Jeannie Riley’s (the day my momma socked it to the) Harper Valley PTA!

JAN 11, 1972: W. Douglas Poole, left, president of the Denver Dry Goods Co., greets recording star Jeannie C. Riley (Harper Valley PTA) and and Mayor Bill McNicholas at National Western Stock Show kickoff party at The Denver’s Tea Room. (Getty Images)


Harper Valley PTA was a cutting-edge song in 1968 written by Tom Hall; recorded and released by country music singer, Jeannie Riley. The times were changing, and people were getting real. All of the unspoken evils of society were beginning to come to light. The problem, however, was that, although everyone either had a skeleton in their closet or knew someone who did, there was still a hush-hush sort of mentality.

In 1978, a film by the same name was released. The film starred Barbara Eden, Nanette Fabray, Ronny Cox, Louis Nye and Susan Swift. The release targeted drive-in-theaters; probably because of the racy content. Although the movie was a comedy, the song had a ring of truth to it. Despite that, it had been considered scandalous.


Stella Johnson, although widowed, was considered by her small-minded “neighbors” to be nothing more than a promiscuous, single mother. She and her Jr. high aged daughter lived in the small town of, Harper Valley, Ohio. As many schools did and still do, there was a “parent-teacher-association” also known as a “PTA”.


One day, Stella’s teenaged daughter brought home a letter from the PTA, addressing what the organization considered to be indiscretions on the part of her mother. The letter alleged that Stella was an immoral and irresponsible parent. The letter threatened that if Stella didn’t change her ways that her daughter would be expelled from school.


Armed with personal knowledge of the secret indiscretions of some of the PTA and other community members, Stella stormed into the next PTA meeting, unannounced. She proceeded to address the committee. Much to their chagrin, Stella proceeded to expose the secrets that some of the most respected members of the town had been hiding. In the end, the humbled recipients of Stella’s rant had reluctantly taken their places as fallible human beings.

While this is a fictional song/story, there is so much we can learn from it. We are so quick to judge other people before taking care of our own business. I have been both the child of a single parent as well as being a single parent. Things are not always what they seem.

Below are the lyrics to this eye-opening song in case you have forgotten:


I wanna 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,

And she said, “Mom I got a note here from the Harper Valley PTA”.


Well the note said, “Mrs. Johnson, you’re wearing your dresses way too high

It’s reported you’ve been drinkin’ and runnin’ round with men and goin’ wild

And we don’t believe you oughta be a bringin’ up your little girl this way”.

And it was signed by the secretary, Harper Valley PTA.


Well it happened that the PTA was gonna meet that very afternoon

And 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 PTA.


Well, there’s Bobby Taylor sittin’ there and seven times he’s asked me for a date

And Mrs. Taylor seems to use a lotta 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 a 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

And 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 happen just this way

The day my momma socked it to, the Harper Valley PTA

The day my momma socked it to, the Harper Valley PTA

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Jackson Hall

Jackson Hall is one of the best writers of our generation. He has been on the New York Times Bestsellers list three different times and nominated multiple time for best Memoir on Goodreads. He studied history at Yale and became obsessed with the 70s. Now he focuses on digging up stories nobody has written about to help grow our extensive knowledge of the past. He is the glue to our company and we are so lucky to have him on the team.

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