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Here's to hats

  • LINDA KOEHLER/TIMES NEWS The Palmerton Area Heritage Center's latest display features over 150 hats worn by men and women from the 1800s-1900s. The hats are on loan for the display like this collection of hats from the '40s, 50s and 60s, ranging…
    LINDA KOEHLER/TIMES NEWS The Palmerton Area Heritage Center's latest display features over 150 hats worn by men and women from the 1800s-1900s. The hats are on loan for the display like this collection of hats from the '40s, 50s and 60s, ranging from a stylish swimming cap, far left, to the pink pillbox, center, that belonged to Helen Halmi and the orange straw hat, right, was worn by Helen Snyder, a teacher at Delaware School.
Published June 14. 2013 05:03PM

Hold on to your hats. A great display has come to Palmerton. Come hang your hat at the Palmerton Area Heritage Center and take a walk down Memory Lane and see a delightful hat display.

In the "olden days," a woman would never have left the house without wearing a hat. A man always wore a hat, whether it was a straw bowler, a derby, top hat or cap.

But for some women today, we only remember wearing dressy hats to church and weddings when we were younger. Men wore fedoras to work and straw hats to work outside. Baseball caps started becoming the norm.

Today, hats are still worn by males and females in some form, usually in casual fashion. The styles may have changed down through the ages, but their purpose has always been about fashion and necessity.

The Palmerton Area Historical Society is not keeping this subject under its hat. No sir. It is tipping its hat to this fascinating aspect of our culture with its latest display of hats at the Palmerton Area Heritage Center located on 410 Delaware Ave until the end of July.

Thanks to several members of the Society and community, there are over 150 hats, men's and women's, hanging in display. They range from the time period of the 1800s-1900s.

Several samples are on loan from Dale Freudenberger, president, Tamaqua Historical Society, such as a woman's black fur with wide brim and decorative band, a man's gray bowler with a Stetson label, a man's black beaver top hat and many more.

Lillian Jordan loaned two orange straw hats that belonged to Helen Snyder, the wife of Caleb Snyder, and a 5th grade teacher at Delaware School along with others including a Palmerton Hospital Candy Striper's hat.

Helen Halmi's hats, like a robin egg blue feather hat and a pink pillbox are reminiscent of the styles in 1969-60, on loan by her daughter, Karen Black.

On display, Mary Beth (Horn) Beers has her mother's hat (Anna Chedrick Horn), worn to her wedding to Curtis Beers in 1961. She recalls the dress it matched. Beers remarks that her mother loved it, the bride disliked it. But the shopping trip was "delightful" with lunch at Hess's Patio with all the "girls" and having strawberry pie for dessert.

Hat boxes are also part of the display from Hess's and Bambergers, to name a couple, along with gloves that matched the hats.

It's noted that the heavy use of bird feathers up to the late 1800s led to the destruction of whole bird colonies, turning the feather fashion trend into a catastrophic environmental disaster, leading to a political intervention in America in 1900. The Lacey Act became the first federal law in the USA to protect wildlife.

But one lone pheasant here or there, during hunting season, does not lead to an environmental disaster. That's how Jane Snyder Borbe got a feather in her cap. Her beautiful pheasant feathered hat came about when her husband, David, shot a pheasant in the early 1970s. Her great aunt Martha Snyder of Bowmanstown, owned her own hat shop in Slatington called Martha's Hats. Martha designed and made Jane's hat out of those pheasant's feathers.

Hats have been status symbols, uniforms and fashion statements as well as being functional sports and protective headgear since ... well, as long as man has been recording history. One of the first pictorial depictions of a hat appears in an ancient tomb painting.

The term 'milliner' comes from the Italian city of Milan, where the best quality hats were made in the 18th century. Millinery was traditionally a woman's occupation, with the milliner not only creating hats and bonnets but also choosing lace, trimmings and accessories to complete an outfit.

Fashions come and fashions go. But the hat, in some shape and form, will always be a part of the fashion world.

So don't keep this under your hat. Tell your family and friends to take a walk down a Memory Lane of Hats and visit the Palmerton Area Heritage Center Wednesdays from 1-4:30 p.m., Thursdays 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Fridays 12-4 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

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