Look at that kid, would you! His waist is 28 inches and he weighs 145 lbs. He is 17 years old and he is standing in front of the UNC-Chapel Hill fountain in 1952. Today, his waist is 42 inches and he weighs 224 lbs. Like sweet Ophelia said, "We know what we are, but we know not what we may become."
See that little emblem on my shirt? That identifies me as a representative to Boys' State.
What in God's name am I doing there! I remember that I rode the Trailway bus to Chapel Hill with another kid named Jack from Franklin. I had on a cheap suit that my grandparents had bought for the occasion, and a little pasteboard suitcase containing two shirts, a pair of pants and some Fruit of the Loom underwear. As we stood in the rain in front of the Chapel Hill bus station (and after I finger-combed my hair a few times) , my new blue suit dyed me like an Easter egg and my suitcase fell apart, dumping my clothes on the street. When the bus came by to pick us up and take us back to the dorm, we learned that we were late and there was an "orientation session" in progress. I attracted a bit of attention since I looked like a Maori warrior from New Zealand. I've always appreciated the fact that Jack didn't abandon me when we trudged through 98 representatives (one from each county) and took a seat in the back. The speaker was the Secretary of State, Thad Eure and he made a joke about his first year at Carolina when he was known as Fresh "manure."
Boy's State was a miserable ordeal. A half-dozen representatives (wealthy kids) developed a kind of private club and preceded to orchestrate or control the week's activities. Jack and I were excluded. However, we loved Chapel Hill. In 1952, it was full of book stores, record shops and fantastic restaurants. We went to movies every night and hung out in a record shop called Alexanders. During the day, we attended meetings where he elected officers, developed campaign speechs and held an election. The representative that was elected "governor" was an extraverted football player from Charlotte. Jack and I put up posters and passed out campaign material...great training for our future involvement with politics.
When I got back to Sylva, I was required to give a speech at the American Legion. I remember that they asked me if I learned something about how our country operated. I kept a straight face when I said that I had learned a great deal about how our government was run. I decided not to mention the book stores, movies and record shops. A week after we returned, Jack sent me this photograph. I look like I'm having a great time. In spite of it all, I guess I was.