In the dark days of 1942, when Australia and Newcastle felt threatened by Japanese military might, the population needed something to take its mind off the war. And what better than a beach girl contest?
A 17-year-old employee of Newcastle’s Oxford Hotel (now the Lucky Country) was urged by her boss to enter the competition. Betty Thompson was a buxom blonde beauty, but didn’t think her parents would appreciate her taking part in such a frivolous and sexy contest. Compromising, Betty entered, but took the precaution of using the assumed name “Bobbie”.
The night of March 26, when she was picked from a bevy of beautiful finalists at Newcastle City Hall, was a remarkable one. According to a report in the next day’s Newcastle Morning Herald, police had to be called “to help control the crowd which attempted to storm the hall” to witness the final. Apparently there was no room in the hall – so packed was it with enthralled spectators – and those left outside were hardly content with the band music the organisers had thoughtfully provided.
Of course “Bobbie” could no longer keep her involvement a secret from her parents, but apparently they didn’t object too strongly. The win brought the youngster many admirers who flocked to see her at a handful of public appearances.
Not long after, the family moved to Sydney, where I found Betty many years later. The former Miss Thompson – now Mrs Deller – told me she spent a short time dancing at the famous Tivoli before becoming a beautician.
Betty said her win had been very exciting. She kept the sash and cup she won, as well as a number of fan letters from infatuated Novocastrian boys.
The beach girl contest remained a feature of Newcastle life for many years.