Did You Know My Aunt Was The First Queen of the Frog Jubilee - Part II The Big Weekend
In 1893, the first Calaveras County Fair was held in Copperopolis, CA, by the Angels Camp Fair Board. (Note 19) That was 28 years after the “Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” was published in the New York Weekly Press. By that year, the now-famous Mark Twain had already published The Innocents Abroad (1869), Roughing It (1872), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), Life on the Mississippi (1883), and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885). I am sure that the younger Mark Twain – the one who lived in the cabin on Jackass Hill – was happy to have had that life experience behind him. (Note 2)
Moving forward to May 19th, 1928, a frog jump was planned to help celebrate the paving of Main Street in the City of Angels Camp,. Over 15,000 people arrived on horseback and in wagons, and a few in Model-T Fords. The frog that won that first title (out of 51 entries) was “Pride of San Joaquin.” (Note 5) It jumped 3 feet, 9 inches with handler Louis Fisher of Stockton. From 1928 to 1936, except for 1933 (during the Depression), the frog jump was held as a one-day fair event. (Note 1)
The first eight frog jumps were filled with themes of the Gold Rush era of the mid-1800's, but the ninth celebration was planned as a super extraordinary event -- a first for that region of California. In May of 1937, the Angels Camp one-day frog jump was combined with the County Fair creating a three-day event called The Frog Jubilee. It was this three-day event for which my Aunt Betty was crowned the Belle of the Camp.
Even though the Great Depression was still an influence at that time, the U.S. economy was gaining strength as businesses continued their needed recovery. With the help of the Angels Camp Booster Club and the support of Mr. and Mrs. A.W. Salmonson, the contest directors, and the businesses of Calaveras County, this unique Frog Jubilees gained both local and international support. (Note 3)
Assisting with this new event was a loaned San Joaquin County Fair employee with years of experience in fair management. This arrangement was a win-win because Adele Wilder -- the person loaned -- was a resident of Angels Camp. Together the Fair Committee and Wilder worked to perfect the Calaveras Country Fair. (Note 3) The Fair would include street music and dancing, all kinds of horse and mule races at Stickles’ Race Track outside of town, plus many exhibits that would be set up on Main Street. Prize money of $5000 was to be given to the premier exhibits, and an additional $2000 was set aside for the mineral exhibits. Cattle judging would be held at the racetrack. Other attractions included the Angels Camp Miners Band and locals and visitors dressed in Gold Rush era clothing. (Note 3) To complete the theme, period laundry was cleverly hung across Main Street and attached to building rooftops. This practice was started in 1928, and it was such a cool look that it continued through the years. (Note 6)
On April 28th, 1937, while the Fair directors and committees were working out the final details of the Jubilee on Main Street, the Belle of the Camp contest was already two months along. The first information on the competition was written in the Calaveras Prospect and Citizen weekly newspaper on Feb 27th. The article read, “A great contest to elect a queen to rule as Belle of the Camp for the 9th International Jumping Frog Jubilee will officially start in Calaveras County next Wednesday, March 3rd. It is being sponsored by the Booster Club of Angels Camp and is under the direction of Mr. and Mrs. A. W. Salmonson.” The following were the rules.
- Any young lady residing in Calaveras County between the ages of 14 through 25 may compete.
- The Belle (plus her court) will be elected by votes secured by purchases made in the businesses that participated in the contest, along with the dance tickets sold to the Grand Coronation Ball.
- Stores participating will be recognized by a “Belle of the Camp” card in their windows. A ballot box will be placed in each store where patrons can cast votes for their favorite candidate.
- Anyone can vote by purchasing in businesses with a Belle of the Camp card in their window. Each penny of purchases results in one vote. For example, a $2.00 purchase gives the buyer 200 votes to cast.
- The candidate receiving the most votes from store purchases and dance tickets sold will be the winner and crowned “Belle of the Camp” and will reign as queen over the 3-day celebration. Second place is to be designated as “First Lady in Waiting.” Third place will be the “Second Lady in Waiting.”
