Saturday, July 21, 2012

The 1920's in Brooklyn & Beyond

     I always thought my maternal grandmother Eleanor was born in 1920.  MaMa's death certificate shows 1920 and that's what the family thought but the 1930 census has her listed as 12 years old and living with her grandmother in Brooklyn.  At first I thought MaMa's grandmother wasn't sure of her own granddaughter's age but then I checked the 1920 U.S. Federal Census.  In 1920, my grandmother was a 2 1/2 year old girl living with her parents, Samuel and Josephine Davis and five month old brother, Daniel in Brooklyn, NY.  So, my 2nd great-grandmother was correct and my grandmother was actually born in 1918.
     Welcome to the Roaring Twenties.  World War I ended two years ago, the year of my grandmother's birth and the times are changing...  you are not partaking of any alcoholic beverages unless you know where a speakeasy is located.  it is the prohibition era and the ban on brewing and selling alcohol officially began January 16, 14920 when the 18th amendment went into effect.  The music these days is jazzy and the women are modern.  With their short hair and short dresses, cigarettes and sassiness; the flapper is born.
     In 1920, Warren G. Harding was elected president of the United States.  A loaf of bread cost 12 cents and a bottle of milk was 33 cents and was delivered by the milkman.  A train ride to Coney Island was only a nickel where you could buy a Nathan's Famous hot dog for just 5 cents.  Samuel George Davis was a chauffeur for a gas engine factory.
     Within the next few years, Calvin Coolidge took over as president following the death of Warren G. Harding in August of 1923 and he served until the end of the decade.  Meanwhile, the Davis family moved from their apartment in Brooklyn to Poughkeepsie which in up in Dutchess county, NY.  The city directories for 1923, 1924, and 1925 show Samuel living at his parents' address on South Cherry Street and his occupation is listed as auto mechanic.
     The 1925 New York State Census has Samuel Davis living with his wife Josephine and four children: my maternal grandmother Eleanor, Daniel, Samuel, and Dorothy.  Samuel is head of household yet this home was actually owned by his parents Daniel J. and Flora and their names are last on the list.
     Josephine Davis, who was listed with her husband Samuel and living in Poughkeepsie according to the 1925 NY State Census is also listed with her parents and younger siblings in Brooklyn.  Why?  Was she visiting her parents at the time the census was taken and therefore was included on that household?  Was she included with her husband because she was his wife and Poughkeepsie was the primary residence?  I had heard that she and her husband had a troubled marriage so was she staying with her parents?  I can't imagine her leaving her children behind.
     In 1927, Josie was back in Brooklyn.  I don't know if she was visiting again or still there but that's where she was when her youngest child, Dorothy died from severe burns caused by the kerosene heater.  Dorothy died at the age of 3 in Kingston Avenue Hospital in Brooklyn on the 28th of January and her baby brother, William was born the very next day.
     The Davis family was divided by the end of the decade.

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