Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I Was 'Vetted Long Ago

Where I've been my whole life, I'm not sure, but I had never heard of or noticed the word "vetted" until recently in newspaper articles and editorials about the presidential candidates. In the dictionary, one of the definitions of "vet" is to subject to careful examination; scrutinize; check; test. John McCain, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Sarah Palin have been undergoing "vetting" by journalists, other media folks, and anyone else possessing an investigative mindset.
One time, long ago.........I was 'Vetted. Read on and you will find out when, where, and why that occurred.
From grades seven through twelve, I participated in band at my school, which being a small school, allowed the junior high kids to be part of the high school marching band. In sixth grade, I was sucked into band because they needed a person to play the glockenspiel........and, they were looking for someone who had taken piano lessons and could read music. That landed me in the percussion section for the next seven years, playing snare drum, tenor drum, bass drum, tympani, cymbals, cowbell, wood blocks, maracas, triangle........and glockenspiel. Here's our photo from the 1976 yearbook:
There are old Saturday Night Live spots showcasing "band cheerleaders"..........did you know a band can also have a queen? Sounds pretty silly, doesn't it. Yes, I kind of thought so, too. Back in my high school days, our school didn't participate in state marching band contest (or perhaps there wasn't such a thing, then), but we took part in the Eastern Iowa Bandmasters Festival in Cedar Rapids each year........I'm thinking it was in the spring, but I could be wrong. A host of high school bands (all better than our little ragtag band) would compete by marching and playing tunes through the streets of downtown Cedar Rapids, each band led by its "queen", who was in competition for a crown to be given away later in the afternoon.
Ok.......I had been Prom Princess in my junior year and Homecoming Queen in the fall of my senior year.......that was enough royalness. The experiences were enjoyable, but not something I'd particularly wished for........not consciously, anyway. I didn't want to be our band's queen for the Cedar Rapids festival, either, but had a feeling it would be so. As the time for the band to vote came near, I decided to speak privately with my band instructor about this issue. I recall the day very well, even what I was wearing, because the whole thing made me very nervous. During a study hall, I went to the band room to talk to him. I asked him to please let one of the other senior girl band members be the queen, even if I was the top vote-getter. Well........he practically got mad at me........saying, "No, absolutely not, I will not do such a thing!" Stupid me.......evidently, I was blind to the fact that I was asking him to lie and commit fraud.
Subsequently, yes, I was voted the "band queen" and experienced the one and only 'Vetting of my life! I was conveyed in a CorVETTe!! And, a nice blue one, favorite color, and my chauffeur was a handsome stranger! We're probably on First Avenue in this photo........last spring, the floodwaters would have been up to the top of the first floor windows of this Cedar Rapids building!
Following the parade, the band members were free to wander around downtown Cedar Rapids until mid-afternoon when the queen crowning ceremony would take place in a park. For five years, I had enjoyed exploring Cedar Rapids with my friends on the afternoon of the Festival day. This time, I wouldn't get to, for I had to dress up in a formal and spend the afternoon with my band a banquet and the queen competition. As we were walking to the restaurant where the banquet was to be held, he said, "They sure picked a seedy place for the meal." I recall this so clearly because it was the first time in my life I'd ever heard someone use the word "seedy", and I wasn't sure exactly what it meant!

Maybe I should tell you a little bit about our band instructor. He had been a last-minute hire right before my freshman year of high school. Our former, long-time band teacher had died suddenly of a heart attack right before school was to start. This new guy was hired, fresh out of the Coast Guard Band. I still recall our first marching band rehearsal with him out on the football field.......he acted so military-like, and we were all just rolling our eyes the whole time. He didn't get off to a good start.......he didn't establish authority, and he would get flustered and turn red, and then kids would laugh. Not good. He was gifted musically, but didn't really have much of a clue about dealing with students.

At any rate, somehow he lasted through our four years of high school. He always dressed quite formal, in black pants and a white shirt, but one day in my senior year I walked into the band room and nearly fainted when I saw him in a plaid shirt! At band lessons----which I didn't care for at all----he acted so very ill at ease that it made me feel ill at ease and nervous during my drum and tympani lessons. He always acted overly self-conscious and unsure of himself. He had come from the East Coast.......Boston, possibly; one time his mother came to visit and attended one of our concerts. One look at her was very enlightening. Her appearance and demeanor was totally me a much clearer understanding of her son after that, and I could see possibly why he had come all the way out here to teach in a remote little school in get further away from her!! Every one of us.......that means you, too, and molded by our parents' or guardians' effect on us in our childhood years.

Below is the group of band queen candidates, with the former year's winner sitting down in the front. I do not recall who won.........I do recall that it was not me, which was absolutely fine and no surprise at all!

