Far Gresham Part I
In their sullen resentment at Americanization they had reversed the roles. They now claimed that immigrants had built America. There would be no America had the Irish, Slavs and Italians not shoveled it into existence. They now wanted revenge for having lost language and national culture. They weighed their advantages and disadvantages and found that their disadvantages tipped the scale.
Nevertheless the mores of the Founding Fathers predominated. The Ango-Americans retained political control if not cultural control. The country shifted further from English ideals toward a multi-culture splintering. The ideals of the Melting Pot promoted an ostensible tolerance of all beliefs though each group strove to impose as much of its culture as possible. Vengeance had to be a little more surreptitious.
Thus my selection as victim, as well as serving David Hirsh’s need for personal vengeance satisfied the needs of my immigrant scouting fellows. Gresham was an eminently English name. I was an American, even though I bore an English name my ancestry carried as many elements of the Melting Pot as anyone else and more than most. Legally because my grand-mother was Jewish, through my mother I was more Jewish than Michael Hirsh. Michael was legally not Jewish at all as he came from a shiksa mother. I was Polish as that was the State my mother’s ancestors had lived in. I was German through my mother’s father who was Pennsylvania Dutch. I was English or Scottish through my father who bore his father’s name, but his mother had been a French-Irish hillbilly from Kentucky. There were numerous permutations on my father’s mother’s side also. I was Far ‘World’, or perhaps better, Far Melting Pot. Yet I bore an English name; these ingnorant common men saw no further than the end of their noses.
Cahallan was selected for vengeance on the Anglo because he was Irish. The Bible says that no man can serve two masters. In law it’s called a conflict of interest. Cahallan was ‘pure’ Irish. His family had married Irish on both sides since arriving on the New Island. The Cahallans considered themselves patriotic Americans; indeed they might be called super-patriots in the mold of Joe McCarthy, yet, James Cahallan, John’s father, contributed a fair part of his income for arms for the Irish Republican Army. He helped foment rebellion or rioting i
n North Ireland. James was in conflict with his 100% Americanism. It was not American policy to foment trouble in Ireland. The truth was that Irish Americanism was an alternate nationalism from Anglo-American nationalism. The Irish-Americans favored Ireland; the Anglo Americans favored England. It always had been so; yet both sides considered themselves patriotic Americans while pursuing opposing policies.
Mankind is mankind. One faction is always trying to dominate the other. The Cahallans had emigrated during the Potato Famine of the 1840s. The war between the English and the Irish preceded that date by hundreds of years. Cahallan and his Irish fellows brought the war with them to America. In America they found the English and their customs had preceded them once again. They fought the English in Ireland, the Ould Sod, as opposed to the New Island. Irish rebels retreated to the United States when it became too hot for them in Ireland. American money and men flowed across the water to finance and man the rebellion.
In New York during the eighteen forties and fifties the Irish seized the government of New York City from the Anglos. The Irish claimed bigotry when the Anglos of the Native American Party protested the Irish appropriation of the police department, their seizure of Tammany Hall. But then defamation is the way battles are fought against the Anglos in the New Secular Order.
Fresh from the militry experiences of the War Between The States, the Irishers organized a military invasion of Canada from the United States in a wild hope of separating that nation from the British Commonwealth.
The 1920s were to bring them joy on the one hand when the Irish Free State was proclaimed, crowning the efforts of hundreds of years; on the other hand they were plunged into despair by the triumph of Communism in Russia.
The Irish were and are truly Catholic. They cherished their Catholicism all the more as the English were Protestants. Communism- atheistic Communism- was the avowed foe of the Mother Church. The Irish were therefore anti-Communistic on the one count of their Catholicity and on the second count because of their Americanism.
The Church was engaged in a world wide or international battle against Communism. The Church fathers believed that their intransigence toward workingman’s unions had lost them the faithful of Europe during the nineteenth century. The Church now faced the intransigent and powerful foe in control of European soil. They were determined not to lose the battle in the New World.
Radio became an important cultural force in the 1920s. With the rise of radio rose the Radio Priest, Father Coughlin. Coughlin broadcast from just down south of Detroit. Detroit was a hotbed of Communism in the United States. The Irishman, Father Coughlin carried the banner of the Holy Mother Church against the infidel hosts. The Papacy, as every Protestant has always feared, was attempting to direct affairs in America. The Radio Priest was fiercely anti-Communist.
As an anti-Communist he locked horns with another immigrant group that was just as fiercely pro-Communist. Their size was only a small fraction of the Catholic population but they were well organized and single minded. Too, they bore an inveterate hatred of Catholicism learned in the old countries they had just vacated. The Radio Priest could have castigated Communists till the cows came home and Americans wouldn’t have cared. But the Jews, who were pro-Communist, forced the Radio Priest to make adverse comments about them as the impelling force behind Communism.
Communist baiting was alright but Jew baiting wasn’t. No apatering les Juifs. Bourgeoisie yes, Juifs no. Communism was not a recognized religion. Thus the Jews protected Communism through their own immunity to criticism. ‘Bigotry’ cannot be condoned in a multi-cultural State. The Jews got the Radio Priest off the air while thoroughly discrediting him.
At about the same time the House Un-American Activities Committee was established. The original notion of HUAC was contributed by the Jews in 1934 in the wake of Hitler’s election to the Chancellorship of Germany in 1933. The notion of HUAC was part of the international Jewish fight against the Nazi Party, which fight had been in progress for years already before 1933. Already by 1938 anti-Semitism had been made against the law in France and had almost succeeded in Switzerland. The purpose of the House Un-American Activities Committee according to the needs of the Jews was to root out anti-Semitism in America, in other words, make it illegal, to establish Judaism as a protected State religion. By 1938 they had succeeded in establishing the Committee, but failed to obtain the chairmanship. HUAC then turned not only against their bete noir, the Fascists, but also against their favorite, the Communists, which is to say in so many words, the Jews.
Father Coughlin had been driven from the air but the Irish Catholics had not given up, they returned to the charge at the head of HUAC. The Committee languished during the Wars but sprang back to life as hostilities ceased. An Irish Catholic, J. Parnell Thomas, secured the chairmanship. Thomas did not conduct himself along the lines of Anglo-American tradition, with which indeed, he was in little sympathy and had little understanding, but more along the lines of Rebel Irish and Catholic inquisitorial methods. Thus the ‘American inquisition’ acquired its name from Irish Catholic torchbearers.
Thomas tore after the Communists of Hollywood, which is to say his indictments were preponderantly Jews. The Radio Priest had already come to grief over Communism; Parnell Thomas was to be no exception. Within a couple years he was out of office and in prison. In America defamation is the best weapon.
The Church could not rest with their enemy in the field. Shortly, a few months hence, a new knight would enter the lists for the Holy Mother Church who cast a spell over America for decades- Joe McCarthy.
The Church was not concerned with my boxing with John Cahallan. The bout was merely a symbol in the minds of the Sokolskys and Hirshes of vengeance on the ‘injustices’ perpetrated by Anglo-Americans on the immigrants. For David Hirsh had not only suggested the bout but he and Michael were there. As I had my gloves laced tightly on the Hirshes took places behind the kitchen window where they could see clearly into the Sokolsky’s backyard but could not be seen behind the screens.
