There are two things in my life that I love: 1) history and 2) free t-shirts [which every BYU student has an ample supply of. Take any person off the street in Provo and you’ll have yourself someone with enough PowWow and Choose 2 Give t-shirts to clothe the entire country of Bangladesh].
These loves were brought together this summer in a perfect fusion of fashion and academics by the City of Provo.
Some brilliant and possibly drunk city employee came up with the excellent idea of creating shirts featuring pillars of American history parkour-ing around Provo landmarks. What does Benjamin Franklin have to do with Y Mountain? No one knows. But on shirts all around Provo, you can find him performing a stunt even Olympic gymnasts would find impressive.
I fell in love with these revisionist portrayals of history from the first time I saw the shirt with Harriet Tubman skateboarding across the moon, leading her people to freedom in the North.
The problem with these shirts was that they could only be gotten by attending different Provo City events this summer and hoping you were early enough to get a free shirt. I didn’t even know about most of these events and missed my one shot of getting all but a couple of these shirts.
When school started, I was so excited to wear the two shirts I had been able to get and show them to my students from last year (especially the Harriet Tubman one, because of all the fish). The kids loved them, even though one student thought that is was Mike Tyson on my shirt instead of HT, and another thought George Washington was Mozart (okay, so maybe they didn’t learn exactly what they were supposed to last year).
I told them about the other shirts, the ones I didn’t get, and the kids wanted to see them all, especially the one with a shirtless Einstein riding a glow-in-the-dark dinosaur (because, honestly, who wouldn’t want to see that?). I needed those other shirts. Not for my sake, but for the children’s.
After a desperate but unsuccessful plea on Facebook to help me find the other shirts, I decided to go straight to the source: Provo mayor, John Curtis.
From: Jesslyn Poulson
To: Mayor Curtis
Dear Mayor Curtis,
I am a junior high history teacher and have lived in Provo for most of the last seven years. My students absolutely adore the two #Provo4President t-shirts that I got this summer and that I wear to work. I know the shirts are limited edition, but is there anything you could, as the mayor, do to get me the ones I don’t have, or direct me to someone who could help me? I am more than willing to pay for them. Please, think of the children.
My deepest gratitude,
Ms. Jesslyn Poulson
P.S. You won’t remember this, but I came to your birthday party last year, so, we’re friends. I’m in the orange coat on the far right.
[It was actually a birthday party for Provo City, no the mayor, but I forgot that until later.]
To: Jesslyn Poulson
From: Mayor Curtis
Subject: Re: #Provo4President
I’m a pushover. If you come by my office, I’ll see what we have. We don’t have all of them but we may have a few I can give you. Ask for my secretary and she’ll see what they can find. If anyone asks, tell them I did it for the kids.
P.S. That was a rocking party!
The next day, I went to a big brown brick building on Center Street that looked exactly like Leslie Knope’s office but with far less natural light and picked up four shirts from the mayor’s receptionist (Ben Franklin doing the splits, Abe Lincoln karate kicking, Nikola Tesla at the city power plant, and a glowing, bare-chested, saber-wielding Albert Einstein).
I took the shirts to school the next day to show the niños who were awed with how brave I was to email a celebrity like Provo’s mayor. They fought over who got to wear the shirts during the class period and we had an educational discussion on the difference between alternating and direct current (thanks, Nikola).
History has never been so hip.