|1930’s Self-Serve, “Automat Cafeteria” in Manhattan Berenice Abbott, New York Public Library, Public domain|
THE cafeteria may promote good food at fair prices, but it also promotes bad manners. A prominent educator fears that the self-serve lunch counters in the schools and business districts will finally destroy such vestiges of table manners as hurried America has thus far preserved.
“All the emphasis of the cafeteria,” said the teacher, “is for selfishness. It’s a case of grab what you want, without a thought for the other fellow. You don’t have to show the slightest consideration for anybody else. You sit down alone to eat. You engage in no table amenities. Nobody asks you to pass the salt and you do not ask anybody to pass the sugar. There is no such thing as cafeteria manners. I despair of the of good manners in this country if the foreign born form their ideas of American customs in the cafeterias.”
Perhaps the teacher is a little over-anxious, yet there is a good deal in what she says. The self-serve lunch counter does tend to promote selfishness and carelessness. But it need not, if every self-server will only watch his behavior as carefully as he does his tray. It will help, too, if the etiquette of the home table is observed all the more carefully, in order partly to offset the influence of the sketchy cafeteria meal. - San Pedro News, 1923
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