“Hello folks, Met Miss Texas, Michigan + Chicago today of the beauty contest. They came over to squadron headquarters to visit our outfit. If I can find time will send you a picture of them and also the winner of the finals Sat. evening.”
This is the message Sgt. K. Rowe wrote on an Atlantic City card of the convention hall, then mailed on September 11, 1942. The 1942 Miss America pageant was held the next day on September 12, 1942.
Lucky for Sgt. Rowe, Miss Texas won Miss America that year. A LIFE magazine article from September 28, 1942 describes the evening:
“Last fortnight before 3,500 pairs of ogling eyes Jo-Carroll Dennison, a terrific torso from Tyler, Texas, took title to “Miss America- 1942” in a skin-tight contest with blonde Bette Brunk, a chesty charmer from Chicago. Right from the word “show,” the Atlantic City audience, including hundreds of Army, Navy and Coast Guard men, favored “Miss Texas” to win what should be the last gasp of municipal exhibitionism in wartime America. The sailors and soldiers sat in the balcony, but they saw enough of the winner to make their eyes pop.”
The article also states that Miss Chicago cried on the stage after Miss Texas’ crowd pleasing rendition of “Deep in the Heart of Texas.”
Image from alamy.com. You can see Miss Texas on the right hand side, with Miss Michigan three girls away from her, and Miss Chicago is third from the left hand side.
Jo-Carroll Dennison in an image from PBS.org.
In an article from March 2011, Dennison said being Miss America “was an extraordinary job. I went to military bases all the time and the soldiers were so enthusiastic and treated me with such respect.” In the 1980s and 1990s, she worked in hospice care as a community relations director.