Rita Howell’s column

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 6, 2011

British royalty limited, ours found all over Panola

OK, so I didn’t get up at 4 last Friday morning to watch the royal wedding the first time.

However, over the course of the weekend I had plenty of opportunities to catch scenes of Will and Kate, over and over and over. The Dress. The Carriage Ride. The Kiss.

Did I hear Bryan Williams correctly? Two billion people watched that wedding?

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And most of those, like viewers in America, were drinking in the details though we really have no vested interest in Will and Kate. He’s not our prince.

Didn’t we fight a war in 1776 so we could be free of England and the king?

Who needs British royalty? We’ve got our own.

Especially here in the South, we love a tiara. (See facing page.)

Since there are no royal bloodlines to establish who gets one, we’ve made up our own rules.

Who are our queens? Where are they found?

On football fields in the fall, in school auditoriums, at church and civic club fund-raisers.

Even at retirement homes, they crown royalty.

In our community, the Junior Auxiliary recognizes citizens for community service, bestowing the titles Charity Ball King and Queen, with the appropriate headgear.

Some churches stage fund-raisers and “crown” the lady who raises the most money.

 As you can see in the accompanying photos, we have lots of royalty here. And these are just from the past six or eight months. And these are not all, just all I had room for.

You’ll recognize Wallace Cochran, the Valentine King at Fairfield Assisted Living. Madison Greenlee is shown with one of her two crowns. She’s a double royal, with a Charity Ball Princess crown and a North Delta Homecoming Queen tiara. Those are tears of joy on the cheeks of South Panola High School Homecoming Queen Sue Curry, following her coronation last fall.

And who is the king-maker behind all these crowned heads?

Jeweler Mark Smith has provided more tiaras than he can count over many years.

Mark belongs to the Jewelers of America. The trade organization provides him with about six crowns each year to be donated to schools and groups in the community.

“My mother really started this years ago,” Mark recalled, referring to the late Mary Ruth Smith.

So before any coronation in Panola County, Mark is usually consulted.

The rhinestone tiara worn by the recently coronated Miss Hospitality Emily Bright actually has more dazzle than the subdued (but diamond-encrusted) version worn by Kate Middleton last Friday.

If you’re going to be a queen, why hide your light under a bushel?

Which brings me to an admission: I have a tiara.

That’s right, y’all. I was Little Miss Batesville in 1961.

That’s right, y’all. I peaked at age six.

Editor’s Note: The photos were not uploaded for this version of the website. You can see them in our online version or in a printed copy of The Panolian.