I enjoy turning back the pages of time to the events of my younger days. Today I will turn the page back to a time when gentlemen treated ladies much differently than in today’s society. I don’t mean it was better; just different.
It popped into my memory box as I watched a TV game show with my daughter. A lady had just won a big cash prize on Jeopardy when the host reached to shake her hand in congratulations. This caught my attention. “Back when I was a little boy, men didn’t shake hands with ladies,” I told my daughter. “They nodded their head or tipped their hat.” This was a gesture of respect that had passed on from generations ago. Even today, if you’ll notice, usually gentlemen of my age will be reluctant to reach out a hand. But they will be quick to nod or tip their hat.
That wasn’t the only way things were different. A gentleman, even a young man, was expected to always show respect in several different ways. I remember my first date. Just as I was ready to leave to pick up my girlfriend, it was Granny who reminded me, “Son, don’t forget to open and close the car door for her.” I was only 16, but I didn’t forget. In fact, I didn’t even need to be reminded. This was what well-mannered boys did.
Then there was the social studies class in high school where we were studying etiquette. I have never forgotten Mrs. Craycraft telling her class that if you’re walking along side a lady, the gentleman always walks on the outside. “And why is that?” someone asked. “The gentleman is there to protect the lady,” was the answer. I don’t know if that has anything to do with protecting her, but I still walk on the outside just in case.
There’s one final incident and that has to do with poolrooms that were downtown. Saturday afternoons were a time when the men came to town for recreation, and the poolrooms were where they headed. No lady would ever venture inside these poolrooms. The ladies would shop in the many stores that lined both sides of the street or spend a couple of hours at the Glenn Theatre watching a movie. If they needed to get their husband out of the poolroom, they would simply ask one of the men loafing outside to go in and ask their mate to come to the door. This usually worked, unless the man was in a big game and didn’t want to leave. Sometimes the lady would then have the cop on the corner go in, and this always got results.
There was one cold winter Saturday, however, when a lady came to town carrying her cue stick. She walked right into Buck’s poolroom. “Who wants to play some nine ball for a dollar a game?” she asked. It was a challenge a couple of the local pool sharks couldn’t resist. That turned out to be a bad mistake. She cleaned them out and folded up her cue stick and was never heard from again.
Yes, things are a lot different for the ladies and gentlemen of today. I marvel at and applaud the accomplishments. Ladies certainly don’t need protection to make their way in the world. But I still walk on the outside, and I still open the car door for the ladies in my life. It’s a matter of respect, and it would make my Granny proud.
George Lusby is the former Scott County judge-executive. “The Best of Crawfish and Minnows,” is available at the News-Graphic office.