Pastime: A young waitress who became “Miss Warren”

The stories told along the red-brick streets of Warren are many, most known are of acts of kindnesses, personal achievement and civic goodness.

By Maylon T. Rice

This story has a mix of all three and more involving family.

Back in the summer of 1951, the Warren Lions Club, led by Mack Graham, Hal Gibbs and other notable Lions, helped out with the annual Fourth of July Water Sports Carnival in nearby Lake Village, by hosting a local “bathing beauty” show for local unmarried girls.

It wasn’t a real beauty pageant with talent competitions and a parade of evening gowns, but the competition did feature some of the area’s most lovely young ladies clad in (modest now, but then very functional) one-piece fashionable swim wear of the 1950s.

The young ladies walked along the platform, turned and walked back as the announcers read from a written biography of each participant. Local businesses, individuals and area stores, sponsored each of these young ladies.

In the summer of 1951, some 19 young girls from the Warren/Bradley County area entered the Warren Lions Club’s Bathing Beauty Pageant.  

Exactly where this revue was held is unknown, but a photo of the winner looks like she is on the edge of the stage of the only indoor auditorium – the Warren High School stage – on no doubt a sticky, late June evening humid night for the bathing beauty revue.

The only hint of the local pageant date was the annual Lake Village Water Carnival was the week of the Fourth of July.

In 1951, the 4th fell on a Wednesday with the Bathing Beauty Contest held on a Tuesday evening, the start of the annual affair, before the big day –July 4th which fell on Wednesday.

And for those too young to recall, Lake Chicot and the annual Water Sports Carnival held right on the lakefront – was a big deal – a really big deal.  

Television was just making a splash along Southeast Arkansas and in the state capitol then, but the activities of the Water Sports Carnival drew fast speed boat races, water skiing exhibitions, high diving expeditions and plenty of spectators on dry land to witness these events just a few yards off shore.

Both the statewide newspapers, the Arkansas Gazette and Arkansas Democrat, either in person or with stringers covered the event with photographs.

Other area and regional newspapers, like the Chicot Spectator, McGehee Times and the Delta Democrat-Times of Greenville, staffed this big event.

In a political year, crowds of 10,000 were not unheard of to witness the parade, the speed boat races or other water carnival activities.

The beauty pageant for Miss Lake Chicot was an enormous event.

Back in Warren, as a waitress just a year after graduating from Warren High was a short-haired cute girl named Jean Sanders, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Rufus Sanders.  

She worked a full shift at Wayne’s Confectionary waiting tables and pulling her on, working both sides of the counter and tables, helping prep and cook the food, and filling the ice water glasses and beverage containers.

She was a cute girl.  Pretty enough her mates at Wayne’s strung together tip money and a generous donation from her employer Wayne Wisener to enter her in the Warren pageant.

Of the 19 girls in the local Warren pageant, were runner up Harriet Ann Brooks and Dot Thompson, named by the Eagle Democrat in the news clipping of the winner, Miss Sanders.

From the local pageant and being named “Miss Warren,” in the Annual Water Carnival Beauty Pageant on Lake Chicot, was again, a “step” with her co-workers and the local Lions Club assisting on the entry fee and perhaps even providing transportation down for the festivities.

Each of the participants in the Water Carnival Beauty Pageant, as was a tradition, participated in a parade, riding in an open top car along the route, usually held to open the Water Carnival festivities prior to the Fourth of July.

Time and memory had faded so we do not know the outcome of the Lake Village contest. 

This bathing beauty’s daughter, Donna Dees Boone, now enters the story. 

Just recently, Donna’s granddaughter, Lilly Katherine Hood, 17, was crowned the Homecoming Queen at White Hall High School.

Miss Hood was the daughter of Steve and Kelli Boone Hood, also a former White Hall Homecoming Queen back in 1991.

So proud on Facebook was her grandmother, Donna Dees Boone, the Warren connection so strong, I reached out, reminding Donna she was a two-time WHS Homecoming Court maid, back in the 1970s.

This was the same time her husband, Dr. Terry Boone, DDS, was wearing the orange and black as a defensive back for the Lumberjack football team – all the while running both an Arkansas Gazette and Pine Bluff Commercial paper route, each day via a motorcycle.

Donna professes she was not in any local Warren area pageants back then. “No, I was never in any pageant at any time, cost too much money and we sure didn’t have at that time to enter.”

She recalled her mom was in the pageant only “because she worked at Wayne’s and all her customers wanted her to enter, and probably paid the entry fee, and she won,” Donna said, adding, “and I don’t think she was supposed to either over the other local girls, but she did.”

Jean was but 19, it was probably 1951, she graduated high school in 1950, Donna said.

Asked if her mom might recall more of the event, she said. “I will ask, but not sure she will remember, but she may surprise me, she does remember the past better than day to day activities.”

Jean recalls riding in the big parade down along Lakeshore Drive and through the Lake Village downtown.  She also recalls that Lib by Wisener loaned her a bathing suit to wear in that competition as Miss Warren.

Donna doubts much more can be learned from her mom, Jean, about the day. “I think I would remember her telling me about it, but I think all we now have is the clipping from the newspaper.”      

That photo reproduced here within this Pastime is enough memory of now four generations of beautiful girls, all of whom have lots of smarts, talents and love for their hometown of Warren even to the fourth generation now removed to nearby White Hall.

4 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Thank you Maylon!!!! You sure know how to bring back wonderful memories!!!! So proud of my heritage from Warren, Arkansas!!!! It was perfect little town to grow up in!!!!

  2. Wow Maylon you are the best at stringing a story together keeping your audience eager for the next line ! You are in deed one of the best ! I Really enjoyed this my friend!

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