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Three score and ten or more

Tuesday, January 31, 2006



Enough of politics and national angst, it is time for a history lesson
When I was a Sophomore or Junior in High School (Don’t criticize possible timing inaccuracy, I am doing pretty well to remember WHAT without being troubled by WHEN), I was invited to join the Boy’s Council. Boy’s Council was an honor society for boys who had a “B” overall average and who hadn’t been in significant disciplinary trouble (Meaning, who hadn’t been caught). If I remember correctly you had to be nominated by one of your teachers, (fortunately, only one).

At any rate, I joined Boy’s Council. We had some sort of initiation but it was dignified and quick because I don’t remember anything about it (unlike the “P” Club initiation.). What we ended up doing was serving as cheap labor in the office of the Dean of Boys. (That would probably be an Assistant Principal now, I don’t even hear much about Deans of Men on the college level, not politically correct at all) We were assigned a shift in the Dean’s office during one of our study halls (which made it impossible to cut study hall to go play snooker), and during our shift we walked around to every classroom, picked up the attendance rolls and then took them to the office, tabulated them, filed them, and reported to the dean anyone who failed to attend a class but had attended all or most of the classes earlier that day. We, or the Dean, then called the parents to see if Johnny had come home sick, since he wasn’t in class. Because it was an ongoing thing, we were not considered “Stool Pigeons”, and though most of this was done very ethically, I would have to admit that if one planned to skip study hall it was wise to know someone on Boy’s Council. We also posted grades on permanent records, but that was extremely ethical because we were audited.

We had weekly or monthly meetings where we planned activities (read parties) and occasionally had interesting speakers. (We even judged the in-house debates of the debate team, which determined which team members went to out of town debates etc.)
It was always interesting if one of the debaters was also on Boy’s Council, a frequent thing, because we had to be, and were, very objective in judgment. Some debaters who were also Council members, were known to say harsh things to their colleagues if they missed an important meet because of losing the “qualifier”. The big event for Boy’s Council was the yearly Harvest Ball in the fall. We had to figure everything from the cost of the band (there were no “dance” dj’s in that time. If anyone in the school sponsored a “record hop” the one left to play the records was the lowest man {or woman} on the totem pole.), make sure that the price of admission plus the supplement from the student activity funds was enough to pay the band. We had to arrange refreshments, decorate the gym (which was enormous) take tickets, arrange for chaperones, and all the other stuff that went with a high school dance.
Then when the dance was over we had to “strike the setting”, clean up and put everything where it should be for PE classes or Basketball Games, or whatever.

In the particular year of which I speak (sometime between 1949 and 1952), We served great big cookies, slivers of pumpking pie, and fresh cider, right out of the keg, non pasteurized or any of those things that they do now. The cider was wonderful. WE had bought it from a local orchard, and it had been processed at the orchard. It had fermented just enough to have a touch of carbonation, and everyone was impressed. We had built a rack on an old farm wagon upon which was stacked twenty or thirty kegs of cider. (They weren’t the big fifty gallon barrels, but kegs, holding, I would guess, either five or ten gallons of cider.) The refreshment table was an old weathered barn door propped up on sawhorses. There were sheaves of corn, stacks of pumpkins a couple of scarecrows and all the other stuff that would seem to be appropriate. The dance was very successful, and we made a pot-load of money with which we paid off the band, contributed some to pet charities, banked some to pay expenses for the nest dance, and put a lot back into the student activity fund, where it probably got used for the football team or one of the school plays. It was early enough in my high school career that I was still petrified by all things female, so I, and all those other schmucks in the organization that didn’t have dates got to clean up the mess, dispose of the trash etc. Actually it was not bad duty. In return for clearing up all the corn sheaves and the crepe paper banners and the scarecrows etc., as well as sweeping the floor and all that jazz, we got to divide the remaining cookies, everybody took a pumpkin or two home for pies (I don’t remember any slivers of pumpking pie remaining, but I am sure that if there was, they were eaten as part of the clean-up effort, and not taken home. Several of the kegs of cider had remaining cider in them, so we sipped cider as we worked. When everything was finished we had one keg of cider that had not been tapped, so we planned to take that one back to the orchard and get a refund, but there was another keg that was almost full, though it had been tapped.

We (the remaining labor) decided to save that one for a future Boy’s Council party, since it couldn’t be returned anyway. One of the officers, who had a key, and a couple of the other guys took this keg to the Deans office and put it in a closet. Soon, everything was finished and we wended our ways home, munching cookies and sipping cider from those kegs that were “almost” empty. It was the end of a fun day, even for those of us (who were dateless) who had spent the evening selling and taking tickets, serving refreshments, and otherwise not dancing. (Well, some of us may have “cut in” a few times.)

