BY ROBERT IANTORNO — This well worn top hat is made from brushed beaver fur, and is a model known as “The New Ventilator”. It’s from the late 1800’s, and was a real affirmation of social status back in its day. The hat belonged to Charlie Lever (pictured below) who wore it often. It was donated to South Grey Museum by his sister, Donna. To learn more about what kind of fellow would wear such a hat, I took a walk around Flesherton and asked a few locals.
A photo of Charlie Lever wearing the top hat with tux.
Everyone I asked about Charlie immediately smiled, recalling a loveable curmudgeon, and a fixture in the community. It seems that Charlie was a bit of a character (no surprise — the dude wore a freaking top hat!), known for his candor and colourful language. As Shawn put it, chuckling, “Oh Charlie would do anything for anybody — as long as they didn’t piss him off!”
Charlie drove around in an old truck collecting scrap, and seldom billed people for his trash collection services. On the side of Charlie’s truck was painted, “Satisfaction guaranteed or double your garbage refunded.” As a service to his neighbours, Charlie carried the keys to most of the houses in town on a huge keyring so that he could let himself in.
Terry, recalled that Charlie was “Mayor of Frontier Village” — a place that he helped build and which he enjoyed immensely. That’s where the top hat likely came from, and it was worn with a red sash and a tux with tails!
This hat is an artifact -a reminder of a lovable eccentric who was unashamedly himself, and remembered fondly for it.
Hats off to you, Charlie.
Robert Iantorno is the Curator of South Grey Museum, located in Flesherton.
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