RUSH SPRINGS, OKLAHOMA -- She was certainly pretty enough. A portrait from that time proves it, but Ada Mae Tims never thought much about becoming the 1940 Watermelon Queen. "Were you surprised?" asks a visitor. "Yes," she smiles. "I certainly was."
From her old kitchen table in Rush Springs, Ada Mae English, her married name now, can look back on a lot of good years. She lived 60 of them in this house. Ada had one child, a son, but she now enjoys an armload of grandkids and great grandkids.
It's funny how some things end up on the resume of your life. Her nomination as watermelon queen came as news to her as did her coronation as the first queen ever. "So you just came to town and got the news." questions her visitor. "Yes." she says. "I saw my name up there as the winner."
On a Saturday in early August thousands of people from all around gather here for a free slice of watermelon and a big hunk of fun. The local Lion's Club keeps portraits of all the past Watermelon Queens on a wall in their meeting room. Over the years winning the crown became more of a challenge.
Winners like this years Queen May'ze Brown had to sell banquet tickets and answer live questions to earn the coveted sash. But more than seven decades later the original queen still holds court. Ada Mae is good friends with May'Zey's grandmother. In small towns people always know eachother pretty well. "It's great though," says Miss Brown of being in such august company. "It's such an honor. It really is."
In addition to her title the new Watermelon Queen gets some pretty good swag from local merchants. In some ways that crown, once earned, sits on the winner's head forever. But the first one gets sweeter with each passing year. "My son is always bragging about it," says Ada Mae. "It used to be, when I was younger, I'd tell him to be quiet because people would know how old I was, but now I don't care."