Memoirs - Miss Rodeo Canada

Phyllis Backs (Dahl)
1959 Miss Rodeo Canada
Today is October 30, 2007 and I have been asked to write my
memoirs about the year that I was Miss Rodeo Canada. This
year, the Miss Rodeo Canada Alumni are having a reunion in
conjunction with the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton on
Nov. 7-11, 2007. Many of the previous Rodeo Queens dating
back to 1955 will be there to celebrate the crowning of the 40th
Miss Rodeo Canada.
My thoughts go back to the spring of 1959 when I was asked if I
would compete in the Miss Frontier of High River contest. Being
a naïve country kid raised on a ranch at Millarville, the request
sounded very exciting to me so I agreed.
There were 3 of us that entered the competition: Isabella
Hamilton, Judy Maclean and myself. It was so exciting and
special for me when I was the lucky one to win! I received a
beautifully tooled leather stirrup-shaped purse made my Eamor’s
saddlery with a silver engraved compact from the Town of High
River. The Millarville Community presented me with a gorgeous engraved silver tray!
The High River Rodeo Committee then asked me to compete in the Miss Rodeo Canada contest in the
fall – the competition to take place during the first Rodeo Royal held in Calgary at the Stampede Corral.
I prepared for the competition with the help of my older, more experienced friend, Willa Beebe. She
made me 2 pretty western outfits to wear and “prepped” me for the speaking and modeling (showing
me how to walk in high heels – part of the competition was to model in office attire and I had never had
a pair of high heels on – up to then!)
There were 5 of us that competed for the title: Judy Tytlandsvik, Miss Rodeo Medicine Hat, Maureen
Lund – Miss Rodeo Cardston, Julie Ackerman – Calgary Stampede Queen, Gloria-Jean Biron – Miss Rodeo
Pincher Creek, and myself. I really thought I was the luckiest 18 year old in Canada when I won this
prestigious title! I was presented with a gorgeous trophy saddle made by Eamor’s Saddlery (which is on
display in the showcase at the Ranchman’s today) along with a lovely white Resistol hat also on display
at Ranchman’s.
One of the first appearances I was asked to attend was also my very first formal dinner! It was at the
Crossroads Hotel (a branch new Hotel then) and Fats Domino was the featured entertainer!
Radio announcer Ted Soskin was having an “on the spot” live radio show with many dignitaries present
along with myself and the Calgary Stampeder Football Queen. The two of us were going to be
interviewed! I was very nervous as I had never seen such a fancy dinner menu – “ala carte this etc.!”
When they brought me prime rib with Yorkshire pudding, I didn’t know what the Yorkshire pudding was
so I buttered it like a bun! No one noticed but I felt pretty silly when I was telling someone later about
the “hollow bun” and they told me what it was! After the fancy dinner, Ted Soskin – the announcer
-2started the live broadcast where both the Football Queen and I were asked many questions – mine were
mostly about horses, rodeo and the 2 Rodeo Queen competitions that I had won.
The next thing was my sponsoring committee (which was the Calgary Stampede Board at the time)
asked me if I would compete in the Miss Rodeo America contest to be held in Las Vegas the following
month (Nov.)! Wow! I was so excited and certainly wanted to do just that – however, I was also very
scared. There was not very much time to prepare and at that time I was so very naïve and unexposed. I
had never been on an airplane, had never been more than 120 miles from home (Lethbridge being the
My first biggest fear of flying was overcome when my suggestion to the Board was accepted and the
money that it would cost to fly me to Las Vegas and back with a chaperone was given to my parents who
agreed to drive me!
My friend, Willa Beebe, again came to my rescue by calling Gross Tailors in Denver, Colorado with my
measurements and they were able to make me 2 gorgeous suits. One arrived the day before we left and
the other was sent to the Flamingo Hotel and arrived just in time.
Bill Collins and Clem Gardner were the horsemanship judges. Bill owned a wonderful training stable in
Edmonton at the time and asked me to come for a week. We rode every day and he fine-tuned my
riding skills!
The whole trip, driving through the huge City of Salt Lake, seeing all the neon and glitter of Las Vegas
and all of the other touristy things we saw and did was truly mind boggling for me and my parents (who
had never travelled much either).
It’s hard to describe how secretly afraid and nervous I
was when I arrived at the new gorgeous Flamingo
Hotel (our host hotel) to meet the other seventeen
Rodeo Queens from all over the United States and as
we all introduced ourselves, to realize that I was the
youngest one in the competition.
The first morning we all rode in a Special Parade for
the Miss Rodeo America competitors. All of us were
mounted on great horses and each of us were
escorted by a member of the Sheriff’s Posse riding
beside us as we rode single file through the jampacked streets of Las Vegas! Marching bands were
spaced evenly throughout the procession. It was
Figure 1 Phyllis and Abe Schiller, Manager of the
Flamingo Hotel
-2We also met many stars including Clint Eastwood during the competition and we were introduced each
night at live dinner shows personally meeting many of the big name entertainers! Nerves were running
full tilt during the last evening of the
competition as we were all up on the stage at
the Flamingo Hotel waiting for the emcee to
announce the winners. I still recall what an
incredible thrill it was when he called my
name as runner-up in the prestigious
competition. Miss Rodeo Oregon was named
the winner.
Figure 2 Phyllis (3rd from the right)
My year was busy with appearances at a lot of
different functions and rodeos. It definitely
was the “Thrill of a Lifetime” for me! My
wonderful year ended at the Medicine Hat
Stampede when Kaye Thurman – Miss Rodeo
Lethbridge won the 1960 Miss Rodeo Canada
[Be sure to view the photo gallery for more photos of Phyllis’ Miss Rodeo Canada Journey!]