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Mostly Memories
Wednesday, February 17, 2010 • Posted February 17, 2010

The Man In The Red Hat

Some time ago while looking through some old issues of the Brady Standard I ran into a copy of the Brady Herald printed in the early 1950’s. This issue contained an ad for Firestone tires offered by The Man in the Red Hat — Bill Bodenhamer.

I forgot about this incident of the past until I ran into an old acquaintance from the Wagon Yard days who asked "Aren’t you The Man in the Red Hat?"

"Yes" I replied, "but I hoped everyone had forgotten all about it."

"Oh, I haven’t forgotten. I even remember a fellow asking me "Is that fellow a damned communist?" and I replied "No, he is just too tight to buy a good hat."

In reviewing this conversation I decided that perhaps it was high time some light was shown on the subject of the Red Hat of forty years ago.

This then is the story:

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From the time I was eight years old there was an adage around our house that went something like this "Bill would forget his head if it wasn’t tied on." Sadly I must admit that this adage has held true through all of the intervening years to age of 98.

All through those years I have been harassed, lambasted and criticized for continually forgetting to do this or that but in most cases it was my failure to remember birthdays and anniversaries. Personally I never could see why so much hell was raised about something that was going to occur again next year anyway. I try to remembers only those things that are really important (to me that is).

Going back to the years I first lived in San Antonio (1941-49) the item that I was most likely to forget was my hat. I seldom went any place that I did not walk off and leave my hat. On those occasions when I left it at a friend’s house I could recover it but when left in a public place such as a restaurant it was "long gone." As a matter of fact I lost so many hats in that manner that I quit wearing them altogether.

However in early 1949 I was prevailed upon to buy a good hat, an expensive one, to wear on special occasions. This I did, and on our second time out for dinner (it was in New Braunfels) I walked off and left it in a restaurant. I swore again to give up on hats altogether.

In mid 1949 I traded a farm in Missouri with some timber acreage to Howard East for his Firestone Tire Store in Brady, located across the street from the Ford Garage. After moving to Brady I decided that I should wear some kind of hat, so, in order to hold down the cost of my hats in case I continued to lose them I bought a red corduroy hat which probably cost me about $1.50. This appealed to my Scottish way of thinking for, if I lost one, I would just be out a buck and a half, so, I could buy another one and forget it.

Now into the picture comes Bob Bray, at that time Editor of the Brady Herald. He talked me into featuring the Red Hat in all of my ads thereby becoming known as "The Man in the Red Hat". In this way, he argued, anyone finding a Red Hat hanging up in a restaurant would know it belonged to Bill Bodenhamer and return it to me. Being one who has little resistance to a good sales talk, I agreed.

In the years that followed I continued to wear the Red Hat and the drought which began in 1950 continued to eat up my resources until the time came when I could no longer afford to buy another hat — of any color......so..... I threw that damned Red Hat away and moved back to San Antonio.

Some 20 odd years later while discussing with a friend how the humiliation of going broke was such a blow to one’s pride I discovered that I had confused my own bad management with destiny and that in reality going broke turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Why a blessing?

Consider this:

After returning to San Antonio I again went to work for the government, this time at Kelly Field Air Force Base and retired from there in 1972 with a small civil service retirement income which, with yearly cost of living increases, has grown through the years and allowed my wife and I to live comfortably for the following 38 years.

Somewhere during those 38 years I was again prevailed upon to buy another expensive hat, this time a Stetson, and you can bet your coat and tie that I keep it in a chair right next to me when we go out to eat.

After all there are some eating establishments in Brady that still do not see the need of providing hat racks for their customers.

FOOTNOTE:

Years ago we had a visitor join we old folks for coffee and during our reminiscing that day he came up with an oldie that he remembered reading in Slick Reed’s column in the brady Standard years ago. Since it was such a good story and new to me I thought it should be told again.

If I remember correctly the story was about a newly married couple living in the country. One morning while trying to put a bridle on his donkey the donkey stepped on the young grooms foot and would not get off. The young man finally called his wife to come help him get his foot free.

Picking up a singletree laying nearby she beat the donkey over the head with it until her husband’s foot was released.

A local newspaper hearing about this incident included the story in the paper under the following headline "YOUNG BRIDE BEATS ASS OFF OF HUSBAND WITH SINGLETREE."

True or not it is still a good story.

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