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Thursday, 10 November 2011

Skin Show

By Joanne Zimmermann

My mother was born in 1906. She lived in Wooster, Ohio, a small college town. She was the youngest of four children, all born in August, with a couple of still-born children in between. The oldest was a boy Howard, then a girl Carolyn, my mom Helen and the youngest was Sherman.

For fun, it was a big deal if the kids could get ahold of a piano box as it made a nice clubhouse, tree house, fort or whatever their imaginations decided.

They had an uncle who owned a plumbing shop and so he got the family some newfangled things like indoor plumbing. Money was tight, as my grandfather was a traveling salesman. He was also an identical twin and “Uncle Frank” would often fool the kids into thinking he was their father.

Her mother went to work, which I think was unusual for the times. The twins were named Franklin Benjamin and Webster Daniel Horn. My grandfather was Web and we called him Grandpa Whoopee.

The Horn Twins

I always pictured the era being very Victorian, repressive in all things sexual. So I was quite surprised by the tale she told me about the Skin Shows.

She said that some of the kids did not have brothers or sisters so they were unaware of how the opposite sex really looked. In order to provide this helpful information for them, some of them created “Skin Shows.”

Each sex streaked from one side of the open barn door to the other. My mother, around five years old at the time, did not reveal if she participated as a “performer.”

When she was 13, she got to come to Daytona Beach on the train with an older cousin whose husband traveled a lot. She was frail and nervous so she was the chosen one. She spent the entire winter there and I now live in Daytona Beach. She lived with me the last 10 years of her life, passing away at 96.

While here, she loved to tour the Main Street area on the peninsula by the beach. There are many buildings still here from 1919 - churches, the bank now a nightclub, and the house she lived in close by the cemetery.

She said there were no bridges to the mainland back then. On Saturdays, she and her cousin would take the ferry boat across the Halifax River and buy a ham wrapped in bread dough.

She also confided that all the kids quit school in late April as it was too hot (no air conditioning then, of course) and go to the beach. Again, I was quite shocked by this revelation.

In 1925, she came to Florida with her entire family in a Model T Ford driven by her 16-year-old brother who had just gotten his license. It took two weeks; they camped and stayed in tourist homes.

Everyone heard Miami was a booming place but it froze that winter and the boom went bust. They stuffed newspapers in the cracks of the small house they rented. She had just become engaged to my dad and hated being separated. They all returned to Ohio in the spring.

It was really fun having her here reliving the year 1919. She loved to go to all of the biker events. Daytona has two big rallies right on Main Street every year with all kinds of motorcycles, wild costumes and tattooed characters. That was something that was not here back then. The almost hundred years she lived was quite an amazing century of change.

Helen Horn

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I did not know you had such a long famiy history in Daytona Beach. Isn't it wonderful when our lives span several generations?

Isn't it great to have elders share their stories when we are old enough to appreciate them. In addition, to have someone like yourself pass them along so that other elders can enjoy them too.
Michigan Grandme

I'm glad that your mother told the family stories to you. As is so often quoted, when an elder dies a library is lost.

I think family histories are not only fun but instrumental in who we are.
Your story is very inspiration for others to gather family data.
Well done

Wonderful story.

Lovely..we are learning in our family that you must ask and tell while you and Elders are around to answer..our parents died young, 44 and 47..and now all the Aunts & Uncles who might have answered questions are gone too..My youngest sister is now teaching genealogy for her local area Church & I constantly take time to tell my daughter things to keep in her memory..Your story was lovely..I never think of people having grown up in Florida..as a New Yorker, I have only known retirees moving there..nice to be the pioneer family member..loved the picture...

Another interesting article by my friend joanne

Just found this site. 3/13
Jennifer Horn Emery...having never met my grandparents, this was a wonderful insight...please contact me if you are one of the Ellen and Webster Horn decendents!
merydesign@attention.net or call 216 905 1250....my father Sherman died in 1981 72 from lung cancer. My brother Sherman is well and a physician in Mich. We would both love to hear more about the Horn and Bissell genealogy...Thanks!

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