Miss Delaware 1933: Victoria George

The first Miss Delaware ever, Victoria was surprised to have been chosen the state beauty queen, especially since Italian families endured hostility in those days. Although not chosen as one of the finalists, she was thrilled to have participated, and kept her banner her whole life, participating in Miss Delaware events up until her death in 2003.

1930 George Family census form -- Newark, DE
1930 census data: Newark, New Castle, DE:
Ottavio George, 60, born Italy, foreman at Fiber Mill
Elizabeth 50 (Italy), Victoria 16 (DE), Josephine 13 (DE), Renardo 11 (DE), Eunice 20 (DE)(niece), Joseph 16 (DE)(nephew). (1920 census) Victoria George, born August 5, 1914, came from a large Italian immigrant family, with four older sisters and a younger sister and brother.

Victoria 1933 photo
Victoria from the panorama picture - age 19
Miss Delaware Victoria George was one of the featured contestants in the Thursday, September 7th Atlantic City newspaper:
Victoria was featured on page 12 with a solo picture in addition to the panorama shot of all 30 contestants; and the accompanying article states: For the most part they are brunettes, but none has hair so dark as "Miss Delaware," and among the blondes none have hair so fair as "Miss California."

June 7, 2002 article:
This surprised Miss Delaware always will be No. 1
      A deadly no'easter raged outside - the "worst gale in half a century" the newspapers said - but 19-year-old Victoria George of Newark danced on, oblivious to the wind, the rain and the fact that someone was watching every move she made. She was, after all, making history that night - Aug. 23, 1933.
      She didn't know it at the time. She only knew she was a finalist in a beauty pageant at the Black Cat - a storied entertainment complex that, until it was destroyed by fire in the '40s, drew frolickers to the U.S. 13/40 split. She was doing what she loved - dancing - and, frankly, the pageant part wasn't such a focus. "I didn't think I was that neat," she said.
      A few days later, the pageant results were released. But there was no crown, no runway to stroll, no stretch limousine waiting outside.

Victoria in 2002 with her sash
      Now 87 years old, Victoria George Lusardi doesn't remember how she found out she would wear the "Miss Delaware" sash at the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, N.J., a few weeks later. But she was the first to wear it, according to Miss America's official historian.
      This weekend, Miss Delaware No. 1 hopes to be in the audience when Miss Delaware No. 61 is crowned at the Rehobeth Beach Convention Center. The pageant starts tonight and ends Saturday night.
      "I didn't fade away," Lusardi said. "I keep up with them. I like to meet them."
      Victoria George was born on a farm in Glasgow [DE] to Italian immigrants Elizabeth and Octavio George. She was "one of six attractive sisters" a newspaper wrote after she won the title at the Black Cat. They had one brother. "We all were really nice looking, that's true," said Mary Rossi, Vitoria's sister, 89. "...She was tall and built nice and had a very nice personality. She was just a plain girl, not a big show-off." It amazed Rossi - who remembers the hostility Italian families endured in those days - that her sister would be chosen "Miss Delaware." "It's unbelievable that we would have anything like that," she said.
      Their father, Octavio, opened a bakery at the corner of Wilbur and North streets in Newark. Later his daughters made it the town's first sub shop. Lusardi still owns the building and climbs steep stairs around back to reach her second floor apartment. Lusardi stayed lithe and strong by working hard. "She worked like a man," said her first child, Regina Sieger, who now lives in Mississippi. "That's what helped her stay young. She's a real caretaker - a loving, caring person."
      Lusardi wasn't the first beauty queen in Delaware. A Miss Wilmington by the name of Adele Senft competed in the Atlantic City pageant in 1922 and there were Miss Newards there, too. Iona Mulrine represented Dealware in a rival pageant in Wildwood in 1932, according to news accounts. But the first Miss Delaware to stroll in Atlantic City was Victoria George, the woman who now enjoys crafts, exercises and jelly sandwiches at the Newark Senior Center.
9/5/1933 Atlantic City - Victoria is second from right
WI WV OH DE MI VA NJ (backside)
Caption on picture at right, which was featured in some newspapers nationwide (e.g., 9/8/33 St Louis): "Here are some of the beauties from the Middle Atlantic States enjoying a stroll along the boardwalk after they arrived in Atlantic City to compete for the title of "Miss America" in the annual Atlantic City beauty pageant. They are, left to right: Evangeline Glidewell, "Miss Virginia"; Geraldine Glassman, "Miss Pennsylvania"; Ruth Le Roy, "Miss Atlantic City" and Hostess to the Beauties; Elsa Donath, "Miss New York City"; Dorota Dennis, "Miss Maryland"; Gertrude Christman, "Miss New Jersey"; Victoria George, "Miss Delaware"; and Flo Myer, "Mss New York State." (reference reverse side of photo.)

