Socially speaking … 100 years ago

By Steve Waldron, Member of the Schoolcraft Historical Society

Recently, while foraging through issues from 1922 of the Schoolcraft Express, I was struck by a recurring section of the weekly paper entitled “Schoolcraft Locals… Interesting Items in and Around Schoolcraft”. Within this section were multiple brief “social announcements” notifying readers of various local events or social activities. Frequent among these notices were ones publicizing those families or individuals who were either paying a visit or had a visit paid upon them.

The earliest documented use of the phrase “paying a visit” is believed to be in Shakespeare’s “Winter’s Tale”, published in 1623. To “pay a visit” generally means to go somewhere to spend time with someone, such as a friend or relative. Notice the interplay of the terms “pay” and “spend” in reference to the time devoted to the visit. This activity was not something to be taken lightly prior to the advent of the automobile as it could take hours to travel a few miles to visit someone and then return home. And just think about doing this in the winter using a mode of transportation that moved slowly across the unpaved roads without heat! No, paying a visit to someone 100 years ago was not something to be taken lightly. The following are some examples of social visit announcements published 100 years ago in the Schoolcraft Express.

“Mr. and Mrs. M. W. Adams of Kalamazoo spent Sunday at the home of V. M. Bradford.”

“Floyd Early, wife and daughter of Buchanan have been visiting at the home of Mrs. Bird McCreary, for a few days, and left for the summer home last Saturday.”

“Hon. Thomas J. Blevins of Marion made the Schoolcraft Express Office a pleasant call while passing through on a business trip to Three Rivers.”

“Jonas Rouse of Dowagiac is visiting his son, R. E. Rouse and family, making the trip last Tuesday. J. F. Johnson furnishing his enclosed Dodge (car) for the trip. Mr. Rouse, who has been in ill health for about a year stood the trip very nicely.”

It is assumed that the paper received these “social announcements” from those who were hosting the guests… or perhaps from an overly observant neighbor!

In addition to visitation announcements, the Schoolcraft Locals section would also provide other community announcements. Notices ranged from the benign to the significant in terms of importance:

“The Mrs. Addie Roberts house is receiving a fresh coat of paint.”

“Many reports of seeing the first robin are coming in. Mrs. Ella Burch and A. A. Robinson have already seen them. Mr. Robins saw two of them a few days ago.”

“Good stiff zero weather visited Schoolcraft this week Tuesday night. It was 7 to 14 below zero according to various reports and Wednesday morning 10 below. It has now started to warm up.”

“Mrs. Deo Howe, who was operated on for appendicitis at Old Borgess Hospital has returned home and is doing as well as could be expected.”

“Word has been received of the death of Will Sidler at his home in Hesperia, February 4th. One more of the number of our old settlers has gone, the last of that family. Though he has not lived here for some time, he has made a visit here among the few old settlers once every year and has kept in touch here and all will miss his cheery stories.”

“In the birth item last week, it was stated that a baby had been born to Mr. and Mr. R. S. Mann and Friday morning Mr. Mann called up and said they were very much surprised as they knew nothing of it. However, the Express takes the blame. Mr. and Mrs. A. L. Mann are the parents of the new baby we understand.” (Oops!)”

In last 100 years, it just goes to show how human nature has not changed all that much. We are a curious bunch who like to be in the know about what is happening around us. It’s just that now everyone is their own “town crier”; using the immediacy of social media to share whatever they see or hear… perhaps sometimes before thinking through whether it’s appropriate or necessary!

One custom linked with social visits for many years, lasting through the beginning of general usage of the telephone, was the calling (or visiting) card. This social tool was required etiquette for well-mannered persons who visited friends, family, or business associates. This small card, about the size of a classic business card, would be printed with its owner’s name along with other select personal information (i.e., their address). Calling cards could be left at homes, mailed to individuals, or exchanged in person. The “owner” of a card could personalize a card by writing a personal note on the reverse side of the card for intended person(s) of that dwelling. There were unwritten “rules” regarding the usage of these cards which could signal one’s status or intentions.

Leave a Reply