‘The Giant Pickle Says . . .’

Sometime during the spring of 1967, I made my way to the office at South Junior High and wrote down my name as a candidate for vice-president of our class. If elected, I’d serve during our ninth-grade school year beginning the next September.

I had no experience. Oh, I’d been class president for one week each during third and sixth grades, but everybody got a chance to be class president in elementary school. Once a student had served a week as president, he or she was ineligible to serve again until everyone else had done so. So the weekly elections were actually eliminations in a nine-month unpopularity contest. I don’t think I was the last to be elected either year, but I was a later president, more Jimmy Carter than Thomas Jefferson.

I don’t recall my term in sixth grade, and only one moment sticks out from my week-long administration in third grade. It was a rainy day, which meant that we gathered in our classroom after lunch instead of going outdoors. After a brief time, the murmur of conversation in Miss Kelly’s room turned into a racket of shouts and laughter. Trying to quell the roar, I hollered “Shut up!” as loudly as I could. None of my classmates paid me any attention. I did catch the ear, however, of Miss Rodeman, a first-grade teacher who was at that moment in the hallway near our classroom door. She insisted I accompany her to the principal’s office, where I remained until the end of lunch hour. After I explained myself, the principal acknowledged the value of my goals, but she indicated that my leadership skills needed work.

So as I signed up to run for vice-president of South Junior High’s ninth grade, I had precious little experience in governing. And I knew, given the realities of eighth-grade politics, that I had no chance of winning. So what in the name of Levi P. Morton* impelled me to put my name on the ballot? I don’t know. I didn’t know then, and nearly forty-five years later, I don’t know now.

Our campaigns were simple in junior high. Candidates got their friends together and made posters to hang around the school. That and basic assumptions of friendships and desired friendships were pretty much it. Not having a campaign committee of friends, I sat down one evening at home with a stack of construction paper and some colored markers and began to create small posters to put in the hallways and classrooms. Not only was I lacking a committee of friends, I also lacked artistic skill. My posters were pretty bad. I knew that, but I drew on.

My sister, then a junior in high school, stopped by the kitchen and checked out my work. She didn’t tell me my posters were awful. But she altered the direction of the campaign. She pulled out from the pile of construction paper the lighter-colored sheets, grabbed the drawing compass from the desk in the hallway and set me to drawing and cutting out three-inch circles. As I created a pile of blank circles, she took up the markers and set her whimsical sense of humor to work on a series of campaign buttons.

Sadly, I can recall only one of the thirty or so buttons she created for me that evening. I remember giggling as she drew and printed on the paper, but just that one button remains in my memory. It showed a large cucumber with a friendly grin, accompanied by the legend: The giant pickle says “Vote for Greg!”

The next day, as I offered campaign buttons to a couple of friends before school, their laughter drew others, and my stock of absurd buttons was gone rapidly. As popular as they were, the buttons didn’t help, of course. Election Day came around, and I got maybe 5.5 percent of the vote, finishing last in what was, I think, a four-person field. But that was okay. It hurt, but only for a little while.

If I’d known about the tune at the time, I suppose I could have taken some consolation in at least the title of the only No. 1 hit ever written by a vice-president of the United States. In 1912, Charles G. Dawes – who was elected vice president in 1924 and served one four-year term – wrote “Melody in A Major,” a tune that Wikipedia notes was played as his signature song at many political events. In 1951, Carl Sigman added lyrics, and the tune became a love song: “It’s All In The Game,” which Tommy Edwards took to No. 1 in 1958.

Edwards’ version is pretty familiar, so here’s one that’s a little less obvious: Nat King Cole’s 1957 take on “It’s All In The Game.”

*Levi P. Morton was the twenty-second vice-president of the United States (1889-1893).

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2 Responses to “‘The Giant Pickle Says . . .’”

  1. I suspect that, given the depth of understanding with regard to most issues that the average American voter possesses, an endorsement from a giant pickle might enable you to win office.

    (too cynical?)

  2. Paco Malo says:

    Thanks for the memories of your school days political career — your post brings back memories of my own dabbling in middle and high school politics. I had a bit of success, but I wish I’d had an endorsement from the Giant Pickle.

    I’ve got a few stories myself but I’m gonna recount a classmate’s instead as it may be of more interest to your readers. This classmate made it all the way to the U.S. House of Representatives. After two terms in Congress he ran, unsuccessfully, for governor of the state of Florida. At a fund raiser he had a great line about how powerless a Congressman is, “Being a Congressman is like being a single man alone in a bar.”

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