Monday, October 08, 2007

Chapter 2 - The New Movies

According to the government records and the movie listings, the official name of the theatre is "Loew's New Vista" but the locals just refer to as "The New Movies". It is one of the newer buildings in town and is owned by Cletus and Harriet Allbritton. Cletus' family had once owned a small coal mining company near Luke in Garrett County but it was sold at auction a few years ago following a period of rapidly declining yields. The coal fields in general seem to be moving in a southwesterly direction towards West Virginia and Kentucky, as least as far as jobs are concerned.

But the war has produced a huge influx of rail traffic into the Potomac valley and as a result, it has generated a goodly number of relatively high paying jobs - some of which are now held by women. The depression years are still fresh in folks' memories around here and there is a reluctance to spend money on frivolous non-essentials. But a movie and an evening out seem to be a luxury more and more townspeople are willing to afford themselves at least once a week.

Cletus Allbritton envisioned that there was there was a stable source of income to be had by opening a movie theater at the edge of the business district in East Falls. And so far it seems to be successful.

This week Ernest Hemmingway's To Have and Have Not with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall is playing to average sized houses. Cletus wasn't too keen on scheduling it for fear it might be too "high brow" for the average East Falls movie goer. But Harriet, who had gone to college at Frostburg, wanted to see it and the trailer had hinted at enough passion that almost all the regulars seem to have showed up. To be safe, however, Cetus has booked a John Wayne movie for next week.

As is customary around these parts, the balcony of the movie theater is reserved for Negroes. There is a fire escape that is only to be used in the event of an emergency but the door seems to be often left ajar by one of the patrons. This serves as way to sneak into the movie for free if you are willing to sit in the balcony. Cletus and Harriet are aware of this but don't seem too concerned. Since Harriet usually sells the tickets, she has a pretty good idea who the paying customers are for any given showing.

One regular paying customer is Zeke Buchannon, a Negro who works at the tavern next door and who usually attends the Tuesday matinée each week. Harriet suspects it is he who is leaving the door ajar. But having the Trackside Tavern close by seems to be good for both businesses so she and Cletis are trying to be good neighbors. This reporter once heard Cletis joke that if the white boys were a little less picky, they might figure out that they could watch a movie for free if they'd sit up in the balcony with the Negroes and "put up with 'em."

Photo taken on my HO scale model railroad

Chapter 1 - The Trackside Tavern

May 4, 1945
East Falls, Washington County, Maryland.

East Falls is an Appalacian railroad town that serves as an interchange point between the Baltimore & Ohio and the Norfolk & Western railroads. The B&O also has a small locomotive maintenance shop here.

This is the story of the Trackside Tavern.

This tavern is now owned by Arbutus "Boots" Kirby, a 31 year old childless widow whose husband Harold had been been a flight engineer on a B-17 nicknamed Ragamuffin that had been shot down over France in October of 1942. According to the official report, no parachutes were seen as the plane went down and Harold has been declared dead. Using the life insurance money she received from the Army Air Corps and some savings, Boots was able to purchase the Trackside Tavern (which at the time was called Gunthers Bar - no apostrophe) after the prior owner, Hank Gunther, was sent to prison for attempted murder and, consequently, defaulted on the mortgage.

Unbeknownst to the locals, Boots has a silent partner, a black man named Ezekiel "Zeke" Buchannon (pronounced Buck-hannon), who does all the cooking and most of the manual labor despite having a hook in place of his left hand. Zeke is a physically imposing man who had been a supervisory cook in the Navy aboard the U.S.S. Arizona at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack. During battle stations, he was assigned to one of the 5-inch/25-caliber anti-aircraft guns and his job was to ensure that spent shells went where they were supposed to go. As the attack was under way, a bullet from a strafing Japanese fighter hit him in the left wrist, nearly severing his hand. Minutes later, as a corpsman was placing a tourniquet above the wrist to stop the bleeding, a massive explosion jerked the enormous battleship down then up throwing Buchannon into the water.

After returning to East Falls in the fall of 1942, Zeke found himself looking for work without much success although his story had been written up in the local newspaper and he was briefly treated with an unusual amount of respect for a black man. Zeke was granted a small partial disability pension based on his years of Navy service and moved into one of the railroad-owned clapboard houses occupied by his stepsister's family. Life there was hellish and he vowed to move out at the earliest opportunity.

