How Well Do You Remember ’50s Etiquette Rules?

During the ‘50s, there were many unspoken rules of daily living that were expected to be followed by everyone. These rules consisted of proper etiquette and dress rituals that had to be followed to the letter, otherwise you may be seen as rude or impolite.

If you grew up in the ‘40s or ‘50s, you’ll no doubt remember these rules of society. But, if you’re younger than that you’ll probably be surprised that these rules ever even existed!

How do you signal that a date is over?

  • Loudly belch
  • Fold your napkin and place it to your left
  • Yawn
  • Walk away from the table

At the start of a meal it was customary to put your napkin in your lap, so by placing it on the table you could let your dinner mates know that you were done eating.

If a bride has been married before, should she wear a veil?

  • No
  • Yes
  • Only if it is blue
  • If her groom says yes

According to etiquette rules of the ‘50s, brides who have been married before should not wear white or wear a veil. They should wear a nice dress and hat.

What should women not talk about in public?

  • Food
  • Money
  • Her children
  • Music

As it was still customary for men to handle finances in the ‘50s, it was considered out of place for women to talk about money in public.

A man should never be without a…

  • Extra pair of shoes
  • Pocketknife
  • Clean handkerchief
  • Current newspaper

Other etiquette rules for men include never wearing the same suit two days in a row and never allowing your hair to grow so long that someone can tell when you have gotten a haircut.

If a man wants to smoke in public, he must first…

  • Call his wife for permission
  • Locate a fire extinguisher
  • Announce to everyone that he’ll be smoking
  • Ask any nearby women if they’d like a cigarette

Thoughtful men who didn’t smoke were still expected to carry matches or lighters with them at all times in case anyone hoping to smoke asks them for a light.

What does it mean to “get pinned?”

  • You’re valedictorian
  • You’re a construction worker
  • You’re in a good mood
  • You’re going steady

To pin someone, you had to give them an item like a class ring or fraternity pin. Some people saw “getting pinned” as a pre-engagement ceremony.

How often should you shampoo your hair?

  • Hourly
  • Daily
  • Weekly
  • Monthly

Some hairdressers still agree that you should not wash your hair too often, otherwise your scalp could become dry and flaky.

How should you eat a cherry in public?

  • Spit the pits as far as you can
  • Place the pits on a spoon carefully
  • Swallow the pit whole
  • Crunch the pit loudly

There were many rules for eating in the ‘50s, many of which minimized spitting and improper sounds.

A bride’s bridesmaids cannot be what?

  • Prettier than the bride
  • Married
  • Younger than the bride
  • Older than the bride

According to etiquette rules, bridesmaids should not be older than the bride, and they should be close friends with her.

Which side of the sidewalk should couples walk on?

  • Store side
  • Street side
  • Whichever side has less foot traffic
  • Whichever side the woman prefers

Walking on the street side of the sidewalk ensures that no one is too caught up by items in the passing storefronts to hold a conversation.

What should parents never do in front of a child?

  • Make phone calls
  • Their taxes
  • Argue
  • Prepare dinner

It was considered poor manners to display any disruptive emotions to anyone in the ‘50s, including your children. Parents were advised to always stay calm and collected around the little ones.

Who writes thank you notes for wedding gifts?

  • The bride
  • The groom
  • The mother of the bride
  • The father of the groom

Even if the bride is not close acquaintances with her husband’s friends, she must take on the task of writing thank you notes for their gifts.

How long should a proper engagement last?

  • Less than two months
  • No more than six months
  • Two years
  • Five years

People considered that the longer an engagement lasted, the more poorly the marriage would be, except in extreme circumstances.

If you walk past someone on the sidewalk, what should you do?

  • Silently make eye contact
  • Look down at your shoes
  • Greet them
  • Cough until they say something

If you know someone or live near them it was considered very rude by some people to not greet them when you saw them outdoors.

White socks should only be worn with…

  • White pants
  • White shoes
  • Black pants
  • Black shoes

According to some fashion rules, white socks should only be worn with white shoes because they will clash with other dark footwear.

How should a man wear his hat?

  • Pushed to the back of his head
  • Squarely on his head
  • Tipped to the side
  • Over his ears

In the ‘50s and before, it was still customary and polite for men to wear hats whenever out in public. Hats would then be taken off while indoors.

What should a man do when greeting a woman?

  • Tip his hat
  • Yell her name
  • Giver her his hat
  • Take off his coat

Etiquette author Amy Vanderbilt wrote that while riding public transportation a man didn’t have to fully lift his hat to tip it, but just touch the brim.

