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The Nail Near The Entrance Door

Would you place a nail on the wall near your entrance door? Would you hang anything other than decorations on the wall of your house? If you were to go back in time in the forties and fifties, you would find in each house one or two nails right near the entrance door of the humble houses of most Sanpedranos. By now you have probably realized that these nails had a purpose. And you are quite right, for these nails were for the men to hang their hats.

Before the caps came into style, men and even boys used to wear hats in San Pedro. The typical gentleman had three hats. The first one was a straw hat that was used for work, whether fishing or in the coconut plantations. These hats were used to protect the face and head from the scorching rays of the hot sun. They were used until they could go no more. They changed in color from a yellowish straw look to a dirty look. They also developed an unfavorable smell due to time, use and sweat. They also started flaking off in time and the rim would start to fall apart or a hole would form on the main body of the hat. One of these hats would last a Sanpedrano a year or two and they would be mended as often as necessary. When time and use had over worn these hats, they would have to be replaced either on a trip to the Belize City or to Chetumal where the straw hats were sold. Before you make your conclusion, these hats were not hung on that nail near the door.

The second hat was similar to the working straw hat, except that this one was hung on the nail at the door, and it was only used in town, so that hat was not as dilapidated, nor smelly, nor crooked as the first one. When father was leaving the house, he would grab his hat from the nail at the wall. When he stepped in after the walk, he would place it back on the nail, or he would probably listen to his wife’s sermon on mannerism or the orderliness of the house. The children (males of course) had their own hats and their own nails anywhere in the house but not near the door.

The second nail near the door was there but for a different hat. It was a formal, more expensive hat used only when dressed and going out on a special occasion. It was small in size, the brim of it being narrower and almost straight. The material was not straw but rather a soft material known as “felt”. These were usually black or of a dark serious color.

When the men wore those hats, it was Saturday or Sunday evening. They would be dressed in black pants, white shirt with long sleeves, and a white handkerchief would hang slightly out of the back pocket. They were going to a dance, a social event, to visit grandma or simply to go sit at the park. It was a social event that required a dressy hat, and this one too was hung at the nail near the door. That was its spot, almost sacred, and it sort of decorated the entrance of the house more or less the way we hang large photographs or picture frames on the walls today.

Today my wife will not let me hang my cap even in the bathroom. But in the fifties, I did place a few nails around the house for my straw hat. My dad reserved the right for those two special nails near the entrance twenty five years ago.

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