My grandfather always wore a hat — not a cap like you see many farmers wear today, but way back then, he wore a straw hat during nice weather and a heavier yet similar type of hat in winter. I think he also had a nice hat that he seldom wore ... it would have been the same hat he put on when he had to wear a suit and tie, which was next to never.
I remember exactly where he hung his hat in the old farmhouse — right next to his coat on a hook that was too high for me to reach. I remember climbing up on a stool to take his hat off the hook and then proceed to wear his hat around the house, until he’d had enough of my antics and made me take it off. I loved those hats, and even today, if I close my eyes, I can still smell my Grandpa’s sweat-soaked straw hat that was his (and my) favorite.
I spent hour after hour with my grandfather, and one thing that sticks in my mind is how he would always remove his hat when he entered a building. Going into the bank, it was the first thing he did when he walked in the door. Actually it didn’t matter where he was going — the corner grocery store, the drug store, the gas station, a restaurant, the insurance man’s place ... even the feed store — Grandpa’s hat always came off his head the minute he stepped a foot inside the establishment. Most of the time he’d carry it the whole time he was inside the business, however, if his hands needed to be busy, he’d hand that hat to me to hold for him. It sounds silly, but as a little kid, I always felt so proud to be the keeper of his hat.
And that was just the beginning ... Grandpa’s hat came off other times too. Besides being the first thing he’d shed when he came into the house, Grandpa always removed his hat when he was outdoors and in the company of ladies. If another farmer stopped him on Main Street to introduce him to his wife, Grandpa also immediately removed his hat. Actually, any time he was introduced to anyone, that hat came off. It was second nature. I don’t think he even thought twice about it. It was just the thing to do.
Probably the most visible time I remember Grandpa removing his hat was during a parade. While we all waited on the curb for those Memorial Day parades, Grandpa always remained in the car behind the steering wheel, until the procession got close. When it was a block away, he’d struggle with the years, but he’d still get out of the car, stand as straight as he possibly could, and remove his hat and hold it over his heart. There it would remain until the American flag and the U.S. color guard had passed. Even now, it touches me to remember that.
It’s safe to say my grandfather of German descent knew the rules ... no, it wasn’t about rules, it was all about manners. As children, we were expected to exhibit good manners at all times, and he was a perfect example for us. Though we seldom were reprimanded about not having good manners — basically because we usually did, we also knew anything short of exemplary social graces wouldn’t be tolerated.
And so it was the other day when I was at an event that included about 300 other people. OK, it was a somewhat casual, indoor event, but it really struck me as I looked around the room. I started to count, but soon realized it was going to take too much time. The number of people in that large indoor room who were wearing hats (mostly caps) was incredible. When did it become OK for people to wear a hat indoors?
I could go on and on about manners ... or actually, the lack thereof that I see in today’s society, but you get the idea. Good and bad manners are standards of conduct that reveal much about an individual. In many cases, it seems we’ve kicked manners to the curb. Worse ... today’s children have watched us do it.
BCR Editor Terri Simon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.