And Now You Know: Third Miss Orange crowned in February 1961

Published 6:36 am Saturday, February 5, 2022

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Mike Louviere
And Now You Know

Orange in 1961 was still riding the wave of wartime prosperity. The population had stabilized to just a little over what it was before the wartime boom. The shipyards had shifted from wartime work to peacetime projects. Chemical Row had been established and the petrochemical plants were turning out products at a steady rate.

The Orange Leader was reporting national news, local news, several different types of social news, and several pages of local  sports from the six high schools in Orange County.

In the summer, the Sabine River was the scene of a water sports festival with boat shows, water skiing shows, boat races, and a beauty pageant that crowned a “Miss Water Sports”.

In 1959, the Orange Jaycees started a new beauty pageant, the selection of “Miss Orange”. Miss Orange would then compete in the Miss Texas Pageant, part of the Miss America Pageant program.

The Miss Orange Pageant held in the Stark High School auditorium saw Miss Diana Ketchell selected as Miss Orange, 1961. She was employed as a clerk at the United Gas Company in Orange. Miss Ketchell had been selected as one of five finalists in the third annual contest sponsored by the Orange Jaycees. In 1959, she was the runner-up for the Miss Orange title.

This was her third pageant win. In 1959, she had been selected Miss Water Sport in Orange and had also been selected as Miss Service Station of East Texas.

The other four finalists in the 1961 pageant were Charlotte Richardson, second runner-up, Nora Paul, third runner-up, Rose Ella Gryder, fourth runner-up, and Ina Jean Lockhart, fifth runner-up.

Graceann Lindsey had been chosen as Miss Congeniality by a vote of the 15 contestants in the pageant. She received a charm bracelet as a token of her selection.

Before about 500 in attendance, Miss Ketchell was crowned by Sharon Arnold, Miss Orange 1960. Miss Ketchell’s win was based on her beauty, poise, grace, intelligence, and talent.

For the talent portion she had presented a variety act entitled “The Three Facets of Diana”. The conclusion of the act was a dramatic reading from Jeanne D’Arc.

Miss Ketchell had private modeling lessons and attended Lamar Tech. Her future plans included continuing her training in modeling and eventually opening a modeling and charm school in Orange.

“I will do my best to be a good representative for Orange in the Miss Texas Pageant scheduled this July in Beaumont. I feel like this will open the door for success for me,” said Miss Ketchell.

As a part of the pageant program, a Miss Garbage contest was held. It was a satirical contest added to the legitimate contest. Mrs. Howard Williams was chosen as the winner of the contest for her performance of George Liberace.

Other Miss Garbage finalists were Mrs. S.M. Pepper who accompanied Mrs. Williams as Liberace, and Mrs. Duncan Gimple who gave a reading from Shakespeare.

Pageant Chairman was Pearce Beneke, who along with other Jaycees was highly pleased over the high turnout and the cooperation given by the contestants and the public.

“The Orange Jaycees especially want to thank the parents of the contestants for their splendid cooperation and hard work. The Jaycees regard the 1961 pageant as one of the groups ever-growing civic endeavors,” said Carl Haley, Jaycee president.

Miss Ketchell and the Jaycees were ready to start work on her talent competition for the Miss Texas Pageant. Local Jaycees were convinced “we have a winner and can go all the way this year.”

Prizes won by Miss Ketchell included a year’s scholarship to Lamar Tech, a full course from the Powers School of Modeling and Charm, located in Beaumont, an Arthur Murry dance course and formal dance course, and various other items from merchants in Orange and Beaumont.

“And now you know.”