I kinda hate that Easter hats have gone the way of the Dodo bird. It was such a break from the humdrum of church to see such a myriad of brightly colored hats filling our sanctuary on Easter morning. The ladies literally lit up the room each year. The best I remember yellow, red and lavender were the choice of colors for the majority. It had to be loud, colorful and “springy”. That seemed to be the rule. I’ve seen live daffodils overtaking tulips as matron after matron made that slow walk down the center aisle. And the more feathers, fawn leaves, stickpins and ribbons, the better. There were hats on display that Dodos could have nested in if they had survived the flood!
We spent most of that “Up from the grave He arose” song judging headgear. Leon voted annually for the biggest and tallest. He didn’t rate’em much on color. And I’m telling you we had some tall ones! I saw a ceiling fan near’ bout clip the head off of what appeared to be a statue of John the Baptist perched stately on a reworked Stetson decorated especially for the Holy service.
David Mark was more into wide brims. And if you wanted his vote, you had to bring some color with you. He liked those brims that turned down in front. It was fun to guess who was underneath it. Sometimes we had to drop our offering on the floor to bend down and get an upward glance to figure out who the “hat-ee” was. I’ve seen brims so wide if they picked the same row you couldn’t get but two in there.
We divided them into categories. We had most unusual, most original, ugliest, most flowers, gaudiest and best hat to hide a bad hairdo. We’d play switch. You know, Miss Floy’s hat would look better on Mrs. Sasser. Or maybe, Mrs. Opal would look better in the hat Mrs. Mitchum chose for the morning. We “rearranged” ninety per cent of the heads and hats before the invitation was given.
We tried to sit behind a big hat. That way we could squirm a bit without Brother Hatcher seeing you. He was prone to point out right in the middle of Jesus feeding the Five Thousand or Moses stumbling down the mountain carrying those heavy stone tablets if some youngster was not paying attention. He wasn’t shy about naming names either! I didn’t mind the embarrassment in front of the whole congregation. I hated the whipping that followed. I would recite the story of the Good Samaritan or Jesus forgiving the Woman at the Well right as Daddy was jerking off his belt……but he never one time made the connection.
Mom wore a mint green hat that was rather small and mundane by the standards of the time. She was way more into the message of Easter than she was haberdashery. We tried to get her to “dress up” that old hat for the occasion but she just laughed. Leon thought it ought to be bigger. David wanted to add a brim. I brought home some red and blue ribbon. I figured it would look just awesome wrapped around the faded out green. I look back on it from a half century of Easter services and shake my head at the silliness of it. If we’d a’tied wet noodles to that hat or ran it though the wringer washer before the Sunrise Service, our Mother would have still been the best looking lady in the church!
Brother Hatcher always issued a special welcome to the guests on Easter morning. Daddy allowed it was for the ones who only came to church on that one Sunday out of the year. The Devil made me twist that around in my mind for a moment. I wouldn’t have to wear that neck strangling starched collar or those concrete hard Buster Brown shoes but once a year…… That roaring lion was seeking to devour me!
Brother Hatcher’s Easter message never changed. I’m not pretending here that I caught every word. But through the hat watching and the fans stirring and counting the grain lines in the pulpit, I heard Lamb, Golgotha, propitiation, forgiveness, resurrection, reconciliation, mercy and everlasting life. It was the same every year. I guess he was going to preach that sermon till “we got it”!
We spent the week after Easter reviewing the hats. We compared them to the year before and gave a nod to the most improved. In our post Holy Week dreams we were all armed with a BB gun and a front row seat in the balcony. We picked off several birds, a golden hat pin, a Wickersham basket, two turtle doves and one John the Baptist statue.
All good things have to come to an end. And so it was with the Easter hat crowds. We went off to college and paid attention to matters we deemed more pressing than whose fedora outshined whom. I’m not exactly sure when the custom began its slow slide into oblivion.
There was not a hat to be seen in our church this Easter. It was not surprising or even noteworthy. It is just as well. I’m too old to hide any more. And Leon and David were not here so we couldn’t have voted anyway. Our pastor, in the solid tradition of Brother Hatcher, brought the Easter Message up to date…….by not changing one single word in it!