Mary McNamara's "Tea and Empathy" (So SoCal, Nov. 10) brought back memories of Buffum's department store in downtown Long Beach. It, too, had a restaurant with a decor and temperament similar to the Pasadena Macy's. Buffum's decor was in light blues and greens, and yes, there was a vinyl banquette along one wall.
My mother would take me and my brother to Buffum's for luncheon (not lunch) with an elderly Englishwoman who was an old friend of my grandmother's. We'd wear our best bib and tucker and be on our best behavior. It was a no-chewing-with-your-mouth-full, napkin-on-your-lap, sit-up-straight and keep-your-elbows-off-the-table place. You definitely brought your manners with you.
I grew up 50-odd years ago in what was left of the Old South. The Magnolia Tearoom at Rich's department store in Atlanta played an integral part of my formative years. It was there that we lunched with our grandmothers and aunts and absorbed the essentials of the social graces. To learn to be comfortable through a lunch with a dazzling array of flatware and stemware and a group of older ladies was a confidence-building experience. We wore gloves, curtsied, behaved impeccably and spoke only when spoken to--and then in hushed tones.
In the ensuing years, what I learned at the tearoom was invaluable to me. I have never felt ill at ease at any function or event, no matter how large or small it was, where it was held or who was in attendance. And although I acknowledge that was a kinder, gentler time, I still hope there will be a place where future generations can experience tea and empathy.