History atop the head

The Crazy Mountain Museum has seen a year fitting of its name.

With changes in leadership and a surprise drive-through visitor, things got a little shook up at Sweet Grass County’s historical hub.

So to honor the docents who stuck through it all, Director Jill Lavold brought a little more “crazy” to the equation.

Nearly 50 guests gathered around festive fall tables Oct. 3 for a show by the self-proclaimed “crazy hat lady,” Lorraine Marsh.

Along with her seven models, Marsh displayed an array of hats during the event, highlighting fashions both vintage and modern.

Marsh puts on several shows a year to raise money for community organizations throughout the region. What started with a Shriners fundraiser with 24 hats has grown to themed shows with a select few from Marsh’s collection of 1,200 beauties.

Marsh’s hat passion is one passed down from her mother.

“My mother had so many hats because she believed that it was part of her life,” she said. “When she was a young college girl, she earned her way through college, and got her masters as well, selling hats in my great-grandmother’s store in Fargo, North Dakota, don’t ya know.”

Marsh took that enthusiasm with her to college as well, where she joined Kappa Kappa Gamma in Missoula.

“We weren’t allowed to go out on Saturday and Sunday without a hat and gloves,” she said. “Things have changed.”

But there are a host of women who still subscribe to the idea that ladies wear hats, she said, not to mention purses and boas and other adornments.

“The reason I have so many hats is because I have an extremely generous husband and I have extremely generous friends, and some people have left me their hats, even in their wills,” Marsh said.

One such person, a woman who lived across the street from a school where Marsh, a former teacher of 45 years, volunteered, even used the word “crazy” in her bequest.

“I want my hats to all go to that crazy woman who volunteers at Ponderosa,” Marsh recalled with a laugh.

As the show moved on, each hat was accompanied with a story or two, one about the hat and another about the woman beneath it. 

The docents and guests laughed at Marsh’s jokes while also throwing out questions about history of the hats in turn.

It’s fitting of their time spent at the museum, Lavold said. Always learning, always questioning and always ready for the next challenge.

“History is not dead,” Lavold said. “It’s very vital and very alive in the docents we’ve had this year.”

By Lindsey Erin Kroskob / Pioneer Editor

To see our staff pick favorite photos from the event, pick up a copy of the Oct. 8 edition of the Pioneer or subscribe to our e-edition. Current subscribers are provided access to the e-edition at no additional charge.