Ellen Gallant was flattered to be named Miss Charlotte as a young woman, even though she wasn’t active in beauty pageants, and it was the only time she held such a title.
It was “kind of exciting, kind of nice” to be chosen, Gallant, 88, said. She was Ellen Denny then.
Gallant did not compete in a pageant. Instead, she said, she was selected by the Charlotte Junior Chamber, also called the Charlotte Jaycees, a service and leadership organization for young professionals. She knew some members of the group, who asked her to fill the role.
Her photograph appeared in a promotional brochure about Charlotte that was published and distributed by the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce.
Gallant didn’t have many official duties, and doesn’t recall what year she served, but remembers traveling to events with a chaperone, giving presentations and getting to ride on the back of a convertible.
While she wasn’t a pageant person, she said, Gallant did enjoy theater.
“I just liked performing,” she said.
Gallant began acting as a student at Furman University in Greenville, S.C., studying sociology and French. She played Miss Bingley in “Pride and Prejudice.”
She also acted in the play “The Trial of Mary Dugan” in Charlotte, a role that required her to practice speaking with a lisp.
“I was never shy,” Gallant said.
Her career in education included a stint teaching in a one-room schoolhouse in Charlotte called Heritage Schools Inc. It was built on a portion of property she and her husband, Charles, owned then along South Boulevard.
“It was a wonderful situation, and the parents were happy,” she said.
Lessons included field trips to places such as Town Creek Indian Mound, a North Carolina historic site near Mt. Gilead dedicated to Native American culture and archeology. She also led children on an outing to a wildlife refuge, where she said she was fascinated to observe hundreds of geese.
Gallant said she taught “everything” to various grade levels.
In addition to teaching, she found private tutoring to be a rewarding experience. She tutored a little boy who had broken both arms. She said that when he recovered, she was surprised to watch him pick up where he had left off learning cursive handwriting.
Another memorable student was a girl who had been hit by a car, and through tutoring Gallant helped her avoid repeating a grade in school.
Gallant excelled in academics herself, having skipped from first grade to third grade as an elementary student. It enabled her to graduate from high school at the age of 16, and finish college at 20 in 1945.
Gallant has four children and lives with her son, Chuck, and his wife, Linda, in Mint Hill.
“It’s been an interesting life,” she said.
Hope Yancey is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Hope? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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