OCEAN PARK - Red Hats! Women in red hats! Has anyone seen them around town? If you've ever wondered who these women are, they are a group of women over 50 who like to wear purple with a red hat and have a good time.
What most in the group appreciate is the concept of no dues and no rules. The Red Violets Chapter of the Red Hat Society right here on the Peninsula operates on donations at each meeting as needed. Meeting times vary, but if interested you can check this newspaper for times and places.
The exalted queen mother, Sue Ellen Cooper, of Fullerton, Calif., formed the first group on Feb. 6, 2001 after giving a red hat along with the poem "Warning" by Jenny Joseph to a friend, Linda Murphy, as a birthday gift. She so enjoyed it that Cooper gave the same gift to a number of other friends. It was then that her circle of friends realized they were in actuality a red hat society and they decided to go to tea in their red hats.
Members of their group passed along the idea to their other friends and more chapters were formed. Now there are chapters in most of the U.S., the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico. Their goal is to make it a global organization. The chapter start up fee is $35.
They believe that aging should be something anticipated with excitement, not dread. The main responsibility to be a member is to have fun. Everyone takes turns at taking charge of an activity. The theme song of the group is "All my life I've done for you. Now it's my turn to do for me."
Anyone wanting to be added to the weekly e-mail list to receive the latest information from Cooper, referred to as the Friday Broadcast, can register on the Web at . The Queen's corner page contains copies of all previous broadcasts.
Local clothing establishments including the Beachcomber in Long Beach (ask about 10 percent discount) and Two Steps Back in Ocean Park carry a variety of items including shirts, jackets, jewelry and other apparel that every red hat member would like. What to wear is left to the imagination as long as it is purple and includes a red hat.
The Peninsula chapter is called Red Violets and usually meets the first Saturday of the month at 1 p.m. at the Ocean Park Fire Station. This local group was formed in October 2002 under the direction of the founding queen mother Patty Scott-Hall.
Almost 50 women came to that first meeting, but attendance varies from as few as six who attended the Roy Clark concert at the Lucky Eagle Casino in Rochester to over 50 at their first Christmas Party in December 2002. There is also an active chapter in Astoria that invites Peninsula members to join them at their functions. The new Red Violet queen mother is Vivian Wattam.
Recent activities have included attending "Shanghaied in Astoria," lunch and a shopping trip to the outlet malls in Seaside at a discount, lunch at Chen's, and attending special showings of "Chicago" and "No Time to Run" at the Neptune Theater. In October they toured Andrea Weir's glass works in Ocean Park.
Future events will include dinner at the Moby Dick Hotel, bunco night, a Seafood School Dinner, Style Show, trip to the Maritime Museum and Mexican food, gardening talk, more movies, and an auction tea in Astoria. Call Vivian Wattum at 665-6287 or Sandi Smith at 665-0550 if you need more information about upcoming events, times, and phone numbers or just look in the community events section of the Observer.
This organization definitely provides opportunities to attend events one might not want to attend alone, and they certainly do attract attention. It is a nationwide movement with over 3,000 chapters.
Sound like fun? If you'd like to join, just show up. The original concept of tea parties by two ladies in California and Florida has expanded and grown to be whatever a local chapter wants it to be.
What do you do if you're not 50 yet, but want to attend?
"Just wear lavender with a pink hat until that Big Birthday," Wattum said. There are state and national conventions to attend also. Scott-Hall returned with a red hat made from a paper sack from the state convention this year. At a recent meeting a reading included, "After 50 there is nothing left to learn the hard way, and you can live without sex, but not your glasses."
Want to find out more? Go on-line to the Web site that includes a store "The Imperium" where you can order a copy of the poem "Warning" by Jenny Joseph that inspired this group's beginning or purchase any jewelry, clothing, or other memorabilia needed. Profits go to cover costs not covered by yearly chapter fees.
Ruby RedHat is the official trademark of the Red Hat Society and represents the philosophy that silliness is the comic relief of life. The Red Hat Society is not a non-profit organization. Underneath this frivolity, they share a kinship and enthusiasm for wherever life takes them next.
Growing old is no longer a curse. This group has brought women who like purple together and has given them opportunities to have a good time at a time in their lives that there is so much to enjoy.