Hats and More Hats!
We could have spent the whole 90 minutes just identifying hats and what kinds of people might wear them. But my first group was determined to do more than look at hats!
We talked about hat boxes and quite a few of the ladies had one or more, tucked on closet shelves. I remember my mother's hat boxes, but they always seemed to be storing other things, besides hats. I tricked all my groups by putting a miniature salesman's sample box and fedora into the mystery bag. "Guess what's inside? It has to do with hats." The small box that fits on the palm of my hand, was too hard for anyone to guess.
Hats Make People Happy
Hats really do make people playful. We laughed at each other and how funny we felt. Maybe that's why there is a tradition of cardboard hats at birthday and New Year's parties. Hats help break the ice, so we can hurry up and have a good time.
We laughed about how buying a hat was such a treat, back in the day. Lucy and Ethel often insisted they deserved the treat of buying a new hat, when they were frustrated with Ricky and Fred.
Sometimes it's more fun just trying on hats than buying them.
Brainstorming Book Characters with Hats
Gretchen mentioned the Mad Hatter and even knew some of the history behind the term Mad Hatter. There was evidently a little something toxic used in the making of hats, back in the day.
If I'd packed only doll hats, my load would have been a lot easier to carry. These doll hats weren't as much fun to wear, but there were some inspiring ones. The tiny bonnet with flowers got us discussing (and singing) "In Your Easter Bonnet" from the movie Easter Parade. A few folks had memories of seeing that historic parade in NYC, with women in their fancy hats strutting down 5th Avenue on Easter.
If only I'd had some newspaper handy, we could have folded ourselves some old-fashioned paper hats. Many remembered making them. I didn't have a cone-shaped party hat, but I had some other paper hats to share. Most recognized the "boat-shaped" ones that you might see behind the counter of a soda fountain. Nobody had seen one quite like my paper top hat. That one was made for my son's graduation celebration. It featured about 50 photos of Scott over the years... wearing hats.
No one had real connections with top hats, except to remember Lincoln or a magician. But many of the women talked about the day, "A lady just didn't leave the house without a hat on... and it had to match your outfit!" Clara laughed about wearing a hat on the bus to work each day. "The windows would be down, blasting hot wind throughout the bus and I'd have to hold that hat on my head the whole way!"
That thought brought up the discussion of hat pins! Ken reminded us all about how women used those pins as protection! I thought he was joking and I was reminded by many, that the pins were used for much more than pinning a hat to the head!
When I told the groups to "Pick a hat, any hat!" it was fun to see the kinds of hats everyone reached towards. Lottie and Carrie both talked fondly about their dads and cowboy hats. "My daddy always had a cowboy hat. He was very picky about it and never handled it by the top. Oh no, you didn't want to mess with that shape." Dorothy pointed to the fedora and smiled. "My father always had a hat like that." Dot also pointed to the fedora. "My papa never left home without his hat."
Making and Finishing Hats
I showed pictures of The Man's Hat Shop in Albuquerque. My husband and I stumbled upon this 59 year old store last fall and spent 90 minutes learning about hat making and hat history. Quite a few in the groups knew about the process of fitting and blocking hats.
Kids and Hats
She smiled remembering how cute they looked with the corners knotted to secure them from flying off. I so wish she could have shared a photo of that image.
Hats From Far Away
We talked about some of the most unusual hat styles, worn around the world today. We wondered about the tradition of Peruvian woman wearing men's hats. We wondered about the woman pictured, with the note tucked into her hatband. That got one group pondering all the things that made hats useful... from hiding money... hiding your face... feeding your dog water...to juggling tricks!
Pictures of Hats
In all my photos and books, I didn't have one picture of a nurse's cap. But Dot described the one she wore for many years in great detail. "I still have my cap, on display in a glass case. It was white with a black stripe. I kept it so clean and never pinned it to my head until I got to the hospital." That made me remember the cap that came with my toy nurse kit. It made us all kind of miss the days when nurses wore caps... and white stockings.
What Did I Learn?
For 20+ years children have called it the Magic Quilt. They've danced and pretended all over these colorful squares. I've dragged it to schools, shelters and studios where children have climbed on top to hear Magic Quilt Stories and to act them out.