Where does the salad fork go in the place setting?
There are four glasses at my place setting. Which is which?
Hats on or off?
A "thank you" note?
This all may be very confusing, unless you've participated in the Manners at the Missouri Governor's Mansion, an annual four-day program that allows children ages 8-12 from around the state to receive lessons in good manners.
Organizers can be flexible on participants' ages, said Rebecca Gordon, executive director of Friends of the Missouri Governor's Mansion, a nonprofit organization that for 44 years has incorporated docents to provide public tours of the mansion. The organization welcomes about 70,000 visitors to the mansion each year. Free guided tours are provided February through May and September and October.
For four days each spring, usually in the middle of June, the organization accepts applications from 30 children who will participate in the manners program. Last year, the program expanded from three days and opened Tuesdays for Jefferson City children who participate in local organizations, such as the Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson City.
"Knowing what to say and what to do in unfamiliar situations gives us confidence," Missouri first lady Teresa Parson told participants in a program booklet the children will keep. "It is a skill that can be learned and practiced. The lessons you learn today will be valuable tools you can use for the rest of your life."
The children receive a certificate for completing the program.
In addition to the Boys & Girls Club participants, Tuesday's attendees included some involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the Central Missouri Foster Care and Adoption Association.
The program's students learned to write "thank you" notes, to best communicate (answering phones, breaking the ice and listening), to use proper table etiquette and how to set a table.
The children were divided into four groups based on age. Each of the groups used a state symbol as a sort of identification. Those symbols were the ice cream cone, the state's official dessert; blue bird, official bird; honey bee, official insect; and fiddle, official musical instrument.
"Each student invites a guest," Gordon said. "And they teach the guest what they've learned at lunch."
A lot of organization goes into setting up the luncheon, she said. Not only are docents involved but so are mansion staff and security.
The luncheon started with an iceberg wedge salad topped with bacon crumbles, scallions, diced tomatoes and house-made buttermilk ranch dressing. (Of course, mansion rolls were available.) The main course was panko-crusted chicken over garlic-smashed potatoes, glazed with a lemon cream sauce and buttered green beans on the side. Dessert was not ice cream cones — it was a strawberry shortcake trifle.
"They did all of their place settings and their guests' place settings," Gordon said. "That's how they learn to set a table properly."
The students wrote out name cards for themselves and guests.
Devon Hees said he managed to learn some stuff. He learned to write a letter on actual paper. He also learned to set a table. They're things he can take home to Mom, Hees said.
"It was great," he said. "I can use this as an opportunity to show her I can do it."
Hees added he, like the other children, wrote a note thanking Teresa Parson for opening her home to them.
"Dear Mrs. Parson," one thank you note from Monday said, "Thank you for coming downstairs and meeting all the children. I also do some farm work on my grandparents' farm."
Another said: "Dear Mrs. Parson, Thank you so much for inviting us into your home for Manners Class. I have really enjoyed being here and I felt like a princess going down the sweeping stair case after pictures! I just love fountains, and the one out front is lovely. The portraits on the walls are so interesting. I can't wait to see yours up there."