There Once Was A Politician From Nantucket ...
- Lee van der Voo
- Lake Oswego Review - News
After 77 years as a Republican, Virginia Campbell finds herself on the other side, supporting Barack Obama and writing a variety of political limericks
It's never too late to change your mind.
Just ask 98-year-old Virginia Campbell, who after 77 years as a registered Republican, finds herself voting for Barack Obama.
The lifelong civic activist said she hasn't always voted the party ticket. And this year, Campbell is so disenchanted with Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain she's penned about 100 limericks that say so.
'Honest to Pete, I've had this addiction,' said Campbell, who sometimes writes as many as five or six political limericks a day.
Always a writer and a lover of the limerick, Campbell said she hasn't been this inspired to jot satire since streaking caused a stir on college campuses in the '70s.
Mostly, she blames the television.
Of all the elections she remembers - and she remembers her mother's first legal vote in 1920 - Campbell said she's never felt so inundated with political rhetoric.
While she can barely escape the campaigns ads, limerick-writing has become an outlet.
'It's kind of a catharsis for me. There's been so much political overload and so much disturbance I just go lie down to take a nap and the dog-gone limericks come,' she said.
Most of the limericks bemoan McCain and his presidential credentials, though some poke fun at voter reaction, campaign details and McCain's vice presidential pick, Sarah Palin.
A few of the limericks have a positive focus: Obama. But as Campbell puts it, 'It's extremely difficult to write a limerick that isn't negative.'
Plus, she said, satire is just more fun.
Take this limerick, for example, which cues imagery of death in a robe and scythe:
If McCain is elected this fall,
Suppose the 'grim reaper' should call,
I would not just as lief
Have Palin for 'Chief'
And it isn't unlikely at all.
Hard to get the same amusement out of a positive limerick, Campbell said.
Or a haiku.
Campbell tried her hand at penning the country's top political haiku in a recent contest sponsored by the People for the American Way. Eying publication in The Nation as the prize, she wrote a few verses in the form.
But Campbell said the limerick simply outperforms the haiku on political satire. She sent a batch of limericks to the contest anyway, along with a haiku entry and a note:
'If you start a limerick contest I've entered in advance,' it said.
For Campbell, limericks have long been a part of life. After graduating from the first four-year class at Grant High School in Portland in the '20s, she was known for drafting limericks about the fate of former classmates.
One limerick, which Campbell can still recite, stars a fellow who had trouble 'holding his lunch' while working on a ship as a wiper. She means that figuratively, standard delivery method for many of her lines.
In her apartment at Mary's Woods, a retirement village south of Lake Oswego, Campbell keeps a collection of the limericks she's written. One folder is for animal limericks, another is for personal rhymes and one is for tales from the retirement community.
Campbell also writes serious verse, including 73 years worth of anniversary Valentine's for husband Herald, also 98.
Between the two of them, civic life and politics have been as much a fact of life as limericks.
C. Herald Cam-pbell is a former two-term mayor of Lake Oswego and was the first non-shareholder to serve on the board of directors of the Lake Oswego Corporation.
Virginia Campbell served with the League of Women Voters and on a committee that laid the groundwork that founded the regional government Metro. She was also active in library and arts issues and was instrumental in bringing a public pool to the Lake Oswego School District.
With 73 elections behind them, the Campbells have agreed on most ballots since they began voting as a married couple in 1934.
Today, they still agree, and share their disenchantment with the Republican Party. They say they miss the days when Republicans like Mark Hatfield, a Lake Oswego resident and neighbor, had a place in the United States Senate.
They are particularly concerned about global warming and the effect rising sea levels could have on coastal communities.
Frustrated, Campbell said she tried to change party affiliation in the last election but it didn't work.
Now, 'I don't know whether to try again or stay in hopes of assisting Republicans to get a better candidate,' she said.
Meanwhile, she said she'll keep on writing limericks.
With 11 days left until the election, inspiration - like politicking - shows no sign of winding down.