At that time, in 1996, I sent the story that follows which I called, A Once in a Lifetime Thrill and thought no more about it. It took its place among the other Stadium Stories collected by the Alumni Association. A thumbnail-size picture of the oldest known photograph of the 1930 Notre Dame Stadium under construction illustrated their request. The story behind the discovery of this photograph, which never fails to make people smile, is the last story in this segment.
Six years later, in January of 2002, I was reading an article in the South Bend Tribune about the Studebaker National Museum and how it would be celebrating the Studebaker sesquicentennial for the next six months. The Tribune requested stories about Studebaker to use during the forthcoming sesquicentennial celebration. Since the event I described in my stadium story, which culminated at the Notre Dame Stadium, was related to the Studebaker Corporation it seemed a good fit and just the kind of human interest story about Studebaker the Tribune might be looking for.
I hunted up my copy of the story, sent it in to the Tribune, and received a reply from Paul Lamirand. He told me he felt it would be best suited for the Michiana Point of View, that they would be running it along with other articles about the Studebaker, and could I supply them with a photograph to illustrate the article.
Later, when I stopped by his office with the picture to scan, both the photographer who scanned it, and the editor, looked at it approvingly and asked the same curious question I had asked myself: What happened to Betty Hager, the Queen of the Partners In Progress Celebration in 1963, who presided over all the events during the week-long celebration? I told them that I had tried my best to locate her but no one in the telephone book under that name said they were related to her. And since almost 40 years had past, it was unlikely she would ever be located.
Five months later, I began planning these human interest stories for the Notre Dame Legends and Lore Web pages, when an unexpected newspaper article, a companion story to my own, appeared in the South Bend Tribune. It arrived so fortuitously that it seemed made-to-order to share both stories, along with the Parachute Bread Drop story I had researched, and the story behind oldest known 1930 photograph of the Notre Dame Stadium taken during its construction.
Since its dedication in 1930, the Notre Dame Stadium has been host to many special events over the years prior to the Red Skelton Show performed during the 1963 event described in the next two stories. In 1945, Bob Hope, the man famous for his ski-jump nose and the entertainment he brought to Americans both on the fighting front and on the home front, brought the full cast of his weekly radio show for the Bob Hope Bond Show in the stadium. The large cast included his girl Friday, Frances Langford, and comic Jerry Colona, with famed actor, Herbert Marshall as his guest star. The following evening he put on another show exclusively for the benefit of the Navy Personnel stationed at Notre Dame in the Drill Hall. Bob Hope also performed with Bing Crosby, the Groaner, at the stadium and at the Athletic Convocation Center in later visits to Notre Dame.
However, I doubt that any event in the history of South Bend surpassed the 1963 Valley of Promise, Partners in Progress, celebration in South Bend. It was a joyful event that unknowingly turned out to be a farewell to the Studebaker Corporation and a new era in the history of South Bend.
It also became the thrill of a lifetime for two lucky winners who participated in the event.
The Studebaker National Museum will be celebrating the Studebaker sesquicentennial this year. It seemed the perfect timing to share this long ago story.
In September, 1963, South Bend had a week long celebration to generate civic enthusiasm and pride in the city and revitalize the spirit of area residents. Celebrating the “Valley of Promise” was the idea of Studebaker president, Sherwood Egbert whose firm planned a special weekend event at Notre Dame to coincide with the introduction of its new model, the 1964 Studebaker Lark.
A Partners in Progress parade started in downtown South Bend at noon on Sunday and culminated at the Notre Dame Stadium with sky divers, fireworks, and a personal appearance and special show, The Red Skelton Show of Stars put on by television and movie comic Red Skelton.
A drawing for a new 1964 Studebaker to be given away by Drewry’s, another local firm, was to be the highlight of the day.
On the previous Friday, the South Bend Chamber of Commerce sponsored a Valley of Promise, Partners in Progress Business Fair at the 4-H Fair Grounds where area businesses had booths to display their products. The Studebaker booth had the new Studebaker on display but it was covered because it had not yet been introduced to the general public. Visitors could sign up at the Drewry’s booth and many other places in town for a free chance at winning the car.
My husband, now a retired banker, was having lunch at the Press Club with a friend, South Bend Tribune photographer, Dutch Hennings. Hennings told him he had an assignment to take pictures at the fair and asked him if he wanted to ride along.
When they arrived at the Fair Grounds, the Dreweys booth with the free sign-up for a new Studebaker was the first one they encountered. Hennings signed up for the car and handed his pen to my husband who responded with, I’ve never won anything in my life, why bother?
Come on, sign up, Hennings urged him, and at least you have a chance. So he did. And promptly forgot about it.
Sunday afternoon arrived and we had plans to attend the celebration at the stadium but I had developed laryngitis and lost my voice -- I would have been speechless anyway. It was a brisk, windy day and my husband didn’t feel I should be exposed to the weather and so we weren’t able to attend.
Later in the day, a neighbor called and informed my husband he had won the car. He thought she was kidding. Shortly afterward, he received a call to be at Drewrys on Monday morning for publicity photos showing him receiving the keys to the car from the Parade Queen Betty Hager, who had drawn his name as the winner.