- The Grand prize will be $100 cash, a beautiful $50 wardrobe, Belle of the Camp royal robes and crown valued at $50, and a beautiful engraved silver loving cup. Second place will receive a $50 wardrobe and $50 in cash; third place gets a $50 wardrobe; fourth place gets a merchandise order for wearing apparel valued at $40.
As the article continued, it emphasized that this would not be a co-called “beauty contest.” The young ladies nominated would be chosen for their charm, pulchritude and high standing in the County. Because I had no idea what PULCHRITUDE meant, I looked it up on vocabulary.com. The definition read, “beauty; with qualities that give pleasure to the senses.” It seems looks were indeed involved in the selection process.
Because I was like a detective trying to recreate the 9th Frog Jubilee, it was a necessity to find sources to assist me in this quest. The following information would not have been possible without the help of the Calaveras County Historical Society and the Calaveras County Archives. A huge thank you to them!
On Saturday, March 6th, just 3 days into the “Belle” contest, 44 young ladies had been nominated to run for the title “Belle of the Camp.” These young ladies all lived in Calaveras County, which encompassed roughly 8,000 people. Even though the newspaper reported 43 candidates, that number was off by 1. The breakdown of candidates by town was: 18- Angels Camp, 13-San Andreas, 5-Murphys, 4-Copperopolis, 3- Vallecito, and 1-Douglas Flats. (Note 7) Within a week, the top candidate, Viola Stegman of Angels Camp led with 40,000 votes. My aunt was 4th with 39,000. (Note 8) There were 24 names listed that day, and the last place young woman’s vote count was 24, 200.
This same article, entitled, “First Returns on Belle Election,” also listed business participation within the county. Angels Camp was certainly supportive with 34 merchants enrolling. Giriodi’s Drug Store, where my aunt worked, was not listed. Was there a conflict of interest? Moreover, on the day of the Candidates’ Parade, my Aunt Betty was not allowed to leave work early, so my mother, Velda, rode in her place. My 92-year old aunt, Gladys, watched the parade and told me this tidbit. She also told me the rumble within the family was that the Giriodis were favoring another contestant from Angels.
As I accumulated the weekly events highlighting the Belle Contest via the CPCN (Calaveras Prospect and Citizen Newspaper) I read two really interesting short articles which were published on March 27th. The first reported that Phase I of the contest would end on Saturday April 3rd at 8:30 p.m. That was also the day of the Candidates Parade. This article stressed to readers to shop before the deadline so their favorite young lady would benefit from the big bonus – a doubling of whatever votes they had received by the deadline. That article also summarized the vote count which showed Annie Williams of Angels Camp with 100,000 votes, but Viola Stegman was right behind her with 99,500. Aunt Betty was still in 4th with 98,000. The last place contestant had 60,000. Vote credit would now start to accelerate as a dollar purchase would now buy 200 votes. What a clever idea to get people into the stores.
Because CPCN was published weekly and only came out on Saturday, there were two articles in the March 27th edition on the vote count. The second article now had my Aunt in second place with 149,500 votes and Ramona Winkler of San Andreas leading with 150,000 votes. Two were tied for last place with 100,000. It seems the people of the county had been out shopping.
On Saturday, April 3rd at 3:00 p.m., a colorful parade began with all the candidates in their individual convertibles. These convertibles were decorated with streamers and flowers and passed slowly down Main Street in Angels while music played in the background. The parade of vehicles continued 11 miles north to San Andreas where it repeated its display of Belle entrants. On that day, my mother, Velda Cummings, was a stand-in for her older sister Betty. She was a 17-year old senior in high school and was the very definition of pulchritude. And she was known for her fine dancing ability. As a result, Aunt Betty’s vote count continued to move up. (Note 9)
By April 10th, Betty was finally in first place. She had increased her numbers to 250,000. But four other candidates were close behind. Only 500 votes separated her from the second place entrant, Annie Williams. At this point, there were still 14 active contestants, and the last place contender now had 104,000 votes.