I knew I was being set up; but I couldn’t devise a way out. Some girls who I didn’t know, or couldn’t remember, had shown up and now stood waiting in gleeful anticipation. The other Scouts could barely suppress their grins, in fact, they didn’t. As Mrs. Solkolsky was carefully tightening the strings I told her again that I knew how these bouts were fixed. I asked her again point blank not to lie, not to betray my trust in her. She had the integrity of a snail.
Reluctant as I was, based on her assurance, I went ahead in good faith. We were blindfolded, or I was, and I was spun around several times. I had no idea where my opponent was. I struck out several times, in the hopes of finding him to the merriment of all. Then the blows started landing on me thick, fast and hard. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I had been betrayed; that Mrs. Sokolsky was a liar. Mrs. Miller should have extended her condemnation of men as liars, sneaks, cheats and thieves to have included her own sex as well.
I cried out that I knew. I told them to stop. Cahallan redoubled his efforts; the laughter went from shrieks to gales. I tried to get the blindfold off but they had put it on too tight. Boxing gloves have no fingers and the thumbs are useless for gripping. They laughed and laughed and laughed while Cahallan pommeled me as fast and furious as he could.
The gloves were laced so tightly I couldn’t shake them off. Mrs. Sokolsky had acted in cold blooded, determined premeditation. Finally in desperation, I placed a glove between my knees and tore my hand out of it, taking the blindfold off in the same motion. I took out after Cahallan who, now that my blindfold was off, lost his taste for battle and backpedaled guiltily trying to avoid my blows.
Mrs. Sokolsky grabbed me from behind. I was thrown down on the ground as the other scouts piled on to hold me down. David and Michael Hirsh had enjoyed the scene so much they were actually rolling on the kitchen floor in laughter.
Mrs. Sokolsky was saying: ‘Now listen, Far, now just listen. It was all just a joke. Listen, now calm down. It was just a joke. It could have been played on anyone.’
‘No, it wasn’t a joke, it was a lie.’ I yelled back. ‘It was a dirty trick and you’re a dirty, dirty liar, Mrs. Sokolsky.’
When I called her a dirty liar she recoiled a few steps as the truth of her actions slapped her face. The consequences of her affirmations hit her. She was a dirty, dirty liar. Shame overwhelmed the other scouts too. As Mrs. Sokolsky reeled back they relaxed their holds on me and sat back. Cahallan quickly took off his gloves and threw them behind a bush. He pushed his guilty hands in his pockets while pretending to study the peeling paint on the garage.
‘No, it wasn’t a joke. It was a dirty trick. I told you what you were going to do Mrs. Sokolsky and you denied it. You swore on your Holiest of Holies you weren’t going to do it and you lied. You all lied. You’re all going to rot in hell as dirty liars.’
I turned and fled through the back gate calling out: ‘Dirty liars.’ over my shoulder one more time. So they were; so they acknowledged themselves to be with deep shame. In the scenario of the event that they had devised, because of the tight blindfold which couldn’t be removed with the gloves on and the fact that they had tied the gloves on so securely that it was only with difficulty that I was able to tear my hand out with considerable violence, I was to be so defenseless that I would be driven to my knees, shoving my head in the dirt while covering it with the gloves begging for mercy, abasing mayself beneath the continuous pommeling. I would be what they had known all along, a dirty sniveling coward.
For this was the way the immigrants perceived their entry into the United States. The symbolism involved depicted the misery that they, or rather their parents felt and transmitted to them. This is not to say they were conscious of their intent; rather the idea flowed from suppressed wellsprings of discontent. The form of the revenge merely reflected the substance of their imagined injury. In their subconscious the great Anglo-American bully had been paid back in kind.
These were not subtle people; these were common men; they had not thought through the possible reactions. As the sons and daughters of serfs and peasants they could have no alternative but to return to the scene of their abasement. They thought that I would return the next week to the next meeting. Unaware of the seriousness of their offence to me they thought to assuage their own now apparent guilt by being extra-special nice to me for the duration of the meeting…most of it…the first few minutes…well, their greeting at the door…possibly.
For my part I was absolutely destroyed. All the fantasies I had entertained at the Home of beginning live anew were dashed. What they had done to me was something they would only have done to someone toward whom they had the deepest contempt. Had they triumphed and I had returned, I would have been reduced to mere beggary. I would have been suffered only on bare tolerance. David Hirsh had known this; it had been his plan. He went away deeply disappointed. He felt himself failed again.
The following week Mrs. Sokolsky and the scouts had intentionally prepared themselves to greet me. When I didn’t appear their guilt was profoundly deepened. They began to prepare defensive measures, for they feared that I would expose them, or in their terms, defame them. Consequently Mrs. Sokolsky telephoned Mrs. Warden to ask why I was not in attendance. Of course as I could expect no support from the Wardens I hadn’t even bothered to tell them about the incident. Mrs. Sokolsky was quite relieved to hear that Mrs. Warden knew nothing. Mrs. Warden promised to learn why I was not in attendance.
I expected nothing from the Wardens so I just told her I didn’t want to be a Cub Scout. Mrs. Sokolsky, in possession of the information, took further steps to protect herself. She and the scouts and the girls then slandered me so as to get their story first before the interested public. As an outsider I had no one to tell, nor would I have anyway as I considered the matter closed by quitting the troop. I was unaware that I had been defamed or that people who knew or didn’t know me had formed an adverse opinion of me.
Though they had sought to protect themselves, their actions only added to their shame and guilt which continued to gnaw at them demanding expiation.
As the incident of the cub scouts had been a result of the trip to Reuchlin Park so a reaction was set off in the mind of Jack Warden. Warden was of that type, which is the most common, that seeks to impose their fantasy of life on reality. In all cases it is an ill-fitting match, the two views seldom go together. If one is fortunate enough to get a match for a brief while, reality ever changing, slips beneath the fantasy leaving it merely a monument to vanity.
Thus Warden made no attempt to understand me or the environment from which I came and compare it with his own. He simply attempted to impose his fantasy on me and my own vision of reality. He was not sprung from noble stock, his ancestry was in no way related to Richard Couer De Lion. He had only a romantic attachment to that king. His sons were not patricians; they bore no resemblance to Lancelot or Percival. I was not Sir Gareth of Orkney.
The only element of his vision of himself that he was prepared to alter was my status in his vision. He had been sorely disappointed in my performance at Reuchlin Park. He considered, he put his two broad fingers at the side of his nose and flicked them against his skin. He made a decision firmly as a man of imagined royal lineage should.
One morning not long after my sledding adventure I was ordered into Skippy’s presence early in the morning. It was demanded of me that I stand and watch him dress. Skippy fixed a disparaging eye on me from the front while his father stood arms folded behind me harrumphing.’ Skippy doffed his pyjamas. As I stood at attention, as it were, he pulled on his shorts. God, what an odious memory to carry through life, would that there were some psychic blotter to remove such mental oppression. Skippy stood looking down at me with a perverse leer on his face that metaphosed into a perverted grin as the waistband caught under his penis and flipped it up. He stretched the waistband out releasing his thumbs. The waist band hit his stomach with a snap.
