The MidWest Contestants' 7-week Whistle Stop Tour
July 20 - September 5, 1933
|Model T Ford, also known as a "flivver"|
Vaudeville was a theatrical genre of variety entertainment in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s until the early 1930s. Each performance was made up of a series of separate, unrelated acts grouped together on a common bill. Types of acts included popular and classical musicians, dancers, comedians, trained animals, magicians, female and male impersonators, acrobats, illustrated songs, jugglers, one-act plays or scenes from plays, athletes, lecturing celebrities, minstrels, and movies. Vaudeville developed from many sources, including the concert saloon, minstrelsy, freak shows, dime museums, and literary burlesque. Called "the heart of American show business," vaudeville was one of the most popular types of entertainment in North America for several decades. -- Wikipedia. Note that on the penultimate night in Atlantc City, Sep 8th, there was also a vaudeville show: "The Night of Merriment was a great departure from similar events in the old Pageant days. Then it was a Boardwalk Mardi Gras. Last night it was a vaudeville show in the Auditorium Ballroom." -- Atlantic City Press
On Wednesday, July 19, 1933 the Valparaiso, IN newspaper stated that Miss Iowa, Eleanor Dankenbring, will depart on Thursday for St. Louis. At least by the weekend, the MidWest contestants had converged in St. Louis, as they were featured in a picture and caption in the Sunday July 23rd newspaper (see below).
|The Whistle Stop Tour -- the seven MidWest contestants -- from left: Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, Kansas, Arkansas, Idaho and Illinois - photo perhaps taken in July in Chicago - four were subsequently disqualified in Atlantic City: Arkansas, Idaho, Illinois and Iowa|
Apparently three times as many state beauty queens had been expected on the tour: the newspapers below mention 21 queens in St. Louis on July 23rd, 12 in Galesburg, IL on August 8th, 7-9 in Cape Girardeau on August 1-2, and 8-15 in Charleston, WV on August 27-30. Although the extra 14 state queens expected on July 23rd are not specified by name, some of the articles do mention four other states -- Texas and Oregon who were part of the Tour in St. Louis in July but quit; Nevada and Colorado who never showed up for the Tour. As Lillian stated in her exposé, "Then he [promoter James Carrier] told me that he had signed contracts all along the route, promising to bring twelve girls. With me, he had only seven. He was glad to keep me on either "hot" or "cold" terms, because, somewhere, there were five girls who were too smart to join Carrier and his troupe."
The majority of the ads simply mention "bathing beauties" or "pageant beauties" in a "Bathing Beauty Revue" or a "Beauty Parade" and indicate the beauties will appear in both bathing suits and evening gowns. While usually no performance is mentioned, in at least some towns some of the contestants had performance acts -- Miss Iowa Eleanor Dankenbring told her daughters she performed a tap dance routine and sang the risqué "Shuffle Off to Buffalo" with unknown fellow contestant(s). The Charleston, WV ad mentions the contestants will "entertain you with songs and dances." The Cape Girardeau article mentions that "Most of them have one or more talents, Miss Idaho being a tap dancer, and Miss Kansas a singer." Additionally, as mentioned above, the Atlantic City newspaper described the tour as a "vaudeville" tour, suggesting short performances. The ads below also indicate that they would appear and/or perform as many as three times a day. The Chevy Chase Lake ad mentions dances for 10¢. In her exposé, Miss Illinois Lillian Kroener confirmed as many as three shows a day and mentioned free dances at some venues: "... the management announced that a dance with us was to be the reward for the winners of prize drawings."
At least in the larger cities, where they made longer stays, there were special events planned, and their days were not filled with money-making beauty parades. In St. Louis a renowned chef gave the girls cooking lessons, and they also christened an expensive new railroad car. And it appears that they were usually greeted by the mayor -- at least in St. Louis and Cape Girardeau, and it is assumed a meet-the-mayor event was requested by Tour organizer James Carrier in all the towns. As Lillian mentioned in her exposé: "The Mayor and the other big officials stood on the steps. But who were standing beside them but the very judges who, only a week before, had chosen me third in the Missouri contest? Actually, I thought I was going to faint. But, I didn't! I went through with it, ridiculous as it was. There was no ducking. I was introduced to His Honor as "Miss Oregon", and welcomed to St. Louis with a very pretty speech."
