Mickye Bressler 1958 Jersey Dairy Queen sharing her crown with a calf. WHC 2016.059.0001
It’s that time of year. 4-H and FFA kids are slipping into their show shirts or jackets, shining up their boots, and sizing up the competition. Marion County Fair just wrapped up, Polk County Fair is scheduled for the second week in August and before we know it the Oregon State Fair will be here. It seemed appropriate this month to share the story of the former North Marion Fair and a young 4-H sheep showman that went on to become a queen.
Mickye Bressler was born October 5, 1942 in Salem to Harold and Faye Scheirman Bressler. An only child, she grew up on the 2-acre family farm in North Salem, off Center Street. Her father was a finish carpenter by trade and both parents were active in 4-H, at one point even forming their own 4-H club called Lucky Live Stockers. Mickye’s 4-H project animal breed of choice were Southdown sheep, a small to medium size English breed that had adapted well to the wet climate of the northwest.
The petite, dark-haired girl first caught the community’s attention in 1956 when at the age of thirteen she took the Ray Glatt trophy for showmanship in the sheep division and one of her sheep was picked as grand champion during the 15th annual North Marion Fair. She would go on to earn grand champion sheep showman at the State Fair that same year for the junior division. By way of explanation, from 1936 to 1969 the city of Woodburn hosted a community fair that was called the North Marion Fair. Held at the Woodburn Armory and adjacent sheds and warehouses, it was an opportunity for farmers, granges and other agricultural organizations to show-off their best produce and livestock. It is credited with hosting the first “steam-up” of steam engines that continues to this day at Antique Powerland.
One of the more unique contests at the fair was the “haystack contest” limited to boys age 13 and under. Three large needles, the kind for sewing up sacks of grain, were hidden in a haystack. The first two contestants to find a needle each were declared joint winners, but only if they completed the final step of looking through the eyes of their needles to “see eye to eye” with each other. A consolation prize was awarded to the boy that found the third hidden needle.
But, back to our 4-Her Mickye. In 1957, she took State Fair honors with “an obedient little Southdown lamb named Poki-O-Do” according to the local paper. Against more than a hundred entrants from throughout the state she won the 4-H sheep showmanship contest at the intermediate level. Ironically, she named the lamb “poki” because he was always so slow coming when she called. Despite his name and reputation, the lamb didn’t miss a cue during the grand championship run-off round.
1958 brought more accolades when Mickye again took grand championship in 4-H sheep showmanship, this time in the senior division. She set a new fair record by winning grand championship three years in a row at each successive level of 4-H. But the competition and photograph that piqued our interest in her was sponsored by the Oregon Jersey Cattle Club. You see, sheep were not the only livestock raised on the Bressler family farm in North Salem. That particular year, Mickye raised a Jersey calf, daughter of the family cow, and brought it to fair.
There were seven dairy princesses competing, Anne Warmington of Yamhill County, Christine Muffet of Clackamas County, Nellie Jean VanCalear of Southwestern Oregon, Joyce Rogers of Rogue Valley, Joann Robertson of Washington County, Betty Simonson from Clatsop County, and of course Mickye representing Marion County. The queen was chosen based on a system which awarded 40 points for beauty, 20 for personality, 20 for appearance and 20 for dairy knowledge. No one could have been more surprised than Mickye when Lloyd Forester, president of the Oregon Jersey Cattle Club placed the golden crown on head. You see, Mickye almost didn’t make it to the competition. Five months earlier she lay critically ill in Salem Hospital, near death. Stricken with pneumonia and appendicitis, she spent four days in the critical care unit. It was a long road to recovery for the active high schooler.
After her coronation, Mickye went on to serve on the youth committee of the Oregon Jersey Cattle club, remained active in the Girls League at North Salem High school, served on the student council and worked on the annual and school paper. Two years after her graduation and coronation she married handsome naval officer Donald McKay Willis on February 27, 1960 in Pearl Harbor. Throughout their married life they have traveled and lived in many locations around the United States.
This article was written by Kaylyn F. Mabey for the Statesman Journal newspaper where it appeared on Sunday, May 12, 2017. It is reproduced here with sources for reference purposes.
- City Directories
- “Labish Garden Club Takes Honors at North Marion County Fair” Statesman Journal (Salem, OR) 2 Sep 1953
- “North Marion County Fair Features Community Units” Daily Capital Journal (Salem, OR) 16 Sep 1948
- “We’ll See You At the North Marion Fair” Statesman Journal (Salem, OR) 14 Sep 1950
- “Girl Awarded Fair Honors At Woodburn” Statesman Journal (Salem, OR) 23 Sep 1956
- “Salem Girl Queen of Jerseydom” Statesman Journal (Salem, OR) 3 Sep 1958
- “Girls Fete Mothers at Friday Tea” Statesman Journal (Salem, OR) 30 Apr 1957
- “Salem Teenager Tops Sheep Show” The News-Review (Roseburg, OR) 9 Sep 1957
- “Jersey Club Youth Board Named” Statesman Journal (Salem, OR) 7 Dec 1958
- “Miss Bressler Bride of Navy Man in Hawaii” Statesman Journal (Salem, OR) 9 Feb 1960
- “Dairymen Should Enlarge Youth Program, Jersey Cattle Club Told at Salem Meeting” Statesman Journal (Salem, OR) 2 December 1956