Jack Warden harumphed a scoff behind me as if to say that I could never be such a man. Warden was such a jerk.
Skippy continued. He put on his shirt, studying me with a contemptuous air while he slowly buttoned each button patting it against his body as he did so. He grabbed his pants thrusting in his legs one at a time. I noted that was the identical way I put on my pants. He buttoned the top button; then turning full face with his mouth gaping in a lascivious leer he snapped the zipper shut in my face in a quick move of satisfaction. He and his father walked away laughing, he buckling his belt, his father patting him on the back appreciatively.
‘You’re quite a young man, Skip, my son, you’re quite a young man.’ He looked back at me with contempt.
This incident coupled with the subsequent boxing match dispirited me a lot. Still, I was growing; my capacity for understanding was increasing. I was able to devleop some defensive measures although they were weakly defensive contributing to eccentricity rather than strength.
By the time I reached the sixth grade I had succeeded to some extent to reconcile the Children’s Home mentality with middle class mores. I did rise to the Challenge. I was not wanted in the first reading and arithmetic classes by the students. I quickly perceived that the teacher, a Mrs. McMahon, spent most of her time with the first class, less with the second class and virtually none with the remainder of the students. Their performance was commensurate. They were left behind. I also noticed that the first class contained only the affluent children of the class, those of privileged families while the members of the second class came from less affluent homes while the remainder came from homes where the parents had no status at all. I spent the first half of the year alternating between the first and second groups. The students in the first group refused me admission but I practiced and persisted. I petitioned Mrs. McMahon for admission into the first group with such force that she could hardly refuse. The others still refused to permit me among them so I was compelled to sit behind them all as a member of the second class but a participant in th first class. Still I succeeded in partaking of the most and best instruction.
Jack Warden had acquired me to shore up his fading fantasy. He could be powerful against the helpless. He was becoming increasingly helpless against the the more powerful forces of his own life. I hadn’t been in the household for more than a month before I realized who Warden was and his relationship to his world. His career was over; he would never be promoted. He was seen somewhat as a blowhard in the neighborhood. Amongst people who were all putting on airs he was seen as putting on airs. No one accepted him at even an approximation of his own valuation.
His insistence on his descent from Richard Couer de Lion had subjected him to ridicule. As a result, just as Skippy snapped his fly shut in my face, Big Ben Webster was about to do the equivalent to Jack Warden.
Big Ben was the father of Beverly Webster, the father-in-law of David Hirsh. Big Ben was the patriarch of the Webster-Hirsh family. He owned the coalyards that were called Webster’s. Big Ben was the big man in town. Had he been a little more intelligent he might have made the town his own. As it was he was forced to share dominance with two or three other families. Still, he considered himself the lord of the manor.
In the way that people are known in small cities, Jack Warden had his place in the pecking order. His family had been in town as long as anyone could remember. His father had had a decent reputation. Warden’s place would ordinarily have been in about the eighty-second percentile, weighted average. But he had been indiscreet while younger in asserting primacy because of his supposititious relation to Richard Couer de Lion. He had been entirely too vocal about it, hence he had called ridicule down on himself. Had his competence been equal to his claims he might have overridden the scorn, but Jack Warden’s talents were sadly lacking in conspicuity.
People now took a certain delight in baiting him. He had found his way to Big Ben’s list; Webster got a good laugh tormenting him. Thus all Warden’s coal deliveries were made troublesome for him. Big Ben always humiliated him in some way.
In those days when coal was the universal fuel, Big Ben with his monopoly called all the shots. At that time the coalyards were full from August to February. They were allowed to deplete during the late winter, spring and early summer. The rail cars started arriving in late July to begin another season. Ben extended a discount to those who bought in August. Jack Warden prided himself on his farsightedness and economy. He had a standing order of August 1. Somehow Big Ben always forgot to give him his discount; Warden’s delivery invariably was billed at full price.
Nor would Ben refund his money or give him a credit easily. Warden had to work for a couple months to get an acknowledgment. Even then Ben wouldn’t give him a refund, only a credit. ‘You’re going to buy another ton later in the year aren’t you Warden?’ So the game was played out every year. Ben tickled himself at Warden’s torment; Warden simple enough to believe that he had triumphed yet again.
Ben caused Warden no end of irritation. Other little problems twitched at the back of Jack’s mind. Jack’s mind was always anxious and sullen on coal delivery days. He believed that Ben shortweighted him. Ben did. Ben couldn’t help himself, he was just that way. With everybody. The coal industry was founded on shortweighting. Miners at the minehead had to deliver twenty-six hundred pounds of coal to be paid for mining a ton. While the coal was in transit hoboes in the jungles stole coals from the cars for their fires. Ben himself was shorted a hundred pounds to the ton. A wise man he said nothing and incorporated the shortage in his pricing.
You didn’t take advantage of Ben; if some wiseguy tried to nick him for more than the customary he would say something, but his reputation in the industry as a tough customer and a right guy protected him. Not only did Ben have the walk, the talk and the right gestures, he knew what a tight rope act was; he walked the wire and never fell off.
Ben never gave full weight except to some few families who could punish him in return. Jack Warden couldn’t punish Ben; Warden was always shorted a hundred weight by Ben.
The delivery men took another fifty to one hundred pounds. One of the advantages of working for Ben was that you got your coal free. Ben didn’t give it to them but they got it free anyway. Except since the introduction of the unions Ben had hired immigrants to whom he paid as little as possible. Ben thought of himself as clever, or perhaps a better word might be knowing.
He had always hired men of as many different nationalities as possible. They couldn’t talk to him but they couldn’t talk to each other either. He hired Anglo-Americans to indicate an amount more or less. The Anglos also communicated with his customers. The system had begun to break down with the cessation of immigration. The unions had brought it to an end but the system lived on in Ben’s mind.
The system was also remembered by his employees who maintained a lingering resentment. Since the Wars they had taken to sabotaging the company in earnest. They also resented their situation in relation to Ben as well as their situation relative to the prosperous people they served. In dealing with Ben and his employees coal deliveries could be traumatic. They usually were.
Thus short deliveries were the norm. Warden knew he was being shortweighted; everyone knew they were being shortweighted. They had no scales to prove it. And as Big Ben Webster combatively put it: ‘What are they going to do about it? Go without coal?’ That had, indeed, been the alternative.
For me the coal delivery was great excitement; it was fun. I was out front waiting for the truck to arrive. It was a clear hot August day with the humidity in the nineties. The air was still; the trees stood like statues; there was no movement or mumur of the leaves. Geli’s bank of flower’s wound around the porch to the edge of the house at which was located the coal chute.
The Warden’s coal room was against the front foundation of the house. There were no windows in it in order to prevent the theft of coals by less provident neighbors.
I saw the truck rumbling up the street. The cabin sat high above the road on huge rubber tires. The bed of the dump truck was awe inspiring to my young inexperienced eyes. The truck carried four tons, metal dividers separated the tons into compartments. Ours was the first delivery so the truck was fully loaded.
The driver was as skillful as he wanted to be. If he liked you he did his job as neatly as he could; if he didn’t he did you as much spite as possible. It was possible to do a great deal of spite. The gleam of spite was prominent in the driver’s eye as his assistant watching the addresses pointed out the house on the corner.
