Lee McBride with his collection of 4,500 hats in his garage.
The Blade/Andy Morrison
Anybody who wears a hat in the presence of Lee McBride might not leave with it still on his or her head. The man loves lids and he’ll likely ask for what you’re wearing to add to his array of some 4,500 others in the garage at his northwest Toledo home.
Mr. McBride retired 12 years ago from GM Powertrain, where he was a repairman. The list of people who have happily given him their caps and other headgear include municipal safety workers and members of the armed forces.
Among the numerous baseball caps and cowboy hats are ones that belonged to city of Toledo workers, a SWAT team, police officers, members of the Army, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the USS Missouri, USS Cook, Elks, and Masonic, and there’s even a Mexican sombrero.
While his collection includes a stovepipe hat of the type that Abraham Lincoln made famous, many are signed and dated by their previous owners, including one from a member of the Silver Bullet band.
And when utility workers showed up at his home to read the meters, they were so impressed with his collection that they gladly handed him the hats from their uniforms.
“It all started after my dad died in 1989 when I kept my dad’s hat,” he said. “The next thing you know I was collecting hats. I didn’t plan on it, but it just started out that way.”
Hats and caps are not all that keep Mr. McBride busy. Besides the 1954 Chevy that has brought him 37 trophies from car shows, the McBride home houses 10 cabinets with NASCAR vehicles. He’s a big fan of the late Dale Earnhardt and still has a copy of The Blade’s Page 1 with the story that announced the death of the race car driver more than 11 years ago.
In his prized car collection are replicas of presidential cars, including one that looks like the car in which President Kennedy was riding when he was assassinated. He also has a license plate from every state in the country.
Mr. McBride is one retiree who will not be found pining away trying to figure out how to spend his time. He makes Halloween costumes and is an amateur artist. Some of his favorite drawings in his home are of family members and favorite people and characters, including Elvis Presley, Jesus Christ, and Betty Boop.
Of course, a person could talk about the replicas of lighthouses that Mr. McBride also put together himself. But that would distract from what seems to be most dear to him — hats.
Contact Rose Russell at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6178,