A conversation about etiquette lessons offered by Mrs. Church and Mrs. Patterson in Flint brought back these memories for Pat McFarlane Young...
In my quest to be "one of the bunch" or, as it was known in the forties, one of the "400" crowd at Flint Central, my typical screwed up teenage mind felt my life would be transformed if only I could attend Mrs. Church's etiquette classes. The culmination of the classes was a dance party in the Durant Hotel ballroom, which all the peons had to hear about in school the next day.
At the time, this quest rated right up there with bleaching a streak in my hair like Nancy Jacks, having an arm full of turquoise and silver bracelets from The China Closet, or a collection of angora ankle bobby socks. I knew my parents would never understand this desire and consider it a total waste of money. But somehow I got the money and enrolled with Mrs. Church. I believe the classes were held at her house in the Civic Park area, meeting once a week for a little more than a month.
After telling my parents some bogus story I would run to the bus stop on Lewis and Kearsley Park Blvd. and catch the bus. It was dark when class ended. The other kids’ parents would pick them up but I had to run like hell to catch the buss. If I missed it, I would have had a hard time explaining to my folks.
Somehow I made it through the classes and even finagled a dress for the dance party. My parents did drive me to the Durant, but I can't remember how I managed to arrange it. I do remember the thrill I felt standing on the balcony overlooking the Durant lobby and going in to the party. The big thrill of the night was that Don Cronin asked me to dance. He later became the mayor and worked with my dad at Darby & Son Real Estate. He turned out to be a very nice, kind man and I always remembered that dance.
Looking back I realize that high school is the hardest time in a young person’s life because they are trying to decide who they really are. It took me many years to figure it out, and I now realize old age is as hard as high school. I'm still searching.
A recent shot of the ballroom before renovations began on the hotel. (Photo by Mellowedee via Flickr.)