A Gentleman In Blue
A Gentleman In Blue
Sometime in the latter third of the twentieth century, after men had walked on the moon, I went to a print shop and had some calling cards printed up. These cards did not include an address or telephone number. There were only two lines of text on the cards, the first line in larger type than the second. The complete wording on each card was
Frank Gregory Charlton, III
Ensign, United States Navy
A few weeks later, after work, on a day that had been designated by the Executive Officer of my boat, I went home and changed clothes. We had worked all day in our Wash Khaki uniforms. Now I changed into my Service Dress Blue (Bravo) uniform. My wife put on one of her nicest dresses. Then we paid a call on my Commanding Officer and his wife at their home.
(The (Bravo) in the uniform specification meant that we wore white officers' hats, instead of the blue officers' hats that were worn with the otherwise identical Service Dress Blue (Alfa) uniform. It had been more than 25 years since the (Alfa) uniform had ever been worn, but it was still on the books, and the orders and regulations never omitted the (Bravo) in those days.)
We stayed for twenty minutes, making light conversation in the skipper's living room. At that point I rose, and I made our excuses to leave. The skipper and his wife insisted that we stay, and we sat down for another ten minutes. At that point I got up again and we left, despite our hosts' insistences that we stay longer. On my way out the door, I left three calling cards on a tray by their front door. Two of the cards were mine, one for the skipper and one for his wife. One card was my wife's. Her card listed only her name, nothing else. I left my wife's card for the skipper's wife. It would not, of course, be appropriate for a lady to leave a card for a gentleman.
Why did we do this? Were we eccentrics, acting out some old-fashioned rituals for some peculiar purposes of our own? No. We were doing what everyone else in our social circle did. It was The Thing To Do.
The following week, I went home from work and again changed from my Wash Khaki uniform into Service Dress Blue (Bravo). The skipper and his wife paid a call on us at our house. They got up to leave after twenty minutes, and I insisted that they stay, offering another cup of tea. Ten minutes later they left in spite of my protestations. They left three calling cards for us.
It was The Thing To Do.