That might be the end of the story except that three or four days later “some one” (not me of course) decided to taste the cider to see if it was still “okay”. The word quickly spread around the organization that it was not only “okay”, but that it had “improved” a lot since the dance, and that we might consider having a party pretty soon. It was then, that someone suggested that it would improve still more if we added some sugar, (I believe it was raw, brown sugar) and even if we put a little yeast, or brewer’s yeast into the mix. This was done, and, on Monday following we all gathered round to see if the “improvements” had progressed satisfactorily. There was general agreement that they had, and that if we waited till the weekend for our party the “improvements” might reach the vinegar stage (some of us were already putting breath fresheners in our mouths to avoid problems during the remainder of the day). It was decided to hold the party Wednesday evening in shed that belonged to the father of one of the members (It was a room frequently used for Boy Scout patrol meetings and den meeting for Cub Scouts)

We all gathered at the closet early on Wednesday. (one of the boys was going to use his car to transfer the “cider” during the day. Imagine our shock when we opened the closet and the keg of cider was missing. We were all upset, accusations were flying that some of us had stolen the goods, and one other thing was a problem. There had been a deposit made on each of the kegs, and we had to turn in this last keg to get the deposit. (The deposit was to cover all the kegs that had been bought, and was, for us a substantial amount of money, probably twenty buck or so.) Tensions got pretty high among the group until the Dean walked in and said something on the order of “You know that the office of the Dean of Girls is directly above this one. The strangest thing has been happening. Dean (lets call her Jones) Jones and her staff have had a problem for the past couple of days. It seems that they have all been disturbed by a rotting smell up there. They suspected that a mouse, or rat had died in the wall, so they called in the janitors. They searched around, said that it was certainly not a mouse or rat, because it smelled more like rotting or fermenting fruit, so they checked the wastepaper baskets and places like that. Then one of the janitors discovered that the smell was coming through the air vents near the floor. Since the vents in their floor are vents in our ceiling, they asked me to escort them through our offices. We were sure surprised. It looks like someone hauled a left-over keg of cider over hear and “forgot” it in the closet.. It sure was fragrant, but the janitors took it out and disposed of it. I had them take the keg back to Kennedy’s orchard, in case there was still a deposit on it. There was, so I put the money in the treasury. It sure must have been a smelly job for the janitors to get rid of that stuff. If we have any leftovers from a future dance, we had better dump it instantly or return it that night. Well, anyway, Dean Jones’s problem seems to be solved”.

You have never heard such quiet weeping and wailing and gnashing of teath. We all knew what a problem those %#$*&@^ janitors had disposing of it. (unless the Dean himself had disposed of it personally.) Oh well, Easy come, Easy go!! Back to the roll sheets and posting grades. At least they didn’t kick us all out of school (probably because they would have had to hire someone to do the work we were doing.)


At 6:41 AM, Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

Just being nosy - have you ever drunk hard cider or any booze? I know you're not supposed to so I won't mind if you fib. ;)

At 7:20 AM, Blogger Three Score and Ten or more said...

The truth is, when I was a freshman in high school, I began shaving every day and growing a mustache. I looked older than I was, and discovered, quite by accident, that I could go into a beer joint (Idaho didn't allow hard liquor by the drink until much later)and be served without anyone asking for ID. For the next two years, I drank quite a lot, only becoming truly converted to my faith during my senior year in high school (I went to church, because my dad was the bishop -say pastor-, but it took awhile to get my faith) so the answer is yes. (Actually I spent some time singing with a band in saloons, but that was after I quit drinking.) I used to tell folks that I quit drinking as soon as I was legally allowed to.

At 2:39 PM, Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

"...singing with a band in saloons.." You've had a good life, Richard.

At 4:43 PM, Blogger Three Score and Ten or more said...

Yep. I have had some problems, but I think the only thing I ever really wanted to do that I haven't done was perform on Broadway. I made it to some good regional theatres, and had the opportunity to direct some famous people in plays. If I could do anything again, though, I would want to be home with my kids more, being a better father, and not being gone so much at nights.

At 7:39 AM, Blogger Ed Abbey said...

I didn't know that Mormons couldn't drink.

I've never really had a taste for alcohol and never went (nor invited) to all the kegger parties on the deserted farm field roads. But on one event that I heard about, the local sheriff found out and ended the party by shooting up the keg with his service revolver. There was a lot of gnashing of teeth about the deposit on the keg which eventually led to the sheriff being fired.

At 5:44 AM, Blogger t_cole said...

THIS is a GREAT story.
needs to be in a movie...


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