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From Where I Sit: Queens of summer

Tell me, girls, doesn’t every woman want to be a queen? It’s part of a female’s natural psyche.  We want to be queen of something, somewhere, at some time in our life. We covet those sparkly, though rather tacky, rhinestone tiaras.  All most of us need is one measly day of queenliness.

I confess. Yes, I wanted a tiara. Along with dozens of others, I was one of the smiling queen candidates at my hometown’s water festival.  Waterama queen candidates were posed on hayrack floats decorated in blue crepe paper and shimmering silver flags, fluttering in the fashion of waves.   I remember that blistering July Sunday of nineteen sixty-something. Steaming, hot sunshine beat down on the crepe paper float where I sat, red-faced and dripping. I was embarrassed to be so exposed in that form-fitting swimsuit, a requirement of all candidates. Of course, it was a modest, one-piece swimsuit; I didn’t have the guts to be a “hot number” who flaunted my emerging figure in a revealing two-piece swimsuit.

I settled for the more demure full suit. I didn’t want to be exposed to any mortifying accident of losing my suit top when I dove off the tower performing my favored swan dive.  I’d seen what happened to a pal in a two-piece when she dove off the high dive.  Not a good idea.  Not a pretty sight, just really truly embarrassing for any girl!

Friends still tease me today about the fuchsia, Rose Marie Reid, bathing suit that encased my sweaty body like a sausage. Queen candidates, Linda, Diane and I, were posed on a hay wagon in swim attire and 3-inch, wobbly, white heels. “Switch” was the cue to change waving hands, in the standard figure-eight wave pattern, and shift to the opposite hip, in unison. Being band members, we were used to formation drills; we responded automatically.

Seductively positioned, one knee up, the other leg resting flat on the hard float floor, I tried to look cool. Thank goodness, a few of my friends were posed with me on that float, all with big bouffant hairdos of the day.  Aqua Net hairspray shellacked our curls in place that a tornado couldn’t budge. “Kiss me Quick” red lipstick enlarged our lip-licking, moistened lips. We doused our sweaty bodies with “Chantilly,” “Wind Song” or “Opium” perfumes. By liberally spraying ourselves, the perfumes were the perfect camophlauge to mask unseemly odors of our perspiration’s “glow.” Running through my head was Jerry Lee Lewis’ popular tune Chantilly Lace and a Pretty Face. Perhaps a few of you still can recall those raging teenage hormones that we didn’t know quite what to do with in the Sixties.

Do you remember those required talent shows we dreaded? Candidates had to perform some skill: twirling and tossing a flaming baton into the air, then miraculously catching it; singing some popular song or warbling a classical operatic aria; tap dancing like Debbie Reynolds while flashing a wide grin; playing a Chopin or Debussy etude; or toe dancing in a pink tulle tutu with the ever-present tiara balanced on her twirling head. As the years progress, my mind seems to embellish the details, but as I recall, it was truly quite a show.

Next came the gang plank walk. Worries ricocheted in my head as I worried about the platform walk all candidates had to make in their high heels at the band shell stage.  Racing through my mind was the persistent question, “What if I trip?  I’d be mortified!” I remember my staggered walk down the uneven aisle of loose boards to the judges in tuxedos standing with a microphone trailing hazardous wires, posing tripping problems for the queen candidates.

The end was near.  The BIG question was posed to each beauty: “If you could do anything for our world, what would it be?”

No contest! The obvious answer was “WORLD PEACE!” Everybody has to want that! Most of us planned to be teachers, beauticians, social workers, wives and mothers.  Being women, we dreamed of jobs that served others before we became a spouse and mother, serving our families. We’d been programmed for jobs that didn’t involve great cash rewards.

No tripping, no fire from the flaming, twirling baton, no fainting marred my summer weekend. The parade and coronation are over. For most of us, ever-hopeful queen candidates, there was no queenly, rhinestone tiara and no world peace…but a girl has to dream, doesn’t she?

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