History | Miss Canada 1951: Marjorie Kelly | Back
A lightly edited transcript of a page 1 article in the Thursday 16 Aug 1951 issue of the Simcoe Reformer
Marjorie Kelly of Courtland is Miss Canada 1951

Miss Marjorie Kelly, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Roy Kelly of Courtland, was crowned Miss Canada in Burlington, Tuesday night. Next month she will compete in the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City.

Pert, blue-eyed Marjorie Kelly of Courtland, who disregarded her music teacher's advice to knock off singing for the summer months and rest her voice, reigns today as Miss Canada of 1951 because her mother persuaded her to enter her first talent contest.

Before a cheering throng of 2,000 at the Brant Inn, Burlington, Tuesday night, the five-toot, two-and-a-half inch graduate of the University of Western Ontario was selected as Canada's representative for the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City next month. The 23-year-old native of Tillsonburg topped a field of 17 girls.

"I'm so thrilled I can hardly talk," gasped the daughter of tobacco farmers when she was announced the winner nearly three hours after the contest started. She was crowned by Margaret Bradford, Miss Canada of 1950, then congratulated by Sarah Churchill, one of the seven judges and daughter of Winston Churchill.

The winner plans to use her $1,000 scholarship to study voice and dramatics in Philadelphia and New York. She is a lyric dramatic soprano. Marjorie weighs 120, but her mother says she took off a few pounds before entering the contest. Her bust is 34 inches, waist 24, and hips 34.

"I felt a pang for the rest of the girls," she said. Other contestants each receive $100 scholarships. No runner-up was named. "This was mother's idea," laughed Marjorie. "I never thought I would win." Mrs. Kelly admitted she was the instigator. "I talked her into it myself, Her talent was uppermost in my mind. I didn't think she would win on beauty alone."

The "baby" of a family of three girls always has been a "tomboy," said her mother. "She's all right at housework but no better than average. Although we have some cows on the farm, she doesn't like milking them."

Boy Friends? "I'm not going steady," smiled Marjorie, and said she didn't have time for men.

Miss Canada sang a classical number, "Voila Sapete" in the talent competition.* Previously the girls had been judged at the dinner table prior to the contest, and in modelling evening gowns.

Master of ceremonies Bob Evans, lyric baritone, who will also officiate at the Miss America pageant, brought out the five finalists, who all answered the same three questions.

Marjorie was the first. 
"What was the nicest compliment anyone ever paid you and why?"
"To tell me when they heard me sing it moved them to tears."
"If you win the $1,000, how will you use it?"
"To further my my career as a singer."
"Who do you consider the greatest person in English history?"
"Winston Churchill."

Others to advance to the final round were:
Marion Knox, 18, of Hamilton; 
Joan Mitchell, 24, of Toronto; 
Mary Popaleni, 21, of Hamilton; and 
Shirley Jordan, 22, of Toronto.

None of the 17 contestants appeared in a bathing suit at any time during the contest. "But that's what they wear at Atlantic City," said Miss Canada. "And that's O.K. with me."

Marjorie was educated in Tillsonburg and Simcoe. She attended Alma Ladies' College, an affiliate of U.W.O., obtaining her degree in music in 1950. Dr. Perry Dobson of the college heard her sing at Avondale United Church in Tillsonburg and was so impressed he told Mrs. Kelly to make certain her daughter followed a musical career.

Although she wore a white, strapless evening gown, Majorie admitted her favorite color is blue. Her favorite pastimes are skating and swimming. "Bill," a thoroughbred collie at the Kelly farm, is waiting to welcome Miss Canada home.

When Marjorie arrives home, her program until the Miss America contest early in September will be "practicing singing and plenty of rest."

Before she left for Europe early this summer, Madame Eleanor Reynolds of St. Thomas, Marjorie's music teacher, told her pupil to "forget singing for the summer and give your voice a rest."

"All this will be quite a surprise to Mrs. Reynolds," chuckled Mrs. Kelly.

Miss Canada said she wasn't frightened at any time during this, her first contest."Just thrilled and excited," she explained. "I've never been to Atlantic City and am looking forward to it with all my heart."

Judges were: Anne Bollinger, Metropolitan opera star;
Leighton Brill, producer of Melody Fair; 
Sarah Churchill, star of Grammercy Ghost, which opens next week at Niagara Falls; 
Jimmy Shields, Canadian tenor; 
Conrad Thibault, concert baritone; 
Richard Waring, co-star with Miss Churchill;
and Eileen Morris, fashion and beauty editor.

Introduced to the audience were three previous Miss Canadas: Margaret Bradford of 1950; Margaret Munn of 1949; and Betty Jean Ferguson of 1948. The large crowd caught officials unawares. Slated to start at 8.30 p.m., the contest was held up until 9.10 when arrivals were finally seated. For promoter S. Radcliffe Weaver, Hamilton hairdresser, it marked the first real success in four years of operation. "I'm tickled pink," he said.

Another Norfolk girl, Evelyn May Leitch, 19, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Leitch, R.R. 2, Port Dover, also entered the pageant. An accomplished dancer, she did a tap number. 

Marjorie Kelly
Image from microfilm


Six decades later, she's still a going concern! Marjorie (Kelly) Shick, 85, now of Utah, aka Miss Canada 1951, returned to Norfolk County in Jul 2013 for a visit. 

She competed in the Miss America pageant in Sep 1951, singing an aria from La Traviata before an audience of 40,000 in Atlantic City, winning the talent portion of that competition.

As reported in the 23 Jul 2013 Simcoe Reformer: She went on to marry twice, raise four children, and perform in San Diego area operas and musicals, once appearing in an opera with then unknown Placido Domingo. Marjorie still teaches singing.

* On 26 Jul 2013 we received email from Ray Canon, who said "The song she sang was 
Voi che sapete
, from Mozart's Marriage of Figaro."
Copyright 2013 John Cardiff