Each week in the Calaveras Prospect newspaper, articles appeared with Belle contest updates. On April 17th, the weekly news focused on the contest rules and did not give a vote update. The information stated the bonus would be a penny per vote plus an extra bonus of 70% between April 3rd and April 17th. So now one dollar spent would buy 170 votes. This was a 30% reduction from the earlier bonus, and it would last until April 17th. The contest would continue until April 21st, and those last five days of shopping would not include a bonus.
Aunt Betty’s first place position did not last long. In the next week’s paper, the new list showed she had slipped back into fourth place. Miss Viola Stegman was now the leader with 475,000 and Annie Williams and Ramona Winkler were tied for second with 470,000. My aunt’s count was 468,500. Last place had 200,000 votes. It was like a horse race with the top four running neck-and-neck -- three from Angels Camp and one from San Andreas. These numbers reflected the votes counted late Saturday night, April 17th. (Note 11) The organizers of the contest had been overwhelmed by last minute voting on Wednesday the 21st. The article stated it was an avalanche of votes. It seems a massive number of people had shopped on that last day of the contest to support their candidates.
At 10:00 a.m. on April 21st, the merchant part of the contest ended. The ballot boxes were picked up; the votes inside were counted. No votes were credited after the 10:00 a.m. deadline. However, the Belle contest itself was not over. The focus would then shift to the sale of dance tickets to the Coronation Ball. The Ball was going to be held at 10:00 p.m. in Woods Hall on Main Street of Angels Camp on May 14th. The focus would also be on selling tickets to the races which were to be held at Stickles Racetrack outside of town. The dance and race tickets could only be purchased from the Belle candidates. (Note 11)
Whoever was thinking up the contest rules with Mr. and Mrs. Salmonson had very active imaginations. It was becoming more apparent how a county of only 8,000 residents was able to support their candidates with such a high volume of votes. The dance and race ticket sales would be the key to the super humongous amount of votes gathered.
When the merchant phase ended, the planning for the coronation was well on its way. This affair was to be “the most brilliant and colorful event of the Mother Lode.” (Note 10) The Coronation Ball Committee was busy securing a young starlet from Hollywood to place the crown on the winner’s head. A guard of honor was also to be assembled with members from the American Legion plus young flower girls were being chosen along with heralds. (Note 10) The energy in this small, quaint gold mining town must have been incredible -- like bees buzzing around the hive. I am sure the candidates must have been full of nervous energy wondering if they would be the one winning the queen title.
As the candidates were busy dealing with their ticket sales, one of them – Viola Stegman – was about to graduate from Bret Harte High School (BHHS) in Altaville near Angels Camp. Viola was a very close friend of my mother, Velda Cummings. They were both seniors, and because my mom also rode in the Candidates Parade on April 3rd, I wondered what stories they shared with their classmates those last few weeks of school. I wish I knew.
On May 1st, just two weeks before the big event, the beehive of Angels was full of activity. Not only were there rehearsals going on in Woods Hall with train bearers, flower girls, heralds and honor guards, but there was also a dedication ceremony planned for the new Bazinett Hotel for that evening.
The City Council and the Boosters Club, along with all of their sponsors, must have been as proud as strutting peacocks showing off their brilliant plumage. This little town was not only going to have international recognition in a few weeks with their magnificent frog jubilee, but also their town would be able to show off the new state-of-the-art, 30-room hotel full of modern conveniences like air conditioning and heating as well as hot and cold running water in every room. The rooms had Venetian blinds, attractive drapes, individual telephones, and most had toilets and showers, and some even had baths. The Bazinett Hotel had 118 feet of frontage on Main Street and sat next to the Woods Hall Auditorium where the Coronation Ball would be held. The lobby was Spanish style with rough textured walls and a dramatic wrought iron, open staircase. The ceiling had a beautiful dome-shaped skylight with fitted amber glass. It was truly a beautiful modern building with 12,000 square feet on the main level and 7,500 upstairs on the second floor. Within the walls of this hotel was a barber shop, a beauty shop, a banquet room, public bathrooms and a magnificent mahogany bar in the restaurant called the “Forty-Niner Tap Room” which was adorned with artistic drawings of jumping frogs and the mining industry on the walls. The Bazinett also connected to the drug store where my Aunt Betty worked behind the soda fountain. (Note 12)
When Phase III began, the candidates became responsible for their own destiny. This was “hustle” time. The actual Phase III would end on May 8th, but the sales and vote crediting would last until May 13th. The week with the largest bonus was between May 1 and May 8th. During these days, a 50,600 vote credit would be given on each 10 dance tickets sold to the Ball. (Note 13) After the 8th and till the 13th, credit would only be 25,000 for 10 tickets. So on the day the Bazinett hotel was opened to the public, Aunt Betty would have been right in the middle of all that activity. Having her behind the soda fountain in the drug store in the same building was a major lucky star shamrock. Could this lucky charm have been because of her Scotch-Irish heritage?
