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Jazz Age slang lesson for ‘Rockport Prohibition Days’

Get your zoot suit on or dress as a flapper and ‘roar’ in Rockport this August.  That is when Rockport will be celebrating its culture and history in the days of Prohibition when River Rats ran rum and other illegal alcohol across the river to the thirsty Americans who ‘suffered’ Prohibition seven years longer than Canada.

A vintage fashion show on Friday night will see flappers, gangsters and ‘molls’ and other personalities of the period ‘strutting their stuff’.   It is important that you get a lesson on Jazz Age Slang… So here goes:

Ladies, ‘swan on in’ in your elegant, lace-edged, or drop-waisted vintage dresses, or whirl on in in flapper fashion with beads and fringes bouncing. ‘Dapper dandies’, too, may join the fashion show and ‘ankle’ on down our catwalk to the Twenties’ tunes as Café Gananoque, ‘tickles the ivories’.

A ‘flapper’ was the new woman of the age who wanted freedom from the constraints society and fashion had placed upon women. For the first time, women exposed some skin. Clothing was simplified, arms were bared, sometimes knees were rouged in case they were seen as a hemline flipped up on the dance floor. Flappers weren’t afraid to show off their ‘gams’, and they loved to dance all night.

In the words of a famous Roaring Twenties’ song, the flapper was “a highly energetic, dissuadable, magnetic, peripatetic, athletic kind of girl.” She didn’t succumb to ‘applesauce’. She never had a ‘fire extinguisher’ and wanted no part of a ‘handcuff’. She could have a ‘belt’ at the bar because for the first time she was a liberated woman and that was the ‘bees knees’.

Men of the era were ‘brooksies’, especially the gangsters. Al Capone was one of the best dressed and always wore his ‘glad rags’. Of course, due to the illegal liquor trade, gangsters had ‘heavy sugar’.

World War I had just ended and everyone was ‘putting on the ritz’. Life was the ‘berries’. And even though the sale of alcohol was illegal, consuming it wasn’t, and no one wanted to drink ‘noodle juice’. So the backalley ‘speakeasies’ were doing a thriving business.

Rockport wants to take you back to the Roaring Twenties – the Jazz Age- at their outdoor ‘speak’ – Zelda’s – on Friday night with the zoot-suited, seven piece Brian Downey Band playing tunes of the Twenties. Join us at Cornwall’s Point for the street dance right after the fashion show.

And this Prohibition festival is not ‘dry’. Drop a few ‘clams’ or an ‘Abe’s Cabe’ for a ‘belt’ at Zelda’s Speakeasy…hopefully there won’t be a raid by ‘Pro Hi’s’…then again you never know. So try not to get too ‘splifficated’ or you may be arrested … or worse- miss out on the Twenties’ activities planned for all day Saturday.

Antique ‘struggle buggies’ and a Rum Runners’ Boating Challenge for local River Rats will give lots of opportunity for ‘beating one’s gums’. Twenties’dance demos, a barbershop octet, and our piano man will also entertain. A Children’s Zone is planned for children aged ten years and under from noon until 4 p.m.,with games, balloons, face painting, and an experiential painting station led by professional Rockport artist, Bruce Sherman. A ‘Speakeasy’ Boat cruise offered by Rockport Boatline at 6 p.m. should be the ‘cat’s pyjamas’. Our Flapper’s Ball, featuring the Spencer Evans trio, will also be the ‘elephant’s eyebrows’ on Saturday night at Caiger’s Riverside Resort. Sunday will see an old-fashioned church picnic after church services and an antique boat show.

Jazz Age Slang Dictionary…

Abe’s Cabe -5 dollar bill

Ankle -walk

Applesauce -flattery or nonsense

Beating one’s gums -chatting

Bees knees, cat’s pyjamas, elephant’s eyebrows -terrific

Belt -drink

Berries -perfect

Brooksies -classy dressers

Clams -dollars

Dapper dandies -well-dressed gentlemen

Fire extinguisher -chaperone

Gams -legs

Glad rags -fancy clothes

Handcuff -engagement ring

Heavy sugar -a lot of money

Making whoopee -having wild fun

Moll -gangster’s girlfriend

Noodle juice -tea

Pro Hi’s -Prohibition agents

Putting on the ritz -doing something in high style

Speakeasies -bars selling illegal alcohol

Splifficated -drunk

Struggle buggies -cars, places in which boys tried to seduce girls

Strut your stuff -show off what you’re wearing

Swan on in -glide gracefully

Tickle the ivories -play the piano




Come roar with us in Rockport, August 16-18. You won’t want to miss it…we’ll be making ‘whooppee’! 

Practice your Jazz Age slang for ‘Rockport Prohibition Days’.

Visit and look “Under the Flapper’s Fringe’ for more details.

By Geraldine Last

Geraldine (Gerry) Last and her partner moved to the Rockport area ten years ago so they could live near the St. Lawrence River. When Gerry retired from her teaching career, she became a volunteer with the Rockport Development Group (RDG).  After gaining an appreciation for all that RDG does, she nominated the group for a "Keeper of the Islands Awards" from the Gananoque Chamber of Commerce.  RDG was happy to accept the award in 2012.  Gerry is the chairperson for the "Rockport Prohibition Days Festival Committee.  For over a year she has put heart and soul into planning for this Roaring-Twenties' festival.  It's the first of its kind in Rockport and the Thousand Islands.

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Dan Morrow
Comment by: Dan Morrow ( )
Left at: 11:03 AM Thursday, August 15, 2013
I'm polishing up my "spats", loading my "gat", dusting off my "fedora" grabbing my "moll" Lynn and heading to the 1000 Islands to meet Wayne & Christa, Lonnie & Joanne where we will load into Wayne's 1920's Ford "struggle buggie" and beat it down to the festivities in Rockport.
Great article,
Geraldine Last
Comment by: Geraldine Last ( )
Left at: 3:08 PM Thursday, August 15, 2013
Your comment is fabulous, Dan...thanks so much for using the slang...LOVE it!! And we'll 'roar' with you and your moll in Rockport....ankle on down...Gerry Last