After 28 years of navigating the murky waters of navy Spouse Life without a compass, I recently discovered there IS a Navy Spouse Manual! And it’s plum-full of good advice, a real How-To manual on what to do and not do in various aspects of being a military spouse. Welcome Aboard—A Service Manual for the Naval Officer’s Wife was penned by Florence Ridgely Johnson, wife of an Admiral. Okay, so it was written in 1951 and its age shows when it talks about an Ensign making $129 a month (which wouldn’t even cover dinner and a movie in today’s world.) It makes the life of a Navy wife sound incredibly romantic, a social merry-go-round of formal calls, fancy teas and elegant dinner gatherings. But times have changed…and to prove that, here’s a sampling of how things worked then (1951) and now (2011).
Then: There are 14 “rule” to a Social Call, to include dropping by unannounced between 4:30 and 6:30 any day of the week, wearing formal attire (to include hat and gloves) and limiting the visit to twenty minutes. Every newcomer to the wardroom wives was expected to call on the Commanding Officer and Executive Officer, and every wife in the wardroom was expected to call on a newcomer, within two weeks.
Now: Today’s navy spouse is lucky to have half the boxes unpacked within the first two weeks, so any uninvited visitor should arrive wearing a baseball cap and work gloves, ready to help organize the garage. And that’s if anyone is even at home in the afternoon and not at soccer/ballet/swim team/horseback riding practice. On second thought, forget the social call. Send a tweet.
In the topic of What to Wear:
Then: “We try always to have on hand a costume suitable for travel—something plain and tailored, of a dark or neutral color. Orders to new duty are often most unexpected, and if you have nothing but light clothes and no time to spare from packing to buy others, you will feel ridiculous if you have to travel in something suitable only for the porch.”
Now: As long as they cover the important body parts, “porch clothes” are perfect for seven days of driving in a car with screaming babies/food-slinging toddlers/morose teenagers/carsick cats/neurotic dogs/full contingents of gerbils. Dark colors are still recommended because they hide food stains and pet fur, and can be easily laundered—if you can even find a Laundromat in
And not to worry, there is a Wal-Mart in just about every big city, and any clothing emergencies can be taken care of quickly. Winslow, AZ.
|1951 Simplicity Pattern|
On the topic of How to Enjoy Your Husband’s Cruise
Then: “At home you will need something other than housework to keep you occupied. If you know how to sew, this is a good opportunity to make the clothes that you will need for the next season, without being interrupted to cook lunch or find a collar ornament.”
Now: Who does housework while the ship is gone???? Not me. And forget the sewing, too. Retail therapy is the best way to pass the time while the active duty member is at sea for seven-month stretches.
On the topic of Alcoholic Beverages When Hosting a Party
Then: “Drink mixing is the ‘gentlemen’s department,’ but in case you should sometime have to mix a drink in your husband’s absence, here are the ones you are most apt to be asked to produce: Highball, Martini, Gibson,
or Old-Fashioned.” And while not stated, it is inferred a good hostess will have the drink recipes committed to memory so that she can engage the guest with light and witty banter while she concocts the libations. Manhattan
Now: Keep it simple—beer and wine. And if you ant to get fancy, stock up on Williams Sonoma’s Margarita Mixes (Alphanso Mango, Tropical Pineapple or Key Lime are perennial favorites.) A person of either gender is capable of adding the Tequila and ice and cranking up the blender. And if your memorization skills leave something to be desired, the directions are right on the label.
On the topic of Packing for a PCS (Permanent Change of Station) Move
Then: “Navy packers will pack everything that you posses if you want them to, but I have never let them do it all, for I want to be able to find things with the minimum of trouble on the other end.”
Now: It’s comforting to know that after 50 years, some things remain the same.