1968 was a pivotal year in American political history. The civil rights struggle was ongoing, American politics and culture was shaken with the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, and the war in Vietnam was defining American political debate. And on the local scene, I got elected to the Student Council.
My political apex arrived early in my career; during the fall of my seventh grade year, to be exact. For when all of the recently elementary but now seventh grade student body met, my name was put forth in nomination as student council representative, and somehow, when the final votes were tallied, I had won. So, evidently, I had found my niche; leadership. No, I wasn't on the football team, and no, I wasn't in band, but I was Seventh Grade Boys Representative on the Waldron Junior High Student Council. I had, it seemed, arrived.
I don't recall actually doing much that year. We met, with Mrs. May as our sponsor, periodically. And, in an unfortunate circumstance that set a pattern for most of my later accomplishments, when the announcement was made for All Student Council Members To Report For Their Picture For The Yearbook, I was in the gym participating in that endearing exercise known as PE class, and couldn't hear the announcement, and was left out of the picture.
I do, however, distinctly recall one of my last official acts as Seventh Grade Boys Representative. I was in Mrs. Giddens' geography class, and evidently I had been absent and missed a test. Since I had study hall the next period, I arranged with Mrs. Giddens to come in and take the test. However, when I got to study hall, I found out that the student council members were supposed to go down to the office and count the votes for the election for next year's student council members. Upon hearing this, I immediately forgot about going to Mrs. Giddens' room to take that test. In fact, it didn't even cross my mind until I was walking back to study hall after counting the votes and happened to pass Mrs. Giddens' room. Realizing my error, I at least had the decency to step in and tell Mrs. Giddens about my mistake. She was somber but cordial, and allowed me to come back the next day to take it. But the next day in class, she did deliver a lengthy lecture to the whole class about responsibility, standing immediately next to my desk as she spoke. Point taken.
That particular election was a losing one for me. I had sought reelection, campaigning with a series of cleverly crafted posters, but to no avail. Perhaps I had taken the wrong approach; after all, one of my posters utilized a picture from one of Daddy's firefighting magazines (he was Waldron's volunteer fire chief at the time), a picture of a house totally engulfed in flames with a fireman standing in front of it, looking directly into the camera. In a substantial lapse in judgement, I had inserted a caption that went something like, "These people didn't vote for Billy Yates for Eight Grade Student Council Representative. Don't let it happen to you." The humorous intent of the piece didn't translate well to the written format, I fear.
My defeat in the election for Eighth Grade Student Council Representative didn't dissuade me from trying again. And again. I think I ran for student council each year, and each year suffered a crushing defeat. I didn't get to be on student council again until eleventh grade, when I became president of the English Club, which also gave me a seat on the student council. Again, I missed the memo about the picture for the yearbook. I did, however, manage to make it for the English Club photo.
Although I wasn't on the student council for my senior year, I did get to participate in one of the student council projects. The student council sponsored the Senior Lounge, which was set up in the lobby of the gym. Seniors were, incredibly, allowed to go there at lunch and make purchases from the vending machines. Since I had study hall during the morning, Mr. Hill, the student council sponsor, chose me to go over each morning and restock the vending machines. I picked up the key in the office, and got the vending machine items from the storage room in the gym, and got everything restocked and ready to go for the lunch crowd. If I remember correctly, the Senior Lounge was unsupervised by any school personnel and operated, quite well I must say, on the honor system.
By the time I graduated, all political ambition had been pretty much extinguished. Now, I make my voice heard at the ballot box, and leave the political fighting to the professionals. But, if my country ever needs someone to step in and restock vending machines; I'm your guy. I'm standing by...