Saturday, January 2, 2021

Mystery

 A long time ago, between 25-30 years ago, I had a friend. She was a hilarious friend, the kind of friend that you always want to have in your back pocket in case of hard times. She was just that funny. There never was a day she couldn't make better. 

Her name was Patty. She's gone now, all these years later. 

I haven't had cause to think of her for a long time, but today, a blog post triggered a memory of her. 

She told the most wonderful stories of growing up in the south, of living life on military bases. She was an officer's daughter. Her mother was the sister of General George S Patton, and she was named Patty in honor of her beloved uncle. It was not Patricia. Her name was simply Patty.

The stories that I enjoyed the most were the ones she told about being a young woman, about cotillions, grand parties that were fun, but their main purpose was for officer's daughters of marriageable ages to meet suitable young men. She talked about the etiquette involved at such affairs. She talked about the gorgeous dresses they wore and the layers of crinoline that went under them to make those dresses pouf out. They fell below the knee, and they wore little white gloves and carefully styled hair. They sipped alcoholic punch, never, ever getting drunk, but there was a lot of giggling. As strange as it sounded all those years later, young ladies could dance all night long. The parties were chaperoned, and no girl would ever leave the premises. These parties would last until the wee hours of the morning, and no parent ever worried about their daughters. 

Her very funniest cotillion story was a follows, and she never, ever told the story without describing her mortification. 

Back in the days of tea length gowns and petticoats worn in layers, when a young lady used the ladies room, it was quite a production. The first thing is that the young lady was always escorted to the facilities by her date, There was actually a waiting area where the young men could visit and smoke together while they waited on their dates. 

Patty also described how difficult using the facilities actually was. One  couldn't just walk into a stall and shut the door and pull her skirts up. Those poufy slips underneath were just too bulky. So what a girl would do is arrange herself out side the by raising her skirts in the back and then beginning to work her undergarments down as she was backing in through the bathroom door. It sounds as if those undergarments were a bit more complicated in those days as well.

The bathrooms were always crowded with young women working through the same process, and on this particular night, after two punches Patty was more giggly than usual. In the commotion of the bathroom, in the midst of all giggling, rustling crinoline and feminine maneuvering, Patty managed to get a bit disoriented. 

She backed her fanny to the door and pushed in only to feel a blast of cool air on her bottom. She accidently had missed the stall door and had begun pushing into the waiting area. She realized her mistake immediately and there was some shrieking from all the girls. Patty cried, but so did several others. No one wanted to be the first one out of the bathroom, because they were afraid their date would think that he (and every other man there) had caught a glimpse of  HER bottom. 

It was several minutes of high feminine drama in the ladies room. Patty was certain that her ass would be recognized and that she would be the scandal of the entire military post. Everyone else was afraid that when the rumors took root, their rear ends would be contemplated as well. It took them all several minutes to sort out how to best handle it. In the end, a dozen or so girls made the decision that the best thing to do was walk out one right after another, a show of red faced solidarity. 

The end of the story was anticlimactic. The young men offered their arms to their embarrassed dates, and they returned to the ball, and as far as Patty ever knew, the story never got out although the girls were in an agony for days after the event. 

Funny how reading a post post can trigger a memory, and all these years later, I thought of Patty, my elderly friend from so long ago. So many funny memories of such a popular wonderful friend. I wondered when she actually passed, if she was still in Midland Michigan when she died. 

Life has changed a lot since I knew her so I googled her beloved uncle, George S. Patton, and found his sister, Anne Wilson Patton (nickname: Nita), 

I googled the names of her children. She had two of them. 

Peter and David Patton. 

Boys.

Isn't it the strangest thing?? 

10 comments:

  1. What an excellent and fun recollect to have, and told vividly. I love it!

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  2. How odd. Great story. Thanks for sharing Debby.

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  3. I'll bet she told the story well. It's a gift. Some can. I can't.

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  4. Funny story! During WWII my great aunt lost her knickers walking to work across a busy bridge when the button on the waistband popped off. She kicked them away and walked on, hoping no one noticed!

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  5. Love the story and there are always mysteries related to families. As someone who has dabbled in genealogy, I've discovered several skeletons in the closet and proved/disproved family stories. People get confused like that game of "Telephone." It is usually farther back in the family history though.

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  6. A very "cheeky" story, that!

    It brought back memories of going to discos, etc., in my youth. When we're young, do we confuse enjoyment with excitement? Perhaps it's just me but, looking back, I remember inwardly cringing at events I wouldn't have missed for the world at the time.

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  7. Definitely a mystery there...

    My mother's mother used to tell a story of some ancestor as a boy and his cheekiness at mispronouncing "absolute superfluity" as "flibity flabity".

    Years later, my godmother told an exact same story - about some ancestor of hers as a boy.

    They were in no way related, except one family must have told the other family when they were connected thirty years before this story - and it had been adopted into the repertoire.

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  8. My father used to tell the story of HIS father, who was born in Canada. He emigrated here, with his two sisters to take a job in the lumber business in his early teens. They had no choice. Their French speaking father had run off leaving his Swedish mail order bride with three young children. The kids were on their own.

    When my grandfather died, I was surprised to see that he was born about an hour and 15 minutes from here. He left Erie abruptly, came to our county, married a woman of Swedish descent who lived in the same tiny town my parents lived in. They had a small farm. One of his sisters married a man who was, by all accounts a very bad man. His father came up missing, and within weeks, his mother had been burned to death when her skirts caught on fire. The sister and her husband took over the farm. I'm being circumspect about naming names, because the name of that sister's husband has come up again. He was a local drug lord. He will be unlikely to see the outside of prison again.

    Oh...and that abrupt departure? When my father was in a hospital in that city, he met a man with the same last name. (It is a very uncommon one) The man was a couple years older than my father. He didn't know a lot about his father. The man had run off, leaving his mother and him when he was too young to remember him.

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  9. Never show your knickers in public is the moral of that story. Or tuck your skirt in them as I once did and then walked down the street!

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  10. Interesting! I wonder if Patty was related to Patton in some other way -- daughter of another sibling or half-sibling, or daughter of even a cousin or something like that. (I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt, here!) I wonder if there's a way to see Patton's family tree online? Ancestry?

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