I n packing up the files of Twenty Five Years Ago, I ran into another one written some 8 months ago. I really like this one. And because friends and fans have been saying, "Hey, you can't retire so suddenly," well here is article number 272 (or thereabout). Now to retirement.
Remember when I told you that 25 years ago all females had to go to church with some sort of head gear like a "mantilla" (a silk or lace head scarf) or small cap like the Pope wears or even a white handkerchief. Well, it was exactly the opposite in the house or at home. As soon as a man stood at the entrance of any house, he removed his hat. This respect was demanded. When a man passed by the church, he removed his hat or cap. This reverence was genuine and indoctrinated into all males.
Now there were two or three strict rules to be followed at the dining table 25 years ago. First, a boy or a man would never sit at table with his hat or cap on. "Only the soldiers do that," mom would say. "They don't have time to remove it and must eat in 2 or 3 minutes." And then father would add, "If you eat with your hat on, God's blessings will not fall on you; they will roll off your hat." Oh yes, I do remember vividly feeling a pinch on my arm or a twist of an ear when at times I was in a hurry and rushing at the table with my hat on. I am sure most boys who grew up then had similar lessons, rules and experiences. It makes sense in my mind up until today. I see a person eating anywhere, at home or a restaurant, with his cap on as being disrespectful or lacking in good etiquette. You see, even when at sea in our little dory, my father removed his hat when he sat to eat a little snack and take a break after pulling up some 50 lobster traps.
Secondly, (back to the rules at the table) children were not supposed to chit chat while at table for breakfast, nor supper, nor lunch. No conversation was permitted or a whack or whipping was sure to come. Mother would say, "The table is a place to receive God's blessings, not to play or fight. Eating time was a quiet and fast period. For the most part, the children would eat first and then mom and dad, but even they did not hold a long conversation at table. It was almost a religious experience.
Thirdly (still on the topic of behavior at the table) children were not supposed to make noise with the mouth while eating. If one made noise, mom would say, "Comes como un cochino." (You eat like a pig.) Soup, especially had to be consumed without slurping. If you get what I mean, eating had to be done with the mouth closed and without talking or a slurp would be forth coming.
Do people sit at table with caps on today? Oh yes. Do people converse at table? Today eating is a family, social hour and good conversation is expected. And finally do children slurp or make "piggy noises" while eating? When is the last time you saw a lady going to church with a mantilla? Do you agree that some fine traditions and etiquette have gone into oblivion? Twenty Five Years Ago salutes those young persons who are still willing to practice some of our fine traditions.