This photo from the Gazette’s files shows the “queen's guards,” who were part of the city’s centennial celebration in 1935.
A story in the July 1, 1935, Janesville Gazette described the guards as “10 popular Janesville girls” who were part of the Centennial Queen contest. The same edition announced that “Dark, petite, and vivacious, Miss Maxine Fisher, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. C. E. Fisher of Ruger Avenue” had won the contest with—wait for it—6,237,200 votes.
We are not making that up. The second-place winner, Miss Ruth Schmidt, received a paltry 5,182,300 votes.
Miss Fischer won her choice of a trip to Bermuda or the West Coast.
“I’m so thrilled I can hardly talk,” she told the newspaper.
The votes were tallied on a Sunday night, and despite her new celebrity, the 19-year-old was back at work at Parker Pen on Monday morning.
After much hunting through the archives, I discovered that local merchants sponsored the contest. For every $1 spent at a local store, a customer got 100 tickets to vote for the queen.
The Centennial Queen contest was a small part of the four-day celebration of the city’s 100th anniversary.
Ceremonies opened with the “firing of an aerial bomb” at 10:30 a.m. July 2, 1935. Testimonials to Carrie Jacobs Bond, Ella Wheeler Wilcox and Frances Willard followed.
At 8:30 p.m., organizers put on a “historical pageant" at Monterey Stadium with—again, wait for it—750 cast members. The 1930 U.S. Census put Janesville’s population at 21,628. That means about 3.5% of the population was involved in the event.
Other events included choir concerts, swimming and diving tournaments at Goose Island (now Traxler Park), a horseshoe tournament with an exhibition by a world champion horseshoe thrower, a salute of 13 aerial bombs to celebrate the 13 original states, the Goodyear Blimp at the fairgrounds and an appearance by Gov. Robert La Follette.
An attempt was made to host a professional baseball game between the Cleveland Indians and the White Sox, but that apparently fell through. Instead, the Madison Blues played the Colored American Giants of Chicago at Riverside Park.