Once a Miss Marshall, always a Miss Marshall

Friday, June 4, 2010
Lois Hargrove Purcell, the first Miss Marshall County, poses at the Old Rink Emporium with her picture from 1954. Another Miss Marshall County, Pat Taylor, can be seen in the background. In her picture, Purcell holds her trophy, a heavy, silver-plated pitcher that she keeps polished and still uses at her home in Chapel Hill.

She drew number one, so she led the parade of contestants in the first Miss Marshall County pageant in 1954. On July 3, 2010, Lois Hargrove Purcell will be at the head of the line again, walking around the Recreation Center pool, leading a group of past winners.

The Chamber of Commerce has been working hard to locate the winners, and pageant

Committee member Sherri Andrews reports they have found everybody, though not all have agreed to appear.

"It's part of tradition here," co-organizer Susan Hunter said. "It's great to get to see all the former Miss Marshall Counties at the same event."

Pat Taylor, now known for her Startec Satellite business and her involvement in the Goats Music and More Festival, was Miss Marshall County in 1973, the year after she graduated from Marshall County High School. She says this is the second time that she knows they have tried to get all the former Miss Marshall Counties together.

Purcell was 17 years old, about to start her senior year at Forrest, when she entered the first pageant here. It was just a matter of looking elegant in a gown and walking around and around the Rec Center pool while the judges made their choice. There were no "talent" or interview questions, and no swimsuit modeling.

"There would have been old ladies laid out," laughed Purcell, when asked if there was a swimsuit portion of the contest.

Remember, this was 1954, the year that polio vaccine was given to children for the first time and "Rock Around the Clock" was recorded by Bill Haley and the Comets.

"You do make friends," Purcell said of a pleasant byproduct of participating in the pageants. "Some last a lifetime."

Purcell remained involved with pageants for a number of years. Her daughters were pressed into service as flower girls, but the pageant gene skipped a generation and showed up strong in her granddaughter Candice Moss, born in 1983.

"She was a doll," remembers Hunter.

Moss sang at the State Fair when she was three years old, and went on to be crowned Little Miss Tennessee and Little Miss World.

One year, the pre-pageant photographs of Miss Marshall County contestants were taken in Purcell's garden when she lived on West Commerce. She said the girls suffered through a long session of posing in the heat - and then the photographer discovered he had no film in his camera.

Chamber of Commerce organizers are trying to make this year's Fourth of July festivities as "big and grand" as possible "because of the economy," Andrews said.

"It will be a boost for everyone in the County," she added. There will be good entertainment, as well as the pageants, to finish off the full day of activities at the Rec Center.

"Bring your chair and the family, and sit back after a fun-filled day," urges Taylor. "Enjoy the entertainment and feel the excitement of this year's pageant and crowning of Miss Marshall County 2010."