Young Niles ladies, library turn back time with tea party

Published 7:52 am Monday, November 15, 2004

NILES - In hats, shawls and the very best manners they can muster, more than two dozen giggling girls gracefully took their places Saturday afternoon at the Riverfront Cafe in Niles for a 1904 replica tea party.
A part of history came alive as each girl, with their favorite dolly, practiced what they learned over the last several weeks of classes through the Niles District Library.
Jackson, a librarian at the Niles District Library for the past five years, knew that a lecture would not be effective in teaching the girls etiquette and fashion from 100 years ago. However, through sessions that covered everything from what to wear, how to conduct themselves at a tea party, and even how to use a fancy fan, the girls were primed and ready to experience what many young girls like themselves found commonplace so many years ago.
With a welcome from Mrs. Darlene in her hand-sewn replica gown, the girls were gently reminded of their duties at each table.
Little voices piped in with the simplest of duties, such as placing their napkins in their laps, and speaking softly at their tables.
One little lady suggested talking to each other politely.
As instructed, each little lady found a velvet box in the center of their table with slips of paper that would help generate conversation among themselves. Indeed, Miss Faith's table invariably came back to the subject of weather.
Table mates Amanda Chaffin and Ashley Scott echoed her love for the snow, but young Rachel Gipson adds, "I have a December birthday but I hate snow!"
Someone suggested favorite colors, and conversation from this point forward never comes to a standstill at this table as tea or lemonade was poured and the party was in full swing.
It appeared to be a serious consideration as to whether a lady would use one sugar, (or perhaps two?) and if each napkin was placed just perfectly on their laps. This was serious fun.
Librarian Penny Rimelspach, in floral hat and period clothing, sat at a table with one little lady who could barely contain her excitement from the moment she walked in.
Six-year-old Autumn Flick, another excited participant, admitted, "I went to a tea party a long time ago, but it was not this fancy."
Natalie Colburn, 13, opening and closing her lace fan, agrees with the excitement.
After sandwiches are served, Mrs. Darlene asked for the ladies attention again, while door prizes are awarded to six lucky ladies. Several area merchants donated the prizes for the day, which included an American Girl book, a real gingerbread house, and winter clothing for the lucky girl's dolly.
As the ladies finished their day with ice cream and cakes, little purses were gathered together, last goodbyes were spoken to their friends, and the tea party came to a close.
Savannah Stowe approached both librarians Jackson and Rimelspach for a parting photo together. After photos and hugs, her mom, Avaline, couldn't say enough good things about the program or the librarians.