This page contains Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and answers regarding liesure activities
and media-related items
in the 1930s time period. The questions are organized by sub-category as best as possible.
Q: What can you tell me about 1930s/1940s music?
A: There was a lot of big band music as well as Dixieland
and Jazz. Singers like Nelson Eddy and Jeanette
McDonald, Rudy Valee (very popular in
their time). The 40's came in strong with
the Big Band Sound as well as blues, jazz and dixieland. Tommy Dorsey,
Artie Shaw, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, The Dorsey Brothers,
Sammy Kaye, etc.
Jitterbugging was the dance of choice to the
fast tunes. There was romantic slow songs
The 40's gave birth to many war songs such
as There'll Always be An England. White Cliffs
of Dover. There used to be a lot of the big bands
that played at the dances at the Palace Pier on
the Toronto waterfront. We had sing songs on
our picnics at Kew Beach and sang our golden
oldies. "You are My Sunshine" "Smile The While"
"A Nest, The West and You Dear" "Someone's In
The Kitchen With Dinah" to name a few.
Q: Where can I find music from the 1930s?
A: Any good cassette and CD shop would carry some of
the old stuff from the 30's. Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway
are some examples. They have digitally reproduced a lot
of the old stuff.
Look also elsewhere at the 1930s.com website - the Big Band Trio puts out great jazz.
Q: Do you remember some songs that might have been sung around a camp fire?
A: Most of the music
I remember was at sing songs at the park near the
beach These songs were oldies such as "Down By
The Old Mill Stream," "Shine On Harvest Moon,"
"I've Been Working On The Railroad," "You Are
My Sunshine," "The West A Nest And You Dear,"
"I've Got Sixpence," "Old Black Joe,"
"Someone's in The Kitchen With Dinah," "Margie," and "Smile The
While" to name a few.
a campfire is sort of a lost art. To even have a radio
in this era was a luxury to those who were hit badly
by the Depression.
Q: What was radio like back then?
A: Radios of the 30"s were not the most sophisticated
and the programming left a little to be desired. However,
it was all we had to entertain ourselves and it
most certainly stirred our imagination while listening.
There was a few "Soaps" at that time, and weekly
serials for kids such as "Jack Armstrong The All American
Boy". "Let's Pretend" was another favorite and I believe
this aired on Saturday mornings. "Singing Sam" was
another popular program and it would come on about
11:45 a. m. My folks would listen to this most days
and then the noon news. You must be aware that
these were very lean years and there were not too many
big productions. We did not glue ourselves to radio like
the people of today watch TV However, once the war
broke out in 1939 we went from newscast to newscast
keeping track of what was occurring on the front.
Q: What can you tell me about 1930s movies?
A: Movies were all black and white. Romantic stories
such as "Maytime" with Jeanette MacDonald and
Nelson Eddy. There was Charlie Chaplin movies
some westerns and there was always a moral to
the story and no bad language.
More: Movies before the 30's were really in their infancy and
there was no audio. In the 30's "talkies" became
possible and certainly drew large audiences. They
were black and white and not as long as movies are
today. In 1939 the epic movie "Gone With The Wind"
hit the screen in color and is still a favorite with many
The language was clean and there was no sex in these
movies, but somehow, they were well received and
Q: What sort of stuff did newspapers cover?
A: Newspapers covered local events from accidents
to local government - Everyone was trying to fix the
economy and the break out of the war was essentially
the beginning of financial recovery.
Want Ads - Much the same as today in many respects
but on a less grander scale. Houses for rent (our house
rented for $8 a month) Articles for sale used and new.
Very little employment offered as jobs were scarce.
The reporting was far more responsible than today and
certainly there was no use of bad language or being
indiscreet to sell copy.
Q: What products were advertised?
A: I do not recall any products that were advertised a lot.
One comes to mind though for Masons 49 which was
a cough medicine. It was sung (cant relate to what tune)
and went like this:
Stop that cough, stop that cold in the nick of time,
Now don't delay, it doesn't pay take Masons 49
Wheeze and sneeze and even freeze, you'll soon
be feeling fine
So stop at your drug store and be sure to ask for
Silverwoods Dairy had a slogan
"You can whip our cream but you can't beat our milk."
Check magazines of the period such as Life or Saturday Evening Post if you want
to see the ads of the time.
Q: What effect did the book "How to Win Friends and Influence People" have?
A: The book "How to Win Friends and Influence People"
did have a great impact on people because it had a
common sense approach to human relationships both
personal and in business. Some people have great talent
but lack confidence in the area of social intercourse and
that can produce a sad waste of knowhow. Carnegie was
able to suggest simple but positive ways to improve a
person so that he was functioning to his full potential.
