Guest blog from the Purity lady

Kate writes a terrific blog about the strange doings in our small town. Here is a memory from her time at appropriately-named Whitesville Junior High.

Cheerleading Tryouts

Part I: The Quest

It was the spring of 1967. Six months earlier, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panthers. Six months later, Carl Stokes of Cleveland, Ohio, and Richard Hatcher of Gary, Indiana would win elections to become the first black mayors of major cities. In between, over 60 people were killed in race riots in Newark, New Jersey and Detroit, Michigan. The Civil Rights Movement was coming of age.

I, too, was coming of age. I was 13 years old and preparing for cheer-leading tryouts at Whitesville (aka Sacajawea) Junior High in Spokane, Washington. My friend, Kathie Geaudreau, and I tried out as a team. We made up a cheer and practiced for months.

This was our school logo. Our colors were black and white. With no sense of the political mood, this was our cheer:

Drop to left knee, right knee bent in lunge position.

Raise left hand overhead, shake white pompom.

Right arm works rotator cuff by turning in wide circles (black pompom held in right hand).

 Black & white

Black & white

Black & white

Fight, fight

 Hop to standing position, feet together, pompoms close to abdomen.

Raise white pompom overhead.

Who fight?

 Raise black pompom overhead.

We fight

 Shake pompoms fiercely.

Activate both rotator cuffs. Wildly swing arms forward in circular motion.

 Black & white

Fight, fight

 Hop up and down. Kick one leg forward, then the other, yelling, “Yay! Yay!” Repeat until judges say, “That’s enough, ladies.”

The judges probably crumpled and trashed our entry forms before we left the staging area.

I cried. My fantasies of wearing the Sacajawea black and white cheerleader uniform under the Friday night lights of my eighth grade year were crushed.

The group Kate did not become part of.

Part II: The Revenge

 I spent the next several days composing hate mail to each judge. With the cunning of an assassin, I typed the letters. This was before DNA testing, but not before handwriting analysis. In my mind, typed letters were untraceable.

I questioned the qualifications of each judge (the principal, vice-principal, girls’ PE teacher, boys’ PE teacher, and a math teacher). “I highly doubt that any of you jerks have ever even been a cheerleader.” I wished unique, horrible fates upon them. The only one I remember was the principal’s: “I hope your car gets hit by a semi-truck.”

My mother became suspicious of the time I spent at the family Smith Corona. She found the letters, yelled at me while ripping them to shreds, and grounded me for a week. I would have written her a hate letter, too. I’m certain I could have disguised the content as being written by any one of her five children (You’re so unfair! You never let me do anything! I HATE YOU!!!!), but she knew I was the only one who could type.

Kate was an office volunteer (at far right). Hence the typing ability.

Part III: The Lesson

After 45 years, I give my mom heartfelt thanks. She taught me that it’s never a good idea to threaten anyone, especially school personnel who volunteer to be cheerleading judges and who did the right thing by denying my lame ass the chance to become a cheerleader.

She also taught me to see the world beyond my narcissistic borders. With her help, I became aware of the plight of others, and was surprised to learn that while racial equality was a value our family held sacred, others did not.

From that time through the present, I have treated every person with the respect they deserve, regardless of the color of their skin.

And I have never, ever performed that cheer again.

Kate writes a blog about small town adventures on the Mendocino Coast: www.ithappenedatpurity.com

2 responses »

  1. I went to said- “Whitesville Junior High”, where I once spotted a black person. I was quite popular at Sacajawea, including knocking them dead at 2 all school talent shows. I am sure the attention paid to me for my white person good looks, winning personality & prodigy size talent, contributed to Ms. Erickson’s bitterness about her youth.

    Rare for her, she did learn a valuable early lesson: write the letter as catharsis, but destroy or delete it immediately after re-reading.

    Reply
  2. Stephen is correct–I bitterly lived in the shadow of his large talent. I thought I could compete by becoming a cheerleader & taunt him by shaking my pompoms in his mega-talented face. But alas…it was not to be.
    I’m pretty sure he still has the letter I typed & anonymously sent to him. Yes, Stephen, it was from me. You can destroy it now.

    Reply

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