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Derby Days Remembered by Early Queens

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2000-05-26
by Herbert Atienza
Journal Reporter

 

REDMOND -- Betty Buckley Anderson and Kay Nichols Brule may be the closest there is to royalty in Redmond.

 

In the waning days of the Depression and on the eve of World War II, supporters of the two women sold the most tickets, allowing them to best a field of five contestants each to be crowned Redmond Derby Days Queen.

 

Anderson was the first ever queen of Redmond's signature summer festival, winning the pageant in 1940. Brule was to carry out the feat in 1942. There was no pageant held in 1941 and there were no new pageants until 1946, after the war was over.

 

This year, the two friends and lifelong Redmond residents will relive the pomp and pageantry of those memorable days after being named recently by event organizers as grand marshals at the 60th annual Derby Days Grand Parade.

 

``It's an honor to be asked,'' said Anderson, who has since raised four children with her late husband, Leslie, and is now grandmother to four.

 

``My daughter is very proud that I'm a grand marshal this year,'' said Brule, who raised a child, Patricia, with her late husband, John. She is now grandmother to two and a great grandmother.

 

Recently, the two women-- now in their 70s-- sat around Anderson's kitchen table to reminisce about events over the past six decades.

 

At that time, Redmond was nowhere near the high-tech city of more than 42,000 people it is today.

 

``It's grown up a lot,'' said Brule, adding that she was raised a farm girl in her parents' dairy farm off Union Hill Road. ``We were just plain people back then ... Redmond was your regular small, conservative town.''

 

``Everybody knew everybody back then,'' Anderson recalled. She said that at that time, Main Street was the only bonafide street in town and nearby Education Hill was known as ``Poverty Hill'' because of the rustic living conditions of the people there.

 

``I was a city girl because I walked to school,'' she said.

 

``Kay was a country girl because if you took the bus to school, then you're considered a country person.''

 

Remembering the details of being named the queen of the city is now a little tricky, but both women hold fond memories of their reign from six decades ago.

 

Anderson was a 17-year-old senior at Redmond School when she was sponsored by the Junior Nokomis Club, a local service group, to compete in the pageant.

 

Back then the Derby Days Queen was chosen by the townsfolk. They purchased $1 tickets each and wrote down the name of the girl they wanted to get the crown.

 

The winner held court at a makeshift stage that was set up near the Douglas Drug Store, which is now a gas station.

 

``I didn't do a thing,'' Anderson said. She said she won thanks to the ticket-selling zeal of her parents, Jack and Mary Buckley, and members of the civic group.

 

``All I can remember of the event is that Mayor Bill Brown put my crown on backward,'' she said.

 

Brule was 16 when nominated by math teacher Arthur Sorweide, who saw in her everything that embodied the Derby Queen.

 

``I was very perky and had an outgoing personality,'' she said. She, too, was crowned by Mayor Brown -- correctly, this time around.

 

A big event back then involved as many residents as possible joining in a caravan of cars that paraded the Derby Queen -- complete with flashing lights from escorting patrol cars -- from Redmond to the stadium on Rainier Avenue where they watched a Seattle Rainiers game.

 

``The whole town just turned out,'' Brule said.

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