Thursday, January 13, 2011

Meet Miss Bomarc

Miss Bomarc-Autographed-Lo

The story of Miss Bomarc begins in the late 1950s when new military missile systems were all the rage. One of these weapons was the supersonic Bomarc, an anti-aircraft missile developed by Boeing (BO) and the University of Michigan Aeronautical Research Center (MARC). The long-range missile could be armed with nuclear or conventional warheads and it was deployed to strategic regions of the United States.[1] Beginning in mid-1957, the Bomarc was big news in Utah because Ogden Air Logistics at Hill Air Force Base became the prime maintenance and supply depot for the system.[2]

One of the people who frequently saw the Bomarc on the front page of her newspaper during this period was a young Layton, Utah hairdresser named Audrene Yates. Audrene was also acutely aware of the missile because her husband, Jay A. Yates, was a maintenance engineer at the base. Around this time, Audrene had just won a county-wide hairstyling contest using an older woman as her hairdo model. This win entitled the beautician to a shot at the statewide title and, on the advice of a helpful judge, she resolved to shake things up a little for the bigger arena. The judge had told Audrene that she would greatly improve the chances for a state win by “getting a younger model and to do something more trendy” as a theme.[3]

Miss Bomarc 2 copy

In an interview with CONELRAD, the stylist said that she chose the Bomarc for her “trendy” subject because “It was something new to Utah and, with my model, I thought it would be quite a striking image.”[4] The woman she chose for this opportunity was an eighteen-year-old client named Fran Frost who had a slender figure and blond hair. Fran, who lived in neighboring Kaysville, was just out of high school and had already worked as a photographic portrait model for a business in Salt Lake City. When Audrene asked her young friend if she’d like to help her in the state-wide competition, Fran didn’t hesitate to accept the offer: “That sounds like fun,” she declared.[5]

Lo-Miss Bomarc-News

It was Margaret Alger, the wife of Captain Robert Alger (an officer assigned to the air base), who designed the form-fitting black dress that completed Fran’s ballistic transformation. Fran told CONELRAD that the idea of the whole package was to “mimic the missile’s dark body and light nose cone.”[6]

The Air Force periodical AMC Worldwide was duly impressed and described the model in a 1958 article as a “Blonde native missile” with a “facile frame.” And the Hill Air Force Base’s newspaper, the Hill Top Times, provided breathless and jargon-heavy coverage of Fran’s coiffure:

This guided missile hairstyle was inspired by the supersonic Bomarc missile. It’s a swirl-a-wave which features supersonic action from nape to crown. From a siren list, it cruises to a froth of fluff swinging from cheek to tip of ear. The nuclear payload goes into super action and long-range swirls intercepted by flowing lines and high altitude sweeps cruising towards its target of pixie bangs on the brow. [7]

Miss Bomarc-1 copy

After Audrene won—with Fran’s help—the state-wide hair-styling contest in Salt Lake City, the public relations people from Hill Air Force Base and the Marquardt Aircraft Company (which manufactured the “ramjet” for the Bomarc missile) took notice. Fran recalled for CONELRAD that the representatives became “very interested” in having her visit the base and pose for pictures in her missile attire. It was during this period that the famous photograph (as seen at the top of this post) of her wearing the honorary “Miss Bomarc” sash was taken.[8]

Fran went on to many other modeling triumphs during her two-year career including titles as Miss Utah State Fair, Miss Dairy Queen and Miss World Contact Lens to name but a few. It was during a visit to Hollywood, though, that the young woman decided that show business was not for her. She was auditioning to be Marilyn Monroe’s stunt double when she had an opportunity to meet the legendary star whom she found to be “very sad.” But it wasn’t Marilyn’s ennui that soured Fran on Tinsel Town—it was the sordid ritual of the “casting couch.” She refused to play that game and hopped on the next flight back home to Utah.[9]

With the money she had made from modeling, Fran attended college and earned a teaching degree in Pharmacology. She also married a professional football player whom she helped put through business school during the off-seasons. The couple eventually divorced.[10]

Fran and Audrene still live in Utah and are known to chat, on occasion, about their Cold War pageant adventures. CONELRAD is thrilled to be able to share their story with our readers.


CONELRAD would like to thank Fran Frost and Audrene Wayman for taking the time to speak with us.

We would also like to thank Christopher J. Bright whose latest book is Continental Defense in the Eisenhower Era: Nuclear Antiaircraft Arms and the Cold War. For more information on Mr. Bright’s impressive research on the Bomarc missile and other Cold War subjects, please visit his website.

[1] According to the Boeing website, the Bomarc missile was authorized by the United States Air Force in 1949. Boeing produced 700 of the missiles between 1957 and 1964. The missile class was retired from active service in the early 1970s.

[2] See the Military Standard’s comprehensive history of the Bomarc and other missile classes:

[3] Interview with Audrene Wayman (formerly Yates) by Bill Geerhart on January 12, 2011.

[4] Interview with Audrene Wayman (formerly Yates) by Bill Geerhart on January 13, 2011.

[5] Interview with Audrene Wayman (formerly Yates) by Bill Geerhart on January 12, 2011.

[6] Interview with Fran Frost by Bill Geerhart on December 17, 2010.

[7] “Missile Fever in Utah,” AMC (Air Materiel Command) Worldwide, vol. 1, no. 7, April 1958. This article contains the quote from the Hill Air Force Base newspaper, The Hill Top Times, but does not provide a citation as to exact date or issue.

[8] Interview with Fran Frost by Bill Geerhart on January 13, 2011.

[9] Interview with Fran Frost by Bill Geerhart on December 17, 2010.

[10] Ibid.


Andy said...

Around this time, Audrene experienced just won a county-wide hairstyling contest utilizing an more mature lady as her hairdo model.
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