Just what is needed — a Flapjack with Ukelele

Ever wondered what a flapjack is? The Advertiser of Adelaide gave us the run-down when it reviewed “Stella Dallas” on Thursday, 30 September 1926 — a silent film about modern girls and boys.

Flappers, the female of the species, and flapjacks, the male counterpart, have their innings galore in “Stella Dallas”. Boyish bobs, shingle cuts, fanfare trims, in fact, all manner of modish, up-to-date hair cuts are in evidence with the girls. Balloon trousers, flannels, blue serge coats, ukeleles, and canoe paddles are the fashion hints followed by the boys.

It seems that it was all hair for the girls and fashion accessories for the boys (who might, or might not, have had hair).

Published in: on February 5, 2011 at 6:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Savage Flappers go wild with ukuleles

Well, I got your attention, anyway…; the photographs below come from the New York Tribune, 16 July 1922, wherein are described the savages, college girls who act as guides to visitors to the Yellowstone National Park.

'Savages' with ukuleles around a log fire

The accompanying text says, in part:

A ‘savage’ generically speaking, is any one who works there, but in actual use of Yellowstonese more minute classifications are made. The ‘gear-jammer’ is the driver of your big yellow bus, the ‘pack rat’ is one of the college boys who work as porters, and when you speak of a ‘savage’ you usually are referring to one of that merry band which has become as celebrated in the Yellowstone as Old Faithful itself — the college girls who earn books and tuition during the summer as guides, waitresses and tent girls in the Yellowstone camps and who keep the great wonderland lively with their songs, plays and adventures. She is a happy and self-reliant creature, the savage, and the best type of American girl…

Savage flapper without ukelele

The savage summer commences at Salt Lake City, when the ‘Savage Special’, a real limited, pulls out of the station and heads north for west Yellowstone early in June…  Ukeleles are unlimbered and every station is serenaded right up to the park entrance itself, where, piling into the waiting buses, the savages scatter to the various camps.

So I wasn’t telling too much of a fib.

Published in: on March 2, 2010 at 10:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Ukulele Jokes from the 1920s

Here are some jokes from the 1920s involving the ukulele. The first is about a ‘flapper’, which was a term used to describe a young woman of a certain disposition. The photo below might prepare you for what is to follow.



A flapper walked into a music store and asked to see some ukuleles. The clerk [sales representative] showed her a  few and she couldn’t decide between a Martin and a Gibson. She seemed to favour the Gibson a trifle, the clerk thought, so thinking to help her he said: ‘Better take the Gibson, Miss, You can’t go wrong with a Gibson ukulele.’ Quick as a flash, the young lady replied: ‘Gimme the Martin, then.’

Then there was the story of Mr Mortimer K. Plushbottom, the inventor of the ukulele sound hole. His idea was to sell these sound holes to music shops to give away to potential customers. Once a person has a ukulele sound hole, they’ll want a ukulele, or so Plushbottom believed.

Anyway, Plushbottom resolved in 1928 to run for President of the USA, on the strength of his services to ukulele players of America (remember the sound holes). He thought 50 000 000 ukulele players can’t be wrong.

Of his promised reforms, the following item stood out:

The first plank in my platform will favour the immediate execution of all saxophone players and a constitutional amendment making ukulele playing compulsory.

I wonder what became of Mortimer and his ideas…

Quotations adapted from From “Tom Foolery” in the Music Trade Review 86, 10 (1928), p. 22, reproduced courtesy of The International Arcade Museum and the Musical Box Society International.

UPDATE (30 Jan 2010) from the New Zealand Truth: the people’s paper (3 January 1925):

The ukulele is running a neck-and-neck race with the saxophone. Unless the saxophone fais through lung troubles, the “Critic” backs it to kill all opposition — and supporters.

Sounds really nasty…

Published in: on December 1, 2009 at 8:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Ukuleles in Fiction

Just thought I’d begin to look for examples of the ukulele as mentioned in fiction — novels. I don’t have many examples yet (just passing references), but I intend to kept an eye or two out for them.

F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940) mentions the ukulele in at least two of his short stories.

Flappers and Philosophers (1920), ‘Bernice Bobs Her Hair’

Bernice hesitated. She felt that wit in some form was demanded of her, but under her cousin’s suddenly frigid eyes she was completely incapacitated.

“I don’t know,” she stalled.

“Splush!” said Marjorie. “Admit it!”

Bernice saw that Warren’s eyes had left a ukulele he had been tinkering with and were fixed on her questioningly.

“Oh, I don’t know!” she repeated steadily. Her cheeks were glowing.

“Splush!” remarked Marjorie again.

Tales of the Jazz Age (1921) [Blog note: Edith is at a party, and is attracting attention]

A dark man cut in with intense formality.

“You don’t remember me, do you?” he said gravely.

“I should say I do. Your name’s Harlan.”

“No-ope. Barlow.”

“Well, I knew there were two syllables anyway. You’re the boy that played the ukulele so well up at Howard Marshall’s house party.

“I played–but not–“

A man with prominent teeth cut in.

Another novelist who mentions the ukulele is Fanny Heaslip Lea (1884-1955). The Evening Independent (21 December 1926) in announcing Ms. Lea’s divorce on page 16, describes her novels in this way:

Oh, those stories! Ukuleles ‘neath the moon, passionately-red hibiscus, and maids that sat in grass skirts on a star-drenched beach and twanged and twanged at a uke.

So I went looking for her novels and the only reference I came across was in Sicily Anne: A Romance, Harper & Brothers, 1914. Disappointingly, page 64 provides this particularly unromantic exchange:

Mrs. Kennard, delicately fingering an ukelele,
called out to him at once.

“Jimmy-boy! Come, sing. We need you.”

“Nothing doing!” said Jimmy Fox, untruthfully
and impolitely. “I’ve got a cold.”

and a little further on …

Once he [Jimmy-boy] killed a mosquito, smearing it brutally upon the sleeve of his pajamas, but the bloody deed afforded him small relief. When the rest of the house-party ceased from troubling and the last ukelele tinkled into silence upon the last laughing good night, he breathed a prayer of gratitude, but it was two hours after that before his eyelids closed definitely and sleep came upon him unawares.

That’s it until something better comes along.

Published in: on October 29, 2009 at 6:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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