Flapper dresses, bob haircuts, $800 cars and the invention of the pop-up toaster — this was American life on Dec. 23, 1919 when Doris Rawlings was born.
In 1919, with Woodrow Wilson as president and World War I finally over, the economy was looking up for more than 92 million Americans. Average home prices were $2,500, a gallon of milk was just 32 cents, gas was 12 cents a gallon and bread cost just 6 cents a loaf.
The average American’s yearly salary was $3,724.
Prohibition had started, driving many people into underground clubs where they listened to songs like “I’ll Say She Does” by Al Jolson and “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” by Henry Burr and Albert Campbell.
Famous Americans born in 1919 included author J.D. Salinger, baseball player Jackie Robinson and crooner Nat King Cole.
The great filmmakers of the time were entertaining audiences, including “Broken Blossoms” by D.W. Griffith and “Male and Female” by Cecil B. DeMille.
It was a golden age to grow up for Rawlings, who excelled in school, even skipping a grade and graduating from St. Cecelia’s Academy in 1936 at the age of 16.
She graduated from college with an accounting degree and later worked in the secretarial pool for the U.S. government before being selected as chief secretary for the head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture because of her excellent shorthand skills.
To this day, she writes most of her notes in shorthand, says Alicia Cave, life enrichment director at Middlefield Oaks, where Rawlings currently resides.
Rawlings’s early years learning piano and organ may have helped her shorthand skills because she was talented at both, Cave says. She played for many weddings, funerals and church services. After she retired, she continued to play at nursing homes while her husband, family and others sang along. Even today, she often “plays” the piano while listening to music.
Rawlings met her husband when he was assigned to the U.S. Navy base in Washington, D.C., during World War II. They married on April 22, 1946 and moved west to Cleveland, Ohio. They had five children.
In 1959, Doris moved with her family to Los Angeles, where she kept busy taking care of her children. At one point, she was the lead Girl Scout mother. About 10 years later, she moved to Cottage Grove. She worked as a secretary for London School, where she worked for 17 years before retiring. She says she loved that job and all the children at the school.