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Four Years at the Mount

This month, each of our writers reflects on an entry from 100 years ago section of the paper. Now, a century later, we imagine what must have been going on in the lives of the people who once lived in the area.

Inside 100 Years Ago

March 2017

Over $5000 Found in House

Angela Tongohan.
MSM Class of 2020

I watched as my sister descended from the stairs of our shabby little farm house dressed in the same old, worn, long skirt and faded pink blouse that she always wore on Tuesdays.

"You look beautiful, Annie," I said with a small smile, as she gave me a little twirl.

"You flatter me, Amos," she said with a brilliant smile. She then proceeded to ready breakfast.

When the bread had been sliced and the butter pulled out of the icebox, I took my place at the head of the table. We sat in silence, as we did most days, and quickly finished our little meal.

Annie deserved so much more. I knew it in the deepest corner of my heart. She deserved more than this little farm house and this stale breakfast.

Annie was beautiful, with golden locks and big brown eyes. She was a princess, and she deserved everything that a princess had and yet here she sits, dressed in the same clothes our mother wore.

"Iím going to tend to the garden," said Annie as she quickly rinsed the dishes.

I grunted, pretending to examine our old couch as she skipped her way out the front door. When I heard the soft sound of her humming sneak in from outside, I slowly made my way to the attic.

The attic was the darkest room in the entire house, and most definitely the dustiest. The slanted ceiling and window-less walls gave the room a cramped feeling. And the inability to see the corners because of the lack of light made me feel eerie.

I slowly made my way to the very back where a single large chest sat. It was black in color and would have been easily unnoticed by a stranger. I pulled the small golden key out from under my shirt where it hung on a simple gold chain.

With a slow turn, I heard the lock click and the chest pop open.

I always take a slight pause when I open the chest. The magnificence of the piles of gold and silver coins never cease to amaze me. Together, they amounted to exactly $1,010. I got up and made my way to the right end of the room.

Feeling my way through the dark, I patted the dirty, rotten floorboards until I was met with a hollow thud. I pulled the floor board open and pulled out a pile of notes and bank certificates. Carefully, afraid that I might rip them, I counted them once more. It was exactly $3,990.

That meant $5,000 altogether.

I sighed. This money could easily buy a million skirts and a thousand blouses for Annie. I could buy a bigger house, a nicer house. And for breakfast we could have savory food. I might even be able to hire a servant, so that Annie could focus on doing the things she loves like tending the garden.

I looked down at the pile of money in my lap and remembered a time when I was much younger. A time long ago.

My father had come home. It was one of the few times I had ever seen him. One of maybe seven in my entire lifetime. He was wearing an expensive blue suit and in his hand he held a sparkling silver cane.

He told me then to help him bring up the chest. The same black chest that sat in the back of the attic.

"This is for you, son," he said to me after we set the chest down. He pulled a wad of bills out of his coat pocket and handed them to me, "Hide it. Donít use it all at once."

"He wonít be using it at all," said my mother, who was standing in the doorway, "We donít want your blood money."

My father stood up with a sigh, "Itís not blood money, sweetie," he said.

"Oh, donít give me that!" my mother cried, "Tell me! Tell me how many men died for that money. Died working in factories and who knows where to earn that money for their families, only for you to take it away!"

My father rolled his eyes, "They shouldnít have borrowed more money that they could pay," he said, "They must pay the interest. Thatís the way the world works, sweetie."

"Even if it means that children starve," she screeched, grabbing the wad of money from my hands and throwing it on the ground.

"Donít you ever use that money," she said to me, glaring straight into my eyes, "Itís cursed money. I forbid you from ever using it!"

I grimaced. I slowly placed the pile of bills back under the loose floorboard, and made sure the old chest was shut. I hung the old key back around my neck and tucked it under my shirt. Slowly, I made my way back downstairs.

I opened the front door and found Annie still tending to the garden. Her pale hands were covered in dirt, and grass stains appeared on her skirt from where her knees settled on the ground.

She looked up at me with a smile.

"Isnít it beautiful, Amos?" she said, waving proudly at her small garden of flowers.

I nodded. I knew then that no amount of money could make Annie as happy as she was at this moment. That she didnít need to live like a princess to be a princess. She was so utterly content with life and living life that she found no need for materialistic things that money could give her. She was satisfied and she was happy. And that was good enough for me.

