Many years ago, when I was still a young man, they pressed upon us the notion that there were standards, and among them, there was a standard measure for a Gentleman. And this was, simply put, a pocketknife, a clean handkerchief and a ten-dollar bill.

The pocketknife was to solve technical or physical problems as they might arise, while the clean handkerchief was to dry the maiden’s tears of relief at being snatched from the dragon’s grasp just in the nick of time. This clean handkerchief requirement is why we normally carry two handkerchiefs, and is the source of the expression, “One for Show and One for Blow.” With the steady decline in the buying power of the dollar, today’s standard measure for a Gentleman would be: A pocketknife, a clean handkerchief and a hundred-dollar bill.

A Gentleman carries a pocketknife … “to solve technical or physical problems as they might arise.” Dan King photo

This Gentleman’s standard is an ancient one and goes way back, long before my time. In the meanwhile, other, more popular standards have appeared, such as the Cowboy, who rides a white horse and sings a ballad about his spurs, while shooting coyotes with his six-shooter, all the while avoiding the tumbling tumbleweed. Another, more recent standard is that of the International Secret Agent, who drives an Aston-Martin, talks funny, shoots bad guys with a Walther PPK, and looks like he knows what romance is, but never demonstrates it.

I’ll admit there was a time when I lost confidence in the pocketknife and the clean handkerchief as part of the standard measure for a Gentleman, because several of my close friends pooh-poohed the idea, but I am now vindicated.

I was watching a documentary program on television the other night, on the early days of the human race, introduced by Professor Petros Gnosis, director of the Far Eastern Museum of The Paleoglyptic Era, reporting the newest finds from the dig at Tel Bugar-Al-Khalif, right there in the middle of the Fertile Crescent. He held up a chipped flint shard with a carefully tooled edge, and said, “Here it is, for all of you in the audience to see, Mankind’s first cutting tool.”

And I lost it there. The inner man leaped from my chest, dragged me from my chair and outshouted the television with, “Look! Look! There you have it! See! See! Gentlemen carried pocketknives long before they had pockets!”

Orrin Frink is a Kennebunkport resident and can be reached at

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