Bandies, Bling, Baloney and Blackmail


We were like the Home Shopping Network, but better-- because with us, not only did you get the quality personalized pimple-faced service you come to expect from a neighbor kid with marginal social skills. But we could also honk out our own musical soundtrack accompaniment.

Yes, as a member of the Edgar Allen Poe High School marching band (name changed to protect the potentially-embarrassed), we canvassed our town with all the fund-raising merchandise that any neighbor could possibly ever want to reluctantly buy.

Sure, there was the mouth-watering candy bars that made us famous. (And which, due to my illicit in-school supplying in the girls' gym locker room prevented one of our most dreaded bully diva's from lavishing me with regular pre-lunch knuckle sandwiches. It was good to have a Get Out of Bruises Free card.)

But while the candy bars remained our Signature Special, we eventually branched out to a wider variety of goods in an attempt to give our clientele the items the market truly wouldn't completely hate pity-purchasing.

Why, there was the jewelry sale-- where we offered real genuine 100% glass diamonette earrings, bracelets and encrusted keychains, suitable for any occasion. If, y'know, that occasion required something elegant that probably wouldn't fall apart much into your French onion soup.

We sold delectible cheeses, sausages and other savory items, destined to make your next party a memorable evening of processed cold-pack, peel-slice-and-serve fun.

We sold good old-fashioned Jersey-style hoagies-- cold meat sandwiches made with our own hands (and probably Aquanet, Love's Baby Soft, and that bit o' goo from the brass sections spit traps, just for seasoning). And we sold a lot of them. Which either goes to show the deep kindness of strangers or the fact that no one really spent a lot of time observing band members and their habits.

Lastly, we raised money by putting on a combination Play-Fashion Show. The sort of event that simply had it all! Flashing lights, hot trends, music, and people who never would have made the cut for any actual school dramatics parading around in borrowed duds trying to look like members of The Brat Pack, all with a loosely-tied story theme.

Grease was one such theme. Alice in Wonderland was the other. So while I was, yes, tall and thin at the time, it was universally agreed that it would be better for all concerned if I did not model. Or act. Or appear anywhere in public so people could actually see me...

Quiet, lanky girls with scoliosis and self-esteem issues were better left to paint props and clap in the right places as plants in the audience. It was how the Social Spectrum of Cool to Non-Cool worked, and was an unspoken, highly-revered tradition not to be mucked about with.

It spans generations.

So, each year, my neighbors knew they could count on (read: contemplated not answering the door because it was that Thorson girl again, with some catalog in her hand) the unique ability to purchase a variety of items suitable for any household....

To gain an eye-opening look into the world of high fashion, fine design and hand-crafted cuisine the Board of Health just hadn't thought to look into yet.

I see band members giving it their all at the Macy's Day parade and I nod, knowing what they went through to get there.

Not simply hours of rehearsal in blistering heat and finger-stinging cold...

Not just kneeling in mud and marching through goose poop on the practice field...

Not plodding forwarded doggedly, against the squeaks and honks and the "Are you ever going to get that right?-- you're driving your father and I up a wall!"

But the subtle nuances of regional, neighborly blackmail. The salesmanship. All to afford to go somewhere far, far alway from the good people that you made crazy playing measure number 32
in determined, Groundhog Day-like repetition.

Good times!

10 comments:

Kimberly said...

Gaah! We did Joe Corbi's Pizza. And it wouldn't have been at all horrible if I had a parent who was home in time to pick me up from school the day the ten or so forty-pound boxes (it seemed) of pizza I sold came in. And I didn't have to bring them home on the bus.

Jenn Thorson said...

Kim- Oh no-- I just have visions of you scrambling to stack them all on the bus, with a bus driver who's there looking irritated at his/her watch.

Babs-beetle said...

[and that bit o' goo from the brass sections spit traps] When I see musicians shake that out of their brass instruments I always gag a bit. I expect it's only condensation but I always imagine it's a dollop of spit!

American school days are so different to the British. No brass bands. No pomp and ceremony. No cheer leaders. All very mundane.

ReformingGeek said...

ACK! We did candles and candy, and everything else I've forever banished from my memory.


I hated selling stuff.

MikeWJ at Too Many Mornings said...

This is an excellent reminder to never buy hand-matde sandwiches from band members. But it's also a great argument for having high school bands -- they don't just teach kids to play music, they teach kids how to become adults. That might be a little sad, but it's useful.

Jaffer said...

Ah yes, when I was in high-school, the Embassy of India decided it would be a good idea to raise funds for the school by holding an annual Fete - where they'd be a bazaar for small and micro businesses and a prize drawing by way of raffle tickets.

It was controversial from the beginning !

First, was the belief that buying a raffle ticket is like gambling and gambling is taboo.

Yet we were all asked to sell a book of raffle tickets and if we sold ten, we'd get one free. Everyone was handed one - I wished I could've given them the bird ! I'd never attempt to sell any - nor did my friends.

Secondly, I heard that there was no restriction on what people could sell. Some friends who went said that besides food, clothing, music etc, there were people selling bathtub-brewed 'medicines', tobacco, items for grown-ups only - what were they doing on school grounds ?

The Fete was a success however - they held it every year after that - but less and less people I knew went !

Jenn Thorson said...

Babs- It is interesting how different things are between countries-- and then the surprising things that tend to be almost universal!

Reforming Geek- Hey, you and me both! I used to have to psych myself up for it, summoning courage from somewhere in my big toe.

Mike- There's probably rules against band members doing that sort of thing these days. Much like the bake sale restrictions.

Jaffer- Wow, that sure put everyone in a real spot-- sounds like someone didn't quite think that through. What's the first rule of marketing?: "Know your audience."

Kate said...

ohh yes, I remember those days of marching band fundraising fondly... OK, not so fondly, but we got to march in Disney... and we went to Europe, so I guess that's pretty cool.

screwdestiny said...

Oh, fond memories of fundraisers. Good times. But not really. What was so interesting to me about fundraising when I was young was how the experience varied depending on where I lived.

When I was in elementary school, simply raising money for our school, I lived in California, and I had to work my butt off to sell packets of M&Ms, home decor stuff, and "fancy" candies. I got so many doors shut in my face before I could even get my opening spiel out. But then I moved to Wyoming. And when I did fundraisers for school, dance team, and something else I can't remember, it was SO easy. Seriously. People would actually hear my spiel out! And they would buy something most of the time! It was a complete 180.

Jenn Thorson said...

Kate- Wow, Europe! Now that had to be a trip! The farthest we got to go was Quebec.

ScrewDestiny- I can't believe they'd slam the doors in your face in California! Sheesh, I thought there'd be at least vague politeness-- and THEN say no.