El Dorado connection rediscovered for first Miss Kansas

Deanna Bonn

The first “Miss Kansas” was crowned in 1933, and her name was Pauline Sayre. Sayre was an El Dorado High School graduate of 1928 and attended El Dorado Junior College in 1929-1930.

El Dorado Junior College was founded in 1927, and is now known as Butler Community College. Sayre is pictured in the 1929 Grizzly Growl Yearbook where she is listed as a member of the class of 1930. Sayre was working at Montgomery Ward, in the summer of 1933, when she won a Bather’s Review in El Dorado and went on to compete in Wichita for the title of “Miss Kansas.”

Almost immediately following her crowing, she began a “Whistle Stop” tour with other midwestern titleholders on their way to Atlantic City to compete at Miss America. She was the first person to wear the “Miss Kansas” sash at Miss America. Her first runner up, Drusilla Morgan, assumed the title of “Miss Kansas” and became the Kansas representative at the Chicago World’s Fair, which occurred around the same time as Miss America.

Sayre’s college yearbook photo was digitally restored, thanks to Sierra Marie Bonn, Miss Southwest 2020, and presented to Butler Community College President, Dr. Kimberly Krull.

“What a great opportunity to have Sierra here to present us with the picture of the first Miss Kansas who is a Butler alum,”  Dr. Krull said. “It's really special for me, personally, but also for the college. I would guess a lot of our college community doesn’t know this piece of our history."

Sayre’s connection to El Dorado and her identity as the first “Miss Kansas” to wear the sash at Miss America had been recently rediscovered by Deanna Bonn during her research for “Celebrating 150 Years in El Dorado.”

“It’s going to be fun to dig back in the archives and get a little more information and be able to put this picture in a special place so that folks can see it and engage in the story,” Dr. Krull said.

While Sayre was the first Miss Kansas, she was not the only El Dorado woman to receive the title. In 1960, Miss El Dorado Gayla Leigh Shoemake went on to be crowned “Miss Kansas 1960” and was also given the title of “Miss Kansas Centennial 1961” and served the state during its centennial year celebration. Sierra Marie Bonn is competing for the job of “Miss Kansas 2021” and hopes to be the next “Miss Kansas” from El Dorado.