Pa. Crossing Guard Wins Fight To Wear Hats

Larry Douthwaite, a crossing guard in Littlestown, Pa., wore a different comical hat every day on the job. The kids loved it. The borough manager — not so much. This week, the Littlestown Borough Council voted unanimously to reinstate Douthwaite's right to wear his hats on the job. Douthwaite talks about what happened.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Larry Douthwaie, what was your hat of choice this morning?

Mr. LARRY DOUTHWAIE: Well, it was what I call my spring flower hat. It's kind of a "Cat in the Hat" type thing with a big spring flower on the front of it, and then it has - it's a kind of a white and muted-color background to it.

BLOCK: Sounds lovely.

Mr. DOUTHWAIE: Yeah. It's a nice hat.

BLOCK: We should explain. You are a crossing guard in the town of Littlestown, Pennsylvania, and you like to wear crazy hats on the job.

Mr. DOUTHWAIE: That's correct.

BLOCK: And it got you into a little bit of trouble with the borough manager there. The borough manager said that she saw a car swerving because the driver was distracted by your hat.

Mr. DOUTHWAIE: Right. That's correct.

BLOCK: And what do you make of that?

Mr. DOUTHWAIE: Well, my feeling was, was that - first of all, I didn't see it. So, I don't even really know what she was talking about. Secondly, is is I felt, you know, somebody could've swerved, you know, trying to reach for their cell phone, or hollering something out the window, or seeing somebody they knew or something. So, I really didn't know whether it was because of the hats or not.

BLOCK: Nobody was hurt?

Mr. DOUTHWAIE: Oh no. There was no accident or anything.

BLOCK: But you did get the word that you had to stop wearing your hats and that, I gather, led to a pretty active borough council meeting on Tuesday. You had a lot of supporters there wearing crazy hats, defending your right to wear them.

Mr. DOUTHWAIE: Yeah, we had - a lot of them was going that night, so, but -yeah, it was very interesting.

BLOCK: Well, in the end it all worked out for you. They said, Mr. Douthwaie, go ahead and put on your crazy hats again.

Mr. DOUTHWAIE: They voted five-nothing to do it. And I think a lot of the community showed how much they appreciated that because yesterday morning, when I started wearing hats again, loads of people were beeping and saying congratulations, and it's nice to see the hats back and a bunch of other things.

BLOCK: How many hats do you have?

Mr. DOUTHWAIE: I have 103.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: You've counted, clearly.

Mr. DOUTHWAIE: Yeah, who knows? After all this is over, I may get some sent to me, too. So, you never know.

BLOCK: I bet you will. What are your - what are some of your wilder hats?

Mr. DOUTHWAIE: My best hat is called an airplane hat. It's called Air Jesus. It's a 36-inch glider on top of a straw hat that has been decorated up and there's a sign on top of the plane that says Air Jesus. And then the hat I currently like is my pharaoh hat. It's a real black velvety kind of thing with very recognizable gold stripes on it. And then it has a gold snake that comes out the front of it.

BLOCK: I bet the school kids like that one.

Mr. DOUTHWAIE: Oh yeah. They have lots of hats that they like. They like the cheese head and the corncob head, the turkey hat, so…

BLOCK: Well, what do you make of all this? Do you think this is sort of a little exercise, a mini-exercise in democracy and the right to wear hats?

Mr. DOUTHWAIE: Well, I think it has to do with the times we live in, and people just wanting some fun positive things in their life. And people just saw something that they liked. I mean, the kids try to guess every day before they even go to school what hat I'm wearing.

And the adults just love to see it. And they were just tired of seeing something like this happen. A lot of people have said something like, this is a victory for the little guy.

BLOCK: Do you feel like it's a victory for the little guy?

Mr. DOUTHWAIE: Well, in a way, I guess I do.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOUTHWAIE: I just did it because I thought it would be a little bit of fun. And I also felt as time went on that it became a safety issue for me because I needed to be more visible out on the street. It's kind of hard to say you didn't see a 6'2", 250-pound guy with a corncob on your head.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOUTHWAIE: So…

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Douthwaie, hang onto that hat.

Mr. DOUTHWAIE: I will try to do that.

BLOCK: Thanks so much for talking with us.

Mr. DOUTHWAIE: That's okay, glad to do it.

BLOCK: That's crossing guard Larry Douthwaie, the hat man from Littlestown, Pennsylvania.

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