Hats Off to Dad!

My father wore many hats. Work hats mostly, but also a goofy blue derby hat I faintly remember stashed high up on a closet shelf, and a fedora reserved for Sundays or other special occasions. Through his long history at the shop, Daddy sold a wide array of tractor brands which supplied him with hats embroidered with their company logo: Massey-Harris, Minneapolis Moline, New Idea, Fox, and Deutz.

His hats changed with his loyalty to the brand of farm equipment he was promoting. None made him happier, however, than the hat he wore with one of his first purchases after his father, Henry R. Longenecker, passed the business on to him. With the tag still attached to the grill, Daddy proudly drove the new Massey-Harris tractor back and forth in the alley next to the shop in Rheems, his sister Aunt Ruthie recording the spectacle with her new 16 mm movie camera.

Shop Hats

The Welding Helmet Invented by the German Hans Goldschmidt in 1903, welding was one of my Dad’s specialties, a boon to farmers with harvester units or even plow shares needing repair. A free-standing acetylene cylinder and oxygen tank for welding stood near one of the double wooden doors. This allowed easy access for welding repairs as a tractor or harvesting equipment was pulled through the giant, wheeled doors that ran back and forth on a metal channel.

I watched Daddy slap a Darth Vader-like helmet on his head, don long, flared-sleeve gloves, and use long, skinny welding rods to fuse broken parts together. Sparks flew everywhere in this Fourth of July fireworks show extending into August, the height of the harvesting season.

Along the back of the dark recesses of the shop was a large grinding machine that could sharpen a 6 to 8-foot section of blade used for scissoring hay, wheat or barley.

Daddy did most of his work in his shop but occasionally he was called to the field. A doctor of motors, he made “house” calls to the fields of anxious farmers, work stalled with broken-down equipment.

Farm Hats

My father was first of all a farm implement dealer and mechanic, but he also farmed ten acres of land in Bainbridge, Pennsylvania combining corn and tobacco crops and then later corn with tomatoes. Farming is serious business in the searing sun requiring a cap with a long bill. The result:  a white “farmer” forehead and red-brown cheeks and arms. My mother and Aunt Ruthie often wore sun bonnets, in the field but as you can see, we were bare-headed and probably bare-footed too.

Brand new tractor with tiny sister Jean and me behind the wheel
Cultivating land for tomato crop in Bainbridge
Cultivating land for tomato crop in Bainbridge

A beekeeper too, my dad wore a bulky hat complete with a mesh veil to smoke out the bees.

 

Fancy Hats

Church, weddings, funerals – all were occasions for a fancy fedora. But one occasion in particular required dressing up: posing on the steps of the U. S. Capitol building ready to meet with congressmen regarding the threat of a proposed air base to some of the rich farmland of northern Lancaster County. A sizable delegation of plain people (many of them Mennonites) including my dad in his fedora and Grandma drove to Washington D.C. to make their case with government officials. When a follow-up investigation was conducted, sink-holes had reportedly been found in the farm-land around Bossler’s Mennonite Church. The case was subsequently closed.

Sadie Greider, Grandma Fannie Longenecker and Ray Longenecker  on steps of the Capitol in Washington, D. C.
Sadie Greider, Grandma Fannie Longenecker and Ray Longenecker on steps of the Capitol in Washington, D. C.

Tell us about your dad’s hats – what he wore, or any other “Dad” memory you want to share now.

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30 thoughts on “Hats Off to Dad!

  1. How very cool to have all this movie footage of your father. Amazing. But “Daddy’s Hat” always brings to mind for me Dad’s Sunday hat with a brim that he was very particular about. He would protect that hat like it was from a high fashion milliner’s shop. On Sunday mornings on the way to church, we kids would try to see who could stand up on the floor of the backseat without holding onto anything the longest (long before seat belts, of course, and when we were short enough that we didn’t scrape the roof of the car). Inevitably we would lean and stagger and fall of course, rounding the curves on CR 22 between Middlebury and Goshen, Ind. That did not make Dad happy, especially if we hit the brim of his hat, knocking it or disturbing his driving (not to mention unsafe). He would scold us but we would try to play quietly without him noticing that we were standing up. “Don’t hit the hat” was kind of the unspoken name of the game. I wish I had a photo of Dad in that hat but I don’t think I do. And, he was a great dad. 🙂

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    1. Great story – amazing how well we all survived without seat-belts. Those were innocent, some may say “clueless” days. Less exciting, my sisters and I would look for cars of a certain color as we traveled. No “tech hand-helds” to distract us in those days.

