I am now officially the Imelda Marcos of Kromer caps. The Kromer is a venerable northwoods tradition, invented by a railroad engineer named George Kromer in Milwaukee around the turn of the last century, 1903 to be exact. He got tired of the wind blowing his baseball cap off in the rail yard and had his wife sew some flaps on it to keep it on his head and keep his ears warm. The rest, as they say, is history. Even our most famous Wisconsin serial killer, Ed Gein, the man who inspired Hitchcock's "Psycho", was a fan. Here's Ed, photographed in a stylish plaid Kromer. They are still made in the USA, in Ironwood, Michigan (the Upper Peninsula), and can be seen all over the place on the heads of people who spend a lot of time outdoors.
There is even a Stormy Kromer Pursuit Ski Race in Iron County where all finishers get, you guessed it, a specially monogrammed Kromer. The expansion of my Kromer collection began last year at deer camp. My friend RangerMark, had wandered out to see how we were doing. I came strolling in the door with my original red Kromer perched on my head, and he set down his beer, carefully and deliberately placed his blaze orange DNR warden hat on his head, and said, “Olson, that hat's not legal for deer gun hunting”. He then took his warden hat off and had another swig of Leinenkugels. The GurneyGranny, a law abiding hunter and a frequent and vocal critic of my edge-of-legality hunting clothes, gave me a bright blaze orange Kromer for Christmas. On an early spring kayak trip this season, I realized the only headgear I had packed was my Tilley; all cotton and perfect for the summer but miserable when cold wet weather might be encountered. We stopped in Duluth with the intention of picking up a cheap stocking cap but they had a blue Kromer at the Duluth Pack store for 60% off. I was unable to resist. The same snug fit that kept Georges original Kromer on in the rail yard keeps the hat firmly on your head on a windy kayak day on Lake Superior. Then, right before the Annual Grouse kill outing I got an email from the Madison contingent informing me of an article in the Milwaukee Journal about a brand new Lambeau Field Kromer. They suggested that this could be the perfect hat for a venerable event like the GrouseKill (once again this year no grouse were killed or even inconvenienced). This was actually a coup de etat for Mr. Jacquart up in Ironwood because NFL licensing is a byzantine and time consuming maze of rules, regulation, kickbacks, and other obstacles. The main one being that if you offer an item with a team logo you need to have it available for all the teams. I’m sure Jacquart realized that a Tampa Bay Bucaneers or Arizona Cardinals Kromer might not be a huge seller. Packer fans continued to clamor for the hat however, and a compromise deal was reached where a Lambeau Field Kromer would be offered, for sale only at the Packer Pro Shop at Lambeau Field. When our company CFO announced that she, her husband, and another couple were making their first pilgrimage to Lambeau for the Raiders game, my steel trap memory dredged up the Journal Sentinel story and I am now a four Kromer man. In my defense however, they are far cheaper than kayaks and I seem to have fourof those too. Plus the enjoyment I get wearing the hat in this den of Viking fans more than makes up for the NFL premium I had to pay for this fine piece of headgear. Maye I should sign up for that Stormy Kromer pursuit race; five Kromers-hmmmmmm.
And for some strange reason that I can't explain, being in a post with Ed Gein disturbs me a lot less than sharing one with the BessemerConvivialist in a heretical PINK Kromer!