Miss Illinois 1933 Lillian Kroener - Disqualified (residency)


Lillian always dreamed of the lights and excitement of beauty pageants. When she came in third in the 1933 Miss Missouri contest, she undauntedly skipped across statelines to become Miss Illinois with at least the approval if not the instigation of the Miss America MidWest coordinator Jimmy Carrier. The deception must have been known immediately when the seven MidWest state queens, including fellow St. Louis resident Miss Missouri, embarked on a seven-week Whistle Stop vaudeville tour from the Midwest to the East Coast! The resulting furor over "ringers" and "non-residents" at the start of the national pageant in Atlantic City led not only to Lillian's disqualification, but also to that of three others. But all four participated fully in all the events, so Lillian did have her day in the lights, and remembered it fondly throughout her life.


1930 Kroener family census - St. Louis, MO
1930 census: St. Louis, MO:
7031 Woodrow Avenue
Louis Kroener, 46 (IL) Salesman of ice
Barbara 44 (MO), Lillian 15 (MO).
Note how Lillian's father was born in Illinois; he had cousins who remained in Illinois when he moved to Missouri. Lillian Kroener was born April 13, 1915 in St. Louis, MO, adopted as the only child of Louis and Barbara Kroener.

Lillian from panorama picture - age 18
Lillian started her pageant life in St. Louis, Missouri. At age 15 she loved to pose for millinery and clothing ads -- spending more time on this than on homework! Then came 1933 and the state beauty contests for Miss America.

Although her parents did not think this was a good idea, Lillian reported in "Romantic Confessions" (see below) that it would be just a lark and very good fun, and they did not stop her. Sponsored by an automobile company, she competed in the Miss Missouri contest on July 13th, but came in third. The newspaper clipping at right on July 13th, shows Lillian as one of the five semi-finalists. The winner, Marie Marks, had also been sponsored by an automobile company.

1933 Miss Missouri finalists - Lillian on far left
One of the judges at the Miss Missouri pageant was Jimmy Carrier, a "self-styled promotion director of the pageant." He convinced Lillian that she could be "Miss Illinois", even though she had never lived in Illinois. Perhaps he felt that with cousins living there, it gave her a requisite connection. However, from Lillian's own account of the situation (see below), it appears that Jimmy Carrier just tapped her for the honor, as he apparently did with Misses Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa and Kentucky. As Lillian reported in her 1934 Romantic Confessions exposé below, he "had enough alleged credentials to deaden the suspicions of anyone who didn't think it quite fair of him to appoint any girl he was fit to be any state's representatitve in the contest."

By July 23, the MidWest contestants were to meet in St. Louis, from where they would travel to Chicago for the "Century of Progress Exposition" (1933 World's Fair) for a several days, and from there to Radio City, NYC and then to Atlantic City on a seven-week "Whistle Stop" vaudeville tour. So just 9-10 days after losing in Missouri, Lillian had been tapped to be Miss Illinois and then came back to Missouri to join the seven-week Whistle Stop Tour from July 23-Sep 5, which of course included Miss Missouri Marie Marks! So perhaps her "coronation" as Miss Illinois was not well thought out by either Lillian or Jimmy Carrier. Or perhaps he assumed that since he had hand-picked most of the MidWest contestants, without state-wide contests, there were likely to be no complaints.

Lillian Kroener was pictured in the Sep 6-8 articles nationwide with a picture of six Midwest contestants who visited the Nation's capital; this is thought to be a picture from when many contestants performed at Chevy Chase Lake, a suburb of Washington, DC. The only contestant known to have visited Washington, DC was Miss Wisconsin who made a special trip after the Pageant ended and was received in the Oval Office by President Roosevelt!

