DID YOU EVER STOP TO WONDER about the changes in the mode of entertaining in the last fifty or sixty years? About the only thing that hasn't changed is that you still get out your best silver, glass, china and linens for a party. But there the sameness stops. Who would have dared sixty years ago, or even twenty-five years ago, to serve sherry at a women's luncheon, or at an afternoon "tea"? In fact, who would have given a bridge-luncheon then? Most of the parties started in the afternoon and the luncheon was served at the close of the party. You can rest assured, no cigarettes were smoked then by the ladies. In fact, it took until the late twenties before women were smoking in public.
The young men who smoked cigarettes in public before World War I, were considered by many as not amounting to much, and their success in life considered questionable. Anyone under twenty-one, who wanted to try out smoking, corn silks, coffee or what-have-you, usually sneaked back of the barn or shed to do it.
Teas in those early 1900's were receptions and were in some respect quite formal. You were invited to every kind of social event by written invitation. No phones then and when the first phones did come into Lawrence homes, we had two systems; the "Home" and the "Bell". One of your friends might have a Home phone and the other a Bell, and calls were not interchangeable.
When you arrived at a party, the door was usually opened by a young daughter or a friend of the family. To be asked to do this was considered quite an honor for the door-opener. In those days, you wouldn't be caught dead not wearing a hat and kid gloves to any event, and at a reception you kept your hat on. Your wraps were left in a bedroom. Young school-girl daughters and their friends assisted in the dining room at the receptions. Chairs were arranged against the wall around the dining room and you were served sitting down.
Hot chocolate was served in winter by the girls, poured from a hand-painted chocolate pot, and a spoonful of whipped cream added; tea or coffee at the other end of the table. In summer, punch (unspiked), from a punch bowl, took the place of a hot drink. The rest of the food was brought in from the kitchen on individual plates. Colored mints were a must. The rest of the food consisted of cakes, sometimes ice cream, and sometimes home-roasted, salted peanuts. Paper napkins were unheard of. Linen napkins, sometimes edged with hand-knitted or crocheted lace, or embroidered were the only things used.
Before you left the dining room, small colored ribbon tied in a flat bow, or sometimes a fresh rose-bud, was pinned to your
bosom, so the assisting hostesses could see that you had been served. The color of the ribbon matched the decorations for the party.
There usually were fresh, cut flowers throughout the rooms. Carnations, roses and sweet peas seemed the most popular, and particularly carnations. After you left the dining room, you stayed on a little longer to chat. Then, with your wraps on for departure, you tarried long enough in the hall, to take your calling card from your card-case, and drop it on a silver or china callingcard holder. This was to let your hostess know you had been there. If the reception was given in honor of someone, you left two cards; one also for the honoree. If you couldn't attend the reception, you sent your card by mail or had someone take it, to the hostess's house, being sure that it arrived on that day, and before time for the party.
If the reception was at night, the husband and wife each left their card. Card cases were not over four or five inches long and were made of mother-of-pearl, silver, or fine kid leather. They were sometimes hooked to your belt, as was your purse sometimes. You didn't always carry both to the function.
Morning coffees were unheard of. You got acquainted with your new neighbors by making a call some afternoon and leaving your card. In later years, the cards might be eliminated, but you still called in the afternoon. Years ago, one day in the week was "calling day" and we believe it was Wednesday.
Other afternoon types of parties were "cards" and "Thimbles." "Whist" was the popular card game, although "500," "Penochle" and "Euchre" were played too. On the written invitation for these events, "Whist" or "Thimbles" as was the case, was placed in the lower right-hand corner and R.S.V.P. on the opposite side. These parties were not preceded by a luncheon or dessert, as is done now, but the food was served at the close of the party.
"Thimbles" didn't mean to bring the family darning or mending, but some dainty handwork like hemstitching, embroidery, crocheting, or knitting lace (not sweaters), hemming linen napkins, and such. When you arrived for these parties, you would leave all of your wraps, including your hat and purse, in a bedroom. Purses were not needed to hold your cigarettes, lipstick or compact powder case. There was no smoking. If you needed your handkerchief, it was sometimes carried on a special little gold clip, sometimes in the shape of a hand, that was clipped to your belt, or you just tucked it in the cuff of your sleeve.