      I enjoyed your detailed story about your Dad and his prize hat and now all my readers can enjoy it as well. Thanks you, Melodie.

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  2. I wrote a comment, but then my computer suddenly turned off by itself. When I got it back on, the comment was still there, but I couldn’t post it. How weird! Let’s see if this works.

    I loved your mixture of personal and historical–via hats! The movie clips were wonderful, too. Did you or your aunt add the music?

    My dad did not wear hats. But my grandfather–his father–did. There is a great photo of him–I think he’s on the AC boardwalk–in his fedora. I don’t have the photo though, but it reminds me that I want to get a copy.

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    1. It works, Merril!

      My aunt originally filmed without music. The company that transferred the film into VHS format added the music sometime in the 1980s, I think. Our son Joel has a program that now can create a file compatible with WordPress media. I’m thinking of asking him to mute the music, which is sometimes distracting and a little hokey. (Of course, the volume on the sound can always be muted unless you like it!)

      Hats were a part of men’s attire in the 1950s and 1960s. Nowadays if you see hats on men/boys, it’s usually a cap worn backwards.

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  3. Marian, you have some precious memories of your childhood and excellent pictures. That is really a good movie of your Dad on the tractor. Yes, my Dad wore a hat all the time working in the field and in the barn. Now Walter wears a hat most of the time, especially when he is outside, not in the house, though.

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    1. I hope Walter gets to the see the video as I know he actually knew Daddy and visited the shop – probably his Dad too! Hat, caps–they were a part of the attire of men in our childhood. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Shirley.

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  4. You sent me back to my photo collection looking for pictures of hats. The “Eby Feeds” cap appeared often, but not that lovely grey fedora. I remember how it matched the wool Botany 500 coat Daddy wore in winter and how dashing he looked when he wore both.

    Your essay, pops and crackles, Marian. Some college professor could use it as a model for active verbs. 🙂

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    1. A Botany 500 and your Dad! That puts him in a whole different light as the photos you featured in the book showed the “farm” side, appropriate to your narrative of course. I believe my Dad’s coats and jackets came from the Hagar’s Store, which had a plain men’s department. He did wear a fancy suit (they would have said “gay” then) to walk me down the aisle though.

      You noticed the active verbs. I’m sure we both remember drilling that concept into our students’ writing. Thank you for dropping by to read and comment. I am sure movie-like images of your own home place run through your mind as you read mine.

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  5. Love the videos and music … Driving that tractor sure seemed like a proud moment for your Dad. Excellent story, Marilyn. You’ve captured that time and the essence of your Dad beautifully.

    As for my Dad, I recall his Army hat, the hat he wore to church, to the office and for special occasions, and the hat he wore once he moved out West: his cowboy hat. He looked so convincing that folks thought he was a “real” cowboy. When I think of my Philadelphia born and raised Dad, that makes me smile. 😉

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    1. Hats back then were way more than head-coverings for men as you imply. They were identifiers and at times status symbols – Stetsons, some fedoras. Your dad, from stories of him I’ve read, was the calm, cool type. Maybe he had the gait of John Wayne too and thus perceived as an authentic cowboy.

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  6. When I think Amish and I think about your dad selling tractors, I think he was a visionary. He promoted a high tech change. Possibly even getting some flack about that from his elders. There was also a period in time, as you know, when not wearing a hat, tipping it to ladies and elders, and taking it off when you came indoors, would have been unheard of. Enjoyed the videos.

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    1. Our writing is in totally different genre-types, yet you seem to enjoy the nostalgic. Actually, Amish were the horse & plow people, but Mennonites bought and used whatever it took to make farming more efficient. During harvest-time, my dad was busy up to his ears (no, cap!).

