When you hear someone saying that they are “having a ball”, you would naturally think that they are having fun on holidays or doing something that they enjoy. Now this is true, but remember when a few years ago if you were in the workforce and someone said “We are having a ball” the connentation could well have been different.
Many organisations, companies and local councils held an annual ball. Young girls would get dressed up in ball gowns and young men would hire tuxedos to attend such balls. Caterers would be arranged, dance orchestras or dance bands would be hired. The local hall or ballroom would be festooned with white tablecloths decked out on the tables. An important date in a young girls life could have been making her debut into society. The local mayor or some other dignatory would introduce the young ladies making their debut to all those present.
Instead of a debutant ball perhaps the ball may have been used as a fund raiser. We have all heard of the lines in movies and shows of “donating the local policemen’s or firemen’s ball” where tickets are supposedly purchased as a donation to the local force or brigade.
The annual ball was also the annual “company do” a night where employees and their partners would get together in a social setting and enjoy a “sit down formal dinner and night out”.
Such events were always a “ black tie” occasion so no matter what your occupation or station in life you always dressed to the occasion and everyone was equal. You would forgo wearing your overalls or shorts for the night and dress in a suit or tuxedo. Many of the gents would wear a ‘bow’ tie and if you could not tie a bow into the tie you could always get a ‘clip on’ tie or an elasticised bow tie. I also recall the pocket handkerchief. If you could not fold a handkerchief the right way, well their were also false one available from some stores which consisted of a piece of folded linen attached to small piece of thin cardboard which when placed in the top pocket of a gent’s coat looked like a folded pocket handkerchief. You could say it was a “Clayton’s” look.
Talking of “Clayton’s” brings me to the drinks available at the ball. Many a ball had alcoholic drinks available (beer, wine, spirits) but for the young who were not quite of the age where they could legally drink alcohol. They could be served with “Clayton’s” or something similar or even soft drink. Who can remember “Clayton’s Tonic”? It was (and still is) of a colour reminiscent of Scotch whiskey, but it is not alcoholic.
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