My Past Hats
The first hat I truly remember is a sunbonnet in green and white, what we used to call “bungalow check”. Its existence is reinforced by an old snapshot for there I am, at three years old, sitting astride my brother’s back.
As I look through the album more hats are revealed. There I was in a Sunday school group. I can still feel the roughness of my little straw hat and also the soft velvet of its tiny blue forget-me-nots.
It is summer, Whitsuntide. A tradition in our part of Lancashire at this time of year was for church members, wearing new clothes if possible, to walk in procession round the parish. In front of the various groups are huge, decorated cloth banners depicting religious themes and the church’s name.
A brass band leads the way playing good old hymns like “Onward, Christian Soldiers”. I always longed to carry one of the pretty coloured ribbons which fanned out from the very top of the poles, but 1 never did.
About this time the dancing class I reluctantly attended put on a concert at the local Mission Hall. To prepare me for this my sister made me sit very still whilst she tried to curl my hair with metal tongs which were put into the fire to heat.
Littlies, like me, sang “Hey, Little Hen, when, when, when will you lay me an egg for my tea?” Greater talents cavorted through “Waltzing High In The Clouds”.
I wore no hat on this occasion but there I was in the grand finale with a big, red bow perched above my crimped curls.
Then there is the white veil of my Confirmation, held in place with hair clips and little gold safety pins. It threatened throughout the service to slip off my newly washed hair and disgrace my parents.
Next I had a warm, brown, felt type of bonnet for winter, stiffened with wire round the brim. I wore this with a very smart coat with a fur fabric collar. And then the “beany” hat I made for myself from sage green corduroy. It had a rolled brim and I thought it was very chic. Now it looks for all the world like a giant fabric fruit gum.
I can vividly remember wearing this hat going to pantomime practices. Those cold nights when we clomped round the stage of the echoing church hall as we went through “April Showers”, “Buttons And Bows” and “Dark Town Strutter’s Ball”.
Off I went to grammar school with my far-too-big black velour hat with its regulation blue and red band and school badge. There is a photo of me in a contrived pose sitting in the back garden reading a copy of “Punch”.
Further on, I’m in my late teens wearing a great favourite – a very sophisticated blue and white striped satin boater, a hat much admired by my grandmother.
A garden party inspired me to make the next piece of headgear: a huge white picture hat with deep lace wafting round its edge. From the photo I look like a skinny adolescent version of Scarlett O’hara.
There is a gap in the record until the first year of my marriage. In those days we had lots of energy and at weekends used to set off hiking.
The next photo is me in the khaki forage cap with eyelets at the side. My hair is in doubled plaits, and I look like a cross between Annie Oakley and a war correspondent.
Then, later, here’s a memory of happy picnic days with our baby son. I’m in a red straw with a tall crown with a floral band. It lasted quite a while for there it is again on photos of me on the P & O liner Himalaya bringing us to New Zealand in the 1960s. My next hat was a nice, natural straw. It had a turquoise band and matching
ribbons hanging down the back. My mother said these tails used to be called “follow-me-lads”!
I treated myself to a glossy, red Swiss straw to go with a dove-grey suit I wore when I carried our Church’s Mother’s Union banner. A whole banner to myself, so forget that longed-for ribbon of twenty years earlier!
The service was in the old St Mary’s Church, Auckland before it was moved across the road. As we banner-bearers walked sedately from the hall into the church it began to rain. My lovely hat started to sag over my ears. It was never the same afterwards.
And today? Well, I can’t find my faded, good old Kiwi towelling sun hat. But I’ve spent so long pottering down memory lane that the sun’s gone in. The rain is coming and I’ve still got to pick the beans for tea. Now, somewhere there’s an old school rain hat. I’m sure I saw it yesterday . . .
If you want to get ahead . . .