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Cornell in the Twenties

In Their Own Voice... student thoughts from the era

Sylvia Bernstein, Class of 1922 and Frances Wexler, Class of 1923

Sylvia Bernstein Seaman and Frances Wexler Schwartz wrote a novel, Glorious to View, about Cornell and Ithaca in the 1920's. The novel, ca. 1955, was never published but a typed manuscript exists in Kroch Library Division of Rare and Manuscript Collection. Excerpts from the first chapter describing the era are below.

It was the time before you had ever seen the imprint of a lipstick on a bathroom towel. [page 8]

Skirts with slits fell to the top of high-laced shoes, swankily advertised by Franklin Simon [a fashion catalog] as "boots". You wore shirt-waists of georgette crepe if you weren't wicked, but wanted to convey the wrong impression... [page 8]

Girls didn't use liquor, as prohibition had not yet become a dominant force in American life. [page 8]

It was just after the armistice which suspended hostilities for twenty-one years. [page 9]

It was still prior to the water-closet school of James Joyce. [page 9]

You still ordered a drink called Moxie. [page 9]

You were just about to eat an Eskimo Pie. [page 9]

The only zipper you had ever seen was on your grandfather's tobacco pouch. [page 9]

You hadn't yet been aerated with air-conditioning. [page 9]

Depression was a state you were in, on a Saturday night, when you didn't have a date. [page 10]

And it was the time when you could say you either liked a play or a book, or you didn't like it, without referring to its social significance. [page 10]

Tamar's family were not totally reconciled to her going to Cornell. But she was to learn that families, like nations, accept a fait accompli. However, they gave her parting gifts, aniseed cookies, a pink-striped flannel nightgown, an electric grill, a pair of expensive white kid gloves, and a large Kewpie doll. [page 10]