|Miss Iowa had three individual photos taken -- another in a gown and one in her suit|
National Pageant judge Gladys Glad's husband, Mark Hellinger, also a judge in other contests and a columnist, described the Tour as a "heartbreaking experience. For almost two months these seven girls have been touring the sticks in an act called 'The Pageant Beauties.' They have slept in tenth-rate hotels, worked in the cheapest theatres and night clubs, and have had some terrifying experiences." This comment was undoubtedly based on his conversations with Miss Illinois Lillian Kroener, whose exposé details many more details of the cheap theatres, night clubs, and hotels, for example "We appeared at roof gardens of different hotels and found ourselves virtually auction block chattels when the management announced that a dance with us was to be the reward for the winners of prize drawings. We weren't consulted about the matter at all. Even dance hall girls have a right to turn a partner down. But we were treated like the commonest kind of women, and forced to dance with whomever we drew. And boy, oh boy, what a collection of hoodlums had all the luck those nights! Rough and ready, gutter products, they insulted us with crude proposals and forced us to listen to revolting and coarse remarks."
It is not certain how many chaperones there were on the Tour. Miss Missouri's mother is known to have accompanied the contestants on the trip as a chaperone at least at the first stop of Cape Girardeau, MO. While no other chaperones were mentioned in this paper, it is assumed that there were some; it seems unlikely that especially for the younger contestants (like 14-year old Miss Kentucky), a parent or family friend would not have been along. Perhaps only Mrs. Marks was mentioned as this was a Missouri newspaper; it is uncertain if she accompanied the girls for the rest of the Tour. The same newspaper mentions that Roy Zerber is along as manager -- apparently meaning as a manager for the entire group (and not just for Miss Missouri, Marie Marks). No information on Roy Zerber has been located; it is assumed he may have worked for the MidWest organizer Jimmy Carrier (see footnote), and was responsible for organizing at least some of the Whistle Stop Tour. There was also a former usher named Kirby detailed by Lillian in her exposé. However, Lillian implied there were not parental chaperones, as Carrier and Kirby even had the girls entertaining all night ("That was the longest night I ever experienced. It seemed to me it never would come to an end. And I don't believe I ever was so happy as when I crawled into my dingy hotel bed just about dawn.")
Most of the girls had likely been lured by promises of theatrical opportunities. In her exposé, Lillian said Carrier promised: "It isn't just the trip," he urged me. "It isn't only the marvelous time you'll have. It'll mean your whole future! "When we get back East I'll get you a screen test and a job in the movies. You'll be given gorgeous gowns for the finals at the shore; beautiful dresses, all the stocking you can use for years, cosmetics and perfumes! You'll stay at the best hotels and come in contact with the most influential citizens in every town you visit!" The newspaper articles advertising the state contests had said they would be treated like princesses; I expect that most of the MidWest contestants found the conditions of the Whistle Stop Tour, and the subsequent opportunities, quite disappointing. And as Mark Hellinger's article stated, "It would give them, they were told, an opportunity to learn show business. More, they would see the country. More it meant a lot of publicity. And still more, they would all receive wardrobes and offers of jobs when they arrived at Atlantic City."
And as Mark Hellinger's article stated, "for all this they received exactly nothing! ... They have received no wardrobes and no jobs. I asked one of them why she didn't demand some money for playing four and five shows a day. She said she had asked for some -- but they refused to give her any on the ground that such an act would automatically make her a professional beauty!" And for the four disqualified contestants, there was not even the full trainfare to get back home!
Miss Illinois Lillian Kroener's Romantic Movie Stories exposé -- The next day, we girls held a meeting. To not one of us had Carrier kept his pre-tour promises of clothes and contracts. We were being worked like galley slaves, for not even a nickel a week. You see, we'd been told that if we accepted salaries, we would be professionals, and therefore not eligible for the "strictly on the level" contest in Atlantic City. Wasn't that a sad thought, and didn't the alleged officials feel terribly when they "couldn't" give their pretty little trained seals one penny of the thousands going into the box offices? Goodness, how sorry they must have been! Eventually, things grew so bad that we girls decided to present our manager with an ultimatum. We were told that he wasn't registered at the hotel. Hours later, we located him hiding under the name of Jackson. And, when we told him what we wanted, he sneered at us, and reminded us that we'd better do what he told us, because there wasn't a girl among us who had railroad fare home.
