It Came From the Archives: Dothan received the Queen in 1952

Betty Phillips, Mutual Broadcasting Company's 2000th Queen for a Day, visited Dothan in 1952.

Betty Phillips, Mutual Broadcasting Company's 2000th Queen for a Day, visited Dothan in 1952.

Over the years the National Peanut Festival has produced hundreds of local queens and princesses, but in 1952 it hosted one whose name was not known until October 24.

That was Betty Phillips of Los Angeles, who was the Mutual Broadcasting System’s 2000th Queen for A Day.

“Queen For A Day” was a game show hosted by Jack Bailey that began on the radio in 1945 and ran until 1957. But a year earlier, NBC Television picked up the show and ran it until 1960 when ABC picked it up until 1964.  It was revived in 1969-1970 and again in 2004.

Critics panned the original show as exploitative and condescending, but it was wildly popular.  Contestants were women who explained what they needed most – usually something to make their or someone else’s life easier.  The studio audience picked the winner from the most moving story.  On October 24, 1952, that was Mrs. Phillip’s request for a welding kit for her husband, Earl.

Betty and Earl Phillips pose with the Dothan welcoming committee.
Betty and Earl Phillips pose with the Dothan welcoming committee.

Only three days into her reign, the Queen and her consort arrived at Dothan’s Municipal Airport (since 1941, located approximately where Westgate Park is today) on Eastern Airlines flight 151.  Her trip was sponsored by the Hedstrom-Union Company, makers of tricycles, swing sets, and baby buggies that had opened its Dothan plant in 1950.  Hedstrom’s purchasing manager, Harold Wiggins, with his wife met the Phillipses and escorted them throughout their stay.

Theirs was an industrial tour, with stops at Dothan’s Burlington Hosiery Mill and the giant Hedstrom plant, but the capstone was the National Peanut Festival Parade.  Queen Betty rode in a convertible with her husband and the Wigginses between the New Brocton High School Band and the Hedstrom float, described by the Dothan Eagle as “a circus cage replica with a girl as a wild animal tamer and 3 children dressed as bears sitting on tricycles” that won first place among the commercial floats.

The 2000th Queen for a Day, Betty Phillips, arrives in Dothan on October 27, 1952. L-R: Sarah Wiggins, Betty Phillips, Earl Phillips, Harold Wiggins
The 2000th Queen for a Day, Betty Phillips, arrives in Dothan on October 27, 1952. L-R: Sarah Wiggins, Betty Phillips, Earl Phillips, Harold Wiggins.

On November 12, the Dothan Eagle published a letter from Queen Betty thanking Dothan for its hospitality, which almost overwhelmed her.  “Perhaps some day,” she closed, “we may meet again.”

For more information, see the Wiregrass Archive’s Harold Wiggins Collection, RG 019, at https://www.troy.edu/about-us/dothan-campus/wiregrass-archives/inventories/019.html

Other sources:

“Queen for a Day,” Wikipedia, accessed July 19, 2023, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_for_a_Day.

“‘Queen For Day’ To Visit Festival,” Dothan Eagle, October 6, 1952.

Abby Ellard, “Beauty Reigns, 100,000 Cheer as Bands Play,” Dothan Eagle, November 2, 1952, 1, 12.

Betty Phillips, “Queen For A Day Enjoyed Her Role In The Festival,” Dothan Eagle, November 12, 1952.

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