Pleading the 5th
1953: I would graduate from the Roberts Junior High School in June. In the meantime, for months when I got home from school, Dot and my mother would be watching the McCarthy hearings. I learned that the fifth amendment guaranteed that no citizen was required to give testimony that would incriminate himself.
Fast forward to early June and preparations for our Junior High Prom for which I was head of the decorating committee. For several days we met in the cafeteria after school and worked on cutting butterflies, flowers, and birds out of colored paper. Eventually we were to tape these on the walls of the gym. When we were done for the day, we were to put the stools upside down on the tables, as we had found them. One day, just for stupid fun, we decided instead to line the stools upright in the lunchroom aisles.
The next morning I was called to the Headmaster’s Office and questioned. Whose idea was this vandalism? (Can you even believe it was termed that?) Who participated? and on and on. I, having seen too many hours of the McCarthy hearings, responded to each question, “I plead the fifth.” Mr. Weston, the headmaster, was both frustrated and infuriated, but I would not budge. My punishment? I would no longer be on the decorating committee, and I would not be allowed to sing in a quartet at graduation. But most upsetting of all, I would not be allowed to receive the American Legion award for most outstanding student
Graduation Day, June 16th, dawned sunny and beautiful. But I felt a dark cloud over my head as I dutifully sat in the audience and watched someone else receive the coveted award.
There must however, have been a statute of limitations or something because three years later, upon high school graduation, I was invited back to the Junior High to receive a scholarship for the most outstanding Roberts Junior High graduate to be graduating from Medford High in the Class of 1956. I also received a scholarship from the American Legion.
I’ve never been called on to testify again, but I doubt I would plead the fifth if I were!
© Dorothy C. Judd
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