Photo by Salt Water New England

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Reader Question: Small Traditions


A reader question for the community:
I have a question for the community on your wonderful blog.  
My grandfather recently told me that in his days, young men would be given a silver pocket watch on their 14th birthday, and a golden one on their 16th. This made me realise that there must be many of these small traditions that we are slowly forgetting and I wanted to ask the community: What are some other traditions we are slowly forgetting about?  
Kind regards.

53 comments:

  1. A cedar chest given to girls. I can't recall what age was traditional. Somewhere in the early teens perhaps.

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    1. Oh yes, the hope chest. I have my grandmother's hope chest. I wonder what young ladies would put in one today? Perhaps a George Foreman grill, melamine dishes and a fleece blanket?

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    2. Hope chests were still sort of a thing when I was in high school, mid- to late- 80s. I did not want one and this made my parents happy as our house was full of cedar chests passed down from other family members.

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    3. Melamine dishes?? They are now mid-century modern collectors items, quite eBay-able!

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    4. Yes. I’d forgotten about those.
      MaryAnne

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  2. My grandfather was given a rose gold baby ring with a tiny diamond in it as an infant-can you imagine that being done today with all the fear of choking hazards? At any rate, the ring never made it to my grandfather's stomach and was saved and presented to my mother on her 16th birthday as a pinkie ring. When I turned 16 the ring was given to me and I wear it to this day. I think baby rings where a big thing during the Victorian times, possibly worn on baptismals but I'm not completely sure.

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    1. I have the same ring I purchased at an estate sale! It also has a matching heart locket.

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    2. Wow-the same grandfather me a matching heart locket however that unfortunately got lost over the years.

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    3. We had custom baby rings made for our sons by the same jeweler who made our wedding rings. They are monogrammed as this was a tradition in my husband’s family.

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  3. It used to be that young ladies of a certain social class would be presented to society as debutantes. I asked my wife about this and got a twenty minute commentary on the subject. She was invited but did not participate because it involved a lot of social events; giving parties and attending parties, each event requiring a new outfit. The main event, as it were, was the debutante ball, which was organized here by the Alexandria Cotillion (Virginia). I had been under the impression that it was more of a Southern thing but I am informed that the largest and presumably most important was in New York. The basic idea was that it was a way to meet eligible young men. It used to be that young ladies of a certain (very certain) social class did not attend college, so that's what they did.

    Among other things, it was also a time when calling cards would be presented when making a social call. Your grandmother may have passed down her collection lovingly pasted into a scrapbook along with dance cards, opera programs and the like.

    Some people still do these things, even to include saving dance cards.

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    1. My grandmother was invited to "come out"(different connotations these days..)at one of the New York cotillions and much to the chagrin of her family REFUSED! She felt as though she was being put up to stud and ended up eloping at age 32 which was pretty unusual at that time! My Mother and Aunt were invited to participate in the Brooklyn Cotillion (I can't imagine if they still have one in hipster heaven)but they also refused! Kind of blew it for me-seems like a great way to have a series of great parties in a great dress without having to get married!

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    2. They were colloquially coined "Debs" and "Sub Debs"

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    3. I remember sub-debs from high school. My wife also mentioned that preceding all of these affairs, girls, and boys, too, would attend after-school classes that she called junior assembly in which they learned social dancing and the other little things one should know for debutant balls. In some places a long time ago, there used to be box socials. Totally different but still another way for young men and women to socialize.

      These things are really pretty big traditions when you're of a certain age.

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    4. Junior Assembly classes were still active here in our small midwestern town when my daughters (aged 19-25) were young, although the subsequent formal parties appear to have disappeared.

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  4. I have my mother's gold baby ring that she was given (she's 60). My sister and I were given a diamond ring upon our 21st birthdays. My Mom was a single gal at the time and she felt it was important way to acknowledge these birthdays. It wasn't huge, didn't come in a certain blue or a red box but for her that was a huge sacrifice and a gift that I treasure and will pass on. - hrplo

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  5. I inherited my great grandmother’s hope chest when I was in middle school. Filled it with treasures, including the corsage from my senior prom, a quilt made by my grandmother When I left for college, my wedding bulletin, and my sons baby album. It holds our family history in a lot of good ways!

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  6. Sterling flatware and cups for babies.

