Linda Booker Bennett's mother was a member of the Junior Waverly Club, which sponsored her in the pageant. Bennett said her mother and other members of all the local civic clubs spent long hours "making thousands of flowers to use in their own creative design so their contestant would have the most beautiful float for the parade."
The Golden Jubilee:1962 Dairy Fest Queen knew how to handle herself down on the farm
By TERRY MATHEWS, News-Telegram Arts Editor
August 3, 2008 - When she was crowned 1962 Dairy Festival Queen, Linda Booker Bennett had first-hand experience in running a milk-producing operation.
"My grandparents, Judge Grover and Hazel Sellers, who had a dairy farm, instilled in me a love and pride for the dairy industry," Bennett explained. "I learned how to bring the cows into the barn without spooking them and to get their head secure so they could begin eating while I put the milking machine on -- all while trying not to get kicked."
Linda Bennett at her home today. She's lived in Hopkins County for all but 19 years of her life. For the past 13 years, she has served as the director of the Sulphur Springs campus of Paris Junior College.
Staff Photo By Angela Pitts
Bennett's regular duties included some of the more glamorous aspects of farming.
"I got to clean up the barn with the shovel and help haul the manure out to pasture," she explained.
Bennett's education was not without its perils.
"The dairyman that worked for my grandfather would drive the tractor and all the kids would sit on the tractor and ride with him to dump out the manure," she explained. "One day his daughter and I were riding on the front of the tractor. He hit a ditch and we fell off. The large back tire ran over us."
The dairyman's daughter had to have surgery, but Bennett only had to limp around for several days.
Despite the dangers, Bennett's work on the farm was not without its rewards, thanks to generosity of her grandfather.
"Every year I always knew what my birthday present would be -- a newborn Jersey heifer," she said. "My granddaddy wanted all of his grandkids to have their own registered herd. He was strictly a Jersey man."
Linda Booker Bennett after being crowned 1962 Dairy Festival Queen.
Despite careers as a teacher, attorney and judge, Bennett says dairy farming was her grandfather's first love.
"In 1928, he purchased 47 acres which in time grew to 300 acres and into one of the best dairy farms in Hopkins County," she said. "It was called Sellers Jersey Farm."
Judge Sellers was instrumental in getting the Carnation Milk Company to locate a plant in Hopkins County, being the first milk producer to sell to the company when the new plant first opened, according to Bennett.
"He loved his Jersey cows," she said. "In his older years, he liked to sit on the screened porch and watch the cows come up to the barn for milking. He even built his house on the dairy farm so as to face the barn, rather than facing the road like most people do."
Bennett says it was her grandfather that got the family involved in the dairy festival pageant.
"I had just turned 16 and didn't have a car. My grandfather loved to visit with people, so he took me all around the county to sell tickets," Bennett said. "That was my favorite part of the entire Dairy Festival experience -- meeting and visiting with folks."
Bennett's younger sister, Becky, was a runner-up in the 1965 pageant, while sister Bonni won the title in 1979. Even younger brother Buck got into the act by entering his calves in festival shows when he was only 5 years old.
Bennett's parents were Larry and Helen Sellers Booker. They owned the Super Handy, which was the very first convenience store in Sulphur Springs in 1948.
"My father later opened several additional stories, which my brother, Buck Booker and his wife, Debbie now own and operate today," Bennett said.
Bennett's mother, who also grew up in Hopkins County, was a member of the Junior Waverly Club. They sponsored her in the pageant.
"1962 was my year," she explained. "I had just finished my sophomore year at Sulphur Springs High School. I was so thankful the talent presentation was not a requirement that year."
Bennett said her mother and other members of all the local civic clubs spent long hours "making thousands of flowers to use in their own creative design so their contestant would have the most beautiful float for the parade."
The theme of the 1962 pageant was "Winter Wonderland," according to Bennett. Jimmy Clifton was her escort for the evening.
"I'm not sure I understand 'Winter Wonderland,'" she said. "It was June."
The festival was a two-day event in those days.
"We had the Queen's Ball after the pageant that evening," Bennett said. "The next day, milk was served to motorists who wanted to stop by. Haskell Spencer's dairy farm and the Carnation Milk plant were open for tours. And, of course, the main attraction was the Northeast Texas Dairy Show, where the grand champions were selected."
Once the two-day festival was over, Bennett kept busy representing Hopkins County in surrounding counties.
"I remember going as a Duchess to Winnsboro's Autumn Trails Festival," she said. "It was a real treat to spend the night with the other girls in a beautiful old colonial three-story house. I had never been in such a house."
The home Bennett remembers belonged to the late Mr. and Mrs. M.D. Carlock. Mrs. Carlock was active in the early days of Winnsboro's Autumn Trails. The home is currently known as Oaklea Mansion, a bed and breakfast.
After high school, Bennett left the area to attend North Texas State University. That move only lasted one year.
