Literacy Volunteers of America community spelling bee slated May 3

April 26, 2001

This article, one is a series previewing the Imperial Valley chapter of the Literacy Volunteers of America annual spelling bee, which this year starts at 6 p.m. May 3, reflects the personal experience of one LVA board member who participated in last year's spelling bee.

By BEE ANON, Special to this newspaper

"I before e, except after c."

This thought rolls over and over through my mind as I enter Ryerson Hall at the Desert Trails RV Park in El Centro.

I register at the front desk. Betty Mullendore does not greet me for the first time in 12 years. Betty was an LVA board member since 1984. She was there in 1989, the year the first LVA spelling bee was held.

Did you know it was called the "executive" spelling bee? The name was changed to "community" in 1991 at the third bee to reflect the different organizations that wanted to spell.


"I before e, except…"

In Betty's place is Susan Manger, an LVA board member and a member of the Imperial County school board. She directs me to the food area.

"All right, Pizza Hut personal pan pizza," I think to myself.

The kitchen crew is made up of students, tutors and volunteers who steer me; no pun intended, to the salad and the beverages.

I wave to good friends Rita Olsen, Norma Gomez (LVA president), and a host of others peeking out of the kitchen door. This board is a great one.

"I before e, except after c," filters through to my consciousness once more.

After eating, I head up to the front. The judges: Jean Montenegro, John Anderson, and Gene Brister, watch as the team captains draw numbers to see where the teams will be seated.

"Good, my team is No. 5 — not too close to the front nor too close to the back."

We are introduced to Imperial Valley Press advertising manager John Yanni, the timekeeper. He keeps the 20 seconds of time allotted before beginning to spell after the last pronunciation of the word by Bret Kofford, the Press' managing editor. Yanni does this very accurately with the Holtville High School wrestlers' clock, another tradition dating from 1992.

I wave to Sue Nichols, secretary to the LVA board, who has the awesome job of keeping score. She has to write the point value that our team is attempting, then add the number to our final score, if we spell the word correctly.

Press staffers Vickie Cheatham and Teresa Zimmer are "scribes" for about the 10th year. They write what the teams say, letter by letter. I wonder if, "I before e, except after c," ever intrudes into their thoughts while they are recording?

At last, we are ready to begin. Imperial Valley Press Publisher Dave Leone is introducing everyone. Loretta has the microphone ready to move to each spelling table — I hope I don't blurt out, "I before e, except after c."

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