Many years ago before The Ruggist even knew what a handmade rug looked like, he was a high school student not unlike any other in a moderately conservative midwestern town. I was in the nerdy clique though nerds were never so clever as to market themselves with the term. No we reserved that term as a pejorative for the supposedly popular crowd, but I digress. My friends, and my class – like I’ve come to find in my adulthood that every generation does – looked longingly back on the past lamenting how much better things were. How the school and teachers were more fun in the seventies, how this and that other things were better, and how the right-of-passage senior pranks were better. A young Mike (if you can imagine me going by the name Mike) was to have none of this defeated sentiment and set out to pull off a senior prank that the then retiring Principal Robert Shamp would eventually call “the best prank in all his years.”
The premise was simple. In a conservative town where sex education was limited at best, a letter would be sent to the parents whose daughters were attending prom. Prominent parents, including physicians (who loved it), school board members, and others in the aforementioned popular crowd, would receive a letter describing the school’s actions to curb teenage pregnancy. Much like it is today in small minded communities across the midwest the fair conservative minded folks just could not figure out that their kids were going to engage in lapinesque copulation regardless (or in spite of) their parents’ wishes. Oh how the times really don’t change. The purported actions of the school were detailed in the following letter I mailed to parents on official school stationary I had surreptitiously acquired, and which included a Trojan Brand condom to match our school mascot. Details people!
As this upcoming weekend approaches, so does the Junior/Senior Prom. Prom, as many of you may recall is usually a highlight of a young person’s High School career. In recent years however, high school teachers, counsellors, and administrators have seen a dramatic increase in the number of teenage pregnancies as a result of Prom. Along with the increase in pregnancies comes an increased chance of acquiring a sexually transmitted disease, such as AIDS.
A University of Oregon study of 100 high schools across the country indicated that of the approximately 60,000 boys surveyed, 83% expected to have sex sometime during the weekend of their senior prom.
These statistics are startling. The administrative staff of Findlay High School, along with many of the faculty, met to discuss the situation. The result of the hours of meetings was the development of a pilot program that, if successful, will be continued next year.
In an effort to curtail the teenage pregnancy rate, and reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, please find the enclosed condom. Give it to your daughter and discuss the ramifications that may result if protection is not used.
Although abstinence is the only way to prevent pregnancy 100 percent, it is our hope that through this program, many youths will be spared the traumatic and life altering effects of a teenage pregnancy.
If you have any questions of concerns with this program, please call me at 425-8302.
Mr. Robert Shamp
This letter was as warmly welcomed as you can imagine it to have been. Outrage swept some members of the community, while congratulations sounded from others, all the while administrators went on a witch hunt for the person or persons responsible for, to be blunt, questioning their authority over the fiefdom that is American High School. A few friends of mine knew of this prank in advance and as happens with such juvenile things, someone (and I know it was you Phil) started talking and by the time the school bell rang the morning after the letters arrived at home, I was the prime suspect.
It’s sad that I was so (much more) naive back then. I would have loved to have told the Principals that their threats of mail fraud charges were unfounded and untrue and that the best they had on whomever mailed that letter was theft of school letterhead, that is if they could prove it was stolen. But alas, I was younger, had more respect for authority, and faced with the threat of not walking at graduation and breaking my dear mother’s heart, I caved and confessed. In hindsight, the week of in school suspension I did was time well served. I returned to classes a week later having completed all of my coursework until year’s end and was somewhat of a celebrity if only for those coveted fifteen (15) minutes. Everyone knew it was me!! I was free to talk about it at my leisure, my english class enjoyed a presentation on the prank (where the above photo was taken), and the popular kids said things like ‘This is the best prank we’ve had this year.’ I of course pointed out it was the only one… .
A few weeks later at the year end awards ceremony – the one where they gather all the parents and publicly announce scholarships – while standing at the podium on stage the Vice-Principal announced my Honours Scholarship to the University of Akron, leaned in close while he shook my hand and said in a whisper: ‘Akron is the rubber capital of the world.’ then we laughed aloud to much bewilderment
Oh! And in case you cannot quite make it out, the t-shirt I’m wearing reads: “But enough about you, let’s talk about me.” Some things never change.