Wednesday, May 6, 2015

IS THIS JUST A SOUTHERN THING?

file/Staff Young people put their dance training to the test at a Social dance in the spring of 1962. The program is still teaching etiquette skills.

(From Monday's Augusta Chronicle) Here is a 1962 photo of one of Augusta’s oldest traditions – “Social” – the etiquette and dance training that has prepared so many Augustans for the classic behaviors of adulthood.

Untold thousands have gone through the program begun 80 years ago when Mrs. Henri Price saw the value in teaching proper social skills to young people.

She introduced the young women of Augusta to ballroom dance and etiquette classes at the YWCA, partly to help them gain confidence and partly to reinforce good manners.

In the 1970s, Dorothy Wright McLeod, a program director for the YWCA and a former student of Mrs. Price, took up the tradition, and its success and popularity increased dramatically.

Today, according to the Social Web site, the program involves more than 2,000 students ranging in age from 12 to 18 in classes held not only in Augusta but also in Waynesboro, Aiken and Greenville, S.C.

They still learn the right way to shake hands, make eye contact, stand up straight, speak clearly and properly navigate a dining table.
And there’s dancing.

23 comments:

Julian Barkin said...

While I am a Canuck, I guess you question would be answered yes. I do wish youth still had these things but we as a society have thrown it away stupidly. Bars, clubs, even "social" stuff in the Church often doesn't have the same effect these civilized gatherings do. I wish these things happened again.

JBS said...

Whatever its origins, it's a good thing. The libertarian parenting of the past seventy years has not served well the faltering project of Christian civilization, and forces adolescents to fashion their own rules of etiquette. Instead, adolescents should be filled with desire to please adults via conformity to the rules of Christian etiquette, or at least filled with fear of offending adults by breaking a rule of etiquette. And adolescent boys and girls should never be within ten feet of each other without the immediate supervision of an especially terrifying adult.

Julian Barkin said...

Lol JBS! Blame it on dem's hooooormones! However as an additional note, that separation should NOT be replaced by Internet and/or video games, especially for boys.

Your idea, however, is great but is rarely practiced, and should be done again. It was called "courting."

qwikness said...

Those people doing the sign of the cross. :eyeroll

Paul said...

I think at one time people put some stock into how they behaved both inside and outside such affairs. I suspect for many it's considered an exercise in nostalgia, nothing to be practiced in real life (IRL, for the kids).

Bee said...

One thing about this sort of training and the social events spawned by them is that it creates a safer environment for adolescents to interact. Given the expectations of the training, and if the kids stay within the context of the event (i.e., don't go out to the car to do whatever nastiness they really want to do; smoke dope, drink, hook up) everybody goes home unscathed after having had a really good time. Decent, innocent fun. Our kids have really been deprived of this sort of wholesome experience.

Daniel said...

Sorry, but not everyone sees an all-white Southern gathering in 1962 and gets nostalgic. We are better off today in many ways.

JBS said...

Daniel,

Are you implying that African-Americans are not capable of the kind of social formation described in this post? Do you believe that good things enjoyed by previous generations of White Americans should now be denied to African-Americans?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

JBS - I don't think Daniel is commenting on the capabilities of African-Americans at all.

I think Daniel is saying that in 1962, African-Americans were not welcomed into social events with whites. In 1962, Jim Crow laws were only beginning to fall and blacks were just beginning to be "allowed" into previously all-white enclaves.

We can get nostalgic about the past, but we can also get forgetful of the evil, sinful elements of that past. The "Good Ol' Days" were not always good for everyone.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I did not see a photo of Saturday night's version of this. I would hope it was mixed, but I don't know.

But as the good former PI knows, even in a mixed congregation church, when there are social events the blacks tend to hang together as do the whites, just check out the seating and you know what I mean.

I grew up in the final breath of segregation in Atlanta and Augusta. I rode the bus with my mom in Atlanta and by myself in Augusta with friends my age and this would have been 11 and 12 years old and we went downtown on a bus with blacks forced to sit at the back. On one such trip and my friend and I, age 11 were about two blocks from my house, and the bus was empty, he and I went and sat on the very back long seat only to have the bus driver jokingly call us a couple of "n" words! I kid you not, but he let us stay on the back seat.

I didn't like it then nor now, but blacks had strong families, whites were not fearful of them in work environments. Fr. K can testify that he had a maid growing up (we didn't) and often maids were treated as family members, but I suspect even in Fr. M.'s house she had to use a special toilet built for the maid.

Bee said...

Of course, let's get racist about it, and hurl racial invective at each other for innocent comments made, because, of course, that's what passes for conversation in the public square these days.

And did not blacks have society etiquette and social dances during these years, such as run by Jack and Jill of America, or the LINKS? There seems to be a general perception that blacks during those days just hung on street corners in tattered rags, furtively worrying whites would beat them up. Look at any photo of civil rights marches - people wore what is today considered dress clothes, meaning, the men wore suits or dress shirts and dress pants and shoes, the women wore dresses with hose and dress shoes.

Not even a majority of white people participated in etiquette classes and fancy social balls. Honestly, can we stop with the one-size-fits-all memories of the past?

JBS said...

I don't think Father McDonald's post is about nostalgia for the past, but about a present-day tradition that began in the past. Would a birthday party this year for someone born during segregation be problematic because of its association with the racist past? Since Christianity got its start during the age of slavery, does that mean Christianity is nothing more than nostalgia?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Good Father, if by Fr. M you mean me, then no, the woman who worked for us, Ethel Simmons, never had to use a special toilet. There was no special toilet for "the help" in our house.

