50 years later, Hampton Beach queen reflects on impact of pageant title

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By Max Sullivan

Hampton Union, July 25, 2014

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Sheila Scott HAMPTON BEACH — Winning the 1967 Miss New Hampshire.

Being named Miss Congeniality in the 1968 Miss America pageant.

Joining the 1968 USO tour to travel the Far East.

Now 66, Sheila Scott said it may never have happened if it weren't for the Miss Hampton Beach pageant she won in 1964.

"This experience was very important in my life and acted as a catapult for me," Scott said. "It was an enormous boost for my self-confidence."

Fifty years after she was crowned Miss Hampton Beach, Scott will return to the area this weekend to judge contestants in the very pageant that opened the door to her fulfilling career.

"I'm very excited," Scott said.

Scott was born in England to an Irish father and an English mother in 1948. She wasn't alive for World War II, but during that time her family lived on a street in England that was frequently bombarded by the German Luftwaffe. The Scotts survived the war, but the years that followed brought economic struggle in England. In 1954, the Scotts family moved across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States.

Life in America began in a rough way for Scott.

At 9 years old, her 11-year-old brother drowned.

Three years later, her father died of a brain hemorrhage.

Scott's mother took the family to the thriving vacation community of Hampton Beach in 1962, where she opened a small hotel on K Street, but that year the beach dealt with rioting that drove vacationers away, putting the motel out of business.

But amidst the hardship, Hampton Beach brought some good into Scott's life. A singer at an early age, Scott entered her first competition, a Hampton Beach talent contest, in 1963, which she won.

The next year, Scott entered the Miss Hampton Beach Pageant at the age of 16. One of 44 girls, Scott was one of the shortest at 5 feet, 2 inches and, then barely starting to wear makeup, one of the more modestly dressed.

"Needless to say, I was highly intimidated by all these tall, long-legged women," Scott said. "Some who were six years older than me, heavily made up with those super bouffant hairdos of the time."

Sheila Scott Miss Hampton Beach 1964Scott's goal was to make it into the Top 10, but the 16-year-old won the pageant. Instantly, she was a local celebrity. The next morning, reporters banged on her door.

In that moment, Scott decided to not let any fame get to her head.

"(For) a lot of people that are very egotistical, things like fame really affect them," Scott said. "I basically said one thing I'm never going to do is change. I'm always going to be me...; I'm going to go and continue being who I am because I have my place."

With her mother struggling to raise a large family, Scott needed to do what she could to earn money for college. With the win at Miss Hampton Beach, scholarship pageants seemed like the way to go.

"Having lost my dad, I didn't have anybody sitting there with a college fund for me," Scott said. "Nobody really could afford to send me to dance classes and piano lessons (and) voice lessons."

In 1966, she entered the Miss New Hampshire Pageant, but she became ill the week of the pageant, affecting her performance. Despite losing, she impressed many, and she was urged to come back next year. In 1967, she won. Realizing she'd be on the Miss America stage, she was "flying on 'Cloud Nine.'"

Though she was not crowned Miss America that year, Scott was named Miss Congeniality. With that title, her agent contacted her about a new adventure — joining Miss America and five other beauty queens on a two-week USO tour in the Far East.

Sheila Scott as USO DancerAt the time, American troops had been in Vietnam for three years. Scott said yes.

Touring Asia, Scott enjoyed such perks as singing on live Korean television and flying in a DC-3 airplane. On one occasion, she flew over Hiroshima, destroyed two decades earlier by an atomic bomb.

The USO also unearthed what Scott described as her calling — healing others.

Then 20, she sang and played guitar in hospital rooms for soldiers, many dealt devastating wounds. One man, she said, was missing all of his limbs and had no nose.

Scott, exposed to mortality at a young age, sympathized deeply. It wasn't long before she gained a name as one of the most compassionate members of the USO tour.

Sheila Scott in an airplane"All of those things that happened to me growing up, I think, had an enormous effect on me," Scott said. "They noticed I spent a lot more time (with patients)...; the nurses got the feeling I was much more interested in helping the guys mentally...; I just couldn't go up to a guy and say, 'Oh, you're from Boston, great! There's my autograph, I'm Miss New Hampshire.' That's just way too shallow for me."

The memories of the patients, to whom she sang and whose hands she held, have stuck with her.

"I'm 66 years old, and obviously ...; they never leave you," Scott said. "They affect our everyday life because they make you wake up in that total state of gratitude for everything you have, the life that you had, the good times and the bad."

After returning from Asia, Scott went on to judge beauty pageants, as well as teach skiing for 25 years. Today, she lives in Adams, Mass., with her husband, James Smith, and performs regularly in nursing homes. She said she is also a master of reiki, a type of energy modality that is meant to heal and soothe, similar to the effect of massage therapy.

Scott credits the pageants with pushing her in this direction, particularly Miss Hampton Beach. When she hears critiques about pageants' cutthroat nature and superficiality, she says it's not an accurate depiction, at least not from her experience.

"I know there are so many people that have an attitude about pageants," Scott said. "I have nothing but good things to say about them."

Scott hasn't judged a beauty pageant since the Miss New Hampshire State pageant in 1996. Eighteen years later, Scott said she isn't nervous at all.

"No, I'm never nervous about many things at this age," Scott said.

The 50th anniversary of her Miss Congeniality title is coming up in a few years, but Scott said the anniversary of her Miss Hampton Beach victory is "maybe the biggest" she'll experience. She even took out her copy of the Beachcomber from that week in 1964, which features a story on her crowning. Doing so brought back a flood of memories to which she hopes to add this weekend.

"This kind of really got the ball rolling for me," said Scott.7

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