Blog Schedule

I post on Monday with an occasional random blog thrown in for good measure. I do my best to answer all comments via email and visit around on the days I post.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Hat: A Biography

In light of the recent death of our friend Gene, I thought this would be a nice story to tell.

Sometime between 1968 and ’69 Gene acquired a hat. Gene got The Hat from a friend of his. Who knows how long Gene’s friend had had it before Gene acquired it, but acquire it he did.

It was a black felt hat with a rounded crown and nice wide brim. It was the kind of hat one saw on the heads of Indians in those old Westerns.

When Gene got The Hat he punched the crown down, turning it into a hat that had more of cowboy look to it. He also added a simple three strand braided leather hat band. Into the band, on the left side, he added a couple of feathers, don’t remember what kind.

I coveted it terribly. Besides which it fit me perfectly and looked good on me. I pestered Gene until around 1970 he finally gave it to me. I pinned up the left side of the brim with an amethyst broach Grammy had given me. It was a cluster of leaves with a single large oval stone representing a flower bud. I still have the pin. The band and feathers remained the same.

I wore The Hat all the time.

In 1970 my senior high school class went to Caracas, Venezuela and Curacao. One day, while in Caracas (our visit there is a story in itself!) I was window shopping with a class mate. A man came running towards us, excited and speaking in Spanish which neither of us could understand. He pulled on our arms trying to get us to cross the street, pointing to another man standing in the door of a jewelry store. This second man was waving at us to cross the street.

We were naïve and stupid enough to comply. When I think back on that moment I realize we could have been kidnapped.

The up-shot was this: the man who pulled at our arms trying to get us to cross the street, had the shop owner translate. He had seen me in Curacao just a few days before and now, to see me in Caracas, was like a sign. He wanted to buy my hat. He kept making offers, but I kept politely refusing until he politely gave up. We all agreed it was truly amazing that he had spotted me on two occasions in two different locations, the second being such a huge city. What were the odds? It would be like someone seeing me in Bermuda then spotting me a few days later in New York City!

Later that same year, we four Denhams took a road trip. We flew up to Florida, bought a station wagon (the first and only Chrysler product Dad ever bought) and we drove out to California to visit Dad’s side of the family who lived around Clear Lake. While we were there Dad broke his foot. It was during this time that Mom, my sister Erva, and I went down to San Francisco and spent about a week exploring the city. All this time I’m wearing The Hat.

One day while walking through the city, Mom on one side of me, Erva on the other, a long-hair type (this is 1970, hippies were abundant) comes up to me, puts his hands on my shoulders and says very intently, “Your hat! I’ll give you anything for that hat!”

Of course I refused. He was polite enough and didn’t press too hard, but he was obviously disappointed when I wouldn’t give it up.

The Hat became a part of my costume. I wore it everywhere.

By 1980 The Hat was worn out. The inside sweat band had just about completely disintegrated, there were holes in the crown, and the brim was weak and thin from all the handling. But I couldn’t just throw it away, it meant too much to me.

In a tearful ceremony of farewell, I burned it. Little did I realize at the time I was also symbolically burning away a life-style I had out grown. The ashes of the old became fertilizer for the new ground I was just beginning to cultivate.

Thanks, Gene, for the memories.

This a newspaper picture taken the day we left on our class trip. It was taken by our class photographer, Les Francis, who is now a professional photographer, consequently, he isn’t in the picture. The ‘xed’ out person in the back is a stranger who did not belong in the shot. There I am squatting in the front row wearing The Hat.

I seem to be intently studying. I was in the school library when this picture was taken so it was study hall. It was also “free clothes day,” the last Friday of every month when juniors and seniors could wear street clothes instead of our uniform which was forest green and white. Mom made the outfit, a little short skirt and vest, from a mottled blue and white Merimekko fabric. The shirt was my favorite, a wonderful sort of pirate shirt, with buttoned cuffs that went nearly up to my elbows. Those earrings were stainless steel discs Dad gave me with holes drilled into them so I could link them together, there’s a third disc hidden behind the collar of my shirt. The binder was cloth covered in Stewart plaid. I am wearing rings on at least six of my fingers.

Also taken around 1970, another tree moment. This time I’m in a mango tree. That’s a little bell around my neck with yellow and orange seed beads strung on a piece of elastic thread. Another photo taken from a different angle went into our senior year book.
What a trip.


  1. I'm so glad there was a picture of the hat here. And what a nice tribute.

  2. Thanks jacqui. I'm glad I have some pictures of it too.

  3. You look GREAT in THE HAT! And what stories! The Hat needs a voice to tell them :)

  4. Thanks, Bish!

    Of course I'm teary-eyed. The Hat conjures up so many even let me wear it a few times because I thought it was great, too. But then, so was its source.

    Interesting to note the date on the sign above the class group picture. That date was Mom's 53rd birthday! How time passeth.


  5. Somehow I could have guessed you were a fellow tree climber!

    (I still climb trees with my kids & I'm even in a treeclimbing group on facebook!)

    Great pics!

  6. Angela, I am definitely a tree person. One of my earlier blogs is all about trees I've loved and known.

  7. That's a pretty doggone awesome hat. That reminds me of a "lucky hat" I had in high school that unfortunately blew off my head and into a puddle and ... melted, sort of.

    I love that last picture, especially. How funny that The Hat had such power.

  8. Oh I'm so glad you posted a pic of the hat. I got to the part about you burning the hat and thought, Nooooo! I wanna see it!

    Whew--thank goodness for technology and you were able to put up a few shots of it. Sounds like a very special hat that had many adventures!


Your Random Thoughts are most welcome!