The Date: Spring of 1969
The Place: A.D. Eisenhower High School Auditorium, Norristown, PA
The Event: the Montgomery County Spelling Bee
I was representing my school, St. Augustine, at the competition. There were close to 100 competitors, and I had successfully spelled my first few words.
Then it happened.
It was my turn again, so I got out of my seat and walked to the microphone in the middle of the stage, staring out an audience of probably 200-300 people (I’m sure not all of them were thrilled to be spending their Friday night at a spelling bee).
The emcee gave me my word, and I didn’t hesitate. After all, it was just a five-letter word.
I knew the drill. You say the word, you spell it, and then you say the word again.
“ALIBI. A-L-A-B-I. ALIBI”
DING! The bell went off, indicating I had spelled it wrong. Seriously? Where did I go wrong?
I still remember that night as if it were yesterday. I’ve often wondered if I’d ever have a chance to make up for that mistake, to prove that I now knew how to spell ALIBI.
Well, today it finally happened, 52 years later, thanks to my latest obsession – crossword puzzles.
The clue was “Proof you weren’t anywhere near the murder.”
Once again, without hesitation, I began to spell the word. A-L-I-B-I.
And this time there was no DING.
I just wish I had been doing crossword puzzles when I was 11 years old…