October 1936 Romantic Movie Stores magazine - click on picture for a larger view or here for the complete exposé
The itinerary as known so far:
July 20-31, St. Louis, MO
July?, Belleveille, IL
August 1-2, Cape Girardeau, MO
August 3-7, Chicago, IL
August 8, Galesburg, IL
August 9-26 -- unknown, but included Marion, Jacksonville and Peoria, IL
August 27-30, Charleston, WV
September -- Baltimore, MD
September 4, Chevy Chase, MD
September 5, Philadelphia, PA
September 5, Atlantic City, NJ
|7/19 - IN|
Valparaiso, IN -- The Wednesday, July 19th Valparaiso, Indiana article (at right) states that the beauty queens of the "Central West" were all to meet in St. Louis, MO, and then travel to A Century of Progress Exposition (in Chicago - the World's Fair) for several days and from there to Radio City, NYC before heading to Atlantic City.
[It is not thought the tour went to NYC, perhaps scheduling the Chevy Chase, MD appearance instead.]
July 20-31: St. Louis, MO
|7/23 - MO|
[Note: this is 10 days after the July 13th Miss Missouri contest, where Marie Marks won, Olive Harris was Miss St. Louis, and Lillian Kroener (who became Miss Illinois) came in third! The automobiles were assigned for their time within the city; these may have been the same Ford vehicles they used for the rest of the 7-week Tour.]
Miss Illinois Lillian Kroener's Romantic Movie Stories exposé -- "Throughout the week, the alleged promotion men decided, I would not appear with the other beauties around St. Louis, for fear of recognition by my home town folk. But at the end of the week, a parade was scheduled. The girls were to march to City Hall and meet the mayor and other civic authorities. ... The bands screamed and the people cheered as we girls hoofed it to City Hall. And was I thrilled? The Mayor and the other big officials stood on the steps. But who were standing beside them but the very judges who, only a week before, had chosen me third in the Missouri contest? Actually, I thought I was going to faint. But, I didn't! I went through with it, ridiculous as it was. There was no ducking. I was introduced to His Honor as "Miss Oregon", and welcomed to St. Louis with a very pretty speech. Then I was led over and personally introduced to each of the judges. They took one good look at me, and then some of them burst into screams of laughter! They didn't "give me away", however. That night, the genuine "Miss Oregon" appeared to wear my banner at the Country Club. No wonder she arrived so quickly, because she, like I, was a St. Louis girl, although she hadn't appeared in any of the local contests, and so, wasn't recognized.
The following day, our troupe left in a string of Ford cars that were our conveyances for the rest of the seven weeks' trip to Atlantic City. Our first stop was at Belleville, Illinois."
|8/6 - MO||8/9 - TX|
[Note: although in the August 6th paper, the girls had left St. Louis by August 1st.]
Wednesday, August 9th, Denton, TX -- a picture featuring four contestants titled: "Beauty Winners Christen Car" The caption to the picture reads: "Miss Texas is shown here breaking the customary christening bottle on the side of the Sephen F. Austin, one of the four new de luxe lounge cars just constructed for the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Lines at a cost of more than $250,000. Miss Texas has as her attendants Miss Kansas, Pauline Sayre of Wichita; Miss Missouri, Marie Marks of St. Louis; and Miss Oklahoma, Joanne Alcorn, Ponca City. Miss Texas is Billie Elwood of San Antonio. All are winners in beauty contests and officiated at the christening at St. Louis while enroute to Atlantic City to represent their states in the national contest. The other new lounges are named for William B. Travis, James B. Bouham and James W. Fannin, who with Austin are revered in Texas history."
[Note: Although this article is in the Texas newspaper, it definitely references an event in St. Louis, where the contestants were July 20-31. Miss Texas does not go to Atlantic City; Miss Oklahoma is not mentioned in any other newspapers on the Whistle Stop tour. Neither are in the pictures of the MidWest contestants.]
The July 23rd St. Louis newspaper (above) mentioned 21 contestants "from as many states," -- only nine states had known representatives in St. Louis -- seven MidWest plus Texas and Oklahoma, who christened the train car for the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Lines. Perhaps there were 12 more states originally expected (such as Nevada and Colorado expected in West Virginia in August, and Oregon mentioned in Cape Girardeau). Perhaps the MidWest area did in fact include 21 states, and in the beginning promoter Jimmy Carrier expected to have a contestant from each, and never updated his early high expectations. Conversely, this could have been an error, or it may have also included some other city winners (this latter possibility is less likely; it is thought that Miss St. Louis was included only because the contestants were in St. Louis).
