Not Quite a Queen
Or “How I swallowed my bohemian pride and begged for donations.”When I was 18 I was a Hospital Day Queen candidate.
Most of the businesses in New London offered up some hapless damsel to run for queen and I was it for the Sugar & Spice Restaurant. Sugar & Spice was a diner of sorts. You could get anything you wanted as long as it could be stuffed in a fryolator or slung on a griddle. It was frequented by the town’s many retirees, tourists and parents dropping kids off at camp. I was one of the extra waitresses hired for the summer rush.
Hardly a volunteer, I was drafted into the contest. It had nothing to do with being the prettiest waitress or having the longest legs. I got suckered into it because I was young and relatively cheerful. I thought my friend Anne should be the queen candidate. She was younger and blond but unfortunately for me, not nearly as cheerful. I found the whole thing terribly embarrassing. Being Miss Sugar & Spice did nothing to enhance the cool, bohemian image I was trying to cultivate.
This was no beauty pageant or even a scholarship program; the one and only role of a queen candidate was to raise money for the New London Hospital. We did it with raffles, bake sales and arm twisting. Throughout town, stores and restaurants had jars by their cash registers and car washes in their parking lots.
For a lowly waitress from a small diner the race for the crown was a long, uphill battle. Sugar & Spice clients were not known for their generous tips and they were slow to add even a few pennies to the fund-raising jar. Our raffle prize, a free dinner for two at the diner, did not attract a lot of takers.
Throughout the summer, I suffered the daily indignity of wandering through the restaurant with my oversized, nearly empty jar hawking the hospital and begging for donations. Luckily, the cook, bus boys and Anne helped wash cars. Anne looked good in short-shorts and I guess I did too. We didn’t raise a ton of money but we did OK.
All in all it wasn’t so bad. Thankfully I didn’t come in dead last. And I did get to ride on the back of a convertible in the Hospital Day Parade.
Over the next few years, high spirits and higher times got the best of the competition. At least one man entered and someone ran their dog. I don’t think that man or beast won but it was clear that this long-standing tradition had run its course. Hospital Day Queens soon went the way of the hula hoop, go-go boots and pet rocks. I guess I wasn’t the only one trying to be cool and bohemian. NH
(EDITOR’S NOTE: New London Hospital Days still take place and run August 5-8 this year.)