Friday’s Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South

Southern Gentility
by James Glaser
December 25, 2009

Maybe it was Hollywood that set me up, but I have always believed that people in the South were more polite than people in the North. All those Civil War movies where the Southern officer would be dripping with courtesy when ever he was addressing some fair Southern Belle had me convinced that the South may have lost the Civil War, but they won the war of civility.

Well, I moved down to the South a few years ago, and nothing in my recent experience would make me think that Southerners had anything over Northern Minnesota folks when it came to having good manners. At least that was true until this past Wednesday.

Wednesday, Wanda and I attended the funeral for her mother, my mother-in-law, Joyce Grubbs. We traveled west to Pensacola, a city on the Gulf of Mexico at the far end of the state. While Pensacola is geographically located in Florida, many of its citizens think they live in L.A. That would be Lower Alabama. I have written before how polite the people in Alabama are, and this past week, those Lower Alabamians living in Pensacola held up that reputation.

On the long ride between the funeral chapel and the cemetery, I was amazed at how every citizen we passed showed their respect to the funeral motorcade. All traffic came to a stop, and that included all the cars and trucks on the four lane highway we headed down. Men walking down the street or coming out of a store came to a stop, and if they were wearing a hat, they took it off and put it over their heart.

I know it didn't take any of these people long to do the right thing, but in most of America that type of behavior is a thing of the past, but not in Pensacola.

What people have told me now is that paying your respect to a funereal procession is not at all uncommon in the rural South, and several people have seen the same type of behavior in South Georgia.

I have to tell you that the politeness I saw in Pensacola was refreshing, and it was nice for Wanda's family to be the recipients of those courtesies in their time of grief. Although I would not be surprised to see this same respect shown in rural Northern Minnesota, I think that isn't true in most urban settings in our country. That is a shame.

It is nice to know that parts of the South still live up to their genteel heritage.

Post Script:

Yes, it is Christmas, and I would like to wish each of you a happy and safe holiday season. I hope you all spend some amount of time thinking about Jesus and his teachings. After all, He is the reason we have this holiday.

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