Sepia Saturday – August 2017 – Calendar Party and Hat Show

The prompt picture I’ve chosen from Sepia Saturday for August is a group of ladies, at a gym perhaps, working on their posture. It is Sepia’s number 382 which is out of sync with my ending 2016 Sepia Saturday numbering. I chose it for August because my Dad turned up and interesting program that I’d like to share with you. It fits in nicely with fashion, style, and comportment.

While my Dad was working at the Sussex County Historical Society, a gentleman who was doing some archival work for Saint Joseph’s Church stopped by. He thought my Dad might like a copy of a program for a social event that contained some familiar names. Dad said, “Sure.” Dad then scanned it and sent me a copy.

Event program cover

On April 7, 1962, The Rosary Alter Society of Saint Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church sponsored a “Calendar Party and Hat Show” in the High School Cafeteria in Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey. I had to look up what a Calendar Party was: Calendar parties have tables or stations that represent every month of the year. In this case, the hats shown represented every month of the year. The ladies modeling the hats presented them in calendar order with each month representing a different theme.    

Looking at the inside of the event program shows that the hats for the event were provided by a company called the Modern Hatters from Jersey City. I did a quick Google search to see if they were still in business today. Sadly, no. The Jersey City building that the millinery used to occupy has been repurposed as an art school which opened in 2011. A blog post by Timothy Herrick has some wonderful detail on his experience tracking the company through time. Another quirky thing is that the Modern Hatters appeared in issue #31 of the Weird N.J. magazine on page 71 as a haunted building.

page 2

Besides the modeling of hats, entertainment for the evening included accordion selections, songs, and a song and dance number. There were fifteen hat models in all.

page 3

The familar names occur on the third page of the event program. After January’s “Winter Wonderland” theme, my grandmother, Mrs. Beatrice Strait, was listed as being the chairman for February that had “Valentines” as the theme. Included on February’s committee are Beatrice’s daughter and my aunt, Miss Mercedes Strait, daughter-in-law and my mom, Mrs. Martha Strait, and Mrs. Anna Mill who was an across-the-street neighbor. I also believe that Mrs. Thelma McCarthy was Beatrice’s next door neighbor.

The calendar for the entire event was listed as such:

  • January – Winter Wonderland
  • February – Valentines
  • March – St. Patrick’s Day
  • April – Spring Showers
  • May – Crowning of the Blessed Mother
  • June – Wedding Bells
  • July – Fourth of July
  • August – County Fair
  • September – A Parade of States
  • October – Great Voyage and Landing of Christopher Columbus
  • November – Thanksgiving
  • December – Candy Land Christmas

page 4

It must have been a fun evening and a lot of hard work to get it organized. I would be curious to know if all the hats were serious or if they had some fun with the themes. Did they use feathers? Flowers? Ribbons? Figures? I really would have liked to have seen what the ladies did with the highly ambitious October theme of “Great Voyage and Landing of Christopher Columbus.”

It’s not an understatement to say we live in a different time than the 1960s. Nowadays, I frequently see people at the convenience store who wear their pajama bottoms as regular clothing out in public. My grandmother Strait would have a cow just pondering that. In 1962, she was doing her best to make sure that hats were still fashionable and that proper parties were still given.

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