Feisty seniors have fun with fiery red hats

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 3, 2004

When Sally Lee was a young girl, she had a broad-brimmed hat and she thought she looked so pretty with it on. She wore the hat anytime her mother would let her.

"&uot;I was little and curious and I wanted to look down in the deep well and I did," Little said. "While I was looking, my hat fell off in the well and I cried and cried. It was the prettiest thing and I had lost it."

Until this week, that little hat was the prettiest one Lee ever had. Now, she has one equally as pretty, maybe even prettier.

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She is a member of the Red Hot Mamas Red Hat Society at Troy Health and Rehabilitation Center and she "just loves it."

"All the Red Hot Mamas love it," said Rochelle Hill, center activity director. "When I first told them about the Red Hat Society, they were a little ho-hum about it, but when I started pulling the red hats out of the sacks, they got real excited and they all wanted to join 'the club.' The Red Hat Society has brought life to these ladies and really lifted their spirits. When they have their hats on they just light up."

Hill said she had never heard of the Red Hat Society until a friend in Ohio called her recently and asked her if she would like to be a member.

"I always pray and ask God to give me ideas that would benefit our residents," Hill said."The next day after my friend told me about the Red Hat Society, I picked up a newspaper and read about the Red Hat Society in Elba. And, I said 'Thank you, Lord!' I knew that He had answered my prayers again."

Hill said the Red Hat Society began as a result of a few women deciding to greet middle age with vitality, humor and a big dose of fun.

"I thought who better to form a Red Hat Society than the residents of the Troy Health and Rehabilitation Center and it is proving to be a great idea," she said.

Members of the Red Hat Societies are dedicated to silliness, which is the comic relief of life, when they are together.

Julia Meeker said silliness is just her cup of tea.

"I'm a Red Hot Mama," she said, laughing. "I'm steaming all the time. I love people and I like to have a good time. I can be serious, but I don't like to be because it hurts."

Meeker said wearing a red hat is fun and she likes to be silly.

"Wearing a red hat makes you feel like you should be having a good time and I am," she said.

Most all members of the Red Hot Mamas Red Hat Society were young women when hats were in vogue.

"Back then, all women wore hats of all kinds," said Helen Brown. "Pillbox hats and wide-brim hats. All kinds. We wore then to church. You weren't dressed up unless you had on a hat on your head."

Many Noah is an exception among the Red Hot Mamas. She never wore a hat before she joined the society.

"I always had my hair fixed and I didn't want to put a hat on and mess it up," she said. "But, I want to be in the club and now I like my hat."

A few other Red Hot Mamas said their brush with headwear had mainly been bonnets and straw hats but not one of them said they had ever had a hat prettier than the red ones on their heads.

Hill said members of the Red Hat Society who are over 50 years of age wear red hats and purple clothing. Those who are younger wore pink hats and lavender. However, the Red Hot Mamas are going to concentrate on hats for the time being.

"All this started some years ago when a lady named Sue Ellen Cooper bought a bright red fedora at a second store," Hill said. "She bought it because it was cheap and she liked it. When she read a poem about an older woman that was wearing purple clothes with a red hat, she gave a friend a red hat and the poem for her birthday. The friend liked it so much that she gave a similar gift to another friend and that friend gave another friend. Soon, they formed a Red Hat Society and now we are a part of it.

All of our members are red hat members except Misty. She wears pink."

"This is my first hat ever," Misty Shempert said, smiling. "My first ever and I decorated it all by myself."

Hill said the hats were purchased at Burke's Outlet and expressed appreciation to Burke's for having such a fantastic selection and for the assistance with getting the Red Hot Mamas organized.

"We let the Red Hot Mamas select a hat and then decorate it themselves," Hill said.

Most of them chose flowers and beads - in shades of purple. Some chose cartoon-type characters in the same colors.&uot;

And "Miss Julia" chose a little devil "because I am."

The Red Hot Mamas meet on a regular basis at Troy Health and Rehabilitation Center and they are planning some special activities and they might even go "stepping out."

"And whatever they do and wherever they go, people will know that they are the Red Hot Mamas and they are out for good time," Hill said.

And why the name Red Hot Mamas?

"Because we are,&uot; Meeker said. &uot;But, we're sweet, real sweet - sometimes."