Thursday, January 19, 2006

Peters Brothers Hats

It’s something of a local tradition to give a hat – usually a Shady Oaks hat – to visiting celebrities and dignitaries. That hat will come from Peters Brothers Hats at 909 Houston Street – a Fort Worth institution. They’ve been making hats for 100 years and they're kind of good at it. President Kennedy spent the last night of his life in Fort Worth and received a Shady Oaks hat before he took his fateful trip to Dallas. (Unrelated sidenotes: Lee Harvey Oswald was a graduate of Fort Worth’s Arlington Heights High School and I used to work with three guys who were pallbearers at Oswald’s funeral – Jerry Flemmons, Jon McConal and Mike Cochran.)

For years, I have driven by their store and been intrigued by their sign with the Bob Wills-looking guy on it. I always meant to go in there and finally I made the trip earlier this month.

The Peters Brothers were Greek immigrants who moved to Fort Worth at the turn of the last century and opened a shoeshine parlor before adding hats to their list of services. Although their store has been in its current location since the 1930s, I doubt if a bit of remodeling has been done during that time.

When my daughter and I walked in with our cameras, the two men working there welcomed us warmly and told us to take pictures of anything we wanted to. The younger of two men, a guy named Matt, was very helpful and loved to talk hats. Even though he’s probably only 20, he knows a lot about hats.

The best thing about the store in the beautiful old hatmaking equipment – giant chrome instruments for shaping, sizing and steaming. The hats in there are beautiful. They sell a lot of cowboy hats, but also fedoras, straw boaters, top hats and bowlers. And I discovered that there are more ways to shape a hat than seemed possible – the Gus (after Gus McCrae in Lonesome Dove), the Tom Mix (after the silent movie cowboy) and on and on.

It’s seemingly impossible to take a bad picture in the store because the light was so nice and there are so many interesting things to see.

Before I left, I asked Matt if there were any ghosts in the building. “We don’t call them ghosts exactly, but there are people who are here.”

Sounds like another story.

FWIW, I did buy a hat - a wide brim woven Cowboy hat from Mexico with a Gus McCrae crease. I plan on doing it again sometime soon.

No comments: