Many tricks ... Few treats

The Hamburg Area Item - - Opinion - Jeff Hall Per­son to Per­son - Im­pact

I have a re­oc­cur­ring night­mare! The year was 1954 and my par­ents, my sib­lings and I were about to ar­rive in the small bor­ough where we kids would see our new home for the first time. As we turned off the com­mer­cial high­way in the spring, we were greeted by nice houses lin­ing av­enues and places, many of which were named af­ter col­leges. Large trees lined each side of the street, with their branches over­hang­ing the streets, creat­ing a canopy ef­fect with their leaves, tes­ti­fy­ing to the age of the bor­ough. The mid- morn­ing sun splashed rays of light through sec­tions of the canopy mak­ing it seem like a won­der­land. As we drove down those streets you could view the nicely man­i­cured lawns with forsythia bushes, daf­fodils and tulips. A bit later came the aza­lea bushes and the bloom­ing of the lilacs, dog­wood and cherry trees. Not re­al­iz­ing it as a kid, one older could al­most term it utopia. How­ever, un­be­knownst to this young boy, there was evil in the air. It was not too long af­ter the era of the Cold War be­gin­ning, which would last four or so decades. I re­mem­ber the air raid prac­tices in school where we ei­ther got un­der our desks or filed to the long halls and sat along the walls where there weren’t any win­dows. When in high school, I can re­mem­ber a Boy Scout Master award­ing merit badges to his scouts for help­ing him build a bomb shel­ter at his house.

Time passed quickly. The wealthy be­came wealth­ier. The world be­came much more com­plex, while a mi­nor­ity of the peo­ple be­came more up­pity. Now re­ferred to as “the Up­per Crust”, this seg­ment of the pop­u­la­tion was com­prised of only 19 fam­i­lies, as each helped their friends be­come the crème de la crème. They all held sim­i­lar types of po­si­tions in their ca­reers and moved into man­sions in a sec­tion of the bor­ough called “The Hill”. Homes were lav­ish. Prop­er­ties were of such size that big trucks with trail­ers pulled into the neigh­bor­hood the same day each week to un­load huge zero- turn rid­ing mow­ers to make the lawns to have the look of putting greens. Hired help was al­ways vis­i­ble: tend­ing ar­chi­tec­turally de­signed gar­dens, build­ing new heated drive­ways of paver- stones, ex­ca­vat­ing to in­stall swim­ming pools and in­crease the size of their houses with ad­di­tions. As the fam­i­lies climbed the lad­der of suc­cess, their cars be­came more nu­mer­ous and cer­tainly more im­pres­sive, chang­ing from Fords and Chevro­lets to Buicks and Oldsmo­biles and even­tu­ally Mercedes, Porches and even an oc­ca­sional Rolls Royce. How­ever, not all was calm on The Hill be­cause it was truly the Jonses ver­sus the lit­tle guys, re­ferred to as com­mon­ers, who lived way down from The Hill.

The peo­ple on The Hill had all the worldly pos­ses­sions they could ever want. What else could they pos­si­bly de­sire? More in­flu­ence and more power! Even­tu­ally, the peo­ple on The Hill took over all of the seven seats on bor­ough coun­cil. Now, they could rule the bor­ough and make as many rules and reg­u­la­tions as they wished that would ben­e­fit them­selves. Ful­fill­ing all of their de­sires? Hardly, be­cause of their in­born self­ish na­ture. A chasm de­vel­oped among the 19 Hill fam­i­lies, which were now di­vided into two groups. Each of the groups wanted con­trol of the com­mon­ers. Af­ter much de­lib­er­a­tion and pay­ing great sums of money col­lected from the com­mon­ers to hire a me­di­a­tor, a plan was de­vised to de­ter­mine which group would rule the bor­ough. A law was made that Hal­loween would only be held on The Hill. Each fam­ily liv­ing be­low The Hill would have to en­ter the gated com­mu­nity, where the gates would be un­locked the last day of Oc­to­ber on a qua­dren­nial ba­sis, in their or­di­nary clothes and visit each of the 19 homes on The Hill. The peo­ple on The Hill would be the ones to dress in cos­tumes be­cause they were the only ones per­mit­ted to have any fun. The com­mon­ers were fine with this sit­u­a­tion be­cause they be­came ut­terly de­pen­dent on the peo­ple of The Hill.

