These ladies show their colors

Published 6:16 am Saturday, May 31, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- They had never been in a parade together before, and some of them may even have been a little apprehensive about taking part in Monday's Memorial Day parade in Niles.
But that was before the "Four Flags Floozies," the Niles branch of The Red Hat Society, were driven up Main Street on their float dressed in the Society's appropriate attire: Red hats and purple dresses.
She said a lot of work went into decorating their Memorial Day float, with the end result a beautiful float festooned with red and purple flowers and balloons.
The ladies themselves sat on park benches mounted on the float.
According to its web-page, the Red Hat Society is an organization for women of all walks of life who believe silliness is the comic relief that eases the burdens of life.
Underneath the frivolity, however, the ladies share a bond of affection forged by common life experiences and enthusiasm for wherever life takes them next.
Most of the women who participate are 50 years old or more, but age is not necessarily a barrier for membership.
It was inadvertently started by Sue Ellen Cooper, a resident of California and the society's "Exhaulted Queen Mother," in 1998 and has 8,900 branches in 17 countries worldwide.
The latest group registered is in Qatar, a small country in the Middle East, Bevill said.
Bevill said Cooper and a few friends initially drew inspiration from a poem entitled "Warning" by Jenny Joseph.
The poem mentions wearing a red hat and purple attire and Cooper and her friends formed a group which met on a regular basis for tea, in their red hats and purple dresses -- in public.
Since that initial meeting, The Red Hat Society has grown into an organization with its own full-time administration, and they have organized two national conferences, one in Chicago and one in Nashville.
Having fun, Bevill said, and not taking themselves too seriously, however, is still what the society is all about.
She said the Four Flags Floozies, although only 10 members were present at Monday's Memorial Day parade, have 12 members, who all but one graduated from Niles High School in 1958.
And although this parade is the first they have ever participated in, Bevill said the ladies plan to attend several local festivals this summer, as well as Taste of Chicago.
She said locally they have already planned to attend a concert at the Riverfront Amphitheater, in their full regalia, of course.
But without the Memorial Day Float.