I’ve Worn Many Hats by Anne Fowler released last year in the memoirs, humor genre.
Laughter, sadness, empathy, outrage. Canadian Anne Hamilton Fowler appeared to have it all. However, life is not always as idyllic as it seems and at age twenty a series of events almost destroyed her. Emerging from the wreckage she reinvented herself, started over, and proceeded to live on the edge with a risk-taking lifestyle. Then in 1993, an event experienced during a trip to Central America changed everything.
“I’ve Worn Many Hats” is an inspirational read that demonstrates our human frailties, one’s ability to survive personal adversity, and how we can learn to forgive both ourselves and others. It is a story of redemption.
Anne Fowler is a retired Canadian who divides the year between her Haliburton summer cottage and Central America. This memoir is her first book and all proceeds will go to support Anne’s ongoing humanitarian work in Honduras.
Chapter 5, “Glamour in the Sky”
I’m not entirely sure “what” the following stories should be called but let’s just say they were both less than on the up and up! Here is my description of two connected MAL adventures about the prestigious world- famous department store Neiman Marcus. *MAL (short for Margaret Anne Louise) is how I referred to myself when relating “somewhat suspect” incidents! . During the past fifty -five years, sizing methods in the world of fashion have evolved and been drastically altered. In the early sixties before Anne Klein launched her Junior Petite line later that decade, she was freelancing, trying out new marketing and design ideas including the Junior Miss collection. But since all models of that era were 5’10” and weighed one hundred pounds, she lacked pros able to show off clothes designed for a petite 5’3” body. She then had a flash of inspiration. “Let’s check out the major airlines. Their stewardesses are attractive young women who can interact with the public and many of them have the small frames I need. We will teach them to be part time models.” I was recruited on a Dallas/ New York flight and “training sessions” were held several times over the next month. My runway debut at a New York Spring showing went smoothly, without incident and I subsequently participated in several other shows around the country. Unfortunately, my modelling career was short lived after the following debacle. Here is how adventure number one unfolded.
Feeling confident and cocky in my new found second career, I pranced down the Neiman Marcus catwalk at their Dallas showing of the new line of Anne Klein clothes. All was going perfectly until I reached the runway’s end and performed what was then known in the trade as a whirlaway. Immediately I realized that I should have listened to the American Airlines doc’s advice… “Wear your glasses as often as possible for your own safety.” Not seeing clearly, I miscalculated the distance and whirlawayed off the end of the runway’s raised platform and into the arms of the very distinguished looking Saks Fifth Avenue head buyer seated in the front row. Neither of us was injured but the Anne Klein organization dropped me like a hot potato from their list of petite models and that was the end of my brief, but eventful, modelling career.
Adventure number two is titled “Payback Time.” Several months went by and I blanked the embarrassing modelling incident from my mind, recalling it only occasionally in nightmares. I would then rationalize the whole thing by blaming Neiman Marcus management for what was obviously their poor construction of a dangerously uneven catwalk. It certainly had nothing to do with my vanity in choosing not to wear glasses and I mention this recall to justify the following “let’s get even” story. I won’t go into the details of how I met a handsome Captain from the Ft. Hood Military Base. Suffice to say, he was hitch hiking and I picked him up in my very cool sportscar. This was an era when young women did things like picking up handsome hitch hikers in uniform and the term “stranger danger” had not yet become part of our vocabulary. We started dating as much as our schedules would allow, enjoying dinners, movies, clubs and each other’s company. Jumping ahead a couple of months, Marvin sent me an invitation to attend the annual officer’s gala. Since I’d just blown most of my salary on what seemed like a never- ending list of car repairs, I was without funds to purchase a dress suitable for such an illustrious formal event and here’s where the payback comes in. MAL visited a Neiman Marcus store located in a mall on the other side of town, not the flagship downtown store where she was known. An expensive full length emerald green gown was purchased, paid for by cheque, along with beautiful earrings and elegant long black kid gloves. The festive evening arrived, MAL was picked up in an army helicopter and flown to the base. How Marvin had managed to arrange his date’s transport in a helicopter was likely another story, one where the details were never divulged. Did she have fun? Yes and no. The dance, food, entertainment and company were wonderful. When not being obsessed with tucking in the price tags so they couldn’t be seen and not spilling wine on the dress, she had a great time.
The following Monday morning MAL was at Neiman’s exchange counter with a pristine dress in a NM hanging bag, gloves and jewelry wrapped in the original tissue. She presented a bill that said “no refund after seven days.” it was now day six. Her reason given for returning it all? The boyfriend didn’t like the dress, he hated the color green. And that will teach Neiman Marcus to jeopardize the life of a young innocent flight attendant/fledgling model with a shoddily constructed runway!
Marvin and I continued our relationship until not long afterwards when he was deployed to Viet Nam. He did survive his tour of duty and returned home to California where he finished his surgical residency in orthopedics, married and had a family.
I am an only child who was raised in Toronto where I attended Leaside High School and Toronto Western Hospital School of Nursing. In 1962 American Airlines beckoned me to Dallas, Texas and life in the sky as a flight attendant. Divorced twice, I first married a young minister from Louisiana and then long-time best friend Dr. Bob Fowler of Toronto. We raised a daughter and son who each later produced one grandchild each… a grandson and granddaughter. In 2001, I retired, closed my company Hamilton Enterprises and left behind a more than thirty- year career in Human Resources. Then, I relocated to El Progreso, Honduras to volunteer at a clinic where ophthalmic and dental care are provided for patients who lack the funds to be treated elsewhere. During this time, I developed the Visiting Doctor program for international ophthalmologists, started the Healthy Living Education project in local elementary schools, and helped with a variety of clinic and community activities. In 2005, after purchasing property in the small north coast village of El Porvenir, I built Hamilton Benest House, a home that provides accommodation for visiting dentists, doctors, teachers and other volunteers. My major program now in 2022 is Phase Two of the Healthy Living Program. (I have slowed down substantially although I hate to admit it!). This annual dental program, conducted by two Canadian dental teams, provides dental care for over 1,000 elementary school students. Our programs continue to thrive and although no longer participating in my projects as actively as I would like, I am still coming up with new ideas, developing community initiatives designed to improve the lives of Hondurans. I divide my year between El Porvenir and my Haliburton cottage north of Toronto