Hats and shoes can tell fascinating stories of love and hard work, war or peace. It is fascinating to imagine the paths an old pair of shoes have tread and the days that a hat has seen, especially when they are very old.
One famous hat that I think of is that of Abraham Lincoln. It’s the stovepipe hat that he wore the night he was killed. Abraham was a very tall man at 6’4”, but when he wore this hat it made him look even taller. Abraham was known for keeping papers and speeches in his hat and he would pull them out when needed. Today this hat is one of the Smithsonian Institute’s most treasured exhibits. If you look closely you can see a thin black ribbon around the hat that he put there himself in a sign of mourning for his son Willie that passed away from typhoid fever.
Closer to home in our very own Syracuse Museum you can see another hat that tells a story. Oh, if we could see the places this hat has gone! This Air Force hat might not have any meaning to you, but to the Payne family it is very special. Lt. Colonel Earl S. Payne was a Syracuse resident for most of his life. When Earl was five years old his family moved to a farm in Syracuse from Idaho. During his Air Force career he moved many times with his family, but Syracuse was home and the place he and his wife settled after retiring.
He entered the U.S. Air force in 1943 as a bombardier navigator during WWII. He was a fighter pilot in the Korean and Vietnam Wars where he earned many awards and medals. I have never been in a war situation personally, but I have had enlisted family members or family members at war and I know how it feels to be on this side praying for loved ones. What a crazy time this must have been for Earl and his family. After 29 years of service, he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. The markings or stripes on the front of his hat indicate his rank which he earned while serving. When soldiers see these markings they stop whatever they are doing and salute the man or woman wearing them. After retiring, Earl and his wife, Della, built a house on his family farm with an airstrip next to the house and a spot to park the plane on the front lawn. He built his own plane and flew it three different times before it crashed (Earl was okay). The next time you stop by the museum, you will see this hat in a whole new light, it might have simply looked like a hat to you but, now you know. It tells a story of bravery, love for our country, love for family, and hard honorable work.
What stories do your family hats tell?
The Syracuse Museum is collecting and displaying any hats and shoes that came from parents, grandparents or great grandparents. The museum will keep them and show them off but you can keep ownership of them if you so desire. If you have a little write up about the origin of the shoes or hats, and info like the name of the person that wore them and who they were, that would be fun too.
1891 West 1700 South (Antelope Dr.)
Syracuse, Utah 84075
Open Tuesday, Wednesday
and Thursday -2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.