There were no lipsticks, and when they did come in, along with compacts or loose powder, it was considered most unladylike for them to be applied any place but in the bedroom. While the party was in progress, the young school-girl assistants would sneak upstairs and try on all the elaborate hats and fur wraps, with
much giggling accompanying it. Sometimes an elaborate lunch would be served at the end of the party, again by the young people; or cake and ice-cream, mints and coffee. The mints would be ordered from Wiedemanns.
The Whist parties were far different from the Bridge parties of today; the game itself for one thing. All hands were held up, none exposed. Tallies were often hand-painted, or hand-made. At one party in Lawrence, "Gibson Head" drawings were on the tallies. In Whist, one hand or deal was played at a table. The game was played similar to Bridge in the playing of the hand. However, the trump was determined by the dealer dealing until she came to the last card, which was placed face up on the table before her. Whatever the suit turned up was, was the trump suit. The dealer would then place the exposed card in her hand "when it was her time to play to the first trick." Whichever pair won the most tricks, would be the winner of that round, and that pair would progress to the next table. But not until the dainty little bell at the first table would be rung to tell you it was time to move. The winners of that round would have their tallies punched with a small hand punch for just that purpose. Whoever had the most punch holes for the afternoon, would be the high. One thing sure, moving after one hand was played, circulated the guests.
Prizes would be hand-painted dishes, a bouquet of roses or carnations, a piece of cut-glass, often a picture, but never money. The men's prizes were "beautiful etchings," or cigar holders, ash trays, and such. The prizes and winners were named in the newspaper writeup. The guest lists were sometimes mentioned too. In 1908, the late Mrs. H. B. Ober had a "500" party and the first prize was a gold hatpin, and the consolation prize a "Valentine Postal." Wallace Nutting pictures were also a popular prize when he became famous.
In the early part of the century, social affairs were always in the home. For cards, the number of tables ranged all the way from nine to twelve. Then when Ecke's Hall (above Duckwalls) and Fraternal Aid Hall (Standard Life Building now), were built, and later Wiedemann's hall, the larger parties were given at those places. Twenty-five tables were not unusual. It was around 1910 when the halls were popular. The decorations were still elaborate regardless of the size of the hall.
In the beginning, help in the kitchen at home was usually the family maid, assisted by friends of the hostess and/or the family. In the early 1900's, a very beloved negro and excellent cook by the name of Lucy Brown, became the popular cateress. She was followed by Mrs. Drisdom, Mrs. Nelson, and Mrs. Walker. Lucy Brown's two favorite main dishes were veal birds and creamed chicken in cornucopias. Oysters were used often in entertaining, particularly when the men were entertained. Sometimes Lucy would bring in her daughter, Birdie, if she needed her. As she
put on elaborate affairs, she was in constant demand and her time would be engaged weeks and even months ahead.
Also, about 1925, instead of the card party prizes being wrapped, they would be left unwrapped and displayed on a table, or on the grand piano, if the hostess had one. The winners could choose which gift they wanted. High for first choice and so on. A large party would have five or six prizes displayed, such as card tables, vases, and silver pieces, maybe linen luncheon sets, etc. By this time, Auction Bridge was being played. In fact, as far back as 1912, a Bridge club in Lawrence was organized, called the "Royal Auction Bridge Club."
Night entertainment with the men? There were receptions, dinners, whist parties, dancing and "Dutch Lunches." No cocktails were served before the dinners; wine sometimes with the meal. At Dutch Lunches, (suppers), beer was served. The dances started after eight o'clock. There was a popular hall in the early years, before Ecke's and Fraternal Aid Hall, called "Frazier Hall." It was in the Ludington building, 709-711 Massachusetts Street, built after Quantrill's Raid. The first floor of the three-story brick building, was usually leased for restaurants, and the second floor was occupied by, at one time, A. Faas & Company, piano manufacturers, and the H. J. Rushmer Jewelry Store.
When Mr. Malcolm Conn was owner of the Eldridge Hotel he had the wall between the Ludington building and the Eldridge, knocked out and a doorway made, so that one could walk through from the Eldridge on the third floor. This door and opening stayed there until the hotel was remodeled in 1925. After the dances, many guests would go to Wiedemann's for oyster stew.
Seventy-five years ago, the social center for the early German settlers was at the Turner Hall, later used by the Salvation Army, at the corner of 9th and Rhode Island streets.
And how did these people get to the parties? They either walked, rode in their carriage or hired a hack (cab), horse-drawn.
Printed in Journal-World March 11, 1964