Thursday, July 19, 2012

The dinner hour

The Browns were having left-over meat loaf for dinner one night when the telephone rang.

“It must be important,” said Mrs. Brown worriedly. “Otherwise why would anyone call during the dinner hour?”

Donald J. Sobol, Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective (New York: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1963).
Was the world ever this dowdy? I believe it was. Mrs. Brown is right too — it’s Officer Carlson on the line, with the news that the Princess Bake Shop on Vine Street has been robbed. Hurry, Chief Brown. And drink your milk, Encyclopedia, so that you can go with Dad and solve the crime.

When was the dinner hour? That question (which Google cannot answer) might fuel an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, preferably in the context of an argument at, yes, a dinner table. I will suggest that the dinner hour or dinner “hour” ran from 5:00 to 7:00, Monday through Friday. In some households, it still does.

Yes, I’m reading Encyclopedia Brown books. Donald Sobol died last week.

A related post

comments: 8

Pete said...

Did Encyclopedia solve the Princess Bank Shop caper by simply following the trail of mouth-watering crumbs? I should grab a few E.B. books next time I'm at the library - I don't think my 11-year-old daughter has ever read any of them.

Michael Leddy said...

The key to the this mystery is a toddler sitting happily on the hood of a car – proof that the car could not have been driven all day, because then the hood would be hot.

There was a story in the news recently in which a trail of potato chips led to a thief.

stefan said...

What a great coincidence! I often make a reference to just this story when we discuss deduction in my critical thinking classes. Better still, though the image of the toddler on the hood (on the hood's hood?) has stayed with me for at least 30 years, I've never been able 1) to remember the story's title or 2) to remember to find it out. Now I know. And one more thing: if I remember correctly, Encyclopedia's given name is Leroy. Do you think Jim Croce was making an obscure joke by naming his most notorious character after the boy detective?

Michael Leddy said...

I’ll save you the looking up (although you really should reread some EB stories): it’s “The Case of the Happy Nephew.”

The Wikipedia article on the song quotes Croce on a guy he knew in the Army. I can’t tell whether Leroy Brown was his real name. Somehow I think he’d be no match for Idaville’s Leroy.

Adair said...

I am always saddened when my students say that there is no "dinner hour" at their house and that everyone in their family eats separately, on the run, because of so many different schedules. In my house as a child, dinner was at 6:30, after the 5 pm cocktail hour. Both hours had their own music---cocktails meant jazz-oriented easy-listening, like Bobby Hackett or Harry James, while dinner was semi-classical, Kostelanetz or The RCA Living Strings. The local radio station even had a dinner music program titled "Candlelight and Wine." No, this wasn't the fifties, but the mid-sixties---such customs were still around in America as late as then, though they were under increasing pressure. Sigh---we threw out the baby with the bathwater...

P.S. For the record, I wasn't ever an actual part of the cocktail hour--that was for grown-ups. But it wasn't "forbidden" either, or something hidden, and occasionally, my dad would even ask me to join and would fix me a Roy Rogers. Rather than make me interested in alcohol, the ritual made me see it as something that, in moderation, was a part of civilized living. It also made me comfortable among adults.

Michael Leddy said...

Adair, I’m guessing that at least some of your students would find the dinner hour you describe an absolute delight.

normann said...

At our house, dinner, which we called supper, was on the dot of 6:30, about 15 or 20 minutes after Dad got home from his bi-modal commute from the Loop (train and then car). This was enough time for a martini or manhattan, while I perused the Chicago Daily News, which Dad had bought at a newsstand outside Union Station to read on the train. Cocktail time chez nous frequently began with Dad saying "You won't believe what Royko wrote today...."

Michael Leddy said...

Norman, I love your account. You and Adair are making me think about how pleasant it would be to have a drink before dinner.