The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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January 21, 2014

VIDEO: Business Expo exhibits a study in contrasts

A lot has changed for Farmers Insurance agents since the company opened for business in 1928: Their black-and-white logo now is in color, and women are allowed to be agents.

One of the area’s first, Linda Teeter, who joined the company in 1979, was dressed with a nod to the past Tuesday — including a head-hugger hat, a drop-waist dress and a long strand of pearls — as she spoke to attendees at the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce Business Expo at the Holiday Inn Convention Center.

The theme of the event, which continues today for the public, is the Roaring ’20s.

“There were only seven in the U.S. when I became an agent,” Teeter said of women. “Now when I go to conferences, I’d say it’s about 50-50.”

Business practices also have changed.

“It used to be we’d have to sit down and do everything by hand, and we’d have to go places armed with tons of paper and a couple of briefcases,” she said. “We mailed everything. We wrote out everything.”

Across the aisle from her booth was a representative from an industry that hadn’t been born yet in the 1920s: recycling.

“We were in the midst of the Industrial Revolution then,” noted Kerry Kerr, who said it was therefore a challenge to incorporate the theme into Commercial Metals Co.’s booth.

Instead, he relied on a visual from the industry: a 40-pound block of 1,300 crushed soda cans.

“There weren’t even pop cans back then,” he said. “Only glass bottles. Now recycling’s a pretty big part of our society.”

Nearby, a booth manned by representatives of Tropical Tan used a popular costume of the decade — the spaghetti-strap flapper dress — to help show off what they were marketing: a golden glow that is possible even as the temperature hovered at 24 degrees.

“It’s fun,” said Jeannette Royle. “We really got into it. We hope people who stop by to visit do, too.”

In contrast with the flappers, representatives from Integrity Home Care were dressed in modest white pinafores and starched white nursing caps, symbolic of health care in the 1920s. And they had done their research, as evidenced by a display board of photographs and advertisements from the period.

“Health care has come a long way, baby,” said Mica Burnett, Integrity Home Care education and development manager, with a laugh. She and Karin Tucker, in-house services manager, created the display.

“Nurses were smoking back then,” Burnett said. “Patients used wooden treadmills for exercise. Wheelchairs were made of wicker. And women were seen as having ailments for which they needed help, like compounds to relieve their stress and anxiety.”

Doctors also made house calls.

Burnett said health care has come full circle by once again offering care in the home through agencies like Integrity, but by contrast, they are assisted by technology that practitioners in the 1920s couldn’t have even dreamed.

“Now we have lifeline alert systems and telemonitoring,” Burnett said. “A doctor can set parameters, and a system can tell a patient it’s time for a daily check. The patient can step on a scale, or put their arm in a cuff, and the results are immediately sent in and alerts us to the care the patient needs.”

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