The Time I Was Published In Boys' Life Magazine

The first time I have ever been published in a national magazine was in Boys' Life back in 1990. I have thought about this publication on a rather frequent basis over the past twenty-seven years, but I honestly don't think anyone even knows about it. And no, it had nothing to do with photography. Let me explain.

Boys Life - August 1990 Cover

Think & Grin

Back around 1990, I had joined the local Boy Scouts. As is normal with being a Boy Scout, I got a subscription to Boys' Life magazine. These days I only ever remember two things about that magazine: The page dedicated to sharing source code of programs other Boy Scouts had written, and the joke page.

The source code article I think I only remembered because I never knew what it was about. We didn't have a computer at the time, and I had no idea about what programming software was. It just existed as this cryptic page that I could never comprehend, and something about that fascinated me.

The joke page made total sense to me. I think by 1990 I had discovered both Mad & Cracked magazine and was buying each one every month from the newsstand of the neighborhood grocery store.

The end of the joke pages in Boys Life had this little blurb;

Boys' Life will send your choice of $2, a Scout "Handbook," or a "Fieldbook" for each joke of yours we publish.

One fine day while reading Boys' Life I saw this message and thought that I should send one in and see what happens. But being ten, going on eleven, I didn't have much original material at the time. So what I did was pull a book of limericks that I owned off the bookshelf, sat down at my mother's typewriter, and copied one of the limericks from the book.

July Fourth has just come and gone,
But this thought still lingers:
Stupidly, I held a firecracker in my hand —
Has anyone seen my fingers?

I made a note saying I'd take the $2 payment, and mailed it off to Boys' Life, and hastily forgot about it.

The Popcorn Wagon

So one of the summer duties that the local Boy Scouts in my hometown did was run a popcorn wagon on Sundays at the local ballpark during baseball games. This was a full-on self-contained wagon that could be towed behind a truck, and probably wasn't originally designed to go camping in.

The popcorn wagon was always staffed with two Boy Scouts during a ball game. One Sunday that summer, I was one of the two boys to man the popcorn cart. I lived two blocks from the ball field, so I didn't need a ride or anything to do my shift. I walked to the ballpark and managed to show up way in advance: so far in advance that I started getting bored waiting for anyone to show up so we could get the popcorn started.

I eventually found that there was a panel on the side of the wagon that could be removed, which then created a hole plenty large enough to fit my scrawny, sixty-five-pound body through. I popped it off, crawled inside, and got the popcorn operation up and running.

I was proud of myself for being so ambitious as to break into the popcorn wagon early to get everything running for the game. The scout leader, on the other hand, was not.

He yelled at me for being irresponsible and breaking into the popcorn wagon. I did my popcorn shift was a rain cloud over my head, and walked home assuming that my parents had been told and I would have to hear about it from them.

Only, they said nothing...

The Letter

Eventually that summer a letter appeared addressed to me from Boys' Life. At that age, receiving mail addressed directly to me was a strange and rare thing. Not being quite smart enough to know that Boys' Life magazine isn't the same organization as The Boy Scouts, I assumed that it was a letter outing me for the popcorn stand incident.

I kept looking at the letter, too afraid of opening it because of the scorn inside that I just knew it was about. It had to be about the popcorn stand incident. Was I getting kicked out of the Boy Scouts? I was too scared to open the envelope.

I don't remember how long it took me to swallow my pride and face the letter inside that was to tattle on my bad deeds, but I finally did it.

Inside was two dollars as payment for the limerick I sent it that was to be published in the August 1990 issue of Boys' Life magazine.

The plagarized joke in Think & Grin - Boys' Life - August 1990

A sigh of relief that the letter wasn't calling me out for the popcorn stand incident, wasn't.

I didn't write the limerick; I plagiarized it from a book! Being published in a magazine, or getting on the nightly news was a thing reserved for the important people who came from fabulous big cities like Wausau! Not for some boy from population six-hundred Wisconsin!

Despite now having two new dollars to my name, this scam always clung to me. Like someday, I'm going to run for an elected government official, and my campaign is going to be torn to shreds when someone outs me as stealing a joke to earn two dollars from Boys' Life magazine. I think about it often, and have that stolen limerick etched firmly in my memory.

Well. Anyways, there you have it. As a boy I profited off a joke I stole and have felt guilty about it ever since.

PS: Tom Swiftie

Bonus points for anyone who can explain the next joke by Katrina Royce-Malmgren to me.

Tom Swiftie:
"The store is that way," Tom said pointedly.

Update: I get the Tom Swiftie thing now.

Category Life Journal