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Nine Historic Hats Added to HCMH Gala XV Auction
Wednesday, August 7, 2013 • Posted August 8, 2013

Thanks to a generous donation from Fredericksburg resident Peggy Cox, guests at the Hill Country Memorial Hospital’s Gala XV will have the opportunity to bid on some unexpected historical–as well as fashionable–collectibles.

Cox is adding nine original hats from the collection of Emmie Kallenberg Schroeder. Known as “The Lady With The Hat,” Emmie Schroeder was a well-recognized figure in local, state, and national business, political, and social circles during the 1950s and 1960s. Emmie had the distinction of being one of the first female pharmacists to graduate from the University of Texas. Her family owned Kallenberg Pharmacy, which stood on the corner of Main and Adams Streets, now the location of The Secret Garden.

“She was just a delightful lady,” said Frosty Rees, whose father purchased the pharmacy from the Kallenberg family in 1958. “I was thrilled when Peggy offered these hats for our hospital auction.”

Rees, who is Chair of the HCMH Board of Trustees, recalled Emmie Schroeder having two big loves, politics and hats. She worked on the Eisenhower presidential campaigns and was never seen in public without a hat. Her hats were originals designed by Jack McConnell of New York. McConnell was known as the “King of the Milliners” and his elaborately feathered creations graced the heads of movie stars such as Lana Turner and Joan Crawford.

Peggy Cox, who knew Emmie all her life, recalled being invited into the “Hat Room.”

“Emmie called it her Fibber McGee room,” she said, so named in honor of the overstuffed closet that was a running gag on that popular radio program. “It was literally filled with hats from floor to ceiling. There must have been more than 300.”

Of the nine original-designed hats to be placed in the auction, one is the coveted “Red Feather” hat that Emmie wore to the 1957 Inauguration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

According to the company’s history, the “red feather” hats were special:

“These pieces were one of a kind, handmade by Jack McConnell himself. Each one was finished with a label stating ‘Styled by Jack McConnell New York.’ And sewn in, behind the label was a red feather trimmed with a diamante stud.”

A photo once existed showing Emmie and her husband, Red Schroeder, standing with President Eisenhower with during the inauguration ceremonies. Emmie was wearing this very hat.

Emmie Schroeder was also a key player in the founding of the hospital, according to Rees.

“When the hospital was being planned, Jerry Durr (the first administrator) wanted the face of Fredericksburg involved from the day it opened,” Rees said. “He tapped Emmie to help organize the first group of hospital volunteers, then known as the Ladies Auxiliary.”

Rees recalled how Emmie cajoled many of her friends to join the first auxiliary, and did even more. “On her own, she would volunteer at other hospitals to study how the program would work here. She personally got the Charter and was first president of the local hospital auxiliary. She was definitely one of the pioneers of this hospital.”

The Silent Auction will take place during the Gala on October 19, 2013, with bidding open from 7:00 to 10:30 p.m. There are 60 other items up for bid, including a Kawasaki Mule, a Buddy Scooter, a stay in a B&B, jewelry, original art, guided trips, wines, and more.

The fundraising goal for this year’s Silent Auction is $70,000. The overall goal of Gala XV is $550,000 to help Hill Country Memorial purchase a $1.3 million computed tomography (CT) scanner.

“So you ladies out there, this a unique and wonderful opportunity to share not only in the hospital’s history, but also our country’s history,” Cox said. “You can actually own one of these designer, vintage hats.”

Information about Gala XV is available by calling 830-997-1297 or via email at foundation@hillcountrymemorial.org.

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