July?: Belleville, IL
Miss Illinois Lillian Kroener's Romantic Movie Stories exposé -- "The following day, our troupe left in a string of Ford cars that were our conveyances for the rest of the seven weeks' trip to Atlantic City. Our first stop was at Belleville, Illinois."
August 1-2: Cape Girardeau, MO
|7/31 - MO|
"Beauty contest winners from nine states will appear on the stage at the Fox Broadway Theater in afternoon and night performances both Tuesday and Wednesday. They will be introduced from the stage at 4 o'clock each afternoon and 8:40 each night.
These girls are on their way to the national beauty pageant in Atlantic City Sept. 4. They have been at the Ambassador Theater in St. Louis a week and from here they will go to Chicago for a week.
On the stage they will be introduced by a master of ceremonies. They will appear in bathing suits and in evening gowns. Kassel's Girardeans will furnish music.
The girls will be received by Mayor Edward L. Drum in the council chambers at 4:30 o'clock Tuesday afternoon, to be officially greeted by him and extend greeting from their states.
The beauties will represent Missouri, Texas, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky and Oregon. As Miss Illinois has only recently been chosen, this will be her first public introduction since her selection. In Atlantic City they will compete with winners in other states for the title of Miss America and prizes which go with the title.
link to article online.
|8/1 - MO|
"Seven girls, beauty winners in their respective states arrived today to spend two days in Cape Giradeau. While here they will appear afternoon and night at the Fox Broadway Theater and this afternoon they were escorted to the council chambers in the courthouse, where they were extended the official greeting by Mayor E. L. Drum.
Among them is Miss Missouri, who at home is Miss Marie Marks, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. G. A. Marks. She is the only blonde in the crowd, and her hair is golden brown. Her eyes are green, and her lashes dark. She weights 114 pounds and is 5 feet 5 inches tall.
Miss Missouri is an ardent Cardinal baseball fan. When she admits this, all the other girls look knowing, but she refuses to acknowledge anything more than an enthusiasm for the home town team.
Lived in Hollywood.
As a child, when the family lived in Hollywood, Miss Marks worked in pictures occasionally as an extra. She has gone to 14 schools in St. Louis, Hollywood, Chicago and Cleveland. Next to baseball, Miss Marks is most thrilled by flying, she having taken short trips across the state by plane. She sings and dances.
Miss Missouri's mother travels with the girls as a chaperone. Roy Zerber is also along as manager.
The other girls are Miss Illinois, Lillian Kroener, East St. Louis; Miss Iowa, Eleanor Dakenbring [sic]: Miss Kansas, Pauline Sayer, Wichita; Miss Arkansas, Miss Vivian Ferguson, Ozark Playgrounds Smile Girl, Little Rock; Miss Kentucky, Lucille Rader, Borea; Miss Idaho, Margaret Wittman, Couer d'Alene.
They represent different degrees brunettehood, some being decidedly dark, others having brown hair. Most of them have one or more talents, Miss Idaho being a tap dancer, and Miss Kansas a singer. The beauty winners laugh at the old time standards of feminine pulchritude. They are no little wrens to sit at home and sew a fine seam, but they represent the taller, more slender, more athletic type girl of today.
link to article online.
[Note: Miss Illinois is listed as being from East St. Louis which is a city located in St. Clair County, Illinois, USA, directly across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri where she actually lived. Later in the Tour and/or Pageant, Lillian states her hometown as Elgin, IL.
Miss Idaho is listed as being from Coeur D'Alene which is the largest city and county seat of Kootenai County, Idaho, and about 40 miles east of the larger Spokane, Washington where she actually lived.
It is unknown if the Miss Illinois and Miss Idaho contestants themselves reported on their "hometowns" in the "correct" state, or if the manager Roy Zerber reported this to the newspaper.
Also note, it states that Miss Arkansas Vivian Ferguson was also the "Ozark Playgrounds Smile Girl."]
Note that the July 31st newspaper mentioned that Texas and Oregon were expected, but the following days newspaper did not include them. Also, Oklahoma, who is known to have been in St. Louis a couple days previously when christening the train car (see above), is conspicuously absent in this article. And while Texas is present in this article, she is conspicuously absent in tomorrow's article.