Misses Maine, Connecticut, Mississippi, Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky at the judging
      She doesn't remember much of the pageantry and -- except for the fraying silk "Miss Delaware" sash and a few photographs -- she doesn't have many mementos of the event. But the historian for the Miss America pageant found some interesting items in the archives:
      - George's official sponsor was The News Journal.
      - Another sponsor, Anthony Randoph of Wilmington, tried in vain to ride with George in one of the boardwalk parades. When he was repeatedly refused this privilege by parade organizers, he said the organizer "was no man," which prompted that man to strike Randolph. Randolph filed charges, but shortly before the hearing, apologies were exchanged and the matter wad dropped.
      - Pageant entrants arrived in Atlantic City on a train called "The Beauty Special."
      - Miss Arkansas was disqualified after she was found to be married.
      - Miss New York plagued by a toothache, fainted while passing the judges and still won the evening gown competition. Miss Okahoma didn't recover as well, withdrawing with appendicitis.
      - Miss Connecticut -- 15½-year-old Marian Bergeron -- won the Miss America title that year.
      Victoria George was not among the finalists in Atlantic City. But she wasn't striving to be, she said. "I went to see who got it," she said with a smile. In those days, beauty was still very much the engine of the Miss America pageant. Daily parades were on the weeklong agenda, along with swimsuit and evening gown competititons. The scholarship emphasis didn't arise for more than a decade.
      What she looked forward to most was the dancing. The major dancing event was the beauty ball on the second night of the pageant festvities. She remembers it vividly. The contestants were introduced one by one. They walked to center stage, where a uniformed escort met them, bowed and presented them with a rose. They walked around the stage arm-in-arm, and after the promenade, the band struck up a waltz. Finally, it was dancing time.
      Only it wasn't. At least not for Victoria George. "When the music started, he introduced himself," she recalled. "I took him by the arm and thought 'Isn't this going to be good?' Then he said, 'I'm sorry ma'am. Excuse me. I don't know how to dance.' I could have put a hatchet right in my head."
      Lusardi was the life of the party during a Miss Delaware alumni event about five years ago, said Mary Lee Kleinkauf, who was Mary Lee Mancini when she won the Miss Delaware title in 1966. Kleinkauf, who now lives in New Jersey, coordinates alumni relations for the Miss Delaware pageant. Kleinkauf said the Miss Delawares were introduced one by one, starting with the most recent. The first was last. "When she went down that little runway ... she was energetic, strutting really," Kleinkauf said. "She was prancing down that runway and everyone was laughing and clapping. She got an incredible amount of applause."
      As for beauty, Lusardi has her own take on that. "The outside makes no difference," she said. "You can dress it up and make it look beautiful on one layer. The underneath is much greater." It doesn't take a lot to be a more beautiful person, Lusardi said. "You say, 'Good morning.' If they're not well, you say, 'May I help you?' That's better'n anyone hollering at you and looking at you like a snake. Beauty is inside and not another thing."
      Not that she doesn't notice that outer kind of beauty. She does. And she's eager to meet the newest member of this special sorority. "There are so many beautiful young women," she said. "Get moving and let's select another one." Orders from No. 1.

April 10, 2008: The Newark Post. Newark home to Delaware's first beauty queen. She may be best known as the former owner of the popular Angie's Sub Shop, but the late Victoria Lusardi, a Newark native, had another claim to fame. In 1933, the five-foot, seven inch, 126-pound beauty became Delaware's premiere beauty icon. ...

In 1940 Victoria is married and living with her parents with her four-year-old daughter. Her unknown husband is not living with her on this census. Later she will marry George Lusardi.

Social Security Death Index: VICTORIA A LUSARDI, born: 05 Aug 1914, died: 17 Mar 2003, last residence: 19711 (Newark, New Castle, DE), last benefit: 19711 (Newark, New Castle, DE), Social security number: 222-09-0523, state where issued: Delaware. She died from complications of end-stage Alzheimer's.

Obituary: Victoria Lusardi Service: 10 a.m. Saturday at St. John's Roman Catholic Church, Main Street, Newark, Del. NEWARK, Del. --- Victoria (George) Lusardi, age 88, of Newark, Del., died Monday, March 17, 2003, at the Franciscan Care Center. She was born in Glasgow, Del., to the proud parents of Octavio and Elizabeth George. She attended the Newark Schools and in 1933 she became "Our First Miss Delaware." In the 1940s she started the first sub shop in Newark, it was known as "Angie's Sub Shop." She worked at the National Volcanize Fiber Mill, where she later retired. She was a devoted mother, wife, sister and most of all a loving grandmother. She was preceded in death by her husband, George G. Lusardi, who passed away in 1981. She is survived by her four children, Connie Magaw of Elkton, Md., Victor Lusardi of Newark, Del., George Lusardi of Miss. and Regina Seiger of Miss.; a sister, Mary Rossi of Wilmington, Del.; 17 grandchildren; 22 great-grandchildren; and 3 great-great-grandchildren. Family and friends are invited to R.T. Foard and Jones Funeral Home, 122 West Main St., Newark, Del., from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday, March 21, 2003. A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at the St. John's Roman Catholic Church, Main Street, Newark, Del., at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 22, 2003. Interment will follow at All Saints Cemetery.

LUSARDI, GEORGE 15 Jun 1915 Aug 1981 66 19711 (Newark, New Castle, DE) 19711 (Newark, New Castle, DE) Delaware 221-14-9437
Victoria had stayed in touch with both the Miss Delaware and Miss America pageant personnel.