The mighty vehicle ground to a stop across the intersection while the driver studied the layout. It would have been a simple matter to have turned the corner and backed into the driveway. The driver laughed as he eased the truck around the corner and began backing up. He didn’t try for the driveway. Backing abreast of the coal chute he brought the black leviathan over the curb across the little stretch of grass between the curb and the sidewalk leaving deep ruts in Warden’s lawn while cracking the sidewalk. With the engine still running, belching scorching clouds of vapor into the hot August air, he and his helper said: “Damn. Sorry about that.’ The driver grinned at Geli Warden. His helper released the bed and directed the driver back a few more feet over the driveway and signaled the driver to raise the bed. All of a sudden Geli realized the drift, raising her hands before her she shouted in a panic: ‘No. No. Wait. Wait.’
The waiting was over, the coal slid out the back into her flower bed against the porch. The driver hadn’t even tried for the chute. They hadn’t even dumped the coal in the driveway against the chute. they had destroyed her flower bed. The assistant looked at her with a wry smile and repeated: ‘Oh, damn.’ The driver shoved a pencil and delivery receipt at her as he arched spit into the heap. ‘Sigh here.’ He said with a suppressed chuckle. Geli signed numbly, hardly aware of what she was doing.
The driver leaped into the cab and lowered the bed. The helper secured the bed and gave a taunting look at Mrs. Warden as he secured the back gate. the truck bounced over the curb widening the ruts in the lawn. Even over the roar of the engine, the clank of the body, I couold hear the two laughing uproariously. I never have liked slapstick.
Geli Warden very nearly had tears in her eyes as she surveyed the damage to her flowers. I stood looking alternately at the flowers and the departing truck. I thought it was pretty chicken of those guys to do that to a woman. It would have shown something, but not much, to do that to Jack Warden while his two sons were standing around, but Geli Warden had no defense against two sinister looking swarthy men. Not that being swarthy was bad but Geli Warden had found swarthy men more fearsom than fair ones. Besides, modern sensitivity to the word ‘swarthy’ was not yet so prominent. If the actual truth were known, yes, it’s true, Geli Warden was prejudiced against Greeks and Italians. Not that she was spiteful to them, or to anyone, but their culture was different from hers. To be different was to be inferior, or at least to be beneath consideration. The Greeks and Italians thought the same of her. After all, they had dumped the coal on her flowers to do her spite. They had proven to her that she was right; they weren’t decent men.
She was beside herself in grief at the loss of the her flowers. When Jack Warden came home he was beside himself with rage. Not only had Webster’s people destroyed his flowers and left him with the daunting task of shoveling a ton, or rather, eighteen hundred pounds, of coal down his coal chute but Webster had sold him nothing but dust and crushed bits left at the bottom of the bins when the big chunks had been shoveled out. Big Ben had done him again. Ah, life’s little pleasures and frustrations.
His mind was a turmoil of chagrin and loathing as he and Skippy and Cappy shoveled the coal dust down the chute. He stormed and fumed seaching for an alternative to get out from under the dominination of the Big Fella. He could have gone to oil but oil was smelly and dirty. But as he stood up in the heat and terrific humidity and wiped a black stripe across the sweat of his brow he looked down Froide and saw the casings of the gas line snaking up the street toward him. He stared while a glimmer of recognition of deliverance flickered across the top of his brain like an itch.
It wouldn’t be long before he could connect up. By God, he decided he didn’t care what the cost was or if he had to borrow money to do it, he was going to connect up. So was everyone else. Apart from ridding themselves of dependence on Big Ben Webster there were solid advantages.
With coal the fire had to be banked at night so it wouldn’t burn out. Then in the morning in what were often sub-zero temperatures it had to be stoked up. It might be an hour before the house warmed up; then it was either too hot or not warm enough. Every couple of hours you had to go down and shovel more coal on the fire. Then, once again it was too hot until the coals burned down some. The temperature couldn’t be controlled. With gas the thermostat kept the temperature even. When you got up in the morning you simply moved the lever to the desired temperature. The house was warm immediately. The delivery was metered. Big Ben and his offensive drivers were a memory.
Warden thought of this but as he shoveled another thought obtruded into his image of resentment and hope. He might not have to endure this particular humiliation at the hands of Ben. He looked down the street at the casements laying on the ground. He set the shovel before him and leaned on the handle looking down the street as though into the future. This was only August, cold weather wouldn’t set in until November. August, September, October. They might very well have gas to him by fall. If not, if necessary, what with this delivery and his reserves he could probably make do over one winter without Big Ben. He decided to challenge the Big Fella, to clear his gut of anxiety and resentment, to give ease to his heart.
He called Ben up on the phone. Complained to him about the quality of the delivery. He explained that he didn’t want to pay full price for inferior coal, Ben had a reputation to keep up. Ben stifled a laugh, said there wasn’t anything he could do for Warden, take it or leave it. Ben was astonished by Warden’s answer. Warden said to come and get the stuff. the enormity of his gas problem began to sink into Ben. The Big Guy knew he was wrong in charging full price for the dust. He knew a third party would judge against him if it came to that. He did the gracious thing. He offered to eat his profit. Jack Warden thought that meant a fifty percent reduction to which he assented. Ben then explained to him that no, that meant ten percent, his net profit, after taxes of course.
Warden was flabbergasted. He said nonsense. Come and pick up your coal. Ben didn’t want to pick up that dust so he consented to fifty percent. That was no longer good enough for the Duke. He said he wouldn’t even keep it at twenty-five percent of the billing. Ben blinked and said alright he could have it at twenty-five percent. Jack Warden accepted with alacrity. He had won. The first round. He sent Skippy to Ben’s office the next day with payment to seal the bargain.
I learned from that confrontation that manhood had nothing to do with innate qualities, it had to do with who had who by the short hairs. When Ben had had the upper hand he treated Warden with contempt, but now that Warden had the leverage Ben had done as he was bidden. The Duke was very happy with himself. After many years of humiliation he’d gotten Webster. If necessary, with his reserve and his fresh delivery he could economise his way through th winter while switching to gas late in late winter or early spring. He’d foxed the fox.
But the fox was not so complacent. He wouldn’t have minded giving up fifty percent which still left him a slight margin but he considered that Warden had stolen the other twenty-five percent from him. He wanted it back. He had a dirty deed he wanted done dirt cheap.
Anyone who can strikes but conceals his hand. Whenever possible commit the crime but direct other peoples’ attention to the innocent party. Ben had done this many times before. He didn’t need a plan or a blueprint. He called ‘Whoa Tom’, the fellow who had officered the incident in the barber shop and at the fence of the Home and explained his needs. Whoa Tom understood and undertook the deed.
A few days later Warden walked out of the plant at closing time carrying his brown paper paper lunch bag under his arm. As he approached his car he noticed a bash in his front door. He raised his hands to his hips in consternation as his brown bag fell to the cement. ‘What the hell?’ He ejaculated.
A couple of Whoa Tom’s thug’s were standing by to get Warden’s reaction and relay it to Ben who was too busy to park unobtrusively in the vicinity to get it himself.
‘O, hey, fella, that’s too bad. We seen it happen. Feller, George Hocher, swinged open his door and banged it up. Just got in his car and drove away like nothing happened. Didn’t leave a note on your windshield nor nothing.’
