I’ve checked every room in the house, even closets. Not there. Nor is it on the porch. I’ve rummaged through all the clutter in my car. Not there either. Did I leave it at the Cracker Barrel in Asheville? Or at Ridgewood when I came over the mountain to eat barbecue with my friend, Pat Wolfe? Looks like my Atlanta Braves baseball cap is destined to be one of the many I’ve left behind in a restaurant.
This one hurts. It was my 39.99+tax, Major League approved and licensed, on-field fitted, navy with a red bill cap. That was the description when I ordered it. Just like the one Freddie Freeman wears.
When Dale Ford was umpiring Major League Baseball, he kept me supplied was baseball caps. But Dale and I are both retired, so I have to buy my caps now. And that’s an expensive proposition for a pensioner.
As a friend has pointed out, there’s an easy way to prevent losing so many caps in restaurants. “Instead of dropping it into a chair seat, hanging it on the chair back, or putting it at your feet under the table, leave it on your head like other men do.”
But I can’t do that on account of Miss Christy.
Jean Christy was one of my high school teachers. Before she died in 2016 at the age of 111, she was the oldest living North Carolinian. When asked her recipe for a long life she said, “Never get married, never go to the doctor, and eat lots of Lance crackers.”
In addition to English, Miss Christy taught us manners and the socially acceptable ways of behaving. At least she tried; teaching proper etiquette to Appalachian country boys was as big a challenge as teaching them English. Bigger, maybe. It didn’t always “take.” Sometimes I still hold a fork like a shovel instead of like a pencil as Miss Christy taught us.
But there’s one Miss Christy commandment I’ve kept religiously: a gentleman never wears a hat or cap indoors! So, I never do, (Well, maybe at Walmart, but it’s acceptable to wear anything at Walmart). I never, ever wear a cap in a restaurant whether I’m eating at Waffle House or Biltmore House.
Baseball caps posed a particular annoyance for Miss Christy as they began to replace hats as the preferred headwear of men. Even though we use the words interchangeably, caps and hats differ.
A hat has a crown and a brim, and usually a band. A cap follows the contour of the head. Cowboy, fedora, and Panama are examples of hats. Baseball, Greek fisherman, and beanies are caps. Of course, in the South we call a beanie a toboggan.
When I worked with newsman Don Helman at WJCW, he gave me much grief over calling a beanie a toboggan. Don is from Wisconsin and up north a toboggan is a kind of sled.
Often, I hear public address announcers at baseball games request fans stand and remove their hats for the National Anthem. He should say caps. Look at an old picture of a baseball crowd; the men are wearing hats. In pictures taken in the last few decades, they’re wearing caps.
Miss Christy’s great nephew, the Rev. David Christy, a Methodist minister, says, “None of Aunt Jean’s kin EVER entered her house wearing a hat. When someone who didn’t know the rule walked in, their hat was immediately removed.”
There’s an often-told story about the time Miss Christy arrived at a crowded restaurant and a table of men she’d taught were wearing their caps. As she sauntered by them, she didn’t say a word. She, simply, one by one, flipped off each cap.
The last time I saw Miss Christy was at a class reunion, the year of her 100th birthday. We met at a restaurant and, you guessed it, not a cap in sight. Some of those valuable lessons she taught us will never wane.
After 57 years in the radio industry, Dave Hogan is enjoying his retirement in North Carolina. He’d love for you to say ‘howdy’ to him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.