It is noteworthy that this Cape Girardeau article confirms Miss Illinois' recent selection, missing most of the appearances in St. Louis.
August 3-7: Chicago, IL.
It is known that the Tour went to Chicago August 3-7, according to the Cape Girardeau papers above, and it is thought they visited the World's Fair while there, but no article in the Chicago papers has been located. It is thought that the group photo above, in the swimsuits, may have been taken at a park in Chicago.
Tuesday, August 8th: Galesburg, IL
|8/8? - IL|
"Where the Sky Begins"
Tuesday, Aug. 8th.
Bathing Beauty Revue.
Twelve State Winners.
Enroute to Atlantic City to contest for "Miss America 1933," will appear at the Roof in both bathing suits and evening gowns. Be sure and watch "Miss Idaho," as she is picked by experts to be one of the outstanding leaders to win this year at Atlantic Ciy.
(There will be no instruction hour this week)
Dancing 8:30 till 12:30
Music by Don Roth and his orchestra from Texas.
25¢ - Everybody - 25¢
[Galesburg is 200 miles from Chicago; Chicago is 300 miles from St. Louis.]
Note: it is not at all clear who the 12 state winners were supposd to be. The mention of 12 state winners confirms Lillian's exposé comments: "Then he [promoter James Carrier] told me that he had signed contracts all along the route, promising to bring twelve girls. With me, he had only seven. He was glad to keep me on either "hot" or "cold" terms, because, somewhere, there were five girls who were too smart to join Carrier and his troupe."
August: Illinois, including Marion, Jacksonville and Peoria, IL
Miss Illinois Lillian Kroener's Romantic Movie Stories exposé -- All through Illinois, I was the belle of the troupe. We didn't play Elgin, my "home town", at all, but wherever else we went, the mayors fell all over themselves in giving me scrolls of welcome and the keys to their cities. Throughout that one week, my room looked like a florist's shop. No doubt about it, the "home state girl" was making good in a big way. About a week later, however, my troubles began. We played at a roadhouse and a theatre in Marion, Illinois.
... Our trip for the next few days was harrowing. We traveled three hundred and fifty miles a day, and played three shows. Sometimes we'd put on a show for a bunch of beauty-starved farmers and miners as late as one o'clock in the morning. Then, when we were en route to Jacksonville, Illinois, Carrier started after me again.
... Our next three stops -- this was before Carrier was fired -- were among the most memorable of the trip. We appeared at roof gardens of different hotels ...
... Then, at last, we sighed with relief. We were booked for Peoria, and the first night there we were actually permitted to go to our hotel and right to bed after the night performance at the local theater. Thank goodness, we figured, Carrier at last had decided to treat us like decent human beings. Then came disillusionment, and in a big way. Carrier left us in charge of a former movie usher named Kirby, while he went on ahead to the next town to arrange our booking. Kirby came to our dressing room after a roadhouse performance, and told us some "very fine gentlemen" requested the honor of our presence at a party. He said there'd be "dancing -- and everything". Now, daily driving of several hundred miles in a flivver, over any prolonged period of time, is wearing enough on anyone. But throw in a couple or three performances a day, small town, second-rate-hotel good, and lumpy beds, and you can imagine just how exhausted we were.
... One of my closest friends on the trip was leaning over the bar of probably the fifth speakeasy we visited that night, when, all of a sudden, one of the "nice gentlemen" sneaked up behind her, and, before she could turn around, bit her on the buttocks. The bite will leave a mark for life. She screamed with pain, and the rest of us rushed to her assistance. She was really suffering. But the gangsters were not at all impressed. They howled at the grand joke, and the culprit, feeling himself a hero, leaned over to my friend and soothed her thus: "Gee, that tasted good, Honey! Now let me bite the other side!" That was the longest night I ever experienced. It seemed to me it never would come to an end. And I don't believe I ever was so happy as when I crawled into my dingy hotel bed just about dawn.
August 27-30: Charleston, WV
|the eight MidWest contestants -- KS, KY, WV, ID, IL, MO, IA, AR -- the family of Miss WV Mildred Fetty confirmed her presence in the photograph|
|8/27 - WV|
Beauties Will Fill Kearse Engagement.
En route to Atlantic City where they will participate in the national beauty pageant early in September, the winners of eight state beauty contests will fill a three-day engagement, beginning Sunday, at the Kearse theater.
