Friday, April 11, 2008

On Pocatello Politics--Part II

I think it only fair to state right up front that as a very young man I did not have a real clear picture of partisan politics. For example, my view of Republicans came strictly from Democrats, since, as far as I knew, I didn't know any Republicans. I have since learned that Democrats may not always be the best source of information about Republicans, and vice-versa, especially if you want a completely objective picture, but I didn't know that at the time so I just accepted everything I was told.

The most important thing to know about Republicans was that they were very very greedy. Because of this they did not want to pay anyone who worked for them--and Republicans all had a great many people working for them--more that a few pennies an hour. If it were not for The Union nobody would get more than a couple of pennies an hour. Now admittedly, I came to hate The Union--actually, as did most people in Pocatello, not because they (whoever The Union was) were greedy, but because they were such a big bully and often very mean. I had been threatened with my life by a man in the name of the Union and I didn't like it--but that is another story. Anyway, because of the Union not even Republicans in Pocatello, if there had been any, which, for the most part there weren't with the exception of the people I am about to describe, could get away with paying people a couple of pennies an hour. Now I am the first to admit that there were people in Pocatello--for example, Dr. Hegstead, who I hate to keep bringing up, him being such a terrible example and all, but anyway there were people in Pocatello--and I suspected that Dr. Hegstead would be one, although, in all fairness to him, he may not have been, who would gladly have paid the people who worked for them, such as, in Dr. Hegstead's case, his secretary and his nurse, only a couple of pennies an hour. But, of course, even though I never asked Dr. Hegstead if he were a Republican--who would dare ask such a question--or even Ralph Jr. if his dad were one, which I probably would have dared done if I had thought of it, I assumed he was not because he did not have nearly enough people working for him to be one. Of course, in places where we assumed that they had lots of Republicans, places like New York, Chicago, Los Angelos, and Boise, there probably were lots of people who were only being paid pennies an hour, in fact, we pretty well assumed, although, our teachers never said so directly, in those places many of the higher up Republicans probably had slaves who they kept working with whips, just like in the movies about the south before the war and in Africa and in other places where almost everyone was Republicans, and there was no Union.

The other thing about Republicans is that they had very expensive tastes and besides being greedy, they were wicked in other, even more wicked ways. For example, Democrats, at least, the ones we knew in Pocatello, who never--are almost never--went to church would smoke cigarettes and drink beer or cheap wine (except, of course, the ones who had never been to church in their whole lives and liked to hang out in bars and other places where people stab and shoot each other. Those people drank whiskey.), but Republicans smoked expensive cigars and they drank a very expensive wine called champagne. This was very wicked indeed--especially the champagne. I knew all about that because I had seen it in the movies. A Republican (in the movies that is) would give a nice girl a glass of champagne and she would giggle and take off her sweater and the movie camera would immediately shift so you saw the empire state building or the Statue of Liberty, because, in the movies they didn't dare show what happened next. If the movie was at the Chief Theater or the Rialto Theater, they had to leave that up to your imagination. If I could have gone to the movies at the Orpheum Theater during the week, I would have known exactly what happened next, because my mom said that those movies left nothing to your imagination. My friends said I could probably get away with it, my wearing glasses and all, they said, made me look old enough to get in, and I will admit, seeing some of the previews, which they always showed at the kid's movies on the weekend, made me want to go--especially, the one that the previews said was filmed entirely in a Nudist colony, but I realized that it would create a problem, even if I did fool the ticket girl with my glasses and all. I mean what would I do after the movie was over? I would have to call Mom and say, "Please come pick me up. I am at the Orpheum Theater." That would mean prison--or at least reform school for sure. Besides, when you think about it (which I admit I did not do at the time), what good would it have done a Republican to give a girl champagne in a Nudist colony--she wouldn't even have a sweater to take off.

All this brings me to the one person we knew for sure was a Republican, because my parents said he--or more correctly, they (we assumed his wife went along with him) was. That was Grant Kilbourne. Grant managed the big fertilizer plant a few miles from town and was precisely the kind of person you would expect to be a Republican. He had lots and lots of employees who he no doubt would have only paid pennies an hour if he could get away with it, which, of course, in Pocatello he could not. But my sister, Loni and I were always very suspicous of what went on up at the Kilbourne house. They lived on what we called "Snob Hill" because that's were the rich people in town lived. They were members of our church, but, of course, being Republicans and all, they hardly ever came. Mostly when they did come it was because their daughter, Diana, was doing something like giving a talk or getting an award or some such thing that young girls did at church. Diana and Loni were sort of friends, meaning that they did things together at church but not much else. I always wished that Loni would get to know her better so that Diana might invite her to stay overnight at her house. This would be especially good if Loni got to stay at her house when they were throwing one of their big parties. Of course, if she had invited Loni, I would have warned her not to drink any pop or anything, because, you never know but what they might be slipping some of their champagne in the root beer, and it would be no good having your very own sister doing the things that girls do after they drink champagne. But the main reason I wished she go up there was to check up on a theory of mine. Grant Kilbourne had worked at the company headquarters in Boise, and Boise being a place where there were lots of Republicans running around, they probably had slaves and I couldn't help but wonder if Mr. Kilbourne had brought some back with him and kept them in the basement. The real problem with that theory was, what would you have a slave do in Pocatello? You couldn't have him (or her) mow the lawn, or even take out the garbage, for fear that the neighbors might see you whipping your slaves and call up report it to the Union. Of course, during the parties, they were undoubtedly kept very busy making the cigars and champagne for the party, but what would they do the rest of the time? I thought maybe Loni could sneak around, very carefully, like Nancy Drew, and see the slaves at work and see what else was in the basement that they could be doing. But she never got the chance. Besides, I pretty well gave up the slave idea when I broached it with Dad who just laughed and laughed and said I had been reading too many fantastic fiction books and needed to start reading something more practical, like the manual that came with my new chemistry set.

Of course, there may have been other Republicans as well. Mom said that she thought that Bernice Comstock might be a Republican, but I didn't believe that. Not for a minute. She was my Sunday School teacher, and a very good one she was too. I think people said that because she was such a classy dresser. But, of course, she had to be a classy dresser. Her husband, Mr. Comstock was the head of the local First Security Bank, which was the biggest bank in town and if you wanted people to put money in your bank you had to act like you were terribly rich so you could afford to give the money back if someone wanted you to, so both Mr. and Mrs. Comstock, and even Ralph Comstock Jr. (not by any means to be comfused for even a minute with Ralph Hegstead Jr.), always dressed very classy. For one thing, I knew that the Comstocks could not possibly be Republicans because Ralph Jr. was so nice, and very humble (except, of course, the classy clothes) and all, and Sister Comstock was such a wonderful Sunday School teacher that I knew it could not be true. Not that I doubted for a minute, that Mr. Comstock, who never came to church, did not on occasion do some very Republican things like smoke a cigar or sip a little champagne when he was out of sight of Sister Comstock, and even try to get away occasionally with only paying the bank tellers pennies an hour, but every now and then doing a Republican sort of thing, was, in my mind, a far cry from actually being one. Most of the reason I was sure that people may have accused them of being Republicans, is that, after all, we always suspect the very worst of bankers.

But one of things you learn as you grow older is that people are not always what you expect them to be and that there may be Republicans lurking where you least expect them, which I will clearly demonstrate in the next segment.

1 comment:

Gavin said...

Great article, can't wait for part III