In the spring of 1943, Boots had been grieving the loss of her husband for six months and found herself facing financial peril as the mortgage on the small cottage she and her husband had bought was quickly eating up her savings. Then one day she and Zeke both happened to be at the post office as Zeke had come to pick up his disability check. Boots, who had never spoken a complete sentence to a black man before, recognized Zeke from the newspaper article and took the opportunity to thank him for his service to the nation. Zeke thanked her for the kindness and mentioned that if she had any odd jobs that she needed done, he would be happy to do them for her. She said that she had nothing at the moment but would keep him in mind.

The trial and conviction of Hank Gunther was the talk of the town that spring. The closing of the bar made the temperance advocates happy but was a source of aggravation for many of the B&O railroad workers who had been forced to deal with local moonshiners if they wished relatively easy access to spirits. These were not the most savory of characters. When the sheriff posted the foreclosure notice on the door of the tavern, Boots saw an opportunity to have an income and a place to live if she could find a way to assume the mortgage. She went to the East Falls Building and Loan to inquire and met with a Mr. Stoltzfus who politely told her that her that her lack of experience made her a poor candidate to run the business profitably. Yet somehow (and this was the cause of some rather nasty speculation by certain townsfolk) the Building and Loan eventually decided to give her a chance.

Boots reopened Gunthers Bar as the Trackside Tavern on November 1, 1943. Her one "employee" was Zeke who served as "chief cook and bottle washer" as well as occasional bouncer. Boots tended bar and did all the paperwork. Among the railroad workers there was much rejoicing. As time wore on, Zeke and Boots fell in love and now live secretly as husband and wife. Many in the town suspect the truth but won't say anything - perhaps because Zeke is a veteran or perhaps because no one wants to see the tavern change hands again.

Ordinarily, Zeke is never expected to serve customers. But on occasion, if Boots is not around and a thirsty customer wants a quick refill and explicitly asks, he will hook the tap handle. As the regulars have gotten to know Zeke, and as more veterans are showing up, Zeke's race seemed to be becoming less of an issue. But he keeps his DD-14 honorable discharge and purple heart certificates mounted in picture frames that are plainly visible behind the bar.

Photo taken on my HO scale model railroad

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Scooter Justice Read-a-Long!

You've heard of a sing-a-long so now you can imagine someone singing this as you hear the music play. I'd sing it myself but I don't have the vocal range. The words are revised slightly from the earlier posting.

Scooter Justice

Ya got a ton of legal eagles
Workin' for your side
You got friends in high places
Raising money to save your hide
So you go before a jury
And a judge, and plead your case
But they say that you are guilty
30 months, TwoFifty K

So you scream about injustice
Get your friends to write op-eds
Have their media compatriots
On all the talking heads
Make yourself out as a victim
Just forgetful don’t ya know
“no underlying crime” they keep on saying
on every Fox News show

So the President protects you
And shields you from your fate
Just keep your mouth shut through ‘08
And a pardon will await
And for those pesky legal fees
There's no need to fret
'cause if “Scooter Justice” is applied
Your friends cover your debt

Four felonies the jury said
Was what the evidence showed
The judge was a Republican
The sentence middle-of-the-road
Compared to other felons
Who committed the same crimes
An’ the appeals court saw no reason
You shouldn’t start serving time

So the President protects you
And shields you from your fate
Just keep your mouth shut through ‘08
And a pardon will await
And for those pesky legal fees
There's no need to fret
'cause if “Scooter Justice” is applied
Your friends cover your debt

If "average Joe" were to shred
The records that might well have led
To jail time on his boss’s head
It would seem a waste of time
To claim “No underlying crime”

(Instrumental verse)

But the President protects you
And shields you from your fate
Just keep your mouth shut through ‘08
And a pardon will await
And for those pesky legal fees
There's no need to fret
'cause if “Scooter Justice” is applied
Your friends cover your debt

