A place to hang their hats
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
"It is impossible for a hatless woman to be chic." -Emily Post
A group of Hartselle ladies has caused quite a buzz over the past year and now women from all across the area are swarming to join their hive.
The Hartselle Hyacinths chapter of the Red Hat Society recently held a welcome and information dinner at The Oden House Bed and Breakfast for newly forming chapters from Danville, Moulton, Lexington and Madison, as well as several newcomers to the Hartselle chapter.
"We don't have rules and we don't do good works," Hyacinths Queen Mother Katie Sue King Howard informed the group of ladies. "We are already involved in so many groups like that. We just like to get together and have fun."
"And of course we're going to eat," a Hartselle member reminded her.
According to the official web site, The Red Hat Society was formed by Sue Ellen Cooper of Fullerton, Calif., less than a decade ago when she and a few friends took inspiration from the popular poem "Warning" by Jenny Joseph.
"The poem begins 'When I am an old woman…' Since the poem mentions wearing a red hat and purple attire, she and her friends formed a group that met on a regular basis for tea in their red hats and purple dresses – in public, of course."
Since then, the Red Hat Society has grown to include more than 10,000 chapters of 20 or fewer women and has expanded to countries outside the U.S., including the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Canada and Japan, to name a few.
"The only suggestions are that you must be 50 and like to have good clean fun," the Queen Mother said. "And you must attend all the meetings and wear a read hat and a purple dress. But if you're not old enough, you must wear a pink hat and a lavender dress. So being 50 isn't really a requirement."
The 13 members of the Hartselle Hyacinths meet monthly for lunch at area restaurants and occasionally make their way to consignment and thrift stores in neighboring towns to look for new red and purple regalia. Holiday events are also being planned.
Karen, a "Pink Lady" (under 50 member) and newcomer, said she first discovered the Hyacinths while having lunch in Hartselle one day.
"I looked at this group of ladies having such a good time, all dressed up, and thought, 'How cool. I want to be a part of that,'" Karen said. "I just love the idea that you're never too old for a tea party."
"It's a good opportunity to meet and talk and eat and gossip with your friends," Hyacinth member Virginia Ann Fitzgerald White said. "You don't have to clean your house and there are no projects or dues. It's just about having fun."
Geneva Francis, 91, is the Hyacinths' oldest and most entertaining member. Ladies clamor around her to hear stories of people and events in Hartselle from long ago.
"I love being with the ladies," she said with a broad smile. "They let me talk. I tell them I'm like an old Victrola that someone forgot to change the needle on."
Oden House owners Ann and Ray Hill prepared a feast of French onion soup, spinach quiche, gourmet chicken salad on croissants, falling leaves tea sandwiches, roast beef rolled on Italian flat bread and scones with rose preserves for the dinner of nearly 50 existing and prospective Red Hatters.
Desserts included white chocolate filled brownies, chocolate jam sandwiches, fresh fruit, spice tea biscuits with sweet raisin spread and assorted teas.
White lace table cloths, linen napkins, fine silverware, china and stemware made the candlelight event complete.
"Everybody loves a tea party," Pink Lady Karen said. "Young and old alike."
For more information on the Hartselle Hyacinths chapter of the Red Hat Society, contact Queen Mother Katie Sue King Howard at 751-2866 or Virginia Ann Fitzgerald White at 751-1143.