Fluvanna Faces: Karen Pulliam Bowles 

By Harvey J. Sorum

Are you a native of Fluvanna County?  

I am! Born in Winchester, Virginia. I arrived in Fluvanna County with my parents at six weeks old when my dad accepted a job at Fork Union Military Academy as an English teacher and football coach. That was the beginning of a wonderful life living in Fork Union which I am enjoying to the fullest, still!

Tell us about your family.

I’m delighted to tell you about my family! I’m married to another Fluvanna native, Roger Bowles, successful business owner, cattleman, coach, friend, mentor to many, and wonderful husband to me. We have an entrepreneurial, creative and talented son and daughter-in-love, who have the most fabulous four children ages 16, 13, 8, and 1, they live in Fork Union, too. As we see it, the sun rises and sets in those grandchildren, and we just can’t get enough of them. Anyone who has grandchildren knows that feeling! My sister (former public school teacher here), and my niece (current public school teacher here), her husband and their two fun-filled boys live nearby, as well. Our niece and her family live in Charlotte, NC, but we are happy to say they come visit often.  We are a close-knit family. We play and pray together! 

When and why did you start The Etiquette School of the Commonwealth?

Soon after our first granddaughter was born I was pondering things I wanted her to know, things that a grandmother would teach a granddaughter as she was growing up that would be of benefit to her along her life’s journey, things she probably wouldn’t be taught in school. My parents were wonderful people whose ordinary lives affected so many in a positive way because of the manner in which they conducted themselves in all situations. They lived full lives. Simply put they had good manners and had acquired and practiced proper etiquette which meant they were comfortable in just about every situation imaginable. Not only did I want that for my then new granddaughter and any other future grandchildren we might have, but I wanted that for all children, all teens, and all adults! So Pollyanna-ish, I know!  I was afraid those social graces were fading and I wanted to figure out a way to do my part to bring them back. To make a long story short, I found a great training school that I attended for two summers and came home and opened The Etiquette School of the Commonwealth in 2010. 

The little granddaughter who inspired me to teach manners has taken my class multiple times each summer since age four or five. She practices what she learned, and now dines beautifully, effortlessly at home and out.  She could dine with anyone and feel confident, empowered by her knowledge and practice of the rules of the table and good manners.  She has been my graceful assistant for two years and will be this summer as well.

Is your background in this field? 

My background is in elementary education, but my school teaching experience has been an invaluable tool in this etiquette school adventure. 

Did you have special training to open your school and teach etiquette and manners?

  Yes!  I had the most wonderful training experience, it was life changing! After lots of searching I found a school called, The American School of Protocol, in Atlanta, GA. The founder and instructor of this school is Ms. Peggy Newfield, world renowned etiquette expert, who was even asked to review Emily Post’s book, Etiquette, the 18th edition, and see if there were any mistakes as it pertained to etiquette, protocol, and manners. That’s how knowledgeable she is on all things etiquette!  She taught me to teach etiquette, table manners, and other social skills to children and adults. The way I learned to teach etiquette from her is amazing. It’s enchanting! Boys and girls alike enjoy it! Adults enjoy it!  I love teaching it!

Why does etiquette matter?

Thank you for asking! Knowing proper etiquette and practicing good manners empowers children, teens, and adults to navigate all types of social situations with confidence and grace.  In my classes I watch self-confidence grow as students become more proficient with social skills such as eye contact, firm hand shakes, how to hold their fork, knife, and spoon, the five uses of a napkin, the proper way to eat rolls from their bread plate, conversation skills and much more. 

It’s my hope that the children who have committed to attend my classes each summer will know these important social skills so well that they will become part of who they are.  These skills will have a positive effect immediately and in the future when they have a job interview, or go out to eat with family and friends, attend weddings, etc. Them being present, and being themselves will be all they need to be concerned about, as they will already know which is their bread plate,  how to pass the salt and pepper, which fork to use, etc.   

Is there a difference between etiquette and manners?

Yes, etiquette refers to a set of rules agreed upon for a given activity. Having good manners refers to how you make other people feel when they are around you. It’s not about you, it’s about them.

For example, etiquette is knowing what side of the plate to place the napkin and placing it there when setting the table.

Good manners is recognizing your host or hostess has placed the napkin on the wrong side of the table and not saying one word about it, going on with your meal without acknowledging that you know better than they do, so as not to embarrass them. 

Again, good manners is making people feel comfortable no matter what fork they use.

There are only two reasons we come to the table, to nourish our bodies and to have fellowship with one another. Proper etiquette allows there to be order at the table so those two things can take place.  

Looking at the immediate past, do you find “manners” are becoming white elephants?

There are certain aspects of manners, as many of your readers and I know it, that are almost a lost art. However, the optimist in me sees a bit of a resurgence and a desire to bring them back. 

Favorite quotes? 

Umm… it’s hard to choose one, but yes, I have some favorite quotes.

A couple of my favorites are:

“There is no accomplishment so easy to acquire as politeness and none so profitable. ~H.W. Shaw 

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It’s the only thing.” ~Albert Schweitzer

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” ~Jesus Christ 

Any regrets?

I don’t believe in regrets, but if I had any I wouldn’t tell you! 😉

When and where are your classes this summer?

I teach three sessions of children’s etiquette classes in my home during the summer months. Then all students go to Glenmore Country Club for our graduation five course fancy dinner. Seven children per class. Ages 6-16.

For more information visit MANNERSVa.com or email ESCmannersVA@gmail.com or text 434-996-4903.

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