‘Hocher, huh?’ Warden said casting them a contemptuous disbelieving look.
‘Yeh, Hocher. We seen him do it, didn’t we Jack?’ He said to his companion ‘Not more’n half an hour ago.’
Jack Warden didn’t believe it. Hocher worked in accounting with him. Hocker was a precise, maybe even precious, individual. Hocher didn’t bang up other people’s things, accidentally or on purpose. Warden would check Hocher’s car on the morrow and his door wouldn’t show any damage.
Warden knew that Ben did it. He knew Ben was trying to pass the buck to Hocher. Jack didn’t know why Ben was after Hocher but he knew Ben was trying to use him as a dupe or foil to take out vengeance for himself in Jack’s own name. Ben could then sit back and chuckle as the two fought it out.
Ben had underestimated Warden’s perspicacity. Jack knew his Arthur backwards and forewards. Ben could only intuitively act out his. Warden had read it eight times. One might almost say that the was always in the process of reading it. He knew all the little deceptions; the rings that changed colors, carrying someone elses shield to disguise oneself, someone giving you a ‘better’ shield before a joust so one would be mistaken for someone else. Jack was armed and guarded.
He knew Ben would strike back; he just didn’t know where or when the blow would fall. So this was it; Ben would damage something of his so that the expense would be as great or greater than the cost of the coal. Warden didn’t know what to do next. He was cut off from retaliating against Ben because, if found out, he would appear to be the aggressor. Ben hadn’t atually done anything to him that anyone else could see.
He did talk with a certain amount of bitterness about it that night at dinner. We all listened with sympathy but Skippy gave a little nod of the head as he listened and ate that left me with the impression that Skippy would mete out justice for the Duke.
Skippy was almost sixteen. He was what is euphemistically styled ‘high spirited.’ In other words he walked a line between immorality and criminality. Like the knights of Arthur’s court if he needed a horse he didn’t mind knocking the unwary off theirs and appropriating it. ‘Methinks I need thy horse, Sir Knight.’ was explanation enough for Skip.
Among his friends were a couple of tough late seventeen year olds. They used to come over and spend evenings discussing desperadoes and famous criminals. Skip and these guys weren’t exact scholars but they knew all the names and most of the legends, even if they didn’t always get them right.
These guys would come over, Skip would shut the upstairs door with his Do Not Disturb sign on it as a warning to his mother and father and these guys would get into it. Cap and I sat respectfully listening as we were too young and dumb to participate. The only things I knew came from the G-Men, T-Men, Revenuer, This Is The FBI comic books that Cappy and Skippy had by the hundreds. The period was the golden age of comics. At ten cents each both kids spent at least a dollar a month. Just like the library at the Home, I had acess to all the comics. Plastic Man, Captain Marvel, the Heap, Green Lantern and Green Hornet, the Blackhawks, the Daredevil, Skippy and Cappy bought them all. Tales From The Crypt.
Skip and these guys read books and magazines too. TV didn’t hurt the movies at all but it wiped out publishing. Hundreds of magazines became obsolete. The entire pulp genre disappeared. All the Western story magazines that Skippy had by the dozens. Skip had all the men’s magazines before men’s magazines became synonymous with porn and pictures of nudes. These magazines were endlessly telling of the adventures of Johnny Ringo, Singular Smith, Bonney, the Youngers, the Daltons, Frank and Jesse James, Butch and the Kid through Bonnie and Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd, Dillinger. Skip and his friends could talk all the Western Badmen. Tales of the Texas Rangers, Riders Of The Purple Sage.
Their interests also ran to the immigrant Jewish and Italian gangs of the East from New York to Chicago including one in Minneapolis. They could discuss, with a very knowing manner Monk Eastman, Dopey Bennie Fein, Arnold Rothstein, Lepke and Gurrah, some guy named Johnny Torrio, Lucky Luciano. They even knew Luciano’s real name. His first name was Chuck. I forget his real last name. They knew tales of the Purple Gang in Detroit, the Mayfield Road Gang in Cleveland. Of course they could go on for hours about Capone. See, the imprtant thing there was that the Jewish gangs were important in all the Big Cities except Chicago. In Chicago it was the Irish and Italians. When Capone knocked off Dion O’Bannion that was the end of the Irish. But the Jews could never get a foothold in Chicago. Skip and these guys could speculate on that for hours.
They even went so far as to study the methods of Brooklyn, Inc. and Murder, Inc. Murder Incorporated was a hot topic at the time. Even the perverts around the Oprphanage used to talk about Lepke Buchalter and Gurrah. So Skippy and these guys already had the theoretical knowledge about casing the scene, plotting the hit and escaping. To this point they had only talked about these things but now Skip said: ‘We got to help the Duke.’ The other guys were ready. One look at Skip’s model airplanes would show you that he was a very meticulous guy who paid attention to detail.
He even made a model of the streets around Ben’s coalyard so that every step would be imprinted in their minds. Then, just like Murder, Inc. they drove over the route several times. Skip thought they were ready.
About two-thirty that night they went and hot wired a car they had picked out in a driveway. They drove it into an alley to take off the license plate, then cruised on over to the coalyard. There was a night watchman to look after Ben’s coal. First they came up behind the yard to drop off a guy who was to make noises like he was stealing coal to get the watchman to run down to the backend of the yard. Then they drove slowly round to the front. When they saw the watchman run for the back of the lot they pulled abreast of the gate and Ben’s office shack. One got out of the back seat to throw red paint, Skip had the idea that red stood for Stern Justice, all over Ben’s whitewashed gate. As he finished Skippy got out of the passenger’s seat and leveled a twelve gauge across the roof emptying both barrels through the windows of Ben’s shack.
The watchman caught flatfooted heard the shots but was in no hurry to get back to the front until he saw the dark blob of the car turn the corner. Skip and his confederates were cool. They didn’t peel out bur drove off slowly and majestically. They pulled into another alley put the plate back on and left the car in nearly the exact position as they found it. Skip considered it a good night’s work well done. He thought Brooklyn, Inc. would have given him a pat on the back.
The guy whose car they borrowed had no idea that it had been used. He couldn’t explain the ashtray full of cigarette butts that weren’t his brand so he accused his wife of infidelity. That one ended up in a divorce. Well, life is like that sometimes, isn’t it? If you can’t take the heat stay out of the kitchen.
At breakfast that morning Skip gave a smile to the Duke: ‘Hey, Dad, did you read in the paper where Webster’s coalyard got shot up last night?’ The Duke looked through the paper but couldn’t find it. Indeed, the paper had been put to bed before Skip shot up Ben’s shack. ‘Well, maybe I heard it on the radio.’ Skip said with a mischievous twinkle. ‘That radio hasn’t been on this morning.’ Geli retorted. The Duke gave Skip, who was quietly shaking with laughter, a sharp understanding look.
A slight look of alarm passed over his face. He said quietly: ‘The night has a thousand eyes, Skipper.’
‘Yeah, but the shadows are dark and deep. It takes sharp eyes to separate black from black.’ Skip snickered in self-appreciation.
Jack nodded an approving look and went back to reading the Free Press.
