Sparkling Vintage Fiction. Among other things.

etiquette

Sparkling Vintage Health: Getting Better All the Time

Hello, Sparklers. I’ve been laying low following a recent operation. But I’ve not forgotten you! I’m doing well on the proverbial road to recovery.

While I’m resting up, I thought I’d treat you to what some people of the past had to say about convalescence. The state of convalescence itself is a rather old-fashioned idea in this era of minimal hospital stays and up-and-at-’em pressures toward returning to productive work. Gone are the days of a lengthy recuperation, preferably in the sea air or desert sun, such as the Victorians might have enjoyed.

I was especially tickled by this advice from 1877: “Sickroom visits should be very short, and the conversation should not be very serious, for in convalescence, a cheerful face on the caller is more welcome than a face that looks like the dividing line between the grave and the patient.”

A 1913 writer had this to say: “The convalescent takes such abnormally keen delight in being remembered, that it is obligatory upon the rest of the family and his friends not to forget him. Kindly messages should be frequent.”

And this little gem from none other than George Washington: “In visiting the sick do not presently play the physician if you be not knowing therein.”

Of course, the patient is not entirely off the hook. In 1912 Dr. A. J. Sanderson wrote, “In the maintenance of health and the cure of disease, cheerfulness is a most important factor. Cheerfulness brightens the eye, makes ruddy the countenance, brings elasticity to the step, and promotes all the inner forces by which life is sustained. The blood circulates more freely, the oxygen comes to its home in the tissues, health is promoted, and disease is banished.”

The Bible says it best, and without wasting words: “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”

Cheers!

Sparkling Vintage Charm School: Telephone Manners

I don’t know if it’s due to the Age of Texting or what, but recently I’ve noticed a marked decline in telephone manners. So I thought it might be a good time for a refresher, circa 1938:

“If possible, the telephone should be placed so that one can have privacy and quiet while talking,” wrote Marianne Meade of the Junior League. “In many houses this is not possible, so the family must make up in courtesy what is lacking in convenience. [Once upon a time, families shared one telephone, or perhaps a main phone and one extension.] They must not consciously listen to what is being said, and they should also refrain from unnecessary noise or loud talking. This does not mean, however, that conversation should give way to a dead silence until the telephone call is completed, but rather that the family should continue to talk in low tones.

“While not in the best of taste, some member of the family may ask who it was that phoned, and he should receive a courteous answer. But the questioning should go no further unless the call concerns the entire family, or unless the person who received the call is inclined to give more details. Incidentally, it is not considerate to engage in prolonged telephone conversations, because you thereby prevent others from making and receiving calls which may be much more important than yours.” [Yes, children, entire households used to share not only one telephone, but one telephone line to the house. Some even shared the line with other households in the neighborhood, called a “party line.” Oh, the horror!]

Writing for teens, Eleanor Boykin added, “You can never be sure when you telephone a friend that you will not interrupt a visit or call him from a shower bath, but you can considerately void telephoning very early in the morning or late at night, or at the usual hours for meals.” [Do families even have set meal times anymore? Well, it’s a nice idea.]

On answering the telephone: Miss Boykin went on to say, “When you are on the answering end of the telephone, put a smile into your voice. As soon as you hear who your caller is, greet him as pleasantly as if he were at your front door. ‘Hello, Billy, how are you’ or ‘I’m glad to hear from you, Helen.” Don’t grunt”Yeah, what is it?” It is the caller’s place to bring the talk to a close.

On taking messages pre-voicemail: “Telephone messages for absent members of the family should be written down just as carefully and delivered just as faithfully as in an efficient office,” wrote Hallie Erminie Rives. “If a pad and pencil is kept beside the telephone, or better yet, fasted in place, there will be no excuse for not writing the message exactly as it is given. The message may then be put with the proper person’s mail, or left in a designated place, so that the individual can get it even if no one is around to tell him about it when he returns home.”

On using a public telephone: Miss Rives cautions, “Always note if someone is anxiously waiting to use it. Long gossipy chats while others wait should be taboo.”

In You’re the Cream in My Coffee, Marjorie runs into this situation when she stays at the YWCA and must share a public phone:

In the lobby, I tapped my foot and tried to catch the heavily shadowed eye of the bottle-blonde now hogging the sole telephone.