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    1. This is one tradition we still maintain in our family, at least the silver cups. My mother's was engraved with her name and date of birth, and the cup pattern has a bas relief image of a small town, which includes a church with a clock face on the tower. The engraver added hands to the clock, showing the time of my mother's birth!

      My cup is more plain and is engraved with my name and date of birth, as is my 3-year-old son's. In what is perhaps a sign of the times, one of my son's godparents gave him a pewter cup engraved with his initials, explaining that pewter would be easier to own than silver because it wouldn't require polishing. I love them both, and my son enjoys drinking from his baby cups on special occasions.

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  7. When I was a senior in high school in 1969, the local furniture store gave each graduating girl a miniature Lane cedar hope chest (about 9" x 5" x 3") with lock & key. I still have mine.
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    1. Same here! It was 1970, and I wish I still had mine. I'm not sure where it ended up with all of the geographical relocations in my life.

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    2. Me too but think I sold it at a garage sale long ago

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    3. Connie that's where I bought mine. It even has the little key.

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    4. Those were miniature love chests by Lane. I can't believe I still have mine from senior year in high school AND the key!

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    5. I did too back in 1990.

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    6. I also have one from 1989.

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  8. These days, upon the birth of a baby, does someone (usually a close family member) still give the gift of a child-sized silver mug engraved with name and birth date?

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    1. I have one of these! I was born in 1978 and still have it lovingly displayed on my dresser. I recently gave one to a friend who had a baby. She looked perplexed.

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  9. My mother, who went to high school on Noroton Point, sent the cast of my high school play a congratulatory telegram on opening night which was read to us by our director. She also gave me a Jules Racine pocket watch for high school graduation.

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  10. A simple British Jack knife, given to me by my grandfather, when I turned 12.

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  11. I presented my sons with a Rolex watch upon graduating from college.

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    1. Indeed, I think the watch tradition endures... maybe more so for men, but for many women as well. I think it just depends if watches are a valued currency in a family. My father was given a Tissot for his high school graduation in 1969, and he gave me a Tissot and then a Hamilton for my high school and college graduations, respectively. I'm in my mid 30s now, and give anyone around my age credit who's wearing any kind of watch at all (other than an Apple Watch, which doesn't count). He still wears his Tissot every so often and with new straps and professional cleanings over the years, it looks very sharp; I know it fondly reminds him of my late grandparents.

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    2. I bought my daughter her first Swatch at 8, which she is still wearing and treasuring nearly two years on. I will get her a Seiko automatic when she starts High School, a Longines when she finishes and my Omega Speedmaster when she graduates from University.

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  12. Add a pearl necklace. Or even passing on grandmother’s pearl necklace
    MaryAnne

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  13. In my family, milestone birthdays and occasions always came with meaningful gifts. Births were marked with engraved, sterling rattles, spoons, and napkin rings (the Scottish side). As time went on and we showed that we could be responsible for good things, small pieces of jewelry, coins, and timepieces became more popular. College graduation came with "good" watches (I also received my grandfather's sterling cocktail set). Weddings are an opportunity to pass along more important family pieces of jewelry, silver, art, furniture, etc.

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  14. My (younger) sisters got sterling baby cups, I got a sterling food pusher. Talk about foreshadowing.

    We use my father-in-law's and husband's baby cups to hold reading glasses.

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    1. Wow-I had forgotten about food pushers. We had one inherited from my grandfather's side in sterling silver with a rather ornate handle. They were really a good idea-too bad just for children! We also inherited Great Grandfather's sterling shaving mug which was in a cabinet with assorted baby mugs.

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  15. So many traditions are being recalled, and it is a walk down memory lane. My engraved plate for my calling cards has not been used in fifty years. Sterling baby cups sit on the top shelf in the liquor cabinet, but napkin rings are in daily use, carrying on both Scottish and Naval traditions. I went to high school in Alexandria, and the memory of the Alexandria Cotillion was not exactly pleasant. I still wear the watch I got upon graduation from high school as well as great grandfather's gold pocket watch and the Chopard my wife got me in the 1970s. She stuck the Tiffany box in the dog biscuit box, and one day I got home from work and she asked me to give the dog a treat. A tradition we keep arrives this weekend, saying "rabbit, rabbit" first thing on the first of the month!

