The People You Begin to Know at Discovery Park of America
“The Hat Man”
Guest Blogger: Andrew Gibson
Working at Discovery Park you get to see a lot of interesting things, and meet people from around the world with so many different backgrounds and stories. I’ve met people from foreign countries and I have eaten lunch with an astronaut. I have spoken with World War II veterans about their times spent over seas, and I’ve even talked politics with Abe Lincoln and made many new friends. I’m sure you know by now that we are located in Union City, a small town in northwest Tennessee. Our small town has its perks, such as being close-knit and making personal connections with our patrons and members. One member that has become a staff favorite is simply known as “The Hat Man” here at Discovery Park, and I would like to share his story.
Terry Johnson is known as “The Hat Man” for one simple reason: he makes extravagant over-the-top hats! These hats range from a simple Mickey Mouse hat all the way to detailed holiday-themed hats! We have seen hats ranging from a Civil War Hat, a beached theme hat complete with a shade umbrella, and he even made a hat for our 2nd Annual Car Show in June, 2016! I had the honor to sit down with Mr. Terry and ask him what his motive was behind these extravagant hats and why he started creating them. Mr. Terry retired from a factory here in Union City and became a door greeter at Wal-Mart here in town, where Terry loved greeting the guests and would make fun hats for the children as they came into the store. Mr. Terry left Wal-Mart a few years ago because his wife became sick, and unfortunately passed away. Mr. Terry was very depressed and didn’t really know how to cope with her passing until one day his daughter gave him an idea. “Hey, you loved making hats for the kids at Wal-Mart… why don’t you make yourself a hat to cheer you up!” So Mr. Terry started on his hat, and found that it helped his grieving process, and hasn’t slowed down since. He has told me he has made 25-30 hats and is always working on more! He also said that another motive is that it is fun having people come and talk to him and take pictures of him, and he enjoys having people stop and converse about his hats! Mr. Terry said, “People are too caught up in their own worlds, and cell phones. We need to start talking to one another more, and I believe my hats are good conversation starter.”
I like to think of Discovery Park as one big idea, everything from the building itself, down to our many exhibits. This was the idea to make people smile or be intrigued. The building and exhibits aren’t what only make up Discovery Park – it is YOU, the patrons, that make Discovery Park such a great place to be! Your stories and ideas help inspire other people around you to do great things. Not only is Mr. Terry a perfect example of turning a negative into a positive, but he also uses his own time and resources to create something that makes people smile and laugh. So maybe making hats isn’t your thing. Maybe it is photography, designing art work, or maybe it is to help educate people. But what you do matters, even if you think it’s something as simple as making at hat, it can change the community. So we here at Discovery Park would like to say “Thank You” to Mr. Terry, for bringing a smile on our face and hopefully inspiring people around you to do the things they love, even if it is as simple as making a hat!