The fascinating life of Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers’ most famous cover girl!

How Maureen Kistle won Miss Australia, toured the world, forged pathways and always called Toowoomba home

Many faces have adorned the cover of the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers Program & Souvenir Guide over the 70 years of this outstanding event and one that stands out, and is still spoken of in hushed tones, is Miss Australia 1955, Maureen Kistle.

A Toowoomba local, Maureen Kistle (later Lady Schubert) truly helped put Toowoomba, and its blossoming Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers on the map when she won the coveted Miss Australia title in 1955. She graced the cover of the Carnival’s magazine the following year in 1956, seven years after the very first Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers was held in the booming regional city.

At the time, Maureen was one of the most recognised faces in the country – a rock star of her generation.

Maureen’s daughter Felicity Schubert, who has moved with her husband to Toowoomba from Brisbane after spending much of her childhood on the mountain, has only recently sorted through her mum and grandmother’s collections of pictures, articles, trophies and other assorted memorabilia. Amongst the treasures, was a copy of that 1956 Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers Magazine.

Says Felicity, “My mum was only a teenager when she won Miss Australia and I was not born until she was 41, so I was never truly aware of her former life. Seeing the amazing articles and pictures from that era, I now wish I’d thought to ask her more questions about that period in her life.”

The story of how Maureen came to grace the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers Souvenir Guide, and the path her life took beyond that, is quite extraordinary.

Maureen’s mum Ann was born out west, at Wallumbilla, and at 17 she married. At the age of 18, then living in Toowoomba, Ann gave birth to a daughter, Maureen. When Maureen was six, her parents divorced and she was raised by her mum as well as a close-knit family including her mother’s twin sister and her cousins (who still live and work in Toowoomba).

As a teen, Maureen loved science and would cycle regularly over to Toowoomba Grammar School to take physics classes with the boys. She went on to become Dux of Fairholme Presbyterian College in Toowoomba.

After graduating, she moved to Brisbane to study pathology but unbeknownst to her, fate (or more accurately, parental interference) was about to take her life in a different direction! Her mother had secretly entered her into the 1955 Miss Queensland competition and at the age of 19, she won!

She then went through to the Miss Australia competition and won that as well!

Whilst Maureen clearly impressed the judges with her ability to wear a swimsuit, she certainly also impressed with her general knowledge, answering 70 of the 72 questions correctly!

She returned to Toowoomba a super star, with parades and parties held in her honour. An Australian tour and then a world tour followed!

In 1956, Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers organisers were thrilled when Maureen agreed to star as their magazine cover girl. The images from the shoot made national news and were invaluable publicity for the Carnival, then less than a decade old.

Sixty-three years on from that cover, and 14 years since Maureen’s death, her daughter Felicity, has been reflecting on the unexpected path of her mum’s life.

“Mum achieved many things in her life. She ran a very successful restaurant in Brisbane city, became the first female presenter on ABC TV in Queensland, wrote for The Courier Mail and sat on various boards including QPAC and Channel Nine Brisbane – not to mention having a wonderful marriage to Sir Sydney Schubert, Queensland’s co-ordinator-general under Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen. She raised two daughters and her connection to her home city, Toowoomba remained strong throughout her whole life.”

Maureen Kistle is just one of the thousands of people who have contributed to the vibrant history of the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers, which this year celebrates its 70th anniversary.

The Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers commenced in 1949 to celebrate the end of rationing introduced during World War II. It is now a 10-day annual event attracting over 255,000 visitors to Toowoomba, injecting more than $24 million into the local economy! It has been inducted into the Australian Tourism Awards Hall of Fame after winning the award for Major Event or Festival in Australia for the past three years running.

The 70th Anniversary Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers will take place from Friday September 20 to Sunday September 29. This year’s Carnival program will include a range of displays, talks and tours, many of them free, focusing on the rich history of the event. For a full Carnival program visit www.tcof.com.au.

 

Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers information

September 20 to 29, 2019

Program detail at www.tcof.com.au or on www.facebook.com.au/CarnivalFlowers

Tour detail at https://www.tcof.com.au/touroperators/

Accommodation detail at https://www.tcof.com.au/accommodation/

To all our media friends, please direct all enquiries to our PR agency Kath Rose & Associates on 07 3357 9054 or email kath@kathrose.com

 

A History

Since its inception in 1949, the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers has flourished and is now an iconic Queensland event.  The brainchild of Essex Tait and the Toowoomba Chamber of Commerce, Carnival was introduced as a way for the city to use its “Garden City” reputation to promote increased economic activity following the hardships of war. On October 21, 1950 the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers commenced with a street procession that stretched three miles in length. Led by a bullock team and watched by a crowd estimated to be 50,000 strong, it was a resounding success.  The Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers is the current title holder of Gold Award for Major Festival and Event at the annual Australian Tourism Awards.  Last year attendances across the 10-day event skyrocketed, with overall figures up by 29 per cent with 255,639 attendees recorded.