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28 October 2014

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Floods January 2005

You are in: Cumbria > Weather > Floods January 2005 > "Bette Davis' beret"



"Bette Davis' beret"

One day, working in the Kangol beret and hat factory in Cleator, Mary got a special hat to ship off to California ...

About the author

My name is Mary.  I was born in Frizington.  I chose this story about Kangol because it happened when I was working there, and I always remembered about the secret.  I have always liked writing since my 80th birthday.  I have written my life story.

I have enjoyed being with the Group and the Tutors.  Everyone is so nice and helpful. 

It was an experience visiting Radio Cumbria and Tullie House.

Bette Davis' beret

Kangol was the famous beret and hat factory in Cleator where I worked as a young woman. 

Mrs Gregg’s room was for “end products” where we verified the berets and packed them for sending abroad.  Mrs Gregg herself was the designer, a very nice woman who the girls all liked.

Mr Meisner and his uncle brought the business here from France and gave employment to many people.  The wages were not good, but machinists earned more as they were on “piece work”.

I loved watching the process of making the berets from start to finish; it seemed very complicated to learn, but berets were becoming very popular and we also made them for the Forces.

One particular memory I have is from the Queen’s Coronation in
1953 when we had an order from the Gurkhas for a pill-box type of hat with large chinstraps.  For this the firm received the Queen’s Award for the first time and all employees were given a a five-shilling piece as a souvenir.

So, when they started making hats for civilian men, not just ladies, business really started booming!  I remember that when Kangol advertised their hats, their slogan was “Kangol, cute from every angle.”



One morning, Mrs Gregg approached me and asked me to look for a perfect white beret, and to sew into the white satin lining, which was stamped with gold lettering, “Anglo Basque - made in Cleator, Cumberland.”  It was examined and I put it in a box lined with tissue paper and sealed it.  She gave me the label and said, “Mary, I will let you into a little secret.  This beret is going to Universal Studios in California, for Miss Bette Davis, to wear in her next film.” 

I kept this secret for decades until we were writing the book about the history of Frizington when I was told it was my claim to fame!  I had never thought of it in that way; it was just a secret I had kept … for all those years.

Click on the link on the top RHS of this page to hear the author reading their own story

last updated: 26/11/07

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