The shadows may indeed have been dark and deep. The hour had been in fact late but the night is argus eyed. They had been seen and identified but no one wanted to help Ben.
Ben stood surveying the damage without a clue as to which of his enemies might have done it. It never occurred to him to suspect Jack Warden. Ben thought his hand so well concealed in the damage to Warden’s car that Warden had no suspicions. Ben had no idea how transparent his deception had been. Thus the matter was closed in the minds of both parties.
It had cost Ben as much or more as though he had forgotten the discount he had had to give Warden. Still Ben could afford the extra cost much more than the Duke could so that in the exchange Big Ben would have to be accorded the winner.
I had watched the contest between Ben and the Wardens with interest because, as improbable as it may seem, I actually knew Big Ben Webster. Oh, we never shared a baloney sandwich or anything like that but still I knew him other than as one who has seen him from afar or as one knows a movie star seen on the silver screen. We had had an encounter.
We met at the very coalyard, down by the river, that Skippy and his friends shot up. Ben had his main yard plus several subsidiary yards distributed throughout the city. The main yard wasn’t probably as big as I remember it, yet it was an impressive affair. Ben had imbibed industrial cleanliness from Henry Ford. As Ford’s plants were spic and span, so incredibly was Ben’s coalyard. A white slat fence enclosed the yard; Ben kept it freshly whitewashed at all times. His little office shack was spotlessly white. The North side along which the rail spur ran, Ben’s own rail spur, the length was divided into several bins, much like the bins that lined the wall at Longfellow. Ben had guys out washing the slats after every delivery and on the inside every day after the last truck had been loaded. The yard was swept everyday so that no coals or dust littered the yard. On the South side was a huge hopper that scintillated in the sun. I couldn’t ever get to that side so I don’t know the purpose of the hopper. The yard was Ben’s little kingdom. It done him proud.
Delivery time was magic. A little four wheel switch engine huffed and puffed and chugged the gondolas back down the spur. The couplings clanked, the wheels ground and slid to a stop while the men shouted and clambered onto the coal to begin shoveling it down chutes into the bins. The noise, the bustle, the motion was magnificent. There was romance there enough to warm any boy’s heart. The hissing and blowing of the locomotive was the epitome of power; the activity of men and machines was the acme of activity. I loved it.
Big Ben stood outside the door of his shack surveying his kingdom with a soft glow of satisfaction adorning his face. The Big Fella was only five-six but he filled out his entire form. He was passing through his fifties into old age as the world wheeled through the nineteen forties. Five-six with a barrel chest that slipped into a big round stomach without a break. The fringe of hair on his balding head pointed up like Dagwood’s. Ben had a resonant baritone that didn’t require electrical amplification to be heard. Even with the steam engine roaring, the coal cars clanking, trucks coming and going, a dozen hands shoveling coal and the hopper discharging a load into a truck, Ben could be clearly heard anywhere in the yard from his ofice in the right front corner. He was a spectacle for eye and ear.
I can still hear Ben in that situation bellow at a loader he thought was slacking, or perhaps he did it just for practice: ‘Come on Sherman, get the lead out.’
Ben had a primitive quality of hyper-genetic masculinity. He was not educated beyond high school and had no, nor had he ever had, any intellectual interests. He despised the notion as so much ‘bushwa.’ I never really knew what ‘bushwa’ was but I imagine that it was derived from the word Bourgeois, which Ben and his ilk had never seen in print, or if they had they didn’t recognize it so their ear picked up the French pronunciation as bushwa and as they had no meaning for it they gave it one of their own as they picked up the deprecatory tone of the word. As they used the word it had a derogatory feel that Ben and his ilk feeling put into the phrase: ‘That’ so much bushwa.’
Ben inhabited a sphere where sane and insane were not specifically distinguishable. He lived in a world of pure masculine rage. Everything was a force sent against him to be destroyed. There was no love or hate involved, just a triple distilled primoridal need for possession, dominion or destruction. Like some ancient proto-human at the dawn of civilization in whom the intellect was already clear, old and sated, while the emotions were like a young wine straining to burst the bottle, was the way Ben dealt with the problems of life. The changing pulse of American civilization had subdued the expression of his passion since 1910, when to speak curtly to him was to have the hurricane of his wrath descend on your head.
I had come to his attention one day as I stood watching his operation with mouth agape. I had wandered over to that section of town to escape the Home. Chunks of coal lay outside Ben’s realm. The truck drivers jolted out of the yard as hard and fast as they could. The bounce over the sidewalk often dislodged chunks of coal from those piled high on the beds, that clattered unto the sidewalk and into the street. The slats of the fence were wide enough apart for chunks to fall through; also inevitably chunks fell off the gondolas or chutes. The people of the neighborhood thought these their rightful plunder, they thought that once the chunks were outside the coalyard they were public property. Ben, of course, was of a differing view. Thus adults didn’t dare face Ben’s wrath. They sent their little children.
The more improvident bought their coal by the bucket rather than the ton. Ben really appreciated these people because he could really sock them. They paid three times the going rate for a ton. When these kids walked up to the yard it was impossible to tell whether they were going to buy or pick up stray chunks. When they came in groups of three their intent was a giveaway, but still you couldn’t tell. Just to confuse the Big Feller they would sometimes buy. Most often they scooped up whatever chunks there were then ran off as Big Ben came bellowing up to the gate. Wow, what a voice.
I was leaning on the fence by the gate with my arms through the slats watching the activity in the yard. Ben was in his pose, the barrel of chest and stomach out, hands in pockets, legs spread wide when he broke pose and made a dash for the gate bellowing at a couple kids behind me. I looked back with a certain amount of interest; I wasn’t involved so I remained leaning unperturbed. The baby bull chased those two little runts away.
Ben must have been impressed because I hadn’t budged. But in the Orphanage days I believed that I had acquired certain rights when they placed us outside the law. I believed we had our own set of rules that they had to honor. I don’t know whether they accepted my view or not but as I had no parents to complain to I was generally left alone and ignored.
Ben sucked in a lungful of air and bellowed at me, and I mean bellowed; swear to God the sound roared past me in particles you could see and didn’t focus into intelligible words until several yards behind me. ‘Well, what are you doin’ standing there?’
My rights, which were clearly defined in my mind, were being violated. I yelled back, if it may be called yelling in comparison: ‘You can’t tell me what to do. I’m from the Children’s Home.’
My answer stunned him into silence. Perhaps the logic escaped him; nevertheless he calmed down and just said: ‘You can’t be takin’ them coals there, they’re mine and I don’t want no argument.’
‘I don’t need your stupid coals.’ I said. ‘We’ve got tons of them.’
He looked at me quietly, not at my clothes and shoes, but at me, my eyes, then he snorted and walked away blowing a fart at me as he turned. We noticed each other after that whenever I hung around the coalyard although we never spoke again.
Thus when Jack Warden cursed Ben, I knew who and what he was talking about.
At the time of the fight with Warden Big Ben’s troubles were beginning to take definite form. The relentless extension of the gas lines eroded Ben’s situation on a daily basis. After his family having been in the coal business for more than sixty years as the Valley grew and the business expanded, Ben was about to lose his place.