Read other articles by Angela Tongohan


Snowstorm

Michael Kenney Jr.
MSM Class of 2019

The door chime rattles and the man reenters, the German Shepherd slinking close to his side. He stomps his boots as his companion shimmies himself free of every loose flake. All eyes are set on him in breathless anticipation.

"Thereís no getting out," he says. The room exhales in unanimous discontent. "Not tonight, probably not for the next couple days either." He unravels his scarf and swipes the snow off his portly figure. I look down into my now foamless, half-empty beer. Ridiculous, I think, absolutely ridiculous.

I am convinced the storm is retribution on my Aunt Eleanorís behalf. I ventured to Emmitsburg for her funeral, a visit she would have deemed long overdue. I left Minnesota for Princeton three years ago, and I entertained her fantasies of a shared East Coast, of weekly letters and bimonthly visits. Her plans evaporated from my mind almost immediately upon my campus orientation. Yes, sheís concocted the storm, and she smirks at my misery from wherever she sits.

"A refill, sir?" I look up and nod at the waitress. "And would you like me to renew your reservation for tonight as well, sir?" I nod again. The lodge is at maximum capacity.

Matters could be worse, I think to myself. I overheard one gentleman at the bar talk of his original intention for a one night pit stop in Emmitsburg before making it to his goddaughterís wedding in Kansas. I looked out my bedroom window before dinner and saw that a barnís roof caved in by the weight of the snow. I can only begin to imagine the illness that this storm spawns. Nevertheless, I too am burdened by a missed weekend at school, so I mope my way to the dregs of this glass and prepare for another.

The crowd dwindles until I am the only one left in the lounge. I look outside and consider the flurries. If I was not trapped by them, I would say that there is something hypnotic about their nature, their chaos. How do they know exactly where they want to land? I think to myself as I watch the flakes drunkenly dart every which direction. As I ponder the beautiful chaos, lines from Aunt Eleanorís eulogy wander in and out of my thoughts. "She was a good woman....A loving sister and a dear friendÖ.She is in a better place now." Indeed, she was always very well intentioned, I think to myself as I stroke my finger against the empty mug.

The soft, warm buzzing in my head blends nicely with the crackling embers and the entrancing cataclysm of snow. Life is not all that bad, and yet I believe it cannot get any worse. With the thought of this pacifying juxtaposition, I drift into a deep sleep.

I jolt awake by a womanís shriek. I squint my eyes in attempts to orient myself. I have a panging headache. It is still dark and cold. The wind still whips the snow in every which way beyond the lounge window, and the embers in the chimney scintillate the pitch black ashes. The woman screams again. This time, adrenaline rushes through my body. Upstairs, I think to myself. The voice is coming from upstairs. I feel my way towards the staircase. Footsteps above me patter towards the noise. The grandfather clock strikes three and the woman screams and screams and screams. I run up the winding staircase, taking the steps two by two, and I finally meet a huddle of visitors surrounding the voice. I crane my neck over the crowd and push my way past them. I am instantly paralyzed as my eyes transfix themselves on the crying woman draped over a corpse.

More individuals scamper to the scene until every resident in the lodge surrounds the woman in utter disbelief. Finally, an elderly woman emerges from the crowd, gently peels the woman away from the corpse, and cradles the womanís face against her chest.

"Oh sweet, Jesus!" A voice sounds. Everyone instantly recognizes the man as the dispatcher who confirmed the roadís poor condition just a few short hours ago. His head is lolled to the side and his glasses are strewn beside it. He could not have been more than 65 years old. Did he suffer a heart attack? A stroke? A bad fall?

Two men come forward and propose that we move the body away from the crowded hallway and into the lounge. No one raises an objection.

Within minutes, the manís cold body lies on the couch. The old woman holds a cup of tea to the shocked ladyís lips. She strokes her blonde, disheveled hair and whispers "There, there, sweetie. There, there. Can you tell us what happened? What did you see?"

"I couldnít sleep, so I was going to get a glass of water. I went outside my room," she clutches her fist against her lips and fighting back tears says, "And then I saw him." The crowdís attention shifts from the woman back to the body.

"I called the medic and the police," says the bartender. "But they canít make it over here until the roads are cleared. Itís still a mess out there."

"Who is he?" The crying woman asks.

"George Brithes," the bartender says, rubbing his neck in disbelief. "He owned this place for 30 years."

