When 14-year-old Scott Hardesty joined the Future Homemakers of America, his father exploded.
"My dad was constantly hassling me to drop out," recalled Hardesty, now 17 and an Ohio FHA state officer. "But I stuck it out, and after he saw the worthwhile things we do, he came around and decided it wasn't just for girls."
Hardesty is one of 23,000 boys helping untie the traditional apron strings binding homemaking to women only. In the 10 years since Title IX opened home economics classes to boys, more and more males have joined FHA. All 400,000 FHA members have taken or are taking a course in home economics.
Attending this week's national leadership convention in the District were about 1,400 Future Homemakers, including 40 boys. Some of them talked about their reasons for joining FHA and their feelings about changing sex roles:
"I joined to gain some leadership qualities," said the regional vice president and football player. "I thought it would be a little more of a challenge to join a club where you had to break the ice of tradition.
"Half the homemaker is the male, and it's not only females who need to learn some of the things you learn in FHA like cooking, sewing and child development.
"In child study we observed and took care of pre-school children. I learned a lot that I think will help me with kids when I have my own. And it's taught me about working things out together in a family.
"When I get married, my wife can decide what she wants to do. We can share home responsibilities and bringing in the paycheck. With the cost of living it's going to have to be that way. I'm not going to stick to the traditional way of life just because of the way my parents were."
"My brother was the first male FHA area president, so I knew all about the club from him," said Lockhart, who joined because he's interested in food, nutrition and restaurant management.
"I quit sports because I realized I wasn't going to get a football scholarship, but I might get an FHA scholarship. Also, I get school credit for my job at Jack-in-the-box."
Like most of the boys interviewed, Lockhart calls his homemaking skills "a hobby." But he says they should come in handy when he marries, since he plans to share homemaking responsibilities with his wife if she works outside the home.
"You learn things, like home and family living, that you don't get in school. I feel a lot more comfortable at the national than at the state convention, though, because at state we [in his chapter] were the only guys and they thought we had the wrong hotel. But it's a neat feeling, and kind of nice to reverse the odds."
"I think my Single's Survival teacher was kidding when she asked if any of the guys wanted to join FHA," recalled the football and baseball team captain. "I joined as a joke, thinking maybe I could hustle up on the girls.
"Then I got involved in a club project with old people in nursing homes. We have other activities, too. Like skill events, with an outdoor cooking competition where we had 10 minutes to cook a meal on a Coleman stove."
Despite the "razzing" from other males, Davis stuck with FHA.
"My football coach was the worst, and gave me a hard time about being a big sissy. But I just brushed it off. I know guys who've had a heck of a time when they split from their wives, because they don't know how to take care of cleaning and cooking. But I've learned a lot.
"And if you join FHA just for the girls, your ideas will eventually change because you can't keep that same macho image."
"People think FHAis just cooking and sewing, but it's not," said Mathis, who was attracted by FHA's various service projects. Through one, he became the March of Dimes Oklahoma state youth chairman.
"I love it, it's been a great experience. I'm sure every guy here has been called names. But the best thing to do is keep your cool. This is my life, and I don't do things to please you. This is me.
"Sure I love to cook and I love to sew," he said, adding that the taunting turns to envy when hecklers see the goosedown jackets and dress shirts he's made. "I don't like to be limited to one thing. I like to feel comfortable in the kitchen or working in the yard."
So far as marriage, Mathis said he's going to look for a woman with a career.
"If I marry a lady who's going to be a full-time homemaker she might not let me in the kitchen. And I wouldn't like that at all." CAPTION: Picture 1, Kregg Kappenman, 18, Selah, Wash.; Picture 2, Carl Lockhart, 17, Denton, Tex.; Picture 3, Bob Davis, 18, Berthoud, Colo.; Picture 4, Ricky Mathis, 18, Elk City, Okla.