Monday, April 6, 2009

"Through a sea of giant Easter hats...."

1966 was a very interesting year. It was the end of the era that introduced Jackie Kennedy, and doted on the Laura Petrie ideal -- but just before the societal earthquake that elevated Twiggy and Gloria Steinem.

That is the year of MrMartha's most treasured Easter memory.

The image of MrMartha and siblings posed on the front porch of the brick colonial home in Baltimore, remains sharp and clear in MrMartha's mind, even as the black and white Polaroid photo that documented it has slowly faded to shapeless gray tones.

Easter was still a big fashion event in the mid 1960s. Everyone got new Easter outfits. MrMartha recalls being very excited about a new Madras plaid blazer, with navy slacks and white buck oxfords. His sister was right out of the Sears catalog, wearing a "Winnie-the-Pooh" A-line pale yellow coat, and a matching 'helmet' style hat of the same fabric, complete with chin strap. The younger brother was in a navy blue sailor coat, and short pants with knee socks.

It was going to be an extra special day at Epiphany Church, as all the older children were invited to attend the main service, rather than the usual Sunday school. Most exciting of all was the 'Cross of flowers' that would be constructed at the altar as part of the eucharist. Each child had been instructed to bring a single flower bloom, trimmed to a 3" length. There was a bare chicken wire cross form, filled with floral foam, on a low table at the front of the altar.

It was thrilling to stand in line with a group of youngsters dressed to the nines, each clutching the prized blossom, waiting for a turn to go up the steps ON TO the altar and place the flower -- as the organist played and the choir sang. The cross form initially looked rather sad and small, not at all as the vivid imagination of a young MrMartha had pictured it. But, as more flowers were placed..... all different sorts of daffodils and narcissus, camellias, peonies, roses, lilies, and big florist carnations -- it filled out and transformed as a magnificent tribute to the commemoration of the day.

Even more amazing than that, however, were the hats. Baltimore was still a fairly formal place at that time. Especially at church, ladies always had gloves, and dressed up. But for Easter, all the stops were pulled out when it came to the hats. Wide brimmed and covered with big fabric flowers. Pillboxes with lace and netting. Small confections of whimsical feathers and bows, perched at an improbable angle on a very elaborate hairdo.

MrMartha's mother had made a very fashion forward choice from Hutzler Bros Dept Store in Towson. A tall 'upside down flowerpot' shape, of dark blue elaborately woven raffia, with a wide navy grosgrain ribbon band and flat bow at the front. Very Doris Day, very understated, and subject to many complements at the coffee hour after the service.

Recalling sitting in that church, it still seems like yesterday -- looking over that sea of amazing and elaborate hats, towards the beautiful stained glass behind the Officiant, and the incredible floral cross carefully assembled by silent, awed children. Those days may be far in the past now, but it is amazing the clarity with which they can be recalled. MrMartha hopes you hold some very special Easter memories of your own.