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    1. You probably went to T.C. Williams where my wife graduated, unless you went to Episcopal, two blocks from where she grew up. My wife was there the year of "remember the Titans," a move she doesn't care for.

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    2. No, St. Stephen's. I dated a girl from T. C. Williams though. I lived on S.Overlook. Good memories of that area.

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    3. My wife's brother and one cousin attended St. Stephen's. Her cousin got kicked out. But he made friends with Chris Meloni while there, who went all the way to Belgrade to attend his wedding.

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  16. Not a forgotten tradition but one that I looked forward to when I was young and wanted to continue for my children: a trip anywhere in the country with Dad sometime during the tenth birthday year. My dad took me on a canoe trip on the West Penobscot River with a (Maine Guide dad) and his son. My children 'took me' to 1) San Francisco to dip her toes in the Pacific and walk across the Golden Gate, 2) Washington DC for the museums and monuments, and 3) the Cedar Point, Ohio amusement park for eight hours of roller coasters (!)

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    1. That Maine canoe trip sounds wonderful! I've just been enjoying some excellent photos in an old Yankee magazine of an canoeing expedition that commemorated and recreated the 150th anniversary of Theroux's The Maine Woods. As a Londoner I didn't grow up camping alas, but the idea greatly appeals. I'd be more of a 'glamper'. Thankfully I'm very happily resident in beautiful Virginia now and have plenty of woods around to love.

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  17. When my brothers and I were born in the 60s we each were given a silver cup with our initials engraved. We also each received silver spoons with the date, time, weight, and height at birth engraved. I still have both. I use that spoon every day in my coffee canister for making coffee in the percolator every day.

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  18. When a baby was expected in my family, the women made a quilt. As many women as were willing participated. Someone designed the quilt, others contributed fabric for squares, some embroidered a single square, others created many, and at some point, several ladies met in person to put it all together. A few years ago, an aunt asked that anyone who could, take a photo of their quilt and send it to her with a paragraph or two about the story: name, date, location, people who worked on it. The album she put together is a treasure of ancient treasures and some great family history!
    Suzanne in Boulder

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  19. Single shot 22 rifle for Christmas when I was 10. Sterling silver Jefferson Cups engraved with initials and date for significant birthdays and events.

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    1. Jefferson cups are my staple wedding gift. I can't tell you the number of times the bride and groom decided to toast at their wedding using the cups I gave them!

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  20. Do people still bronze their children's baby shoes?

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  21. Family Bibles. The ones with births, deaths, and marriages recorded. They have invaluable in tracing my lineage back to The Battle of Hastings. Many blanks have been filled in from locating them and I am afraid it may be a dying tradition that our descendants will miss.

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    1. I received a family Bible as well.

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  22. Fountain Pens. An inexpensive Parker when you were allowed to move from pencil to ink in primary/secondary school, something a little nicer for college, and finally a really good one for life, after college, graduate degree, like a Parker Duofold, or for those inclined, a Mont Blanc. Few people can even do cursive these days, much less write with a fountain pen.

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    1. A fountain pen is a true joy. When my career was beginning I took a square from an old percale sheet and appropriated it to wiping my pen after filling it. The cloth has become a work of art over nearly half a century, chronicling different pens and inks from the Mont Blanc with sepia ink to the Waterman with red ink (used for editing) to my daily writer and all time favorite, the Pelikan with blue black.

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    2. My fp of choice is a refurbished Parker Vacumatic. It was made in the first quarter of 1945. I have a semi-matching Vac pencil made in the fourth quarter of 1941. (FYI, Parkers carry date codes; google for details.)

      The pencil takes modern 0.9mm lead; B-grade Pentel polymer by choice. The vintage eraser, however, is as hard as a rock.

      The pen is loaded with 1930s vintage Parker Quink (from a round little bottle sort of like the old highway smudge pots), blue-black in color. Yes, the ink is about 90 years old, still liquid (good cap seal!) and totally usable.

      What's that? Save the ink? For posterity? C'mon, it was made to be used, and it works perfectly today. What else would one do with it?

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  23. Just catching up here -- a sweet 16 diamond - simple diamond on a white gold chain; usually a 1/4 to 1/2 carat on 16th birthday to girls. For HS graduation, pearls for girls; a solid fountain pen for boys.

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