Irving Berlin's "Easter Parade" was published in 1933, capturing his impression of the Easter Parade of fashionably dressed folk in New York City on Fifth Avenue. Dating back even to Roman times, the idea of new clothing in the spring eventually became the Easter Parade along Fifth Avenue where the new clothes and - especially in the late 1800s and early 1900s - the ladies' hats were worn to impress.
The year before the song lyrics were published, Hilda C. Peterson was employed as a milliner at Wade Bros. at 212 N. Main St. in Jamestown. Wade Bros. sold shoes, millinery and hosiery for women and children. In 1936 Hilda was a saleswoman at the Kayner Hat Shoppe at 14 E. Fourth St. By the next year she and Hester Hall Himes had their own hat shop across the street at 13 E. Fourth St. Hester remained with the business until about 1942. Based on her occupation as office manager for Par-Ket Motors Sales before that, Hester may have been the business end of the shop while Hilda was the milliner and saleswoman. Hester worked for many years as the office manager and financial secretary for the United Fund and Community Chest for Southern Chautauqua County. In 1936, there were 13 milliners listed in the city directory. Some of these only sold ladies' hats while some actually made the hats or embellished standard hat forms.
Despite its beginnings during the depression, Hilda and Hester Hats continued to supply Jamestown's women with Easter hats and hats for all occasions for 30 years. That was a time when men, women and children all wore hats. Coming out of the Depression, women wanted a pretty new hat to lift their spirits and to "keep up with the Joneses," or at least their friends. If there was not enough money for a new hat, the old hat could be fixed up with new flowers or feathers or some embellishment to create a "new" and stylish hat. Milliners were the source for these embellishments. Ladies could purchase them and do it themselves or have the milliner make over the old hat.
A hat box from Hilda and Hester is shown with a spring hat from the Fenton textile collection.
The name of the business continued to be Hilda and Hester until it closed in 1970. At that time Hilda was 73 years old and fewer women were wearing hats or women were wearing hats on fewer occasions. In 1969, only three milliners are listed in the Jamestown City Directory. Hilda died in Jamestown in 2001 at the age of 104. Hester died in Florida in 1994 at the age of 94.
NEW EXHIBIT FOR HOMETOWN HISTORY READERS
Readers of this column over the last number of years have asked if the items are on exhibit in the museum. Some of them are and some are resting in storage. We are starting to have some of the items on display in a case on the second floor of the Fenton History Center. The items in the case will be changing over time as new artifacts are added and others are put back in storage. Located with the case is a notebook of the columns about the items in the case for people to read if interested. Also in the notebook are a few more of the columns that feature items that are included in the exhibits throughout the museum. We hope that our visitors will take some time to read these columns and find some of the artifacts in the mansion. If visitors have questions they can be referred to these columns for more information, or if there is interest in an artifact, it may become the subject of a future column.
The Hometown History column is presented by the Fenton History Center and The Post-Journal. Each Friday, a distinct item from the Fenton History Center collections or archival special collections will be featured. Learn about your hometown history through parts of its past.
If one of the items featured brings back some memories or brings up a question, please contact the Fenton History Center at 664-6256 or firstname.lastname@example.org to share your memory or get an answer to your question.