Ben had come to maturity in 1910. He had been born of New England Puritan stock through both grandparents. It was primarily for that reason that Solomon Hirsh so readily acceded to David’s choice of Beverly.
Ben’s grandfather had moved West just in time to take advantage of the Valley lumber boom. The area had previously been covered with white pine and swamps. There was a story that some folks told that I classed with the legendary snowstorms, but it was alleged that in the days when the Indians ruled the country from their birch bark canoes that it was possible during the spring floods to paddle your canoe from the arctic ocean over the Northwest, down the Ohio on to the Mississippi and into the Gulf of Mexico. Of course you had to cross the straits of Mackinac somewhere.
This was a very prevalent legend; the perverts along the fence of the Children’s Home debated it. I objected that the Indians would have to get out of their canoes somewhere to make a portage. I was told I was ingnorant of how slight a draught birch bark canoes drew; apparently they could be successfully paddled over wet grass. The notion was always improbable to me but, who knows, if the Indians had been told in 1800 that the Cuyahoga River would one day spontaneously burst into flames they would have laughed themselves silly; yet one day the Cuyahoga river did spontaneously burst into flames. I don’t know how you put a river out though.
When I was a child the canoe trip could no longer have been possible as the swamps had all been filled in; the River never overflowed its banks in the Valley.
A further legend I found it hard to credit was that the swamps had been filled in with the sawdust from the mills cutting the white pine. Whenever a chuckhole mysteriously appeared in the street some one would say that the sawdust underlying the dirt was rotting away. I pointed out that the houses never sank but I was waved away.
Nevertheless all the stands of white pine were cut and the swamps were filled in. There was no longer a lumber business in the Valley. Nothing daunted, Ben’s grandfather and father turned from lumber to coal. Ben’s grandfather and father started the coal business; Ben and his father consolidated it; Ben now was to find that he would have nothing to pass on to his son.
The economics of the coal business required a large base. Ben and his father had driven the other colliers out of business to establish their monopoly. Nor did they do so merely by being more competitive or minding their own business; they resorted to what is called ‘low cunning’ and dirty tricks. They had been aided by the Great Depression of the thirties which finished off their last competitor.
Ben had had the best of lives as a child and young man. The American Ben had grown up in had been an Anglo-Saxon America. The immigrants had been fodder for the mills and factories; human cattle to be used and discarded when broken and worn out. Ben had been raised to view them as human scum. Well, that’s not quite right. They just didn’t have enough human qualities to be part of humanity; they talked funny, dressed funny and would work for next to nothing.
Ben considered himself a member of the quality. The quality may be viewed as a sort of Arthurian knighthood. When the Cavaliers of Virginia, who were second sons of the English nobility, arrived here they found it difficult to give up the ideas that they were inherently better than the rest of humanity. So they devised the notion of the quality and the equality. The quality represented all the virtues of humanity while the equality represented the vices. Thus as soon as an American made a little money he considered himself the equivalent of an English duke. If he made a lot of money his daughter might actually marry an English duke. Thus, in a sense, knighthood has always been in flower in the United States.
Ben, ignorant as he was, thus considered himself a prince among men. He despised not only the immigrants but Americans who were common laborers. He accorded a grudging respect to college professors, lawyers and doctors, and skilled persons and skilled laborers in general but only if they acknowledged his superior manhood. Manhood was no joke to Ben.
The years from 1910 to 1915 were the halcyon years of Ben’s life. He had been the cock of the walk. No one or no thing stood in his way. The yards made money, the immigrants worked cheap, Ben’s superiority was manifest. The Great War was troubling. Political events took a sour turn when the war ended. The glorious prosperity of the New Era ushered in by the twenties obscured Ben’s increasing malaise.
Ben plunged into the great stock market rise of the twenties. In the delirium of that great bull market Ben realized the Capitalist’s dream. The rise proved what American businessmen have always said: All Americans could be millionaires. There was no reason to upset the apple cart with all that union crap they would just spoil things; invest in the market and be rich like them. Their genius was providing wealth for all. Up to a point.
It wasn’t a bad dream, but it was a dream. In October of ’29 Ben was looking at a mountain of debt and a molehill of assets. He didn’t lose his nerve, somehow he got credit arranged to allow him to keep his firm assets. The thirties conspired with him to remove his final competitor. Ben had what he had always sought, a monopoly.
Ben didn’t accumulate money during the thirties. His debt load and the growing expense of maintaining and educating his maturing family prevented his saving much. It was only in 1946 that his losses from 1929 had been liquidated.
The years after ’29 had presented small opportunity for accumulating riches. Property values were stable, interest rates were low and few were willing to trust the stock market again. As the imminent loss of his business approached now Ben had money in the bank but not as much as everyone thought he had. Ben viewed the future with trepidation. Money was not the worst of his problems; he really feared the loss of his status. Dread of the future was beginning to give him anxiety attacks. He had chest pains; it was his mind, Lord, not his heart. He was foolish enough to talk about it to family and associates.
Ben’s persnoal affairs were cause enough for anxiety; adding to his woes was the apparent danger to his country. Ben had never been fully aware of it but his lifetime had been one of fantastic evolution in politics. The immigrants he so despised had unobtrusively been pulling the ground out from under his feet. The addition of all those millions had been altering the demographic complexion of his dream. He and his kind were about to realize the toppling of that dream.
Ben didn’t recognize the fallacy of the Old Guard’s immigration policy until that watershed year of 1920. One shortsight of the Old Guard was that American was a land of unlimited physical resources; like a boy with a quarter in a penny candy shop they saw no limit to fulfilling their desires to the end of time. They raped and plundered the continent; waste was endemic. In 1920 Henry Ford stood the lone industrial sentinel proclaiming conservation of resources. His fellows proclaimed him eccentric.
Because the Old Guard saw the land as one of unlimited riches they thought it could support an unlimited population. Because they wanted an unlimited amount of lucre they encouraged immigration to provide more hands to rip it out of the earth that much faster. Modern lighting enabled them to get at it twenty-four hours a day.
They foresaw no social problems because, as they saw it, as soon as an immigrant set foot on American soil he became a ‘new’ man. An American with American mores who had miraculously shed his national antecedents. As the social evils piled up some few voices were raised calling for a reappraisal of immigration policy. Some efforts were made to limit immigration but the Old Guard only came face to fact with the problem with America’s entry into the Great War. It was at that time the issue of hyphenated Americans became a problem.
The Old Guard assumed that the East and South European peoples had imbibed Old Guard attitudes and prejudices, wasn’t that what ‘new’ man meant? The Old Guard was pro English and French in its Great War attitude. Their notion of solidarity with the immigrants was shattered when they found strong sentiment in favor of the Central Powers among them. The Irish, German-Americans and the Austro-Americans tended to side with the Central Powers. The Jews were reluctuant to cooperate with the Allies because of the inclusion of Czarist Russia in the alliance. Suddenly America seemed to the Old Guard as little more than an international boarding house. The loyalty of the immigrants was no longer assumed. The immigrants hadn’t become ‘new’ men at all. They were the same as they had ever been, only richer by America. The Old Guard thought their generosity had been betrayed; actually it was only that they had a faulty belief system; they hadn’t thought things out properly.
