SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif — Beauty pageants gained popularity in America in the 1950s. The Miss America pageant was appointment television, and everyone gathered around to hear Bert Parks sing “There she is... Miss America.” Little girls dreamed of growing up and wearing the crown. These file cards from the News 8 archives show just how prolific pageants were in their heyday.
That’s a lot of princesses and queens! Even a dairy princess…you’ll see the 1965 winner coming up.
Hometown gal Mrs. Marilyn Mitchell reluctantly agreed to be in the Mrs. California pageant in 1963. She was a 35-year-old homemaker with three children. She was nominated by the San Diego Women’s Club Juniors. She couldn’t believe she won Mrs. California and she was absolutely stunned when she won the National title. Legendary News 8 newsman Harold Keen interviewed her children Kirk, Rodney, and Shelley. They confirmed that she was a good cook and was involved in their activities.
Miss San Diego beauty queen finalists in 1966
February 20, 1966: The excitement was heightened as the preliminaries to the Miss San Diego contest entered their last few hours. Ten finalists were selected to compete for the title March 19 at the Community Concourse. 31 contestants were on hand at the Grant Hotel that day, parading before the judges in formal gowns and participating in the talent portion of the contest. This is the most important half of the preliminaries for the girls, since talent counts toward 50% of each contestant’s score. The acts run the gamut from dramatic readings to dancing and baton twirling. 21-year-old Kathy Marino of San Diego State sang a tune from South Pacific. The reigning Miss San Diego Darlee Hassman and her predecessor, Darice Tippets were among the judges listening and watching the girls compete. Among the first acts on stage was 18-year-old Mary Jorgenson, who listed her talent as violin playing.
Mrs. America 1963
There were several pageants in the 1960s and News 8 was there to cover many of them! Miss California arriving in San Diego, the Miss Teen Southern California pageant with actor Sal Mineo handing out trophies, and the Dairy Princess are seen in this video. You may notice a more recent familiar voice as News 8’s Marcella Lee read the original scripts that were written for these stories. The word “pretty” is used a lot. It really adds authenticity to our vintage stories, and since much of the film is silent, it helps to add voice tracks.
Beauty Queens of the 1960s
Fast forward to the 1990s -- and Fairest of the Fair Miss San Diego County 1997, Gianna Suter. Gianna said there were a lot of benefits -- meeting celebrities, people in the community, children, and the best part of it was the scholarship opportunities. Gianna is from Chula Vista and is now a traffic reporter for the CBS affiliate in San Francisco KPIX.