A few short years ago, I stopped at an estate sale on Chestnut Street in Grand Forks. I was very fond of the two sisters who had lived there for decades but now had settled into their heavenly home.
I have wonderful memories of Helny and Edna Ohnstad and I wanted something tangible of theirs to hold in my hand. I came away with two beautiful pieces of English bone china in the Old Country Roses pattern plus a metal spatula with a black handle. I imagine this turner flipped many a flapjack for Helny and Edna and now it is doing the same for us in our kitchen.
Since that estate sale, however, I have regretted not buying something else I saw high on a shelf in a bedroom. Deep was my sigh when I spotted a Dotty Dunn hat box. Thankfully, I thought to take a picture of it.
Once upon a time there was a Dotty Dunn Hat Shop in Grand Forks, I believe downtown on North Third Street.
No, I don’t have a Dotty Dunn hat box, but I do have a Dotty Dunn hat and a Dotty Dunn story. I’d love to tell you, but first, a few lyrics from Irving Berlin’s 1933 song, “Easter Parade:”
In your Easter bonnet with all the frills upon it
you’ll be the grandest lady In the Easter parade
Here’s my story:
It was long ago, but not too far away. I see it all.
With a little hand in a bigger one, we enter Dotty Dunn’s Hat Shop in Minot, N.D.
My mother and I meander to the back, passing hundreds of hats perched on millinery hooks. It was pre-1950s, the days when hats were essential to a woman’s wardrobe – whether she was 3 feet high or 5-foot-2.
Dotty Dunn’s was a glorious place for a little girl, more splendid than visiting a candy store displaying brightly colored jelly beans in glass bins. More fun than sinking your teeth into a squishy yellow marshmallow bunny.
The finery in Dotty Dunn’s was so fine, it was stunning.
Mirrors covered all the walls. There were bright lights above and hats of every hue – pink, white lavender, red, yellow, green, blue, back and straw.
There were turned-up brims, turned-down brims, streams of ribbons down the back, clusters of posies on the sides and tops. Each beautiful in its own way. You could find tiny gloves to match, too, and artificial flowers for your dress.
I’ll be all in clover and when they look you over
I’ll be the proudest fellow in the Easter Parade
Each year and hand in hand, we’d go to Dotty Dunn’s, searching for just the right Easter bonnets. One for Mom and one for me.
Mom was an experienced Dotty Dunn hat shopper. She knew right where to go.
When we reached the back of the store, she’d pull open the huge bin where all the little girl hats were kept. Mom always told me, “There were lots of them in bins. They were the kinds of hats that wouldn’t crush.”
Settee stations were set up where a little girl could get comfortable as hats were plopped on her head. And there was a hand mirror so she could turn around for a rear view of the hat and how it sat on her ringlets.
Most hats were equipped with tiny elastic bands for under the chin, so spring winds wouldn’t blow the little girl’s hat away.
When she wore her bonnet to church on Easter Sunday morning, there were Sunday School papers to hang on to, you know, No extra hand for hat holding.
One year we found a little white hat and the next year a navy blue one. And once we found an American Beauty Rose hat that perfectly matched my American Beauty Rose spring coat.
I could write a sonnet about your Easter bonnet
and of the girl I’m taking to the Easter parade
Another year, Mom bought me a tan straw hat with blue velvet ribbons streaming down the back, pink and white posies on the top and blue velvet trim on the brim.
That’s the hat I have to this day, the one you see in the photo above with the Dotty Dunn hat box I saw at the estate sale. My childhood hat adorns my little Peaches and Cream doll that lives in our living room.
I wonder how many little girls and their moms will wear hats and bonnets this upcoming Easter Sunday morning (April 1) as they go to church to praise the Risen Lord.
If any moms bought hats for their little ladies, I suggest you keep them for years to come. They create the best of memories you can tuck away till the end of time.
Wishing you all a Happy and Blessed Easter.