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Hats off to the Easter Bonnet

Reuben Cole and Sarah Austin

My great great aunt, Sarah Austin Cole, of Picton, in all her finery poses with Reuben Cole.

countylive.ca is delighted to welcome Margaret Haylock-Capon to our family of bloggers. Maggie Haylock is a freelance writer and former newspaper reporter who has co-authored several books with her husband, Alan Capon. They reside in Prince Edward County and plan to contribute weekly blogs.

The demise of the Easter bonnet became evident, during the late 1960’s, when all women’s hats suddenly fell from favour. A new, casual look became the hallmark of this era and flower-bedecked chapeaux were declared, pardon the pun, old hat. With strong feelings of regret, I was compelled to donate my entire hat collection to a church rummage sale.

My love affair with hats began in childhood, when I  attended Sunday School classes at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. Each spring, my mother would take me shopping for a brand new outfit to wear on Easter Sunday. Invariably, it included a hat from The Children’s Shop in Belleville.

One of my first chapeaux was a yellow straw bonnet accented by velvet streamers. Mother, who was an expert in “the crowning touch” department thought it seemed too plain. To enhance it, she bought a bouquet of tiny velvet flowers, tore it asunder and sewed individual blossoms to the streamers of my hat. The garden of ‘Mary, Mary, quite contrary” had nothing on me when I wore my yellow straw.

The following year, my spring hat was more sophisticated. It featured a wide brim and streamers, pre-trimmed with daisies. No doubt disappointed that there was no need for her to “garden”, Mother patiently bided her time. When opportunity knocked, she stood ready with a silk bouquet. She insisted on decorating the cardboard hat I was to wear, for a performance of The H.M.S. Pinafore, to be presented by the students of Mr. Jackson’s grade eight class at Queen Elizabeth School.

Those of us not chosen for lead roles, by our music teacher Mr. Benvie, were to be cousins in the chorus. All female choristers were presented with ugly cardboard bonnets similar in shape to the sunbonnets worn by farm wives of the Old West. Incensed by my humble hat , Mother festooned it with flowers and added a ribbon for good measure. In the class photo of the cast of H.M.S. Pinafore, I appeared in the back row, with a nosegay of flowers jauntily sprouting from my left ear.

When I became a teenager, I began to choose my own hats. None of them was accented with flowers. Fraser’s Grey Room boasted a millinery counter that featured all of the latest styles. Similarly, both Lipson’s and Mason’s Department Stores carried a wide selection of women’s hats.

One spring day, shortly before Easter, I decided to visit The Grey Room, in search of a new hat for the occasion. Seconds after stopping at the millinery counter, I knew I had found the ultimate Easter bonnet. Although I had vowed never again to wear a flower-festooned hat, I was enchanted by an open-crowned chapeau, fashioned from a ring of full-blown scarlet poppies. From the moment I bought it, I knew it was no ordinary hat.

In the two years that followed, I wore my crown of poppies many times. Even the most ordinary outing became a special occasion when I donned it. It seemed impossible to wear it without smiling. Although it was only a hat, I have never forgotten its magic.

In recalling the Easter bonnets of my youth, I am of the firm opinion that, at least once, every woman should own a special hat, similar to my crown of poppies. Fortunately, Bloomfield’s Diva is one of the few Quinte area shop where the hat still reigns. It’s never too late for an Easter bonnet.

Filed Under: Local NewsMargaret Haylock-Capon

About the Author: Maggie Haylock is a freelance writer and former newspaper reporter who has co-authored several books with her husband, Alan Capon.

RSSComments (4)

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  1. Fran Renoy says:

    Another coup for Countylive.What wonderful news that you have added Margaret and Al as contributers to your blog.These two very talented writers will only add another dimension to your already amazing online newspaper.Thanks to your staff especially veteran reporter Ross Lees for providing us with Breaking News as it happens.Good luck with your new classfied and announcement section.

  2. Ann says:

    Welcome back! I love the old stuff too, and I always enjoy reading your stories. Love the old picture, too! Ha ha!

  3. Doris Lane says:

    Glad to see you have a blog on County Live. County Live is at the heart of county reporting. The weekly newspapers are second to county Live

  4. Susan Rose says:

    Am glad to have Maggies’ writtings to read. love the old stuff.thanks

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