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The Innocent Times of the Beach Girl Quests

Remember when there were ‘Beach Girl Quests’ at Glenelg, Brighton and Semaphore beaches during summer?

Below is a photo from the 1954 Beach Girl Quest at the bay which attracted a crowd of some 25,000 people! Entrants to the quest were judged on more than just beauty, according to the organisers, but also on poise, charm, deportment, manner, diction and open air sports activities.

The  Semaphore Beach Girl Quest taken in 1954

The Semaphore Beach Girl Quest taken in 1954

At that time it was quite acceptable to judge women on their beauty, looks and figure, something that would be severely frowned upon these days. The quests back then though were very popular and ran for many years, from the late 40s through to the 70s, attracting thousands of people to the beach.

Jane Reilly, probably Adelaide’s best known beach girl commented recently on the ABC;  “We were celebrating freedom. We had the pill. We were celebrating new music, new fashion, and I think we were probably naive about parading our bodies. It was like almost a reverse part of the women’s movement that we were women proud of our bodies and we can wear these little bikinis, get out there and enjoy life and show our bodies off.

Jane explained “I was selected as Miss Asia Australia, which took me off to Manila, and I was there for more than three months, got to meet President Marcos, met people from all over the world, and I think that really boosted my confidence. At the same time, I was still doing my studies at teachers’ college and ended up qualifying at the right time, so I had my hands full. But it was an incredible time”.

Beach Girl quest 1969 Ch 9TV presenter Mike Drewer spoke about his role as compere of the Beach Girl Quests back then; “In 1970. I was a news reporter at Channel 9 and asked to emcee it. So I was thrown into this live television situation, far removed from news.

And we came down to the beach, places like Glenelg, all along the coast. The girls entered on the day and I would talk to them about what they wanted to do and check the pronunciation of their names, and they paraded on the catwalk.

We asked them some questions about their hobbies and whatever – inevitably answers like riding horses and becoming an actress – and we all had fun and gave away free ice-creams and drinks.

It was a great commercial opportunity to promote soft drinks and ice-creams, suntan cream, and it gave, during that summer recess of programming, the channel – in this case, Channel 9 – cheap local programming.

Mike concluded by saying, “Obviously today a Miss Beach Girl Quest would be probably frowned upon. But it was innocent. Girls on the beach wear far less than they used to back then, topless bathing and so on. So I don’t think it was a sexy exploitation of women. The girls wanted to do it. There was a bit of liberation in those days. They made their own choices. And…almost a mix between a little bit of liberation and innocence, because that’s all it was”.

Do you remember those times of the beach girl quests?

12 Responses to The Innocent Times of the Beach Girl Quests

  1. James Roberts January 9, 2015 at 11:09 am #

    And not a “Barbie Doll” figure amongst them – the way it should be.

  2. carlene January 10, 2015 at 2:35 pm #

    I was a very young girl back then and my Dad would often say, that when I grew up, I would be Miss beach girl becausenit was innocent back then. p

    • Alex August 5, 2016 at 4:32 pm #

      Hi Carlene,
      Funny, my dad used to say the same thing. It really was innocent, yet still fun.

  3. gray chandler December 30, 2018 at 7:56 pm #

    Co-sponsored by my brother in law. Clark Motor Company.

  4. Sharon Western January 21, 2019 at 2:37 pm #

    I won the miss beach girl quest in 1969. It was held at Glenelg beach in front of the lifesaving club. I was down the beach with my Mum and sister and was asked by a man no idea of a name if I would be interested in being a contestant. Given a date and time the rest was history. I remember the prize money was $200 to be spent at Harris Scarfs. I thought it was 5AD. Unfortunately I never got any photos. Have you any that I could purchase.

    • Diane Yanakopulos August 18, 2021 at 10:15 am #

      Hi there Sharon, my name is Diane Yanakopulos.. This site brought back memories as I somehow ended up in the 1968 Miss South Australian Beach girl competition and was a runner up. 🙂 I am also wondering if there is a website or somewhere that photos may be available for viewing or purchase? Those were the days.. congratulations!! I was at Glenelg Beach.. oh how the years fly by!!

    • Janette December 11, 2023 at 8:21 pm #

      I was in the quest at Granbe & have a ovie of it.Jane Reilly won it.Great memories

  5. ladyjayne August 25, 2019 at 8:42 pm #

    Nancye Fowler was number 2 in this photo – she won!

  6. Jenni Westmoreland (Harris) December 20, 2019 at 8:25 am #

    I was a contestant and won a heat at Brighton Beach is there a site I can go on to view pictures. Would have been summer 1968

  7. Janette Garratt June 14, 2020 at 5:03 pm #

    I was a contestant competing again Jane Reilly at Grange. Was such innocent fun

  8. Diane Yanakopulos August 18, 2021 at 10:17 am #

    Hi everyone, was intrigued to come across this site. I am wondering if there are any archival photos of the Miss South Australian Beach girl competition held at Glenelg Beach summer of 1968.. I was a runner-up. Diane Yanakopulos is my name.. any info would be great memories… thanks, Diane

  9. Erika laczina June 30, 2022 at 7:28 pm #

    Hi is there any documentation 1970 1971? I was a winner in those years. I went to Perth the year that Belinda green won from Tasmania. I was sth australia runner up to Julie Cheyenne.

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