It was the year without a bean festival queen in Stayton.  Festival manager Gene Malecki and fellow organizers of the 15th Annual Santiam Bean Festival scheduled for July 1949 decided to shake up some old traditions.  Instead of selecting their usual bean queen and her court, a young boy would be crowned Jack of the Beanstalk and his court would consist of a small band of merry men.  The storybook character of Jack was chosen for its ties to the extensive crop of snap beans in the locality.

One of these eight youngsters shown inspecting the bean fields at Darley’s plantation near Stayton will be chosen “Jack-of-the-Beanstalk” of the 1949 Santiam Bean Festival. They are, left to right, Kenneth Ware, Jackie Ditter, Denny Frank, Gail Elmer, Thumper Julian, Ray Markham, Leroy Fender and Paul Freres. Photo Credit: Daily Capital Journal July 7, 1949

One of these eight youngsters shown inspecting the bean fields at Darley’s plantation near Stayton will be chosen “Jack-of-the-Beanstalk” of the 1949 Santiam Bean Festival. They are, left to right, Kenneth Ware, Jackie Ditter, Denny Frank, Gail Elmer, Thumper Julian, Ray Markham, Leroy Fender and Paul Freres. Photo Credit: Daily Capital Journal July 7, 1949

Eight boys ages 6-8 entered the contest, each sponsored by local groups.  Kenneth Ware, son of Mr. and Mrs. Angus Ware of Stayton was sponsored by the Eva Rebekah Lodge.  Denny Frank, son of Mr. and Mrs. A.J. Frank of Stayton, was sponsored by the Catholic Daughters of America. Paul Freres, son of Mr. and Mrs. Louie Freres of Stayton, was sponsored by the Stayton Garden Club.  Gail Elmer, son of Mr. and Mrs. Percy Elmer of Albany was sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary.  Jackie Ditter, son of Mr. and Mrs. Barney Ditter of Sublimity, was sponsored by the city of Sublimity.  Raymond Markham, son of Mr. and Mrs. Perry Markham of West Stayton was sponsored by the city of West Stayton. Leroy Fender, son of Mr. and Mrs. Myron Fender of Mehama, was sponsored by the city of Mehama.  Thumper Julian, son of Mr. and Mrs. Glenn Julian of Lyons, was sponsored by the city of Lyons.

The boys made their first group appearance at the Cherryland Festival parade on July 1, 1949 in Salem, followed by parades at the Albany Timber Carnival on July 2nd and the St. Paul Rodeo on July 4th.  Their float was an oversized bean can and their costumes were yellow polo shirts, yellow kerchiefs and green baseball caps.  Over 5000 handbills were passed out at each parade appearance advertising the upcoming Santiam Bean Festival at the end of July.  Voting took place in Stayton during the three weeks leading up to the festival.

At stake this year, in addition to the honor of being crowned Jack of the Beanstalk, was a thrilling opportunity.  An all-expense paid trip to Beantown itself, Boston, Massachusetts thanks to the sponsorship of United Airlines, the Associated Press and Stayton canneries.  As an emissary of the bean festival and the city of Stayton, Jack would present Boston’s mayor with a case of Santiam canned beans and a wool blanket produced by Paris Woolen Mills.

And the winner was? Denny Frank.  According to the Albany Democrat-Herald, eight-year-old Denny was the clear winner in the popularity poll and was described as a “real, all-around boy…all smiles and about to burst with joy.”

Back from Boston with his baked beans – Denny Frank Photo Credit: Daily Capital Journal July 25, 1949

Back from Boston with his baked beans – Denny Frank
Photo Credit: Daily Capital Journal July 25, 1949

More than 200 townspeople, a brass band and a flock of dignitaries came to McNary Airport the night of July 21, 1949 to give Denny a rousing send-off and like any other celebrity he was interviewed by a Salem radio station announcer minutes before he climbed aboard the United Airlines plane for his 3,000-mile journey.  Asked by the announcer what kind of beans he was taking to Boston, Denny looked perplexed and responded “Boston baked beans” then added that he’d never taken a plane ride before and would like to get going.  He was accompanied by his mother Mrs. Louise Frank and festival organizer Gene Malecki.

As Denny stepped off the transcontinental airplane in Boston, he handed the case of beans to a representative from the mayor’s office since Mayor Curley happened to be out of town.  In return Denny was handed a two-quart brown pot of Boston baked beans to which he replied, “Oh, gee.”  Despite the coaxing of his mother, he was unable to say anything else.  Bright and early the next morning Denny was up for a sightseeing tour of Boston’s historic spots.  But the highlight of the trip for Denny, was the ball game between the Boston Braves and the Pittsburgh Pirates.  In addition to all these new experiences, Denny was on television while in Boston and his party was followed about by a battery of newsmen and photographers documenting the visit of the beanstalk boy from the west.

“Gee, yes.  Sure I had a good time,” exclaimed Denny at the end of his return flight to Salem.  Dressed in his  green and yellow beanstalk suit, Denny was full of enthusiasm about his first big league game and the chance to meet some of the ball players.  “He is a swell little guy,” declared Malecki at the conclusion of the 6000-mile plane junket.  “But goodness, how the boy can chew gum.  I’ll bet he used 30 packages on that trip.”

Denny Frank crowned Jack-of-the-Beanstalk at the Santiam Bean Festival 1949. Photo Credit: Daily Capital Journal July 27, 1949

Denny Frank crowned Jack-of-the-Beanstalk at the Santiam Bean Festival 1949.  Photo Credit: Daily Capital Journal July 27, 1949

Denny’s official coronation was held Tuesday, July 26, 1949 at 7:30 p.m. in Stayton’s new community building with Ormond R. Bean, Portland City Commissioner officiating.  The other contest boys became members of Jack’s court and were assisted in their duties by an honor guard made up of members of the Robin Hood organization of Sherwood. The Santiam Bean Festival ran for 5 days, ending Saturday July 28th.  It included parades, dances, a radio amateur hour, free Santiam beans, bean-hole feed, and a carnival put on by the Browning Brothers.