Letter to the Editor: Naval officer surprised to see wife on cover of SI

Monday November 10th, 2014

In what might be the greatest letter to the editor in Sports Illustrated's history, a naval officer does a double take and realizes his wife is a cover girl.​ Here's the letter, which appeared on Oct. 4, 1954:

Sirs: I have been overseas four months, and this week, a few minutes before leaving for Edinburgh, Scotland, I received a copy of your third weekly issue of SI. I remarked to myself, that girl on the cover looks like my wife. Not wanting to carry it with me, and much more anxious to read the letter I had received from my wife, it was put in a drawer. It wasn't until the following day I discovered it was her! ... She had said that a magazine was being sent as a surprise and since I have always been a sport fan, I thought that was the reason. You can imagine my surprise — and also embarrassment for not recognizing her immediately.

In my defense, I can say that I don't think many husbands ever expect to find their wives a "Cover Girl."

— J. R. NELSON LTJG, SC c/o Fleet Post Office New York 

The cover girl on Aug. 30, 1954 was indeed 20-year-old Pamela Nelson, the first of many women to appear in a swimsuit on the cover of SI. The photo was shot by Richard Meek and described on the following page like this:

"Even an inlander can feel the tug of the sea, the tingling chill and the salty exhilaration of surf bathing in this cool, blue picture of pretty Pamela Nelson, wife of a Navy officer, who was swimming at Jones Beach, Long Island when Photographer Meek came by in his swim trunks and carrying, of all things, an underwater camera. Meek decided to shoot above water at this target of opportunity."

Pamela Nelson was referenced in another letter to the editor that ran in the 1994 Swimsuit issue:

Although SI's swimsuit issue didn't officially begin until 1964, the first swimsuit-clad woman to grace your cover was 20-year-old Pamela Nelson, who appeared a decade earlier, in only your third issue (Aug. 30, 1954). Nelson, the mother of four and a grandmother of three, lives in Mill Valley, Calif., and celebrated her 60th birthday on Feb. 14, the cover date of this year's swimsuit issue. By the way, she still looks sensational in a swimsuit.

HART SPRAGER, San Francisco

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