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First queen recalls pageant

The first Red Flannel Queen, Maxine Smith Townsend, tries on a pair of the red longjohns that made Cedar Springs famous. This photo was taken in 1939. 

This article is a partial reprint of an article that appeared in the Cedar Springs Clipper on October 4, 1977, 38 years after the first Red Flannel Festival.

Maxine Smith Townsend, the first Red Flannel Queen, lives quietly with her husband in nearby Rockford. 

Mrs. Townsend was 16 when she became Red Flannel Queen in 1939. A tiny 4-foot 10-inches, she appeared in the contest in a hunting outfit. Because of her small stature, she recalls, “I had a problem with those hunting clothes.” Fitting men’s hunting garb on a 4-foot 10-inch frame was far from easy she says.

“I remember looking at all of us in those hunting clothes,” Mrs. Townsend says, “and wondering how the judges could even tell us apart.” 

The next year Red Flannel Queen contestants appeared in long gowns.

In 1939, Mrs. Townsend says Cedar Springs businessmen picked a girl to sponsor as a contest entry. Selection, she says, was mainly based on interviews.

As Red Flannel Queen, she not only presided over the Red Flannel Day festivities, but also presented red flannels to Michigan Governor Lurel Dickinson, who passed them on to his legal advisor, Judge Emerson R. Boyles. Dickinson’s summation of red flannel underwear: “It itches.”

During the year she rode the Snow Train to Petoskey for the Winter Sports Festival. Cedar Springs residents had chartered a car, she recalls. At Petoskey, she presented red flannels to Snow Queen Adelyne Eustrom.

She has fond memories of the Clipper Girls, Nina Babcock and the late Grace Hamilton, credited with starting the Red Flannel celebration.

“The Clipper Girls were dolls,” Mrs. Townsend says, “just terrific.”

Many thanks to Leonard Cadwell for bringing in this issue of the Cedar Springs Clipper.

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