20 February 2008

The Love Cycle: The Struggle Buggy

By Delia DeLeest

The automobile changed more than the way Americans traveled. When it became something more than a toy for the rich, but a common means of transportation for the masses, society's morals and mores changed along with it.

Previously, when a young man came courting, he would arrive at a young lady's house and sit chastely in the parlor under her parent's watchful eye. Maybe they'd play a game of charades or sing songs around the piano. Due to the restraints of horse and buggy, night travel was dangerous. The roads were dark and unreliable. Nice young ladies would never risk their reputations being alone with a man in such conditions.

Then the automobile roared onto the scene. All it took was the spin of a crank and a car came to life, a turn of a key and it was off. No longer did a horse's needs and demands come first. A Studebaker didn't mind sitting alone in the dark for hours on end, it could travel many more miles than a horse...and it had a backseat.

The post World War I modern girl experienced a much different life than her mother before her. In many cases, she worked outside the home earning her own money, sometimes actually leaving home to live in the city. She didn't have to report her whereabouts to her father and, as a "modern," she took advantage of that fact.

She would roll her scandalous, flesh-colored stockings down below her knees, perm her hair and rouge her cheeks, all in preparation for a night on the town with her sheik at a gin joint to down a little coffin varnish, all the while puffing on a ciggy. Before you knew it, she'd be in a car, many times behind the wheel--she was a modern girl, remember. A car was commonly called a struggle buggy because of the activity that went on inside, something a horse would never stand still for. Neither would the girl's daddy, if he only knew. But he didn't. A car took young people to places they never could have gone to otherwise. Ballgames, dances and picnics in the park were all easily accomplished if you had a Lincoln or a Model "T" at your disposal.

The automobile gave unmarried people a freedom previously unheard of in modern society. Society would never be the same.