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The Golden Age of the Key Club

Once upon a time, high school kids weren’t forced at the point of a righteous bayonet to perform community service. And (brace yourself ) in those same dark days it was also perfectly acceptable to have gender-restricted organizations. At the intersection of those two things sat the Key Club. It was the student-age adjunct to the Kiwanis Club. Whatever. What did Jimbo and I know? By the time we were in seventh or eigth grade, we knew the Key Club was cool. Our collective older brothers had been members, and we had heard the tales. If you were accepted into the Key Club – especially as an underclassman – you were cool. You were solid. Me, Jimbo, and the main guys and team mates we knew got in. I figured that was cool. Jimbo figured that he needed to be president. Sure enough, that part happened. And it was awesome in a way that was great then, but would never flush now. But that just makes it even better. There were dues. And we had a few fundraisers. But I swear it was like a suburban banana republic under president Jimbo. I mean, I was elected treasurer – which I think he somehow rigged – and I never saw or accounted for a penny. Not kidding. He just somehow ran this thing like Boss Tweed. Jimbo would often announce that there was to be a special meeting of the Key Club officers. I recall that Beaver Fitzgerald was Sergeant-at-arms, and I think Peaches Borchert was Secretary (position reserved for underclassmen) – but Jimbo only told me about these meetings. The officers meetings were so important that they couldn’t be conducted on campus. So Jimbo exercised his authority to make sure they were held at Cosmos (remember that place?). He and I would go there… and the Key Club would pay for us to have about as much pizza as two 17 year olds could consume, as well as a pitcher of draft (yup, we routinely got served in broad daylight like on a Tuesday in downtown Rye)… and then we would just return after lunch to classes, practice, or whatever. When anyone asked Jimbo how our officers’ “meeting” was… he would just tell them straight up, it was “important”. During the course of his time in office, he imposed on the administration to allow him to personally participate in the campus-wide morning announcements over the PA on days when a Key Club meeting had been scheduled for that night. Did we need to be reminded that there was a meeting? Hell no. We saw each other all day, every day, and the whole notion of a kid being over-scheduled was still about 20 years off. We were aware of and looked forward to the meetings. So basically the whole point of his doing the announcements was to amuse us with some coded innuendo that was undetectable to non-members. Every time. He would do this while standing like 20 feet from the principal’s desk with a straight face – while we were falling out of our chairs in whichever classroom we were in. Wherever we were, we knew it was coming and we were already giggling like idols in advance. We loved it. Teachers hated it. But like so many other things – Jimbo pulled it off toot sweet. His presidency assumed a higher profile - and became a bit rockier – on the night of the annual Key Club dinner. This was a nicey-nice thing put on at the Rye Golf Club by our patrons, the Kiwanis Club. Jacket and tie. The kind of thing that selected school board members, clergy, and coaches attended. Part of the drill was the president’s speech, in which the leader of the Rye High chapter was to share his account of all the goodworks the club had done, how the club had helped shape us into young men of character, that kind of thing. I’m sure it had gone as planned in prior years. Not this time. Jimbo gets up to the podium, and is greeted by supportive applause. Note that by this time he’s already had a few parking lot beers, two chickens, and has lost a contact lens. He’s going to wing it, God bless him. Well, he totally lost the thread. He did a sideways ramble into a uniquely Jimbo account of our main effort for the year – a leukemia fundraiser devoted to a young Rye girl that had been afflicted with the disease. And that’s when the needle scratched across the record. “Yeah so after the car wash, the raffle, and the other activities – we were well on our way to reach our fundraising our goal. But then, well, little Annie Spitalnik kinda went and died on us, so that was that. And in conclusion…”. Total spit take. This was a big room, with a lot of people, jaws agape all over the place. And Pellon laughing so hard I thought he was going to get the hook. He then just happily yammered on a bit about what a great night it was, thanked the Kiwanis Club, told everyone to enjoy the desert, surrounded to podium to a priest or whomever, and marched right back to our table like nothing had happened. Somehow he pulled it off. No repercussions, nothing. Just a gleaming example of the Jimbo touch. Oh – back to the bit about our intended beneficiary “dying on us”? That left us with some free cash (or so I was told – I mean, I was just the treasurer, what did I know?). And though we had already set aside a modest budget for a year-end party for Key Club members, we were still fluffy. So in our next meeting, having announced that the party remained fully funded but that we needed a service idea, or any idea for what to do with the excess dough – President Jimbo put the matter to the floor: “We have enough to cover our June party. But there are additional funds available due to unforeseen circumstances. How can we best use this money? Beaver was Sergeant-at-arms for a reason; we listened to him. When Jimbo asked the question, Beaver shot his hand up in the air and announced, “practice party!”. Like that was a thing. Like we actually needed practice to get ready for our real party. It didn’t matter. It was the golden age of the Key Club. Jimbo didn’t ask for discussion or continued comment. He slid his glasses down his nose a bit and looked at Beaver while giving him that invisible handgun kind of finger point, and said one word… “Approved!”


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