News
DOUGLAS - Stuart Sliter has been chosen as Grand Marshall for the Douglas 4th of July celebration. A lifelong Douglas resident, Sliter was the first woman to represent Alaska in the 1958 Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City. The CCW visited Sliter in her Douglas home to get the inside scoop on Alaska's first Miss Alaska.
Q & A with Douglas Grand Marshall Stuart Sliter 070109 NEWS 2 CCW Staff Writer DOUGLAS - Stuart Sliter has been chosen as Grand Marshall for the Douglas 4th of July celebration. A lifelong Douglas resident, Sliter was the first woman to represent Alaska in the 1958 Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City. The CCW visited Sliter in her Douglas home to get the inside scoop on Alaska's first Miss Alaska.

Photo By Libby Sterling

Stuart Sliter represented Alaska in the 1958 Miss America Pageant. She'll be the Grand Marshall for this year's Douglas 4th of July celebration.


Photos Courtesy Of Stuart Sliter

Some of Stuart Sliter's photos of herself as a young woman, when she represented Alaska in the 1958 Miss America Pageant. "What a wonderful time to be Miss Alaska," Sliter said. "I heard from people from all over."


Photos Courtesy Of Stuart Sliter

Some of Stuart Sliter's photos of herself as a young woman, when she represented Alaska in the 1958 Miss America Pageant. "What a wonderful time to be Miss Alaska," Sliter said. "I heard from people from all over."

Click Thumbnails to View
Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Story last updated at 7/1/2009 - 12:06 pm

Q & A with Douglas Grand Marshall Stuart Sliter

DOUGLAS - Stuart Sliter has been chosen as Grand Marshall for the Douglas 4th of July celebration. A lifelong Douglas resident, Sliter was the first woman to represent Alaska in the 1958 Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City. The CCW visited Sliter in her Douglas home to get the inside scoop on Alaska's first Miss Alaska.

Your family has been in Douglas for a long time. What is their history?

Sliter: Both of my sets of grandparents came here specifically to work in the mine. My maternal grandfather was a molder, the other was a miner. My maternal grandmother was the last postmistress in Treadwell and she was the last telephone operator in Douglas. My dad started out working in the mines, then he went to work for AEL&P. My mom and dad, Roberta and Leonard Johnson, bought Douglas trucking and owned it from 1947 to 1955. (My husband) Bob and I were both teachers in 1961. We met in August and were married in December. He was a teacher until 1969 and then he went into commercial fishing. We had three children: Jyll, who passed away in 1998, Beth Weldon, the division chief for the fire department, and our son Rob is a commercial fisherman. We have two grandchildren, Tyler (10) and Cody (8) Weldon, and they are students at Mendenhall River Elementary.

What was it like to grow up in Douglas?

Sliter: It was a small town, you knew everybody. It seemed like you knew everything about everybody. It was a very supportive community. I can remember taking a ride with my mom and dad out the road, and it was an adventure to go way out the road. Now I do it two to three times a day because that's where my grandchildren live. It's hard to imagine my mother living in Treadwell because there's nothing left. But she would walk with us and tell us what was where and where they lived. It's just all gone, and so are many of their photographs. We have nothing of their early days because of the 1926 fire when she was 15.

How did you come to be Miss Alaska 1958?

Sliter: From the story that I understand, a publicity agent who I had when I was in New York realized that Alaska was going to become a state. He contacted the Miss America Pageant and Alaska Oil and Mineral, who contacted the Miss America Pageant to see if they could sponsor somebody as Miss Alaska, and they said of course. Bea Albertson went through all the office buildings and picked girls out, so I guess I was lucky to be working for the state at the time. We did a mini pageant here. I found out I was going to be a contestant on a Friday and was in New York on Monday.

What was it like being a part of the Miss America Pageant?

Sliter: It was just an absolutely incredible experience. Everybody was enthralled with me because I was part of the Alaska news. I got to go to New York and was immediately met by TV and newspaper photographers. People were just so interested that I was on all sorts of TV shows like "Today" with Dave Garroway, "The Tonight Show" with Jack Paar, "The Ed Sullivan Show," several news shows, "Name That Tune" and "What's My Line?" where they guessed which of us was really Miss Alaska.

It was very busy the week before the pageant in New York. I was up at five and to bed at midnight, and I was supposed to be looking gorgeous through all of this. And then when you go to the Miss America Pageant, it's quite regulated and it's a lot of hard work. It's not just a beauty pageant. The pageant itself was September 1-6.

On the swimsuit night, once I stepped out from behind the curtain the lights were so hot and so bright and I felt faint. There were guys there who were part of the set and I kind of grabbed one of them and he helped me back behind the curtain.

Being a girl from such a small town as Juneau, all the girls were very friendly and very helpful. We had our own chaperones once we got to Atlantic City. In the hotel as you're passing through, you can't speak to any males. Dads would sit there and wave at their daughters, there was to be no personal contact.

They named a street "Alaska Place" in Atlantic City. They said I had more publicity than anybody there except the Miss America when she did finally win. It was just truly an amazing experience. When I look back on it I probably should have given up a year of school because I was issued so many invitations and I just couldn't do them all with school. I went to school in the Bay Area, and I did a lot of appearances around San Francisco itself.

What a wonderful time to be Miss Alaska. I heard from people from all over. Even my seventh grade teacher wired me and congratulated me.

What was your talent in the pageant?

Sliter: My talent was piano. I played the Alaska Flag Song. After the pageant, we spent a day at the beach in Atlantic City, which was fun for me because I had never swum in the surf before. Bennett Cerf came up to me while I was on the beach and he asked me who told me to play the Alaska Flag song. I told him I'm an ambassador for Alaska and was trying to acquaint everybody with as much as we can about Alaska. He said that was too bad. I think he thought I would have placed if I had played something else.

What will you be up to this July 4th, besides serving as Douglas Grand Marshall?

Sliter: In the Juneau parade, I will be on the Capital City Celebrations float as one of the eight stars on their float. Then I will come to the Douglas parade and ride in the car.

What is your favorite part of the Douglas July 4th celebration?

Sliter: I like how it caters to kids, all of it. The parade is geared more for the kids to be a part of, as well as the races and the soapbox races. It has always been a day for the kids. Even my mother used to say, in those days miners only got two days off a year. One was the 4th of July and one was Christmas, and she said it was just a big happy event for families. She'd say, "It was my one bottle of pop a year, strawberry soda." Now we're spoiled.

Libby Sterling may be reached at libby.sterling@capweek.com


Loading...