As I continued to research the contest and the contest rules, I could not find (nor did anyone I contacted know) the cost of the dance tickets. It had not been written about in the weekly newspaper, nor was it in the archives, but I think a ticket would have been at least 25 cents a dance or $2.50 for 10, but they could have been more. I did, however, find out that race track entry tickets were 50 cents each. (Note 14) The people surrounding the hotel opening would have had the means to purchase a lot of tickets. This was after all an international event, and J. H. Bazinett was a rich San Francisco business man. He was even able to arrange a top Superior Court Judge, J. A. Smith of San Andreas, to officiate over the dedication ceremony. Yes, I am sure Aunt Betty discovered that it was all about location, location, location and thanked her lucky stars on more than one occasion. In the article on the Queen attendants on May 1st , it was mentioned that 12 candidates remained, and Viola Stegman was in the lead with 600,000 votes. Aunt Betty was right on her heals with 590,000, and Annie Williams was third with 585,000 votes. The last place candidate had 200,000. The numbers of the other candidates were close, but the top three were all from Angels Camp.
On May 4th, just days after the grand opening of the Bazinett Hotel, the Angels Boosters Club was meeting at a local inn. At this meeting, the different directors of this first-time Jubilee were busy discussing their events. Topics included parking and traffic flow, the Historical Parade, the street features, and the two days of continual entertainment. The president of the Calaveras County Fair, George Dietz, gave his presentation on the racing events at Stickles Race Track on May 15th. There were a lot of topics and discussions needed to fine-tune the details.
A few weeks earlier in the April 24th weekly, it was written that Phase III would close on May 8th. During the period May 1 through May 8, a 50% bonus would be given on all votes earned during that period. This was very important in the final numbers. For example, if a candidate had sold 300 dancie tickets in that time period, that would mean 30 groups of 10 which would equal 50,600 X 30 or 1,518,000 votes. Then add in the 50% bonus and the total would be 2,308,000 votes. Why were the rules so complicated? Maybe the organizers wanted to give the candidates extra incentive to sell as many tickets as possible so the Coronation Ball and the races would be a financial success. With this generous bonus plan, even a last place candidate would have the opportunity to win the contest. Plus all active, non-prizewinning candidates would be paid 10% of their dance ticket sales. (Note 22)
It was amazing, that our country had such an interest in the Frog Jump. Mark Twain had given the world a whimsical story which captured the imagination of people around the world. But this little gold mining town also held their interest. Two examples: An article in the Cincinnati Post on May 19th 1934, writes, “The Jumping Frogs of Calaveras County were on their marks today -- Fat frogs, skinny frogs, dark green frogs, plus champion frogs from other states.” The article even went on to talk about a Mexican frog which could jump several hundred feet and a San Francisco frog which could leap 21 stories (because it was found in a hotel on the 21st floor.) Another article from the Chicago Tribune on May 16, 1935, named some of the frog entrants like: Wilhelm -- holder of the Berlin record of 4 feet 8 and half inches; Zenovia – Pride of Kingston, NC; Dolly V. Chancelegs; Leaping Mama; Bender II; Warts; Skymouse; and even Hop-to-It. People needed and wanted – as they do today – an escape from hardships and responsibility.
