Thursday, Decembery 7, 2006
Red Hat ladies bring fresh air to Harmontown
By SUE WATSON
The Harmontown Hootchie Mamas and The Ha Ha’s are busy reinventing themselves and the community, according to one Ha Ha lady.
The two organizations are Red Hat ladies - one gives the women something to do in the day and the other something to do in the evenings, said Jane Thomas.
A member of The Ha Ha’s, a daytime group, Thomas said the second Red Hat group formed March 2006 as an offshoot of The Hootchie Mamas that formed a few months earlier.
The Red Hat Society is organized for the benefit of grown-up ladies who don’t give a hoot what anybody thinks of them. It’s all about having fun socializing. Activities include eating out together or doing some shopping or touring - whatever can be thought up.
The theme of the Red Hats was simply stated in an inspirational poem penned by Jenny Joseph entitled “Warning.”
“We’re older and we don’t care if you like who we are, or not,” Thomas said.
She quoted the opening and closing lines of the poem: “When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple with a red hat which doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me...
“So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised when suddenly I am old and start to wear purple.”
That’s the essence of the Red Hat ladies, she said.
The name Ha Ha’s stands for the Hatted Americans Having Attitude, or something like that, Thomas said. Some of the group say its Happy Attitude.
To wear a red hat means to let go and have fun, she said.
The meetings are not structured. Members gather with no other purpose than to think up something to do and then do it.
“You are supposed to be over 50 to wear a red hat,” she said.
But some Red Hat groups allow pinkies - women as young as 45.
“Some groups elect a Queen mum,” Thomas said.
The Queen Mum is the mother of the Queen of England.
“We’re all queens, but she’s the Mum,” Thomas said.
The Hootchie Mamas’ Queen Mum is Karen Adams. The Hootchie Mamas work during the day so they usually get together at night and go out to eat, Thomas said.
The Ha Ha’s, are mostly retired ladies, who have freedom to go during the day. So far they have visited Holly Springs, Coldwater, Sardis, the I-Max Theater in Memphis and have taken a trip on the River Queen in Tunica. Membership is at 10 and some belong to the other group.
Sonya Tuttle is one who belongs to both groups.
She and her husband Jerry moved to Harmontown a year ago - refugees from the state of Florida and its hurricanes.
The couple are retired military who lived in Port St. Joe, Florida, but the weather blew them out to calmer waters near Sardis Lake in the Harmontown community. Jerry is the brother of Jim Tuttle of Byhalia, ergo the connection.
Tuttle said she feels more integrated into the community in Harmontown than anywhere else she’s lived. And for military, that is quite a few places.
“One thing I have told everybody, I'm so surprised how integrated we are in the community,” Tuttle said. “I’m in quilting, a member of two Red Hat groups, and in church. Whoa!”
She doesn’t know why she hasn’t felt so comfortable in other towns.
“I don’t know why they just didn’t pull me into their bosom the way they do here. I didn’t feel as integrated as in Harmontown. Everybody bonds with each other - a tight little community. We know who is sick or in the hospital.”
As a newcomer of the unincorporated community which is estimated to be populated with 1,200 to 1,500 souls, Tuttle learned about the Red Hat group while visiting Holiday Lodge, a great place to eat real southern cooking or sit as long as you like, have coffee and talk, she said.
Tuttle created the daytime group, she said.
What she loves about The Ha Ha’s is there’s plenty of time to visit other communities and see what is there.
“Shopping, junking - that’s my favorite, that’s my thing,” Tuttle said.
Harmontown is the last stop, Tuttle said.
“We’ve moved so many times, my husband says the next time we move we’re going in a hearse.”
The Tuttles have their children scattered over the country, so they travel in the camper to visit the children.
She likes Holly Springs, the closest town.
“We do our banking there and we have our accountant there.”
And living in Harmontown, residents have only a 45-minute drive to shopping in Batesville or Oxford, she said.
Thomas said she likes the daytime group because they hit the junk shops in different communities looking for little treasures. She and her husband Butch, have lived in Harmontown long enough to be considered more than a mere transplant. She knows enough of the history to prove it.
Harmontown was established in the early 1800s but the lake was built in the 1940s. With the building of Sardis Lake, Harmontown was cut off from the rest of Lafayette County. It is located where three counties meet - Tate, Lafayette and Marshall.
An agricultural community at first, over time Harmontown was transformed into a semi-retirement community with the proximity to the lake and hunting and fishing opportunities and camping activities.
The population has grown back from the roots and today two or three school buses are needed to transport children to Lafayette County School.
The town has two Baptist churches, one Church of Christ, one United Methodist Church and one CME Church.
A civic club is active with Bruce Martin as president. The Harmontown Volunteer Fire Department offers the community fire protection.
Lakeside Market serves as the convenience store, and Holiday Lodge on the lake provides fish dinners as well as Eldin’s Burgers and Fish Shack just opening as a take out. One of the Edlin brothers is well known for having provided good catfish at good prices in Laws Hill.
Out in the middle of nowhere, and about 18 miles from Como, people have to invent something to do, Thomas said.
The civic club provides activities for children and operates a lending library. In the spring the community will kick off baseball and softball season.
The civic club also holds a communitywide Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner each year. On occasions, politicians are invited to speak at the club.
In this manner some of the residents of Harmontown, situated on Highway 310 on the northwest side of Sardis Lake, continue to invent their society.
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