The state champions are Miss West Virginia (Miss Mildred Fetty, of Clarksburg), Miss Illinois, Miss Idaho, Miss Arkansas, Miss Kansas, Miss Kentucky and Miss Missouri.
Three appearances will be made at the theater on Sunday, and two appearances on both Monday and Tuesday.
[Note, it mentions eight but then lists only seven states; it is missing Miss Iowa.]
The following newspaper items found are advertisements, thought to have required extra lead-time for photographic set-up, and therefore not as up-to-date as this earlier article.]
|8/27 - WV|
Featuring Miss Mildred Fetty as Miss West Virginia
And 11 other bonafide state winners en route to Atlantic City to compete for the title of Miss America.
Miss Illinois, Miss Washington DC, Miss Missouri, Miss North Carolina, Miss Idaho, Miss Virginia, Miss Arkansas, Miss Kansas, Miss Kentucky, Miss Kansas, Miss Iowa, Miss Ohio.
Appearing in Evening Clothes and Bathing Suits.
Entertaining You With Songs and Dances.
Note: This stage attraction will be here only 3 days: Today, Monday, Tuesday only. Starting Today at 1:00 p.m.; doors open at 12:45. Kearse - where sound is best.
[Note: This ad includes four contestants who do not appear in the papers in the next couple of days: Washington DC, North Carolina, Virginia and Ohio! It is not thought that these four joined the seven MidWest contestants; it is assumed that the ad copy had to be photoset prior to the article copy above, and the article which mentions only eight (the seven MidWest plus WV) is the most up-to-date. The other four contestants did compete in Atlantic City.]
|8/28 - WV|
And On The Stage: 2:45 and 9:00
America's Most Beautiful Bathing Beauties Appearing on our Stage In Person
These foremost beauties, each the winner of her state-wide contest, have joined together and are on their way to the Atlantic City National Beauty Pageant To compete for the title of Miss America
Miss West Virginia, Miss Idaho, Miss Kentucky, Miss Iowa, Miss Missouri, Miss Colorado, Miss Illinois, Miss Arkansas, Miss Nevada, Miss Kansas, Miss Oklahoma
Doors Open at 12:45... Show Starts at 1:00... Kearse -- where the sound is best
It is noteworthy that the August 27-30 newspaper ads in Charleston, WV have conflicting reports of the number of contestants expected -- the first ad mentions 12 while the ads for the next two days mention 11, but a different 11. Only the first ad of three mentions Washington, DC, North Carolina, Virginia and Ohio, and while these contestants were in Atlantic City, it is not thought they were in West Virginia at the end of August since the later two ads and the newspaper report do not include them. That first ad does not mention Colorado and Nevada, but the ads for the next two days do; neither CO or NV had contestants in Atlantic City. Miss Oklahoma is also mentioned in the latter two ads, and she is a contestant in Atlantic City; curiously, she was in St. Louis briefly three weeks previously for the christening of the new railroad car.
It is also noteworthy that none of these papers mention Miss Indiana, Mary Frances Lininger, who was married September 1st. Although Lillian Kroener mentioned in her exposé that Carrier had suggested Indiana as a possible state she ended up as Miss Illinois, and there apparently was never a replacement for Lininger. Apparently Carrier knew in July that Lininger had pulled out of the Pageant and Tour.
It is thought that the ad copy needed to be typeset in advance, while the article which required no such lead-time would have more current information, so the eight contestants mentioned on the August 27 article would be correct -- which excludes Miss Oklahoma, who is also missing from the photo of the eight in furs that includes Miss West Virginia.
It should also be noted that the first day's newspaper for Atlantic City mentioned 35 contestants were expected, while their list of states only had 31 entries -- throughout the whole summer there must have been contestants dropping out. It is known that Indiana, Florida and Texas had chosen state queens who had at one time been expected in Atlantic City; clearly there were others.
Miss Illinois Lillian Kroener's Romantic Movie Stories exposé -- After two weeks of one-day jumps, we finally arrived in Baltimore, and were immediately pushed into a parade. We wanted to clean up a bit and change our clothes, so we asked what hotel we were stopping at. Our new manager told us a lovely apartment had been rented for us instead. What an apartment! Well, at least the vermin liked it. It was the filthiest hole I've ever seen. There were no pillow slips on the dirty pillows, no towels. The furniture consisted of a dilapidated bed and a chair in each room, plus something that might have been a table -- once upon a time.
