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By Rebecca Alwine

Remember the days of white glove inspections when you cleared military housing? No? Be glad. There are so many wonderful traditions the military has clung to. Changes of commands are fun, the promotion ceremonies are great, and, of course, the grog bowl is always a crowd-pleaser.

But when it comes to the traditions and expectations of military spouses, we have come a long way. Speaking for all–okay, most–military spouses, we’re glad to see these have disappeared:

1. New Year’s Day receptions

perfection from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 paisley’s such a nice girl, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Receptions are probably a dying art anyway. We really don’t need one more mandated (or strongly encouraged) thing to attend during the holiday season. We certainly don’t need the stress of having it on New Year’s Day. Between unit parties, holiday balls, school events, and family obligations, no one is sad to see a little flexibility come to these receptions.

2. Wives only

Golden bond from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 Abhishek Jacob, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

Family Readiness Groups–or actually, Family Support Groups then–were only for spouses. By spouses, I mean wives. And usually just officers’ wives. There were no husbands involved. They were recognized even less than they are now. There was no politically correct use of the term “military spouse”; it was military wife if you were going generic, and it was branch-specific most of the time. No girlfriends were allowed in these groups. No fiancés. If you weren’t married, you didn’t exist. I am so glad we’ve dumped this one and have opened our arms to all military spouses and families.

3. Commissary craziness

Shopping cart from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 Daniel R. Blume, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

You might not want to go to the commissary on pay day now, but way back then, there were strict rules, too. You had to dress up to go to the commissary. Children were not allowed…at all. There were arrows on the aisles directing traffic. Before scanning machines, you had to place all your items with the little price sticker facing up. And, the kicker? You had to put all the items on the side of the belt closest to the employee. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have an excuse not to bring my kids grocery shopping. And, if arrows made everyone go the right way on the right side? That may be worth reviving.

4. No children allowed

Bootblacks in and around City Hall Park, New York City - July 25, 1924. Location: New York, New York (State) (LOC) from Flickr via Wylio
© 1910 The Library of Congress, Flickr | PD | via Wylio

Not only were children not allowed in the commissary, they were also not allowed at the clinic for doctor’s appointments, unless they were the one seeing the doctor. And then, only that child was allowed to be there. Kids clearly weren’t welcomed at any events. I wonder what everyone did for childcare. Or were those the years you just didn’t go anywhere? Again, I don’t love taking all three kids to the doctor’s, or (gasp!) spend hours at the pharmacy waiting for a prescription, but what was the option back then?

5. Do you work?

[Woman taping wire, Chrysler Corporation] from Flickr via Wylio
© 1944 SMU Central University Libraries, Flickr | PD | via Wylio
Simply put, no, you didn’t. Spouses who worked outside the home were looked down on…and not the way parents judge and internet shame each other today. You were a social outcast if you worked. Dual military couples were virtually unheard of. I’d wager the command support towards working spouses was even worse then than it can be now. No consideration, no help, nothing. Yikes.

6. White glove anything

Mrs. A. Scott Burden (LOC) from Flickr via Wylio
© 1911 The Library of Congress, Flickr | PD | via Wylio

We’ve all heard the rumors about white glove inspections when clearing housing on the installation. But gloves were also a status symbol. Army Regulation 605-125 mentions the wearing of white gloves during “formal calls” made by the senior officer and his wife when they visit the new active duty service member. You would, of course, be expected to know the correct length of gloves to wear with each hour of the day. It’s hard enough to find a ball gown and arrange childcare–I’m so glad I don’t have to even think about gloves!

The stories I’ve heard over the years of some of these traditions and rules make me so glad that we have a more modern way of life as military spouses. While I love the traditions of each of the branches, the way they interact (Go Army, Beat Navy!), and the history behind them, most of these should never have seen the light of day.

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