Stetson hat

When my stepfather died I inherited all sorts of miscellaneous items that my stepbrothers didn’t want, including my stepfather’s worn leather riding boots, a few top hats and two Stetsons that I’ve pinned up in the hallway of my house as kind of picture memories of the past. The Stetsons date from my childhood when my stepfather, a former cavalry officer for the British army and an accomplished rider with a huge passion for horses, organised a rodeo in the middle of Rheindahlen in Germany. Rheindahlen is a giant army camp – a British enclave in the middle of another country – where I had my first ever job as a security officer for the Naafi and then as a cherry bottling worker at a factory down the road aged 16. I also helped ‘Peppie’ as we came to call my stepfather, put on a rodeo. It was a spectacular event that brought a real flavour of America to our corner of little Britain in Germany. Both my stepfather and mother were given hats at the end of the event and these are the pieces I’ve inherited. They are slightly moth eaten but symbolic of my stepfather and mother’s ingenuity, enterprise and sense of fun. Hats have a big meaning for me – when I was four I lived in Saigon during the Vietnam war. One day all us expats were by a pool at the country club at the outskirts of the city, and a US helicopter flew overhead, swooshing the water everywhere as the chopper descended lower and lower – probably, now I come to think of it, to catch a better glimpse of all the gorgeous mums there, including mine. As the helicopter swooped down, a laughing American soldier tore off the army cap from his head and threw it down to us awe-struck kids below. I caught it. Ever since, I’ve always associated hats with poignant and fun memories.  

Melanie Cable-Alexander
Director Lapaloosa