Voices From the Past: Old Interviews Remember Bygone Eras

Voices from the past - interviews with older generations

Previously, we’ve had a look at the first photographs from history. And alongside that we had a look at the earliest recorded sounds.

This time out, we’ve got interviews with previous generations from different eras.

Those who survived long through history, essentially bypassing their time and living deep into a totally new way of life. That includes Victorian era individuals used to horse and carriage surviving to see the Moon landing.

Old Interviews From the Past

We’re doing this feature just to document the passage of time. We all get our little moment in history, but it’s important to reflect on the past.

That way we can better understand ourselves and our lot in the Universe of things. Let’s start with a distinguished lady.

Mrs. Florence Pannell in 1977

Mrs. Florence Pannell (1868-1980) was an English supercentenarian. She’s 108 in the above clip, but you can see she’s still mentally on it.

A bit of a women’s lib trailblazer, she started a beauty care business at a time when women were expected to cook stuff for geezers and be a housewife.

All very impressive. Plus, she provides sharp insights into life back in the 19th century.

Interviewing Mrs. Pannell there was Joan Shenton, who’s now 79. Interestingly, she was born in Antofagasta, Chile, to an English father.

However, Shenton is notorious for her HIV/AIDS denial.

Yes, that attractive and well spoken young lady in the clip is a conspiracy theory nut. Moving on!

Rebecca Latimer in 1929

Rebecca Latimer was born in 1835 and here was interviewed in 1929. She passed away on January 24th, 1930, at 94.

She had many good qualities. She was an esteemed writer, lecturer, feminist, suffragist, reformer, slave owner… oh wait, hang on. What?!

Despite boasting many progressive leanings in feminism, she also happened to be a white supremacist, one of the last remaining slave owners in the US, and she was a fervent supporter of lynching.

Erm… that’s quite the mix. We can’t help but think her progressive leanings were there to do her a favour—break down social barriers so she could prosper in life.

As all the far-right stuff is kind of a problem.

But then most of the people listed in these interviews likely held racist and sexist leanings, hidden away as an underlying part of their character alongside many more positive traits (such as monocles).

This was a sign of the times Mrs. Latimer, and the others here, were from. The reality is casual racism was, sadly, commonplace and the norm.

And it’s an important reminder to modern generations to maintain a magnanimous and liberal approach to life. Otherwise history will look back… and judge you!

Various in the US in 1929

Here’s a lively bunch! Cigar smoking, knitting, beard twizzling… all in a day’s work back in 1929. Apparently, they were part of the Octogenarian Club for Civil War veterans and these interviews were filmed on February 20th, 1929.

And filming took place at Lake Worth in sunny Florida (a state we have a mental image of being one giant beach).

At the 1:19 minute mark a gentleman casually reels off his involvement in the Civil War of 1861. And he’s sitting next to a bloke wearing John Lennon glasses.

Rebecca Latimer also turns up again later in the clip.

In general, it’s a fantastic recording showing the hustle, bustle, and merriment of older life back in another generation.

Elihu Thomson in 1932

Born on March 29th, 1853, here we have Englishman Elihu Thomson speaking on June 21st, 1932. He was 79 in this clip.

He was actually famous, working as an engineer and inventor. He played a pioneering role in founding several electrical companies in the US and Europe.

And it gets better… he was from Manchester! But he moved to Philadelphia with his family in 1858 and spent his formative years in the US.

Thomson died on March 13th, 1937, at the age of 83.

Working Life in the 1880s

This interview is of Albert I. Salt and was recorded in 1930. He was born in 1867 and began working proper at the age of 14 for Western Electric.

Eventually, he became President of the Graybar Company (spun from Western Electric in 1925) as he rose up through the ranks.

And that company still operates to this day. Apparently, Mr. Salt was a household name back in the day and was affectionately called “Uncle Albert”. He was a pioneer in modern advertising techniques, as the official Graybar site notes.

“He oversaw marketing gimmicks, such as a joke-telling contest at a New York theater, to demonstrate Western Electric’s new audiometer. (The jokes were corny, but the audience howled.) And Graybar staged a kissing contest featuring four showgirls in 1929 at Broadway’s Majestic Theater to showcase the sensitivity of a new electric stethoscope.

Salt’s number one coup, though, was getting the Graybar name on what was then the biggest office building in the world. He signed a 19-year lease for just a portion of one floor as the Midtown Manhattan structure was being built, and got naming rights as part of the deal. His bold move gave prestige and glamour to the Graybar name and generated national publicity. The building and its name are still in place.”

Not bad going, eh? Quite the legacy there, sir.

The Lady With the Lamp

We’ve included this before on the blog, but it’s worth including again! A remarkable bit of audio of Florence Nightingale in 1890, wistfully noting the following.

“When I am no longer even a memory, just a name, I hope my voice may perpetuate the great work of my life. God bless my dear old comrades of Balaclava and bring them safe to shore. Florence Nightingale”

It was recorded on July 30th, 1890, using an Edison Parafine Wax Cylinder.

Addendum: Notes on Life in the Sixties

Bringing things a bit closer to modern history (heck—1961 isn’t that long ago in the grand scheme of things), it’s the generation just after the bunch interviewed in the 1920s and 1930s.

Social change was ever-present by the Sixties, gender attitudes were certainly starting to shift.

Slowly. Of course. But the idea a woman should just be a housewife doing the baking for a husband was gradually being challenged.

The presenter was Paul Harvey (1918-2009), an American radio broadcaster who also dabbled in TV stuff.

In another romp, in 1967, this time he was asking what human females look for in human males. From the various responses, it’s great to see some things don’t change.

Looking back at these things, it’s made us realise technology advances enormously. As do some social mores.

But on the whole, we’re still very human and connected with these people from the past—all after similar desires. Whether that’s money, fame, power, status, leaving a lasting legacy (in one way or another).

And 100 years from now, future generations will look back at us.

Some will discover Professional Moron with their virtual reality headsets. And as they digitally waltz amongst the many pages we’ve written they shall think, “What in the name of God was wrong with these people!?”


  1. I was going to say that history’s going to look back and judge us anyway, so we should just go ahead and live a little, but looks like you beat me to it.

    I notice that none of those interviews mention mushy peas, so they must be a recent aberration in your part of our otherwise sensible world.

    Of course, there’s the ketchup problem which, as we’ve sadly agreed in stoopit comments previous to this one, exists practically worldwide in these decadent days. That stuff’s been poisoning picnickers for several generations now.

    Hope they never discover the hidden properties of correctly cooked deli relish…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah! To be fair, most of the interviewees here are American, so mushy peas wouldn’t be a thing for them. Where I’m from, it’s called Manchester caviar. And we chuck it all over our fish & chips.

      A shame these older generations folks didn’t get to experience that. A tragedy, in fact.


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