DeGRAFF – Bob Thompson’s hat collection started in the 1960s.
“When I was working at the shop I started collecting them. A friend of mine that worked over there had 1,000 hats,” the 86-year-old DeGraff resident said.
Thompson started working at Stolle Corp. in Sidney in 1950. He worked in a variety of roles at the company and retired in 1991, becoming a farmer full time.
He now has 1,772 baseball cap hats. Some advertise farm brands, others represent military groups and there are many more. He expects the collection will grow following the holidays and his 87th birthday in January.
Thompson’s hats reflect his interests – farming, machinery, cars. He had a 1972 blue and white Corvette Stingray and a 1991 red Chevrolet Camaro, but realized he had to sell them as he got a bit older.
“I’m getting too old to be driving them fast cars,” he said.
Thompson gets hats as gifts, from family, friends, neighbors and people from whom he purchases farming equipment and vehicles. And, he picks up hats that look fun wherever he goes shopping.
“Whenever I bought a vehicle or farm machinery, I would get a hat or two,” he said. “Every time I bought a vehicle, I would tell the dealer I’ve got to have a hat.”
He doesn’t really have a favorite hat, though he looks fondly at the hats noting military service and those he made that say “Bob’s Paradise Ranch.”
Thompson is a U.S. Army veteran who served in Korea and Japan. He was in the 623 Field Artillery Unit, handling 155-mm medium artillery shells. He has a hat advertising that fact, too.
The hats are scattered around his home and stored in boxes, and Thompson expects to continue to decorate his home with his hat collection.
“I live by myself, and I can do anything I want to do,” he said with a laugh.