Women And Cosmetics


A tribe in Central Africa, north eastern Congo had a rather distinctive look. It involved binding the head tightly to deform it to a conical head shape as below.


A baby’s head would be tightly wrapped in a custom called ‘Lipombo.’ It would begin a month after birth and continue for the next couple of years until the desired shape was reached. The practice was seen as a status symbol denoting majesty, power, beauty and higher intelligence.

Perhaps surprisingly the practice did not necessarily affect the brain which is soft and malleable in a baby’s head and simply follows the prevailing shape of it’s container.


The practice began to die out as late as the 1950’s upon the arrival of westerners. It was also outlawed by the Belgian government who ruled colonial Congo at the time.

It is interesting that most images of this physical deformity are women.  Although I have seen a few men bearing the conical head shape.



What Say You?

How does this practice strike you?

Think you would have taken part in this practice had you found yourself in this location pre 1950?


Elephant Sentenced To Death For Murder – True Story!

the insanity of humanity lg


An almost unbelievable story of human idiocy.

Get a cup of tea and I’ll begin…


Charlie Sparks was the owner of Sparks World famous Shows circa 1916 Tennessee. The son of English music hall performers he knew all there was to know about giving the audience what they wanted. Without doubt the star of his show was a large Asian elephant called Mary, billed as ‘The Largest Living Land Animal On Earth.’

Mary would perform tricks like standing on her head, playing musical instruments and pitching a baseball. Indeed despite what we know about circus and the training of animals Charlie Sparks was said to have loved Mary and he and his childless wife treated her like the child they never had. With that mindset he did not use whips and such on her.

Unfortunately when they hired a new elephant trainer he forgot this and use a bull whip on Mary during a procession through the streets. Much has been debated about the exact turn of events since, but basically Mary was said to have grabbed the trainer with her trunk and threw him. Then according to eye witnesses marched over to the fallen man and stomped on his head.

The audience scattered in fear screaming. Their screams brought Charlie Sparks over to calm the elephant. Once she was calmed the crowds fear turned to anger and they yelled for Mary to be killed.

The 100 ton derrick

The 100 ton derrick

What happened next is a story that happens even today with scary regularity across our oh so modern social networks and press.

Firstly Mary was arrested. (Yup….I know!) Whilst languishing in ‘jail’ the news of the hands death caught fire. She was labelled ‘Murderous Mary’ and stories began to spread that she had killed before. The circus’s next stop Johnson City made it clear that the low down ‘murderer’ and her cohorts (the circus) were no longer welcome in their city and more and more bookings fell apart.

Then a rumour went round that a lynch mob was on it’s way with to Kingsport Tennessee to kill Mary. Charlie Sparks began to feel the impact of it all on his business. He knew that if he did not mollify the mob and give them what they wanted he would be ruined.

He decided to put Mary to death publicly.

Having dismissed other methods to kill her like shooting, poison and electrocution he came to the conclusion that hanging would be the most ‘humane’ method to dispatch Mary the elephant.

To have access to the specialist heavy duty 100 ton derricks used for uplifting railroad cars, the whole circus had to move to the city of Erwin where they could be hired. And so it was a grey, drizzly, utterly bizarre day of September 13 1916 that the circus pulled into town.

Mary is hanged

Mary is hanged

The crowds had gathered from all over. Residents of Erwin had traveled down to watch the killing. Witnesses said that Mary felt that something was amiss and was reluctant to participate trumpeting her unease. They decided to procession her as normal to her death with the other elephants to calm her down, then the others were hastily taken out of eye sight and Mary was quickly set upon by the roustabouts. They threw the derricks thick chain around her neck before she had time to object and the signal was made to lift her.

As the chain tightened and Mary was lifted off the ground she struggled. Eye witnesses say that the roustabouts had forgotten to release her ankle chains and they could hear the sickening noise of Mary’s tendons being torn.