A crash Americanization program was begun. The Old Guard frantically tried to instill their beliefs into the immigrants. Once again Henry Ford had preceded them; he had been patiently trying to educate immigrants to American mores for several years. Once again he had been ridiculed for his foresight.
Just as the Old Guard was in the midst of its Americanization program the fatal blow struck; the Red Revolution was successful in Russia. The efforts of the previous seventy years were bearing fruit. the French Revolution, then the European Revolution had become the World Revolution. The Reds said they would not stop at Russia but would revolutionize the world in their own brutal image. They were serious about it too. This was no joke.
Needless to say Ben became, or had always been what was known as a 100% American. The reaction was worldwide. In opposition to the Red Revolution 100% Europeans were known as Fascists. the Western world was divided along the lines of us and them. Modern Times had arrived with a vengeance. Ben had never taken the time to investigate the Reds although like the rest of the Old Guard he knew they were dangerous and opposed to everything he believed in. The Reds first gained a foothold in America through the immigrants who left Europe in the wake of the predecessor of the Russian Revolutions, the abortive revolutionary attempt made in 1848. Anarchists and Socialists had flooded into the United States. By the time Ben was old enough to notice things, anarchism had ceased to be a political force although the tradition lived on in other movements. To the Old Guard the anarchists wielding bomb and pistol had been the spearhead of the movements. The great events; the Chicago Fire, the Haymarket Riot, the Homestead Steel strike were recent history for Ben. These events lived on at the dinner table and the country club.
Ben chose sides and chose the right side, the Old Guard side. It had never been proven that the anarchists had started the Great Chicago fire but Ben took from his elders that it could hardly have been coincidence that the fire just happened to start and rage while a fierce North wind drove the flames furiously East and South over the entire city. Maybe so, I’m sure I don’t know, but Ben thought he did and so did everyone he knew. It was an unrelated but undeniable fact that an anarchist had shot President McKinley. Somehow one proved the other for Ben and his people.
Not only that, but the Reds were always agitating for labor unions. Plus during their parades behind Red flags, just the American flag wasn’t good enough for them, they wore little American flag pins upside down in their lapels. Plus…well, there were a lot of plusses. Ben had his reasons, some good, some not so good, but all supporting the right side. Overall Ben was right in the direction of his political beliefs. He loved his country; he wanted it to survive.
By 1920 History had shifted from nineteenth century mores to twentieth century mores. The lines were drawn. Capitalism or Communism. Ben hadn’t been clear in his thinking before but now the waters rose way over his head. Ben would never have the least idea what was happening for the rest of his life.
With the Russian Revolution all societies were organized along collective lines. The liberal indivualism of the nineteenth century was replaced with collective political units. The world was polarized along the Biblical ideal of us and them. On the one the side were the Semitists and Communists; on the other were the Fascist and National groups. In America it was the Semitists and Communists against the Old Guard Americanists. The Semitists used the Communists as a front while they managed to class all dissenters as Fascists. Properly speaking there were no American Fascists. The Old Guard had no idea how the term applied to them. Ben was certainly puzzled when his nationalist American views were labeled as Fascist.
In the twenties and thirties he, along with a lot of his fellows, had the sneaking suspicion that the Jews were behind it. Henry Ford had bought a newspaper and openly proclaimed that the Jews, not all Jews, Ford divided the Jews into good Jews and International Jews, were behind it. Indeed the Jews had invented Semitism, they were the original collective political body; a tight little group dedicated to bringing the light of their tribal deity to the world. How could they deny it? The Bible proclaimed it. Communism, Fascism, Nazism were all modeled after the Biblical ideal. Heck, the Semitists could only be influential in internationalist organizations like the Communists. There was no place for Jews in competing National organizations like the Fascists, the Nazis or even for that matter the America First Committee. The ideals of all the national groups fostered only benefits to their respective nations. The Jews as a nation were outsiders in all other nations.
The Bible proclaims it boldly: No man can serve two masters. The Semitists could not serve their God as well as a nation. Their law, as they asserted, had been given to them by their God; how could they possibly subordinate their Law from their god to the law of the nations which was only formulated by men. It wasn’t an unsolvable problem; one side or the other had to triumph.
In the Arthurian cycle a knight is given a shield on which is portrayed a knight standing one foot on the head of King Arthur, the other on the head of Queen Quinivere. Mallory explains that the symbol represents the dominion of the knight over both the King and Queen.
Before 1920 in the golden age of movie theatres, a magnificent theatre was built in NYC with beautiful decorations. The ceiling was a magnificent replica of the night time sky, a magnificent deep blue spangled with stars. Descending toward the stage from the apex, a large Mogen David sat in splendid isolation. Beneath the Star of David lay a row of national flags of the world. The theatre had been constructed by Jews. Ben and his fellows had their own Mallory, Henry Ford, to explain to them what it meant but they didn’t seem to comprehend. The symbolism was quite clear. The blue sky of God covered all. God had made the Semitists the custodians of His truth- the Law. The nations of the world were beholden to the Semitists for the light of their tribal deity. The nature of the struggle was clear for all who had eyes to see. All the chit chat just took up time.
During the surging prosperity of the twenties the problem seemed less important than making money. Then too, the Old Guard had acted promptly and severely to suppress the Reds. For a brief time the Communist Party had been outlawed. But the Semitists and Communists had reacted savagely to discredit and suppress the 100% Americans, successfully castigating them a bigots. Ben had at that time thought discretion the better prt of valor. He still maintained his nationalist beliefs but tended his business while quietly viewing with alarm. He didn’t understand what was happening anyway; why be too concerned.
The Crash of ’29 brought Ben’s fears to the surface again, especially as the Roosevelt presidency began. All hell broke loose in Ben’s mind. He couldn’t explain the system that was being destroyed or the system that was replacing it but the collectiveness of the Semitists began to displace the individualism that Ben cherished. Roosevelt made the corporate State a reality in the United States.
The European reaction to collectivism had first surfaced with Fascism in Italy. At the exact same time that the collective State of the Semitists arrived in American the collectivist State of the Nazis that was modeled after the Semitism of the Jews triumphed in Germany. The world was polarized into two camps acting from the same philosophical point of view. The war was on.
The choice was between the ‘living’ water of the Semitists and and that water that would make ye thirst again of the rest of the world. For the Semitists believed that their religious system was Truth and all else false. Their prophet, Jesus of Nazareth had said: ‘Ye know not what ye believe, but we do; for salvation lies with the Jews.’ There could be no more succinct an expression of Semitist goals than that. Salvation could only mean the triumph of the Star of David over the flags of the nations of the world.
The Semitists did know what they believed; all their energies were directed to realizing their beliefs. Those beliefs they believed were the absolute truth, sacred in the eyes of their god. All other belief systems were false. They must be destroyed. For several years in the United States the Semitists had secularized the religious belief of blasphemy. They had turned the notion of blasphemy around to the notion that one could defame, be legally responsible here in the New Secular Order, for criticizing a belief system. They claimed it was an actual crime to decry Semitism in favor of another belief system. Thus the notion of anti-Semitism was popularized as a criminal act. The Semitists not only believed in the sacredness of their belief system but wished to pass laws against its ‘defamation’, thus establishing it as a State religion. They thus wished to subvert the Constitution of the United States.