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Hats, Checks and Courtesy

Her name’s Maddy.  The place we met; Tower of the America’s in San Antonio. And she had just become an official “Hat Check Girl.”  Only moments before, she viewed herself as simply the hostess of the revolving restaurant set 550 feet above ground-level.

My first visit to this iconic eatery atop the building that centered the 1968 Hemi-sphere was the celebratory year it opened.  Back then, I did not yet wear a hat, or at least not much of one.  But I do not remember them having a Hat Check Girl.  Possibly because by then they were already becoming a thing of the past.

As was men wearing the fedoras and homburgs of the decades previous.  Some blame smaller automobiles with less clearance, requiring men to have to remove their hat while driving or riding.  President Kennedy’s disdain for headwear possibly contributed.

Now, even hat-racks are hard to find.  Men either do not wear hats into restaurants or simply leave them on their head while they dine.  Emily Post would turn over in her grave!

Gentlemen have removed their hats while eating for centuries.  Have removed them when entering most buildings.  Started from knights removing their helmets in Medieval-times, in part to be recognized and in part to show respect for their host.  Down through the years the need developed for the female assistants.

In 1932, Hollywood gave us Hat Check Girl starring Ginger Rogers and Sally Ellers.  By the 1950’s, it was estimated that America had more than 50,000 hat check girls.  Pert and pretty, they made their living by tips.  Were a pleasant reminder for men to bare their heads.

Proper etiquette still requires the removal of a man’s hat when eating.  When entering many buildings; particularly homes.  Of course, churches.  U.S. Flag Code requires their removal during the playing of the National Anthem and any time our flag passes in a parade.

It is long past 1968 and I have been wearing hats for decades.  Still find myself wearing them into restaurants that have no hat-rack.  No hat check girl.  If I have an extra chair or place at my table, I just set it there.  Or find some spare hook on a nearby wall.

That is what I did the other evening.  Then I noted my hat had moved; was slowly going out of sight.  Tower of the Americas revolves.  Spectacular view of the city.  Poor place to hang a hat on the wall.

So, I retrieved it.  Went to the Hostess and in moments Tower of the Americas had its first Hat Check Girl.  Pert, pretty and really pleasant.  Maddy.  After dinner, I retrieved my hat and she received a tip.

The young lady was interested in hearing of the “old days” and of the almost extinct profession.  I enjoyed her engaging courtesy and fetching smile.  A wonderful end to a memorable evening.

Not sure I can call Maddy a friend, though I would be honored to do so.  I am sending her one of my books.  Hope she enjoys it.

Not sure if her new position will remain permanent.  Not sure even if it does, it will significantly change our culture.  Again, one can only hope.

But maybe, a service offered from a pleasing countenance reminding men of traditions of chivalry and respect might cause at least a few to think.  To reflect upon other opportunities to behave as gentlemen.

Might lead to remembering to treat the women we tip our hats to as the gifts from God that they truly are.  Maybe.  Thanks for joining us!

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