Lorene Donaldson: The First Real “WHOOPIE GIRL”

Lorene’s recreation of Epoch Bolle’s “Whoopie Girl.” She was 14 years old.

BY JENNY GOLDSBERRY
ADAPTED FROM “A GRAND CELEBRATION” BY JUDY ANDERSON

The “Whoopie Girl” began with the vision of Ogden City Mayor Harman W. Peery to create an iconic image that would help promote the Ogden Pioneer Days celebration. It’s been a symbol of the state’s biggest statehood celebration since then.

It wasn’t easy for the Donaldson family to own a horse while living in the big city of Ogden in the late 1920’s. So, when their then seven-year-old daughter Lorene showed an interest in horse riding, they rented a pony for her to ride. That wasn’t enough, and Lorene eventually wanted a horse of her own. Her parents told her, if she could buy the horse, they would buy the feed.

As a result, Lorene started pooling her money. Meanwhile, other kids were buying candy. Five years would go by before she could afford a horse; however, that gave her enough time to study up on how to take care of one. Throughout the years, she received gifts like riding pants and boots.

Eventually, she rallied the funds for a beautiful bay mare named Ginger. Lorene went on to win many races with her. She also rode alongside every parade she could that allowed horses. Then, after a couple of years’ practice, Mayor Harman Peery noticed her riding. He was the third mayor of Ogden at the time. He wanted to put Ogden on the map and seeing Lorene ride so expertly gave him an idea. But first, he tested her.

Lorene and Mayor Peery during Ogden Pioneers Day parade.

Mayor Peery asked Lorene to lead a parade. Instead of riding Ginger, though, he had her mount his horse to see how she’d do. Lorene accepted and led the parade without a hitch. So, he told her he had a job for her. He was the titular owner of Peery’s Egyptian Theater, which gave Lorene the impression that the job was for the theater. There was something much bigger in store for her. He asked her to be the face of Ogden’s Pioneer Days Rodeo. She was 14 years old at the time.

Lorene in the Pioneer Days Parade of 1964, wearing the original outfit. Later, her daughter Judy would wear it for years during the same parade, and it’s recreated every year.

The rodeo pageant was a new concept, even in 1936. There had only been one Rodeo queen before: Marilyn Eccles, in 1935. A photoshoot with Lorene Donaldson would become the promotion for rodeo pageants in perpetuity. Mayor Peery wanted to recreate the cover of Film Fun Magazine of October 1935. The original cover was a cartoon drawing of a “Whoopie Girl” by Enoch Bolles, but he wanted to have Lorene pose in a picture.

A nearly exact replica of the outfit was made for the photoshoot. There is some discrepancy on who actually sewed the outfit. In a 2009 interview with KSL, Lorene’s daughter, Anne Call House, claimed that Lorene’s mother made the outfit. In “A Grand Celebration” by Judy Anderson, Mayor Peery commissioned the outfit. If you know, call in! Either way, it was an outfit that Judy would go on to wear for years during the Ogden Pioneer Days parade, and it’s recreated every year for other girls to be her proxy.

Lorene riding her horse

The Pioneer Days celebration that year was a huge success. Celebrity rodeo performers came in to compete. Utah’s Governor Blood was there too. Mayor Peery wanted the experience to be open to all people, so he only charged 50 cents a ticket for the seven-day celebration. Lorene was crowned Rodeo Queen that year.

Over 1,400 newspapers went on to publish Lorene’s photo, some long after Pioneer Days was over. Even international papers got a hold of it. Lorene received lots of fan mail following the photoshoot. She went on to get a teaching degree from Utah State University. Then, she married a man in the Army named Richard W. Hall. They would go on to live all over the United States, returning to Ogden occasionally. Lorene passed away in 1995 at the age of 73.

Lorene Donaldson was a charming young woman who has been an inspiration for the Ogden Pioneer Days Whoopie Girl for the past 85 years.

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