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For many people, 1959 was an important year. It was the year that Alaska became a state. It was also the year that Myrna Ruth Newton Allen, 67, graduated from high school.
Original 'Belle of the Ball' reflects on the last 50 years 010709 NEWS 2 CCW Staff Writer For many people, 1959 was an important year. It was the year that Alaska became a state. It was also the year that Myrna Ruth Newton Allen, 67, graduated from high school.

Myrna Allen in 1959


Libby Sterling Photo

Myrna Allen, an orginal Belle of the Ball during Alaska's statehood celebration in 1959, poses with her husband, Willie, while taking a break from the dance floor during Saturday's Statehood Ball held at Centennial Hall in Juneau.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Story last updated at 1/7/2009 - 10:51 am

Original 'Belle of the Ball' reflects on the last 50 years
Myrna Allen will reprise role during next July 4th parade

For many people, 1959 was an important year. It was the year that Alaska became a state. It was also the year that Myrna Ruth Newton Allen, 67, graduated from high school.

This Fourth of July, she will join the Juneau Douglas High School Class of 1959 for a 50th reunion in the midst of the statehood celebrations.

Allen was featured as a Fourth of July "Princess" during the parade in 1959, one of eight women with royal titles for the day, many of whom will relive the experience during this year's parade. They will join a replica of the original float and once again participate as the royalty of the parade.

"It was an honor and a joy to be part of the Fourth of July celebration in such a pivotal year," Allen said.

She thinks very highly of Juneau and its people and said she has a hard time considering a move elsewhere.

"It is a joy to live in a community like this that honors its people," she said, calling Juneau "a gift."

As a child growing up in Juneau and Ketchikan, where she was born, Allen enjoyed anything that had to do with being outdoors. She hiked, fished, participated in school activities, and

simply enjoyed being in nature.

"The word 'bored' never came out of our mouths," she said. "It was a really nice era to live in. Everything around felt very wholesome."

Things were simpler then, though Allen said she is delighted with the many new advancements like the swimming pool, Eaglecrest Ski Area, the ice rink, the new high school, and other changes that have been made since the "good ole' days." She remembers when the community was smaller and much more tightly knit, though she said in her days she has seen Juneau become much more of a melting pot than it used to be.

"In my lifetime, I've seen the wholeness of people and acceptance of all," she said. "There is a place for everyone here. There are so many opportunities now that were not present years ago."

She said she also remembers when the Mendenhall Glacier protruded much farther into the valley, and when much of downtown was still underwater.

"There would be skiffs on the shoreline where the (Sandpiper), Driftwood, and parking lot are today," she said. "There are less bars on South Franklin Street and more t-shirt shops. We've done a lot of cleaning up and expanding downtown, and it has been for our benefit."

Myrna Allen and her husband, Willie Allen, were present at the Statehood ball this Saturday at Centennial Hall. They said they love to dance whenever they get a chance, and in spite of Willie's recent knee surgery, they danced the night away.


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