"I have some exciting news," Miss Hunter announced to the boys and girls in the one-room schoolhouse. "I know that most of you are familiar with The Junior Journal."
Almost every child nodded. They avidly read the popular paper every week, although most of them had to borrow it from the few children who had their own subscriptions. Sometimes, though, a child managed to buy a copy at Ike Godsey's store.
Miss Hunter went on, "The paper is sponsoring a poetry contest. The theme is Night. I have entry blanks for those who wish to compete."
Everyone turned to look at thirteen-year-old John-Boy Walton. Of course he would win, they reasoned. He had already received several awards for his stories, compositions, and poetry. There would be no point in the rest of them entering.
But Miss Hunter was still speaking.
"The competition is open to all children between the ages of nine and twelve, whether they are subscribers or not, and there will be three cash prizes awarded. Third prize, ten dollars; second prize, twenty dollars, and first prize," she concluded, "thirty dollars."
The children looked at each other. Thirty dollars, twenty dollars, even ten dollars seemed like a fortune to most kids growing up at that time.
"If only I could win that contest," ten-year-old Mary Ellen Walton thought. "That would show everybody that John-Boy isn't the only Walton who can write something good enough to win a prize."