Harper Valley P.T.A.

In praise of art: Tom T. Hall said it better than any sermon could when he wrote “Harper Valley P.T.A.”  Okay maybe I’m exaggerating cause I am a big fan of a good sermon.  But it’s also true that art (as in music, visual art, movies, stories) can communicate truth more effectively than straight-up sermonizing or preaching.

If you’ve never heard the song, run to iTunes and get it.  Jeannie C. Riley has a great gravelly set of pipes and the song topped the country and pop charts in 1968, selling millions and causing Riley to be the first woman to top both charts.

But here are the lyrics:

I want to tell you all a story ’bout a Harper Valley widowed wife
Who had a teenage daughter who attended Harper Valley Junior High
Well her daughter came home one afternoon and didn’t even stop to play
She said, “Mom, I got a note here from the Harper Valley P.T.A.”

The note said, “Mrs. Johnson, you’re wearing your dresses way too high
It’s reported you’ve been drinking and a-runnin’ ’round with men and going wild
And we don’t believe you ought to be bringing up your little girl this way”
It was signed by the secretary, Harper Valley P.T.A.

Well, it happened that the P.T.A. was gonna meet that very afternoon
They were sure surprised when Mrs. Johnson wore her mini-skirt into the room
And as she walked up to the blackboard, I still recall the words she had to say
She said, “I’d like to address this meeting of the Harper Valley P.T.A.”

Well, there’s Bobby Taylor sittin’ there and seven times he’s asked me for a date
Mrs. Taylor sure seems to use a lot of ice whenever he’s away
And Mr. Baker, can you tell us why your secretary had to leave this town?
And shouldn’t widow Jones be told to keep her window shades all pulled completely down?

Well, Mr. Harper couldn’t be here ’cause he stayed too long at Kelly’s Bar again
And if you smell Shirley Thompson’s breath, you’ll find she’s had a little nip of gin
Then you have the nerve to tell me you think that as a mother I’m not fit
Well, this is just a little Peyton Place and you’re all Harper Valley hypocrites

No I wouldn’t put you on because it really did, it happened just this way
The day my Mama socked it to the Harper Valley P.T.A.
The day my Mama socked it to the Harper Valley P.T.A.

Haven’t we all wanted to “sock it to the Harper Valley P.T.A.” in one way or another?  I know I have.  And I’ve also been a hypocrite.  And this song nails the experience to the wall — in a way that abstract lessons cannot.

Can’t you just see those faces when the Harper Valley widowed wife turned and left?

~ by Cary on April 28, 2010.

2 Responses to “Harper Valley P.T.A.”

  1. LOL….thx for sharing…..this song likely taught me WAY more than I ever needed to know about widowed life in a small country town when I was a young teen growing up in TX! But, I thank the Lord I was *quick* enough to catch the gist of the song! Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Hope to see you on my next foray into VA!

    • I bet I’ll see you SOON… and I’m glad you are not a Harper Valley denizen (or that you don’t act like one!). Our towns are free from hypocrisy right? 🙂

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