1933 - Lillian is fourth from the right
1933 - Lillian is on the far right
Until the disqualification, Atlantic City must have lived up to Lillian's dreams. She was featured in the Atlantic City newspaper as the first of the beauty queens to dance at the first gala event -- the Beauty Ball: "At a signal from the band Sergeant John Tinney, erstwhile High School football star, walked to the center of the ballroom carrying a rose. "Miss Illinois" left the other beauties and walked toward him in the spotlight. They met in front of the Morris Guards Color guard. Tinney bowed, presented the pageant beauty with the rose and the two walked arm in arm around the ballroom while each of the other guardsmen and beauties went through a similar procedure. The beautiful young women and their escorts kept circling the floor until all the audience had seen their all. Then the band stuck up a waltz and the American Beauty Ball was in full swing."

1933 Lillian asked for funds to get back home
However things quickly unravelled as the RKO agents, who were sponsoring the two New York contestants, demanded that the Pageant officials confirm residency qualifications. Obviously, having no Illinois residency proof and unable to obtain any, Lillian and two other contestants were disqualified on this basis. But, all the contestants participated fully in all the events, and no announcement was made to the crowds; their names were simply deleted from the judges' ballots. So Lillian could bask in the glow of all the exciting pageant activities. However, after the event closed, the pageant committee refused to give the disqualified contestants funds to get back to their home towns. Lillian was apparently no shrinking violet about her escapades. Lillian told her story to the judges and their friends, and they pitched in to collect $25 for her! Judge Gladys Glad's husband wrote a detailed Massachusetts article, seemingly based off of interviews with her. After the pageant Lillian was happy to give an interview to "Romantic Movie Stories" magazine, published in October 1936 with a resulting 8-page article!

May 1934 Romantic Confessions magazine - click on picture for a larger view
Romantic Confessions -- "... So much so, that by the time I was fifteen, and in Normandy high school, I spent more time posing for millinery and clothing ads than I did on my algebra and Latin.
And when Billy spoke to me that night, I didn't dream that only a year later, I'd be applauded and dated, envied and fêted, as one of the contestants in the most highly publicized beauty pagents in the world -- the National Pageant in Atlantic City.
Against my parents' better judgment, I went, but I certainly didn't do St. Louis Proud! For, across my bosom, wherever I went, was draped a shiny satin banner, "Miss Illinois"!
I never had lived in the state of Illinois. Yet I represented that great commonwealth in the pageant. I was a fraud - a phoney! But, it wasn't my fault!
Jimmy Carrier, self-styled promotion director of the pageant, had enough alleged credentials to deaden the suspicions of anyone who didn't think it quite fair of him to appoint any girl he was fit to be any state's representative in the contest.
Let me explain what I mean. The pageant blared forth publicity to the effect that every state entrant was chosen by a state-wide contest, by a committee of at least seven judges. Understand, each girl was supposd to be a bonafide resident of the state whose banner she wore. Yet Mr Carrier, traveling from town to town in the Mid-West to impress the natives with these rules, had a sheaf of documents, some of which were from an alleged pageant official contradicting the rules and mocking the by-laws he exploited!
I first met him after a local St. Louis contest in which Marie Marks was chosen "Miss Missouri", and I ran third. Her selection was strictly according to Hoyle.
I happened to enter the beauty battle one day when two gentlemen, contest franchise-holders in town, visited my home and asked me to represent an automobile company in the contest. Mother and Dad were opposed to the idea at first, but I finally persuaded them that it was just a lark and would probably be very good fun.
Carrier was one of the judges in the contest. ... [Note: see full 8-page article.]

Lillian enjoyed her time as Miss Illinois, and kept an album of these exciting days, and in it her sash as well. In 1940 she was married and living in Los Angeles, where her husband was an extra in the movies. She died in 2004, at age 89, survived by her husband, son and daughter.

