Huck Goes to Henley: No Hat, No Service

Your hat: Henley-on-Thames

In honor of the Henley Royal Regatta which follows Wimbledon:

When you and Sumner moved to London in 1974, you found a lovely flat in Chelsea, off of the Kings Road.  Your landlord, George, took you under his wing like a great uncle, in order to introduce you to proper English culture.  “You need to taste the true London, it’s disappearing you know,” he often said, standing in his tiny semi-manicured garden, holding a g & t.  Often he would sigh and throw up his hands at you ingenues.  Talk about Innocents Abroad--you didn’t have a clue.

But you had a heckuva lotta fun.

As the end of June rolled around, he proudly issued us two badges to the Henley Royal Regatta.  Along with a handwritten note:

Take train to Henley-on-Thames from Paddington Station.  Be there by nine sharp.  MUST WEAR A HAT.

You and Sumner hiked over to Harrods in order to peruse the millinery goods.  Trouble was, that you could not afford any of the finer goods in the department, so instead you purchased two straw bonnets–Huck Finn style.  You plonked down 25 quid each, and then walked back swinging your hatboxes down Sloane Street.

The Good Greatsby wrote about real fascinators for the recent royal wedding:

The following day George coached us a bit before he zoomed off in his Land Rover for a pre-party in the elite Steward’s enclosure.  He said, “Have you got hats ladies?  Good.  And whilst you ‘re there, I want you to meet some nice Englishmen, and you simply must drink the Pimm’s cup–the official drink of Henley.”

You both nodded like American Girl bobble-heads, clambered on and off the train, found the tent in the regular regatta enclosure and ordered said cups–which was an English version of Long-Island tea with a slice of cucumber–in ‘mint julep’ (don’t tell the British) cups.

You and Sumner wandered about, not any meeting English chaps, and instead took up with two American blokes with bushy blonde hair named Chuck and Mike, who were drinking champagne and wearing suits with wide lapels.  With much glee, you fell into their company and started whooping it up and guffawing.  Soon you spotted George with an arched eyebrow spying from the tent next door.  No Simon or Edward to be found; you were canoodling with the enemy.

After the rowing heats were over (what race–crikey–you missed it) you all retired for pub grub across the street.  Later you all finally trundled aboard the train to get back home.  You and Sumner had an absolute blast, and George was able to keep a stiff avuncular upper lip.

When you returned to London with your family a few years ago, you stopped by to pay a visit to his Chelsea townhouse.  You all shared a good laugh about the old days; both George and the townhouse had aged, but were as charming as ever.

Cheers, George.  You hath done what you could.

Henley Regatta with Chuck and Mike


A freelance writer who revels in the 1970's...and today. Thoughts on being a baby baby boomer and empty nester. Welcome to the Saturday evening porch.
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14 Responses to Huck Goes to Henley: No Hat, No Service

  1. Tori Nelson says:

    Poor George, no one told him you can’t reign an American in 🙂
    This post is fabulous!

  2. ryoko861 says:

    Oh, I want to go!! Can I? I love regattas! And hats! I love England! I love the UK!

    I’m going to need a George when I go over. I’m easy.

  3. winsomebella says:

    Great story-telling. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Wanda says:

    I laughed when I read about the girls swinging their hatboxes with their newly purchased inexpensive hats. I remember a tip from Cosmopolitan Magazine about that same time…recommending young women of modest means go to one of the “finer” stores and purchase something inexpensive (like a greeting card) so they could have the cachet of carrying around the store’s logo’d bag the rest of the day. Did I fall for it?…you betcha!

  5. I kept my shopping bags from Harrod’s, Gallerie Lafayette and Madrid’s Galerías Preciados for years, then finally pitched them…one has to let go…thanks for your un-disposable memories. Adorable vignette.

  6. Oooooh–Madrid’s Galerias Preciados! I missed one! Madrid is my absolute favorite city in the world. I found the espadrille place, but missed that one.
    I, too, collect those bags, and often feel like a hoarder. But such good times!!
    Thanks, Georgette! You, me, and Wanda need to go shopping together!

  7. comingeast says:

    What a great memory and pictures to boot! Wonderful descriptions.

  8. Wonderful, love it! Thanks for sharing this great story…..

  9. “You both nodded like American Girl bobble-heads” Great line, Reeling! George sounds like a lovely man, if a bit stuffy…


  10. Thanks, Wendy! He is truly a gem.

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