Hats off to Mrs. Lillian McKay
- Written by Anne McIlhany
"Without hats we would have no civilization," Christian Dior once declared. Mrs. Lillian McKay, long known by locals as the original “First Lady of Humble,” has made a generous donation of her vintage hat collection to the Humble Museum for a special exhibit that will run through Saturday, May 19. Marian Burrows, special projects director for the museum, said she thought of the idea recently. “With Easter and springtime, I thought it would be a good time to have a display of Mrs. McKay’s vintage hats. I asked her if it would be all right if we could use them for an exhibit, told her we would take excellent care of them, and she was delighted to do so.” Burrows first learned of the hat collection back in the late '70s, as a member of the Women of Rotary. Mrs. McKay, also a member, offered her hats for use at a Women of Rotary luncheon and style show. “About 10 women – most of whom were members – modeled the hats at the luncheon,” Burrows recalled. “It was a real hit. We had more fun with those hats.” Nancy Coker, president of the museum board, recalls how stylish Mrs. McKay has always been and how much she loved her hats. “She was always in vogue, impeccably dressed, and when hats were the height of fashion, she had one to coordinate with every outfit.” When the hats arrived at the museum, all were in their original hat boxes, in mint condition, from stores all over Humble, Houston, and even New York City. Battelsteins, Sakowitz, Everitt-Buelow, and Harryson – Fifth Avenue (New York) are just a few of the stores represented. “We noticed right away that Mrs. McKay had written notes on each box with a brief description of the kind of hat inside,” said Coker. We saw the initials ‘P.M.’ on several and later found out that those were her ‘After Five’ hats – hats that ladies only wore in the evening.” The hats are beautifully displayed, some inside a large glass case, others are on mannequins on top of the cases. Linda Marquart of Main Street Hair Design kindly donated the mannequins for the exhibit. Sheila Bogs, publicity director for the museum, said, “Mrs. McKay has so many hats in her collection, we didn’t have room for all of them in the display, so there are actually still some in storage.” It seems every imaginable style and fashion of hat is represented in the collection, from dainty and intricately beaded pillbox styles, to larger, elegant lampshade and boater styles with bands of exotic embellishments. Each hat has obviously been meticulously cared for and stored carefully, and they are in pristine condition. Treat yourself to an elegant piece of Humble history, and visit the Humble Museum between now and May 19 to see Mrs. McKay’s beautiful collection of vintage hats. They say hats are making a comeback and this just might be the inspiration needed to make that trend a local one. The Humble Museum is located at 219 Main Street and is open Tuesday- Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tours are also available by appointment. Call 281-446-2130 for more information. Photo: Left to right are Nancy Coker, Marian Burrows and Sheila Bogs.