Miss Frontier 1939 reflects on a year of adventuresWritten by Liz LeSatz
Louise Holmes-Bartlett was 23 years old when she took the role as Miss Frontier in 1939. Now the oldest Miss Frontier, she says her ranching background, ancestry and skill on a horse earned her the honor of representing the “Daddy of ‘em all.”
“I lived on a ranch and was from a pioneer family,” says Mrs. Bartlett. “[The committee] knew I could ride and I had my own horse so they chose me.”
The Cheyenne native used to get up and start riding around 5 a.m. When she was growing up, she says she remembers her dad calling her to get the horses and working in the fields.
Mrs. Bartlett served three years as royalty, one year as color bearer, one as lady-in-waiting and one year as Miss Frontier. During her term she was known as the Sweetheart of Cheyenne and she wore black and white buckskins to compliment her raven hair.
The memories from her year as Miss Frontier are a patchwork of dancing with Indians, being roped by handsome cowboys, riding a roller coaster at Elitch’s while holding onto her 10-gallon hat, getting her picture in the paper daily, appearing in advertisements for Farmall tractors, traveling around Colorado and Wyoming and even meeting movie stars.
With a myriad of memories to choose from, Mrs. Bartlett loves talking about the dances she attended.
“One thing was really outstanding about being in the Frontier Days business and that was the dance hall,” she says. “In the evenings you would see everyone and it was so fun because it was only 10 cents. Who wouldn’t want to dance for 10 cents?”
Mrs. Bartlett says the Plains Hotel was the place to be back then. A host of people would gather there, including a rancher riding his horse through the lobby after each parade. She also remembers meeting at the Plains at 7:30 a.m. each day to get ready for their performances with the Indian dancers.
There are things that went on during Mrs. Bartlett’s reign that she says wouldn’t be allowed today. She recalls a cowboy who would cause mischief with the pretty girls.
“Bob Crosby was a colorful cowboy and a great roper and he used to rope the good looking girls and drag them up the street,” she laughs. “You know what that would be like now, they’d arrest him.”
Growing up on the Holmes Hereford Ranch 18 miles north of Cheyenne, Mrs. Bartlett had an interest in CFD long before she was Miss Frontier. She remembers riding her horses with her dad and brother from the ranch to watch the festivities.
The Holmes family has quite the tradition with the Miss Frontier title. Her cousin Carolyn Holmes O’Connor was Miss Frontier in 1967, niece Shirley Holmes Churchill was Miss Frontier in 1967 and niece Britt Miller was Miss Frontier in 2002.
Mrs. Bartlett was even able to wear her Miss Frontier garb up until Miller’s coronation, which was the last time she wore her CFD attire.
The roles for today’s Miss Frontier are a little different than they were in 1939. When Mrs. Bartlett held the title, she was required to provide most of her own outfits and gear, but she says the modern Miss Frontier has more work and traveling responsibilities. Some traditions have lasted, however.
“We took the same trips they take now, but I think we probably had a better time,” Mrs. Bartlett jokes.
No matter how many years pass, Mrs. Bartlett believes the program is worthwhile and she appreciates the tradition of selecting Cheyenne natives.
“Most of the queens selected are from pioneer families,” she says. “It carries on the tradition.”
After her term as Miss Frontier, Mrs. Bartlett went on to raise three children. Living in the same house on Yellowstone Ave. in Cheyenne, she has watched the city grow up around her.
“I did a lot of riding with friends,” she remembers. “We used to keep three horses here and we used to ride our horses all over every day. There wouldn’t be any place to ride anymore.”
Mrs. Bartlett stayed active with CFD for many years. She rode horses in the parade and drove a team more than 20 years. She also was an annual guest at many CFD events including the coronation of Miss Frontier.
Still going strong, Mrs. Bartlett was honored at her 50-year anniversary as Miss Frontier and again in 1999 as a Cowgirls of the West honoree. She is also a member of the Wheels, Pioneer Club and is active in her church.
No matter how many years pass, Louise Holmes-Bartlett will always fondly remember her years as Miss Frontier 1939.
“I wouldn’t give anything for when I was Miss Frontier,” she says. “It was a good experience.”