Littlehampton’s swinging Mod Carnival Queen caused quite a stir

Artist Mary Hite has been looking back to the year she made a name for Littlehampton by becoming its first and only Mod Carnival Queen.

Thursday, 6th May 2021, 4:01 pm

It was quite a year, as the traditional dress was cast aside, to be replaced by a 1960s Mod-style suit – a first not only for Littlehampton but for the whole of the south coast.

And you could say it was thanks to it all that Mary met her now husband of 52 years.

Littlehampton Rotary Club arranged the procession in 1967 and to make it a bit different, advertised for a Mod Carnival Queen. There was to be no crown, no sash and no attendants.

A big day for Littlehampton, with its first Mod Carnival Queen

Mary recalled: “My father encouraged me to apply. I was Mary Crossman then and on my way to post the application, I met my neighbour, who was with his friend Ed. He later became my boyfriend and now husband of 52 years.

“Instead of parading about wearing swimwear, I was invited to attend an interview wearing smart clothing and, together with several other girls, was questioned by a panel of Rotarians. It was just like going for a job interview.

“Ten days later, I was told that I had won. I became the first Mod Littlehampton Carnival Queen on May 29, 1967. The traditional crown and robes were cast aside and I wore a Mod outfit and rode on an E-type Jaguar in the procession.”

The outfit, described as ‘an Indian Raj suit, in colours of honey, cream and white’, worn with a matching green Stetson, was specially designed by former fashion model Fay Finn, who ran the boutique Paraphernalia in Rustington.

Mary and Ed in the E-type jaguar selected for the Carnival Queen

Mary was a 19-year-old bank clerk and Sunday school teacher living in St Flora’s Road, Littlehampton, at the time. Her prizes included her outfit, £21 of cosmetics from Weil Paris, Antilope perfume, Woltz nail polish, an Avro bathing costume and five guineas spending money.

“How times have changed,” she said.

“By that time, Ed was my boyfriend and he was invited to attend with me on the procession, and some of the engagements which then followed. It was a very exciting time. I married Ed the following year but I don’t think that the Mod Queen was ever repeated.”

On the day, the sun shone and the crowds responded with enthusiasm. Thousands watched the procession of 33 floats pass through the town, fronted by Mary with her boyfriend Ed Hite, a 23-year-old surveyor from Elgin Road, Worthing.

Mary with Mr W.J. Kelsey of Taylor's Dairies checking the time for the watch competition

Newspapers reported afterwards that ‘all records were smashed’.

Mary was quoted as saying it was much better than the usual beauty contest and that she liked the idea of private interviews.

Her first official engagement was a sherry party at the St Winefrides Road home of the carnival chairman, John Webb, where she presented prizes to winners of fundraising ticket competitions.

During her reign, she also helped Taylor’s Dairies reveal the winner of a competition to win a box of groceries. Mary had wound up a pocket watch and placed it in a small wooden box, then three weeks later returned to open the box.

Mary judging the fancy dress competition in May 1967

The watch had stopped at 7.46 and five seconds and the winner of the groceries was Mrs L.F. Pelham, of Gloucester Place, Littlehampton, who guessed 7.47 and was nearest to the correct time.

Mary, who now lives in Felpham, was always interested in art and one of her hobbies was portrait painting. Visit www.maryhitepaintings.co.uk to read more about her work.

Mary with a fancy dress competition entrant