A look back at some of the crazes—such an apt word—that swept the United States over the last century.
To every time and season, there has been a fad or two. For a very long time, it was the upper crust who determined the mood and spirit of fads, but with the rise in wages and the shortening of the work week, fads became great engines of whoopee. Bix’s accompanying narrative to the archival photos is a straightforward affair, because the fads speak for themselves: dance marathons, sitting on flagpoles (for—why not?—21 days), swallowing goldfish (live—eww), pogo sticks and hula hoops, packing telephone booths with college students, 3-D movies, and on and on. Fads fade, though a mighty few have become institutions: yo-yos, Frisbees, rock-’n’-roll, and, alas, chain letters. What lifts Bix’s work to a higher level is the way she sets the fads against realities that made escape into unbridled tomfoolery an act of sanity: the Great Depression, two world wars and those that followed, including the Iraq War, assassinations, Columbine and the Oklahoma City bombing. These are scattered throughout the text as elements in timelines, along with moon landings, the Lone Ranger and Bugs Bunny.
Current record for phone-booth stuffing? Twenty-five—until inspired readers find the last remaining one to try for 26. (Nonfiction. 11-18)