This week, I tried my best to dig deep into Louie’s life as a young woman in the early twenties and her meeting of my great grandfather, James (Jim) Loney. I still haven’t dug up the story of how they met, but I have a contact from my mom and grandma that I hope to tap – the daughter of Louie’s beloved cousin Edna. I did a huge amount of (mostly fruitless) online research and made a visit to the Minnesota Historical Society. Paired with this research, my fiance and I went on an appropriately 1920s date to two places that would have been around at the time if Louie had been in St. Paul.
Now Lois (the third spelling I have found of her name – Lowie is on her birth certificate, but all the records created by my geneology-oriented relatives spell it Louie, and now Lois which is how it’s spelled on her marriage license) married James Loney, the son of a small-businessman in Duluth. Jim’s family was relatively well off and his parent’s marriage had a full announcement in the newspaper that was included in my mom’s family history folder, so I was very hopeful that a visit to the Minnesota Historical Society’s microfilm room might uncover a similarly descriptive announcement. They had the Duluth News Tribune there and a very nice woman helped me figure out how to use the microfilm machine to view it. I rolled through the April issues of the newspaper, reading all sorts of hilarious headlines like “Days of Surefire Success in Moviedom Has Vanished; Only Good Pictures Wanted.” There were also a lot of advertisements and get-healthy-quick articles that felt rather familiar – not much has changed in terms of consumerism between the 1920s and now.
There was a society page in every issue, with news about the women’s clubs events and the doings of various important families. I thought it was very funny because it read a lot like Facebook, with short posts reporting things like “Mr. and Mrs. Whoever returning from Florida on Wednesday, where they spent the winter” and “Mrs. Someone hosted a party on Friday to friends and family to celebrate her daughter’s birthday.” All it was missing was gratuitous photos of food, babies, and cats. My hopes of finding Louie’s wedding in this section of the newspaper sank as I realized that only a certain echelon of society was really featured here. I began to wonder if she’d have an announcement at all.
After searching through a weeks worth of society pages for her wedding announcement (I found Laura Ingalls’ engagement announcement, for what that’s worth) I thought I’d better check the Wanted Ads. I had noticed there were death announcements in that section as well as the local news pages and so I thought maybe marriage announcements might appear there too.
I found them, finally, in the Saturday morning edition of the Duluth News Tribune April 18, 1925 on page 13.
I did my very best Mario pose – you know the one, when you defeat the boss of a level and you get the star – when I found this. I was a little sad that there wasn’t a description of the wedding or where it was or what it was like, but I was pleased nonetheless. I’m eagerly looking forward to getting the copy of their marriage license in the mail and I might head back to the microfilm room to search some more for them.
Meanwhile, Kyle and I went on a date to DiGidio’s, the oldest continuously running restaurant in our neighborhood. The idea was that we would go to dinner and then get drinks in an homage to the typical 1920s date. We’ll do a couple other dates throughout the year because dancing and movies were also typical and there’s awesome historical places in town to do both. So keep your eyes out for those.
The 1920s reflected an era where courting practices changed tremendously and dating as we understand it today came into vogue. According to 1929’s Middletown: A Study in American Culture, the invention of the automobile had much to do with this change. “Buggy-riding in 1890 allowed only a narrow range of mobility; three to eight were generally accepted hours for riding, and being out after eight-thirty without a chaperone was largely forbidden. In an auto, however, a party may go to a city halfway across the state in an afternoon or evening, and unchaperoned automobile parties as late as midnight, while subject to criticism, are not exceptional…”
Dating was often an outing to dinner, a movie, or dancing and during Prohibition, may or may not have included cocktails. Now, I’m not certain what Prohibition was like in Duluth and I’m also not sure what my GG Loney’s point of view was on it, but part of the “problem with youth” that many people pointed out in the 1920s had to do with condemning their indulgent behaviors, especially in the areas of sex, drinking, and general behavior. Young people in the ’20’s questioned the social customs of the past and made space in their own societies for experimentation in all kinds of ways. Was my Great Grandma Loney one of these “wild youths”? Well, I can’t say. But I do know she had bobbed hair.
Not only do I highly enjoy the food at DiGidio’s, but I figured it would be a nice homage to Jim Loney’s own alleged bootlegging side hustle. You see, Jim’s job was a driver. He’d drive loggers up the shore of Lake Superior in these big, old trucks to work in the logging camps. It wouldn’t have been entirely unreasonable to imagine that he took a detour to Canada to bring in some bootleg liquor while he was up there. But I can’t verify that story. Yet.
Afterwards, we planned to go to the Commodore, a newly refurbished hotel bar that was in fact around during the 1920s. F. Scott Fitzgerald actually lived in that hotel for a while and it was from that hotel that he and Zelda departed for the hospital when their daughter was being born. Plans fell through, so I thought I’d save that outing for another time. But then, yesterday when we went out for a beer after my visit to the Historical Society, we ran into some friends and ended up going there.
We had cocktails named after Zelda and Fitzgerald and – after snaking a table from a group on their way out – sat in the lobby lounge and enjoyed watching the many different groups of people who had come to the Commodore for a costume dinner filter in and out. So many paper-thin pinstripe suits and sequined headbands. As for ourselves, we were pitifully under-dressed, our hats the only thing to redeem us. That’s how it goes when the visit is impromptu. Next time, we will be sure to be dressed to the nines.
Through the whole visit, I really questioned whether Lois and Jim would have ever come here, even if they’d had the chance. It would have been quite the society place to go and if the newspapers in the microfilm room taught me anything, it was that the upper echelon was not to be mingled with. Every wedding announcement included some sort of evaluation of whether the bride or groom was an outsider to the community. I like that now, anyone can go to the Commodore, even wearing a hoodie and jeans, and as long as you can pay for the (surprisingly affordable) drinks and snacks, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a good time.