Eula Wulfjen Kendrick, 1916 (Hoff Collection, TESHS)
A Whole-House Exhibit at the Trail End State Historic Site
April 2010 - December 2011
State Historic Site
Detail, Judge Magazine, 1912 (Private Collection)
THE TRAIL END Drawing Room - much the same as today’s living rooms – was where the family entertained friends. From an elegant afternoon tea to a boisterous game of charades or a quiet afternoon with a good book or board game, the Drawing Room was where it happened.
An invitation to tea at a home like Trail End was an excuse to dress up in one’s finest clothing and put on one’s best manners. One didn’t simply sip tea; one had to carry on clever conversation and small talk as well. Eula Kendrick was particularly adept at small talk; she once stated that she studied the likes and dislikes of those on her guest list so that she could converse knowledgeably about things in which they would be interested:
Women are often criticized for indulging in chatter, but there is really a demand for an easy stream of small talk. The hostess entertains all kinds and classes. Many are strangers. The successful hostess, in order to lead in the conversation, and keep it flowing without constraint, must cultivate a line of light talk, carefully avoiding subjects of a personal nature, or that might offend those holding opposite opinions.
CROSSWORDS & CARDS
When conversation wasn't enough, friends could be entertained with games. Whether played alone or in a group, games have always been a favorite way to occupy spare time. A favorite game of the 1920s was the crossword puzzle. First introduced in 1913, crossword puzzles were soon found in almost every American newspaper and magazine. The earliest ones were made in a diamond shape and lacked the black squares we see today.
Card games were also popular, and didn’t always have to be played in the Drawing Room. During World War Two, for example, Diana Kendrick (Manville’s wife) hosted a series of fundraising bridge tournaments in the Ballroom. The fifty or so ladies in attendance paid a small fee to participate, with the proceeds going towards Diana’s favorite charity, “Bundles for Britain.” Lunch was brought up from the kitchen on the dumbwaiter, and light cocktails were served throughout the afternoon.
Diana Kendrick wasn’t always able to serve cocktails openly to her friends. Between 1920 and 1933, it was illegal for Americans to make, sell, possess or consume alcoholic beverages. The Eighteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution as well as a variety of state laws enforced this era, known as Prohibition.
Although John Kendrick signed the state’s Prohibition bill when he was Governor of Wyoming – and voted for national Prohibition as well – he and his family were not supporters of it. In fact, like many Americans, they continued to drink. Prior to Prohibition, the Kendricks stocked up on wine, sherry and other liquor (it was stored in the basement, in a pit located under the elevator platform). Later, Manville had a local source for moonshine – homemade alcohol most closely resembling gin in taste and color.
For those traveling outside the U. S., liquor was easy to get. As soon as a ship passed into international waters (twelve miles off the coast), Prohibition held no sway. In one travel diary, Eula Kendrick mentions having a cocktail as soon as her England-bound ship’s “all clear” signal was sounded.
By the time Diana began hosting her Bundles for Britain card parties, Prohibition had been repealed and it was once again safe to serve cocktails in public.
THE HOME DANCE
Dancing was yet another favorite entertainment – the truly dedicated hoofer could find a dance almost every night of the week in public dance halls, church basements, clubhouses or living rooms. Although she went to many a formal ball – including her 1916 debut at which she wore a fashionably elaborate gown – Rosa-Maye Kendrick’s diaries reveal that she and her friends frequently held small, impromptu dance parties at home. For these get-togethers, a Victrola or Edison phonograph provided the music. Live bands were rarely hired for private dances.
Instead of attending dance classes, most people learned to dance by partnering with older, experienced relatives at informal home dances. Once they could dance the waltz, fox trot, schottische and two-step, they were ready for anything.