Red Hats

Red Rules, Purple Reigns

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Photos by Victor M. Rodriguez

For years, I’d seen pictures of these red-hatted ladies in the pages of the Bayonne Community News, but I wasn’t sure who they were or what they did.

So, I decided to find out. The Bayonne club is the local affiliate of a national organization called the Red Hat Society.

That’s the official line.

But here’s what Queen Bee Connie Piser has to say: “The Red Hatters are women over 50 who are tired of doing nothing and go out together, doing things instead of sitting in the house, giving up on life, and getting old. We are free women who do as we please.”

That last sentiment surfaced a lot as we got to know the hatters.

The group of about 15 meets the first Tuesday of the month at 1 p.m. in the library.

On a truly sweltering afternoon in mid-August, Victor Rodriguez and I met them in the library. They were on time, haberdashed, and ready to roll in a basement meeting room. On the table was a box of pastries.

We didn’t think this small, dark room was appropriate for this group, who were not only wearing their jaunty chapeaux, but were also dressed in purple, another club tradition.

So up we went to the main part of the library, where Victor photographed them in the stacks and in front of a large, colorful painting behind the main desk.

Connie and the group listed some of the places they’ve visited: Toms River for a dinner cruise, Atlantic City, Moutainside Inn for dinner and entertainment, the Hunterdon Hills Playhouse, and the Breakers in Spring Lake. They also go to the movies and have Friday lunches in Bayonne, including at Winners, where they bet on the horses.

“Nobody tells the other girls what to do,” Connie says. A couple of new members agreed that it was a nice club, and they felt very welcomed.

This year the group is celebrating its 15th anniversary, so they must be doing something right.

Says Connie, “We do as we please with no regulations and no husbands telling us what to do.”—Kate Rounds