Uncle Bill and Aunt Katherine Landy visit us at 1127 N. 19th Street in Camden NJ on Christmas Eve, 1956
My job, when company arrived, was to take the guests’ hats and coats upstairs to my parents’ bed. All the men wore fedoras. All the women’s coats smelled of Chanel No. 5 or a popular Avon scent. On winter evenings, their damp fur collars smelled of wet snowflakes. I was supposed to lay the coats and hats carefully on the bed, but mostly just tossed them.
“Now, handle this hat very carefully,” my godfather Uncle Bill Landy would say. “It’s a Stetson, you know.”
I handled that hat like it was gold. I grew up with a lifelong reverence for Stetson hats. I once asked my cousin if her dad’s hats were, in fact, Stetsons.
“Are you kidding?” she said, adding that her dad would never have afforded a Stetson hat.
A few months ago, an elderly man with a dapper hat stood in front of me in line at the supermarket. On impulse, I asked him if he was wearing a Stetson. He responded that the hat was indeed a treasured Stetson, and decades old. He was so pleased that I recognized it.
“I know a Stetson when I see one because my Uncle Bill always wore one,” I told him.