Washington royalty remembers contest
Did you know “Miss Washington,” also known as the Centennial Queen from the 100th Anniversary celebration, still resides in Washington?
Betty Porter, who was known under her maiden name Betty Redlinger, was crowned the “Miss Washington” in August 1939, during a weeklong celebration of the town’s 100th anniversary.
Porter wasn’t the only one in the running for Centennial Queen. The other women running for Centennial Queen were Betty Kiefer, Dorothy Darnel, Betty McCall, Dorothea Snyder, Kay Hardy, Maxine Logan, Elizabeth Varney, Margaret Schneider, and Betty Stewart, according to The Evening Journal in 1939.
The ages of the queen contestants ranged from high school to early 20s. Porter was in high school.
“I was 17, I think,” Porter said. “It was because I was a junior [in school].”
She said she doesn’t remember all of the names for the attendants in her court, except for one.
“The only thing is the little boy is Jim Lloyd and he’s a lawyer here [in Washington],” Porter said.
To this day she doesn’t know who nominated her to be part of the Centennial court.
“It was by popular vote,” she said. “I do remember this one guy and he used to work at the State Bank and he said, ‘Betty, I really don’t need a new suit, but I’m going to go buy one, and you get all of my votes.’ “
Every time a person bought merchandise in the stores around the square, people were given so many ballots, Porter said. Back then the square was filled with clothing stores, grocery stores, and men’s stores.
Porter said she had no idea she would be crowned queen.
“I was surprised,” Porter said. “To this day I have no idea who nominated me, but I had some backers. Carlton Mangold was one of my backers.”
“We had a beauty pageant for three nights and I was crowned the first night,” Porter said. “I didn’t have to do anything. I just wore the outfit. They furnished the gown and the robe.”
A special visitor crowned her the first night of the Centennial Celebration. Mr. J.C. Penney himself crowned Porter.
“After I was crowned by him—well I worked at Penney’s,” Porter said. “I probably worked there for about three years.”
She still remembers how happy she was when her name was called.
“I was elated,” Porter said. “I can’t remember but there was five members of the board at our house that night. Mom was cooking the hamburgers and that’s when I was told I had won and I don’t think any of them are living now.”
She still can’t believe she won.
“I felt real good about this because it was by popular vote,” Porter said.
Her favorite part of the celebration was being queen riding on a float in the parade.
“It was a great celebration,” Porter said.
The parade looped around the square, Porter said. It was blocked off from traffic to allow the parade route to go through.
Also, the storefronts were decorated with wood to make them look as if they were back in 1839, Porter said.
“Women wore bodices and dresses like in the olden times,” she said.
As the 175th Anniversary celebration gets closer Porter said she gets excited to see whom she may see and recognize while she’s out celebrating. She also plans on taking part in some of the events.
“My daughter that lives in Iowa City has taken the whole week off to come down here,” Porter said. “It will be a lot of fun.”