Yes, the Frog Jubilee was known across our country and even internationally. If the frog jump had not been so popular and famous, the mayors of San Francisco and New York would not have taken the time out of their busy schedules to appear in this small, rural town that Mark Twain made so famous. But then again, if it had not been for the Gold Rush, San Francisco would not have grown the way it did. It was the gold and silver found in “them thar hills” that had encouraged the speedy growth of the Bay area. Before 1849 San Francisco had a population of 575 males, 177 females, and 60 children for a total of 812. (Note 16) By late 1849, over 1,000 people a week were arriving from all over the world to find their pot of gold.
Because of the special connection that San Francisco had to the Gold Rush, a “Jubilee Caravan” from Calaveras County headed off to the city during May 7th and 8th, to publicize the upcoming events. It was a 133 mile journey and in today’s world the trip would take about 2.5 hours, but in 1937, the California speed limit was only 45 mph. Plus, there were no Interstate highways. So driving to San Francisco would have been a challenge. The good news for this caravan was the Bay Bridge in San Francisco had been completed 6 months earlier – all 8.25 miles of it. Considering these facts, it probably took about 5 hours to reach San Francisco. (Note 17) Travelers from Angels were encouraged to wear clothing that looked like clothes worn during the Gold Rush. Special meal and room rates had been arranged ahead of time for them, and three San Francisco radio stations were promoting the Jubilee. Dance groups and band music was also part of the promotion, along with the pictures taken with Mayor Rossi of San Francisco. At noon, a parade was planned down Market Street. Both my mother and father were part of this caravan. My mother was in the square dance group, and my father was an alternate in the popular Miners Band. (However, family lore says my dad did not play that day because he forgot his drums.) Maybe he just wanted to play – but not in the band -- because it was his 23rd birthday. (Note 15)
It is finally time to introduce Aunt Betty. She was born on October 15th, 1917 in British Colombia, Canada and was a British subject. She was known for her outgoing personality and her unusual black-brown eyes – a feature she shared with three of her siblings. She was the 6th child out of 9 and one of 6 girls. Her family left Canada and entered the United States in June of 1924, before she turned 7. A few years later they arrived in Angels Camp. In life, ignorance can be cruel to those in its path. In those early years, being left handed was considered a learning disability, and Betty was held back in school a full year so she could change this God-given characteristic. When she ran for Belle of the Camp, she was 19 ½. She was out of high school just one year, but had already worked two years behind the soda fountain at Giriodi’s Drug Store.
While the caravan was away doing their part to bring attention to the Jubilee, the Belle candidates were very likey busy as bees trying to sell as many dance and race tickets as possible. Remember, the days the caravan was in San Francisco were the last couple of days that the tickets sale value was 75,600 for 10 tickets sold. After that, the last 3 days of the contest would be worth 25,000 vote credit. (Note 13)
When I saw the final numbers for the contest in the May 15th newspaper, I was astounded to see that a race, which had been close for weeks, now had a huge separation. Up to this point my aunt had been like a thoroughbred keeping close to the front of the pack, but in the last hundred yards, she started her move and won handily. Here are the results for the top four Belle Candidates: Betty Cummings – 5,387,285; Annie Williams – 3,427,440; Viola Stegman – 2,770,645; and Ramona Winkler – 2,430,870. All of these candidates had been in first place at some point, but Aunt Betty’s final vote count was nearly 2,000,000 ahead of second place Annie Williams. I wish I could have seen her in action those last 2 weeks of the contest, and I truly wished I had asked questions when both my parents and my aunt were still here to answer them. So many of the details are lost in history. (Note 18)
On Friday night, May 14th at 10:00 p.m., the Coronation Ball began at Woods Hall. This dance and opera hall was an addition to a one-story building on Main Street, and it dominated the second floor of the structure. (Note 20) In the picture below, you can see large windows upstairs. On the street level, there were double entry doors. To the right was the new Bazinett Hotel – a major convenience for the visiting VIPs that were in town. The room must have been packed for the event (but no specific numbers were given). This Ball would be the tip of the iceberg in terms of the activities that would follow in the next two days.