I draw closer to Georgeís body. He is still in his day clothes. His boots still drip from the snow, and his fingers are charred with cigar ash. I notice the intricacies of his mustache and the pores of his skin. I then notice something that I and everyone else in the room had previously overlooked. George has a significant bump on his temple and bruising around his neck. It then hits me: George Brithes was murdered. I stagger backwards. The pain in my head now quivers in my knees and stomach. I think I might vomit. George Brithes was murdered, I think to myself. Murder! He was killed inside this hotel, and the murderer could not possibly flee Emmitsburg until the snow storm subsidesÖ

Read other articles by Michael Kenney Jr.


Formation Of Local Militia

Sarah Muir
Class of 2018

Ever since the European war began, the need of preparedness has become plainer day by day. It is important that all men know something of military affairs. It is therefore suggested that the young men of this vicinity form a troop of cavalry, or a company of foot soldiers, ready for volunteer service. After having been well drilled, the government will provide guns, uniforms and other equipment.

The world always seemed so big to George, for the first several years of his life, he didnít see much of it though. He grew up in a small town, with small people, living small lives, and he was happy. That was until he started learning all about what the wide world had to show him and the more he learned the more he wanted to see. He wanted to see people in far off exotic countries, buildings so tall they brushed up against the sky, a world of adventures he only could day dream of and all of them took place outside his small little world.

He was about to turn 15 when he noticed that the world that he was so enamored with was trickling into the minds of those around him. It had started small, grumblings heard all the way from Germany, whispers from Austria-Hungry and the Ottoman Empire. All the warring undertones grew louder with a terrible story of a husband and wife shot a world away from Georgeís small town. And George felt the tone of everything shift. It was like someone had hit the wrong cord and now the entire orchestra was playing a different tune, one that was dark and tense and building to an uncertain finale.

He was 18 when he was drafted. He remembered that his mother had cried and his father clapped him on the shoulder and said something along the lines of "make us proud" in a suspiciously wet voice. He left for Fort Meade the next week to begin training and in six and a half months, was ready to be shipped out to France.

A year later, Georgeís world had become one of passages and rooms, all with walls made of earth, metal, and sandbags. All around him, men his age spoke to one another in different languages, some he was starting to understand. Every now and then one would crack a joke and everyone who heard it would laugh; whether they understood seemed to be irrelevant, everyone just needed to laugh. He had met someone that he had gone to school with, they had been good friends what seemed to George to be an age and a half ago. The boy he had known looked older, his face marked with dirt, but they had smiled and laughed at seeing each other thereóof all places. The old boy remarked on how small the world was and together they spoke of the ghost stories of home, of clean sheets and of Mr. Hertzís ice cream parlor and the sweet-faced girls from school.

He cherished his letters from home, hiding them away in case some harm would come to them. Each one carried the precious words of banality and well wishes. He read of a home life that seemed to like an odd sort of fairytale that took place in a faraway little town, with little people where nothing happened.

George had been shot. Twice. But he didnít quite know where. All he knew was that he was being carried and that there was a tearing pain spreading throughout his body and something hot and wet and vital was spilling from somewhere. A nurse appeared, veiled in the usual white. He felt her hands press against his wound, they were terribly cold. She said something to him and though he couldnít understand what it was she said, her tone was comforting and her skilled touch worked quickly as she shouted something over her shoulder. Some part of Georgeís brain that wasnít occupied with the searing pain thought about how the nurse looked like a girl he went to school with and wondered numbly what she was doing here of all places before he realized she wasnít her at all.

When the chaos was over, he was lying in a cot, his body throbbing, but still very much alive. He looked next to him to see the boy he had known a lifetime ago, in that faraway little painless place. Half of his face was covered as well as a good portion of the right-hand side of his body. His eye gazed at George and flickered in recognition, George mumbled something about it being a small world and both of their lips twitched in response.

After the war and the fanfare and the homecomings, the world tumbled on into an almost peace. George went back home to the small town that seemed to have become more exotic in his absence. The years came and went and George was old enough to notice the inevitable change in the weather, the whispers said different things but they all boded the same; all cried out for war.

George was a man now sitting in a bar next to a group of boys in uniform, watching with a tight smile as they laughed and occasionally shoved each other. One sauntered up next to George, receiving the next round of drinks.

"Thereís a big world out there, kid," said the bartender setting down the drink and waving the payment away, "are you sure youíre ready?"

Before the boy could answer George spoke up, "The war is big, but the world? Youíll find out that itís smaller than you think."