... When we complained, we were angrily told that hotel rates in so large a town were too high to spend on girls like us. What could we do? Make the best of it? We tried. We asked for our luggage, hoping to freshen ourselves a bit. But our bags were missing. The last hotel we had stayed in, in West Virginia, was holding them for failure to pay our bill. So we went out and joined the parade. By that time our white satin banners were grimy as dust cloths. We certainly looked like a bunch of youthful hags. And there we were, filthy, unhappy, parading to the strains of stirring music, while the crowds cheered the "most beautiful girls in America"!
We had to parade down a runway, built to bring our bodies nearer to the human gorilla audience. The mob was ribald. They hooted and whistled, and yelled embarrassing wisecracks. The climax came when one of the men, the most unsavory-looking male I've ever seen, tried to reach up to the runway to grab my leg. The house screamed its appreciation as he bellowed: "Gee, Baby. I'd give fifty bucks cash for you." Then he turned to the stage director and yelled: "That's my baby -- wrap her up. Here's the fifty."
|9/6-9/9 newspapers nationwide -- taken early September|
Given that the picture includes only MidWest contestants, it is assumed that this was part of the Whistle Stop Tour. Given that the Pageant started September 5, it is assumed that this picture was taken the beginning of September. It is not known if the contestants toured Washington, DC or if this was simply taken in the suburb of Chevy Chase where the MidWest contestants are known to have performed. The only contestant known to have visited Washington, DC was Miss Wisconsin who with her chaperone made a special trip after the Pageant ended and was received in the White House Oval Office by President Roosevelt!
September 4: Chevy Chase, MD
|9/4 - MD|
Chevy Chase Lake, Tonight Only!
America's Loveliest Bathing Beauties
Each of the Winners in Her Own State in a Beauty Parade
Select your own "Miss America - 1933"
Adm., 25¢; 10¢ a Dance
It is possible that other states joined the MidWest ones for this event on the way to Atlantic City. However, it is not thought that all 31 contestants were participants in the Chevy Chase, MD "Beauty Parade"; the Atlantic City newspapers mention that "Beauty Train special" arrived in the city from Philadelphia, and Miss Wisconsin told me she first met the other contestants in Philadelphia.
Note that the 10¢ a dance confirms the practices mentioned in Miss Illinois; exposé; it is not clear how common the practice of dancing with strangers at a dime a dance was on the Tour.
September 5: Philadelphia, PA
Miss Illinois Lillian Kroener's 1936 Romantic Movie Stories exposé -- Eventually, after almost seven weeks of horror, of traveling without proper good and rest and proper accommodations, of marching in silly parades and dancing at low dives, our bedraggled group arrived in Philadelphia on September 5, 1933. We were complete wrecks. Our clothes were filthy, our morale gone, and we looked like something out of a soup-kitchen, rather than like the most beautiful girls in America.
September 5: Atlantic City, NJ
The contestants arrived in Atlantic City for the Pageant in the afternoon, leaving from Philadelphia. The September 5th Atlantic City Atlantic City newspaper said a "collection of blondes, brunettes and red heads, will assemble in Broad Street Station, Philadelphia, this morning, and the beauty special will leave at 11:55 a.m." "The American Beauty Special train will arrive at the Pennsylvania-Reading Railroad Station at South Carolina avenue at 1:20 p.m. to mark the opening of the eighth edition of the revived Atlantic City Pageant." The September 6th Atlantic City newspaper says that "Several of the girls came to this city via a seven weeks vaudeville tour and are now old campaigners." (Atlantic City is over 175 miles from Chevy Chase.)
Sep 12, 1933 article by Atlantic City Judge Gladys Glad's husband, Mark Hellinger in The Lowell, MA newspaper article:
. . . "Tough Racket on Road.
The last girl is one of seven in the pageant who've just been through a heartbreaking experience. For almost two months these seven girls have been touring the sticks in an act called "The Pageant Beauties." They have slept in tenth-rate hotels, worked in the cheapest theatres and night clubs, and have had some terrifying experiences.
And for all this they received exactly nothing! It would give them, they were told, an opportunity to learn show business. More, they would see the country. More it meant a lot of publicity. And still more, they would all receive wardrobes and offers of jobs when they arrived at Atlantic City.
