Historical Essay 64

Posted on 22 December 2010 by LeslieM

How to win an election

In my previous essays, I’d explained that back in the early 1950s, Deerfield did not have school for its children to attend beyond elementary school 6th grade. For 7th grade through 12th, we all had to take a bus to Pompano High School. Sometimes when we were getting off the bus, the Pompano kids standing around would laugh and say “Here come the kids from Deer Patch!” We would mostly just smile, but sometimes a couple of our boys would show them a finger.

The area was growing fast, however, and Deerfield, Pompano and Margate all got junior high schools within a couple of years. So, by the time I was in the 10th grade, our Pompano Senior High School was limited to 10th, 11th and 12th grades.

There was one Pompano boy, Robert Moore, whose widowed mother was a teacher at Deerfield Elementary. I got to know him pretty well, even though he always attended Pompano schools, because he sometimes came to Deerfield with his mother.  When I started school at Pompano, he and I became good friends. With blond hair and a big smile, he played point guard on the basketball team and was popular with the girls. He used his popularity to get himself elected as President of each and every grade class.

When 10th grade came, he had some tough opposition for President. So being smart politically, he asked me to run on his team as his Vice President to bring in the Deerfield votes. It worked, we won. I got my first taste of politics and liked it.

When our junior year (11th grade) came around, Robert Moore, as usual, ran and won President of our junior class. But I decided to run for Vice President of the whole Student Body instead of just being a junior class VP.  I won. It was fun and very satisfying as I represented our entire school at many events.

But toward the end of spring of 11th grade, Robert came to me one day and said “I just want to let you know I’ve decided to run for President of the Student Body next year instead of class president.”  Momentarily taken aback, I practically shouted at Robert: “You’re not qualified to be Student Body President — you’ve never even served on the Student Council! So why do you want to do that?” He laughed and said “Because the Student Body President is ‘higher’ than class president.” He continued: “You can be senior class president, and I will be Student Body President next year!”

“I don’t think so,” I practically shouted at him. “I should be Student Body President as I’ve had a year of preparation so I can do a good job!” “Good luck,” he laughed, walking away, “but you will never beat me!”

Devastated, I didn’t know what to do. So I prayed about it and came up with a plan: Aware that people like it when you greet them by name, and knowing that the election would be held the second week of classes after school started in the fall, my plan was to memorize over the summer the first names of all the new students who would be feeding into Pompano High in the fall from junior high schools in the area. When school started, I would work the hallways and sidewalks where new kids would congregate and greet them by their first names. All I had to do was arrange to get a copy of the yearbooks from the feeder schools and every day during the summer, practice connecting names to faces. To help them know who I was, I would wear a big button saying “ELLER’s the FELLER for Student Body President.”

By the time school started in the fall of 1957, I had memorized faces with the first names of over 300 entering sophomores. I walked the hallways where they typically congregated with a large “Eller’s the Feller for Student Body President” sign on my chest and back. I’d study each face and if it registered in my memory bank, I’d say “Hello Sally” or “Welcome to Pompano High, Fred” for a whole week before the election. The students would typically look surprised that I knew their name, then read my sign. The results of the election were Robert and I split our own Senior Class about 50/50. He carried the junior class by 65/35 percent, but I wiped him out in the largest class — the new Sophomore class — by getting nearly 85 percent of the vote!

Robert came over to congratulate me and asked how I’d done it. When I explained how I’d memorized names and faces of most of the sophomores, he laughed and said, “Well you certainly earned the victory. Congratulations!”

Robert and I remained friends, and after high school, a local doctor sponsored him for a scholarship. He went on to become a medical doctor in Alabama, specializing in microscopic surgery.

David Eller, Publisher

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