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10 vintage how-to tutorials for perfect etiquette

Do you yearn for a simpler time when people knew how to mind their manners? Well jeepers, do we have some videos for you!


Mike Fenn


Posted on Feb 9, 2017   Updated on May 25, 2021, 1:01 am CDT

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Do you yearn for the days of Leave it to Beaver, a simpler time when people knew how to mind their manners? Well jeepers, do we have some videos for you!

Scouring the depths of YouTube, we’ve found 10 educational film reels from the 1940s and 1950s. These videos teach viewers everything from table manners and sportsmanship to even the benefits of popularity.

Granted, the films attempt to accomplish these lessons using horrible actors, unbelievable dialogue, and terribly outdated social constructs. But that’s a small price to pay, however, for the skill of being able to write a much better “social letter.”

1) How to choose a date

Forget browsing OKCupid or stalking Facebook relationship statuses. Learn how to ask a girl out over the phone, with proper punctuality and by “leaving your boyfriend with enough money so he will ask you out again.”

2) How to be well-groomed

Forget mimicking style blogs or “Outfit of the Day” photos. Learn from siblings Don and Sue such lessons as “pressing” your clothes, the best shade of nail polish to use (“Sue avoids red nail polish because it would call attention to her stubby fingers”), and the importance of taking a bath, which the narrator calls a “good daily habit.”

3) How to act your age

Forget the behavior of redditors and YouTube commenters. Learn from well-groomed troublemaker Jim and his school principal about the “problem of growing up” and the cons of showing off to gain attention. You’ll also learn how to bottle up your frustration right before asking a janitor to borrow his penknife.

4) How to better use your leisure time

Forget passing your time with endless Internet browsing. Learn from Ken Michaels—and historical variations of his father—about how to reduce your moping, spy on your friends, and acquiring skills that can “help you socially,” like playing the piano. We all know that at parties everyone gravitates to the piano player in the room.

5) How to have better table manners

Forget wolfing down Chinese take-out in front of the TV. Learn from Chuck—and his future self, who still prefers to wear ugly Christmas sweaters—the importance of behaving at the dinner table. Tips include how to “park your fork” on the plate when you are done eating.

6) How to be popular

Forget basing your self-worth on your Facebook friend count or number of Twitter followers. Learn from high school student Carolyn that true popularity is based on a good combination of “appearance and personality.” Do not learn from Jenny, the student who “parks in cars with the boys at night.”


7) How to drive a truck

Forget passively operating your milk delivery truck, expecting other drivers to yield to your bad decisions! Learn all the rules of the road, such as proper passing, shifting, and giving the “right a’ way,” with a series of still photos taken from the driver’s perspective. Apparently, using a circa-1950s camera while driving is A-OK. Remember your goal: drive safely so that you “don’t have to dynamite your brakes.”

8) How to write better letters

Forget emailing and texting. Learn from a pair of siblings the differences between letter styles and how to craft the perfect thank-you note. After all, you wouldn’t want your aunt and uncle to look at your letter and remark, “I do hope Nora enjoyed her visit here; it’s pretty hard to tell from her letter.”

9) How to have good sportsmanship

Forget showing off and temporary anger, whether you’re on the field or not. Learn from students Bill and Joe—and a series of silhouettes—how to share, lose gracefully, and not to smack your kid sister over the head.

10) How to get around

Forget clicking your way through Google Street View. Learn from actress Gale Storm (yes, seriously) and her family how to wisely pack luggage, ask for directions, and using your wristwatch as a compass.

Photo via Wikipedia


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*First Published: Feb 9, 2017, 3:30 pm CST