In a Rainy Season What Would the Poor Folk Do But Discuss the Vamp?
And as for Amateur Summer Postmasters, They Act the Heavy Villain in the Piece.
By Gregory Clark, July 31, 1920.
Two subjects provide practically all the serious conversation at summer hotels and cottage resorts, to wit: the vamp and the amateur postmaster.
Every summer resort has a postmaster, either one of the hotel clerks or one of the farmers of the district who has been invested with this great dignity for the months of June to September, exclusive. And if every summer resort hasn’t a vamp, they nominate one anyway.
This present summer to date has been so wet, and so much time has had to be spent on cottage verandahs and in summer hotel sitting rooms that it is hard to say what our summer resorters would have done with out the postmaster and the vamp. We have allowed indoor sports, such as crokinole, flinch, ping-pong, etc., to decline in favor of dancing, golf, canoeing, etc., with the result that on a rainy day there is nothing to do but gossip.
The amateur postmaster of a summer resort is regarded with suspicion from the start.
“He reads all my picture postcards,” declares a spirited and sun burned young lady. “He pretends to be reading the address, but I can tell he is reading the other part by the look on his face.”
Does he deliver all letters when received? Does he send out immediately all letters given to him for postal? “Well, ask any young lady at a summer resort. She’d give any thing just to have a look behind the letter rack made of old boxes – to see how many of her letters were being held.
Why would he keep them? There’s the mystery. Why, indeed? He’s just a meany, and does it to spite young people whose letters are so important.
And as to parcels, especially boxes of candy!
“My dear,” said a bride on her first summer holiday as a bride, when she had neither the company of a crowd of young admirers nor the company of her young husband working in the city, “My dear, Freddie told me in a letter last Friday, over a week ago, that he was sending me a box of Mary Brown chocolates. Where are they, do you suppose?”
And here she sinks her voice to a whisper –
“My dear, I saw the lid of box of Mary Browns lying in the post-office!”
Some older woman ventures the thought that perhaps Freddie forgot to send the chocolates. But the young bride takes grave offence at such a view.
“I wish I’d had the nerve,” she says, “to ask that postmaster who had sent him a box of Mary Browns.”
However, in a day or two, the Mary Browns do arrive from Freddie, nice and fresh. Query: Why had the postmaster concealed them all that time?
And as for newspapers! Well, anybody can tell you what happens to newspapers. If a hotel clerk is the postmaster, he hands your paper out to the favored guest of the hotel. And if he is one of the local farmers he hands it over to one of his farm neighbors. Some summer cottagers have it all figured out: the papers are given away in turn, so that if there are six subscribers to paper in one resort, each subscriber misses his paper only once a week.
“And if you don’t believe it,” say the cottagers “just take a walk through the hotel (or neighboring farm house, as the case may be), and see the papers with the name labels torn off!”
Few summer postmasters escape this sort of accusation. The cottagers will give him the keys of their cottages all winter for caretaking purposes. But as postmaster, he is not above suspicion.
As to vamps, some of the bigger resorts are blessed with more than one. Then the cottagers and hotel boarders divide up into political parties and fight each other over which has the worst vamp.
On a boat in the Lake of Bays two ladies from different hotels met. The scenery was beautiful, but –
“My dear,” said the one with the sunburned nose, “you should see the vamp we have at our hotel. I’ll point her out on the wharf on the return trip. My dear, she’s a big fat blonde with two children, and I’m sure her immediate ancestors were moujiks. And she’s simply scandalous. She dances beautifully, you know, but she’s such a big, fat, damp creature. And the men simply chase after her. Aren’t men the limit? Why, there’s one man from the States with his wife and children and this big blonde has vamped him right in front of everybody. Danced five dances together last night!”
The other lady, the one with the zinc ointment on her nose and lips, has been obviously impatient to butt in.
“Over at the Hoo-Hoo,” said she, “we have one that has anything beaten I’ve ever seen. She’s a little mousey thing with orange hair. She never goes canoeing, swimming or anything for fear she will get sunburned. She just haunts the hotel and vamps a different man every day. Yes, my dear, a different man every day. She selects her new victim before lunch, vamps all afternoon, dances all evening and by night, he is a feeble-minded ninny. And what they can see in her! A little, skinny, squeaky sort of kitty-kitty! She’s vamped all the grown men one after another and now she’s down to the baby boys in red blazers, of eighteen and twenty.”
And if the resort hasn’t one of these reliable types, they manufacture one out of the best material at hand. For there has to be a vamp. A summer resort without a vamp would be as incomplete as if water, pines and moon were missing. And she is nothing new. In 1890, if I remember correctly, she was a coquette. In 1900, she was a flirt. In 1920, she is a vamp.
I can find no reference to Mary Brown chocolates as all searches default to the fast food chain, Mary Brown’s Chicken.
Moujiks are Russian peasants.
A vamp is a woman who uses her charm or wiles to seduce and exploit men. It became a popular slang term in the early 1920s because of a movie called “The Vamp” released in 1918.