Irma Gearing (nee Shatte) was crowned the first Miss Appleblossom in 1955. The competition is now known as the Apple and Grape Harvest Festival Young Ambassador comp. Photo Contributed
Irma Gearing (nee Shatte) was crowned the first Miss Appleblossom in 1955. The competition is now known as the Apple and Grape Harvest Festival Young Ambassador comp. Photo Contributed Photo Contributed

Miss Apple Blossom reflects on the first ball

THE modern-day Apple and Grape Harvest Festival Young Ambassador competition is worlds apart from the inaugural quest in 1955.

Then known as Miss Apple Blossom, the first winner, Irma Gearing (nee Shatte), was picked out from the crowd at the fist ball held at the St Joseph's Hall in October, not March as it is today.

Irma, who was raised on her parents Herb and Beryl Shatte's sheep property Forest Oak at Cottonvale, said there was a "buzz around town" leading up to the first ball.

"A group of us went to a lot of the balls around the place but I remember there was a lot of talk about the first Apple Blossom ball," she said.

The girls didn't have to register to be part of the competition - they just had to come along on the night and participate in a particular dance.

From there 14 finalists were chosen.

"I was very lucky. A chap from Toowoomba asked me to dance," she said.

"He was tall and a very good dancer, which helped my cause."

Irma Gearing (nee Shatte) is awarded her prize. Photo Contributed
Irma Gearing (nee Shatte) is awarded her prize. Photo Contributed Photo Contributed

The Stanthorpe Border Post reported on Tuesday, October 11, 1955, in the Around the Town column that nearly 600 people attended the ball, which was organised by the newly-formed Junior Chamber of Commerce.

"(The) night was an unqualified social and financial success," it read.

"Almost 600 people attended this Apple Blossom Week social highlight, the main feature of which was the choosing of Miss Apple Blossom.

"Frocking for the ball was very colourful, and the brilliantly decorated hall was a perfect setting for the beautifully outfitted ladies as they danced in the arms of their dark-clad partners to popular dance music provided by Sandersons and Sofias orchestra."

The article went on to describe the crowning of the inaugural Miss Apple Blossom.

"After due consideration, 14 finalists were selected and these were Shirley Phillips, Irma Shatte, Joan Nielsen, Betty McNamara, Del Perring, Betty Joyce, Pat Davis, Josephine Sofia, Noela Watters, Kathe Neil, Joan Wockner (Warwick) and Dawn Dowling," it read.

"The announcement that Miss Irma Shatte (Cottonvale) had won the coveted title was received with loud applause.

"A close runner-up was Miss Noela Watters.

Mrs Gearing said winning was a "bit of a shock".

"We all probably thought we stood a good chance but I wasn't expecting anything," she said.

"It's a special thing that I get to hold onto now."

The former Dalveen State Primary School student entered the following year as Miss Volkswagen, sponsored by Crisps, when it was decided the girls would fundraise in advance but was unsuccessful the second time.

Since then Irma married William Gearing and has spent her married life living between Townsville and Brisbane with her husband and son William.

Stanthorpe Border Post

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