Dutch Hennings had been away for the weekend on a photo assignment and didn’t know the winner of the car but it was he who was assigned to take the picture. When my husband arrived, his mouth dropped open and all he could say was, Well I’ll be . . . My husband was equally surprised because he hadn’t seen the car. It was a cherry red Daytona Lark convertible with a black interior, white top and all the extras. It was a once in a lifetime thrill our family will always associate with the Valley of Promise and the Notre Dame Stadium.
On Wednesday, September 11, 1963, the Partners in Education Day, an Open House, was held at the surrounding colleges. A letter of invitation to the Notre Dame Open House was placed in the South Bend Tribune announcing it on September 8, 1963. The letter written by Father Theodore Hesburgh ended with these words:
It is fitting that the climatic event of the Partners in Progress observance should be held in the Notre Dame Stadium, for the community and the university today and in the future, as in the past, are partners.
-- Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, CSC
A cousin of mine, who lives in the South Bend area, recently sent me the Michiana Point of View by Dorothy V. Corson that appeared in The Tribune on Feb. 24. The headline read: He ‘never won anything’ but drove off with new car. The subject of the piece was the Partners in Progress celebration that was held in South Bend in 1963, and the photo showed the Queen of Progress at the award of a new Studebaker to Arnold Jack Corson, the husband of the article’s author.
The Queen of Progress is my wife of 44 years, Betty Hager (now known professionally as Ashleigh Evans). I thought it might be of some interest to those who were around the area at that time to know something about what their Queen has been doing during these last 39 years.
Also, this information might tie into the Studebaker National Museum’s celebration of Studebaker’s sesquicentennial this year. If The Tribune would look back through its archives at the time of the Partners in Progress celebration it would find a photo on the front page (Sept. 10, 1963) of Betty, with the then current Miss Indiana, our son Danny and myself, taken moments after she won the Queen of Progress pageant at the Palace Theatre (now Morris Auditorium). She then presided over the events of the week-long celebration, which culminated in the parade and the ceremony which included the unveiling of the 1964 Studebaker.
On a family basis, Betty is the mother of two sons, one an attorney and one a contractor, the grandmother of four, and although no one in a million years would guess from seeing her -- she will be a great grandmother the first of next year!
In 1966, we moved from South Bend to New Jersey, because of my transfer from the Ball Band (later Uniroyal) plant in Mishawaka to corporate headquarters in New York City. I remember my colleagues in the Industrial Relations Department at Ball Band referring to me as Mister Queen for some time after Betty’s reign had ended. While in the East, Betty, in addition to raising our two boys, was active in theater and modeling work (she had performed in plays in South Bend with South Bend Civic Theatre and with Presbyterian Players).
In 1972, we moved from the East Coast to San Francisco, because I had taken a new corporate position there. She very soon became active in theater again, and over the next several years performed professionally in movies, on stage and on television. In addition to her acting work, she worked as a model and appeared in a wide variety of print publications and advertising campaigns.
Betty had a recurring TV role for a period of time on The Young and the Restless. On stage, among many plays, she appeared professionally as Kate in a Wild West version of The Taming of the Shrew for a long run in San Francisco, performed an award-winning one-woman show about Frieda Lawrence, and just a couple of years ago, won the award for Best Supporting Actress in the San Francisco Bay area for her performance in TheatreWorks' production of An American Daughter.
In the 80s, Betty began to work in sales and marketing and technical recruitment, and later became a regional director for Oracle Corp. Since leaving Oracle last year, she has begun to reactivate her professional acting and modeling career, and we hope that you will again be seeing her lovely face in the near future. Stay tuned.
Dan Hager, a South Bend native, graduated in 1955 from the former Central High School, where he lettered in three sports and was vice president of the Senior Class. He attended Purdue and Indiana universities and earned a degree in 1961. Dan and Betty Hager live in San Mateo, California.
When the above article appeared in the South Bend Tribune, five months after my article appeared in February, you can imagine my surprise. Be careful what you wish for. . . . I was delighted to know more about what happened to the Queen in the picture taken of my husband with his brand new 1964 Studebaker Lark convertible. Immediately, I called Paul Lamirand to ask him if he could supply Dan Hager’s email address. I wanted him to know how much my husband and I enjoyed his follow-up story. In doing so, I discovered that we shared other things in common.
My husband also graduated from Central High School and he worked the victory shift at Ball Band before he went in the Army. He spent 40 years with lst Source Bank in South Bend, and was Vice-President in charge of their Insurance Division when he retired. Our son, who also attended Purdue, is now a Software Engineer in Research & Development with Sony Computer Entertainment America at Foster City, CA, near San Francisco. He also lives in San Mateo. When I mentioned these coincidences to Dan Hager he said he had worked in Foster City too. It’s a small world after all.
When I began working on this Stadium Stories segment of the Legends and Lore Webpages, I asked permission from Betty and Dan to include their story with the one I had written about my husband and they generously obliged. Betty not only emailed a scan of her photograph that appeared in the article, she also included the photograph that illustrates her story taken moments after she received the crown.
She ended her email with this reminiscence:
The Queen of Progress Beauty Pageant, for the Partners in Progress community festival, was held at the Morris Civic Auditorium: The near sell-out crowd marked a smashing success in the first major event of the week-long festival. The Tribune reported the event under the heading: Mother of Two Wins PIP Beauty Pageant. The first line in the article reads: A 24-year-old mother of two, who wore her mother’s swimsuit reigns today.
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