It’s 1936, and these members of the Young Fascists are killing time and facial hair while hanging at comrade camp in Rome. At the time, Mussolini was head of the police state of Italy as its Fascist leader. Fascism is generally a one-party, anti-democratic, often racist dictatorship, so you can imagine the experiences these lads had living under such a regime. Note the painted Fascist badge on the truck above, derived from ancient Rome’s fasces, or symbol of authority, a bundle of rods with a protruding axe blade. Mussolini was evidently the axe.
Mussolini made his intentions clear from the start, before he became Il Duce.
When dealing with such a race as Slavic—inferior and barbarian—we must not pursue the carrot, but the stick policy … We should not be afraid of new victims … The Italian border should run across the Brenner Pass, Monte Nevoso and the Dinaric Alps … I would say we can easily sacrifice 500,000 barbaric Slavs for 50,000 Italians …
–Benito Mussolini, speech held in Pula, 20 September 1920
Opera Nazionale Balilla (ONB) was an Italian Fascist youth organization functioning between 1926 and 1937, which took its name from Balilla, the nickname of Giovan Battista Perasso, a Genoese boy who, according to local legend, started the revolt of 1746 against the Habsburg forces that occupied the city in the War of the Austrian Succession by throwing a stone at an Austrian soldier.
These Balillas, aka “boy blackshirts” emulate the posture of Il Duce, with squared shoulders, chins high, quickstepping with toy rifles and blanket rolls during a review.
Even the very young were indoctrinated.
Italian boys donned uniforms at six and received real weapons in their 18th year on the anniversary of Rome’s birth, April 21. These youngsters are doing a drill with gas masks and miniature rifles.
Prohibition was over, yes. But the Depression was still in full swing, with 20% unemployment, compared to today’s 3.8%. Not being able to support a family might be a justifiable reason to drink, which probably contributed to the formation of a group called Alcoholics Anonymous that year. In addition, The Social Security Act was signed. Wikipedia fun facts include these bits of trivia:
- Airplanes were banned from flying over the White House.
- Porky Pig made his debut in Looney Tunes’s I Haven’t Got a Hat.
- The world’s first parking meters were installed in Oklahoma City. Really? OKC?
- Humorist Will Rogers was killed when his plane crashed shortly after takeoff near Barrow, Alaska.
- The China Clipper took off from Alameda, California to deliver the first airmail cargo across the Pacific Ocean; the aircraft reached its destination, Manila, and delivered over 110,000 pieces of mail.
Meanwhile, fortunate young Americans still attended college, like these students at West Texas State Teachers College. As you know, my favorite parts of my many yearbooks are the candid shots. Many of them are only two inches high in brittle paper collages, but with the power of zoom, we can get a great sense of the campus culture.
Come back soon for more 1935 pics; this yearbook is a treasure trove!
All of these images come from the 1964 Western New Mexico University yearbook, but I bet if you’re a Boomer from Anywhere, USA, you can relate.
This is what technology was.
And Physical Science was boring as ever.
Not only were there cigarettes, but cigarette girls who pimped them.
People typed on typewriters, and the carriage return made a sound.
They played pinball.
They helped each other balance their checkbooks over coffee.
They resorted to violence to resolve domestic issues.
And they relaxed, listening to The Animals sing “House of the Rising Sun.”
I love Eula’s mischievous smile.