      Yes, hats were signs of gentility and good breeding. As much a token of respect as a head covering. Glad you enjoyed the videos, Susan.

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    1. That’s high praise. I love sharing my thoughts, but if what I write can fire up other people to write stories, I’m thrilled honored. I’d love to read your story sometime. Maybe you’d have it ready for your father’s birthday or for next Father’s Day.

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  7. Love the connection between the hats and the roles of your father. When I think of Dad, I picture work gloves more than hats. He had about 30 pairs of them and loved to buy them the way women do shoes.

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    1. Thirty pairs of work gloves. Wow, wow! Where did he store them all ? I have 3 pairs and have a hard time keeping up with them. And I don’t think of them as an accessory either–ha!

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  8. Love your memories Marian. Especially the last one on the tractor with your dad with only ONE front wheel! The tractor doc was on call no doubt.

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  9. Thank God for sink holes!!! I had never heard about the intent for Blossler’s to become an airbase. That would have dramatically changed things around there!!! Is that when they built the airbase on Route 441 near Marietta! I forgot what they called it. ???? It then became a warehouse for Armstrong Cork for a long time before they developed the Lancaster plant.

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    1. Geni, welcome and thank you for the “follow” too. (I sent you a follow-up email but misspelled your first name – sorry)

      Actually, I don’t know what ensued after the change of plans for the Bossler area. It could be that the proposal was transferred to the location near Marietta. It sounds like some local history to check up on. Thanks for reading and adding your own perspective – I appreciate it.

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  10. I don’t remember my Dad in a hat, then again I don’t remember much at all about him. He died when I was nine. He did wear a hat in World War II, a little RAF cap on the side of his head that he blamed for making him bald on top in later life. When he was demobbed he was given a bowler hat as part of his demob suit but I never saw him wear it and I only know about it because we found it in the wardrobe, along with the suit, when Mother died, more than twenty years after him.

    Thank you for reminding me of that 🙂

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  11. Welcome to my blog, Marie. I have already poked into yours and saw your lovely gardens on a recent post.

    I am happy that my hat story inspired you to tell yours. That is the magic of blogging – one idea sparks another. I’m looking forward to getting to know you better both here and on your own website.

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  12. Marian — The movies you have. Ohhhhh, the movies! I’m probably just as tickled seeing your family’s home movie as you are. That’s quite treasure trove!

    You said, “Tell us about your dad’s hats – what he wore, or any other “Dad” memory you want to share now.”

    Not a “hustler” in the truest sense of the word, my dad played pool (serious pool!) and wore a cowboy hat. More fascinating to me, however, was his pool cue. It separated in the middle and he carried it in a leather case. We were not allowed to touch it (which meant we touched it at every opportunity we got).

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    1. I’ll have to call you Laurie the Great-Hearted – To be tickled at seeing movies about a family and a blogger you have never met – awesome! I know, of course, you are as nutty about nostalgia as I am.

      You are the second or third person who’s mentioned a cowboy hat as part of their Dad “memories.” And the pool cue – serious business. Did your Dad ever find out about your meddling, I wonder.

      Thanks for the reply – and your faithful Tweet. So sweet!

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  13. I love your dad’s hats. He sure did have many. The video of him driving the tractor around the yard is priceless. My dad wore cowboy hats; a white cowboy hat for good and a straw cowboy hat for everyday.

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    1. “A white cowboy hat for good” (I assume you mean dress-up) must mean he is a real cowboy. Several other commenters mentioned their dads wearing cowboy hats – it must symbolize “red-blooded American man” as it still does today.

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  14. How wonderful to have the films! Thank you for sharing all this! My grandfather had bags and bags of embroidered caps – special places he had been, special events…and even though they are all too large for the rest of us, I think we have one to remember him by! 🙂

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    1. Yes, I know I’m lucky to have home video, the new technology of the 1940s, and especially unusual for a Mennonite family. Actually, my Aunt Ruthie was the instigator; without her, my parents would have been content with just our box camera. Thanks for dropping by today and entering your “hat” story too, Jenn.

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