Many tricks ... Few treats
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 firstname.lastname@example.org