Because I lacked information on the specifics of the Coronation ceremony, I created a mental scene that was worthy of a queen and royal court announcement. On Friday night before those double doors opened, the Coronation planners were busy making sure that every detail had been addressed, beginning with the red runner on the entry stairs. Two large five-foot marble pedestal vases stood on the left and right side of the stage, filled with beautiful, fragrant red roses, along with lacy green ferns which cascaded down the sides. Mixed in with the roses were cluster of white Babies Breath. Fastened on the front of each vase was an eight-inch ceramic, jeweled frog giving a regal look to the room. The band’s instruments and piano were in place on the stage as the committee members continued their inspection. In the front center of the platform, was the gold painted throne with its detailed carving of crossed miner’s picks on the high back chair and a plush red velvet pillow on the seat. Over the back of the throne was draped the royal robes. The crown sat on an adjacent table on a white velvet and lace pillow. A security guard dressed like Black Bart (a famous robber in the Mother Lode) was in place nearby to protect these treasures. And a committee member was nearby to keep an eye on Black Bart. Large mural paintings of the gold rush days adorned the walls, and to highlight all this splendor, a 36-inch mirror ball was spinning above the dance floor, reflecting moving specks of light throughout the room. Everything was ready; it was time for the Coronation Ball to begin.
Even though the ceremonies for the Belle Coronation were to start at 10:00, the doors for the dance opened at 9:00 p.m. (Note 18) so all those that supported their candidates would be in place for the ceremonies. Plus they could be dancing in the meantime. As the room filled with people, sounds of laughter and dance movements did too. Even though no food or drink was allowed in the hall, electricity filled the air as they would soon find out the winner.
With their friends and families dancing under the mirror ball, the top three contestants were backstage getting ready to be presented. Once again it’s time to mix facts with a little fiction due to missing information. Fact: George Dietz was the master of ceremonies that Friday night. He was also the president of The Calaveras County Fair Board. It would seem likely that exactly at 10:00 p.m., he would have walked on to the stage, stood in front of the microphone, and to get people’s attention, he would have said loudly, “Good Evening, Ladies and Gentlemen.” As the rumble of voices quieted, he would have thanked them all for being there and also expounded on the community’s support for this first Frog Jubilee. After his speech, he would have introduced Marsha Hunt, a young Hollywood starlet, who then would have appeared from behind the stage curtain. Ms. Hunt would probably have said it was great to be involved in the first Frog Jubilee celebration and to have the opportunity to crown the very first Belle of the Camp. After her speech, Mr. Dietz would have been ready to present the court and their queen. Because 8 of the 10 young ladies were described as being dressed in pastel organdy, I researched this fabric. (Organdy was used in Victorian times. It is mostly a plain cotton weave textile which can be both soft and stiff, and semi-sheer. Dresses were often made with several layers during the mid-1800’s and some included bustle skirts. This same fabric was a favorite of the Gold Rush era.) (Note 21)
Because this was a planned coronation, the candidates would have learned the outcome hours earlier. As they gathered behind the stage curtain they could hear the buzz in the room was growing louder. George Dietz approached the mic and announced, “The Second Lady in Waiting is Miss Viola Stegman of Angels Camp.” The noise continued as Viola walked toward the MC with her guard of honor from the Calaveras American Legion Post 376. She looked lovely in her soft yellow organdy dress. She was handed her bouquet of white baby mums with a yellow satin ribbon and proceeded to her mark on the stage.
It was now the moment people had been waiting for. Soon they would know who had won. George Dietz looked around the room. He slowly leaned into the mic, and announced, “The First Lady in Waiting is Miss Annie Williams of Angels Camp.” With those words, most knew that Betty Cummings was the first Belle of the Camp. Annie Williams approached Mr. Dietz with her honor guard wearing a soft mint green organdy dress. She smiled as she accepted her bouquet of white baby mums with a mint green satin ribbon and joined her fellow court member on the stage.
