On this day in 1962: Carl Sandburg, age 84, makes his final public performance, reading poetry, singing and playing the guitar at Flat Rock Playhouse. To cap off the evening he waltzes in the wings with Maria Beale Fletcher of Asheville, who has just finished her year as Miss America.
“In 1961, Miss North Carolina, Maria Beale Fletcher, was named Miss America. A former A-student in high school, Maria was also the daughter of professional dancers and had been a Rockette herself. After winning the title she expressed an interest in opening up a dancing school rather than going to college. The possibility so appalled the Pageant that four Miss Americas, who had returned for the ceremonies , were sicked on Miss Fletcher to give her some of that old-time Pageant religion. Eventually, Maria gave in and subsequently used the scholarship at Vanderbilt University, where she enjoyed an outstanding academic career.
“The point is not primarily what she finally elected to do; it is in the reaction of the Pageant to the idea that anyone might wish to deviate from the academic schedule. But anyway, for proof that Maria certainly made the right decision, it cited that she found and married an outstanding young doctor at Vanderbilt. As the Pageant will explain, over and over, a formal education is a most valuable American commodity.”
— From “There She Is: The Life and Times of Miss America” by Frank Deford (1971)