Modern Manners … Circa 1930

Some things never change. But, some things do. Manners, for example.

On the lighter side this week, and having absolutely nothing to do with my job as a legislator, I’ve just opened a pair of booklets, dated 1930 and circulated by the Springfield newspapers. "Modern Manners," and "Handy Letter Writer," both by Frederic J. Haskin.

Haskin, it seems, wrote a series of booklets circulated by newspapers across the country. Unfortunately, I don’t have some of his others. Like, "Care of the Feet." Or, "Presidents and Their Wives," complete with portraits. Or even "Let’s Play a Game," with games and stunts for every occasion

For "Modern Manners," the author says he consulted well-known Washington and New York Women, as well as etiquette books. You could get his advice–and his booklet--for just ten cents.

Among his advice is the warning not to hum along with the tunes while an orchestra plays. Not to talk during a movie. So some things never change, but many do. Or, are ignored today.

Keep your left hand in your lap while eating. Don’t chew your ice cream. And, because it is difficult for a woman alone to get a room at a hotel, write or telegraph ahead to engage rooms–and, don’t arrive late at night.

Not tipping help, on a rail car, is Un-American. Tip a Red Cap 10 cents for one bag. A woman, however, should not play cards with strangers when traveling.

Don’t shake your dust mop out the window of an apartment. On the links, the caddy should replace the divots, play stymies, and ask strangers to join you if lacking a foursome. If invited to a bridge party, and you don’t play bridge, decline the invitation.

For women. Carry walking sticks in the country, not the city. Only wear hair ornaments at formal balls or dinners. Never wear a hat with evening dress, but it’s okay to wear one while presiding at a meeting. A well-dressed woman should have one or two really good dresses instead of a dozen cheaper ones. And never wear silk stockings with knickers.

For men. It’s no longer effeminate to wear wrist watches. Tuxedos after six only, please. Spats go with business or afternoon dress. And only silk hats with evening clothes.

Men should put ladies’ overshoes on for them. Never blow the horn when picking up a lady friend. On the stairs, men go first on the way up, last on the way down. If not engaged, never give a lady friend more than flowers, candy or books. Never ask her to visit your home–only your mother or sister should issue the invitation.

For everyone. Call before visiting. Once there, don’t talk about leaving and then stay longer. A card doesn’t suffice for a visit. Engagements should be announced the first day the bride-to-be wears her ring.

At the table, the knife and fork are placed an inch in from table’s edge. Knife’s sharp edge toward plate. Glass at tip of knife. (I learned this in a mandatory high school class.)

Remove potato skins with a fork–and use the fork to put butter on the potato. (Forks were introduced from Italy during the reign of King James I. Thomas Jefferson introduced finger bowls.) It’s no longer good form to fold bread in a napkin at dinner.

Funerals. Children should never wear black. Try lavender or gray or white. A widow wears her wedding ring for her lifetime–unless she marries again. Sending flowers to a funeral? Address them to the deceased.

On the sidewalk, don’t stop to chat–walk with the friend as you talk. In a taxi, a woman never sits to the man’s left, or she’s not considered a lady, if you get the drift. Don’t say "pardon me" if you bump into someone; "Excuse me," "I beg your pardon" or even "Sorry" is preferred.

Writing to a servant? Do it third person, like "Mrs. Whomever wishes Harvey to meet her at the station at 8 o’clock Tuesday evening."

In any social letter, never use a typewriter, answer all invitations within a week, incorrect grammatical construction is inexcusable, don’t write long letters–four pages are enough.

In addressing a Representative, put The Honorable as a title. I like that–The Honorable Cele Hahn. The spouse is Mr. Honorable Hahn or Mr. Representative Hahn. Senator Michael Knapik’s wife would be Mrs. Senator Knapik. Remember, we’re in 1930.

But, that was then and this is now…and I’ll try to get back to political stuff next week. The House had a full formal session this week–the first since July! No budget yet. The State House feels different lately–more security. We all got new ID cards, troopers at every door, court officers wandering the halls, and a new door on the parking garage.

Next week? Columbus Day, of course. The Chancellor at Umass/Amherst has a lunch for legislators, Massachusetts Aeronautical Commission meets to consider a nice grant for Barnes Airport and, we’ll celebrate improvements at the Springfield Civic Center.

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