Friday, September 14, 2012

Miss Citizen Fair

During the 1950s Columbus had three daily newspapers; the morning Ohio State Journal, the Evening Dispatch, both Wolfe newspapers, and a fading Citizen. The Citizen, a morning and Sunday sheet owned by Scripps-Howard, was feisty in print but second fiddle when it came to circulation and self-promotion. The 1950s Ohio State Fair reporter for the Citizen was Doral Chenoweth, an Weste Virginia import from another Scripps sheet that had been shot down by Scripps brass headquartered in Cincinnati. Chenoweth was new to the Citizen newsroom and the old hands on the city desk avoided the fair beat like the plague. And then something happened...Chenoweth actually liked the fried food beat as he called it.  He liked to say that “The sun and air was fresher at the Fair than the city's cop house press room.”   In those days of the 1950s the fair had a press day prior to the day of the grand opening. One of the primary reasons for such a preview was to introduce any star attractions, such as two newcomers, Johnny Cash and Molly Bee, the grandstand stars.   Beyond any star highlight was the Butter Howard luncheon. Howard, from Zanesville, was on the fair board and generally credited with bringing the butter cow to the list of fair attractions. It was at one of Butter Howard's preview luncheons that the Miss Citizen Fair was spawned.   Chenoweth was the reporter assigned to the fair and had zero connection with the Citizen promotion department, but the editor, Jack Keller, liked anything that sold newspapers.   During a luncheon with Howard and the Byer and Bowman press rep, Nick Popa, the idea was to have someone walk the grounds holding a folded copy of the Citizen. Keller authorized offering a fifty dollar cash prize for the fairgoer spotting Mr. Citizen. That person was directed to approach the paper toter and say specifically, "You are Mr. Citizen." Asking "Are You Mr. Citizen?" was not the winning phrase and to be the winner the person approaching had to be carrying that day's edition.   Nick Popa had a short run as Mr. Citizen. That first day of the event he stepped out of his office and a small gaggle of young girls screamed, "There he is. There he is! You are Mr. Citizen."  On the second day of that year's fair Chenoweth drafted his wife, Sue Carter Chenoweth, then editor of the house organ for Farm Bureau Insurance (now Nationwide Insurance), The Dividend. The paper's front page promotion that second day showed only her brown and white saddle back shoes. Over night the name became Miss Citizen Fair. She actually lasted two hours before being spotted. Down the line the Chenoweth's first born, Carter Chenoweth, played the role and lasted at least two days.   When Chenoweth departed the Scripps organization, Citizen-Journal columnist Ben Hayes took over. In keeping with Chenoweth's less than scientific approach to selecting a Miss Citizen Fair, Ben appointed his daughter Christine Hayes, today known by her movie name, Ramona Moon.   At one time during the run of the fair some 1,000 extra copies were delivered to the circulation guys at the fair. The paper’s cost in those early days was a quarter.