Daughter remembers mother as original ‘Whoopee Girl'

By Amanda Butterfield  |  Posted Jul 21st, 2009 @ 9:55pm



 

OGDEN -- For 75 years a cute, young rodeo queen has been the symbol of the Ogden Pioneer Days Celebration; she's called the Whoopee Girl.

The picture has been changed over the years, but it comes from a photograph of a 14-year-old Ogden girl who became a worldwide celebrity when it was printed.

Ann Call House, daughter of the original Whoopee Girl, has one of two original photographs of the icon. It was taken when Lorene Donaldson was 14.

"She's the first rodeo queen in the U.S. No one had ever married the idea of beauty queen and rodeo queen," House said.

Who is the 'Whoopee Girl?'
The infamous "Whoopee Girl" began as a vision of Ogden Mayor Harman W. Peery to help promote the Ogden Pioneer Days celebration. Peery chose 14-year-old Lorene Donaldson in 1936 as the original Whoopee Girl. She served as the rodeo queen leading the grand entry into the stadium each day.

The Whoopee Girl appeared in over 1,400 newspapers advertising Ogden's celebration. Notoriety of the Whoopee Girl reached as far as China. Donaldson later moved to California where she taught high school English, returning to Ogden in 1964 and 1984 as the honored guest of the parade. She passed away in 1995 at the age of 73. - Ogden Pioneer Days

We talked with KSL at the Treehouse in Ogden, a play area for kids that just opened a new Wild West display to commemorate 75 years of Ogden's Pioneer Days celebration.

Back in 1936, during the depression, the mayor of Ogden, Harmon Peery, wanted to bring some life and excitement back to the Pioneer Day celebrations. He thought Lorene captured his vision.

"Whoopee Girl then meant lightheartedness , happy and cheeriness," House said.

Call's mother made the outfit, which was considered a bit risqué back then but tasteful.

"She had a lariat, a beautiful white hat and boots," House said.

A picture was printed on the front page of the Standard- Examiner and quickly spread all over the world. Even a newspaper in China printed it. Then the fan mail came pouring in.

"They're from people that thought she was the cutest little cowgirl ever," House said.

Donaldson was even invited to christen the USS Ogden in San Diego.

Though Donaldson has passed away, her image is still everywhere in Ogden: on pins, belt buckles, even soda pop cans. And little girls still want to be like her.

Donaldson's great granddaughter will be wearing a replica of the "Whoopee Girl" outfit on a float in the Ogden parade; that's this Friday morning.

E-mail: abutterfield@ksl.com

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