We have reached a point of great informality in this country. I think it is healthy that we dust off our good manners and good things every now and then. I don’t know if it pushes the pendulum back toward a time of decorum, but it just seems like the right thing to do.
My mother grew up on a sharecropper farm. When she did acquire a nice set of china and a service of silverware, she used it.
Her words are forever etched in my mind, “You can have a peanut butter sandwich on good china, if you want.”
On the eve of Thanksgiving, I was polishing that silverware to a lustrous shine. It looked pretty on the table. Young brides today seldom select formal china and silverware. It goes back to that whole casual thing.
There is nothing wrong with eating Thanksgiving dinner on paper plates with plastic forks, but I just know how much satisfaction my mama got from setting a pretty table. I am pleased to report that her only granddaughter is just as enamored with having a beautifully arranged table.
We also dusted off the high standards of decorum last week as we said our national goodbye to former President George H.W. Bush.
There have been 45 men who have served as president. It is an awesome responsibility. I think that a full measure of pomp and circumstance is appropriate. We showed it well last week.
The Joint Task Force – National Capital Region had the responsibility for the military portion of the funeral. Most presidents have detailed funeral plans on file and the plans are carried out according to military protocol and the wishes of the family.
The uniformed personnel who represent the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard are no strangers to precision work. Among them are those who serve as body bearers for military funerals and guards of the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. The last time a president laid in state in the U.S. Capitol was former President Gerald Ford in 2006. Never knowing when they might be called to duty, they rehearse the precision moves that were on display last week.
The task force also includes The Army Band “Pershing’s Own,” one of the finest musical units in the military. They play selected hymns, the national anthem, “Hail to the Chief” and also provide the “Ruffles and Flourishes” that honor the late leader. A president is the only person to have four “Ruffles and Flourishes” played.
There are pages upon pages of details, as well as a complete manual of protocol. The late President Bush opted not to have a horse-drawn procession or the comparisoned horse, a saddled, but riderless horse with boots facing backwards in the stirrups. (By the way, there is a complete set of specifications for the horse, saddle and even the type of bit on the bridle.)
Bush did however add a unique element, a train, complete with a viewing car that carried his body from Houston to College Station, Texas, where he was interred with his wife, Barbara, and their daughter, Robin, who died of leukemia at 3 years old in 1953.
The time will unfortunately come when we will see elements of that here in Georgia at the passing of President Jimmy Carter, who is now the oldest living former president.
Some may think it is a bit much, but I’m glad we do it.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.