Myra Edmondson has a hat for every occasion, and a story for every hat.
Some call her “the hat lady.”
She is known about town for never leaving the house without one of her more than 60 hats.
You just don’t see women wearing hats anymore, Edmondson comments.
“Why women don’t wear them, I don’t know,” she said. “Men are always complimenting my hats.”
Edmondson remembers when a hat was an essential part of the wardrobe, when her grandmother operated a millinery store in Mt. Vernon.
S. M. Brown’s hat store dates back to 1924.
Edmondson, who celebrated her 92nd birthday Sept. 8, would go to her grandmother’s store as a young girl to watch her sew dresses and fine hats in the Depression era.
The oldest hat in Edmondson’s current collection was purchased in 1943, the year after she was married.
It is a broad brimmed, oversized black hat weaved of straw fiber that still looks new.
“My husband was stationed at Bunker Hill Indiana. One day I got on the bus and went to Indianapolis and bought this hat,” she said. “My husband was teaching boys to fly.”
She was 22 years old.
Edmondson’s favorite hat is a white felt fedora with dark feathers.
It is her favorite, she says, because she receives compliments whenever she wears it.
She said years ago while eating lunch with her brother, Gene Hatfield, a nicely dressed man approached their table and asked her where she had gotten her “pretty fedora.”
“I told him I bought it for $1 at Salvation Army. His friend, the Little Rock hat lady, Willie Oates, had gone to New York and paid $100 for a hat that wasn’t as beautiful,” she said.
Edmondson later gave the hat to a church friend who had decided to start wearing them, but Edmondson said she found herself borrowing the fedora and eventually kept it in her collection again.
“Women can wear hats anywhere. I remember when everyone in church wore them,” she said.
Though she has stopped collecting them, pretty new hats find their way to her through her daughter.
Edmondson’s newest hat was received for her birthday from Washington D.C.
It is a silk grey-blue bonnet with a folded rose and a hint of shiny beadwork.
Most of Edmondson’s hats are older, but she said her daughter will send her a hat on special occasions.
Why did she stop collecting?
“Enough was enough,” she said.
She had already purged her hat collection at least once before when she and her husband, both teachers in St. Louis, Mos., had to pack their belongings for a move.
Edmondson’s hats are spread across two bedrooms in her home.
She’d like to share them, but said, “Nobody wears hats at my church but I and another girl. She’s the only one who wants them.”
When she hears of a woman in need of a hat, she goes to her collection.
It doesn’t happen very often.
By Edmondson’s own philosophy, a woman isn’t completely dressed for any special occasion or Sunday if she doesn’t have a hat.
“I’m going to make some enemies,” she laughed.
(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 505-1236, or on Twitter @Courtneyism. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)