Read other articles by Sarah Muir


Object to Negro Giving Commencement Speech

Leanne Leary
MSM Class of 2017

There is much contention among the graduates of the Waynesboro High School this year on account of one Gladys Willis, a colored girl, being assigned a prominent part in the graduation exercise. For the first time in the history of the high school a Negro will graduate. On account of her high marks the Negro girl has received, she has been selected to deliver one of the commencement speeches. It is for this reason that several of the graduates are rebelling. Several of the class threatened to refuse to appear on the stage commencement night to receive their diplomas.

I heard the whispers this morning, not for the first time. The whispers are normally full of hate, followed by flying crumpled paper, or preceded by an eye roll. This time, though, the whispers were harsh, they were screams. They were punctuated with a distinguished hate and anger. I didnít know what was going on, but every bone and every nerve in my body responded to the heightened attention of this morning, March 4, 1917.

My whole morning felt something like this. Mr. Ritts, my Chemistry teacher handed back my graded exam with a smile that resembled more of a grimace, he lingered for an extra moment before continuing his walk around the classroom.

I have a few friends, but when I passed Marilyn in the hall this morning, she acted like she didnít see me. She turned and laughed with the girl whom she spoke with, brushing past me like I was as despicable or irrelevant as the poster on the wall beside me.

Still confused, I tried to continue my day as normal. I wasnít unaccustomed to the hatred, to the whispers, still, though, something was different.

I kept my head down, repeating words from my Mama over and over again in my head:

No tears, Glad, they donít know what theyíre doing now, but someday they will. Until then, we write our own story. They canít edit a story you write unless you let them.

Still not sure what is going on in this world around me today, I felt a tap on my left shoulder. I look up to see a 9th grader standing at the door with a note for my teacher. The principal wanted to see me in his office.

The principal? I remembered thinking, nothing good has ever started this way.

Ms. Byrns looked at me with the same grimace that Mr. Ritts had earlier as I stood up to walk out of the room. I looked to Ms. Byrns, "Should I bring my things?"

"Yes," she grimaced once more, "bring everything."

Her expression was noted by everyone around me, all of whom snickered as I bent back over to grab my things and made my way to the door. I dropped my pencil about five feet from the door, but couldnít bring myself to look back.

I still had no idea what was about to happen.

I walked, slowly, to the principalís office, accompanied by the 9th grader who trailed about three feet behind me the entire way down the hall.

Iíve been in school for 12 years now, I am almost done. I am almost the first from my family to graduate high school. I am almost the first negro person, and girl, to graduate from Waynesboro High School. I am so close, there are only three months left in the year. I am so close.

I am so close.

I knocked twice on the open door of Mr. Prattís office.

He looked at me and smiled, a real smile. For the first time today, somebody was smiling at me without a shadow of a pained expression or a hint of hatred. Mr. Pratt and I have had our differences. He, too, is going through a first with me and Mama tells me that I should try to understand that.

"Have a seat," he said as he gestured to an open chair with the smile still plastered across his face.

I set my books down on the floor beside me as I found the seat of the chair, fixed my skirt, and folded my hands in my lap, the way I had learned.

"I have some exciting news," Mr. Pratt began.

I walked out of his office exactly 24 minutes later. I walked back to class. I found my seat again, and took out my pencil.

I was going to give a graduation speech.

That is where all the stares and sharp-edged whispers came from. The pitying glances from the teachers, they knew what I was in for. Everybody had heard before me. I was valedictorian. I, the first negro girl to graduate from this high school. I, the first negro valedictorian.

The rest of the day, I didnít have a thought. My shock propelled me through the day, disallowing any fear or anxiousness.

That night, I waited for Mama to get home from work. When she asked how my day was, I walked up to her and placed my left hand on top of hers. I told her the news, but when I did, I felt my eyes well up and the tears, for the first time, began to fall.

What have I gotten myself into?

Mama didnít hesitate for a moment, she pulled her hand away from mine and pulled my whole body towards hers.

"I am so proud of you," she whispered.

I looked back, "Mama, everybody hated me today, and that was before I even agreed. Mama, theyíre going to hate me."

"Remember, my girl, they do not know what they are doing. Let them respond, let them rebel, let them believe that they are right, but show them that they are wrong. They do not know yet what they are doing. They will, Glad, they will. I donít know what will happen, I donít know if the whole town will keep their kids at home when you walk across that stage, but you will walk across that stage, and you will stand in the middle of it and show them that you, Glad, are the valedictorian of that school."

Read other articles by Leanne Leary

Read Past Editions of Four Years at the Mount