The thing I enjoyed most in grade school was spelling. I can’t tell you why. I was just curious enough, I suppose, to like to spell words right.
I always won the contests in our grade. Then in the eighth grade, I won the class contest; the School contest; then went on to win second in the County.
Our Grandaughter Kelly found this newspaper photo, printed during the County Bee. My mother apparently gave it to Jean; she to Martha; she to Kelly; and “archivist” that she is, she e-mailed it to me. As you can see, I apparently came in second there.
(Note: If you "double-click" on the picture, you can read the caption.)
I was in the State of Ohio Spelling Bee at the Great Southern Hotel on South High Street in Columbus. The “Bee” was broadcast live on WBNS, the Columbus Dispatch radio station there. This was in the summer of 1938. I was fourteen years old, and had just been graduated from the eighth grade.
A little nervous, but nevertheless, we drove to Columbus and got situated in the Hotel - not overnight. (I suppose we MIGHT have stayed overnight IF I had won the state.)
Prior to the “Bee”, the “pronouncer”, a nice lady with a melodious voice, met each of us, trying to put us at ease. She tried to keep us from “being nervous”. Didn’t work. I was still nervous.
The deal was that once the broadcast began, the pronouncer would signal each of us to come to the microphone individually, with her on the other side facing us. She gave our names, then said the “word” we were to spell.
When it finally became my turn, I hesitatingly, and nervously stepped to the microphone.
She smiled, and after giving my name and town, she said, “The word is ‘merchandise.’”
Not a tough word at all. Except, that in trying to help me, she over-emphasized the last syllable, making it sound like “dyze”. (She later said that she didn’t want me to spell it “- dice”) Right!
I thought a few seconds, then said, “m e r c h a n d i (pause)Z e.”
“Oh I’m sorry. That is incorrect.”
ON THE RADIO in every home in Mechanicsburg - “right in front of God and everybody”, of course. And the FIRST round!
It took me a LONG time to live it down.
My nickname around town turned from “Myronie”, or “Mynie” or “Two pants”, to
(Loud trumpet sound) “MERCHANDISE”.
Like, “Hello there MERCHANDISE! How are you today?
I never gave up on spelling, though.
The redeeming time, however, was after I had retired from 34 years of Ministry with WEEC. The local literacy group sponsored an annual “Literacy Sting“, sponsored by Sertoma International, and the Clark County Literacy Coalition. It consisted of businesses and organizations in Springfield, vying for the Spelling Championship.
Any way you cut it, it was a Spelling Bee for adults.
Because of my noted interest in spelling, pronunciation and grammar (would you believe “obsession”?) Tracy Figley asked me to join Ryan Figley, and Lois Jean Britton, to be on the WEEC team.
I was a little hesitant (make that skittish, remembering 1938. At least this one wasn’t to be broadcast - - - was it?)
Ten years ago, our team joined thirteen other organizations in town, and eventually we won!
Since I happened to be the one that spelled the last word (with help from my fellow team members), when they announced us as the winners, I threw my hands up in the air and said, “Praise the Lord”.
This was the picture in the paper - THIS TIME! The actual photo was not available, but the Clark County Public Library had an archive photo of the newspaper. (Sorry for the quality!)
(Again - if you "double-click" on the picture, you can read the whole article.)
So typical of my not knowing to quit when I’m ahead, I reluctantly agreed to the same thing the next year.
Dummy me - WE LOST!
I’ll never learn!