Six military helicopters droned over our house one morning. The noise made me feel uneasy. Was our place under surveillance?
How about the fellow seen lurking in the alley behind the lilac bushes. Was he a member of some government agency?
These apprehensive thoughts weren't triggered because of warnings for national and home security. Rather, because lately my background has been scrutinized by the state Department of Justice! The reason? Because I was recently elected the second vice president of the Missoula Senior Center. And the center, a nonprofit establishment, engages in an activity some would call "vice." Live bingo games! Thus, it is classified as a "gambling establishment" and must have a license. All officers are responsible for the operation and must comply with regulations.
When the director called and said I must fill out a number of forms and have them notarized for the Department of Justice, I was puzzled.
She explained that each time new officers are elected the procedure must be followed to renew the license.
I got the required papers. I thought there would only be a few questions asking for the usual information: birth, address, social security number, etc. Surprise! That was only the beginning. There were several pages, numerous instructions and questions. Reminiscent of the driver's manual.
Some questions asked for information so ancient I needed to dust off my memory file. (The questionnaire also reminded me of an occasion, long after crossing into senior-hood, when it was necessary to see a specialized physician. As a new patient, even for a one-time visit, a form must be completed. Questions such as: Number of children. Number of hours of labor to birth each one. After five kids and 40 years, who could remember?)
A similar procedure when I was attempting to get proof of my mother's birth. One official said maybe I could provide statements of someone who had been present at her birth. Mom was 90 when she left this planet!
Back to the Justice Department questions: "Employers. Description of duties. Positions. Supervisors," etc.
Unusual question: "Periods of employment since 18 years of age or the last 10 years, whichever is less."
Then, "all partnerships, business ventures," etc. (My only business venture was attempting to start a travel-touring business. It never got off the ground. Or rather, on the road.)
How about "criminal history. Convicted or not? How did you plead? Date of arrest?"
At least I don't have a criminal history. Although I was locked up for a short time in the basement cell of the old city jail when I was the "cub" night police reporter for the newspaper and a couple of officers thought I needed the experience!
In conclusion of the justice forms, it was necessary to give three "character" references. That was the most difficult part. I have known many "characters" but had a time trying to think of anyone who might give me a reference!
At last, I completed the forms and went to a notary. A few days later, my personal history was returned. A notary stamp was needed on another page. This was done and the packet returned, again to the Justice Department.
It hasn't come back. So now, hopefully, both the new officers and the Senior Center is again legal and can operate "live bingo."
Evelyn King is a retired Missoulian reporter. Her column appears every Sunday in the Territory section. Reach her by writing: Evelyn King, Missoulian, P.O. Box 8029, Missoula, MT 59807.