Queen Frances Hulse is at the wheel in this publicity shot of the 1938 Rose Festival Court. (Courtesy Fr. Craig Boly)
Queen Frances Hulse is at the wheel in this publicity shot of the 1938 Rose Festival Court. (Courtesy Fr. Craig Boly)
But for the pandemic, this is the time of year when Portland’s Rose Festival Queen would hit high gear. She’d attend parades, pose for photos and speak to children.

Ask Frances Boly, who even at 100 remembers her summer of service and glory — 1938.

This former Queen of Rosaria is a serious Catholic whose son is Jesuit Father Craig Boly, pastor of St. Ignatius Parish in Southeast Portland. Frances is a staunch and loyal member of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Northeast Portland, where she has belonged since 1953. She keeps a photo of her pastor, Father Matt Libra, on the refrigerator.

On Dec. 27, 1919, Frances Hulse was home-birthed in Wichita, Kansas, the middle child of five daughters. The family moved to Portland in 1937, fleeing hard times on the dusty Great Plains. Frances was a reluctant émigré at first; the uprooting came on the threshold of her senior year in high school. However, on the car trip west she was enchanted by the waterfalls cascading down the walls of the Columbia River Gorge. Once in the city, she took a liking to the profusion of climbing roses adorning each utility pole.

In Portland a few weeks, Frances and her sisters went to see a parade on the first Saturday of June. For days, they had been picking strawberries in Gresham in the rain and they were looking for fun. As the last float came into view, Frances asked, “Who is that?” Someone told her it was the Queen of the Rose Festival. Frances announced: “That’s what I want to be next year.”

And Frances made enough friends at Grant High School as a senior to be chosen as the school’s Rose Festival princess. Then, as she predicted, judges selected her as 1938 Queen of Rosaria. She spoke to the crowd at a packed stadium and the newspapers nicknamed her “The Dust Bowl Queen.”

On the parade route, onlookers would shout, “I’m from Kansas, too!” and Frances would toss them a rose from the float. By the end of the parade, there were no more roses left behind her, only chicken wire.

After high school, Frances attended St. Helens Hall and Reed College while working at Willamette Iron and Steel. She met her husband, Elwyn, an artist, musician and real estate broker, on a blind date; they eloped to San Francisco and were married within a month. The couple reared six sons in their Alameda home. After Elwyn’s death in 1970, Frances worked in various capacities in the front office at Madison High School.

She kept up a lifetime association with the festival. She even served as emergency grand marshal for the Grand Floral parade in 1980 when Mount St. Helens erupted.

Nothing pleases Frances more than to while away a day amid her lilacs, lilies and, of course, roses. She belonged to the Wilshire Garden Club and took a turn as president. She traveled extensively and hiked around the region and beyond with a group of friends and like-minded outdoor enthusiasts. She volunteered for many years as a cook at the Albertina Kerr Center, which aided young people with disabilities.

Frances was weakened by a stroke in 2015, but still enjoys supervising her gardening crew — that is, her son Father Craig — from her back porch.

At 100, she looks back on life with gratitude. She experienced its joys and disappointments with stoicism and abiding confidence. That same girl who was pretty sure she’d be a good queen is looking forward to what’s next.