The First Brush With Royalty

The First Brush With Royalty
The author, left, with Marilee Ogren. Taken at Lake Poway, November 1982. Photographer: James L. Bowersox. From the personal collection of the author.
Royalty is completely different than celebrity. Royalty has a magic all its own.
- Philip Treacy

October-November, 1982:

I suppose I had heard about Homecoming celebrations three years before this, when I was doing my afternoon algebra and electronics classes at Cerritos High School.  But this was Poway, this was three years later, and I was right in the middle of it.

As part of the process, people would vote on the Homecoming court, first in a nomination phase, then in an election phase.  The seniors would get three Princes and Princesses, from which the Homecoming King and Queen would be chosen. Each of the other four classes would have their own Prince and Princess.

Not that I was worried about it.  But maybe I should have been.

Unbeknownst to me, a group of troublemakers--possibly the same ones that had been responsible for making my life more difficult back at Twin Peaks Middle School for the year and a half that I'd been there, after moving from Cerritos--were conspiring to put me on the ballot...which I only found out when the printed ballots were issued.

When I saw my name on there, in the "Freshman Prince" category, I had a strange premonition. Even though I had no intention of voting for myself, I knew I was going to win.

This was confirmed when I was called to the office on the day election results were supposed to be announced, pulling me out of my German class. The school official who voted for me was somewhat concerned about the whole affair.  She was offering me the opportunity to opt out before the results were announced.

I didn't do that, though.  I thought it wouldn't be so bad.  When I was asked if I had the clothes for this kind of an occasion, I thought I did, remembering the outfit I'd worn for my eighth-grade graduation.  So I accepted, and, when I got back to my German class, I said, "Break out the beer! I just got elected."

Mom wound up having to take me shopping for clothes more formal than that graduation outfit, selecting a sport coat, tie, and other essentials for my impending appearance as Freshman Homecoming Prince.  More important, though, was actually meeting my Princess.  A girl named Marilee Ogren had won...but I didn't recall that name. Fortunately, some other people I know asked around, and propelled me into a hasty greeting during lunch one day.  We also got photographed for the Poway High Iliad, the school newspaper.

On the evening of the actual Homecoming football game, Marilee and I found ourselves in the back of a convertible, lined up with a bunch of others, ready to enter the football stadium at halftime.  It was very appropriate that Poway's opponents in the game were our arch-rivals, Mt. Carmel High School from over in Rancho Peñasquitos.  I had on my fine new duds, and Marilee was resplendent in a blue dress next to me.

As we drove into the stadium, we passed by the visiting bleachers first. The two of us waved, though no one really seemed to care.  The real cheers came as we came around the other side of the track into "Titan Territory." I waved to the crowd as we passed them, then, at the 50-yard line, the car stopped and Marilee and I walked across the field to the dais that had been set up.  From there, we just had to look "official," as it would be the seniors getting the big news. Photographs of me from that night show me standing straight and tall, probably overwhelmed by the whole affair and wanting to look dignified, but coming of as very stiff, certainly stiffer than Marilee.

The following morning, the Homecoming Court reassembled at Lake Poway for official photos, of all of us in a row, then couple-by-couple.  Again, the photos from that day, which Dad took, show me looking really stiff, even in the ones where I had Marilee right beside me, our hands together in front.  About the only time I got slightly more relaxed was for the last set of photos, where the young men gave up their jackets to the ladies, and, in return, wore their tiaras. For that one, we had our arms around each other's shoulders, and I know I might have felt a bit silly with that tiara on my head. (Oh, one day, I would have something even more elaborate than that...and a more elaborate dress, too. :) )

Perhaps the most interesting part of the whole affair was when I got a phone call, some days later, from a guy reporting for the Shrapnel, the school's "underground newspaper." I'd heard of the Shrapnel, and even seen the publication, so I was able to tell my parents that this was on the level.  The reporter was interested in getting the story from my perspective, telling me, "You know, we kind of thought you looked like JFK out there, waving to the crowd." He knew, of course, that my election was intended as a joke, and was impressed that I'd turned the joke around on the jokesters and handled it as well as anyone could expect.  The story came out in the next issue, quoting me several times, and was later referenced in an Iliad article on the Shrapnel when one person said she liked the story they'd done on me.

Marilee and I remained friendly, though not too close, throughout the rest of high school. When we reconnected on Facebook many years later, she did remember me fondly, and she was very accepting of my transition; we are now "fellow princesses" in her eyes, especially given my later experience. High praise coming from her!