Art and the Avocado #AtoZChallenge2023

A is for Art and the Avocado. First of 26 posts in the April 2023 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: Endwell: My High School Years— adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.

My high school years, from 1965-68, were a time of growing awareness of my place in the world and the potential to join with others to influence events – even in my small Endwell suburb west of Binghamton, N.Y.

For my parents, though, high school was the on-ramp to college – the glistening goal they had dangled before me for as long as I could remember.

They had both gone to college –my mom Peg (Laurence) Charboneau went to Crain School of Music at SUNY Potsdam and my dad Norm graduated in Engineering from Clarkson College – and they wanted that for their children.

Thus, my high school years were about figuring out a potential college major, but also about exploring where my interests and passions led me – and to do it all by the age of 18! Enter Art and the Avocado.


My high school had a good art program that exposed me to a range of techniques – from collage, painting, and drawing, to block printing, fine-art ceramics, enameling, metalwork, and fiber arts.

“Girl in Green” by Molly Charboneau (1968). I entered this piece in a contest, and it was displayed in the gallery of a local office building.

There was an Art Club, too, that met weekly on Saturday mornings – and I was a member throughout high school.

We brought art into the local community, through competitions and poster projects — and connected with the local Roberson Museum and Science Center.

The art room became a welcome, creative escape from pounding the books in required academic classes – and an oasis where I could nurture my nascent artistic talent. I loved going there!

As time went on, I entered my work in a few contests and it was put on display around town. I also worked on sets for the school musical.

So, when college application time came, I prepared a portfolio and sent it to the University of Buffalo asking to join their art program.

The Avocado

Star-Spangled Avocado business card (1968). Scan by Molly Charboneau

Yet the 1960s were politically turbulent years, filled with civil rights struggles, the stirring of the women’s and LGBTQ movements, and a developing opposition to the Viet Nam war – and that’s where I devoted my extra-curricular energy, along with a group of like-minded activist classmates.

Meeting up at our homes and a local church coffee house (more in Letter C), we decided to collaborate on a counter-culture underground newspaper with an irreverent, anti-establishment title: The Star-Spangled Avocado.

The Star-Spangled Avocado cover (1968). We planned to put out a few issues, but the powers that be clamped down and we only produced one. Scan by Molly Charboneau

It was more of a literary and art magazine than a political one, but our budding rejection of mainstream politics showed through.

Putting out a secret publication was an exhilarating teen experience involving clandestine evening planning meetings, writing poems and essays, creating illustrations, printing after-hours on a local church’s photocopier, stapling it together — and finally distributing it at school to a general buzz among students and shock among our conservative school administrators.

We published anonymously to protect ourselves. To add to the drama, one of the guys in our group wore a trench coat and fedora to school on distribution day and handed out copies of the Avocado from a violin case.

A lasting change

Rose” by Molly Charboneau (1968). I worked on the Gryphon art and layout team, and my ink drawing of a rose was published — but it wasn’t as life changing as the clandestine Avocado experience. Scan by Molly Charboneau

Of course the powers that be clamped down on the whole operation, so we only put out one issue.

Yet prompted by the Avocado’s success, they established the school’s first officially sanctioned literary and art journal called Gryphon.

Colored cover, nice paper, offset printing. I worked on art and layout, and one of my drawings was published.

Today, a form of that creative journal lives on, as described on Maine-Endwell’s website: “Spartan Muse is the school magazine, which is open to all students. Students submit stories and poetry, as well as works of art.”

Star-Spangled Avocado staff reunion (2018). I ran into Bill, one of my Avocado colleagues, at a high school reunion. During a tour of the school, we saw a copy of Spartan Muse on a classroom desk. “That exists because of us,” Bill said — a lasting gain from our underground efforts!

At a 50th class reunion in 2018, I ran into Bill, one of my Avocado colleagues — and during a nostalgic tour of the school, we saw a copy of Spartan Muse on a classroom desk.

“You see that?” Bill asked, smiling. “That exists because of us.”

His comment underscored the lesson I took away from our undercover publishing experience: Art might be a refuge, but the Avocado was a passion project that gave me (and probably all of us) the first glimmer of what’s possible when people — even teens — band together for change.

