Friday, May 14, 2010


Brims, 2007

Brims, she called them. “Bring me my blue brim from the bedroom, Honey” she would say, “the Easter egg blue one.”

Finding a hat in Fanny’s bedroom, even one Easter egg blue, was not easy. There was little space in the small, dim room to get around the bed and Uncle Horace’s dresser. Every available space was used to store the hat boxes that contained a full spectrum of colored hats made from silk, taffeta, and muslin, all done up with flowers, feathers, fox fur, buttons and costume jewelry. A few looked like birds’ nests, close fitting, petite and formal. But most were more like beekeepers’ masks, grand contraptions with wide brims, fancy ribbons and vast galaxies of netting that required pins, ties and an assortment of clasps to keep them together and in position on Fanny’s head.

Some women pride themselves on having new hats for Christmas and Easter. Fanny had them for almost every Sunday. When the girls were little, her three daughters trailed behind Fanny like ducklings as she promenaded down Bellevue Avenue to God’s Holiness Forgiveness Temple on Sunday mornings. Each daughter would be festooned in a different color, smaller and less flamboyant than their mother’s, but each one still a precise creation of local milliner Gladys Harmon.

Uncle Horace made a good living working for the County. But long after their modest home was paid for and she could have retired from taking care of other people’s homes, Fanny still did “days’ work” to support her ravenous appetite for stylish hats. Some women swore she never wore one twice. At the very least, she helped keep a local hat shop in business long after the younger women had stopped wearing picture hats, and kept Horace busy adding closets and finishing the attic to hold all the hatboxes.

When Fanny passed away and their father sold the home, her daughters did not quibble over her modest estate, but instead deliberated at great length over the distribution of her hats. Norma believed her first-born status entitled her to first choice. Suzie, the middle child, refused to accept that and brought in her husband, Earl, to break the impasse.

Earl wisely avoided a lifetime of complaint by suggesting that his wife and her sisters “pray on it for a while.” In the end, each chose one of their mother’s hats and the rest were given to the church for ladies whose circumstances did not allow them to purchase such lavish hats. In this way, Fanny’s presence was felt in the congregation at the Temple long after she was gone.

1 comment:

  1. Awwww...I admit I do enjoy watching people who wear hats. That photo reminds me of Cindy Woods, incidentally...