1. Bad Fads by Mark A. Long (ECW Press). Beginning with the 1910s and taking you decade by decade through the 1990s, Bad Fads is a tour of the 20th century’s silliest fads and most memorable trends. This book looks at the ridiculous things we have believed, said, done or worn it captures the marathon dances of the ’30s, the bizarre goldfish swallowing of the ‘re 40s, the disco crazes of the ’70s and the baffling popularity of Pokémon in the ’90s. Not only does the author recollect these trends and many more, he also reveals how they got started, how they became popular and how they finally fell out of favor. Some of these fads will make you snicker (or laugh out loud); most will strike a familiar chord. Use this book to trigger memories when you interview relatives, share stories with family or write your life story.
2. Going, Going, Gone: Vanishing Americana by Susan Jonas and Marilyn Nissenson (Chronicle Books). Do you remember vinyl records? Whatever happened to them? What about drive-in movies? Or library card catalogs? Or soda fountains? Or rotary telephones? Or girdles? In the past few decades, we’ve seen many familiar pieces of popular culture begin to disappear. Going, Going, Gone examines more than 70 vanishing aspects of 20th-century cultural life. Like Bad Fads, this book has tons of family history applications: Use it to jog your memory when you write your life story. Share it with children and grandchildren when you reminisce about the “good old days.” Refer to it when you do oral history interviews with parents and grandparents, showing them the illustrations and asking them what they remember about the items. Or just relax and let it take you down memory lane.
3. A Matter of Taste: How Names, Fashions, and Culture Change by Stanley Lieberson (Yale University Press). Ever wonder why you see so many Madisons, Taylors and Jacobs today, or why few parents name their children Ethyl, Gladys or Harold anymore? Lieberson’s book sets out to explain why American first names go in and out of style and how naming trends are different from other cultural fads. It examines the impact socioeconomics, the Bible, popular entertainment and other factors have on naming tastes. The analysis also includes naming customs among various ethnic groups. While a fascinating study, this is not light reading. It’s a scholarly book written by a Harvard University sociology professor. Still, if you have a fascination with children’s names in your family history, this book takes a unique look at their relationship to fashion and culture.
4. World War II Homefront Collectibles: Price and Identification Guide by Martin Jacobs (Krause Publications. “V is for Victory,” “Buy War Bonds,” “Remember Pearl Harbor.” These and other patriotic slogans became symbols of everyday life during World War II. Jacobs’ catalog of war-era keepsakes and novelties will help you capture that not-too-distant family history. Perhaps you have matchbooks, jewelry, games, movie posters, postcards, statues, books, toys or anti-Axis memorabilia among your family artifacts. World War II Homefront Collectibles has more than 2,000 listings with 600 photographs to help you identify these precious heirlooms and give you an idea of what they’re worth today aside from their value in your family history.
From the February 2003 issue of Family Tree Magazine.