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South Texas Living

‘Mila’s’ hats

‘Mila’s’ hats

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Julia Castro
Apple Pie and Salsa
October 31, 2012
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Sometime in the early part of this year, I decided that I wanted to go back to the custom of covering my head when attending Mass, as I did in my early years as a Catholic. I was encouraged by the fact that others of my sisters-in-Christ were doing that -- going back to wearing veils. I thought I would like to wear hats again, but I knew that I couldn’t just go out and buy a bunch of hats. It’s not in my budget. But the Lord works in mysterious ways.

My niece, Angela, gave me a little straw hat for my birthday; so I started wearing it to church. It caught Virginia’s eye. (Virginia and Tony, Henry’s cousin who “Mila” finished raising, lived with Mila from the onset of their marriage and still live in the same house.) It’s been six years since Mila passed away and Virginia is still finding things that she stashed away. Virginia had found a large box full of hats. She asked me if I wanted to go look at them. She didn’t have to ask me twice.

What I found was a treasure-trove of ladies’ vintage hats, which are more appealing to me than any I could go out and buy now. I didn’t take all of them, just the ones I thought I could make presentable. I’ve done a few renovations to some of the hats. Henry helped me steam one of them to get it back in shape.

These hats seem to date back to the ’40s. I met Mila in 1949 when Henry and I started going steady. I don’t remember ever seeing her wearing a hat. When I saw her in church, she was always wearing a veil. Henry recently had a flashback and said that he remembered seeing a traveling salesman come to the house with a box full of ladies’ hats. He was a young boy and not interested in ladies’ hats, so he didn’t stick around to see if Mila bought them for a lump sum (Grandpa wouldn’t allow her to pay much) or if he just gave them to her. In any case, I consider them to be Mila’s hats because she kept them all these years.

One of my friends told me after Mass recently, “Pareces una viejita de mas antes.” (You look like a little old woman from the past.) My reply was, “Pues si soy viejita.” I should think that 79-1/2 years of age qualifies me as a viejita.

I have bought a hat since I started this endeavor. One day when I was browsing at Finders Keepers, I saw this beautiful hat. I could tell that it was old, but it was in very good condition. It reminded me of one I had owned back in the ’60s. I tried it on, but then I put it back because I didn’t have enough money on me to pay for it -- not that it cost that much. When I got home, I told Henry about it. He offered to pay for it, so I went back and got it. I have not worn it yet because I needed to do something with my hair. Also, it’s more of a summer hat, and now we are into fall. I’ll wait until it’s the right season. In the meantime, I will alternate between wearing Mila’s hats and a veil.

Julia Castro, a retired Head Start teacher and mother of 10, lives in Floresville with her husband, Henry. Her email is

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