By Ruth Ellen Patton Totten
Edited by James Patton Totten (those of you in Columbus in 2005 will remember this man who is a grandson of General Patton and represented the family at the opening performance of the Spanish Riding School tour of the U.S.A.)
If you thought that General Patton was a remarkable human being, wait until you read about his wife, Beatrice Ayres Patton. The Button Box is, by turns, passionate, insightful, clever and hilarious. Beatrice Ayres was born into the wealthy society world of North Shore Boston in the late 1800s and chose to marry a handsome young West Point graduate who would chose the military, rather than business, as his career. She embarked with total commitment and enthusiasm into life as the wife of an Army Officer, living in sometimes primitive conditions at military bases around the U.S.A. and the world, but always immersing herself in the new environment. To say she was devoted and loyal to her husband would be an understatement. In one infamous incident, just after World War I, at a formal dinner party, she overheard a drunken Colonel in full dress uniform criticize her young husband, newly promoted to the rank of Colonel, with eagle insignia, as “the young chicken still wet behind the ears, wearing a colonel’s eagle chicken wings.” This dainty, well-mannered lady in elegant evening gown, leapt onto the offending Colonel’s shoulders, knocked him to the floor, and was on top of him, pounding his head into the black and white marble tile floor while her surprised husband and several others were trying to pull her off. Her sense of humor was delightful, as when her husband dove flat on the floor at home at the sudden sound of boom-boom-boom, which turned out to be homebrewed beer exploding. Mrs. Patton laughed and called him, “my hero.” Mrs. Patton died literally and figuratively “with her boots on” while foxhunting at the age of 67. I wish I had known her.