According to one of Jot 101’s favourite works of reference, Everybody’s Best Friend (c1939), these are some of the rules of etiquette that prevailed at the onset of the Second World War.
Should a man offer a seat to a woman ?
‘…a courteous man has no hesitation in standing so that a lady may be seated. The exception is that no one would desire an elderly man to give up his seat to a girl…When offered a seat a woman should always accept it readily, with a smile and word of thanks. To decline the offer is to slight a man who is doing the right thing…’
Should visitors smoke ?
Smoking is so general nowadays that men are inclined when visiting to light a cigarette without giving the matter a thought. But strictly, I suppose, a man should never smoke in another person’s house until he has asked permission to do so?
The real answer is that a man should never smoke in another person’s house until permission has been given him unsought…But if a guest asks permission to smoke it is difficult for a hostel to refuse it. Hence the considerate guest —especially when he does not know his hostess’s views on the matter—refrains from smoking until he is invited to do so.
Powdering in public.
It seems to be the usual thing now to see girls making up openly in tea rooms, cinemas and so on. But surely it is not accepted as being quite the right thing to do?
It is not a correct thing to do—and many a girl prefers not to reveal too openly how much her complexion owes to mart instead of nature !Some young men are not altogether guiltless in this respect, for not infrequently one sees them vigorously using a comb or nail-file even at table.
Where should a man walk when escorting two ladies—near the edge of the pavement, or in the centre?
The man should walk on the outside, near the edge f the pavement, as when with one lady only. Where the ladies vary to any extent in age, the more elderly of the two should be in the centre.
Some advice taken from Real Life Problems and their Solution by R. Edynbry, published in 1938 by Odhams Press.
I have recently made the acquaintance of a very refined young lady who, I feel, is vastly superior to myself in many ways. I must confess, I am more than a little in love with her, and I should be awfully sorry to do anything which should lower me in her estimation. I believe, if I asked her, she would consent to walk out with me; but before taking this step I should like to know some of those little courtesies which every man is supposed to know. Not that I am entirely ignorant, but I am aware some of these things have to be learned, and that mistakes are easily made.
‘There are a few rules which should be observed when walking with a lady in a public thoroughfare. Don’t allow your companion to walk on the outside of the path next to the gutter; always take that position yourself. If you want to smoke ask her permission first, but, better still, wait until she suggests it to you. When raising your hat in a salute, remove your pipe or cigarette from your mouth, and lift your hat off your head. If you happen to meet a funeral, also raise your hat. If you take a bus or a taxi, allow the lady to get in first, but you must be ready to help her step down at the end of a journey. When meeting her by chance in the street, don’t keep her standing, but accompany her in the direction she wishes to go.
Should this young lady invite you to meet her people, don’t remain seated while a lady or elderly person is standing. If you have been asked to tea do not stay on until supper- time unless you have been specifically asked. Take off your hat in a private lift if ladies are present, but retain it you wish in a shop or office lift. Dress neatly and never wear anything gaudy or likely to attract attention. Don’t mix the colour of coat and trousers from different suits. A last tip. Don’t do all the talking yourself. By proving yourself a good listener, and by asking intelligent questions, you should easily keep your place in her esteem. ‘
Today, most rural slums have either fallen into ruin or been gentrified by second home owners. In the thirties, however, some of the terrible privations characteristic of the urban slums described by George Orwell in The Road to Wigan Pier , were equally true of many rural slums. In an article entitled ‘Clean Up Our Country Slums’ in the April 6th 1934 issue of the news weekly Everyman, Orwell’s contemporary, the journalist Hamilton Fyfe (1869 – 1951), who was also a man of the Left, went behind the façade of a pretty country cottage inhabited by some agricultural tenants and was shocked to find damp walls, cracked plaster, peeling wallpaper and a shared sink.