Social Security Death Index: LILLIAN M RUBESA, born: 13 Apr 1915, died: 07 Sep 2004 (P), last residence: 91320 (Newbury Park, Ventura, CA), last benefit: (none specified), social security number: 494-24-8763, state issued: Missouri

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RUBESA, CHARLES L 23 Oct 1910 29 May 2006 (V) 95 91320 (Newbury Park, Ventura, CA) (none specified) New York 067-07-3990
Research: Miss Illinois Scholarship Fund Vice-President and historian Daryl Schabinger had searched for Lillian Kroener since 1989 when he was organizing the 50th Anniversary Reunion for Miss Illinois, to which he wanted to invite her. He was well aware that she had been disqualified because of residency issues, but did not know where to look for her. Missouri was a possibility, but only a possibility; it was also possible she had been born and raised in Illinois and moved to any state just before the pageant. We pooled our research efforts in early August 2004. After several wrong leads, including an elderly Lillian Kroener in the Smithtown Health Care Facility in NY, who, in her dementia, claimed she was Miss Illinois 1933, we finally tracked down the correct one when I ordered in the St. Louis newspapers on microfilm and found Lillian in the contest there. Then the census record determined her father's name, SSDI her father's deathdate, and an obituary for her father specified Lillian's married name -- Mrs. Charles Rubesa. Daryl then just called every Rubesa in the country (all 12) and spoke to Lillian's son on the first call -- on Sep 8, 2004, the day she died! He said she had died peacefully at 5am, and had a long and happy life. Just one month after we started, all due to the internet, and to think she was living just 30 minutes away from me.

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Argosy Magazine. Miss WV Mildred Fetty's son said there was also an article in Argosy Magazine; no such article has been found. Argosy was launched in 1882, and is considered to be the first American pulp magazine, originally targeted to children. In 1888 it switched to adults, and in 1920 became "Argosy All-Story Weekly." In October 1929, there was a rather strange "rationalisation of titles" by the publishers which saw the magazine being merged with Munsey's Magazine and then immediately split into two separate magazines. Argosy All-Story Weekly continued as a weekly, but was called just Argosy on the masthead (and Argosy Weekly on the cover) and concentrated on general/adventure fiction, while Munsey's Magazine became a fortnightly magazine called All-Story which concentrated on love stories (and was subsequently renamed All-Story Love Stories, All-Story Love Tales and just All-Story Love). Supposedly the magazine had an article about the 12 finalists and had a picture of them on the cover; Mildred Fetty's son said she had kept the magazine for many years, but he no longer had a copy of it. From the covers I have examined, I do not see non-fiction articles. In 2004 I tried to obtain a copy of this article:
-- I emailed the editor (Lou Anders) (editor@argosymag.com), but he responded that this is a new magazine, and not affiliated with the older magazine I wanted. He referred me to Argosy Communications in Newark, NJ, and to pulp fiction index online -- users.evl.net/~homeville/fictionmag/0start.htm
-- I wrote Argosy Communications (p. o. box 513, Newark, NJ 07101), but they never responded.
-- LA Library - no Argosy
-- Duke Library -- no Argosy -- referred to California State Fullerton; siad they have a collection that ranges from 1929-1934. Also suggested Sacramento Public Library (but their catalogue did not confirm Sacramento's holdings).
-- Bowling Green State University -- forwarded online request to Culture Library (419-372-2450) -- didn't hear back
-- University of Louisville -- have 10,000 volumes of pulp magazines; never responded.
-- NY Library -- (NYPL Express, express@nypl.org, www.nypl.org/express fee-based information service -- the CATNYP indicated they do have the journal, but their holdings are incomplete. The cost is $15 for the first 10 pages, and 25 cents a page after. But upon checking, said they do not appear to have this issue.
-- issues examined (http://www.philsp.com/mags/argosy_4.html): in 2010 I looked at all 44 weekly magazine covers -- September 1933-June 1934 -- no picture of beauty contestants on outside; only features fictional articles
I believe there was a magazine article that featured the 12 semi-finalists; I do not think it was Argosy magazine. I have no idea which magazine it would be, but it was likely a Men's magazine, but one that did news stories and not just fiction.