“The more things change the more they stay the same.”—proverb

Fast cars, women’s rights, communication innovations, concerns about the environment are all Twenties issues—the Roaring Twenties that is. Ironically, they also are among social and political issues U.S. citizens share a century later.

As we enter a new decade, it is interesting to look back to see where things were 100 years ago. World War I had just ended and change was in the air. In 2020, the U.S. is projected to have more than 333 million citizens, but in 1920 the population was 106,021,537, and folks were leaving rural areas and moving to the big city, where life was hopping.

 Model T’s were rolling off the Ford Motor Company assembly line in Michigan, leading to building of new roads, service stations, garages and motels. The 19th Amendment to the Constitution passed in 1919 guarantying women’s right to vote. Many had white-collar jobs and new technologies, such as the washing machine and vacuum cleaner, freed up time from the drudgery of housework. Since then we’ve come a long way baby. Today women head corporations, hold seats in Congress and are running for president, although strides in vacuuming haven’t advanced much.

The Roaring Twenties were typified by advances, such as mass production and the use of autos, telephones, the radio, movies and electricity, as well as the iconic “flappers” who bobbed their hair, wore short revealing dresses and danced to Jazz Age music in illegal speakeasies, where they smoked cigarettes and drank banned alcohol.

The 1920’s and 2020’s have a lot in common. Prohibition during the1920’s banned the making and sale of alcohol, and after WWI ended there was a pervasive fear of communism, and people were anti-immigrant. Instead of vamping, the 2020’s opens with debates over the use of vaping and cannabis, as well as concerns about immigration and socialism. Today’s cell phones have evolved from a “party line” operated at a central switchboard where one could “twitter” gossip throughout the community; Western Union telegrams were the e-mails of the day.

 In the 1920’s, factories and homes switched from coal power to electricity as hydroelectric dams were built. Growth in urban areas was accompanied by environmental problems including disposal of sewage in water ways and oil pollution in harbors that threatened migratory fish.

The Final Word…Futuristic predictions for this decade range from the maybe possible to the ridiculous: self-driving cars on the road; virtual reality becomes a major industry; putting a man (or woman) on Mars; companies hire apes and other animals as employees; personal helicopters; telepathy and teleportation; mail sent by rocket, and the letters C, X and Q being eliminated from the alphabet. Without C and Q, my first name would go from Jacqualine to Jaualine. How does one pronounce that?

It’s enough to make you yearn for the good old days. Or as poet Ogden Nash put it: “Progress might have been all right once, but it’s gone on too long.”