What should you do when you’re done eating at a formal lunch?

  • Stack your dirty dishes at the table
  • Start washing your dishes
  • Wait for your plates to be taken from you
  • Start smoking a cigarette

It was considered impolite to smoke at the dinner table during formal meals, until dessert that is. If ashtrays were placed on the table, it was okay to smoke.

What is a finger bowl used for?

  • Drinking to cleanse your palate
  • Washing your hands between courses
  • Splashing at the person next to you
  • Washing your utensils

Finger bowls were typically brought to the table during a formal meal to cleanse your hands after eating a dish that requires you to use them, like lobster or clams.

If you invite people to dinner at your home, how many kinds of cocktails should you make?

  • Four
  • Two
  • Just one
  • Three

In addition to a specialty cocktail, a host is also allowed to serve sherry, scotch or bourbon, and vegetable or fruit juices.

Eggnog should never be served…

  • Before dinner
  • Before noon
  • During winter
  • On Christmas Eve

Eggnog was considered too much of a specialty drink to fit with normal before dinner drink fare, so it should only be saved for special occasions.

Red wine must never be…

  • Served cold
  • Served to a man
  • Served wrapped in a napkin
  • Served warm

Some people believe that wrapping cold wine in a towel is meant to hide the age and brand of the wine to trick those who will be drinking it.

When should you arrive to a theatre performance?

  • After the overture
  • Right at curtain time
  • Whenever the baseball game is over
  • 15 minutes before curtain time

It is considered a courteous to the performers and other audience members to be promptly on time.

At a buffet dinner, how should a couple get their food?

  • The man should get food for the woman
  • Each should get their own food
  • The woman should get food for the man
  • A chef should bring food to the table

When out at a restaurant for dinner, it was often considered polite for the man to help the woman by pulling out her chair, ordering and paying for the meal.

What should a man do first when he gets to a restaurant?

  • Check his coat
  • Pull out his date’s chair
  • Order a drink
  • Check for fire exits

Before sitting down to dinner, it was polite to check your coat so you wouldn’t be fidgeting with it during your meal and your hands were free to converse.

What should you do when you get a letter?

  • Respond quickly
  • Wait a week to write back
  • Wait two weeks
  • Don't reply

Without the distractions of the internet and social media, it was easier to find the time for letter writing. But, most people still appreciate a hand written note in the mail time and again.

Which gesture is considered offensive?

  • Waving
  • Pointing
  • Peace sign
  • Salute

Pointing is considered rude because it is considered a form of mockery or ridicule to some people, especially when being used to point out a flaw or mistake.

What was considered impolite to do during dinner?

  • Eating with a fork
  • Putting your elbows on the table
  • Eating with a spoon
  • Drinking from a glass

In the ‘50s, good posture was something that was very important to show at all times and putting your elbows on the table is just not proper dinner posture.

Who had to make the first move in a relationship?

  • Guys
  • Girls
  • Guys if it was a Wednesday
  • Girls if it was a Friday

A lot of ‘50s rules centered around gender roles and when it came to relationships, the man was typically in charge. But this would change by the ‘60s, when women’s rights became a more popular topic.

What is polite to do after you receive a gift?

  • Return it for a refund
  • Send a thank you note
  • Hide it in your closet
  • Throw it out

Letting a person know that you returned their gift would be a very impolite thing to do in the ‘50s. Anything less than sending a thank you note less than a week after you got your gift would be considered rude.

What was considered an impolite phrase?

  • "I want..."
  • "May I have..."
  • "Could I please..."
  • "Would it be possible to..."

If a child wanted to ask for something, saying “I want” almost guaranteed that they would not get it. The proper way to ask would be with the phrase “I would like” or “may I have,” followed by please and thank you, of course.

What is the proper way to eat this meal?

  • With a fork and knife
  • With your fingers
  • With only a fork
  • With only a knife

No dinner should ever be eaten with your fingers, even if that meal is chicken tenders and French fries. The most well-mannered of the bunch will even eat candy bars with a fork and knife to ensure that their hands stay clean.

What did children get as a reward for doing their weekly chores?

  • Nothing
  • An allowance
  • Candy
  • New clothes

Children were expected to keep up with household duties as anyone else was in the ‘50s, without any reward. But, as technology progressed and middle class families started to make more money, allowances became more popular.

