Ok, I have done a lot of stupid things in my lifetime, but nothing as stupid as swallowing goldfish. Yeah, I did. Three of them. Why? Who the hell knows why I do things.
Goldfish swallowing was a fad that first started in 1939 when a Harvard freshman did it on a bet. It received some local coverage, and in the next few weeks, students from all across the country were trying to top the previous feat. It was nothing for a student (mostly males) to swallow ten, twenty, and even 30 in one sitting. Many towns then passed ordinances making it illegal. The fad only lasted about two years. So, how the hell did it appear on the campus of Fairmont State in West Virginia in 1976?
I had a sorority sister who worked part time for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and some one (maybe the Greek association) sponsored a dance marathon titled, “Dance for Those Who Can’t.” Proceeds were given to the Jerry Lewis people. The dance was going to last through the night, with games and activities going on alongside the marathon. Plus, beer was sold in the Nickel, which was our student union, so that was also a plus. So, we danced, we drank, and I apparently swallowed some goldfish.
There was a guy who swallowed one and the crowd went nuts. He was the first one to do it. And it was pretty early, so I don’t think this guy was drunk. Just really stupid. And I think he had people placing bets and the proceeds were handed over to the MD. So, we went back and danced alongside the marathoners and drank some more. You could buy plastic glasses of beer for a nickel, so we had cafeteria trays full of beer for our group of friends. I usually started laughing after 1/2 a glass of beer, so I was laughing at anything that night. I had a sorority sister walk out of the bathroom with a long line of toilet paper walking behind her from one of her shoes. I don’t know why that made me laugh so hard, but she walked like she was all that, and here was that toilet paper following her around. Everyone knew she just peed, so I guess I found that amusing.
We came back after we heard that some guy in our brother fraternity (TKE) was going to swallow two goldfish to beat a rival fraternity’s goldfish record of 1. Everyone gathered around. The person with the microphone stopped the music during a mandatory break for the dancer marathoners, and announced that they had a person that would swallow two goldfish if they could make $200 in the next 15 minutes. Well, college kids usualy don’t have much money, but there were people from the community also there, so the drunk donors opened their wallet a lot that night, I can tell you that. They had $200 pretty quick. And the guy swallowed 2 goldfish. Wow..I was drunk impressed. So much better than watching a toilet paper walker.
Well, a little later, I saw a little boy being pushed into the dance room in a wheelchair. I thought it was pretty late for the kid to be up. It had to be 1:00a.m. He was about 12 and appeared bummed out that he just missed a college student swallow 2 goldfish. It was a Fairmont State college record. Well, maybe because it had never ever been done there before. He sat quietly while his parents talked to the people in charge of the dance and in a few minutes another announcement came over the loud speaker. “Does anyone want to volunteer to swallow a goldfish for our important guest here?” Come on up and lets’ see if we can make another quick $200.”
Well, I saw like 3 guys raise their hands and were coming up from three different directions at a pretty fast clip. I was right beside the little guy in the wheelchair ( I was drunk staring at him) and it was my sorority sister, who was employed by MD who had the microphone this time. Out of the blue, I raised my hand and said, “I will swallow 3 goldfish!” Whaatttt did I just do? No…didn’t even think that I must be demented. I saw the wheelchair kid and wanted to show him that anyone could do anything if they put their mind to it. I was determined to show this kid that a drunk college girl could swallow some fish.
I don’t have any idea how much money was raised for Muscular Dystrophy for my swallowing 3 goldfish, but I had a crowd. I beat the record of 2 goldfish and no one else tried to swallow anymore. Why? Well, there were only 2 goldfish left in the bowl. No one else was going to swallow a goldfish unless a record could be beat. So, as far as I know, I hold the record for goldfish swallowing in Fairmont, West Virginia. If only the story ended right there. It didn’t.
When we got back from the dance, the phone rang. It was a sorority sister, Diane, who lived upstairs from me in our apartment complex, Garden Lane. She had some disturbing news for this drunk goldfish killer.
“Vickie, I don’t want to get you upset, but I think you need to hear this.” I can’t remember her exact words, but she informed me that she knew someone who had swallowed goldfish at Penn State (I’m not sure what college she used), and got very sick when the goldfish didn’t die in the guys stomach. She went on to tell me that somehow the fish lived in the mucous membranes in the stomach lining and then mated. The guy had to get his stomach pumped because his stomach had expanded because the goldfish hatched and there were hundreds of tiny goldfish swimming around in this guys stomach and they kept getting bigger and it was just awful. And I drunkingly (if that is indeed a word) believed her.
I went into the bathroom and shoved my finger down my throat I have no idea how many times, to no avail. No goldfish babies. I was sick with worry. Drunk people obsess about things, and I was no different. But, of course, no one else had fornicating goldfish in their stomach. I cried myself to sleep. I felt horrible for killing poor innocent goldfish. They didn’t do anything to anybody to deserve such a horrible death. I was a crying drunk…I am sure I had raccoon eyes, because I really liked mascara.
When I woke up, we all put “scarves on head” (girls wore those big blue hankerchiefs on their head when they didn’t feel like washing their hair in the 70′s), hopped in my car and headed to McDonald’s. McDonald’s was our cure for a hangover. The greasy food did wonders. When we got back to the apartment complex, Diane and her roommates were coming out. She was smiling. “Almost had you last night, didn’t I?” She laughed. Oh my God, she was messing with me!! I was soo relieved. Now, I wouldn’t have to go to the hospital and ask them to stomach pump baby goldfish…”Oh, you sure did. I almost believed you. That was a good one.” I was one gullible guppy.
I felt so much better.We walked into the apartment and I plopped myself down on the couch. I felt great….. Until on of my roommates spoke.
“I once swallowed a penny and it came out a day or two later……you know……(she pointed to her butt like I was too dumb to understand the digestive system),so….
I wonder if all three goldfish skeletons will come out at the same time?” That could really, really hurt.”
Skeletons? Oh, that is just great….
Well, it will make for a good story when I get older, I thought.
And….I did it for Jerry’s kids…..