North Van beauty queen still smiling

First Miss North Van, now 89, starred in holiday ad for B.C. Telephone Company

Black and white photographs of a teenage beauty queen encircle Kay Dixon’s penthouse apartment.

Fancy clothes hang from every doorknob. Makeup brushes rest on a doily-laden table in her living room beaming with natural light.

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There’s a playful sparkle in Dixon’s piercing green eyes that still have the power to mesmerize those in her presence.

It’s less than a week before Christmas, and Dixon is doing what all of us do this time of the year – reminisce.

In 1948, North Van, with its small-town charm, could have stood in for the fictional Bedford Falls.

There was soda shop at 13th and Lonsdale, Harbottle’s, where Dixon, a telephone operator, would routinely stop in for a banana spilt sundae on her lunch break.   

One day, a teenage Dixon caught the eye of two young men who talked her into entering a beauty contest.

“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh,’” she recalls, a slow, reminiscent smile spread over her face.

Dixon’s adventurous spirit propelled her to sign up for the beauty pageant, while her magnetic energy earned her the inaugural Miss North Vancouver crown in 1948.

As part of her public obligations that came with the crown, Dixon was featured in the PNE parade which wound its way through the streets of Downtown Vancouver.

In a photograph, Dixon is seen waving to the crowd from her perch on the harvest theme float.

Beautiful young women spill out of the oversized cornucopia horn, while men in suits and hats line the streets of 1940s Vancouver.

“It was so exciting,” recalls Dixon. “We stayed at the Hotel Vancouver, and I’d never stayed at a hotel.”

Perhaps the most memorable moment for Dixon during her Miss North Van reign was meeting legendary American entertainer Jimmy Durante.

“To Kay, A pleasure working with you,” says Dixon, reading her autographed photo from Durante, with a schoolgirl giggle.

“He drank straight out of the bottle before he went on the stage – him and Candy Candido.”

North Van beauty queen still smiling _4
Kay Dixon made an appearance with legendary American entertainer Jimmy Durante during her Miss North Van reign. photo supplied

After her Miss North Vancouver run, Dixon was presented with modelling opportunities and more exposure but she shied away from it.

“They wanted me to do some lingerie modelling – and I said, ‘No.’

But Dixon was featured in a Christmas greeting ad for the B.C. Telephone Company which ran in the Vancouver Sun and the Province in the 1940s.

“It was so much fun – I really enjoyed it,” says Dixon, of her moment in the spotlight.

North Van beauty queen still smiling _2
This photo of Kay Dixon appeared in a holiday ad for the B.C. Telephone Company in the 1940s. photo supplied

Dixon’s boyfriend, later husband, Del, would pay her visits at the telephone company.

The couple was married for 69 years and made a wonderful life with their four children in Pemberton Heights, before Del passed away.

These days, Dixon lives at Churchill House retirement residence in Upper Lonsdale – a stone’s throw away from the old North Vancouver High School where Dixon was a model student, excelling at both academics and athletics.

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Kay Dixon in her cheerleader days at North Vancouver High School. photo supplied

Fashion still remains a constant in the 89-year-old’s life.

Dixon will turn up to the dining hall at Churchill dressed to the nines with her hair coiffed and makeup perfectly applied.

“Even now when I go down to dinner, everybody looks to see what I’m wearing,” she says, still turning heads wherever she goes. 

However, Dixon figures she looked "very plain,” in her younger years, when she compares herself to today’s beauty ideals.

“Probably the most I had was mascara on,” she says. 

Still, Dixon’s smile is her best accessory.

“You know, a lot of people are older and they are very sad. I’m trying not to be sad,” she says.

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