"I missed Hopkins County folks and family, so I returned to finish my undergraduate degree at East Texas State University," she said. "I enjoyed ET so much, I went back after teaching a few years to complete my master's and doctoral degrees."
Bennett says she's lived in Hopkins County for all but 19 years of her life.
"My grown sons, David and Don, have enjoyed spending many of their growing up years here," she said. "It has truly been a blessing to come home and and spend time with family and friends once again. Sulphur Springs is the greatest place to live, work and raise a family."
Bennett has worked as a high school teacher and college instructor. For the past 13 years, she has served as the director of the Sulphur Springs campus of Paris Junior College.
Bennett is also active in community affairs, serving on the board of the Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce and Workforce Solutions.
She encourages today's young ladies to "take any opportunity they may have to participate in all of the events of the Dairy Festival. It's a great time for new experiences and new friends."
In addition to her Dairy Festival experience, Bennett is grateful to have grown up in Hopkins County and now cherishes the memories of time spent with her grandfather.
"When I was a kid, I didn't really like going to town with my granddaddy," she said, "especially when he went to the post office, because he would always run into someone, and stand and chat. But, now I do the same thing and always look forward to my daily visit to the post office, the social crossroads of this town. It's just another reason I love being back in Hopkins County -- such a special group of people."
She also appreciates life on the farm.
"I had lots of fun living at my grandparents' house, being able to walk to the barn and try my hand at milking," Bennett remembered. "I still spend a lot of time on the family farm -- but I stay away from the tractor."
Hopkins County Princesses
- Miss Martha Hendrix - escorted by Johnny Motes and sponsored by the Lions Club
- Miss Nancy Alexander - escorted by Gerod Melton and sponsored by the Tanti Club
- Miss Nita Goldsmith - escorted by Douglas Martin and sponsored by North Hopkins School
- Miss Sandra Hedge - escorted by Gary Jacobsen and sponsored by the Standard Club
- Miss Donna Broyles - escorted by Harold Sharber and sponsored by the Mothers Culture Club
- Miss Jackie Perkins - escorted by Murray D. Dawon and sponsored by the Business and Professional Women
- Miss Ida Sue Crawford - escorted by Jerry Don Putman and sponsored by the Dial Study Club
- Miss Kay Kimmons - escorted by Michael Harrelson and sponsored by the Pickton FFA
- Miss Joye McGrede - escorted by Barry Camp and sponsored by the Waverly Club.
Ladies in Waiting
- Miss Tommie Brinkley - escorted by Wayne Kenney and sponsored by Sulphur Springs Garden Club
- Miss Sally Mayes - escorted by Boby Meador and sponsored by Sulphur Springs FFA
- Miss Carol Mallory of Paris - escorted by Sammy Reiger
- Miss Sherry Miller of Cooper - escorted by Mike Morgan
- Miss Jackie Nell Simms of Mt. Vernon - escorted by Ronnie Narramore
- Miss Ann Smith of Winnsboro - escorted by Jim Galloway
- Miss Sue Change of Mineola - escorted by Jeff Smith
- Miss Judy Newman of Greenville - escorted by Nicky Blain
- Miss Freida Thompson of Grand Saline - escorted by Phil Adams
- Miss Carolyn Heath of Pittsburg - escorted by Bob Martin.
- General Chairman - J.W. Branscome
- Pageant Coordinators - Mrs. F.G. Rogers and Mrs. Wayne Melton
- Decorations - Mrs. Pete Wright, Mrs. Joe Woosley, Mrs. M.D. Merrell, Mrs. T.A. Robertson and Mrs. T.D. Parkins
- Tickets - Mrs. E.Y. Parkins
- Queen's Arrangement - Mrs. Dood Emerson, Mrs. Gerald Thomas and Bill Tuck
- Court Program - Mrs. Truman Drake
- Parade Co-Chairmen - Dr. John Weddle, Mrs. B.F. Ashcroft, Mrs. Bruce Cherry and E.Y. Pettit.
- Transportation - Randal Maddox
- Homes for Duchesses - Mrs. Jim Masters
- Queen's Party Arrangements - Mrs. Bill Floyd and Hopkins County Home Demonstration Council.
- Publicity - Mrs. Allen Jacobsen and Mrs. R.W. Montgomery
- Lighting - Mickey Eddins
- Queen's Ball - Mr. and Mr. F.M. Holder
- Usherettes - Sophomore Girls of the High School
- Organ - Courtesy of Murray Funeral Home.
-Information from Thursday, June 7, 1962, edition of The Daily News-Telegram.
(Editor's Note: In June 2009, the Hopkins County Dairy Festival will celebrate its 50th anniversary. In the weeks leading up to the festival, the News-Telegram will visit with former Dairy Festival queens to reminisce about the festival, the pageant and what it meant to wear the crown.)