Up next, B is for Birthday Surprise: I turn 18! Please stop back. Meanwhile, please visit the intrepid bloggers over at Sepia Saturday.

© 2023 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

26 thoughts on “Art and the Avocado #AtoZChallenge2023”

  1. This was a great story to begin your challenge. I remember the days of underground newspapers and magazines and think those editors and writers were the ancestors of our modern day bloggers. They were certainly very influential in creating a new art style that changed our collective culture.

    My son is a child of the computer age and he discovered “art” through the first generation of 3-D animation software. When it came time to find a university for him, I became the college scout who researched where someone could get a degree in this new art form. In 2007 there were actually very few art colleges that taught digital animation but fortunately I found a few to choose from and he ending up at a good one in-state. Now he is a self-employed digital artist with clients around the internet world, and our home is a gallery for all his real “artwork” made in college. The rest lives in some digital cloud.

    1. Thanks for this, Mike. Interesting to think that my turn to blogging may have its roots in my earlier underground newspaper experience! And kudos to you for finding the best college placement for your son’s artistic talents.

  2. What a surprising theme! at first I thought you would talk about avocado allergies, or avocado paintings, the idea of a secret art magazine is delightful, especially the idea of distributing it with the trench coat and violin case, I wish I could have witnessed that!
    Once in high school I loved the idea of studying history of art on college, sadly my mom told me that I´d starve and to pick a different career. Anyway, life sent me to a very different path from what I (or my full family) initially wanted.

    Visiting from

    1. I ended up on a different path as well — I think this is true of many of us — but it was art that got me there initially.

  3. That “Avocado” definitely was a pivotol point for young people to move forward with their inspirations. So glad the school has continued with a student publication. I also was focused on art classes in high school, and even college (both times). Ah, the creative spirit that leads us by the nose to who knows where!

  4. Great post! Terrific story of life long influences and where they began.

    1. Thanks, Nancy. I don’t think I realized how many life long influences began in my youth until writing this series.

  5. My high school years were 1967-1970, and I used to circulate satirical comic books about high school life, all hand drawn and sneaked into classrooms at the specialized high school I attended in New York City. They definitely weren’t works of art. I think I may still have one of the cartoons floating around my house somewhere. It was nothing like the Star Spangled Avocado or its distribution process. I loved your story and even went online to see if I could find out anything more. Couldn’t.

  6. What a wonderful and exciting experience to be a part of the Star Spangled Avocado team. Even though it got ‘shut down’, you came away with something very important gained from it all. I love that Bill (and all of you, I’m sure) recognized your ‘hand’ in the creation of the current school magazine. And I’m not surprised your art contributions were recognized as talent that should be shown! I hope you have continued with your artistic abilities?

    1. Thanks so much! I ended up switching majors in college, but have kept art and creativity in my life in other ways — such as blogging about my ancestors.

  7. Didn’t know you are such a talented artist! Love the drawing of the rose. Any particular reason you guys went for the avocado among all the fruits and vegetables?


    1. Thanks, Ria! I think we chose the avocado because it was relatively new to our market at the time and we wanted something unconventional to reflect our rejection of the dominant culture.

  8. What a fun way to kick off a school newspaper! And a lasting effect 🙂 It is so lovely you got to go to a school with an art program, and a community around it (even if the authorities were not that open-minded) 🙂

    The Multicolored Diary

    1. Thanks so much! And yes, we were fortunate that — although the authorities were not open minded, they did give in and provide an official channel for our youthful exuberance.

  9. What an intriguing title – Art and Avicados! I can very much relate to the times you are talking about. For in 1965-6 I spent a year on an exchange scheme ( arranged through Edinburgh University) for trainee librarians at Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Mass. I was staying in the Cambridge YWCA and a number of my fellow residents were involved in the Civil Rights Movement. A colleague at work had a cousin fighting in the Vietnam War and very concerned that her husband, a trainee lawyer, might be called up. Seeing the news coverage every night brought the reality home, and I remember seeing an anti war demonstration in Boston.

  10. Following from downuncer. It will be interesting to compare your high school experiences with mine below the equator.

    My challenge entries this year are appearing at

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