As Betty waited behind the curtain to be announced, she heard the sounds of muffled voices coming from the dance floor. She must have been so tired after all those weeks of working behind the soda fountain, especially with all the extra people in town while having to sell tickets to the ball and the races. Now it was time to reap the benefits of her work. She probably felt very glamorous in her white satin dress with small covered buttons. As George Dietz announced her name, she appeared on stage arm in arm with her Legionnaire guards, to be joined later by her train bearers, flower girls and heralds.
Betty’s crown and royal robes were waiting. As she approached George Dietz, he probably said, “It is a great honor to acknowledge you, Betty Cummings, as the very first Belle of the Camp. As such, you will have the privilege to reign as queen for the next two days over all the outstanding events which have been planned.” With that, Marsha Hunt would have place her jewel-studded crown lined with areas of white satin on her head. (Note 3) After the crown was placed, it was time to wrap Betty in her royal robes which were made of yellow chiffon velvet and lined with light green satin, edged with marabou white feathers. (Marabou is the cording that holds feather boas together.) Mr. Dietz would have then presented her with a silver engraved loving cup. (Note 3)
Once this ceremony ended, it was time for the Grand March of all participants, beginning with the two court heralds dressed in colorful regalia matching the soft pastels of the other participants. The heralds were carrying colorful flags (in my vision) with browns, greens and golds dominating. The brown was the miners’ picks, the gold was a large gold nugget on the flag, and the green was the frog on top of the nugget.
As Aunt Betty left the stage with her escort, she was joined by the four sister train bearers – Fern, Darline, Carol, and Sharon Beltramo. As they reached down and took a section of the royal robes, it became apparent to those in the room that this robe was magnificent in its length and detail. Following the Belle were her Ladies in Waiting with their formal guards at their sides. The Grand March turned out even more impressive than the Ball Committee could have hoped for.
After the procession, the band started playing and congratulations were heard over and over again. It was time to celebrate – the night was still young and there were lots of dance tickets to use. The next few days would be filled to the brim with events from morning through evening, but tonight it was all about Betty. Even though the dancing was to continue into the early hours of the 15th, most likely George Dietz and the coronation party left the dance hall at a reasonable hour because of the responsibilities they would have the next two days.
Early Saturday morning, Main Street Angels Camp would have had hundreds of people getting their individual booths and exhibits set up. The mineral and agriculture division had their own building for their displays. At noon, the flag raising ceremony took place, and this picture of Mayor Rossi (San Francisco) and Mayor LaGuardia (New York) with Aunt Betty and her Ladies in Waiting was probably taken around that time. (Happily, I discovered my dad in this same picture behind Mayor LaGuardia wearing a miners hat with light.) (Note 18)
On Saturday, Main Street was filled with square dancing, regular dancing, and entertainment like reenactments of the capture and hanging of Three-Fingered Jack (period bandit). Continuing with the Gold Rush theme were stage coach hold-ups and Indian pow-wows which included cultural dancing. Just in case these activities were not interesting enough, there was a demonstration of timber sawing from those early years. It was like a modern day Renaissance Faire, only the time was the mid-1800’s at the height of the Gold Rush. Oh yes, costumes were included.
While these events were happening, just a mile to the south was Sickles Race track. At 2:00 p.m. George Dietz had been issuing tasks to his committee members as the three-hour racing event was about to begin. Events planned were four thoroughbred races -- two of them one mile and the other two half mile. There were fun races like pony express, stage coach and horse and mule team competitions. There were also plenty of races to bet on. Events planned includes thoroughbred and quarterhorse races. Money must have been flowing while cigarettes dangled from the gamblers’ lips.
Because the race track was about a mile from town, I am sure they had some kind of transportation for the crowds. Busses did exist then, but it would have been cool to have flat beds dusted with hay and pulled by mules like the mule teams did when they worked the mines.
Saturday was also the day of the frog jump preliminaries, and even Marsha Hunt was given a referee job between Bing Crosby’s entry, Double of Nothing, and Bob Burns’ (a comedic actor of the 1930’s and 40’s) frog named Mountain Music. The frog contest was conducted on Main Street in town. To say Angels Camp was in a green mode would be an understatement. More than 500 frog entries were expected to participate in the competition. (Note 18) Former champion, Budweiser (handled by Louis Fischer of Stockton) was attempting to repeat his win. Even Mayor Rossi had an entry named, Pastacuitta, which was attended by the SF Fire Chief, Charles Brennan. Maybe if the frog had been called “Light My Fire,” it would have won.