I think the band director stayed at our school one more year after my Class of '76 graduated. He moved on to another school in Iowa, but I never heard where. Sometimes, I think of him and truly hope that he found some happiness, because I don't think he was happy when he was with us. He was single, and I think, rather friendless and lonely. We were so mean to him when he was our study hall monitor........we girls would plan ahead of time to do something all together, like clean out our purses, or some other odd thing that wasn't really against the rules, but would annoy him. One time, we were having study hall in the library and we could hear him yelling at one of our classmates out in the hall.........she came back and sat down across the table from me. I simply whispered to her, behind my hand, "What happened?", and Mr. Band Director immediately roared at ME to go sit in the corner!! Like I was a little grade-schooler! Well, OK, fine.......I did; sat there in the corner of the fiction bookshelves, the guys at the closest table glancing over and snickering for the rest of the hour. It still makes me laugh to think that the only time I was ordered to "sit in the corner" was when I was a senior in high school!!

Anyhow, as I said........I hope the band director eventually found happiness in life. I enjoyed band very much and have many fond and goofy memories of the goings-on in the percussion "zoo" section! We were in our own world back there behind the rest of the band, and could do pretty much as we pleased......(get creative, you know)....... as long as we kept the proper rhythm and beat!!


P.S. - One last the end of the parade, my driver turned around and asked me to stay in the Corvette so we could drive off into the sunset together and get married! That I said "No" may have been the biggest mistake of my life!! (And.......surely you're sharp enough to know that this is a B.S.P.S.!)
B.S.P.S.#2 (heehee): The real reason I'm posting photos and info of myself as queen-of-something-long-ago is that I'm hoping someone will ask me to run for office!
Sarah Palin was "Miss Wasilla", in Alaska, years ago! That fact may be a factor, tiny perhaps, but a factor nonetheless, in propelling her to where she is now. Did you know Sarah Palin was also a stand-out high school basketball player, leading her Wasilla team to the state championship? She was known as "Sarah Barracuda", due to her aggressive ball-playing (from Ten Facts About Sarah Palin). An interesting thing I noticed as a mother of two girls who played basketball was: in the initial years of playing----in grade school and junior high-----girls must be constantly exhorted to "be aggressive"! Even I, the nonagressive mom, would sit there in the bleachers and get caught up in yelling at my daughters and their teammates, "C'mon......BE MORE AGGRESSIVE!" (I don't recall hollering those words at my sons' teams.) Competing aggressively doesn't seem to come instinctively to most girls. Liberals and conservatives alike should look at Sarah Palin and see how risky it is to urge girls to be strong and aggressively competitive (wink, wink!)! I wasn't urged that way.......and, see how I turned out.......a career-less, duddy homebody who is so rebellious after 30 years of nonstop farmwiffery and cooking and taking care of husband/kids/house/yard, that I've turned in desperation to amateur photography and blogging. Mothers, be careful how you direct your daughters!!
[I chose to blog some random facts about Sarah Palin.......which doesn't necessarily mean I'm supportive of her as a vice-presidential candidate. I don't know enough about her, yet. Hm-m........I wonder if Bristol Palin ever played basketball, or if her mother exhorted her to be aggressive? Or, if Governor Sarah Palin would have even had the time to pay much attention to her daughter's activities or the boyfriend! Perhaps Bristol's dad, Todd Palin, "The First Dude" of Alaska, oversees those family issues. (By the way, Todd Palin is 1/8 Yupik Eskimo........making him "of Yupik descent", but not enough to call him an Eskimo.)
Yours Truly is one mother who definitely discouraged her own daughters from getting involved in serious romances in high school, even to the point of telling a boy to "SCRAM.....GET LOST" once. I was more concerned about my daughter than about what that boy thought of me. Afterwards, my husband stared at me in disbelief and said, "I don't know how you were able to do that, but I'm sure glad you did!" For their own good, more than for religious reasons, I absolutely did not want my daughters ending up with a teen pregnancy or having sex as teenagers, for that matter. Call me old-fashioned if you me its just good common sense that high-schoolers should not be getting involved in sexual relationships, and I, as a parent, knew that I was responsible for doing all I could to get that message across to the teenagers living under my roof. Also, selfishly, I harbor NO desire to take care of babies and young children everyday, again.........I DID MY TIME WITH THAT ALREADY! Although, I do realize there are extraordinary circumstances that can arise in any family, and I would certainly do my part to help out with children if need be.]



rhymeswithplague said...

Let me be the first to say I enjoyed this post immensely. Our school (total population grades 1-12 about 300, in one building) hired its first band director the year I was in seventh grade (1952-1953) and so I, like you, was in the band for six years. Our band was even smaller than yours. I think we peaked at 46, enough to make a football with lacing down the middle at half-time of the footbal games, and enough to make an "M" that people could recognize unless too many band members hadn't showed up.

I have never heard of a band queen. Drama queen, yes, but band queen? No. We had drum majorettes. No self-respecting boy in those days would ever have wanted to be a drum major. It was bad enough that we were in the band. Although, after a while, the band members gained some respect when a few of the athletic kids began to be in it in the off-season.

Mem-o-ries, mem-o-ries...can you hear me singing?

My daughter married a former drum major. Now they still play their instruments (her: flute and piccolo; him: French horn) in their church's orchestra. Their church's choir is almost as big as our entire school, grades 1-12.

