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The Home Stretch!

February 25, 2013
The stage is set for the final week of the campaign for a “yes” vote on a new high school for the students of Teton County.  Some good news, both newspaper editors endorsed a “yes” vote on their editorial pages.  However, they did mention that there was criticism mainly about the architect and the location.  Both editors said the need for a new building out weighed the negatives.  I continued to show the slide program.  Committee member, Sandy Shuptrine, a school bus driver took people on tours of the existing high school and the site where the new high school would be built.

Since we only had weekly newspapers, our full-page ads in each paper appeared almost a week before the election day.  Also, election day, Tuesday, May 28, would come the day after Memorial Day.  As was common knowledge in votes to raise taxes, the larger the turnout, the greater the chance of the issue passing.  The final week leading up to voting day, we had all our 30 second ads play on the two radio stations.  A half a dozen prominent citizens had gone to the radio stations to record each spot announcement.  They did a great job.

We had one more way we thought we could get a good turnout on election day.  I had been gathering up large cardboard boxes that had held stoves and refrigerators.  I cut the cardboard into two feet square pieces.  With some bright red enamel paint, I painted the words, “VOTE TODAY’ on each square. I used enamel paint because our plan was nail them on telephone poles on all main roads leading into the Town Jackson, as well as signs in town on poles near the post office, banks, grocery stores, and the main streets.

As each day passed, I had many questions.  Did we have a chance to overcome the prediction of a turnout of 1000 “NO” votes?  Was there something else we should have done?    Could all of the hours of work and planning fall short, and the bond issue be rejected?  I had to do all I could to concentrate on teaching my 120 eighth graders each day, and after school keep working every spare minute on the campaign.

Finally it was Memorial Day, May 17, 1978.  The next morning my son, Dan, and I would be up at 4 AM ready to head out with our VOTE TODAY signs, nails, hammers, and extension ladder to post our many signs.  We camped out on our living room floor so we would not wake my wife, Bobbi, at such an early hour.  Amazingly we both slept quite well maybe since we were use to camping high in the mountains and sleeping on the ground.  I woke up first and noticed a strange faint light filling the room.  It was dark, but cars with their bright lights on cast a strange light over our living room.  I was shocked when I turned the living room light on.  It couldn’t be what I thought it was.  I hit the switch to the outside light above our deck.  It was true.  I was looking at six inches of heavy wet snow covering everything. Unbelievable ! Dan and I wondered if this might turn people away from taking time to vote and our cause would be lost.

Snow or no snow, we nailed the signs to telephone poles all over the valley and in town.  In the dark and then in the breaking of the day, we took turns holding the ladder for the other of us to do the nailing.  Finally the last sign is nailed up and both of us headed off to our jobs a little blurry eyed from our 4 AM rising and battling our doubts as to the outcome of the vote.  I was glad that I had used enamel paint on the signs so in rain or snow the paint would not run off and ruin the message. The rest of the day seemed to drag on with the snow all gone by noon and temperatures in the sixties and sunny skies.  The poles would close at 7 PM.  With only the bond issue on the ballot, it would not take too long for the ballots to be counted.

I was at the Court House right at 7 PM.  The word there was that the turnout was above average and results would be coming in soon.  A good turnout?, that lifted our spirits.  Several of our committee members arrived right after I did including Don Brunk, co-chairman and a well-respected businessman and human being.  As the returns rolled in, the vote went back and forth neck and neck between “yes” and “no.”  One minute we were smiling and the next minute our smiles were gone.  It came down to the final precincts being counted with the issue still in doubt.  Then came the final numbers, numbers I will never forget, YES, 1145 and NO, 1101.  The bond issue passed by 44 votes!  A huge cheer went up from our committee.  We realized just how close we had come to defeat.  Putting it mildly, I was elated.  As one committee member observed, every event and every contact made during the campaign was critical to the success we enjoyed that night.  Jackson Hole would have a new high school !!!  After a short celebration, I headed home for some rest before my next day of teaching. What followed would be another contact I had with the superintendent of schools that would change every member of my family’s lives for many years to come.  It would be a great adventure for all of us.  You won’t want to miss what came next in our lives in our new home, Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

One Comment leave one →
  1. permalink
    February 25, 2013 6:19 pm

    Great story!  Especially liked the part about waking to the snow.  Easy to picture you and Daniel standing there looking out at it…and then turning and staring at each other.  So I’m guessing that the stint on top of the grocery store must have been another campaign…either that or it was left “on the cutting room floor.”One editorial observation.  You mentioned “the poles” closing.  I’m sure it’s one of those obnoxious spell-checker things, but as a Famous Author you might want to go back and edit that.  <grin>Love ya.grae

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