Miss Michigan 1961 (Karen Southway) & The Magic of Michigan
With the wave of a wand, Miss Michigan displays the “magic” of her state!
THE MAGIC OF MICHIGAN
The above photo originates from the Michigan Tourist Council. It promotes a then-new Council brochure titled The Magic of Michigan. Obtaining a copy proved easy, as the Library of Michigan houses several (To view the ANSWER online catalog record, click here: Magic of Michigan Catalog Record.). The brochure consists of a front and back cover and ten interior pages. Content consists mostly of color photographs, with some accompanying text. The photos depict lush Michigan landscapes, while the prose poetically describes the state’s virtues as a vacation destination. Click Page from the Magic of Michigan to view a typical page.
The Magic of Michigan, Circa 1961
Our featured photo and the brochure are both undated. Text on back of the photo does, however, identify our Miss Michigan as “Karen Southway.” The official Miss Michigan Scholarship Pageant Web site includes a list of former Miss Michigans. From this, we learn that “Karen Southway Dewert” of Wyoming, Michigan (a Grand Rapids suburb) was crowned Miss Michigan in 1961. As the Miss Michigan pageants are held in summer, the above photo was almost certainly taken between mid-1961 and mid-1962. The added surname (“Dewert”) suggests that Ms. Southway married at some point, but the Archives of Michigan does not know when this might have occurred (A brief search did not turn up a marriage date.).
Newspaper accounts of the 1961 Miss Michigan pageant provide more information on Karen Southway. The July 8, 1961 edition of the Detroit Free Press noted that her father, James B. Southway, worked at a Grand Rapids factory. The Free Press also reported that Karen, a 1960 graduate of Rogers High School, was eighteen years old when she became Miss Michigan. The Free Press described her as “a hazel-eyed beauty” who “is 5 feet, 6 ½, weighs 123 and measures 36-23-36.” The Detroit News, in its July 7, 1961 issue, noted that Karen was a “former high school cheerleader” who “likes to watch all types of athletics.” Both Detroit newspapers noted that Southway worked hard to prepare for the pageant, and her father was quoted as saying that she “practically wore out the driveway practicing her walk and her poise.”
ANATOMY OF A PHOTO
Every photo presents a unique snapshot in time. The image above proved quite captivating, prompting one archivist to investigate its background. What photos might we have tucked away in our own homes and what might they tell us about history? Who knows what we might find when we peer into the windows of the past!
Miss Michigan (Karen Southway) at the Mackinac Bridge, Circa 1961