They have received no wardrobes and no jobs. I asked one of them why she didn't demand some money for playing four and five shows a day. She said she had asked for some -- but they refused to give her any on the ground that such an act would automatically make her a professional beauty! . . . " see full article
Note: There has been no ad(s) found that would indicate the beauties ever did four or five shows in one day. However, they did perform three times on Sunday in Charleston, WV, and it is certain they did in several other towns on the Tour; even Lillian's exposé only mentions three shows a day. As part of a Vaudeville act, they would have been but one short segment of a show and not a complete show. It is certain that they made no money (9/12 Tyrone, PA newspaper), and that they did stay in less-than-fine hotels (confirmed by Miss Illinois in her exposé where she states "finally a decent hotel" about the Ritz-Carlton in Atlantic City). To date, the families of these seven MidWest contestants who participated on the entire 7-week tour have not been located or have had no additional stories to tell, so it is not certain if all would describe the Tour as containing "terrifying experiences." However, it is likely that the expectation of all was to be treated like princesses and to be afforded great show business opportunities, so probably all were quite disappointed in the reality of the Tour.
This summary of the Whistle Stop Tour is incomplete. It is hoped that as more newspapers are digitized, more small town newspaper ads will be found to at least confirm an itinerary of the tour.
Definition of "flivver" from Wikipedia -- The Ford Model T (colloquially known as the Tin Lizzie, Flivver, T-Model Ford, or T) is an automobile that was produced by Henry Ford's Ford Motor Company from September 1908 through May 1927.
|a 1933 train.|
A whistlestop or whistlestop tour is a style of political campaigning where the politician makes a series of brief appearances or speeches at a number of small towns over a short period of time. Originally, whistlestops were conducted from the open platform of an observation car or a private railroad car. -- Wikipedia
No description of the Tour would be complete without mentioning the organizer of the event, Jimmy Carrier, and his role in the selection of the seven as contestants. Of these seven MidWest contestants, four were the ones disqualified at the pageant: Arkansas was married and Iowa, Illinois and Idaho all had residency issues. Furthermore, it should be noted that these four contestants were the only ones disqualified at Atlantic City. Additionally, Missouri and Kentucky did not meet the minimum age requirement of 16. The only entrant of the seven who was above reproach was Miss Kansas who met the minimum age requirement and who participated in state beauty contests for the selection process. Although many of the ads for the Tour mention "bonafide" and "winners of state contests", only two of these seven were known to have been selected through state contests -- Kansas and Missouri.
|9/9/1933 NY Daily Mirror, with picture of Miss Kentucky being selected by letter|
It should be pointed out that Jimmy Carrier appears to have been in charge of a huge area; he is known to have been involved with Idaho which is 1800 miles from Chicago (map). It is assumed that he alone could not have handled such a large area; perhaps he had assistants who did not follow through. Perhaps out of desperation, he sought out contestants at the prestigious and heavily-publicised "Court of Honor" pageant in Chicago, where Miss Kentucky told her sons she was chosen. Finally, it should be pointed out that Jimmy Carrier did present with credentials. He had been involved with the selection of beauty contestants for at least the prior two (1926 and 1927) contests, and was involved again at least by 1938. He was responsible for the beauty pageants by Universal Theatres that were tied in with the Atlantic City national pageant (see footnotes on the Disqualifications page), probably in a similar way that RKO sponsored the New York contestants. And, many of the MidWest contestants might easily have assumed that the preliminary qualification process was a photographic contest, as it had been with the prestigious and heavily-publicised "Court of Honor" contest for the opening of the Worlds Fair in Chicago. And he apparently had papers from the Miss America Pageant Organization verifying his position as Promotion Director.
No article has been found to present Jimmy Carrier's perspective on the MidWest contestant selections or the Whistle Stop Tour.
Links to the MidWest contestant pages: Miss Arkansas Vivian Ferguson, Miss Idaho Margaret Wittman, Miss Illinois Lillian Kroener, Miss Iowa Eleanor Dankenbring, Miss Kansas Pauline Sayre, Miss Kentucky Lucille Rader, Miss Missouri Marie Marks, Miss West Virginia Mildred Fetty. And a link to Miss Illinois Lillian Kroener's 1936 Romantic Movie Stories exposé, and more information on the disqualification of the four MidWest contestants -- Miss Arkansas Vivian Feguston for being married, and Misses Idaho Margaret Wittman, Illinois Lillian Kroener and Iowa Eleanor Dankenbring for lack of proof of state residency.