July 14, 2015
Who Could Possibly Object?

I just came across this dispatch from Laos in 1969, the height of our Southeast Asian War Games. Thousands of Americans were stationed in the capital, Vientiane, many with their families. It is an open letter, here slightly abridged, to parents of students at the American School of Vientiane:
At the Student Council meeting January 29th, the idea of buying a cobra, the school mascot, was brought up. After discussing it, the Council decided to look into it deeper then ask the student body what they thought. A questionnaire was sent to the students February 13th. Two-thirds of the student body want a live cobra. The Student Council would like the opinion of the parents before purchasing a cobra.

The cobra we are interested in is a King Cobra which sells for $50.00. The cobra is expensive because of its rarity, and because it is imported.

In case someone is ever bitten, we will have medication on hand at all times. However, a student wonít get bitten because of the safety factors we will take. The cage will have three cement sides and one side of safety-glass so people will be able to see the cobra. Inside the cage there will be a cement mound with a door on it which can be opened and closed from the outside. The plans and construction will be approved by OICC or another qualifying Mission agency.

We thought we could ask help from GSO or USAID Maintenance to put up the fence. It was decided to hire a man to feed the cobra and clean the cage. Because only the keeper will be allowed near the cobra, no students will get hurt. We asked the zoo keeper about pulling the cobraís fangs and he told us if we did the cobra couldnít eat. He said that if we were to milk the cobra so that it would be harmless, it would have to be done every week. So, the cobra will remain in his natural state.

Do you have any objections to buying the King Cobra so that ASV can have their mascot? If so, please state your reasons. Please put your reply in the box marked at the ACA or send it through distribution to the American School of Vientiane before Saturday, March 30th.


Elaine M____
Student Council President



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at July 14, 2015 05:47 PM
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Glad to see they were focused on what was important. "Danger from war? What war? What we really, really, run-eally need is a cobra."

Where is Elaine M today? And if I dare ask, which way does she vote, Democratic or Republican?

Yours very crankily,
The New York Crank

Posted by: The New York Crank on July 15, 2015 3:08 PM

Couldn't say. Our kids went to the French Military Mission School, so I never knew her. The French didn't fool around with mascots. Or student councils, or after-school activities of any kind, now that I think of it. The deal was that you memorized stuff and kept your mouth shut unless called upon. Once one of our kids was trying to tell us how school went that day, but he couldn't think of the English words so he said it in French: On m'a mis du scotch. This turned out to mean the teacher had taped his mouth shut, after which she locked him in a dark closet for the rest of the period.

Posted by: Jerry Doolittle on July 15, 2015 4:41 PM

Ah hah! You have just brought to mind my days in the First Grade, in Brooklyn. Our teacher was the Terrifying Miss Finneran, a lady of a certain age who had a walk-in supply closet. If you misbehaved, in you went. With the light out. At Age 6.

One morning I had been playing with my cap gun (this was 1946, when little kids routinely were given real-ish looking pistols that fired little charges of gunpowder on a paper ribbon. If your gun didn't go bang and make smoke, you weren't with it.)

When it was time for school, off I trundled, inadvertently with my cap pistol shoved in my pants pocket. And then, when I was in school, my hand sort of, you know, wandered, like, into my pocket and my finger pulled the trigger just to see what would happen.


Miss Finneran looked up. "Who shot that cap pistol?" she asked. I was too terrified to fess up. Fortunately, there was a kid in the class named Joel Brodsky, who was regularly in trouble. She patted him down and, sure enough, he had a cap pistol, too. Into the closet he went.

Years later, when we were both in our early 40s, I caught up to Joel again By then he was a commercial photographer, well known for his rock 'n roll record album covers. I fessed up to him that I fired the cap pistol and he got sent to the closet. And I apologized.

"I don't even remember it," he said, laughing. "All I remember is that I spent almost the entire First Grade in the closet."

The moral? I dunno. Maybe "You can scare the devil into the closet, but you can't scare him out of the kid."

Yours crankily,
The New YOrk Crank

Posted by: NewYork Crank on July 17, 2015 1:49 PM
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