Column: Notoriety gained by refusal to make empty promise

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 12, 2001

&uot;In the future everybody will be world famous for 15 minutes,&uot; said the late Andy Warhol, pop artist.

Thursday, April 12, 2001

&uot;In the future everybody will be world famous for 15 minutes,&uot; said the late Andy Warhol, pop artist. I don’t have to wait for the future. I’ve had my moment of fame. Well, maybe not world wide. Maybe for that matter not really fame.

Email newsletter signup

Would you believe notoriety? Heaven knows I was not seeking attention. From the time I started school at dear old Second Avenue Elementary until I marched across the stage to receive my high school diploma all I ever wanted was to be left alone.

My whole school career, though, consisted of one catastrophe after another. The one that brought me to the attention of those from whom I wanted no attention exploded when I was quietly going my way as a fifth grader. Minding my own business, I was, doing my homework, giving no trouble to the adults around me, who were a little on the picky side generally speaking.

I can only lay the blame on what I’ve ever believed to be an attack of city wide righteousness. My home town was subject to these, now and then, possibly because of an abiding guilt complex.

After all we did have a Baptist minister, who with his family packed up and left the town, after leaving a vitriolic letter to be printed in the newspaper. It said that no clergyman should have to waste time staring down in to the mouth of hell, when he could do no good. And after all what good could one do in a town populated by the &uot;descendants of river boat gamblers and their doxies?&uot;

Outsiders were always saying things like that about us. It hurt our feelings and made us self conscious so we had these irrational attacks of righteousness.

This attack took the form of a campaign to prevent drinking hard liquor and smoking cigarettes. It was aimed at pupils in the primary schools, being too late, no doubt for the high school.

There were three public elementary schools and one large parochial school. For almost a month the campaign was waged to have every pupil sign a pledge to neither smoke nor drink before the age of 21. Every school worked for a 100 percent response.

St. Bernard’s had a 100 percent sign up. Fourteenth Street school had a 100 percent as did Sixth Street. Second Avenue lacked one of having 100 percent, me.

A somewhat dull and mouse-like child, I had already planned my future. As soon as I was 18 years old I would move to New York City, become a famous private detective, wear a blue velvet evening gown and smoke cigarettes in a long exotic cigarette holder.

I tried to explain this to Miss Tomas, the fifth grade teacher, but she tended not to listen. I was kept in every day after school, trying to explain it to her. She cried. I cried. A foretaste of hell as ever there was.

Then she made a tactical error. She confronted my father at a PTA meeting. &uot;We thought it might be the money,&uot; she said. &uot;We would be glad to give Love the 50 cents in order to have a 100 percent sign up.&uot;

&uot;What’s the 50 cents for?&uot; asked my father, who loathed PTA meetings beyond all things.

&uot;Well, there’s this little pin,&uot; she said, bringing it out of her purse. &uot;It costs 25 cents and then this lovely little certificate,&uot; making another dip into her purse, &uot;It’s for her to sign. And it costs 25 cents, too.&uot;

&uot;That pin is brass,&uot; said my father, &uot;It’s going to turn green within the week. My daughter has been brought up not to make promises she doesn’t plan to keep and when she makes one it doesn’t have to be documented.&uot;

He was still spluttering about it to my mother when they got home. My mother ignored the whole thing, while she considered whether it was too late to leave me on someone’s doorstep.

Just for the record, I never did smoke. I might just as well have made that promise.

Love Cruikshank is an Albert Lea resident. Her column appears Thursdays.