Minding their manners: Local Girl Scouts learn dining etiquette at Woman’s Club

Fourth and fifth-grade Girl Scout Juniors from around the Miami Valley, dressed in their Sunday best, entered the doors of the Dayton Woman’s Club of Dayton Foundation home on North Ludlow Street in downtown Dayton.

The purpose of their three-hour visit in early May was to learn proper table manners and etiquette and to put them to use as they enjoyed a full three-course meal.

“They come set to learn and behave correctly,” said Dayton Woman’s Club member Joey Thiele, who’s organized all three Miss Manners programs for area Girl Scouts. This year, three other members assisted: Julia Blockburger, Pat Smith and Virginia Grey.

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“I couldn’t do this without the helpers; they meet the girls at the door and help them during the meal with the challenging things.”

The program starts with a discussion and then participants use what they’ve learned.

“We teach them how the table should be set, and when they go into the dining room, all the silverware for each setting is in a goblet. There’s a place-mat guide for each girl, and they have to place the napkins and silverware correctly before we start the meal,” Thiele said.

“Our first course is soup, when they have to use their soup spoons. They have to pass food to the right, break their bread and take butter from the butter plate with a butter knife – they weren’t familiar with that,” she said.

The second course has meat.

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“It’s the most difficult, because they have to hold the platter while the person to their right removes her portion, then they have to cut with the correct knife and put their forks down between bites,” Thiele said.

This year, the entrée included chicken, mixed vegetables, and mashed potatoes, and the dessert was a brownie.

Thiele says that cell phones had become an issue, but this year’s group surprised her.

“When I asked them what we shouldn’t bring to the table, they answered gum, candy in the mouth, ball caps – then they added ‘electronic devices.’ Usually, we have to mention cell phones, but they already knew,” Thiele said.

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“During the luncheon, there was general discussion about school, travel, Girl Scouting and Cinco De Mayo,” said Sarah Kelley, Program and Partnership Team Leader for the Girl Scouts of Western Ohio, who has attended all three of the Miss Manners programs organized with the club.

”I love that it’s intergenerational – the women from the club are a lot older than the girls, and the scouts respect their showing them how to act at a formal table. Plus, they love getting to see inside the Dayton Woman’s Club,” Kelley said.

Girls in attendance were from Centerville, Huber Heights, Kettering, Dayton, Englewood, West Chester, Troy and Fairfield, Kelley noted.

Overheard from the girls were such comments as “I feel like I am in a castle,” and “I liked learning how to cut the meat.” Another said that her favorite part of the event was the food.

Girls also noted that they didn’t know they’d been eating soup wrong before the event, or that they needed to cut and eat one piece of meat at a time and pass food to the right.

“The girls learned how to place their forks and knives to signify to the server that they were done and the servers could take their plates,” said Kelley. “Everyone enjoyed themselves, and one leader hoped we’d do it again so more of her girls could come.

“Before the girls left, they were presented with their Miss Manners patches.”

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