The Little Miss America Pageant

 

The following is a brief excerpt from the book Palisades Amusement Park: A Century of Fond Memories by Vince Gargiulo…

One of the most popular pageants, Little Miss America, debuted in 1961. Girls between the ages of five and ten were judged on the basis of beauty, charm, poise, and personality. These productions attracted thousands of stage mothers from every corner of the country to drag their little beauties to Palisades. Six thousand girls came each week to compete; add to this the mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, and uncles who came to watch, and it’s not surprising that long lines of patrons would wind around the Park.
palisadespark.com

When I was five my mother entered me in the Little Miss America pageant. This was back in the day when a Black girl didn’t stand a chance, let alone a Black girl with four missing front teeth. I wanted to do it because I knew from the commercial that one of the prizes was all the Barbie dolls you could ever want. The tryouts took place at Palisades Amusement park in New Jersey. I’ll never forget lining up with all those other five year olds and for the first time actively thinking that I was not enough. My purple flowered sheer blouse with matching pants and black patent leather shoes seemed quite nice when I was at home but now it seemed like every girl had on a cuter outfit. When it was time to leave my mother and follow the line with other girls I thought I would die. I thought she was coming with me. We were shuffled onto a stage and given numbers to hold across our chest. We paraded around the stage while the audience cheered. Even at that age, I knew to try to make it look good so I flashed my tooth less smile and sauntered around until my number got called. I had made it to round two. I did it. Maybe I did have have a chance after all. All week I dreamt of being Little Miss America and that next Saturday I made it to round three. I made it all the way to the finals and I’ll never forget standing on the stage while some guy who looked liked Wayne Newton sang as we paraded around. I waited for my number to get called. 4032, it should be coming any minute. 4067, 4235. 4022. wait a minute I don’t hear my number. And then wayne Newton said “And that’s it ladies and gentleman all the finalists of the little Miss America Pageant. Aren’t they lovely?” And then he started singing but I couldn’t hear him. My world was silent. I looked out into the audience and saw my mother, the sun was in her eyes and she appeared to be frowning. My father was crying and I -was dying.

It wasn’t until 30 years later that I brought the pageant up to my father. I told him it always made me sad to think that my losing made him cry. He said “I wasn’t crying because you lost, I could care less about the pageant. I was crying because you looked looked so sad.” I flashed my biggest smile at him. “At least now you have teeth” he said.

Listen to the little Miss America jingle at http://www.palisadespark.com/sounds_LMA.html

Little Miss America
(c) Spiral Record Corp. Perfromed by Frankie Michaels

Little Miss America
Little Miss America

Like a candy box all wrapped in bows,
With a button nose, cute as she can be.
Everywhere she goes, everybody knows…
Little Miss America is she.

Seems April skies are in her eyes,
A living doll that talks smiling as she walks.

May she stay somehow sweet as she is now.
Little Miss America take a bow.

Instrumental

Seems April skies are in her eyes,
A living doll that talks smiling as she walks.

May she stay somehow sweet as she is now.
Little Miss America take a bow.

 

 

 

 

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