Between the Wars

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Between the Wars

By Janice Cooper, Northern Valley HS – Old Tappan Media Specialist

As a Maker’s Day activity, students in Katie Doherty and Denise Marinaro’s history classes stepped back in time in the Northern Valley Old Tappan School Library Media Center.  Having recently finished their study of World War I, students had the opportunity to touch and hold some artifacts from the 20s and 30s and make pin-back buttons depicting those worn by people during the Great War.

Library Media Specialist Janice Cooper developed a collection of artifacts in her “Between the Wars” display.  She told students about Harold, who was born in 1900 in Pennsylvania. He started high school when the war began and planned to become a soldier when he graduated in 1917.  A broken leg stopped him. He did go to work for a tree company and drove all over the USA, settling down in Hackensack, NJ. Students looked at the 1923 receipt for his first car, his driver’s license, and registration.  During World War II, gas and tires were rationed. Students held the “A,” “B,” and “C” stamps and ration book covers that Harold saved, as well as his applications to get more rationing stamps for his 1939 DeSoto sedan.  

Harold was a ‘shutterbug’ and took photos of his travels.  Students held his “Vest Pocket Camera” and tried looking through the lens.  They also saw advertisements from the 20s promoting this new gadget that was so much more portable that earlier cameras.  

Cooper also told them about Florence, who was born in Belleville, NJ in 1902.  She was in middle school during World War I and graduated high school in 1921, at the start of “The Roaring Twenties.”  Students were able to look at a dress Florence would have worn in high school and her wedding dress from 1927 that had iconic ‘dropped waist’ of the “Flapper” style.

Florence enjoyed entertaining, and students were able to play her wind-up “Suitcase Victrola.”  They saw pictures of advertisements showing earlier victrolas that were the size of cabinets. Florence’s victrola was much easier to take on picnics and to BBQs.

The highlight of the hour visit was making pin-back buttons.  Cooper had located pictures of propaganda from the World War I era and re-sized replicas on regular printer paper to use with the BELS Library Consortium button-maker.  She demonstrated how to make the buttons in three quick, easy swings of the lever. Students looked over an array of choices made from buttons and posters and selected their favorites or drew their own from scratch. They eagerly and easily used the button-maker and every student made at least one button, while many also brought one home for their moms.

To borrow the button maker or any of the kits from the BELS MakerKits, please contact Abigail for more info!

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