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From Days Past...Know Mississippi Better Train and how a local woman became Queen for a Day

November 13, 2010

For the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum

Know Mississippi Better Train

Governor Henry L. Whitfield called a mass meeting in Jackson, MS in 1925 with the object of the meeting to “adopt some plan whereby the opportunities, possibilities and resources of Mississippi might be effectively presented to the outside world.”
Mississippians from 26 counties attended. Lieutenant Governor, Dennis Murphree proposed a plan of “The Know Mississippi Better” Train, a special train to carry representatives of Mississippi, exhibits of Mississippi resources, literature, and public speakers to visit across the country proclaiming Mississippi. The plan was adopted.
The original trip was such a pronounced success that the personnel of the party voted unanimously to continue the enterprise, which it did for many years. Sixteen hundred of Mississippi’s best citizens are enthusiastic “alumni” of this recognized statewide institution. It traveled more than ninety thousand miles or approximately three times around the world.
The “Know Mississippi Better Train” was the longest Pullman Special Train in the world. It was the last word in travel luxury. Nearly all of its cars were Drawing Room and Compartment cars and was air-conditioned. Two air-conditioned dining cars furnished the finest meals available.
Each year a comprehensive exhibit of Mississippi products was carried and shown to multiple thousands of people. Personnel was annually selected with care and only representative citizens were accepted. For the 1937 trip, 300 Mississippians applied for reservations “after” all reservations had been awarded. “It was one of the most effective messengers of Good Will and a permanent and pronounced success.”
The “Know Mississippi Better Train,” inaugurated in 1925 but was called off during the war. It resumed in 1946 when more than 200 goodwillers begin a two-week special train tour through the West. Dennis Murphree, former lieutenant governor and governor, was in charge. Twelve states and Victoria Canada were visited. The last train was in 1948.

Queen For A Day

The Queen For a Day show opened with host Jack Bailey asking the audience—mostly women—”Would YOU like to be Queen for a day?” After this, the contestants were introduced and interviewed, one at a time, with commercials and fashion commentary interspersed between each contestant.
Using the classic “applause meter,” as did many game and hit-parade style shows of the time, Queen for a Day had its own special twist: each contestant had to talk publicly about the recent financial and emotional hard times she had been through.
Bailey began each interview gently, asking the contestant first about her life and family, and maintaining a positive and upbeat response no matter what she told him. For instance, when a woman said she had a crippled child, he would ask if her second child was “Okay.” On learning that the second child was not crippled, he might say, “Well,
That’s good, you have one healthy child.”
The interview would climax with Bailey asking the contestant what she needed most and why she wanted to win the title of Queen for a Day. Often the request was for medical care or therapeutic equipment to help a chronically ill child, but sometimes it was as simple as the need for a hearing aid, a new washing machine, or a refrigerator. Many women broke down sobbing as they described their plights, and Bailey was always quick to comfort them and offer a clean white handkerchief to dry their eyes.
The harsher the circumstances under which the contestant labored, the likelier the studio audience was to ring the applause meter’s highest level. The winner, to the musical accompaniment of Pomp and Circumstance, would be draped in a sable-trimmed red velvet robe, given a glittering jeweled crown to wear, placed on a velvet-upholstered throne, and handed a dozen long-stemmed roses to hold as she wept, often uncontrollably, while her list of prizes was announced.
The prizes, many of which were donated by sponsoring companies, began with the necessary help the woman had requested, but built from there. They might include a variety of extras, such as a vacation trip, a fully-paid night on the town with her husband or escort, silver-plated flatware, an array of kitchen appliances, and a selection of fashion clothing. The losing contestants were each given smaller prizes; no one went away from the show without a meaningful gift.
Bailey’s trademark sign-off was “This is Jack Bailey, wishing we could make every woman a queen, for every single day!”

Mrs. Stanley (Julia Nash) Carroll of Starkville Becomes Queen For A Day

One of the interesting highlights of our “Know Mississippi Better” train tour was the selection of Mrs. Stanley (Julia Nash) Carroll of Starkville as Queen for a Day in the Jack Bailey radio show in Hollywood on August 9, 1946.’’Mrs. Carroll left home with the thought in her mind that “maybe” she would be selected. However on Thursday before the broadcast, she wired her family: “Be sure and listen in as I have a ticket for the broadcast.”
When the program opened and the man making the selection for contestants saw Mrs. Carroll with that expectant look on her face, he asked her, “What would you like to do if you were selected Queen for a Day?”
Without a moment’s hesitation she answered, “I would like to talk over the radio and tell my folks back home how wonderful you people in California are.” She was selected as one of the 5 participants.
She was the second one called to the microphone by Jack. After some of his familiar chatter and laughter, he asked her: “What do you people back in Mississippi do?” Without a moment’s hesitation Mrs. Carroll replied, “We dairy and raise cotton and corn.”
“Dairying! What is that?” asked Jack Bailey.
“Milking cows.”
“Do you milk?” the master of ceremonies asked.
“No, the help milks the cows,” replied Mrs. Carroll which was followed by an uproar of laughter.
“What do you do?” Jack asked?
“I teach school,” Mrs. Carroll replied.
“How much do you make?”
“$125 per month,” was the reply.
“Is that all, give the lady a $10 bill,” Jack Bailey said to one of his assistants.
During his talking and fun making, he snatched the bill from her making her look foolish for a moment. Continuing his chatter and waving, the $10 in front of Mrs. Carroll, the tables were changed when she grabbed the bill and stuck it down her blouse. This brought the house down and Jack stepped to the edge of the platform and exclaimed, “she put it in the Mississippi bank folks.”
After the other contestants were questioned, the case was handed to a committee of five judges selected from the audience who were unanimous in their choice of Mrs. Carroll. The Mississippi delegation went wild with rebel yells and it was remindful of a touchdown yell at a State-Ole Miss game.
Following the coronation ceremonies, the sponsors, Duz and Alka Seltzer, awarded her gifts. Among the gifts were an electric iron, a vacuum cleaner, an expensive bottle of perfume, an 8 mm movie camera, a chest containing a dozen pair of nylons, a beautiful gold pin in the shape of a crown, a bouquet of American Beauty roses, a tailored suit and accessories to match, a bathing suit, a Ronson table lighter, and several pair of sunglasses to match any dress.
After the presentation of these prizes, she was whisked away in a big limousine with a police escort to a beauty parlor for a hair-do and a facial and from there for a two hour motorized ride. She was guest of Dick Jergens and Lawrence Welk at the Aragon and was honored with a dinner at the Miramar overlooking the Pacific Palisades.

Mrs. Anne Edmonson Aiken, granddaughter, remembers...

I have many fond remembrances of my grandmother. I remember all the talk in the family of the excitement when she was crowned Queen for a Day! One of the prizes she was awarded was a dozen pair of nylons. During this time, nylon was rationed because of the war, so this was quite a gift! She taught the veterans, was a leader in boy scouts, was the KA housemother and was active throughout her life in contributing to society.

Mrs. Rebecca Nash, neighbor, remembers...

It was sooo Mississippi! Listening to her on the radio, her voice sounded so Mississippi and different from the other voices.

Mississippi Department of Archives and History
Robert Weir

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