One of my favorite scenes from The Golden Girls involves Betty White’s character, Rose, lamenting how she never won the coveted title of “Butter Queen” when she was a teen in her fictional Midwestern hometown of St. Olaf.
The description of the beauty pageant sounds ridiculous. It involved a trivia section with a trick question about margarine and a churning competition — and inevitable churning scandal.
Although this particular beauty contest never actually existed, during the 1950s and ’60s, the world of pageantry boasted plenty of strange beauty competitions in which local ladies brimming with old Hollywood glamour vied for the title of their hometown’s highest honor.
Yet, an offbeat beauty pageant wasn’t just a small-town thing during this era. There were also businesses, like the Zion Meat Company, and even government agencies, like the National Security Agency, that rated women willing to compete on their beauty, poise, and that certain je ne sais quoi that paired perfectly with something as random as potatoes…