Fond Fourth of July memories from the queen of 1950

By on June 29, 2016

LR20160630_Ginny2Back in 1950, the Queen of the Candles pageant seemed like royalty.

At least that’s the way the 1950 Queen of the Candles Virginia Ranck Ludwig remembers it. On the evening of the pageant, the 18-year-old queen was escorted down the hill at the western end of Lititz Springs Park.

It was a royal procession that met at the old Boy Scout cabin, with young heralds dressed all in white leading the way. Behind the young men was the ring bearer. That year, it was a young Roy Clair. Then, the queen herself gracefully descended the hill, carrying flowers and with two young attendants holding her long white train. Behind them, the 11 members of the queen’s court followed in pastel dresses, with candles in hand.

“It was all quite grand, a very beautiful evening that I will always remember,” says Ludwig, best known to her friends as “Ginny.”

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Virginia Ranck Ludwig has fond memories of the summer of 1950, when she was crowned Lititz’s Queen of the Candles.

Now nearly 84, Ludwig graduated from Lititz High School in 1950. As a senior, she was eligible to be voted on by her classmates for the honor of being queen. She never imagined that she would be chosen.

“I was always the shy, reserved girl,” says Ludwig. “I was quiet, but I was always nice to people. I got along with everybody.”

Her high school yearbook picture and profile sheds a little more light on Ludwig’s warm, kind-hearted personality.

“Ginny is an attractive brunette, neat in appearance, who is well-liked by all her classmates,” was written next to a picture of a pretty teen with a glowing smile.

Back in 1950, things were done a little differently. Instead of the queen being named on July 4th, surprising everyone at the festivities, the queen was named ahead of time. On the day of the big announcement, the young women of the class waited with bated breath in the gym as the names of the Queen of the Candles court were read. Ludwig never imagined that the very last name called would be hers, and that she was to be the Queen of the Candles.

“When I didn’t hear my name, I just assumed I wasn’t on the court. Then they said I was the queen, and I was very surprised. I do know my parents were so proud,” says the daughter of mailman Edward Ranck and his wife Pearl.

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Queen of the Candles Ginny Ranck is accompanied by her court, which included ring bearer Roy Clair, during the 1950 pageant.

Unlike many little girls in Lititz, Ludwig never dreamed of being Queen of the Candles. She had seen the pageant in past years (the pageant started in 1942, when she was just 10) but to be the queen seemed out of reach for a shy girl who underestimated her charm.

In 1950, the girls all wore their hair short. Their home economics teacher Margaret Hower had made the dresses the court wore, passed down over the years. They were made of organdy with an off-the-shoulder design and a peplum waist. The court’s dresses were in soft pastels, like pale pink, mint green, lemon yellow and sky blue. The queen’s dress was white, almost like a bride, with a long train and a wreath of flowers in her hair.

Ludwig still recalls some of the people who were involved in the pageant, like heralds Paul Diehm, Harold Petticoffer, Gary Sipe and Frank Fry. The pages were Jerry Eckert and Richard Minnich. She wore high heels that day, because she was petite and wanted to look a little taller next to Jean Hannah and Diane Zaiss.

Bob Ludwig must have thought she looked like a beautiful bride that evening. Her yearbook mentions her “spending much of her leisure time dating Luddie.” A few years later, they were married, and still live in Lititz.

Right after graduating from high school, the young queen followed her dream to be a secretary. She began working at the medical offices of Dr. Paul Hess on South Broad Street in 1950. Later, Dr. Reyer Swan and Dr. Arthur Holder joined the practice, and the office remained there until 1976 when it was relocated to West Second Avenue as Lititz Family Practice.

“I was a receptionist until I retired in 1998 after 48 years,” recalls Ludwig. “I got to know many people in Lititz that way.”

Still active in retirement, Ludwig walks five days a week at the Lititz recCenter and outdoors. She loves to read, and plays word search and computer solitaire. She volunteers at Lititz United Methodist Church at the clothing bank. She also enjoys playing dominos with friends.

“I have very fond memories of that year when I was Queen of the Candles. In 1976, I participated in the bicentennial, and in 1991 in the golden jubilee. And now it’s the 75th anniversary of the pageant. The years seem to fly by,” she says with the same sweet smile that won over her classmates 66 summers ago.

Laura Knowles is a local freelance feature writer and regular contributor to the Record Express. She can be reached at lknowles21@gmail.com.

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