Thursday, July 3, 2008
The Preacher’s Corner
‘Miss Bess’ ensured well-rounded education
One of the most interesting phases of a little child’s maturation is the discovery of differences between men and women. To define the matter as simply as possible, it is that men have pockets and women have purses.
I recall from my own childhood puzzlement as to why only the female members of my family had laps. This was when ladies always wore dresses.
In fact, it was not until my sophomore year in college that the rules were changed to allow female students to wear slacks off campus. Before then, the girls had to wear hats and gloves to church, and dresses (not slacks) if they went into town. With this relaxation of rules, Miss Bess Caldwell, who was dean of students at Belhaven, thought that the end of the world had come, or was surely around the corner.
Perhaps she was right. A lot that I do not like has happened since then.
“Miss Bess,” by the way, was a granddaughter of a very important Marshall County minister. Miss Bess’s grandfather, the Rev. Andrew Harper Caldwell, himself a minister’s son, came across the mountains in a covered wagon and, beginning in 1847, served the old Philadelphia Presbyterian Church near Red Banks, as well as the churches at Hudsonville, and Lamar, and also organized the Presbyterian Church at Senatobia in 1848. His son, Dr. Samuel Craighead Caldwell, Miss Bess’s father, was the Presbyterian minister at Hazlehurst from 1888 to 1930. Dr. Caldwell sent Bess to Belhaven, and she never left.
So by the span of three generations, my college deportment was supervised by a granddaughter of pioneers! Is it any wonder I am so old-fashioned?
I say all this as background now to a further discussion of pockets and purses and the attendant differences between men and women. For recreation at college we men students would be invited over to the ladies’ dormitory to watch television in company with the female students, under the watchful eye, of course, of the aforementioned Miss Bess.
On one occasion there was a commercial advertising those large “organizer purses” with scores of compartments for all the things women carry (and which men just put in their pockets). One of the boys exclaimed out loud to the girls that, “This would be just the thing for y’all; why don’t you order one!” For this suggestion my friend was greeted with peals of derisive laughter.
“Lug that thing around? You have got to be kidding!” chided the women students. And so I was reminded that, “women are from Venus and men are from Mars.” There is no figuring it out! I do not remember if Miss Bess had a comment or not. She was very concerned about hats and gloves and dresses; I do not recall her policy on purses.
Recently I saw a new version of the “organizer purse” advertised on TV. It is only $19.95, Genuine Leather, and not sold in stores. If you order immediately they also include a little pocket recorder that you can make your grocery list on, or remind yourself where you parked your car. I wonder if women today still feel the same way my female friends at Belhaven did in the long-ago. If so, this new “organizer purse” is a marketing venture doomed for failure.
Who says you do not learn important things at college?
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