Another highlight of the street entertainment was the Miners Band Parade at 8:00 p.m. This largely brass band was popular and had a great reputation throughout the county. To heighten their appeal, the band normally played in the evening and wore miners’ hats with lights. In addition to the band, the parade organizers incorporated floats decorated with electric lights. To top it off, 300 men dressed as miners walked in the parade with twinkling carbon lamps on their hard hats.
For those with energy to spare, there was also an all-night dance at Woods Hall.
Sunday, May 16th, was another packed day of events. It was a day of finals. The most important was the frog jump contest, but also occurring was the quadrille (square dance) championship of the Mother Lode. Teams from Tuolumne, Columbia, Vallecito, Placerville, and San Andreas were entered.
During the first half of the 20th century, dancing and parades were at the very top of the entertainment scale. They were great ways to get people together for social networking – and not the kind of detached social networking we have now. These activities were not expensive, and parades gave passive entertainment to the observers, while ballroom and square dancing gave a workout for the participants. Horse racing was also popular along with card playing. And because it was a county fair, there was also livestock judging, with money and ribbons given. I am sure Aunt Betty and her Ladies in Waiting were in the thick of all these events – well maybe not the card games.
A Grand Historical Parade was planned for 11:00 a.m.. This was a two-mile caravan that included a 14-yoke-ox team, 16-mule jerk line, covered wagons, horses from the races on Saturday, pack trains, and cowboys and Indians, as well as stage coaches – but no motorized vehicles were allowed. It would seem logical that the Queen and her court participated in this parade, perhaps sitting inside a decorated stagecoach. If so, I wonder what gloved hand Aunt Betty would have use to wave – her natural left hand or the hand she was forced to learn to use in school.
Well, it’s time to end this historical weekend – both for our family and the reader. Thinking about this story, it is sad that we (I) didn’t ask the questions we should have when we could. But that’s life. That’s how it works. When we are young, it’s all about us. There is no way our parents, aunts and uncles, or especially our grandparents would have anything worthwhile to say. But with the passage of time, we see how wrong that Is and how foolish we were not to ask and learn more about our family and our heritage.
Oh yeah, by the way, the frog that won the first Frog Jubilee was Emmett Dalton with a jump of 13 feet 5 inches. His “jockey” was W.G. Daniels (Note 23) Plus over 25,000 were there to celebrate his win.
- “Celebrating 50 Frog Jumps” Calaveras Californian, 1978.
- Calaveras Historic Society, email@example.com.
- Angels Camp and Copperopolis book
- Calaveras Prospect, March 6, 1937.
- Calaveras Prospect, March 13, 1937.
- Salmonson, Margaret “’Belle Candidates in Parade Saturday”, Calaveras Prospect and Citizen, March 27, 1937.
- “Belle Merchant Votes to Close Wednesday,” Calaveras Prospect, April 17, 1937.
- “Belle Heads Buried by Vote Avalanche,” Calaveras Prospect, April 14, 1937.
- “The New Hotel Bazinett in Angels Holds Public Opening Today; Dedication Exercises 7:30 p.m.”, Calaveras Prospect, May 1, 1937.
- “Attendants for Queen of Jubilee Are Chosen,” Calaveras Prospect, May 1, 1937.
- “Jubilee Is Underway at Angels,” Calaveras Prospect, May 14, 1937.
- “Jubilee Caravan Will Visit SF May 8”, Calaveras Prospect, April 10, 1937.
- “Jubilee Is Underway at Angels.” Calaveras Prospect, May 15, 1937
- Historic Angels Camp Walking Tour, note #29.
- Calaveras Prospect, Feb 27, 1937
Personal Note: Special thanks to my Aunt Gladys, Betty’s younger sister, who helped me so much with the details of that weekend and my cousin, Nancy Sue, Betty’s daughter who was a valuable source of detailed information.