Hats Off! by
(11 Stories)

Prompted By Manners

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All of your stories remind me of the manners training I got growing up, starting at home. My training continued as a 7th grader in Phoenix where every week a few of us had to eat our lunches at “The Manners Table.” There a teacher imparted and enforced the usual table manners. Friday was our “test” where they served a “fancy meal” so we could demonstrate all of our good manners. This was repeated in eighth grade.

Take off your hat!

When I went away to boarding school, we ate all of our meals in the dining hall. No one was allowed to skip a meal, ever. Each large round table was headed by a senior “Master” (teacher) with a junior faculty member opposite. Meals were served “family style” where all the food trays/bowls were passed for everyone to take their share. The Masters were expected to enforce manners, and most did so enthusiastically. This was easy for me after all my training!

When Masters missed meals, the seniors (Sixth Formers) at the table sat at the head and/or foot of the table and played the Masters’ roles. Their thoroughness in enforcement varied wildly!

One area of manners that has disappeared regards hats. Men were supposed to take their hats off inside, and never ever wear them at the table. This was especially enforced aboard Navy ships, where we all wore hats long after the public stopped. And placing your hat on the Wardroom table, where the officers ate, was a terrible gaff. Now, we see (mostly) men wearing ball caps in even high-grade restaurants. I should have written about that under pet peeves!

Profile photo of Joe Worth Joe Worth

Characterizations: right on!


  1. Suzy says:

    I like the idea of a Manners Table in 7th and 8th grade, with a test at the end of the week. Were there any manners you learned then that seem archaic now? You’re right about hats, nobody takes them off any more, and they’re not even classy hats, they’re just baseball caps.

  2. Khati Hendry says:

    Joe, you got more manners training than most, and in Phoenix, no less, which seems like a casual place to me–baseball caps indeed, and spring training.
    The mention of sixth form makes me wonder if the boarding school was abroad, or maybe they just a very formal place where they had “masters” and used “forms” instead of “grades”. I was briefly at a school in Geneva that used that nomenclature too, and we learned to stand whenever the teacher came into the room for class as well.

    • Joe Worth says:

      Only as foreign as Connecticut!

      • John Shutkin says:

        Exactly, Joe. The local prep school in New Haven used the term “form” rather than “grade,” and it was one of the things about the place that really annoyed us public school kids. (I can’t repeat what we called the school itself; shades of infantile homophobia.)

        And I still find men’s non-removal of hats — most typically now caps — a particularly bad manner. But is there a male C & W singer out there who doesn’t wear a cap in performance?

  3. Marian says:

    Very impressive, Joe, that your school taught and then practically enforced table manners. I agree about hats off for men indoors. We have a house rule of no baseball caps at the table. Very frustrating but necessary in the Silicon Valley!

  4. Hats off to you Joe for a great read about your great training at the manners table!

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