The ob­jec­tive of the Hal­loween celebration was for The Hill peo­ple to shower the com­mon­ers with gifts and prom­ises and within a week af­ter that day, an elec­tion would be held to see which party ruled the bor­ough for the next four years. Ap­par­ently, at least one of the com­mon­ers still had some com­mon sense and wanted to do a lit­tle mis­chief on the 30th of Oc­to­ber to show the com­mon­ers what The Hill peo­ple were re­ally like. First, he printed up cir­cu­lars no­ti­fy­ing all com­mon­ers that the Hal­loween celebration was be­ing changed from the 31st to the 30th “as de­manded” by The Hill peo­ple and de­liv­ered them to all com­mon­ers. Next, he gave a copy of this an­nounce­ment to the gate­keeper so he would un­lock the gate on the 30th. Fi­nally, he led all of the com­mon­ers to make a quiet visit to each of The Hill homes on the 30th to peek in the win­dows to see how they lived. For brevity sake, I can just re­late a few of the find­ings. The first house was throw­ing a party with many of the mem­bers of The Hill par-

tic­i­pat­ing. There was loud laugh­ter since the theme of the party was to dress up to­tally in black and an artist at the party would draw white bones on each per­son. They would then squeeze as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble into huge re­frig­er­a­tor boxes and shut the card­board doors on them. This rep­re­sented all of the skele­tons in their clos­ets.

In the next house a lady was sit­ting at her huge din­ing room ta­ble with 20 of her neigh­bors sit­ting around it. She had a weighty doc­u­ment in front of her. As she tore off 100 pages of the doc­u­ment at a time, she gave them to one of The Hill peo­ple and told each that there would be no re­fresh­ments at this party un­til they had com­pleted read­ing their part of the doc­u­ment and re­ported the high­lights to her be- cause she had to master the doc­u­ment by morn­ing. Af­ter a few hours, she felt sorry for her guests, or­dered one of her ser­vants to bring out the ex­quis­ite food and drinks and told them to for­get the doc­u­ment. She would do some dou­ble- talk at her big meet­ing in the morn­ing and no­body would be the wiser!

At the third house, I had to use my re­cently hired spy, Miss Vic­to­ria Wither­spoone, a la­dy­bug, be­cause I needed a co­hort to han­dle the “in­side job”. She re­ported that one side of the man­sion had a hall 200 feet long, with many doors on each side. Each door had a brass plaque on it to in­di­cate the type of meet­ing to be held in it. There were so many doors that I can only give you a sam­ple of their pur­pose. They in­cluded: Sur­veil­lance, Press, Dou­ble- talk, Fa­cial Ex­pres­sions, Jokes, Man­ner­isms, De­ceit­ful­ness, Schemes, Black­mail, How to be a Bet­ter Lier, Va­ca­tions and Free Trips to the Is­lands of Elba/ Guan­tanamo.

The fi­nal house we were able to ob­serve was filled with peo­ple drink­ing, ex­chang­ing money and tak­ing part in all forms of de­bauch­ery. I heard one of the men say: “It’s sure good we only let the com­mon­ers cel­e­brate Hal­loween once every four years. By the time they cel­e­brate again, they will for­get all of our prom­ises and we can spend the fourth year

bury­ing all of our dirty laun­dry.”

The Hal­loween cel­e­bra­tions con­tin­ued for a cou­ple of decades, af­ter which the com­mon­ers were thrilled to be in­vited to a spe­cial party at the largest house on The Hill. They were all told to come dressed en­tirely in black. When they ar­rived, they stood in sin­gle file as they were stamped with a life- sized rub­ber stamp and they looked like skele­tons, just as their hosts. They then squeezed into var­i­ous small rooms pre­tend­ing to be skele­tons in a closet and laughed just as hard as The Hill peo­ple.

At the end of the party, be­fore each of the com­mon­ers left, they were asked to stand in front of a mir­ror and take off their black and white clothes. They did as they were told and un­der­neath was an­other out­fit ex­actly the same as the one they took off. This out­fit would re­main on them in per­pe­tu­ity. They were sent home to live in to­tal sub­servience to The Hill peo­ple.

The only re­deem­ing thing the com­mon­ers no­ticed as they walked down The Hill to their houses was a moun­tain in the dis­tance with a flame flick­er­ing!

“Our lead­ers, elected by we the peo­ple, in gen­eral, will be no bet­ter than we are and of­ten worse!” — Jeff Hall

“If we are to guard against ig­no­rance and re­main free, it is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of every Amer­i­can to be in­formed.” — Thomas Jef­fer­son

Jeff Hall, of Honey Brook, con­trib­utes col­umns to Berks- Mont News­pa­pers. Ques­tions/ com­ments may be directed to jef­frey­hall77@com­cast.net

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