MARGARET EKDAHL, TAMPA'S "MISS AMERICA"
Margaret "Mickey" Ekdahl was born Margit Agnes Ekdahl in 1912 in Eslöv, Malmöhus, Sweden. She came to America as a one-year-old infant in 1913, along with her parents, Ellis and Ellen Ekdahl, departing from Liverpool, England, and arriving at the port of Boston on the SS Laconia on Sept. 2, 1913. Ellis was 24, a shoemaker by occupation, and his wife Ellen was also 24. They settled in Manchester City, New Hampshire, where Margaret's brother, Eddy, was born around 1914, sister Ruth was born around 1921, and brother William was born around 1925. Their father Ellis worked as a salesman in 1920.
In 1926, the Ekdahls moved to Orlando, where as a schoolgirl, Margaret took a job as a hostess at the lunch counter of the Yowell-Drew Department Store tea room.
Margaret Ekdahl was more
than just pretty, there was a haunting quality in her eyes; a hint of the
same mystery that helped make Greta Garbo a legend. Later, the Orlando
press would refer to Mickey as "The Viking Queen."
MARGARET WINS "MISS TAMPA" AND "MISS FLORIDA" TITLES
Ellis Ekdahl took a job as a radio salesman and the Ekdahls soon moved to Tampa, renting a house at 1819-1/2 Watrous Avenue. Margaret's popularity in Tampa soon grew, and she quickly had the honor of winning the competition to become Miss Tampa. She continued in her beauty pageant success by winning the right to represent Florida in the national Miss America beauty pageant.
The Ekdahls on the 1930 census of Tampa. Ellis and Ellen married at age 22, so they had been married 19 years.
MISS AMERICA CONTEST CONTROVERSY
In 1930, Atlantic City's Miss America Pageant didn't exist; it had been suspended from 1928 to 1932 because of the Great Depression. So the contest was called the "Miami National Beauty Contest" and the official title was "America's Sweetheart." But the national press still referred to the winner as Miss America.
Miss Janet Eastment, "Miss Texas" of Ft. Worth, Texas was crowned the winner. The runner up was Miss California; Alberta McKellop, and Mickey Ekdahl came in as 2nd runner up.
But Mickey had a powerful champion in Orlando booster R. B. Brossier, Orlando real estate developer and newspaperman.
Soon after the contest, controversy developed. Brossier charged that Miss Eastment had been married, which was against the contest rules, and that Miss McKellop was not only not a resident of California, she had not been selected by the people of that state to represent them. Brossier said he had proof, including a copy of Miss Texas' marriage license.
Margaret Ekdahl July, 1930
MARGARET EKDAHL NAMED "MISS AMERICA"
After Miss Eastment of Texas and Miss McKellop of California were disqualified, the president of the pageant association, G. A. Trice, demanded that Eastment return the various awards of Miss America. This included the crown, a silver loving cup (trophy), and $2,500 in cash. None were ever returned, and it is reported that Miss Eastment had disposed of all her winnings.
Trice also received a telegram, believed to be from Miss McKellop's father, threatening legal action if Miss McKellop was disqualified.
Winners at Clearwater Beach
In October of 1930, Margaret travelled to Rio de Janeiro to compete in the
Miss Universe beauty pageant. Margaret was unable to place in the
competition, and was stranded in the capital city, along with contestants from
other countries, when steamship travel was suspended from the port due to the
MARGARET RETURNS HOME
By early 1932, Margaret had grown weary of the travelling and publicity. She wrote home to friends saying, "I'm tired of all this. It is all very exciting and beautiful I suppose, but for me, I prefer the quiet home life with mother, father and the children." So Margaret came home, much to the surprise of her over-awed friends and fans who saw only the glitter and glamour in the life of a celebrity. She took a job as a department store clerk in Orlando at Dickson & Ives, and became just plain "Mickey" again to her friends, who rallied to her. She never followed through with her marriage to Will Osborne.
MARGARET DIES SUDDENLY
On Wednesday, July 20, 1932, Mickey was rushed to the Orange General Hospital** for an emergency operation due to peritonitis, and died the next day. She was 20 years old. Her funeral, which was originally scheduled for Friday, was postponed until Sunday so that hundreds of her friends who worked during the week could attend.
concerning her death incorrectly state that she was taken to Orlando
General Hospital. Orlando General Hospital did not exist until 1961
when the Orlando Osteopathic Hospital (founded in 1941) moved to a new
Nearly 2,500 people came to Carey Hand Funeral Home's chapel to pay their respects, to say farewells to the girl they knew and loved. Brossier wrote a tribute to Mickey, recalling the days when as a schoolgirl, Mickey worked in the tea room, "I remarked to her, 'Some day, Miss Cinderella, we shall make you America's beauty queen.'"
Time has dimmed Mickey Ekdahl's flash of fame, but she wasn't forgotten. Up until at least 2003, someone--nobody knows who--still put flowers on the grave of the girl with the haunting eyes.
Other local beauties have gone on to do well in the Miss America pageant. Neva Jane Langley of Lakeland became Miss America in 1953, but she competed as Miss Georgia because she was attending college in that state. Ann Daniel became alternate Miss America in 1955 while she was attending Florida Southern College in Lakeland. Leanza Cornett of Jacksonville, who lived in Winter Park while playing Ariel at Walt Disney World, became Florida's first official Miss America in 1992. Orlando native Ericka Dunlap was crowned Miss America in 2004.
Corrected hospital information provided by Warren French of the Orange County Library System