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Shelton-Mason County Journal of Shelton, Washington

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First-ever Forest Festival queen from 1945 will be at this year's event

Shelton High School senior Lois Gibler was crowned the first Mason County Forest Festival queen in the spring of 1945, during the final months of World War II.

There was no pageant and no float. But Gibler — now Lois Kussman — and her court represented the city and the festival riding in convertibles at parades throughout the state and stressing the importance of the timber industry.

On Saturday, the 89-year-old former queen will be waving from another convertible during the festivals Paul Bunyan Parade in downtown Shelton.

The festival has changed in 71 years.

"It's gotten a lot bigger," said Kussman, who now lives in a house on the 18th hole of Indian Summer Golf Course southeast of Olympia. "The girls are much prettier, the queen and the princesses."

The black-and-white photos in Kussman's album say otherwise:

The queen and princesses radiate youthful beauty as they pose in their gowns. The court is shown inviting Gov. Monrad Wallgren to the Mason County Forest Festival. In another photo, the royalty dines with loggers at Camp Grisdale.

Kussman was born in Pasadena, California, on March 28, 1927. Her father worked in construction, and the family moved often. They lived in Rogue River, Oregon, Pasco and Federal Way before moving to Shelton during Kussman's junior year of high school.

"It hasn't changed a whole lot," she said of 1940s Shelton. "It was a nice town to grow up in. I think smaller towns are better for families growing up. There's less outside influences that larger cities have." She added, "It was my best two years of school."

The first Forest Festival court was selected by a vote of the high school students. Kussman said she was surprised to hear she was the queen.

"I was very shy," she said. "I would not have tried out."

The festival committee bought Kussman's gown and touring wardrobe. Kussman's queenly duties included going to schools to promote the timber industry, stress the importance of fire safety, and champion the festival.

One of Kussman's princesses, Bev Simon, married her brother.

Kussman's daughter, Linda LaBissoniere, was crowned Hood Canal Princess in 1963. Her younger daughter, Leslee Bailey, was crowned a Forest Festival princess in 1968.

Kussman has returned to ride in the parade in 1963, 1983 and 1984, when she was joined by 33 other former queens. Every Forest Festival queen has been invited to participate in Saturday's parade, which begins at 11 a.m.

"(Shelton) hasn't changed a whole lot. It was a nice town to grow up in. I think smaller towns are better for families growing up. There's less outside influences... It was my best two years of school."

Lois (Gibler) Kussman, Forest Festival queen of 1945

Copyright 2016 Shelton-Mason County Journal, Shelton, Washington. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: June 2, 2016

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