Helen of Leb

I’ve written a little bit about Helen Fortna previously in the post where I tried to figure out how she was related to our family.

But although I haven’t seen Helen since the mid-60s (to the best of my recollection; she’s about four years older than I am, so I hope she’s still doing well wherever she may be), I do have another memory of her. It was the time when she entered the Miss Lebanon Valley contest, a precursor to the Miss America pageant.

Helen was what might be called a statuesque blonde (she stood five feet nine and a half inches), although her hair was bleached, which is one of the things that I remember. In those days (1963) my mother had a beauty shop in the rear of our home, and when it became known that Helen had entered the beauty contest, she was the subject of some chatter. Mainly, as I recall, that a bleached blonde shouldn’t be eligible to be Miss America (or any of the precursor Misses). I didn’t see why not; bleaching was just another form of makeup, and as far as I could tell the contests didn’t ban cosmetics.

The other thing that I recall, and don’t ask me why I remember this, was that when her photo appeared in the Lebanon Daily News with a brief bio, the article began something along the lines of “Helen Fortna will not be bringing her batons to the competition but will demonstrate her organ playing skills instead.” I couldn’t have read that article more than once or maybe twice, and I certainly haven’t seen it since March 22, 1963, when it was published. That is, I haven’t seen it until today, when I found it on the newspaper archive site.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, no, she didn’t win. Sadly, she didn’t even place or show.

Lebanon Daily News Mar 22 1963 p 24 Helen Fortna Miss Leb Valley Picture

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