Reading, for me, is entertainment and an escape from the real world. But it can also inform and stretch the boundaries of the life I live.
1930 Chs 7-9 vs 1960 Chs 4&8
1930 Nancy is still struggling to keep her brave little blue roadster going through the storm and the soft muddy dirt road when a small tree, struck by lightning, falls in front of her car and blocking the road. The original text portrays Nancy as intelligent, capable, and determined, but has a sense of humor about her normal human foibles. “The tree was a small one and Nancy thought that two men could move it quite easily. Unfortunately, the two men were not in evidence.” Laura suddenly appears, having run away from the Aborns. She helps Nancy move the tree so she can escape with her to River Heights.
Laura tells Nancy her story once they’re warm and dry at home. Her sob story of mistreatment mostly consists of being made to do housework as Jacob Aborn has no servants, and not being given any money to go shopping with. More disturbing, though, he took her fur coat (she thinks he plans to pawn it) and he’s been trying to get her to turn over custody of her mother’s jewelry to him. Although she thought she had a small fortune of about $60,000 (~$900k today), he tells her that it was poorly invested and she has less than $15,000 (~226k today) left. Her guardian has been locking her in her room (locks on the outside of bedroom doors!) so she was forced to climb out the window to escape. She notes in passing that he sneaks off every night, carrying a small bundle.
Nancy’s father is out of town on business, so they put Laura’s jewelry in the Drews’ wall safe and Laura writes a letter to Jacob Aborn saying that she will not accept him as her guardian and she will not come back. Nancy plans to take him the letter as an excuse to snoop around. She plans to tell him that Laura is staying “with friends” and that she has engaged an attorney.
This episode is where the 1960 version begins deviating significantly from the original. Two new characters – a teenaged brother and sister whose family are coincidentally good friends of the Aborns – drive up while Nancy is trying to move the tree. Laura shows up several chapters later at Nancy’s home. Her story is a little different, limited to the Aborns angrily yelling at her and locking her in the bedroom when she refuses to hand over her jewelry for safekeeping, then overhearing them plotting to get the jewels away from her. I guess 1960 readers might have been less sympathetic of a rich girl being asked to do housework and not given money to go clothes shopping. Unlike the 1930 version, the girls consider going to the police, but decide they need first need hard evidence that the Aborns are thieves.
Considerations – The 1930 driving experience: Two small asides in these chapters illustrated how very different the experience of driving an automobile was in 1930, with respect to power steering and heating systems, especially as there was no mention of it in the 1960 revision. When 1930 Nancy finally got home from her arduous drive back from the lake, the story notes that her arms ached from the strain of holding the car to the road. This would have been tough enough, since she was driving through deep ruts and soft mud for most of the drive, but she was doing it without power steering, which wouldn’t be commercially available in automobiles until two decades later. The 1930 text also noted that both girls were “soaked and chattering with cold” when they got home. Unlike 1960 Nancy, her 1930 original didn’t have the luxury of keeping a plastic raincoat and boots in her car, and although the first interior heaters were introduced in the 1929 Model A using hot air from the engine, they didn’t work very consistently.
Considerations – Hitchhiking: I was at first taken aback that 1960 Laura’s escape included hitchhiking most of the way to Nancy’s house, because the revisions rarely feature nice young ladies engaging in risky behavior, and I dimly associate hitchhiking with hippies. But after a little more thought, I remembered that once upon a time, hitching a ride was a perfectly normal and acceptable way for a person without a vehicle to go places, and I wondered at what point it became associated with risky and/or disreputable behavior. Most sources stated that hitchhiking has mostly declined because it’s now illegal in most states and also just about everyone in America owns a car these days. There was also a focused discouragement campaign starting in the 1970s, through police and media efforts to warn potential ride hitchers and ride givers of stranger danger.
In following hitchhiking links, I was tickled to find a connection to my earlier post about 1960’s beauty salons in a 1971 newspaper blurb about barbers trying to make it illegal for men to have their hair done in a beauty salon. The laws of economics are beautiful – if you refuse to give your customers anything other than a manly buzzcut, they’ll take their business elsewhere. And the 1970s were a glorious decade for men’s hairstyles.
Dated Plot Points – Child protective services: In neither version does anyone consider calling Child Protective Services for Laura, or seem to think it unusual that a 16 year old orphaned girl is travelling alone, booking herself into hotels and making her own transit accommodations. I didn’t find out much about how legal guardians are appointed or how/if they are monitored for the protection of the minor child, but I did get a little history on the evolution of child protective services in the US.
In the early 20th century, protection from neglect and abuse depended primarily on neighbors or family members intervening on behalf of the child and enforcement, if any, came from the police. There were no federal child welfare services until the SSA of 1935. Child labor wasn’t even outlawed until FLSA of 1938, so it wouldn’t have even been criminal for the Aborns to have made 1930 Laura get a full time job in a sweatshop or a coal mine or whatever. Even at the time of the 1960 revision, organized protective services were unavailable or inadequate in most communities. Laws requiring mandatory reporting of child abuse couldn’t even have helped 1960 Laura – they weren’t passed until 1967.
I’m under the impression from my reading that even what services were available were mostly focused on the poor, so perhaps a wealthy orphaned teenager wasn’t considered at risk for even the limited services available.
Index of Posts: