A 1950's etiquette education

Jan. 06, 2013 @ 01:00 AM

During this holiday season, reflections of past times always flick through my head and vivid memories flood in.

For me, in the 1950s, the Gods were smiling, the stars were right. My walking doll and Baby Ed wore the same size clothes.

Edward, or “Baby Ed” is younger than I by 10 years.

My best friend Flossie and I would suit him up in my walking doll’s dresses, put a bonnet on his head, slap him in the stroller and off we’d go.

The desire for a baby girl fulfilled.

Other people in the neighborhood were miffed. They thought my mother had a boy.

“Nope, I’ve got a sister. Her name is Lucy,” I said.

Edward just drooled and laughed.

“Here,want another cookie Lucy?” asked Flossie

Pretty soon we’d hear Ella Maddox’s not so happy voice calling.

“Jeanne Byrd, you and Flossie, bring my baby right back here to this house to me, you hear,” she said.

Ella raised my three brothers and me. No easy task considering our house was usually in a state of near pandemonium.

My father was a corporate attorney and my mother was a star studded civic leader. Ella Maddox had us all the time.

With all her duties, Ella’s time was limited on discipline and good manners.

Even with eyes in the back of her head she didn’t catch all of our misdeeds. Some of what she contended with and heard one time follows.

Zing. Splat. Hey, steal Baby Ed’s and let’s make a larger ball. OK, let it fly.

Mine went farther out than yours. No, it didn’t. Uh oh, the doorman is looking up. Duck. Quick.

It seems that silly putter does not bounce when thrown from the ninth floor window on to Park Avenue as we projected. Mmm. I wonder what went wrong.

Mitchell and I did science experiments the summer we lived in New York City.

We were the only children in the nine floor apartment building. All the other tenants had dogs. Some may have mistaken us for animals, too.

Our not-so-happy doorman was German.

“Zher are people, fhrowing things out of the top floors, Zhey have to stop,” he said.

We’d just scrunch up our shoulders, put our palms up in the air and shake our heads as if we didn’t know who it could be.

You’d think with all the hoop-la over Sputnik the world would be more appreciative of us. After all Mitchell and I had brilliant, inquisitive, scientific, searching minds.

We continued our mind games on the move back to Atlanta. Just more circumspect.

We had to kind-of watch our scientific exploratory work on pulleys. We waited until Ella had already left for the day.

We put Baby Ed in our dumb waiter and lowered him from the second to the first floor. Worked like a charm, not too heavy for the ride.

We couldn’t understand why Ed cried. We gave him candy for the short lived trip.

As an adult, Ed’s turned out to be very successful, although his golf game isn’t too good any more.

This is just a guess, but can you tell I was somewhat of an outlier in the field of good behavior and etiquette. Clearly, I needed help to fine tune these social skills.

Thank goodness I was given a second chance to learn from my college friends, Lynn Brownell Parrott and Carla Miller King who are the epitome proper behavior, thank you notes and showing up for friends. And childhood friend, Flossie Collins Mobley, has always triumphed with her well-mannered demeanor.


• Monroe resident Jeanne Howell teaches etiquette to business and private groups. She may be reached at jeannehowell20@gmail.com. and 704-221-1905.