You are too easily influenced by Hollywood, especially for someone who rants and raves about it so often...

We should not attempt to "go back" or to "recreate" the past unless we acknowledge that the past was not always as pleasant as we too often prefer to remember it.

JBS said...

Fr. McDonald,

I think the maid reference was perhaps a little "below the belt".


Fr. Kavanaugh,

Why do those who oppose the mining of the recent past for good ideas always retort that if one wishes to take one thing from that past, then one is obliged to take all things from that past? I hear this argument often from a certain subset of priests, but I don't understand how the one thing necessitates the other.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Come to think of it, I knew at least a dozen households in which a black woman worked as a maid and in NONE of them was a separate bathroom provided for the exclusive use of the maid...

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The new rectory for Most Holy Trinity in Augusta built in the 1950's had a maid's toilet in the outside laundry room of of the carport. I tore that rectory down!

Daniel said...

In case my original comments were unclear, seeing a photo of a mass all-white gathering in an Old South town in 1962 is a reminder of an ugly history, and all of the genteel Southern manners in the world weren't enough to wash away the stain of Jim Crow. What we call "behavior" is more than just the rituals of bowing and using the right fork. It's also about treating others with dignity and respect.

Daniel said...

Fr. McDonald, I am certain that I am misunderstanding your comments, because I am sure you know that many blacks in 2015 have strong families. Some of them attend your church. And most people who work with blacks do not fear them in the workplace environment. I certainly don't, and I doubt you do, either.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Daniel, I didn't make it clear, but one would have to go to the poorer areas of Macon and elsewhere to see the disintegration of the family cause by promiscuousness, children who don't have fathers living in the home and what the drug culture has done to families. Poor black families have been affected to most adversely. The solution of rich whites is to terminate the off spring of this poor women through abortion or birth control.

If things are so much better today, I wonder if you would allow your small grand children or great grandchildren at the age of 11 or 12 to get on a city bus in the suburbs to come downtown to play and by themselves?

I did that with friends as a child and went to the movies on Saturday when there were specials for children there.

Most parents today, won't let their young children outside the front door to play let alone to wander the streets of their neighbors by themselves and go in to the woods to play.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

JBS – Although there’s something vaguely sinister in the way you use the phrase, “a certain subset of priests,” I am happy to count myself among them.

A Certain Subset of Priests (ACSP) understands that you cannot recreate a past culture by resurrecting one or a few of the trappings of that culture.

That’s not how culture works.

I hope that, at some point, you have attended a Renaissance Faire or a Civil War battle re-enactment or a Titanic Sinking party. At the Faire you might have seen or, better, worn a tunic or a gambeson, a jerkin or a tabard, a vambrace or a brigadine. At the re-enactment you would have seen shell jackets, sack coats, haversacks, or hoop skirts. On the deck at the Titanic party you might have been constantly rearranging a couple of chairs while calling out, “Women and children first!”

These tableaux vivants of times past are fun, interesting, challenging, and, at times, instructive. But they are all merely nostalgic exercises that do not and cannot bring back the past.

The “Save the Liturgy, Save the World” subset seems to have latched on to the idea that if only we can get 1) Catholics to worship in Latin with Gregorian chant and intact altar rails, and 2) get priests to wear birettas and maniples and cassocks, we will somehow resurrect a past time of glory, we will return to the halcyon days of “true” Catholicism, we will eliminate birth control, bishops’ resignations, and gum stuck under the pews.

Maybe that time is 1950 or 1850 or 1750, but I digress.

The accoutrements of the liturgy are culturally conditioned, while the Truth which is celebrated sacramentally and proclaimed in the liturgy is not culturally conditioned – it is eternal. That Truth remains whether the language is Latin or the vernacular, whether the priest alone distributes communion or employs Extraordinary Ministers of Communion, whether the Entrance Antiphon is chanted or a suitable hymn is sung as the liturgy begins.

While we cannot resurrect a past culture by employing the trappings of that culture, we can create a small – very small – community of participants who glory in the exercise. Think “Faire Goers,” “Re-enacters,” and “Partiers.”

Some have argued that this is what Pope Benedict was aiming for – a much, much, much smaller but much holier Church. ACSP doesn’t buy into this notion because it is contrary to 1) the Great Commission and 2) the history of Christian evangelization. We Sub-setters aren’t interested in concocting a somewhat neo-gnostic mini-set of the Church in order to satisfy our own peculiar liturgical preferences.

Now, I’m not opposed to indoctrinating children regarding good manners. Heaven knows I have watched some of my younger brother priests engage in table behaviors that would have resulted, when I was a child at home, in my being sent away from the table in disgrace.

But you can’t cherry-pick a few behaviors from the past or a few liturgical elements from the past, transplant them to the present, and expect everything in the culture to be magically transformed.

That’s not how culture works.

For more information contact www.ACSP.theology

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Very silly and unfortunate comparison especially those of you like the group you mention actually want to go back to the 1970's! And of course in the 1970's these very same people wanted to go back to the early Church of the Acts of the Apostles time and recreate that.

Former PI you really can't expect us to take you seriously with this kind of drivel.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Good Father - I'm not interested in "going back" at all. Forwards, always forward!

The "drivel" on this blog comes mainly from you when you call others "imbeciles," when you refer to your brother priests as "stupid," and when you call your bishop's regulations for marriage "dumb."

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

On your way forward from the 1970's you might want to take a rest stop at the particular time I wrote what you say I wrote and prove it. Look forward to seeing you in 2015 and beyond.