I never in my life thought I’d say this; but I kind’a miss those Easter Sunday hats that ladies wore “once upon a time”…..

You’ve got to be pretty old to know what I’m talking about. If you are, we’re going on a memory trip. If you are not, this story is going to be one of those “fact is stranger than fiction” junkets for you.

Leon told me the wearing of huge, elaborate—some would even say gaudy—hats on Easter Sunday was started by a bald headed lady in Butte, Montana, in 1881. But you got to remember, Leon was no stranger to exaggerated hyperbole!

If you asked a real historian they’d give you the European Easter bonnet saga. You know, where the ladies in France or Holland two centuries ago took to sticking a flower in their bonnets to “brighten” up the Easter service.

I figured the more likely scenario was some “down and out” millinery on 42nd street in Manhattan was desperate to move his vastly overstocked ladies’ hat inventory. The Great Depression and World War II had not exactly been a breeding ground for colorful head gear.

This floundering entrepreneur read in his church bulletin that deacons were asked to bring a “hatful” of eggs for the children to hunt after the Easter Sunday service. It wouldn’t take much of a leap to see the possibilities….. Let’s get the ladies involved. A nice colorful hat for “mom” would be just the thing! It IS spring for goodness sakes! We could throw in a parade to flaunt this newest fashion accessory.

Of course, hats were worn by ladies on any given Sunday throughout the year in the 1950’s. But they were small, conservative in color and fairly subdued. It wouldn’t be considered Christian to call attention to oneself. A tiny bit of netting was permitted to drop down on the forehead.

However, on Easter Sunday, all bets were off! Bigger was better. Color and splash were the order of the morning. Red, yellow, blue and lavender ruled. Our sanctuary sprang alive with a bright array of floral hat arrangements with hanging ornaments, colorful birds—it would make Callaway Gardens in April look like a 1930’s black and white movie.

In my little heart of hearts, and you can never tell my Mother this, I thought it had to do more with spring, fashion and showing off….than it did with Christ rising up out of that grave.

Mrs. Mitchum sat right in front of us one Easter. It was like I was looking at Brother Hatcher through the woods! She had a genuine brush arbor on her head with resplendent chrysanthemums, blooming irises, daffodils and a Baltimore Oriole perched high on top.

Mrs. Ruth Collins came that same Sunday sporting a flower garden spread across a felt brim that was wider than a Mexican sombrero. Leon remarked it would take a “two horse team” to plow that field! Mrs. Mildred Thompson, who was one of the quietest ladies in church, came one Easter with multicolored eggs sprinkled strategically amongst the trees and shrubbery.

I’ve seen waterfalls, moss by the bucketful, deer drinking from a small branch, bird nests, angels, bunny rabbits, Moses talking to a burning bush, all—at one time or another—bringing life, color and bedazzle to an Easter bonnet.

Mom would give all us boys a dose of hay fever medicine as a precaution before we loaded into the car for the ride to the Easter Service. If you happen to sit up in the balcony, it was like you were looking down on a giant greenhouse where someone had left the window open and a covey of birds, and one burning bush, had flown in.

Leon loved Easter. He would very quietly tear off a piece of the bulletin, roll it up into a tiny missile and wait till Bro. Hatcher punctuated with a shout that the rock had been rolled away! While everyone’s attention was glued to the empty tomb, Leon would try to knock that Oriole off of Mrs. Mitchum’s hat!

If he found a “wide brimmed” situation right near him, he’d keep silently flipping penny laden pieces of the bulletin into one side of the hat till it started tilting towards the organ side of the sanctuary. Once one of those “big bonnets” toppled over, it could start a chain reaction all the way down the pew!

I’m telling you, those Easter hats were something else! And come to think of it……so was Leon.