Monday, May 28, 2012

This Memorial Day, our toast to a genuine Real Deal American hero

Don Casey, returning to Utah Beach in Normandy, France, for the first time in almost 70 years, after landing there on D-Day, as part of the American forces helping to liberate Europe. We're deeply honored that one of our hats -- a pre-trip gift from his daughter and son-in-law -- was part of Don's visit!

This Memorial Day, we take our own hats off to a true American hero, a Real Deal of a guy if ever there was one.

Don Casey is one of those heroes it's almost too easy to forget about, his incredible valor and commitment to this country hidden amid the business of daily life. Soon to be 90, Don runs an independent hardware store in the little town of Grifton, here in eastern North Carolina.

But as a young man, Don helped rock the planet back into some kind of moral alignment. He served in five (yes, five) separate campaigns in World War II, from D-Day through to the Battle of the Bulge. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, he was part of the wave of U.S. troops that landed on what Allied forces had dubbed Utah Beach in Normandy, France. The battle wasn't as bloody, and with ultimately such a profound loss of life, as that taking place on Omaha Beach to the west. Nonetheless, several of Don's best buddies didn't survive the fight to take that stretch of embattled coastline.

In April of this year, for the first time in 68 years, Don returned to Normandy, to Utah Beach. He'd had the opportunity often before then, notes his daughter, Karen Casey-Wooten, but he hadn't been emotionally prepared to handle such a visit.

This year, the timing was just right. Don was a guest lecturer at Howard Community College in Columbia, Md., sharing his personal wartime recollections with a study-abroad class focused on WWII. When they decided to make a trip to France to see firsthand some of the key historical battle sites, they invited Don to be their guest. Very, very cool, we think.

The visit to Utah Beach, though emotional, didn't have the profound impact on Don his daughter, or his other travel partners, had expected. Don was a little distracted, Karen says. "He was trying so hard to see and figure out exactly where he'd landed (back then)," she explains.

But when the group's tour ended in Colville Cemetery, that all changed. Colville, an American graveyard not far from Utah Beach, is kind of like the French version of Arlington National Cemetery, Karen notes. Three of Don's dear friends, who were killed during the Utah landing, are interred there. Their hasty burial following battle did not leave the opportunity to say any real goodbyes.

Don was utterly overcome with emotion upon visiting the cemetery. Not surprisingly, so were those people who witnessed his visit there.

"He got to finally get some closure with some of his buddies," Karen says.

In 2010, Don was awarded the National Order of the Legion of Honour, often simply called the French Legion of Honor, for the part he played in defending European freedom. For defending freedom, period.

Our own thanks seem pretty paltry by comparison. But they are sincere, Don, and great. Thank you, for everything you've done, for all of us.

Don at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Real Deal Brazil Rides Along in Rally Dixie 2012

Thanks to Greg Bickford for these additional shots of the 2010 Ford Mustang GT that he and his brother Chris will be helming in Rally Dixie 2012, the 1,300-mile fundraising drive that this year supports the national nonprofit Accelerated Cure Project for Multiple Sclerosis.

Now in its fourth year, Rally Dixie includes more than 80 teams of two or more folks in sports cars, muscle cars and various tricked-out and otherwise-unique rides. It takes in three racing events: autocross in Noblesville, Ind.; drag racing at the Clarksville (Tenn.) Speedway; and a couple of laps at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. And along the way, it makes 36 stops at historic and/or scenic locations.

Rally Dixie 2012 kicks off June 18 in Noblesville, concluding with a big party June 21 in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., not too far from the Bickford brothers’ home base near Tallahassee.

Fittingly, the Bickfords call themselves Team Tallahassee. But the name’s a lot more to Greg than just a nice nod to home – he’s a self-described “avid fan of all things Zombieland.” So Tallahassee to him also means Woody Harrelson’s scene-stealing wildass Twinkie-lover in the very cool hat. The Real Deal Brazil recycled tarp hat.

Zombieland fans have likely already singled out the number 3 on the Mustang’s driver’s-side door, and the survival-rule quotes peppering the car’s back and sides. (Our fave: SURVIVAL RULE #17: DON’T BE A HERO. Except that in Team Tallahassee’s version, the word DON’T is marked out. As in: BE A HERO.)

The Bickford brothers are likewise huge fans of our Real Deal Brazil brand. That means not only will RDB hats be present on Greg and Chris’ heads throughout the long drive, but also: Check out that righteous decal on their iconic car’s driver’s-side rear!

Greg and Chris did that, by the way, completely unasked by us. They sent us a note inquiring if it was OK, and we said: What, are you kidding? Of course it is!

We’re a small company, and we’ve had to make it a standing policy that we cannot do cash donations; we simply can’t afford it. But we broke our rule this one time, and chipped in a little to their fundraising efforts. If you can, you should do the same. Great guys. Great event. A fight against a horrible disease. Beat that.

Visit their team site if you’d like to help:

Thanks, you Bickford boys! Go, car No. 3!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Real Dealicous!

OK, so this ranks right up there among the coolest pics we've ever received.

Which is to say whoah! As in wow! As in that's actually a cake, folks! A freakin' cake!

Accompanying this shot from Real Deal cake-maker Robert Cannon of Rescue, Calif., this note:

"I just finished culinary school for my Patisserie and Baking certification. My last class was advanced cake decorating techniques and for my final project I had to make a cake that looked like a hat. My obvious choice was my Real Deal Brazil hat. I thought you might like to see the end result. My chef instructors only criticism was that it looked too much like a real hat and not a cake!"

Dude, your talent is mighty, and your choice of subject is the, y'know, icing on the cake ...

The Real Deal Brazil: Truly tasty headwear!