In the 1940s, festivals were just as popular across the country as they are today. Lots of work went into setting up committees, getting volunteers, organizing events, and seeking publicity. Churches and schools found that festivals were a great way to raise needed funds, especially if they were focused on kids.
Bride & Groom
Putting on a Tom Thumb Wedding at a festival in the 1940s was a sure way to attract many people to your event, especially if you could incorporate it with a military theme in honor of our soldiers fighting overseas in battle.
Small children, usually under 10 years old, dressed as miniature adults and became grooms, brides and wedding attendants. Every child took part in the program and parents snapped many photographs.
Donald Durk & Walter Wilson (ushers)
The entire concept started in 1863 when a dwarf in the P.T. Barnum’s circus by the name of Tom Thumb, married Lavinia Warren (another dwarf) in an elaborate ceremony in Manhattan, NY. It became a worldwide event, one in which even Abraham Lincoln held a White House reception in their honor. The weddings especially became an American fad throughout the 1920s to the 1940s. Tom Thumb Weddings began to disappear in the 1970s-1980s. Critics complained that children were just too young to engage in such an adult activity.
Military Tom Thumb Wedding
In keeping with the tradition of the times, a similar event took place in New Orleans. On July19, 1942 a Military Tom Thumb Wedding was showcased at the annual summer festival sponsored by the Xavier University Alumni Association. The color scheme (of course) was red, white and blue and the little boys dressed as United States Marines. See below…
Girls: (click to enlarge)
Cornoria Hawkins (bride), Phyllis Derbigny (maid of honor), Josephine Jolibore (1st bride’s maid), Joy Oliver (Miss Liberty), Hattie Bell Ross, Patricia Pajaud, Sylvia Lewis, Miriam Tyler, Marlene Carlson, Gloria Algere, Iris Dunson, Lucretia Dell Johnson, Lorraine Sumas, Marlyn O’Neal, Angella Figare, Beverly Broussard, Sylvia Carriere, Lois & Joyce Verrett, Joan Mathieu, Betty Guimont, Edra Aubry
Boys (click to enlarge)
Raoul J. Bogille Jr. (groom), Marshall J. Bennett Jr. (best man), Fernando LePage, Jr. (bride’s father), Nathaniel Pleming (Uncle Sam), Carlos Spears, Donald Durk, Lester Malivia, Raymond Morris, Rudolph Olivier, Bob Olivier, Haile Selassie Soule, Robert Newman, Darrell Bloom, James Hawkins, Anthony Long, Walter Wilson, John Hart, and Donald Rousseau.
It should be mentioned that the Tom Thumb Wedding was the highlight of the entire summer festival held that summer evening in 1942 but it was not the only one. The festival kicked off at 3pm with a Baby Contest sponsored by pupils from Martinez Day Nursery.
Lorraine Chambers, Janice Lagarde, Oscar Frederick Breaux , Claire Foster, Adolph Bynum, Enuf R. Mathieu, Jr., Cage Saul Johnson, Celine Chenier, Michael Labat, and Ann Prevost.
Michael Labat was judged “most popular” baby while Adolph Bynum placed second. There was even a category entitled “most normal baby according to age, weight, and height”. Its winner was Enuf R. Mathieu.
Adolph Bynum (2nd place winner)
Michael Labat (1st place winner)
Enuf Mathieu Jr. (most normal)
There were several craft booths set up at the festival which assisted in adding financial profits from various sales of items. Judging for best booth and its recipient took place at 4pm with 1st place being awarded to the Art-Needle Work Booth while 2nd prize was given to the Country Store Booth. Finally, 3rd place honor was bestowed on the Ice Cream Booth.
Country Store Booth
Those adults responsible for organizing this event were:
Julia Ford, Bernice Lewis, Marie Bryant, Ethel Johnson Young, Corinne De Lay, Eve Delay, Claudia Meyi, Eva Barnes Kaho, and Agnes E. Adams. Polyxene Jean secured valuable gifts from the many merchants of the city. Judges of the booths were V.C. Thornton, Bernice Durden, Juan Lopez and Mabel Henry.
In charge of food were Laura Doley, Isabel Brown, Lillian Thomas, Onelia Gabriel, Mercedes Fields, Mildred Francois and Antonia Olmas.
Asa Atkins and Edwin Robert were in charge of cold drinks and snowballs. Edna Dandridge, Francis Richardson, Raymond Floyd, Victor Labat, and Varice Henry organized games.
Source: Xavier University 1942 Scrapbook, Xavier University Archives & Special Collections
Lolita V. Cherrie