Sparkling Vintage Fiction. Among other things.

Monthly Archives: March 2013

Down to Business: Servants are People, Too!

250px-Smedley_maid_illustration_1906I was looking for a vintage work-related tidbit to share with you, and ran across this gem, just in case you have servants, lol! Actually it applies just as well to any service person, waiter, taxi driver, store clerk, hotel staff . . . not just a maid or butler in a home. Bottom line: treat everyone well and you won’t go wrong.

Here’s what Eleanor Boykin says:

“If there are servants in your house, use some of your considerateness on them too. In nothing do people show their breeding, or lack of it, more than by their attitude toward those who serve them Don’t jumble household routine by calling Maggie and Simpson from their jobs to wait on you. When you have a reasonable request to make, put it courteously not demandingly. Maggie will be more cheerful about doing it, and you will not feel ashamed of yourself.

At the table, it is, of course, not good form to engage servants in conversations of any length during meals; but this does not rule out your being human. “Good morning,” “Thank you,” “The pudding was delicious” and the like will not cause any raised eyebrows. Don’t behave as if the maid or butler were deaf. Steer table conversation away from national peculiarities or anything else that may embarrass one who is not in a position to answer back. It is probably better to skip such comments anywhere. Private matters should be saved for family conferences.” (from This Way Please by Eleanor Boykin, 1948)

Sunday Serenade: Michael, Row the Boat Ashore

I first learned “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore” when I was around six years old, from another little girl in my neighborhood, who said she’d learned it at church. She was a Catholic, so for a long time I assumed it was a Catholic song. I’ve always loved the melody, but listening to it years later, I still didn’t understand what the lyrics meant.

Turning to Wikipedia, where I learned that the song originated as an African-American spiritual during the American Civil War. The article notes that “the River Jordan” is a metaphor for death, and by folk tradition, the archangel Michael was tasked with ferrying souls across the river into Heaven (“milk and honey on the other side”).

This version by The Highwaymen has a very 1960s-easy-listening vibe. You can almost smell the patchouli floating on the breeze. Another, earthier version was recorded by folk legend Pete Seeger.

I love how the crowd joins right in. I miss the days when there were songs that everybody could sing along to. It seems we’re fast losing our common musical language.

Hope you have a Sparkling Vintage Sunday!

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