You could never go steady without first…

  • Calling your crush’s house
  • Meeting your steady’s parents
  • Going out on three dates
  • Announcing it to your friends

You should always meet someone before calling them on the phone, so it would have been impolite to call a family’s home without first meeting them in person.

While eating at a restaurant with a man, could a woman place her own order?

  • No
  • Yes
  • Only on Tuesdays
  • Only before 3pm

Women who insisted on doing things for themselves were often seen as pushy or rude in the ‘50s, a time when being subservient was popular.

How should you alert your date that you have arrived at their home?

  • By honking your car horn
  • By knocking on their door
  • By yelling their name
  • By calling their phone

Even today, parents will probably form a negative opinion on anyone who insists on honking their horn in the car instead of coming up to the door to pick up their date.

What was proper attire for women and girls?

  • Dresses or skirts
  • Long pants
  • Overalls
  • Mini skirts

Not until the ‘60s did skirts start to get shorter and pants become a popular option for women. Before that time, pants were considered a very masculine piece of clothing.

What is the proper way to answer the phone?

  • "Hello, to whom am I speaking?"
  • "Who’s this?"
  • "What do you want?"
  • "Stop calling here!"

When the telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell in the 1870s, his preferred method of answering the phone was with the phrase “ahoy-hoy.”

What is the polite way to ask to leave the dinner table?

  • "Can I leave the table?"
  • "May I leave the table?"
  • "Goodbye."
  • "I need to go."

Using the word “may” was considered more polite and grammatically correct than using the word “can,” because the word “may” implies that you are asking permission.

If an adult gets onto the bus after you, you should…

  • Offer them your seat
  • Wave at them
  • Whistle at them
  • Move your bag onto the seat next to you

It is always polite to offer your elders your seat on a bus. But, no one will bat an eye if you don’t do so today.

How should you dress when taking a trip on an airplane?

  • Dress down
  • Dress up
  • In sweatpants
  • In a hoodie

Because flying on airplanes was still a novelty in the ’50s, it was customary to wear your best clothes for the occasion. This included a suit and tie for men and dresses for women.

What was considered rude to do in public?

  • Laughing loudly
  • Talking with your hands
  • Covering your mouth when coughing
  • Saying, "Bless you" after a sneeze

Etiquette coach Florence Hartley wrote, “Though you should always speak pleasantly, do not mix your conversation with loud bursts of laughter.”

Which of these phrases was considered “vulgar” by etiquette coach Florence Hartley?

  • “I’ll tell you what.”
  • “How do you do?”
  • "Good evening."
  • "How are you?"

Florence Hartley wrote in her book, “The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness” to “beware of such vulgar interpolations as "You know," "You see," and "I'll tell you what."

What should you do when an adult enters the room?

  • Stand and shake hands
  • Yell their name
  • Cry
  • Stay seated

When any adult entered the room children were expected to stand and greet their guest with a handshake and an introduction if they were meeting for the first time.

What are the magic words?

  • Abracadabra
  • Please and thank you
  • Bippity boppity boo!
  • Hocus pocus

Please and thank you were mandatory phrases for children of the ’50s, to be used in ways like “please may I have” or “thank you sir/madam.”

What should you do with your hat when you get inside?

  • Take it off
  • Turn it around
  • Put it on the ground
  • Give it to the host

It was customary for men to wear hats while outdoors, but it was considered impolite to keep them on while indoors. It was also customary to take off your hat when talking to a woman.

If you were caught talking over your parents, they might say…

  • “Speak when you’re spoken to.”
  • “Put a sock in it.”
  • "Shut up."
  • "Can it."

“Speak when you’re spoken to” was a phrase most children of the ‘50s heard often. Children were taught not to make the first comment and to politely listen until another person speaks to them.

Who should you hold a door open for?

  • People who are older than you
  • Everyone
  • People who are younger than you
  • People who are shorter than you

It was polite for men to hold doors open for other men and women of all ages, but women did not have to hold doors open for men, as it was seen as rude.

Which phrase describes how children should behave in public?

  • Seen and not heard
  • Heard and not seen
  • Not heard but listened to
  • Not seen but looked at

Children in the ‘50s were taught etiquette from an early age, which included many strict rules about respecting their elders. Today, these rules that caused children of the past a lot of stress are no longer popular.

What was considered an un-ladylike way to stand?

  • Arms crossed
  • Hands behind your back
  • Shoulders back
  • Head up

Crossing your arms was another sign of bad posture, which was considered very impolite in the ‘50s. The proper way to stand was with your arms at your side or behind your back.
You've scored 4/50 correct answers!