Ponderettes and Pie
An excerpt from the new
book, 'Lessons with Love'
Story by Billie Jean Plaster
Finishing a trilogy of sorts, local author Marianne Love put pen to paper – or rather strokes to a keyboard – to document her 33-year teaching career at Sandpoint High School (SHS). The result is “Lessons with Love: Tales of teaching and learning in a small-town high school,” a 288-page memoir full of stories both poignant and amusing. The book was just released in May by Keokee Co. Publishing, Inc., the publisher of Sandpoint Magazine, which also publishes regional guidebooks and nonfiction titles.
Love, who turns 60 this year, retired in 2002 after teaching English her entire career, all at her alma mater, SHS. She estimates that some 4,500 students passed through her classroom. Born and raised in Sandpoint, Love first published memories from her childhood in the book “Pocket Girdles and Other Confessions of a Northwest Farmgirl” in 1994 – now in its fourth printing. Her second book, “Postcards from Potato(e)Land,” followed in 1997 and picked up the portrait of life in Sandpoint started in “Pocket Girdles.” Both were laugh-out-loud collections of autobiographical stories that capture the phenomenon of living in Sandpoint.
In “Lessons with Love,” she concludes with this statement at the end of the final and 17th chapter, an epilogue: “I am the one who feels most grateful for all these students who have contributed to my life. I thank God for giving me the gift of teaching.”
Apparently, He gave her the gift of writing, too.
“Lessons with Love” is available at local bookstores and online at www.SandpointGeneralStore.com. The softcover book sells for $16.
The following excerpt, selected with input from Love, provides a small sliver from the first chapter about advising the drill team: “Ponderettes and Pie – Not a Good Mix.”
It was one of my brilliant schemes to earn a few extra Ponderette bucks that nearly led to the demise of my teaching career.
Why not have a pie-eating contest? I thought. We can involve the whole school and charge entry fees, and the girls can supply the pies to make more money. It was 1973. By this time, I had learned that Dick Sodorff may have been blind when he hired me to advise the Ponderettes, but his vision tended to be extremely acute whenever an untried idea came his way. … If we were going to get the blessing of the principal, my instincts told me I had better make darn sure that every potential cream-pie liability was covered before broaching the subject to Mr. Sodorff. Since I had never even come close to angelic stardom, turning devil’s advocate in the planning process posed no problem.
OK, I thought. We’ll put out newspapers. … Contestants will lie on their stomachs with hands behind their backs. Assistants will bring them the pies so that they’ll never have to touch the pie with their hands. … Homeroom teachers would read the rules to their classes, so there could be no excuse for misunderstandings.
To emcee the event, I chose the most responsible student I knew at the time. His name was Kent Compton. In addition to being a good Presbyterian and playing a mean cello, Kent was a wholesome, happy extrovert. … With the plan complete and knowing that Kent was my ticket to a successful event, my confidence level soared. Dick Sodorff could not turn me down when I proposed this meticulously-planned concept. The kids would love it. … As usual, Dick wanted to hear every detail before giving me the nod. Question after question was met with a response that demonstrated impeccable forethought. I had done my homework this time. The pie-eating contest was a go. …
“Let’s keep this under control,” I said, aware that even Kent probably needed a reminder. Excitement reigned high. Contestants and assistants filed in.
“Find yourself a pie, and get down on the floor,” my bombproof emcee instructed. With a short time left in the lunch break, we wasted no time herding people to their pies. After a quick welcome, Kent read the rules and reminded everyone that the pie needed to stay on the newspapers. … There comes a moment in the planning of every project when all fears of disorganization dissipate, everything comes together, and it’s obvious that this has turned out to be a winner. I beamed with pride. … A large representation from the faculty stood a safe distance away along the wall near the coaches’ office.
Kent, my trusted student, stood on the stage, microphone in hand, masterfully setting the tone for the proceedings. … I couldn’t have been more pleased – until the “imp of the perverse” so often mentioned in Edgar Allen Poe’s horror stories found its way into Bulldog Gym.
It all started innocently enough. Some say Anna Bricker started it. Others blame Bobby Hamilton Jr. The perpetrator, whoever it happened to be, lacked foresight for sure. Who would ever expect that rubbing an errant smidgen of meringue from one of the pies onto someone else’s shirt sleeve would start such a chain reaction? Probably any veteran of a pie fight could imagine this, but the innocent soul who started it all was instantly forgotten in the mayhem that followed. Sixty seconds seemed like six hours as contestants and assistants alike began flinging pie in every direction. First, the flying slop was limited to a small portion of the gym near the girls’ locker room. Within seconds, a barrage of chocolate, lemon cream and whipping cream bombs went airborne and landed on its human targets with military precision.
As Poe says, there is something about the imp of the perverse that transforms the most innocent of souls (whether teenager or teacher) into fiendish monsters. Although I never would have admitted it to Dick Sodorff at the time, I must confess now (in the safety of my retirement) to the mortal sin of flinging at least one handful of chocolate cream at my colleague, Ray Holt. I believe that offense occurred only after wiping off a glob of banana cream from my shoulder and turning around to spot his guilty, grinning countenance.
So much fun, happening so quickly. Within seconds, I came to my senses and remembered my early determination to make this thing work. The plan had not called for an all-out war in the gym.
“Stop it!” I started yelling. “Please, stop it.”
Was anyone listening? Was I in a dream?
“I said STOP IT!” Once more, no response. I tried the physical approach, frantically grabbing hands ready to fling another glob of pie.
“Please stop!” My worst nightmare kept on. I felt invisible as I yelled and grabbed in vain, but pie continued hitting people. People were walking, running and sliding on pie filling. This fiasco was occurring no longer on the newspapers but on the precious gym floor. Occasionally, some targets ducked at the right time and the pies hit the pine walls along the sides of the gym.
Somewhere between terror and hysterical laughter, I looked to Kent for help. What I saw on his face and heard from his mouth suggested that my trusted ally in this important mission had turned into a lowdown teenage traitor. Kent had red hair. His face now matched his hair; his eyes were filled with tears – not from embarrassment or shyness but from glee. His hand hugged the mike while his brain directed his lips to deliver some encouraging commentary.
“Oh, I see teachers!” he announced with a tone strongly implying their availability as ideal victims. A large handful of chocolate landed and oozed down a student spectator’s shirt.
“Hey, great hit!” This on-location melee had proved far more entertaining than the pie fight Kent had seen just a few weeks earlier on a TV show. Instant quarterbacks started aiming their creamy missiles toward a group of teachers standing near the coaches’ office. As the teachers tried to escape, moving en masse toward the door, Dick Sodorff stepped out of the office and walked toward the stage with a stern expression suggesting an imminent confrontation. Behind him, a frenzied mass of pedagogic humanity squashed itself through the open door, seeking escape from the maniacal mischief that had spread throughout the gym.
The teachers were safe. Dick Sodorff was not.
As he made his way along the east wall, staring straight ahead toward Kent on stage, he was oblivious to an event witnessed by just about all spectators who weren’t busily engaged in the pie fight. Approximately two feet above his head and slightly behind his peripheral vision, a complete chocolate pie went SPLAT against the wall.
“Oh, God, no,” I gasped. …
Read “Lessons with Love” for the whole story on the SHS pie-eating fiasco, as well as 16 more entertaining chapters.