Our first band director was a woman straight out of upstate New York, which was a novelty in Texas. In the six years I was in the band, we had three directors. The first two were good, the third must have been related to your director.

I felt I should write a long comment to compliment and complement your long (but very entertaining and informative) post!

Oh, and a belated congratulations on being chosen band queen by your peers, who should know.

Russell said...

I always like your posts about the mid 1970s! I graduated in the early 1970s but things did not change all that much by the middle 70s!

I loved being in the band. It was a place where we could have our own little world and be away from the jocks and the cool kids and the jerks and the outcasts (well, okay, we did have some outcasts!). It was OUR world!

Where I grew up, we had Algona Band Day complete with the queen contest and the whole works. That was one of my favorite days since I could be with friends, run around town and NOT have to be farming all day!!

Take care!

Caution/Lisa said...

We had a band director who had suffered a stroke which left him paralyzed on one side. Of course, the students were rough on him. I think back now to how he worked for years like that and how he walked for miles with his band in parades. It was nothing short of amazing.

He had been something of a local legend musically before the stroke, and left unable to play his clarinet any longer, the school board hired him to teach band. How he must have HATED that job.

I am now officially asking you to run for office. You've got my vote and then some!

Adventure girl said...

I loved this peice.

I was never in the band, a cheerleader or in any club! Oh wait! I was in FHA. Future Homemakers of Amercia. I sewed a lot;) oldest daughter, Megs, was in band and was percussion. She played Bass drum in marching band and it would thrill me beyond belief to see this tiny little girl (5'2, 90 pds) huffing around this HUGE drum. It was funny and amazing all at the same time.

Jeannelle said...

Hi, rhymsie!

Thank you......I enjoyed your "complementary" comment very much! (Your award-winning commenting is showing!)

Yes, aren't memories fun!! And, you were from a small school, too, and remember what it was like. Whenever our dorky little band marched there in Cedar Rapids, we usually had to follow the huge and perfectly precise Western Dubuque band which usually won the band trophy of the day.

We didn't have many athletes who stayed with band. In a small school, you know, kids can play every sport and be in all the music stuff, too, but usually the time factor becomes a problem....there just isn't enough time to do everything.

That's great your daughter and her husband still can use their instrumental skills......I haven't beat a drum in years!!


Hi, Russell!

You have great band memories, too, it sounds like! Yes, band does seem to attract a certain kind of kid.......ones who grow up to be bloggers!!!

And, yes, I, too really enjoyed that day of wandering around in downtown Cedar Rapids every year.


Hi, Caution!

Interesting story about your band director. He might not have hated the job, though......its wonderful he could still use his music skills in some way. Yes, kids can be so mean......I feel guilty sometimes at how we deliberately would try to irk our band director.

Have a great day!

Jeannelle said...

Hi, adventuregirl!

Your comment slipped in as I was writing my first one, evidently.

That's neat your daughter was in percussion! I think bass drums look heavier than they are. I recall having the bass drum strapped to me in marching band. I preferred to play it in concert band, of course, when it didn't need to be carried. Bass drum and tympani were my favorites! I could do snare drum, but didn't care for it as much.....the boys were better at it, anyhow.

And, that's good you were into sewing and FHA!! Do you still sew? I fell away from that, unfortunately.

Pat - Arkansas said...

Wonderful post, J! I enjoyed your recollections of being "vetted."
It's a good thing for all of us loyal blog readers that you didn't 'ride off into the sunset' with the Corvette driver!

Anonymous said...

lovely tale Jeannelle. And I never heard of a band queen before either. We certainly didn't have any at my high school. You blended the vetting issue well in your piece. If you need additional information about Palin, let me know. I have vetted her very thoroughly! LOL. She's anti-woman I can assure you!Your pics and prose is always soo delightful to read Jeannelle, You are quite the writer!

Jeannelle said...

Hi, Pat!

Thanks always for your kind comments! Recalling old memories is just such fun, isn't it!


Hi, Sherry!

Thank you always for your encouraging comments, too! I hadn't planned on including Sarah Palin in this post, but it just sort of evolved. I will be reading your posts as the election draws closer.....I need to keep better informed about political stuff. The Palin thing is jarring, in a way, for I think its pretty much a fluke that she's on the ticket......that's almost scary. Honestly, I feel sorry for her daughter, Bristol, who will now be the poster girl for teenage pregnancy and marriage. I'm not terribly impressed by Gov. Palin.

Egghead said...

This is a great post and I too graduated in 1976. We didn't have band queens but did have prom queens, pep queens and FFA queens. I love that last sentence in teeny tiny writing about helping if need be. ha ha! Just wait....things slap you in the face when you least expect them. I take care of my granddaughters all of the time because of my daughters death. I, who thought I would never do this as well (did my time) am loving every minute I can have with them. But I do get tired.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

i enjoyed the story too. I had no idea you were such a social butterfly in high school. (jk)

I especially liked how you worked in "vetting."

Jeannelle said...


Believe it or not, I did have you in mind when I added that sentence at the end! I'm fully aware that the road of life can bring unexpected turns at any moment.



Yah, social bet. I couldn't pass up the "vetting" issue.