One of my favorite scenes from The Golden Girls involves Betty White’s character, Rose, lamenting how she never won the coveted title of “Butter Queen” when she was a teen in her fictional Midwestern hometown of St. Olaf.
The description of the beauty pageant sounds ridiculous. It involved a trivia section with a trick question about margarine and a churning competition — and inevitable churning scandal.
Although this particular beauty contest never actually existed, during the 1950s and ’60s, the world of pageantry boasted plenty of strange beauty competitions in which local ladies brimming with old Hollywood glamour vied for the title of their hometown’s highest honor.
Yet, an offbeat beauty pageant wasn’t just a small-town thing during this era. There were also businesses, like the Zion Meat Company, and even government agencies, like the National Security Agency, that rated women willing to compete on their beauty, poise, and that certain je ne sais quoi that paired perfectly with something as random as potatoes…
Diving into the wonderful world of bizarre beauty pageants, let’s begin with Geene Courtney’s “Sausage Queen.” The contest was sponsored by the Zion Meat Company during National Hot Dog Week in 1955.
Gail Hooper was photographed holding a 56-pound catfish when she was 18, after she was crowned Miss National Catfish Queen in 1954.
These lovely ladies competed for Miss Correct Posture in 1956.
This bombshell won the esteemed honor of being Miss Atomic Bomb in 1957.
Joy Harman, who at the time was just 19 years old, was crowned the "NYC Donut Queen" at the 1957 USO.
In 1960, Julia Meade, aka “Mink Queen,” posed with pelts at the West Side Fur Company.
On June 29, 1955, this beautiful “Blueberry Queen” posed in a tub full of the berry at Hotel Roosevelt shortly after winning the honor.
In 1963 Cindy Carol won “Queen of the Anti-Triskaidekaphobia.” Triskaidekaphobia means “fear of 13,” so she posed shunning all superstitions.
Sunny Austin, a 21-year-old woman, posed with a lamb and a toucan after she was named “Queen of the Pet Festival” in 1964.
The Wool Bureau and National Knitted Outerwear Foundation crowned Jeanne Davis of Alabama the 1952 “Sweater Queen.”
All hail 1954’s “Miss Magic Marker.”
Darlene Larson was crowned “Outdoor Health Queen” in 1967.
Eva Sloan, won “Queen of the Village” (Greenwich Village, that is), in 1962 at the age of 22.
Cheers! Paula Wayne is crowned “May Wine Queen” in April 1965.
Jacqueline Petite was chosen as the 1959 “Queen of the Circus.”
What is the strangest beauty pageant you’ve ever heard of or seen? Let us know!
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