YOU CAN MEASURE THE SIZE OF MY BREASTS BUT...NOT THE SIZE OF MY HEART.
If you aren’t interested in Miss Arkansas Pageant Trivia, you can skip this post but… If you’re still reading…allow me to share a few personal facts—facts that make me proud to have won the 1958 Miss Arkansas title.
Officially, I was the first Miss Arkansas selected under the Miss America Pageant Committee’s official guidelines. Historically-speaking, I was also the first Miss Arkansas crowned at Oaklawn Race Track in Hot Springs. In fact, I was probably the FIRST beauty queen ever crowned—like a horse—on a race track!
In 1958, the city of Hot Springs didn’t have an auditorium large enough to accommodate pageant crowds so creative minds developed a plan to utilize the race track’s expansive grounds, parking, and grand-stand seating. Quite appropriately, the pageant’s professional stage and ramp were built at the race track’s finish line. Dressing rooms were located beneath the large stage and equipped with make-up tables, mirrors, clothes racks, makeshift bathrooms, circulating fans, everything but air conditioning.
I won both competitions—talent and swimsuit—in my weeklong quest to be Miss Arkansas, another “first.” The night I won the talent competition the famed Metropolitan Opera star, Marjorie Lawrence, was in the audience. (Soon after winning the title, I accepted Ms. Lawrence’s invitation to study voice at her Hot Springs Ranch called Harmony Hills.)
Two nights later, it was time to compete in the swimsuit competition. With the little girl in me using the power of pretend/playtime, I confidently modeled my swimsuit in front of the judges and the audience. Completing my final pivot—I left the stage, relieved to have the swimsuit competition over.
Backstage, my competitors waited around in their swimsuits, each hoping to be the night’s swimsuit winner but-- confident that the night’s swimsuit winner wasn’t me-- I began changing into my gown for the finale. A chaperone was zipping my gown when the pageant’s master of ceremonies began the closing ceremony and everyone heard the name SALLY MILLER. What?!?!? Someone grabbed my arm and began removing my gown while someone else handed me the swimsuit, screaming “Hurry, get upstairs, they’re waiting for you!”
Hands reached out to smooth my hair, help with a high-heel, blot my makeup, and push me back on stage. When the spotlights found me, I automatically smiled, despite my confusion. The reigning Miss America placed a trophy in my arms and I heard the exploding applause but it was only when the current Miss Arkansas began attaching a banner to my swimsuit that I realized--Yes! I am tonight’s winner in swimsuit competition!
Later, my daddy remarked “Those spotlights were your best friends. When you stood in front of the judges, the shadows hit you in all the right places."
One day after winning the Miss Arkansas title, I enjoyed a few minutes alone with my father. Still emotional from the night before, he said “Times like these you want to freeze the moment, stay young forever; you wish time would simply stand still and never move beyond the good feelings.”
I never wanted to be Miss Arkansas for more than one year but I wanted the good feelings and my Daddy to last forever.
Life can be a heartless teacher. After endless hurts, disappointments, and the loss of my Father, I learned that good feelings and good people seldom last.