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Beauty pageants were popular, regular events at Ashland's natatorium in the 1930s when this photo was taken. Many locals recall that Edith and Al Willslatter continued the tradition in the 1960s. (Southern Oregon Historical Society photo No. 1931)

As It Was: Miss America attended the Jackson County Fair

Miss America attended the Jackson County Fair in 1958. The Kiwanian-sponsored fair primarily featured a 4-H and FFA livestock show and staged events at the adjoining Medford Armory.

Miss America (Marilyn Van Derbur) walked through the barns and talked with club members and graciously opened the largest livestock auction ever held at the fair. Long-time auctioneer Bill Bray even loaned her his famous old claw-hammer gavel.

The following night, both she and Miss Oregon, Mary Ellen Vinton, crowned the new Miss Jackson County, Pat Rushton.

Rushton was already Miss Jaycee and Queen of the Rogue Valley Roundup. Her quick sketch of the fair manager pleased the crowd. There were nearly 1,000 people in attendance and the three beauty queens signed autographs for long lines of admirers.

Van Derbur many years later became a spokeswoman for victims of child sexual abuse, and revealed she had been abused for more than a decade by her own father.

Sources: Miss America 1958 Marilyn Van Debur. Pageant Center, Web. 11 June 2013. http://pageantcenter.com/pageant%20titleholders/marilyn_van_derbur.html; “Pat Rushton Named As County Queen.” Medford Mail Tribune 25 Aug. 1958: Print; “Beauty Queens Appearing Today.” Medford Mail Tribune 24 Aug. 1958: Print. As It Was is a co-production of Jefferson Public Radio and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. As It Was stories are broadcast weekdays on Jefferson Public Radio and are available online at asitwas.org.

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