OGDEN — The “Whoopie Girl” is synonymous with Ogden Pioneer Days, and the celebration committee keeps the joyful image alive as a hallmark of the annual festivities.
Pioneer days organizers got a boost in 2008 with the anonymous return of original art that became the cover of the national Film Fun Magazine in October 1935.
Former Ogden Mayor Harmon W. Peery, the founder of Ogden Pioneer Days, saw the magazine cover, which became the inspiration for the celebration’s “Whoopie Girl” symbol used in advertising promotions ever since, according to Pioneer Days spokesmen.
The artwork was appraised at $30,000 or more by John S. Raglin, a University of Indiana professor from Bloomington, Ind., who inquired about the piece a few years ago.
The professor wanted to include the work in a book he was publishing.
Raglin, an expert on pin-up art, was disappointed when the foundation could not find the work.
Susie VanHooser, a former city councilwoman and a member of the foundation’s board, filed a police report in 2006, and the case was assigned to a detective, who failed to find the art.
VanHooser said two years later that she was excited to have the piece returned.
“It’s a treasure for Ogden City to have it,” she said. “It’s an image we see copied all over the West.”
The art came up missing about the same time that the Ogden Pioneer Heritage Foundation took over the celebration from Ogden in August 2003. It was last seen in the Ogden City Community Services Building at 1875 Monroe Blvd.
“We put the word out that we were looking for it,” then-Weber County Commissioner Craig Dearden said in 2008. He also served as chairman of the Ogden Pioneer Heritage Foundation.
“(Former foundation chairman) Nate (Pierce) came in and handed it to me a few weeks ago and said, ‘Here it is.’ ”
Coincidentally, the artwork arrived with an anonymous letter at Pierce’s house just before a newsletter by the foundation came out asking for the community’s help in locating the piece.
The letter stated that the artwork had been a gift to an area businessman by a woman who had it in her possession. The letter stated that the recipient now understood that the giver of the gift did not have the authority to give it.
The letter also suggested the artwork should be a part of the Utah Cowboy Hall of Fame the foundation was working to put together.
Pierce said he was returning from work at lunchtime to retrieve a briefcase and found the artwork on his doorstep. He said he turned the art over to Dearden that same day.
“I didn’t know I was in the running for a prize, but it showed,” Pierce said of the experience. “The person was under the impression that I was still chairman of the foundation.”
Dearden said Ogden Pioneer Heritage Foundation Executive Director Wynn Covieo didn’t know that the artwork had been found because Dearden was saving the surprise for a December foundation meeting that was canceled.
“It’s nice to have,” Dearden said. “It’s one of a kind. The original is back in our hands. I just appreciate whoever had it dropping it off and getting it back to us.”
The authenticity of the 1934 artwork by Enoch Boles was easy for Dearden to establish — it has a letter attached to the back authorizing Peery to use the image.
Peery had contacted the magazine’s editor, Lester C. Grady, and obtained full authority for the Ogden Pioneer Days celebration to use the image in connection with its advertising campaigns, according to a news release from the Ogden Pioneer Heritage Foundation.
Boles sent the original artwork to the mayor, and he proudly displayed it in his city office, states the news release. Until it disappeared, it had been kept by Ogden City.
Boles was best known as a pin-up artist in the early 1900s, according to the news release. She also was a versatile illustrator who worked in the advertising industry.
In 1923, Boles became the exclusive cover artist for Film Fun Magazine, states the release.
A contest was held in 1936 to select a Pioneer Sweetheart, and Lorene Donaldson, who was 14 at the time, was chosen as Ogden’s second rodeo queen.
Peery asked Donaldson to pose for a picture wearing a similar outfit as that in the artwork. The picture was published nationally and internationally to promote the celebration.
How the name “whoopie girl” originated has been lost to time, states the news release, but the word “whoopie” was used as a catch-all to describe light-hearted merrymaking of all sorts.
The present rendering, now used as the official logo, was based on the original photograph of Donaldson, but the date of that concept is unknown, states the news release.
In recent years, the image was computer enhanced to improve color and clarity.
During the week of July 24, the “Whoopie Girl” image can be found throughout the Ogden community promoting the celebration.