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ani, glitter

She Was a Princess in 1958

The 1950's were a happy family-oriented time, still using many of the manners and social patterns of the first part of the century. The court was described as 'chick' and 'perky,' the 'fairest rose of their high school, a study of charm and beauty.' 'Crisp and pretty in youthful cotton frocks,' the court wore 'Skorts' for sporting occasions, 'glamorous white Arnel separates' and 'boy coats.'

'Charmer white straw Bretons' and white gloves were a must. "Court members made a historic move during Marine Day at Swan Island when they showed their legs," reported The Oregonian.

From mid-May until mid-June, the court was scheduled for costume fittings, interviewed on both radio and television and attended numerous luncheons and festival events -- as well as making hospital visits and dedications. The schedule began each morning when a Benson high student -- accompanied by a Rosarian escort -- arrived at the Princess's home in a white convertible to collect her for the day's activities. (Benson High, a boys' school, traditionally provided the drivers for the court.) During the festival week the day ended with the Princesses and their bouquets of red roses being driven home, often near midnight, in their official cars.

Beginning on Coronation evening, each princess wore a gold mouselline de soie ball gown interwoven with gold thread and designed by William Cahill of Beverly Hills. The skirt of the dress resembled Disney's Cinderella gown. (Disneyland had just recently opened.) The skirt was held in a large circle by a heavy hoop skirt. The challenge of doing the deep princess curtsy in silk high heels was compounded by the huge suction cup effect of the heavy hoop skirt, which fought to hold us in a permanent curtsy!

Coronation night was full of pomp, lavish presentations, and an emergency which didn't stop the show. Each princess rode into Multnomah Stadium on a golf cart, decorated like a slice of cake with pink frosting, which came together to form the birthday cake [for Rose Festival's 50th Anniversary]. Our waving gloves were like the candles. From there, we were driven backstage to enter our seven-foot roses which closed over us before being lifted on stage where the roses would all bloom, showing a princess inside. The emergency came when the waist hook holding one of the princess's heavy hoop skirt gave way. With a wave to the crowd, she was simply driven on her slice of cake to the entrance under the stand where the chaperone and assistant quickly secured the problem. The crowd must have wondered what had happened!

The parade was called the finest in Rose Festival history. June 14, 1958, more than 315,000 people lined the streets on a perfect sunny day. "My," said one of the princesses who had moved to Portland from a smaller Midwest town, "There must have been at least 30,000 people at the parade."

The excitement and cheers from the parade watchers made us unaware of the tiring gloved arms that waved nonstop and our smiles that came from thirsty, sunburned lips. We couldn't have been happier.

After the parade, the day continued with a Festival Center appearance, a stop at the Rose Garden, the nightly Multnomah Stadium show, a stop at a local Ball, and finally the Queen's Ball some ten hours later. Dancing and celebrating, it was a fairytale celebration, and guess what? I also celebrated my 18th birthday at the stroke of midnight!

~Linda (Sloan) Bronson (1958 Princess)