Skip to content

Tales of a Professional Contest Winner

November 18, 2011

Few people know that long before I established my career as an Unpublished 1980s Pop Culture Blog Writer read by few, I was a well known Professional Contest Winner envied by all.

Winning!  I was so money I didn’t even know it. 

This poster I’m holding right here?  That won me a gift certificate for a personal pan pizza at Pizza Hut.  Pretty bratass, huh? 

The contest was to draw the women in history we found most inspiring.  The three other winners chose Mother Teresa, Sally Ride and Sandra Day O’Connor to feature on their posters.  

I chose Betsy Ross.  No, not Diana Ross.  Betsy.  You  know, the flag-making chick?  Yes . . . that Betsy Ross.

Damn straight, Betsy Ross.  While the menfolk were off doing whatever it was they did to pass the time — making laws, fighting for freedom or whatnot — I chose the woman who . . . um . . . stayed at home . . . to do their stitching.

Doesn’t matter — my poster wasn’t personally meaningful to me anyway.  I just picked Betsy Ross as a contest strategy.  I always thought that the answer to everything had to be the most obscure, the least obvious.  That’ll win it.  That’ll set me apart. 

Also, I was excellent at drawing people in colonial garb.

Here below you’ll see my first shot at advertising.  This ad won me a $25 gift certificate to a toy store.  I spent part of it on a few plastic made-in-China-thing-a-ma-bobs that I couldn’t even begin to remember, let alone name off for you.  

Fine.  A Poochie charm bracelet, Smurf Shrinky-Dinks and a Herself the Elf doll.  Then I spent the rest of the loot on puffy unicorn stickers.  Naturally.

Get it?  I drew foxes and one of them looks pretty foxy in her new clothes.   Pretty clever, huh? 

I remember later thinking the boy fox looked mad.  He’s the one on all fours who is not wearing a bonnet (ahem . . . note the colonial garb).   So I went back and drew the boy fox’s tongue sticking out to imply he was all “Hubba hubba.”  Or maybe all “I want to lick that bonnet like a lolly.”  Just as long as he didn’t look all “Hey, you think you’re better than me, bitch?”

A foxy fox.  Yes, I know I’ve said before that I detest puns.  1.)  That they’re the lowest form of comedy in the Free World.  2.)  That greeting card companies gobble ’em up like lemon drops, which is why I’ve resorted to Facebook wall posts for all my birthday wishes.  3.)  That The Family Circus was lousy in part because Billy couldn’t keep his germy little fingers out of the pun jar when Bil Keane (RIP) was off traipsing around on vacation.  

Yes, all of that is true.  Down with puns!  Hate ’em.  Ick.  Pooey.  

What can I say.  It was a contest strategy. 

And I sold out. 

The contest winnings didn’t end with posters and ads.  I also was an expert winner of raffles.  You know, fundraising-carnival-throw-your-name-in-a-jar-and-win-a-free-Seedling-Mile-Elementary-Wildcats-drink-koozie type of thing.  Over time, my parents recognized my phenomenal luck and decided their odds would increase if they’d use my name in every prize drawing they encountered.  

Volleyball knee pads . . . whatchoo talkin bout, Marcia?

So, like a ribbon-clad show pony, I performed.  I won them a joy stick for our Apple II computer.  And a $30 gift certificate to a shopping mall sporting goods store that didn’t sell one thing that interested me outside of tube socks.  So my mom bought herself a new pair of volleyball knee pads and we called it a day. 

I might know a thing or two about what Gary Coleman thought of his parents.

When I was in first grade, my Brownie troop conducted an experiment by attaching each of our names on helium-filled balloons and letting go of them outside to see how long it would take before one of them would turn up in someone’s frozen fish sticks.  

No one’s balloon or the family of robins that lived down the block was ever heard from again.  

Except mine!  My balloon was discovered by a farmer in a cornfield 80 miles away.  I didn’t win a personal pan pizza or anything lucrative like that, but I was a Grand Prize Winner deep down in my prideful heart.

You may have read this contest story (if not, click here and scroll).  This is not one I’m proud of.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly proud of my essay — because who wouldn’t be proud of Animals and Snow.  And I’m certainly proud that I styled my own hair the morning of this photo.  I’m just not proud of the unfortunate events that followed this contest.  I come off looking far worse than an asymmetrical perm.

My husband says none of my childhood contest successes legitimately count as “prize winnings.”  I suppose because I never won anything like a new Chrysler LeBaron.  Or a trip to Hawaii.  Or a new 13-inch color television set. 

My husband won a 13-inch color television set!  I’m not kidding.  When he was in sixth grade, he won it through a bingo game on the back of a box of Fruity Pebbles cereal. 

The box featured pre-printed tabs on the back.  And he apparently pulled the tabs off or scratched them off or something to reveal a line of Dinos.  Which I guess meant he was a big winner.   

What the . . . what’s that, anyway?  That doesn’t involve the strategy of a Professional Contest Winner.  That’s just dumb luck. 

I’d like to see him try to win a poster contest.  More importantly, I’d like to see him draw people in colonial garb.

25 Comments leave one →
  1. Kana Tyler permalink
    November 18, 2011 4:22 pm

    And in the spirit of winning things…
    Tag, you’re it! I’ve just nominated you for the “Versatile Blogger Award”–details at
    I’m laughing, because I posted this nomination before reading your post today–too funny! Thanks for the great reading! :) Kana

    • November 18, 2011 5:49 pm

      Thanks, Kana. Nice of you to spread the love around to your fellow bloggers. I’ll check it out.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. permalink
    November 18, 2011 4:24 pm

    Great post! You’re LUCKY you weren’t too tall to fit in the first picture. That poor tall girl … bless her heart.

