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ani, glitter

Remembering Court Director Bob Hanzen and Serving on the 1961 Court

We were the 1961 Rose Festival Court. To this day we remain friends, in part due to our court director, Bob Hazen, the first person who greeted us at each of our high schools. Little did we know that this voice we recognized from a Portland children's radio show, "The Squirrel Cage" would become task master, mentor and cheerleader for our personal and civic lives -- not only during the Rose Festival, but in our future years. He leaned on us to build character, courage and a bit of fearlessness. He succeeded.

Back in 1961, each high school would select a May Court. Then the entire school voted from the girls on this court to select the Rose Festival Princess. We didn't apply for the position, so it was often unexpected -- we were dazed to be so honored, quickly catching our breath. Within an hour we were whisked downtown to television interviews where we tried to answer questions such as, "This morning the United States invaded Laos -- do you have an opinion on that?" The outside world had arrived fast! For weeks we would field questions about the Viet Nam build up, the Cold War, the Cultural Revolution in China and so on. Just like today, 1961 was a complicated time...

Right off Bob told us we were a team -- that there would be no losers, only winners. Being on time was almost being late. Two Princesses shared one white convertible while within Portland, and the drivers -- who were from the only all-boys school, Benson -- picked us up each morning. Off we'd go to get dressed at the old Multnomah Hotel [Court headquarters for many years]. Bob then transported us all over the state, walking us into the offices of the governor, congressmen, mayors and into board rooms, banks, hospitals, schools and service clubs. We'd greet and host visitors, among them Connie Stevens, Lorne Greene (from "Bonanza"), other courts (including the Pendleton Roundup Court) and the Canadian Hockey team. Connie Palmer was our wonderful chaperone -- and she laughed and cried with us as we matured to meet the pressure.

What we learned from those few weeks was invaluable for our future lives. Suddenly no boundaries existed between those in powerful positions and us -- these were all good and approachable people. We learned we could walk in any door and express ourselves. We were not intimidated and our confidence grew. If Bob thought we were great and could do it, we figured we could -- and the more we did the better we became.

We were the first court not to have the Coronation in Multnomah Stadium (now PGE Park). Our Coronation was held at the Memorial Coliseum, and was a scary place with 10,000 people in attendance! Our year was the last time the "hoop" formals were worn, and we had to keep our balance on a jerky rotating stage. Only later would we realize that we were learning grace under pressure. The following week of the actual festival was wonderful.

Six years ago Bob invited our court to his home in Palm Desert. When we'd all arrived, he said, "Okay, do you remember what I taught you?" We all replied, "Pay Yourself First!" -- meaning take care of yourselves so you can help others. In finance terms, for every dollar earned put some into savings. He was ahead of the times in training girls to become independent and self-sufficient.

There were eleven of us and some in Portland still share in a book club.

We never felt demeaned by being called Princesses -- the title simply meant that besides being good students with career and college pressures looming, we had briefly entered an imaginary Camelot.

This year is the 100th anniversary of the Rose Festival. Sadly Bob Hazen died just a few months ago. He was truly a wind beneath young fledglings' wings.

We congratulate the festival for the excitement about the coming anniversary.

~The 1961 Court