‘All their water they have to fetch in pails from a farm a couple of hundred yards away. They have no drainage, no light, no indoor sanitation ( as the house agents delicately put it); they enjoy none of the amenities that so may of us consider absolute necessities of life. And these cottage are not exceptional, They are typical of the homes in which our country folk mostly live…I could take you to a house where in two small rooms father, mother, grown-up son and four children ( thirteen to nine) sleep. I could show you rows of houses on the outskirts of little towns, where except for the fresher air, conditions are every bit as bad as in the black spots of London, Liverpool or Glasgow’
According to Fyfe, two Acts of Parliament:
‘make it possible for owners of cottages to borrow money on easy terms so that they may “ reconstruct and improve” their property, put in water supply, baths, light and more wholesome sanitary arrangements. Owners have been very slow, however, in asking for loans. The truth is that the farmer was badly stung over the purchase of his farm from the local viscount and is really not able to spend money on repairs. And he owes his bank so much that he shrinks from the idea of borrowing and more. The right solution, the only solution I can see, is that the community should take over the cottages and make them fir to live in. But most councils are as unwilling as most individuals to take advantage of the Acts of Parliament.
Found - a mimeographed 4 page typed set of instructions for stewards at the royal ceremony. It reveals the amount of detail and planning that goes into these occasions. It was found slipped into a book on George VI and must have belonged to a former steward. The mention at the end of fatigue and strain for this voluntary job is interesting. Stewards had to be at the stands at 5 a.m. wearing (in most cases) morning dress or uniform. Some were required even earlier. Still, refreshments came from Mecca Cafes Ltd (to be paid for by guests and stewards) and there were cigarettes, chocolates and sandwiches circulated by workers bearing trays. A phone service had also been specially installed...
The Coronation of Their Majesties King George VI.
and Queen Elizabeth.
Wednesday, 12th May, 1937
Instructions to Stewards.
1. Stand Stewards.
Each stand will be under the control of a Stand Steward, whose name will be indicated on the Steward’s pass. Stewards will report to the Stand Steward on arrival, will accept orders from him without reservation and will remain on duty until permission to leave is given by him.
2. Time of Attendance.
Stewards will be required to be at their stand, the number of which is indicated on the back of the pass, not later than 5 a.m. and should make themselves conversant with the general traffic facilities in order to ensure their attendance by this time. A certain number of Stewards on each stand may be required by the Stand Steward to be present at an earlier hour.
It is anticipated that in spite of the later hour of arrival which has been prescribed by the Police for seatholders, a large number will present themselves at the stands at a very early hour, and in order that congestion by seatholders and members of the public at the entrances to stands may be avoided it is considered necessary to arrange for Stewards to be present at that time indicated.
The recent Jot reproducing manifestos from The Idler that celebrate freedom from the corporatist world remind me of a wonderfully invocatory collection of poems from Kenneth Muir called The Nettle and the Flower, which came out in 1933. Muir, then just 26, had, just a few years before, graduated from St Edmund Hall, Oxford, where Geoffrey Grigson was his senior by two years. I seem to recall that Muir, being a rather serious-minded student, took against Grigson ostensibly because he performed a prank in which he dressed up as a ghost. But it is more likely that the freshman of solid Labour convictions felt contempt for anyone of a privileged background (though Grigson, who attended a very minor public school, was hardly in this category) who had broken the General Strike of 1926. Grigson was one of many at the University who helped unload ships at Hull docks.
Anyway, The Nettle and the Flower, though rather unfocussed politically, certainly reflected Muir’s equal hatred of the Stalinist view of conveyor-belt drudgery as something noble that contributed to the power of the worker-state, and exploitative Big Business. This is from a Poem to William MacCance:
Some amazing covers from Modern Wonder: the Pictorial Review.(Odhams, London 1937 - 1940)
An astonishing magazine of modern invention, science and future prediction (visions of the future) subjects include: photography (miniature), aviation & flying boats, trains, shipping, wireless, television, military machinery, car racing, world record speed attempts, deep-sea diving & submarines, power stations and manufacturing. Striking, colourful covers, mostly by Bryan de Grineau and Lashwell Wood. Most issues have stories, (thrillers and science fiction) by such writers as Clifford Cameron, Stanton Hope, W. J. Passingham, Peter Barr, and in the first issue, John Wyndham (writing as John Beynon) Issue 1 also includes the required supplementary booklet 'Marvels of Today'. Issue 105 sees the appearance of Alex Raymond's 'Flash Gordon' comic strip, for about 30 issues, mostly in colour. From issue 134, as Britain moves into the war, it's name changes to Modern Wonders (War Pictures).