The movie versions of that era, complete with snappy dialogue, bar carts, gorgeous hats, and hair that does that swoopy thing on the side. In fact in high school, my bedroom was plastered with classic Hollywood posters and I’d force—er—invite my friends over for parties where we’d dress up as our favorite classic film stars. It was grand. Well, I thought so, anyway.
My parents came of age in the 40s so I know that the real deal was a world apart from that celluloid fantasy. But still, I’d love to shimmy into a smart suit and exchange a few quips with Bogie. Bonus points if a body was involved.
It seems weird, but I’d like to go back to the Depression and hang out with my grandparents. I was lucky to know them until they got into their 80s and died, so it’s not that I have this yearning to meet them or anything. Rather, I remember all the stories Grandma used to tell about how much fun they had in the 1930s. I was fascinated by this because all I know about the Depression are those grim black-and-white photos where everything looks so … grim. But Grandma used to regale us with stories about how they’d get together with their friends, all of whom were in the same boat economically. They’d pool what few resources they had and create a potluck party worthy of the Mad Hatter. They’d drink, carouse, play cards, and laugh until the wee hours. I’d ask, “But weren’t you poor?” She’d say, “Sure, but everyone was!” There was nothing to buy, nothing to prove. They all looked out for one another. In the early 1930s, they lived in Ajo, Arizona in a mining town. Grandma ran a little diner and Grandpa worked for the mine in some clerical capacity. They were poor, but had jobs, as everyone in this company town did. I’d also ask Grandma about all the secrets about her former life that she took to her grave.
Readers, what period in history would you time travel to? Drop us a note in the comments below!
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