Suddenly the chain snapped! Poor Mary fell heavily onto the ground. The crowd shrieked and ran away in fear that Murderous Mary would rise up and seek retribution. But she was stunned by the fall and obviously in great pain from the sustained injuries.

When the ‘murderer’ did not get up shooting from the hip Hollywood-style, the crowd regained it’s cockiness and a roustabout climbed onto Mary’s back to attach a heavier chain. Unsurprisingly Mary struggled less this time as she was hoisted up again and in the grim, grey rainy surroundings the great creature hanging with all

Job done.

Job done.

her weight trained on her neck fell limp and died.

The exact spot Mary was hanged remains a mystery. There is no marker or memorial as later Erwin residents did not enjoy the association with the historical embarrassing event and preferred not to refer to it, although judging the event by today’s treatment of animals I would suggest they should not feel too isolated.




What Say You?

Simple question today… Are people nuts?!


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Images: Martha Erwin asst curator Unicoi County Heritage Museum.

New Years Resolutions! How They Began And How To Achieve Them!

boffin moment

So some 4000 years ago the Babylonians would have an 11 day festival in March. However, in 46 BC the Roman emperor Julius Caesar decided to move the first day of the year to January in honour of the Roman god of beginnings Janus.

It was a difficult sell and took some time to catch on but the campaign was assisted not by increased advertising spend and a pretend online viral sensation story, but simply by Pope Gregory XIII really going for it in 1582 and solidifying the concept of January the 1st with the Gregorian calendar….

The rest you know about, the ‘I-really-mean-it-this-time’ diets that last for 2 weeks, the committed jogging sessions that last for 7 cold January days before giving up, yadda yadda…

So How To Stick With The Annual Resolution Let Down?

  • Well, as I said (last year…remember?!!!!) 😀 The secret is to tell folks about it so that they can either laugh when you give up in 2 days or encourage you when you don’t. Feel free to place your resolution in the comments again this year…so we can laugh or indeed fingers crossed 2encourage you.
  • Make the goal do-able. Don’t build Everest on Jan 1, just add a few bricks, dirt and stones to get started.
  • Do little bits that become habit. The forceful immediate STOP or START of something rarely works for most people.
  • Plan your check points out during the coming year. Let your I Calender or diary thingy keep asking you every month ‘So how’s the stopping bitching going?’ Or ‘How much smoking have you cut down this month?’

So What Say You?

Will you be doing it (again) this year? How did you get on last year? Would it be hideously smug to say that I more or less stuck to my last year resolution? 😛 (Gold star for The Ed!)

Add your resolution in the comments if it helps and I might check back with you some time mid year…like I did last year!

The Class Divide In History

a day in history 3

toffs and toughs 

The Toffs And The Toughs

This pic taken July 1937 by Jimmy Sime called the ‘Toffs and Toughs’ came to symbolize the difference in the class divide in pre-war Britain.

It serves as a fascinating insight to our predecessors in the last century. It was taken outside Lord’s cricket ground during an Eton V Harrow match.

(For our international readers, Eton and Harrow are two of the poshest and most expensive private schools in the UK. Our current London mayor and prime minster and quite a few of his cabinet went to Eton.)  The two ‘toffs’ Peter Wagner and Thomas Dyson were from Harrow and were waiting after the match to be picked up by Wagner’s father for a weekend in Surrey.

The other three boys were George Salmon, Jack Catlin, and George Young, 13-year-old pupils at the local Church of England primary school. They had been to the dentist that morning and then decided to skip school and hang around instead outside Lord’s, where the Eton v Harrow match offered money-making opportunities to any boy willing to open taxi doors and carry bags, or to return seat cushions to their hirers and claim the threepenny deposit.

What Happened To The Boys:

Thomas Dyson the ‘toff’ looking toward the camera had a sad end. He was traveling to meet his parents in India for the summer holidays and developed diptheria. He died in India aged 16 in 1938.

