Style Stories with Pat Hehn

To celebrate our new exhibition "Styling Orillia", we talked fashion with Councillor Pat Hehn. Pat has donated many items of clothing to OMAH's permanent collection, one of which is on display in the exhibition. It is a beautiful dress from the 1960's worn to a high school formal in Orillia. "Styling Orillia" focuses on fashion wore by Orillia women from the 1920's to the 1960s. The exhibition runs from April 6th to June 30th, 2019.

I was born in Orillia because my Dad was stationed here during the War. My parents moved back to Toronto after the War and we continued to spend our summers here until I was six.  My family moved out to Alberta at that time and we returned just before I started Grade 8, I guess that would make me 13.  I spent my high school years here and then like so many left to continue my education.  I sailed for England on my 21st birthday, worked in London for a year, Scotland for a year and hitchhiked across Europe, returning when I was 23.  I met my husband soon after and we moved back to Orillia in June of 1973.

The first time I wore the dress I was 16 years old.  It was the first time that I went to our high school formal at ODCVI.  The theme that year was "The Candy Cotillion". The formal was held on Friday, February 2, 1962 that year and the tickets were $2.50! I was on the decorating committee for the dance that year.  We spent weeks making decorations for the gym.  My project was to make a large "Rock Candy Mountain" to stand against the stage.  If I remember correctly, it stood about seven or eight feet tall. I went with Don Wilson. I think I dated him for about six months.

That year, I received my Gold Cord in Girl Guides.  Guides and Scouts were a big deal when I was in high school.  The Gold Cord was the highest award you could get. My parents were struggling financially at the time, but Mom wanted to do something special because I was getting my Gold Cord and because it was my first formal so we managed to buy a new dress.  All the rest of my dresses were hand me down bridesmaids' dresses from one of my aunts.  That made this one special.  We took the bus to Toronto, stayed overnight with my grandmother and went to a number of different stores before we found this dress. I can't remember the name of the store, but I seem to remember that it was smaller.  I was able to find gold brocade shoes to wear with it. As you can see, I am wearing gloves in the picture.  We always wore gloves with our dresses.  They had little pearl buttons at the wrist so that you could slip your hands out and tuck part into the sleeve to make it easier to eat. Unfortunately, I didn't save the crinolines as they really made the dresses.  The blue one on display was one of my favourites.  My mom also found me a lovely little tiara that she bought me in honour of receiving my Gold Cord, which I wore to all the dances.  And, of course, this was when Jackie Kennedy was in the White House so if one could look like her then all the better!

After the dance, we all went down to the "good side" of the Shang for something to eat.  I would guess that there would have been about 20 in our group.  I was in Grade 11 at the time and Don was in Grade 13 so I felt quite "mature" being with the older kids!

-Pat Hehn