Miss Greater Greenville advocates manners

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 9, 2004

Decades have passed since the days when a church-going lady, handbag clutched in her gloved hands, never left the house without a pretty hat to compliment her dress.

Turning out in your &uot;Sunday best&uot; was once as much of a southern tradition as saying &uot;ma’am&uot; and &uot;sir&uot;, or saving the best pieces of fried chicken for the preacher and his wife when they came to your house for Sunday dinner.

It was just good manners.

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A step back in time

Times have certainly changed, but many of the area’s young ladies got the opportunity to step back in time for an afternoon, all the while learning good manners never go out of style.

Dozens of youngsters and their moms, grandmothers and family friends, donned their prettiest outfits and hats on Sunday. They came to enjoy a genteel afternoon tea with the queen – Miss Greater Greenville 2004, Melinda Toole.

The event, sponsored by the Miss Greater Greenville Scholarship Program Board, served as both a fundraiser for the local program (an official preliminary to the Miss Alabama/Miss America Scholarship Programs) and a special treat for Greenville area ladies of all ages.

&uot;We got the idea for this event when we attended a wonderful tea at the Governor’s Mansion earlier this year. When Melinda mentioned how she would love to do something similar in Greenville…well, that got the ball rolling,&uot; said board member Jill Stallworth.

The Family Life Center of the First Baptist Church was transformed into a lovely tearoom for the occasion, its tables laden with delicious sandwiches, scones, lemon squares, teapot-shaped tea cookies and other delights from &uot;The Queen’s Menu&uot; for guests to enjoy.

A beautiful arrangement created by Nancy Idland, featuring locally-grown blue hydrangeas and pink camellias, graced the center of the room.

Members of the Miss Greater Greenville Board acted as hostesses for the tables, bringing ice water, pink lemonade and – of course – hot water for the guests’ tea. &uot;Isn’t this just a lovely treat?&uot; commented guest ‘Miss’ Bobbie Gamble as she spread a fresh-baked scone with jam.

‘Not like other towns’

Delicious tea treats certainly weren’t the only attraction for the guests. Toole, who was recently chosen Miss Trussville 2005, was on hand that afternoon to meet, greet and pose for photos with each guest.

The Birmingham native, a Samford University student majoring in elementary education, has been a very visible presence in Greenville during the past year.

Toole has spoken at numerous civic clubs and all the classes from K-5 through the fifth grade at Fort Dale Academy, sharing her platform on character education. &uot;We have come to love Melinda and appreciate her so much for what she has done here this year,&uot; Sue Arnold, Miss Greater Greenville Board Chairman, told the guests.

Toole expressed how much the city had come to mean to her during her reign as Miss Greater Greenville.

&uot;I was chosen first runner-up to Miss Samford…I admit I was a little disappointed when I didn’t get the title. However, I’ve learned there can be rewards that still come to you, even when you lose –

being able to come here and be chosen Miss Greater Greenville was my reward,&uot; she explained.

&uot;I have discovered Greenville is something different…and I mean that in a good way,&uot; Toole assured her listeners with a smile.

&uot;This city is not like other towns – people are so generous, supportive and gracious here. Greenville is always going to have a special place in my heart, and I hope to get back down here to visit even after my reign is over,&uot; said Toole, whose mother was born in the Camellia City.

A song in her heart

The current Miss Greater Greenville, chosen as the non-finalist talent winner at Miss Alabama earlier this year, performed several vocal selections for the tea party guests, including songs from children’s favorite &uot;The Little Mermaid&uot; and Broadway’s &uot;Jekyll and Hyde&uot; and &uot;Aida.&uot;

Many of the little girls present mouthed the words of the Disney tune along with Toole, who told guests she first became interested in singing while watching &uot;The Little Mermaid&uot; as a child.

&uot;Isn’t she a fabulous vocalist? She has real stage presence,&uot; commented guest Janis Odom.

Remember those lessons

Toole also shared the importance of choosing and being a good role model with tea party guests. &uot;Our young ladies need to have good role models they can look up to – instead of looking to someone like Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera and copying their lifestyles,&uot; Toole said.

The future educator smiled and said, &uot;I recognize many of your faces from visiting your classrooms,and I hope all you sweet little girls will remember some of the lessons I tried to share with you…saying ‘yes, ma’am’ and ‘no, ma’am’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, and showing a kind heart.&uot;

She asked all the young ladies at the tea to get up and give a warm &uot;thank you&uot; to the grown up who brought them there.

&uot;Good manners and good character are so important. We all have character, but we don’t all have good character. It’s something we all need,&uot; Toole stressed.

An emotional moment

The current Miss Greater Greenville was visibly moved at the close of a program when Sue Arnold presented her with a photo mat signed by board members and tea party guests.

&uot;Thank you all so much, this is a very emotional moment for me. I also want to give thanks to my parents and to the Lord Jesus Christ for all he has done for me,&uot; Toole commented as she blinked back the tears.

&uot;Melinda will always be in our hearts…we want to thank everyone for coming and we hope to make this an annual tradition in Greenville,&uot; said Arnold.

Following the tea, Toole posed for more photographs and talked with the guests. &uot;Melinda is truly, truly a sweet, dear girl – it’s been wonderful working with her,&uot; commented board member Carol Connally-Walters.

The Miss Greater Greenville Scholarship Program for 2005 is slated for January 22, 2005 at the Ritz Theatre.