Queen title hotly contested at Lake Junaluska
If the Waynesville-Canton football rivalry was the biggest thing going in Haywood County before television came to the mountains, dozens of beauty pagaents tied for second place. Every season young women sought sparkling tiaras on stages, in barns and at area swimming pools as they strutted for every title from Tobacco Queen to Miss Ramp Convention.
No pagaent topped the coronation of Queen of Lake Junaluska, and one of the most complete records of that era is the scrapbook of Miss Frances H. Cobb of Macon, Georgia, Queen of Lake Junaluska in 1950.
The July 26, 1950 edition of Ms. Maud Turpin's mimeographed "Assembly Daily" explained election rules: "Voter must have 2-wks grounds ticket. Voting Place: Boat House. Nominee must be at least 18 years old and have been a resident at the Lake at least a month prior to nomination. All nominations must be in by midnight of Aug. 4, to Paul Betsill at the Boat House. Election, Aug. 8. Polls 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. at Boat House Bring your grounds ticket when you come to vote."
The Assembly Daily was delivered to Junaluska residents every day by "little Carl Mundy," who grew up to be Gen. Carl E. Mundy, Jr., Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Campaigning for queen in 1950 had really heated up by the Aug. 5 newsletter, which printed an editorial poem:
WHO IS CLAUDIA? Who is she?
Will she our next queen be?
Maybe Betty Anne, up on the hill
Junaluska's throne will fill.
Could be Frances, House of Cobb,
We'll elect to do this job.
Then there's Barbara, fair and tall,
Will she get most votes of all?
There's the slate, now make your choice.
Elect a Queen by people's voice.
Rouse all the voters you can muster;
Elect a Queen of Junaluska.
The winner, Frances Cobb, was sponsored by the Lake Junaluska Soda Shop managed by her boyfriend Jim W. Hart and his brother Joe. Other candidates that year were Barbara Ann Caruther of Tallahassee, Florida, sponsored by the Terrace Hotel; Claudia Vincent, sponsored by employees of the Boat House, from Dillon, South Carolina; and Betty Anne Robinson of Raleigh, whose sponsor was Lambuth Inn.
The August 7, 1950 edition of The Waynesville Mountaineeer tauted the next day's election: "...It has all the earmarks of a typical primary in Haywood, with interest and campaigning running at a high pitch."
It even had a mule 'speaking' for Frances Cobb.
"We had some local boys coming in almost every afternoon and their family had a mule somewhere, so when they came in near the election to get their big orange, we arranged to have the mule brought to the front of the Soda Shop and tied to a tree," the Rev. James W. Hart said with a laugh during a recent interview. "We billed it as Francis the Talking Mule. We also put a blinking sign across the street asking people to vote for Frances."
The Assembly Daily described it this way: "MOVIE STAR VISITS JUNALUSKA. In a personal appearance here, Francis the Talking Mule praised the looks of things here, though in his opinion, not comparable to his native Tennessee. 'Yes, I won World Wars 1 & 2,' he said modestly, 'but,' he hee-hawed, 'If there should be World War 3, I shall not attend. Not exciting enough. I like something lively, like the election of a Queen of Junaluska. That's why I'm here today.' "
The Soda Shop's napkins were embossed in gold with "VOTE FOR FRANCES COBB" as were pink matchbooks and campaign pocket cards. Yellow flyers had a photo of the pretty playground director's photograph on them and "Elect Frances Cobb, A Loyal Junaluskan for our QUEEN." According to the Assembly Daily, "...Claudia's name floats from the Boat House; Betty Anne's supporters are covering Mission Hill with enticing ads of her charms. A rally at the Terrace will recommend the advantage of the 'Tiara for Barbara' to the accompaniment of refreshments and a community sing. The gals are pretty and talented."
Few queens lived year-round at Lake Junaluska. Among them were Lucille Phillips and Sylvia Camlin. A contender familiar to Mountaineer readers is Lucy Adams who writes about the origins of hymns. She was nominated twice for the honor but settled for participating in the queen's court.
Frances Cobb won in 1950 and newspapers from as far away as St. Petersburg, Florida, reported it. Columnist Paul A. Davis had this to say:
"...There was great ceremony in connection with the event. Chief Junaluska of the Cherokee tribe, was impersonated,and roamed aout the assembly giving high approval to the whole proceedings...boys and girls dressed in Indian costumes acted as escorts, train bearers, maids of honor and so forth...Queen Frances wore a lovely white satin gown with bustle, and Miss Mary Holler, Columbia, S.C. retiring queen, placed the crown on the new queen's head. After it was all over Mrs. Cobb gave a reception to the queen's court numbering more than 100."
Chief Junaluska was portrayed by Jim Hart.
Queens often wore coronation regalia as majestic as wedding gowns. According to The Waynesville Mountaineer's lengthy account of the 1950 ceremonies, "...the queen was lovely in a long white satin gown fashioned with bustle back. The plain bodice had a sweetheart neckline and Elizabethton collar. The long sleeves came in to a point over the hand, and a court train lined with rose taffeta fell from the shoulders."
The official Coronation Ball was held at the old Piedmont Hotel on Eagle's Nest Road.
Jim Hart remembers it well.
"I gave Frances an engagement ring at her Coronation Ball," Hart said. "I think she knew she was going to get it. We were already penned." Hart had earlier shown a visitor one of Frances's college textbooks where she had practiced what her name would look like as "Mrs. James W. Hart."
Through the years, interest in beauty contests waned. The Queen of Junaluska is now but a memory, and the reason depends upon who tells the tale. In its day, the summer political season leading up to the election of the Lady of the Lake rivaled any at the County Courthouse.