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Sartorially Correct: 1940

Sartorially Correct: 1940

Saturday, May 25, 1940. "Interior of general store at Stem, Granville County, North Carolina, with high school boys dressed up because it's Election Day." Medium format acetate negative by Jack Delano for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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Black Flag

kills fast!

Primary Election Day 1940

This would have been a primary election, but in the Democratic "Solid South" that determined local and state offices. J. Melville Broughton was elected North Carolina Governor in 1940; he then increased the public school year from six to nine months, which may or may not have met with the approval of these young men.

The presidential nominating season of 1940 was unique. Franklin Roosevelt had not publicly responded to calls that he run for an unprecedented third term, which effectively stymied potential successors. FDR wouldn't commit until the Democratic convention convened in July and a "spontaneous" demonstration provided the occasion.

If there was a tradition of dressing up on Election Day, it had lapsed by my postwar Southern youth.

Doesn't get any better than this?

Besides thinking about the widow who buys tins of pilchards from him, the fellow behind the counter is trying to remember where he put his radio!

Cereal killer

The upper right-hand corner of this photo reminded me that twenty-five years later I'd be a kid obsessed with Kellogg's Corn Flakes (in my dreams, doused heavily with ice-cold milk and several spoonfuls of sugar), but obliged to dine on Quaker Oats for the morning repast. My sister and I were allowed to have dry cereal approximately once every other blue moon. Now that I can eat whatever I want for breakfast (or any time of day), what did I have this morning? Quaker Oats. I cannot be trusted with Corn Flakes in the house.

Scratches on the Stove

While looking closely at the finish on the cast-iron stove I noticed dozens of little scratches all over it. It wasn't long before I realized these little scratches were the results of all the match strikes across the coarse, rusty surface. And, hey, isn't that a perfectly good ice cream cone in the box behind the stove?


A big change in clothing style is right around the corner. One of the young men appears to be a cinch for shoulder (or collar) bars.

Familiar Territory

Stem is about fifteen minutes north of where I am sitting. It's a small town (population 576 in the last Census). Only a few commercial buildings stand on Main Street, and some are old enough to be Stem Grocery.

The more things change the more they stay the same

I've love to hear the comments from the older generation in 1940, looking at the same picture:

"So sloppy! Where are their vests and jackets?"
"Those two-tone brogues and plaid ties are too loud."
"Why is he wearing his hat indoors? So disrespectful."
"In my day none of this would have been allowed."

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