May 3, 2009 - The Lake City Reporter

By H. Morris Williams

The crowning of the local Tobacco Queen used to be the culmination of the summer celebration of the tobacco sales season. Eighteen-year-old Edith McNair got that special honor nearly 50 years ago.

Some of the prettiest, most popular girls, like Edith, were candidates to be selected queen, and some said they preferred to be Tobacco Queen to being Homecoming Queen because there was more prestige - and gifts - to it.

Some of the typical gifts were a wristwatch, a cedar chest, luggage, and a portable radio. Great gifts back then.

Edith McNair won those gifts when she was chosen Tobacco Queen in 1950 at the annual Tobacco Jubilee celebration from among several outstanding contestants like Joann Giebeig, Harriet Frye (of Fort White), Sissy Ives, Joan Wheeler, Betty Johnson, and Jean Noegel.

Becoming Tobacco Queen was indeed a great honor - in fact, the crowning was called a coronation-- and it was also an honor for the person selected to crown the new queen.

For example, Congressman Billy Matthews traveled all the way from Washington, D. C. to crown Queen Faye Revels and Bob Rucker, International Councilor and District Governor of Lions International, traveled a great distance to crown Queen Nan Bodiford.

Almost nobody grows tobacco here anymore since the U.S. Surgeon General found a connection between tobacco use and cancer, so the glorious days of the Tobacco Queens are long gone.

But back before the Surgeon General's findings, tobacco was king in our county - the main cash crop - and many of our most outstanding young ladies were thrilled to be selected Tobacco Queen.


*Ralph and Helena Powers attended President J.F. Kennedy's presidential inauguration in 1961 as special invited guests.

*After Coach Gene Cox's (CHS 1952) funeral service, a man quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson as saying, "An institution is the length and shadow of one man." He then added, "The shadow of Gene Cox will be over Leon High School for many years to come."

*You might have thought that Rev. Herb Brownlee would have been the oldest person in the Mikesville Presbyterian Church the day he preached his sermon on his 92nd birthday but, no, Chloree Bailey, age 98, took that honor.

*Rev. Carson Brittain, Pastor Emeritus of the First Baptist Church, once told me about one of his most faithful members: "He came to church with his ears just itching for a good sermon."

*Friend Ralph Albritton is trying to find where his ancestor, Nancy Sutherland Albritton (Husband Arthur), is buried. The death date would be around 1870 and the cemetery would likely be in North Columbia County, possibly the Oak Grove, Deep Creek, or Hopewell area. If you have information, call me at 386-755-8183 or email Ralph at rallb@comcast.net.

*George R. Graham was our School Supt. from 1929-1936, and his tragic death came up at Bethlehem Lutheran's 150th anniversary last Sunday. In 1942, George died in a fall from a tree while helping with the cemetery cleaning at the church, and he is buried near the spot where he died.

*School Museum thanks go to librarians Delan Etheridge of Fort White Elementary School and Kim Lipthrott of Richardson Middle School for their ongoing help with the preservation of our older museum materials.

*Melrose Park Elementary opened in 1950 and the next year, 1951, the school celebrated the arrival of Spring with its school-wide May Day program, an elaborate tradition that continued more than 40 years.


Have you ever wanted to be in a play? Now may be your chance. The High Springs Community Theater (HSCT) will be holding auditions at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 18, and Tuesday, May 19, at the theater for their next play, "Arsenic and Old Lace".

You can find out more about HSCT, including directions to the audition, by going to www.myhsct.com or call 352-494-0784. So far as the auditions, just show up and "try out." You will be warmly welcomed.


The old Lake Theater, once our town's most beautiful theater, no longer exists, but friend Stanley Fricano remembers this unintentionally humorous wording that once appeared on the large marquee outside the theater, "Now showing: Betty Grable in "Mother wore Tights." Also: "Selected Shorts." square

H. Morris Williams is a local historian and long-time Columbia County resident.