“Immersed in silent film that depicts everyday folks in rural, 1930s North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, I realized that young people back then looked pretty much the same as the adults … only smaller.
“Take the 13-minute clip from Clayton, N.C., filmed circa 1936-1937. Like the older men in the movie, little boys mostly wore long pants and shirts that buttoned all the way to the throat. Like the older women, little girls mostly wore modest blouses and matronly overcoats. Boys flashed sly smiles like their fathers; girls showed on-camera reticence like their mothers. Teenage-looking guys played basketball in long pants and ties. Teenage-looking girls rollerskated in long dresses….
“There is in the film little sense of a childhood as we know it today. The clip is representative of the hundreds of hours of footage shot by North Carolina photographer Herbert Lee Waters and recently digitized and released by Duke University Libraries.
“When did America begin allowing children to have a childhood?…”
— From “Back Before Children Looked Childish” by Linton Weeks at NPR (Feb. 19)