- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 15, 2005

It was an age of snobbery and civility.

When men carried perfectly starched white hankies in their breast pockets and discreetly snoozed off one too many lunchtime martinis in the library of the Metropolitan Club. When hairdressers had one name: Maurice.

When women wore pearls and parures, cocktail hats, white gloves and stockings with seams. They carried engraved calling cards and wouldn’t dream of sitting next to a known “F.P.” at a dinner party.

That’s “fanny pincher.”

“Yes, she did have notation in her cards for those people who were known as ‘F.P.s,’” 81-year-old Thomas J. Murray Sr. recalls, his silver hair neatly clipped and his Chanel tie properly knotted. “And ‘B.D.s,’ as well.”

That’s “bad drunk.”

He is referring to his late mother-in-law, famed Washington arbiter of manners Carolyn Hagner Shaw, who oversaw the Social List of Washington, D.C. (known as the “Green Book” because of its emerald felt covers). It caused fear and loathing throughout the capital.

It was never just a social list, per se. It became a directory of well-born, well-connected party givers and goers who oozed the kind of social status those below the salt would envy.

Actually, it was Mrs. Shaw’s mother, Helen Ray Hagner, who hatched the idea in 1930 by collecting guest lists for debutante parties. She set up a tiny Social Bureau in the Shoreham Hotel. So the Green Book was born. The privately published directory celebrates its 75th anniversary this week, and a look through Mr. Murray’s scrapbook and faded collection of directories reveals a vast treasury — a King Tut’s tomb of Washington tidbits — detailing who was in over the years. And who was out.

Those who lived by the Green Book died by the Green Book.

“People killed to get into it,” former White House social secretary Letitia Baldridge says. “People took it very seriously. They spent their whole life trying. It was so important to them.”

What seems a quaint record of WASP Americana was originally a bible of belonging. Every October, just as the fall social season was getting started, the plain brown cardboard box arrived in the mail. Then the phones started ringing. One could get dropped for divorce, arrest, indictment, becoming an “O.F.” (an “old fool” who married a woman his granddaughter’s age) or merely having a bad choice of spouse.

“If a man married a woman of bad reputation, he was dropped,” Miss Baldridge says.

No doubt there were those who stayed together to stay in the Green Book.

It was rather thin in the early years, when it cost $12. Later, the Green Book gradually grew to more than 6,000 names, and the rate has climbed to $75, which includes free telephone advice on matters of protocol and etiquette.

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