    • November 18, 2011 4:31 pm

      Thanks for you comment! And I should note that I am really, really short and I think that other girl was a couple grades ahead of me. So maybe the “poor girl” should be aimed at me :)

  3. November 18, 2011 4:31 pm

    Great story — great images. Love the perm — Betsy Ross would have too!

    • November 18, 2011 5:46 pm

      Thanks, Elyse. And thanks for following my blog. I look forward to checking out your site.

  4. November 18, 2011 6:50 pm

    I miss shrinky dinks. And colorforms! What happened to colorforms? They probably cause cancer and restless leg syndrome.

    I am in awe of your winning-ness(? is that a word). I usually never win anything although I did win a pair of running shoes a month ago, which almost induced a heart attack.

    I loved the plagiarism story.

    • November 19, 2011 8:01 pm

      Yes! I loved Colorforms! Hooray for Colorforms! Oh, wait, no! No, damn you Colorforms! My kids got some hand-me-down Colorforms and I was picking those damn things off our wood floors for half a century. They’re practically invisible until you slip on one.

      I’ll see your Colorforms and raise you Spirograph. Now THAT was something really special right there.

  5. November 18, 2011 11:54 pm

    Hilarious! I was the elementary school master of the grocery store coloring contests… the strategy was to DRAW NEW LINES and make the picture different from all the rest. I think our neighborhood Albertsons manager grew weary of my entries after a while. And I too spent my winnings on puffy unicorn stickers. And candy at the 7-11.

    • November 19, 2011 8:17 pm

      Wow, you just might be my soulmate in contests! If we could’ve combined our amazing talents, we might’ve won something substantial. But don’t sell yourself short — winning the grocery store coloring contests was no small feat. There was always fierce competition in those.

      The total amount of money I spent on candy as a kid might’ve been enough to put me through college had I saved it.

  6. November 19, 2011 7:24 am

    Between your colonial-garb-and-foxy-foxes-drawing talent and your husband’s sheer dumb luck, why, you could take over the world! (I smell Freshly Pressed in your near future)

    And how did you remember the puffy unicorn stickers? I had some of those!

    • November 19, 2011 8:07 pm

      I think I need to do an entire post on stickers. They were a big part of my life in the early ’80s. Those puffy unicorn stickers were used like currency in my 2nd grade class.

      Freshly Pressed doesn’t seem to like bloggers who use photos of Shaun Cassidy that have been ripped off from his online fan page. So what’s a girl to do but put my artist brother to work designing original pictures for me?

  7. Mark permalink
    November 19, 2011 9:26 am

    Other things I’ve won with dumb luck: a case of motor oil (that went unclaimed), a high school year book, my choice of a CD from the KFRX prize bin (i think I choose Color Me Bad – Winning!), a can opener, a Nigerian lottery (also unclaimed), a HP color printer/scanner/fax matching and 2 cases of paper, and countless gift cards.

    But, alas, no puns or colonial garb were involved in my wins. Great post!

    • November 21, 2011 5:44 pm

      None of those sound like anything I’d be willing to draw colonial garb to win.

  8. November 20, 2011 6:47 pm

    Oh gosh, Shrinky-Dinks. I remember doing a bunch of those. Now I’ve done a few with the kids. :D

    I won a dictionary once when I was in school. How’s that for an awesome win? LOL

    • November 21, 2011 5:43 pm

      Winning a dictionary when you’re in school? That sounds rigged! Are you sure every kid didn’t win one? Sort of like winning an algebra textbook ;)

      I need to start the rainy day shrinky-dinks tradition with my kids.

  9. Janine Edwards (Castle) permalink
    November 21, 2011 9:06 pm

    I am NOT kidding. You crack me up. My husband had to come from the other room to see what I was laughing at. It was SO HARD TO EXPLAIN…..the hair…..the hair…. that is what sent me over the edge. I KNOW for a fact that I have that exact perm picture “SOMEWHERE”. I think LaVonna calls it my “POODLE” look

    Thanks Mom.

    Love ya, Janine Edwards Castle

    • November 21, 2011 9:24 pm

      No, by calling it “a poodle,” you’re really being too nice. And I think many a poodle would be offended by that comparison. I will have to dig through the Marcia Archives and see what I can find leftover from the Castle Archives that resembles a poodle.

  10. November 30, 2011 1:17 pm

    I remember trying to win that magazine contest where you’re supposed to draw their picture of Tippy the Turtle. (I know you did this too, Janine.)

    Only to find out everyone ‘wins’ because it’s really a scam because then they call you, tell you how good you are, and try to sell you art supplies. :-(

    Oh, and I won some fries at McDonalds once.

    • December 2, 2011 9:05 am

      Yes, yes, yes! That contest, yes! It was always in the newspaper on Sundays. I used to wonder how they wouldn’t know the person traced it or how replicating it would tell the company you were some kind of great artist. Now I know.

  11. project1979 permalink
    February 16, 2012 4:06 pm

    My sister won a Cabbage Patch Kid in 1987. As you know, winning a CPK at that time is the equivalent of winning 5,000 bucks now. So jealous.
    Love your blog by the way! I see some fantastic themes intersecting with mine which is also the beginnings of a play I’m writing about our generation.
    Would like to collaborate with you somehow, if that’s interesting to ya :)

    • February 16, 2012 5:06 pm

      Thanks, Alice! I cannot imagine winning a Cabbage Patch Kid. I remember watching a bad 80s movie about a girl who won one million dollars. One million dollars? I couldn’t fathom it. Now that’s like winning a Cabbage Patch Kid :)

      I have ran across your site and would enjoy collaborating sometime. Send me an email when you want to talk specifics. Cool idea for a project.


  1. Gone But Not Forgotten «
  2. Call me Claire . . . « Childhood Relived

Comment. All the cool kids do.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: