A Garden Party at the Residence of Aleksander Paldrok, Winner of the Summer King Contest.
One of the highlights of Kuressaare’s summer scene was the Summer Queen and King contest. The Queen was chosen predominantly for her looks. She was often a young lady of unknown background, sometimes a foreigner spending her summer in Kuressaare. The King, however, was usually a “grown man” whose name and accomplishments were known to the general public. That might have also been the reason why the Summer King contest attracted more attention. In 1932, the Summer King and his aides were chosen on 28 July, a Thursday, in the resort hall (kuursaal). The winner was Aleksander Paldrok, while Bernhard Umblia (a businessman) and Rostislav Merkulov (a student at the conservatory who played in the local resort band) were chosen as his first and second aide, respectively. After the results were announced, “the hall was brimming with delight and euphoria”. Then, Paldrok took to the stage and told a couple of juicy and intriguing jokes. He left the party, accompanied by loud hurrahs at about three in the morning, while the others celebrated for several hours more. Aleksander Paldrok (1871–1944), a prominent physician and social figure, was such a well-known summer guest that “… it was not quite clear which arrived first in Kuressaare: the summer or Professor Paldrok… In early June, when people noticed his sturdy figure passing by the resort hall, with his soft bearded face peering from under a straw hat slightly pushed back on his head, they stopped and mused: “Say – is that him already? The summer must have arrived.” This is how the writer August Mälk described Paldrok’s arrival. The prize of the Summer King contest was a large clay beer mug. However, only days before, Paldrok had received a gold prize. Because Paldrok had garnered worldwide recognition among leprologists with his innovative treatment methods, the Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem awarded him their Grand Cross and Star of the Order (combating leprosy had been a main mission of the Order throughout history).
The following Monday, Paldrok hosted a garden party at his residence, a first for a Summer King. The Summer Queen Miss H. Höhling attended, accompanied by her court ladies, as did the King’s aides. The guests included several people visiting Kuressaare from abroad, such as Friedrich Akel, Ambassador to Sweden, with his wife, and Hans Lohk, Consul General to Petrograd, with his wife, and others. The local newspaper reported: “The guests made new acquaintances, mingled, told jokes and had a jolly good time, drinking coffee served in ample quantities by the accommodating Mrs Paldrok and the young ladies of the family with their lady friends. Naturally, Professor Paldrok did not miss the opportunity to shower his guests with the newest jokes.” The newspaper report also emphasized the fact that “the garden party was captured in photographs”.
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