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September 9, 2010

Biltmore Hats and Dad

My father died when I was just barely a teenager. I never knew that much about him (as odd as that might sound) - what he was like as a person, where he worked, what his hobbies were .... To me he was just "dad" and I knew him as a father, not as a brother, a son, a friend, or a co-worker.

My mother never talked about my dad so I didn't know what he did for a living when they were first married, or how they met. I knew bits and pieces but those bits and pieces were vague half-memories formed while listening to my father when I was very young. He worked in "the city" (Toronto) for Veteran's Affairs. I knew that much. He loved to fish and every fall he went hunting, always coming home empty-handed.

He never talked to me about his childhood or growing up in Guelph, and when i asked about his time in England in WW2 all he ever revealed was that he was in the Signal Corps and, in his words, "swung through the trees like a monkey"

So it was a very nice surprise to find from his WW2 Army Service Records that he had worked at Biltmore Hats in Guelph before joining the army. I received those records about 15 years ago and ever since then have been trying to find some ephemera or item that has something to do with Biltmore. I'm an avid antique collector and often see the Biltmore Hat boxes. But they're fairly large and cardboard, usually in bad shape and not really what I want in my house.

Last month I stumbled on a website called Antiquarius Booksellers based in British Columbia. Much to my surprise they had two older, unused cheques from the 1940s from Biltmore Hats of Guelph, Ontario. Can you imagine my excitement? That is just slightly later than when my father worked there! There was even a picture of the Biltmore Hat building (which I'd not been able to find previously) engraved on the cheques. It goes without saying that I purchased them. And at a very reasonable price!
I'm so pleased with my purchase. The cheques arrived promptly and are in perfect condition as described. They were beautifully packed for shipping.

Now I have a nice page to add to my pictorial history of my McGinnis family. I'll write up an explanation of dad's working at Biltmore Hats and add these scanned photos of the two old cheques and the ad for Biltmore Hats that I found previously. And now I have a more complete picture of my father the person, not just my father as dad.


txlynnage said...


hummer said...

I shared. I love the way you present a story.

Carol said...

Nice story, great checks!!

Linda said...

What a great story Lorine. It brought back some wonderful memories of my grandfather. He didn't work for Biltmore Hats but always wore one ot their fedoras [so did my mother and she still has her's] Years ago my grandmother gave me a minature hat box with a red plastic fedora inside that Biltmore would give you when you bought a new hat. Thanks for reminding me. It is now unpacked and on display in my china cabinet.

Rose said...

Your note brought back good memories!I was visiting in Guelph recently and drove by Biltmore Hats and was saddened to see that the building was demolished. My Dad bought his trademark hats there and my sister worked there.I walked by that building to school each day.

Tenth Street Hats said...

Great story of yours.