“‘So I says to him, I says, “Just how do you expect me to do that?” And he says to me–get this, Myra–he says, “I dunno, you figure it out, you’re supposed to be the smart one.” So I says to him–hold on a sec, Myra.’ The blonde placed her hand over the mouthpiece and glared at me. ‘You want something, sister?’

‘Yes, the telephone. Are you almost through?‘”

You can see the problem.

In her book of etiquette, Miss Rives says, “Certainly one should never use a coin box telephone for the ‘Guess-who-this-is’ type of all or for the continuation of the family argument started the night before. Men should not smoke in the tiny, airless cubicle.” [Note: Women were not to smoke at all. Elsewhere the author notes, “In the larger cities women now smoke so generally that it almost seems as though they are destined to use the weed wherever and whenever men do. As yet, however, women of breeding do not smoke on the street, or in a public conveyance.” ]

Yes, texting is convenient and carries its own set of rules. But it never hurts to brush up on the basics of actually talking to another person on the phone.

 

 

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Students: Is Your School Etiquette Up to Snuff?

girl in schoolFor most students, the school year is well underway. Here’s hoping your experience measures up to the standards set by Eleanor Boykin in This Way Please (1940):

“In schools all over the country, students have formed etiquette or good-form clubs.” [Ed. note: How’s your school’s etiquette club going? Thought so.] “It looks as if a new era of courtesy has started with better school manners. Dan Rough-and-Ready, who thinks it funny to poke fellow students on their way to class, to guffaw loudly when someone slips on the assembly platform, and to shuffle noisily into the classroom, will soon be out of the picture.

“Be proud of the ‘front’ your school puts up to the community. This means keeping the grounds free of rubbish. The janitor cannot always be behind you to pick up fruit peelings, lunch wrappers, and the like. You can easily acquire the habit of taking them to a container. Your conduct on entering and leaving the grounds also reflects on the school. Leave for hoodlums the shouting from one block to the next and pushing one another into people’s yards.

“If you rush pell-mell out of a classroom and go bumping down the corridors, you will have to stop several times to apologize for jolts you administer, so what good has violent hurry done you? You have merely advertised the fact that you are lacking in poise.

“It is nearly always the same people who make a last-minute dash for assembly and come in breathlessly to find a seat. This habit of being late grows upon one and is likely to become a social handicap when school days are over. . . . Squirming, whispering, and foot-scraping are labels of the underbred. Try to be interested in the program for your own sake. People who are easily bored and close their minds to ideas and happenings are painfully likely to become boring themselves. Even if you are not entertained, you can at least appear attentive and not disturb those who may be enjoying the proceedings. An outside speaker deserves all the courtesy you can show him, because he is your guest.

“Some of your teachers you will like more than others; but respect yourself enough to respect the position of all of them. An insolent attitude or one of trying to ‘get ahead of teacher’ shows a churlish nature. A teacher may sometimes seem unfair. Be grown-up about it, and ask for a chance to talk it over. Being surly or ‘talking back’ is childish. Calling out ‘Teacher!’ is uncouth. Address any instructor by name, ‘Mr. Sanborn’ or ‘Miss Swain.’ Wild handwaving to attract attention would be sensible if you were stranded on a desert island and saw a boat in the distance, but in the classroom it makes you look rather foolish.

“Ways to make yourself unpopular: Walk about with a superior air as if only a few people were worth your notice. Borrow books, pencils and other articles and never return them. Boast of your grades. Start tales on other students. Be quick to pick a quarrel. Try to run everything you are connected with. Bully your schoolmates, particularly the smaller ones. Break into another’s story with ‘I know what it is’ or ‘You’re wrong.’ Try to get others to do your work for you. Humiliate others by laughing at their mistakes.

“Playing practical jokes is dynamite to popularity. Who can feel at ease with one who is likely to get him to sit on a thumbtack or slip a dead snake in his pocket?

And finally, “Don’t make yourself the butt of jokes around school by a too apparent devotion to a Certain Person. Romance loses some of its charm–like the banana in the refrigerator-under the cool gaze of unromantic observers.”

How does your school (or your child’s school) compare to this 1940s ideal? Better? Worse? Or just different?

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