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Chuck Hinman: IJMA No. 195: The passing of the dining room

Sunday is Eating Day in Adair County, and this Sunday with CM is filled with Eating stories and columns - not by design, but by serendipity, the way the elves make things happen here. Robert Stone found this heretofore unposted in CM Chuck Hinman essay on a subject many can similar with: The Dining Room, that special place in the big old houses only used when the preacher came after Sunday services. It's Chuck Hinman's It's Just Me Again Column No. 195, a jewel. And it does fit nicely with Tom Chaney's review of the Gary P. West's Eating Your Way Across Kentucky.
The next earlier Chuck Hinman column is: Chuck Hinman, IJMA. Kinney, Nebraska lore

By Chuck Hinman

The passing of the dining room

How long has it been since you ate a meal in the dining room (yours or someone else's) where the table was set with the best dishes in the house, the crystal, silver, and linen napkin? I bet you would be surprised how many dining rooms in a classy city like Bartlesville, Oklahoma, are for show only and seldom put to their intended use when house plans were drawn. This is not to put a guilt-trip on anyone. It will draw attention to a happy time that is most certainly passing before our eyes.

Did you know there was a day when little girls put together a "hope chest" filled with the accoutrements of a special dining room where she could demonstrate her kitchen skills learned from her mother and grandmother done to the delight of her doting husband. About the only duties of the husband were "to stay out of the way" and say the blessing at mealtime. Oh yes, a rare husband might have learned how to "carve" (whack-up) a roast turkey if his wife had properly trained him.

Connie and I were in our early thirties when we married. Connie was raised by her grandparents. Her mother died when Connie and her siblings were pre-school age. Her father abandoned his young family and they spent their early life in the Sand Springs orphanage. Her maternal grandparents rescued the children and raised them in Cleveland, Oklahoma.

In spite of difficult times, Connie worked her way through Central State College at Edmond, Oklahoma, taught high school English and commercial subjects for several years before becoming an executive secretary for Barton Witchell of Phillips Petroleum Company.

Although sidetracked many times in her girlhood dreams of a traditional marriage and family Connie brought a "loaded hope chest" to her marriage to Chuck Hinman in 1952.

Some of the things in her little girl hope chest were heirloom needlework by her grandmother. While working at Phillips, Connie accumulated a beautiful set of china from Eby's Gift and Jewelry store across the street from the Frank Phillips Building. A nice set of silver was a wedding gift from Connie sister Louise and George Marko. Generous gifts to Connie's crystal and sterling selections were received at her wedding showers. One gift in particular was a carving set in our sterling pattern (Prelude).

Although Connie's and my courtship days were short, we settled that the dining room and all that goes with its use would be an important part of the "Chuck Hinman household." And that never changed in over 50 years of wedlock.

Is it any wonder that among the furniture that we bought together for our little new house on the alley at 908 1/2 Shawnee here in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, included a pecan dining room set? In later years, I followed the lead of the infamous professional football player and made needlepoint seat coverings for each of the chairs. Quite an accomplishment for this former Nebraska farm boy, wouldn't you agree? Not really when you read my Story 109 -- "Mom's Little Helper Boy." In that story I tell how Mom taught me at an early age how to set a formal dining table in depression days on the farm apparently in anticipation I would meet and marry an Oklahoma girl by the name of Connie Almeda Pickett and "live happily ever afterwards."

And please know that in both my childhood and married life, I attribute a giant part of my rich (not in money) and happy, "filled-full" life to the many times we sat around the dining room table and ate like kings.

One of the highlights of those kinds of joyous family meals was when someone hid a microphone on the table and recorded the "table-talk" of a Hinman Sunday dinner to be brought out and played at future dinners to the howling delight of all.

I don't have a house or dining room anymore and the Hinman family dining room "stuff" is scattered here and there. Dining rooms around town are mostly silent.

I enjoy a meal with family or friends after church at local eateries as much as anyone. But don't be surprised if a little kid at a nearby table notices and asks his mommy why that old man is crying. He can't hear the laughter of years gone by that I am hearing so he doesn't know that my tears are because I am happy, not sad. - Chuck Hinman

This story was posted on 2012-01-22 03:32:13
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