SI Vault
John P. Marquand
May 07, 1956
The question is a serious one. Mr. Bob Lawton favors a Gallup-type poll, but the solution, in the end, is a form letter
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May 07, 1956

Are Shorts Too Short At Happy Knoll?

The question is a serious one. Mr. Bob Lawton favors a Gallup-type poll, but the solution, in the end, is a form letter

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Letter to Mr. Albert Magill, president emeritus of the Happy Knoll Country Club, from Mr. Roger Horlick, member of the Board of Governors.

Dear Albert:

At the last meeting of the Board of Governors a step was taken of which we all agreed you should be informed. We have finally drafted a letter regarding costumes to be worn by the club membership, particularly our younger ladies, this coming summer on all parts of the club property except the swimming pool and the adjoining area that includes the iron tables and the colored umbrellas. As you will doubtless agree from our experience last summer, it is impossible to control what people of either sex wear at the swimming pool except to state in a general way that the Happy Knoll Country Club is not yet a nudist colony.

Our discussion, therefore, only concerned the general drift of bathing costumes into the dining room, the lounge, the mixed bar, the card room and even into the Pendleton Room; and this topic led naturally to the whole subject of shorts on both men and women inside and outside the clubhouse. There was a general agreement that something should be initiated this year regarding undue exposure, but there was a wide difference as to exactly what should be said by a governing board. In fact, the discussion became so heated that Mr. Bob Lawton, our new board member whom I do not believe you know, made what was to me a unique suggestion based on his experience as the executive of a large advertising agency.

It was Mr. Lawton's thought that there should be a sampling of public opinion among the club membership along the lines practiced by Dr. George Gallup in his Princeton statistical laboratory. Dismissing the remark of someone that Dr. Gallup had been wrong regarding the 1948 presidential election, Mr. Lawton advanced the opinion that Dr. Gallup had been right about everything else and that he had been virtually right about the 1948 presidential election, too, percentagewise. Mr. Lawton pointed out to us that in the "shop," as he calls his New York place of business, they use Dr. Gallup's prognostications almost constantly. Only the other day, he told us, their merchandise counseling service was undecided whether or not to advise a client to put a new type diagonally stretching girdle into quantity production. A quick cross-sectional sampling was made of the three most reliable cities in the United States according to the Gallup rating. The question put up by the trained investigators was a very simple one: If you had the money to buy a girdle with a diagonal rather than a lateral stretch, would you buy it? The answers were very illuminating, according to the merchandise counseling at the "shop": yes, 21%; no, 67%; undecided, 2%; don't understand, 10%. As a result of this sampling of public opinion the client, the Safeside Stretch Company, will not put its new product into production at least for the present. It was Mr. Lawton's belief that it would not be necessary to consult the Gallup Institute directly regarding Happy Knoll. There was no reason why the Board of Governors should not sit right down now and dream up a question that would be a fair sampling of membership opinion. Just thinking off the top of his head, it was Mr. Lawton's idea that the same question should be sent to men and women alike in the membership, since boys and girls, as Mr. Lawton put it, had a common interest in shorts. In fact, right now, just off the top of his head, Mr. Lawton had a pretty good sampling question that we might at least kick around for a while. How would it be if a postcard were to be sent out to the membership with the following question: How short should shorts be at Happy Knoll? 1) knee-length Bermuda? 2) three inches above the knee? 3) six inches? 4) straight or curved? 5) loose, tight or medium? After each of these subheadings there should be a check list: yes, no, undecided, don't understand. This, in Mr. Lawton's opinion, would pretty well cover what he termed "the whole picture," and once the samplings were made and the results published, no one could have a reasonable kick about subsequent democratic regulations, and there should be no exceptions just because one gal's leg, as he put it, was more shapely than another's at Happy Knoll.

As often happens after Bob Lawton makes suggestions at our meetings, there was a profound and thoughtful silence.

Admitting that the idea had its angles of merit, there was also something wrong about it. I am delighted to say that Hank Stevens put his finger on the difficulty.

"And just exactly how do you think we would look as an executive body," he said, "if we were to send out an inquiry on how short women should wear their shorts? We ought to decide on the correct length here and now on the basis of our own experience."

What would they say at the Hard Hollow Country Club, he inquired, if we sent out any such round-robin letter, Dr. Gallup or no Dr. Gallup?

There was another silence, and then Tom Gaspell made what I still think is an interesting observation. There was no trouble about shorts being too short at Hard Hollow, he said, because most of the women there had given up trying to attract men. Besides, women at Hard Hollow had to play golf in long slacks whether they liked it or not because of the mosquitoes. There was another longer pause. Obviously everyone must have recalled the shorts that Mrs. Gaspell had worn last season which were so arranged that when she wore her cashmere coat it did not seem that she had on any shorts at all. Fortunately Mr. Gaspell continued with another thought. He said that he did not care what sort of shorts the women wore as long as they looked all right in them, and that was what Mrs. Gaspell always said, also. Some women looked all right in shorts and others looked perfectly terrible. It was not the fault of the shorts, but the fault of the individual who fitted herself inside them. Why not get a Gallup poll about the shape of individuals?

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