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

NBC News Has Lost Its Moral Compass

(This was written in response to NBC's handling of the pictures and writings of the student who killed 32 people at Virginia Tech.)
FICTIONVILLE - A pilot of a small commercial airplane told air traffic control "Watch me" before deliberately crashing his plane into a hillside and killing himself and the 33 passengers aboard yesterday. But by a twist of luck, the cockpit voice recording of the pilots two hour long ranting diatribe leading up to the crash was obtained by NBC News which then decided that it should broadcast the audio as quickly as possible. Bureaucrats at the National Transportation Safety Board expressed opposition to NBC's actions. "We try to avoid sensationalizing these last words out of respect for the families of the victims, including the family of the pilot" said Homer Bupkiss, regional NTSB director. NBC spokesperson Notta Clue stated that the news division believes the information would have come out sooner or later and doing it sooner has more upside potential for attracting advertising revenue.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Decider House Rules

Andrew Cohen's WaPo article White House Plays By Its Own Rules Again reinforces the message in a song lyric I'm working on which goes...

Some say that I am obstinate
And will not change my views
Some say that my advisors
Fear to tell me what is true
Some say I need to change the course
An' start bringing troops home soon
But (heh heh heh) decidin' is just
What I'm s'pposed to do


STFU bloggers
And you generals an' admirals too
An' you pollsters need to give it up
'cause' I 'm just ignorin' you
And that goes for all you voters
I don’t care about your views
As long as I'm the President
I'll say S T F U

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Prayer for Jane Hamsher

I've spent the longest day trying to keep busy while virtually sitting in a virtual waiting room for news of Jane's surgery for breast cancer. Jane, as you may not know, is a blogger - but not just a blogger. She's a force of nature when it comes to articulating what the politicians are/aren't/should be doing for the benefit of Americans and their fellow inhabitants on this little green planet. I don't pray as much as I once did but Jane is definitely near the top of the list this day. Should any of the denizens of firedoglake wander into this blogger backwater, I hope this music (muzak?) I composed called "Pull Up a Chair" might help evoke a little peacefullness. Click on the icon above to start the player, then click on the play button.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Thoughts on 2006

As we come to the close of this year, here's a few thoughts I wanted to jot down.

In my humble opinion:
  • George W. Bush has to be the worst President this nation has ever produced. Everything this nation has once stood for has been trashed by this President and his Republican Congressional enablers. We have become just another country rather than one that, until recently, has been a symbol of hope and freedom throughout the world. His administration's flagrant disregard of any statutory or constitutional limits on his power (see signing statements) and careless disregard of the rights of other human beings (see warrantless wiretaps, the Military Commissions Act and the casual outing of Valerie Plame) has seriously tarnished the ideals that my uncle, S/Sgt John E. Montgomery, died trying to preserve and advance. Warren G. Harding and Richard Nixon don't even come close.
  • 2006 will be seen as the year political blogs (other than this one) became a serious force in influencing the opinions of the electorate. While original reporting is still going to be the domain of the mainstream media, I foresee the role of the talking head professional punditocracy beginning to decline.
  • Youtube (and the level of broadband penetration that enables it to thrive) has been the biggest new technological advance of the year.
  • The software that allows people like me to make multitrack recording in their basement keeps getting better and better. You can hear me "singing" (to use the term loosely) Will Santy Come to Shantytown with my computer generated harmony parts.
  • I need to start work on my Broadway musical Wingnuts in Wingtips

Monday, November 27, 2006

Some Potential ActBlue Targets for '08

Here are Democratic congresscritters who voted...Sanford Bishop (GA-2nd))

Dan Boren (OK-2nd)

Bud Cramer (AL-5th)

Henry Cuellar (TX-28th)

Lincoln Davis (TN-4th)

Chet Edwards (TX-17th)

Bob Etheridge (NC-2nd)

Tim Holden (PA-17th)

Mike McIntyre (NC-7th)

Charlie Melancon (LA-3rd)

Mike Michaud (ME-2nd)

David Scott (GA-13th)

John Tanner (TN-8th)

Due to how the vote was conducted, a number of dubious Dems missed the Schiavo vote.
Here's a list of those who voted...
Leonard Boswell (IA-3rd)

Allen Boyd (FL-2nd)

Artur Davis (AL-7th)

Dennis Moore (KS-3rd)

I recognize that some of these Congresscritters represent pretty red districts and there may not be much to be gained by financing a serious primary challenge. Moreover, there may not be a more progressive candidate willing to run in the primary. But some districts are probably more purple now than they were a year ago so it may be worthwhile to look at local races on '06 to see how things are trending. But "K Street coziness" still needs to be looked at and that may add some additional potential targets.