Pilot story and photos by Andrea Barkan
There may be a run on red hats and purple dresses now that Brookings has its very own chapter of the Red Hat Society.
About 20 women gathered on a recent Monday night at Smuggler's Cove for the group's third meeting.
"It started out with just three or four of us and it's just gone crazy," Queen Bee Dee Saye said.
"The whole Red Hat Society is based on this poem, Warning,' " Saye said.
Jenny Joseph's poem begins, "When I am an old woman " and describes her defiance of old age, by letting loose and having fun.
Learning to spit and wearing a clashing red hat and purple dress ensemble are mentioned in the poem.
According to the society's Web site, the "disorganization" was inadvertently started in 2000 by Sue Ellen Cooper of Fullerton, Calif.
Cooper and a few friends began meeting for tea in public places wearing red hats and purple dresses.
The group's purpose is simple, Saye said.
"It's just to get together and have fun," she said. "The only thing we ask is to wear your red hat.
"There are no dues, no membership responsibilities," Saye said. "It's just to get together and meet with people your own age."
Though most of the members are over 50, Saye said they accept younger members, but they must wear a pink hat and lavender dress.
According to the Web site, there are no official rules, only strong suggestions.
"The first of which is regarding red hat attire," the Web site said. "Of course, to be a Red Hatter, one should wear a red hat and a clashing purple ensemble at all meetings to keep up the spirit and purpose of the (dis)organization.
"We also suggest rather strongly that women under 50 stick to the pink hat and lavender attire until THE BIRTHDAY. This adds an element of fun to aging, which we think is invaluable to women in our society who have learned
to dread aging and avoid it at all costs. We believe that aging should be something anticipated with excitement, not something to dread."
Saye said the local group, known as the Wild River Beach Bums, is growing rapidly.
About eight women attended the first meeting. That doubled to 16 at the second, she said.
"It's really taking off," Saye said.
Maureen Staggs said after spending a good portion of her working life attending tedious meetings, she welcomed a club with no structure.
"There are no rules, nothing is regimented," Staggs said. "I needed to get out of the house and this appealed to me."
Saye said society members want to do more than just have dinner.
Members suggest future activities, and some possibilities include a trip to Bandon, a hay ride and a bunco party.
Also on the agenda is a Shanghai breakfast, in which a few members kidnap an unsuspecting member in the early morning and take her out for breakfast in whatever she happens to be wearing.
The next Red Hat Society meeting is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Jan. 15, at The Apple Peddler.
All interested women are invited.
For more information, visit http://www.redhatsociety.com.