Working at Play: A History of Vacations in the United States

By Cindy S. Aron | Go to book overview

8
Crossing Class and Racial Boundaries VACATIONING in the EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY

In August of 1921 Hiram Johnson, U.S. Senator from California, and his wife decided to escape the heat of Washington, D.C., and motor north for a vacation. Quite taken with Atlantic City, they remained for their entire vacation, staying at the Ritz, where they enjoyed "one of the handsomest apartments at a greatly reduced rate (but still a sufficient sum for a U.S. Senator's income)" and found "everything possible for our convenience and comfort." This was, Johnson explained, "the enjoyable part of Atlantic City."

But two miles down the boardwalk was the "other part" -- a "vastly different" sort of place. There huge crowds overran boardwalk and beach. But it was not so much the number of vacationers that disquieted the senator, it was who those vacationers were. "On Labor Day", he wrote, "it was estimated that 350,000 people were in Atlantic City. If this estimate was correct, I am perfectly certain that 249,000 of them were the chosen people. Everywhere, and in everything, the Israelite predominate." He even found Jews among the guests at the Ritz, but explained that "they are the sort that we know, the rich, assertive, self-sufficient." Farther down the boardwalk, he discovered hordes of poor, immigrant Jews -- "the short, swarthy men,

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