The 30's were very desperate years financially and this
book was received as a ray of hope that people could forge
ahead once again and claim a little corner of the world. by using
the innate power that is within all of us. I know this book is used
by some companies today when they single out the potential of
some workers that just need to work on how they present themselves.
at work and in various social situations., I would add at this point that
there was acute unemployment in the 30's and basically people
were just grateful if they could find any work at all.
Sports, Games and Toys
Q: What sorts of toys and games existed?
A: Boys would have mechano sets, toy
metal soldiers. They would make their own scooters from
orange crates with roller skate wheels on the bottom.
Girls would have dolls made of plaster, doll carriages.
We played pick up sticks, and bolo bats were quite
popular. We had dish sets and tables and chairs but
most of all we had imagination to invent our own playtime.
Tag, hide and go seek, Simon says to name a few. Sleighs,
bicycles, wagons. No trendy stuff like there is today but
we managed to have fun and good times.
More: There was a lot of unemployment and very little money
to spread around. Therefore,
kids depended mostly on their imaginations to create
games etc. There is no comparison with the 30's and
the life kids lead today.
There was no TV, very few
movies (not easily afforded) no computers with Nintendo
games to entertain. We had a few favorite radio programs
that we listened to. Reading would include comic books
and we traded these with our friends, as well as what was
called "big little books" These books were about 6" square
and very thick and a favorite with the guys.
Bolo bats were
a popular toy the cheaper one costing 10 cents and the best
25 cents. We made the most of what we had and actually were
reasonably happy. Another toy my brothers made was a
scooter made from oranges crates with roller skate wheels
on the bottom.
See also other answers below.
Q: What kind of sports did people play?
A: Baseball, hockey were played in the 30's -
but certainly not on the organized money level
of today. Boxing and wrestling were well
At the school level we played baseball, volley
ball, ring toss - and that is about it.
Q: What were some toys for kids?
A: To start with there was very little money for toys in the
30's and people had a very hard time to eke out a
living. But people were inventive. Boys would carve
out guns from wood. Scooters were made by dads
with an orange crate box resting on a 2 x 6 board
and roller skate wheels on the bottom. There was
wooden wagons for boys and wooden table and chair
sets for girls.
Boys who were lucky enough would get
a mechano erector set. This was a set of metal slats
with holes placed strategically to accept a nut and bolt.
You could design a crane or other types of equipment.
Girls would play with porcelain faced dolls but most of
the time we played on the street.
We would have games
of baseball, hide and seek and any other game we could
invent. Bolo bats became quite popular and we would save
any pennies we could scrounge to buy one. Cheap ones cost
10 cents and the deluxe model cost 25 cents. We had a lot
of comic books (used) and traded them with our friends. There
was what was called Big Little Books and they were quite
popular. Red Ryder BB guns were another specialty for the
boys and it is a wonder that more kids did not get their eye
shot out. You could buy a big bag of metal army soldiers for
a very low price. And to top it all off we would get games of
checkers or chinese checkers , snakes and ladders and
these games are still around today.
I do not recall any silly putty in those days and most toys were
made out of wood or metal. No plastics back then.
Q: What were some of the fads in the 1930s?
A: The biggest fad of these years
was to survive. Not many jobs or money around
Many people had been wiped clean by the Crash
of 29 so these years were just put in as best we
could. The songs we sang at gatherings were
"Down By The Old Mill Stream" comes to mind
"The West, A Nest And You Dear" to name a
couple. We learned these at a young age and I
still remember the words etc. Music in general
was pretty subdued - maybe a little Dixieland,
What I am stressing here is that frivolity was
non existent and these were also the years that built
up to The Great WW of 1939.
Q: How about some of the fads for kids specifically?
A: The fads for children probably were based on their good
imaginations. In other words we made up our own games
as again there was no money for entertainment. The Bolo
bat was very popular and cost 10 cents or a deluxe heavy
wooded one for 25 cents.This is the only fad I recall.
I guess when our city decided to give out money and clothes
for relief of the poor would have had a decidedly big effect
on kids. We were not as aware of world situations, or even
our own situation, as kids of today are. This allowed us to be
kids without the stress of today. However, in 1939 the world
went to war and this was a very trying time for kids and parents
alike, due to the young men being shipped overseas.
Q: What were urban/suburban lifestyles like?
A: Suburban lifestyles in the 30's was mostly hard, hard work
to make ends meet. People that owned farms at least
could count on eating and a lot of the workers on these
farms were migrants looking for employment. These
were not easy times for anyone that was a blue collar
Urban lifestyles were equally as hard. Jobs were very
hard to come by and the really needy were helped by
City Relief supplying them with chits for food and clothing.
Houses, for those who could afford them. ranged in and
around $2000. My family rented mostly because we just
did not have any extra money. We paid $8.00 a month
rent for a two story house. Farms were oftimes leased
and sometimes owned. To price these homes would
naturally depend on the acreage. Itis hard for me to give
you comparisons because lifestyles in this decade were
not even close to what we enjoy today.
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Last updated: May 5, 2005