Peter Wagner joined the family stockbroking firm, got married, had three daughters and was declared mentally unstable in the 1970’s and died in hospital aged 60 in the 1980’s.

George Young and George Salmon were interviewed in 1988. By this time they were married. Young had four sons in the window cleaning business like their father. Salmon died in 2000.

Jack Catlin, the third ‘tough’ refused to be interviewed for the catch-up article but had been widowed and remarried and was living in Weymouth by 2010.



Clearly the appetite for ‘reality shows’ giving us a glimpse of the daily goings on of the non-famous is not a new thing.

Do you think their lives from this era might be more entertaining to watch than the reality show stars today?


Marilyn And Ella

boffin momentmarylin and ella

When Marilyn Monroe learned that the Mocambo, a popular Hollywood night club, would not book Ella Fitzgerald because of segregation, Marilyn phoned the manager and told him that she would reserve a front row table every night that Ella performed there, knowing that her presence would get a lot of press and publicity for the club.  As per usual the colour green shouted louder than any other colour issue and Ella became the first African-American to perform at the Mocambo.

As promised, Marilyn was seated right up front to enjoy her favorite singer.

Did you know that?


10 Year Old Boy Carries Dead Baby Bro To Cremation

a day in history 3  japan boy

This heart rending photo was taken by Joe O’Donnell. He was sent by the US military to document the horrors inflicted upon the Japanese by air raids and atomic bombs in 1945.

In this photo, the little boy had bought his brother to a cremation spot. He was barefooted and in perhaps trying to play the role of oldest functioning family member left remaining, he was clearly copying the stand-to-attention stance he would have seen amongst the warring uniformed adults.

Joe O’Donnell in his words:

“I saw a boy about ten years old walking by. He was carrying a baby on his back. In those days in Japan, we often saw children playing with their little brothers or sisters on their backs, but this boy was clearly different. I could see that he had come to this place for a serious reason. He was wearing no shoes. His face was hard. The little head was tipped back as if the baby were fast asleep. The boy stood there for five or ten minutes.”

“The men in white masks walked over to him and quietly began to take off the rope that was holding the baby. That is when I saw that the baby was already dead. The men held the body by the hands and feet and placed it on the fire. The boy stood there straight without moving, watching the flames. He was biting his lower lip so hard that it shone with blood. The flame burned low like the sun going down. The boy turned around and walked silently away.”


Let’s have more war at the drop of a hat yeah?


More Amazing Glimpses Of Our History

18-Construction-of-the-Berlin-wall-1961The building of the Berlin wall.

22-Suntan-vending-machine-1949The obsession with fake tan is a long one. A tanning vending machine 1949.

23-Measuring-bathing-suits-if-they-were-too-short-women-would-be-fined-1920sThe continued obsession with women owning their sexuality is also a long one, as this man ensures that these women are not precious millimetres into the indecency zone.

24-Martin-Luther-King-with-his-son-removing-a-burnt-cross-from-their-front-yard-1960Martin Luther king cleans up after some ‘rowdy’ locals the next morning.

26-Lifeguard-on-the-coast-1920sBaywatch circa 1920’s

25-Hotel-owner-pouring-acid-in-the-pool-while-black-people-swim-in-it-ca-1964This man extends his hospitality to a Black family taking a swim by pouring acid into the swimming pool and forgetting to ask them to get out first. 1964.



Did You Know This Fact About Torch Singer Dusty Springfield?

dusty 5


At The Home Style Directory we relax and happily succumb to the gravitational pull of great talent. We love people with striking personalities and people who own the courage of their convictions. Ms Mary O’Brien otherwise know as singer Dusty Springfield was one of those people. She had a voice which could never really be lauded enough for it’s exceptional tone and control or the refined intelligent usage from it’s owner…

But the reason we chose to profile her is an inspiring and courageous standpoint the lady took in back in 1964.


Click to our cover and see what that was.