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Gatsby-Era Pastimes that Are Still the Bee's Knees

Gatsby-Era Pastimes that Are Still the Bee's Knees

We know it doesn't come out until December, but we're so excited and we just can't hide it. Baz Lurhman (of Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge fame) is making The Great Gatsby into a movie, and it's got our knickerbockers in a twist! We're just mad for all things Gatsby-esque right now, including these Jazz-age pastimes. Even Daisy and Nick might have joined in if they weren't so busy drinking champagne and running people down in the street.

Flagpole Sitting. Before there was David Blaine, there was Shipwreck Kelly, a stunt actor who once sat on top of a flagpole for 49 DAYS. Clearly this action called for imitation. Think of it as the planking of the Roaring Twenties set, only much, much more uncomfortable.

Dance Marathons. Some party-poopers considered these "bunion derbies" sinful. Nevertheless, couples lined up to dance for hundreds of hours in these events, where the last couple standing won money. Contestants had to remain moving while they ate, read the newspaper, shaved, and even slept. Kind of like Hands on a Hardbody, without the truck.

Synchronized Swimming. "Synchro" didn't hit its stride in the U.S. until the 1940s and 50s, when Esther Williams (no relation) swam her way to fame, but it started to trickle down from Canada in the 1920s. For all we know, Gatsby was practicing a reversed combined spin when George Wilson [redacted because of SPOILERS! —ed].

Driving. In Gatsby's day, cars weren't just a means of conveyance to see your mistress on the way to the sparkling city; they were your very own amusement ride. As more and more people got access to automobiles, cars came to represent independence, escape, and upward mobility. If you could "go for a drive," you were livin' large, at a dizzying 30 miles per hour.

Stickball. The popularity of baseball exploded in the 1920s thanks to Baby Ruth Babe Ruth. But who needs a fancy bat when you can use a broom handle, is what we say. Stickball: Where the only performance enhancing drugs are Pixy Stix.

Kick the Can. We've never actually played this game, but it sounds pretty self-explanatory, no?

Ouija Boards. To this day, I swear my late grandmother spoke to me at a sleepover by responding to my statement "I love you" with "D-I-T-T-O." Or wait, am I getting confused with the movie Ghost? Either way, this board game/séance tool was hugely popular in the 1920s and is still just as creeptastic today.

Mah Jongg. In the twenties, Mah Jongg (or mahjong) was not just for your Great Aunt Ethel. In fact, it was first imported by Abercrombie & Fitch (yes, that Abercrombie & Fitch, only with less nudity and more elephant guns). We just like yelling CHOW! PUNG! KONG!

Do these leisure activities make you want to put on your glad rags and dance the Charleston?

Related post: The Great Gatsby Trailer is Here!

Topics: Books, Entertainment
Tags: movies, the great gatsby, nostalgia, the 1920s

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Kathryn Williams is the author of three YA novels but only one with an Oxford comma in the title. She is a Taurus and hates writing bios. Check out her website,, and follow her on Twitter @kathrynwauthor.

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