Friday, March 9, 2012

Friday Flashback: The Great Hickey Search

hick-ey   [hik-ee]  –noun.   Slang.  A reddish mark left on the skin by a passionate kiss.

The summer of 1987 brought the Friends United Meeting (FUM) Triennial Sessions to Greensboro, NC.  For those not familiar with Quaker "alphabet soup," FUM is a worldwide organization of Quakers that gathers every three years for business and worship- thus the whole triennial name!  This particular gathering was of special interest to me for several reasons.  It was in our backyard, so it was a great opportunity to experience the grand diversity that is Quakerism.  There would be silent Quakers and dancing Friends and everything in between!  It was also the first Triennial to have a full-blown youth program rather than the typical "baby-sitting" that goes on at these large adult events.  The youth (teenagers) would meet and stay at the Greensboro Airport Marriott (pictured), a very nice hotel.  There would be speakers, musicians and comedians brought in especially for youth.  I had been asked to lead the music at worship times and in the general sessions.  I looked forward to bringing some students from Springfield Friends Meeting and enjoying the event.

The youth program had been planned by a committee of youth workers from around the country, made up primarily of people who held the kind of Yearly Meeting position that I had previously held in New England.   Friends of mine such as David Tebbs, Tom Klaus, Doyle Craven and Brent Bill were among the leaders.  The on-site leader of the event was a man named Steve Pedigo, who led the Chicago Fellowship of Friends.  The FOF was a youth based church begun with Young Life style youth program in one of the worst projects in Chicago- Cabrini Green.  Steve, his wife Marlene, and a number of their youth had made the trip to Greensboro.  I had worked with Steve before at Quaker Lake Camp, and knew the circumstances of his ministry.  Once I had some 10 year old FOF kids in my cabin at QLC, and one night some of the other kids started showing their scars from bike wrecks and skate boarding accidents.  The kids from Chicago showed us their bullet wounds...

Needless to say, Steve saw things in a different light than those of us who spent our time working with mostly white, middle class students.  This different point of view is what led to the long night now known as The Great Hickey Search.  All of the youth participants had boarded buses and headed out for a night of Putt-Putt.  As we returned to the Marriott, Steve was standing out front greeting everyone and telling them to head straight for their rooms.  As he did this, he spotted a teenage couple of the back of one bus, where they appeared to be (in the words of Harry Potter"snogging."   Steve was outraged.  As everyone stood up and began to exit the bus, he could no longer determine who had been in that back seat.  He called all of the adults together and informed us as to what he had seen.  He wanted the offenders brought to justice that night.  When we asked him how we were supposed to know who had been involved, he told us that from what he had witnessed he was certain that the young lady would have a hickey on her neck.  It was 11 PM or so, and he gave us all a task: Find the hickey, and the young man who had given it.  Tonight!  The Great Hickey Search was on...

We entered the Greensboro Airport Marriott  on a wave of confusion.  The youth were headed to their rooms completely unaware of the door-to-door search that was about to happen.  The adults were primarily split into two camps.  One group was gung-ho and ready for the search.  Those kissing culprits had to be brought to justice!  The rest of us thought this might be the single dumbest thing we had ever been asked to do.

The first group was represented (in my mind) by two sisters from Nahunta, NC.  Jean and Janet Edgerton were unknown to many of us when the event began, but that did not last long!  The Edgerton's were loud and forceful, and quick to take control.  In later years they would both become dear friends of mine and great leaders in the youth programs of North Carolina Yearly Meeting.  Jean's early death a number of years later was a tragedy for so many in NCYM.  But at this point, all I knew was they were going door-to-door searching for a young woman with a hickey, and they were doing it with the passion of Empirical Storm Troopers looking for Princess Leia.  And they were not alone.  Other adults were banging on doors and checking necks as the clock passed midnight.  It was quite a scene.

The second group was represented by myself and Terry Venable.  Terry, his wife Leigh Ann, Marilyn and I were sharing a room that week (Youth Minister = Poverty!).  At first we just went into the room, but as the commotion continued in the halls outside, we went out to watch.  The scene was surreal.  Sensing that "lights out" was not happening for a while, students began to order room service.  They were getting munchies and non-alcoholic frozen drinks, such as Virgin Daiquiris.  Terry and I were laughing so hard at these kids paying $6 for a glorified Slurpee!  The real show, however, were the "interviews" taking place in the rooms of the participants.  The guys were asked if they had kissed anyone that evening.  They girls were asked to show their necks.  It was incredible.  Eventually, Terry and I just slumped down on the floor right outside our room and waited.  Soon we were being visited by youth, many of whom were afraid that the "villains" were going to be sent home- or worse yet, sent to Iowa!  We walked around and visited the rooms of youth we knew well and made sure they were OK.  We listened to confessions from couples who were hickey free but had been kissing and were afraid they were in trouble.  Then we went to bed.  Jean and Janet were still searching, still chasing kids back to their rooms, and still patrolling the stairways when we gave it up for the night.  
To be completely honest, I have no idea if anyone ever found a hickey that night.  In 28 years of student ministry I was never part of anything quite as ridiculous as The Great Hickey Search.  The event- FUM Triennials for youth- continued to be a rousing success despite this strange evening.  Even the ill-fated belly dancer (read that tale here) couldn't keep this event from being something that was changing the face of Quakerism for many of those present.  Hickeys and all...

Because of Jesus,

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3/09/2012

    I am not sure which I like better, the hickey search or the belly dancer. Both are hilarious!!! - Craig C.


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