American Top 40 PastBlast, 5/9/81: .38 Special, “Hold on Loosely”

Very early on Saturday, April 4, 1981, I boarded a school bus with a number of my fellow W-V students to head off to Harrison County HS for our regional Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) competition. I’d been tapped to take a shot at the Business Math exam. I was barely awake as we started out that rainy morning; my junior prom had been the evening before (this being the early 80s, I’d rented a powder blue tux, a picture of which may or may not appear here someday), and my date and I had joined a bunch of my friends for a late movie at the now-razed Showcase Cinemas in Erlanger. (For the curious, the movie was Hardly Working, an attempted comeback by Jerry Lewis. It was the day of its US release. You’d have thought–it’s Jerry Lewis, it has to be funny, right?–but you’d be mistaken.)

To be eligible to participate in an FBLA event, one had to be enrolled in a business-related course. The half-year personal typing class I was taking that spring qualified me (honestly, it was one of the most useful HS classes I had). I don’t recall now how it was that I came to be asked to participate, but it’s quite possible that Ms. Wilson (now Ms. Shupe), a new teacher and one of our school’s chapter advisors, had visited my typing class to talk it up.

I was used to finishing math tests pretty quickly, so I was fairly discouraged that I came nowhere close to answering all the questions that morning. The top three places qualified for the state conference, so I figured there was no way I’d made it. It was a pleasant surprise when I was awarded second; my guess is they purposely made the test too long as a way of preventing ties. I was State-bound, along with the six or so others from my school who had qualified in other events.

Three Sundays later, we met up with our counterparts from Boone County HS to ride together down to a Holiday Inn on the southern edge of Louisville. I roomed with Roger, a junior who was competing in Extemporaneous Speaking, and two fellows from Boone Co. (one of them, Lance, later transferred to W-V). It was a fun, fun three days, full of campaigns for state office, a convocation with a motivational speaker who was very good at his job, and a dance on the second evening. I copped fourth place in my event (despite leaving many answers blank again) and returned home committed to greater involvement in FBLA my senior year. Before school let out at the end of May, new officers were elected: I was to be V-P, with Roger the President. An eventful year lay ahead; likely there’ll be more about it at some future date!

If I’d taken the time to think things through, I would have realized I wasn’t fully committed to all the tenets of free enterprise. But participation in FBLA was one of the real highlights of my last year-plus in high school; the students in it were cool, and I wound up making a few friends from around the state, too. I’m quite grateful to Ms. Shupe and Ms. Duvall for the opportunity, as well as their help and encouragement.

The song I most associate with that trip to the 81 state conference is “Hold on Loosely,” the #28 song on this countdown (one position short of its peak). I see myself strolling down hallways, moving between sessions, with it playing in my head. I’d been a fan of  “Rockin’ into the Night” the year before, but I liked this one even more. .38 Special’s biggest hits were still ahead of them, but it sure seems like they got more slick and sellout-ish as time passed.

Even though it’s not the literal meaning of the song’s title, I’ve long thought that just maybe it should be taken as a note to self not to get too wrapped up in the past. I don’t know how well I’m succeeding…

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