By now, Branton Hills was so proud of not only its “smarting up,” but also of its startling growth, on that account, that an application was put forth for its incorporation as a city; a small city, naturally, but full of that condition of Youth, known as “growing pains.” So its shabby old “Town Hall” sign was thrown away, and a black and gold onyx slab, with “City Hall” blazing forth in vivid colors, put up, amidst band music, flag waving, parading and oratory. In only a month from that glorious day, Gadsby found folks “primping up”; girls putting on bright ribbons, boys finding that suits could stand a good ironing; and rich widows and portly matrons almost outdoing any rainbow in brilliancy. An occasional shop along Broadway, which had a rattly door or shaky windows was put into first class condition, to fit Branton Hills’ status as a city. Old Bill Simpkins was strutting around, as pompous as a drum-major; for, now, that old Town Council would function as a CITY council; HIS council! His own stamping ground! According to him, from it, at no far day, “Bill Simpkins, City Councilman,” would show an anxiously waiting world how to run a city; though probably, I think, how not to run it.
It is truly surprising what a narrow mind, what a blind outlook a man, brought up with practically no opposition to his boyhood wants, can attain; though brought into contact with indisputably important data for improving his city. Our Organization boys thought Bill “a bit off;” but Gadsby would only laugh at his blasts against paying out city funds; for, you know, all bombs don’t burst; you occasionally find a “dud.”
But this furor for fixing up rattly doors or shaky windows didn’t last; for Old Bill’s oratory found favor with a bunch of his old tight-wads, who actually thought of inaugurating a campaign against Gadsby’s Organization of Youth. As soon as this was known about town, that mythical pot, known as Public Opinion, was boiling furiously. A vast majority stood back of Gadsby and his kids; so, old Bill’s ranks could count only on a small group of rich old Shylocks to whom a bank-book was a thing to look into or talk about only annually; that is, on bank-balancing days. This small minority got up a slogan:—“Why Spoil a Good Old Town?” and actually did, off and on, talk a shopman out of fixing up his shop or grounds. This, you know, put additional vigor into our Organization; inspiring a boy to bring up a plan for calling a month,—say July,—“pick-up, paint-up and wash-up month;” for it was a plain fact that, all about town, was many a shabby spot; a lot of buildings could stand a good coat of paint, and yards raking up; thus showing surrounding towns that not only could Branton Hills “doll up,” but had a class of inhabitants who gladly would go at such a plan, and carry it through. So Gadsby got his “gang” out, to and any man or woman who did not jump, at first, at such a plan by vigorous Youth, was always brought around, through noticing how poorly a shabby yard did look. So Gadsby put in Branton Hills’ “Post” this stirring call:—
“Raking up your yard or painting your building is simply improving it both in worth; artistically and from a utilization standpoint. I know that many a city front lawn is small; but, if it is only fairly big, a walk, cut curvingly, will add to it, surprisingly. That part of a walk which runs to your front door could show rows of small rocks rough and natural; and grading from small to big; but no ‘hit-or-miss’ layout. You can so fix up your yard as to form an approach to unity in plan with such as adjoin you; though without actual duplication; thus providing harmony for all who may pass by. It is, in fact, but a bit of City Planning; and anybody who aids in such work is a most worthy inhabitant. So, cut your scraggly lawns! Trim your old, shaggy shrubs! Bring into artistic form, your grass-grown walks!”
(Now, naturally, in writing such a story as this, with its conditions as laid down in its Introduction, it is not surprising that an occasional “rough spot” in composition is found. So I trust that a critical public will hold constantly in mind that I am voluntarily avoiding words containing that symbol which is, by far, of most common inclusion in writing our Anglo-Saxon as it is, today. Many of our most common words cannot show; so I must adopt synonyms; and so twist a thought around as to say what I wish with as much clarity as I can.)
So, now to go on with this odd contraption:
By Autumn, a man who took his vacation in July, would hardly know his town upon coming back, so thoroughly had thousands “dug in” to aid in its transformation.
“Boys,” said Gadsby. “you can pat your own backs, if you can’t find anybody to do it for you. This city is proud of you. And, girls, just sing with joy; for not only is your city proud of you, but I am, too.”
“But how about you, sir, and your work?”
This was from Frank; a boy brought up to think fairly on all things. “Oh,” said Gadsby laughingly, “I didn’t do much of anything but boss you young folks around. If our Council awards any diplomas, I don’t want any. I would look ridiculous strutting around with a diploma with a pink ribbon on it, now wouldn’t I!”
This talk of diplomas was as a bolt from a bright sky to this young, hustling bunch. But, though Gadsby’s words did sound as though a grown man wouldn’t want such a thing, that wasn’t saying that a young boy or girl wouldn’t; and with this surprising possibility ranking in young minds, many a kid was in an anti-soporific condition for parts of many a night.
But a kindly Councilman actually did bring up a bill about this diploma affair, and his collaborators put it through; which naturally brought up talk as how to award such diplomas. At last it was thought that a big public affair at City Hall, with our Organization on a platform, with Branton Hills’ Mayor and Council, would furnish an all-round, satisfactory way.
Such an occasion was worthy of a lot of planning; and a first thought was for flags and bunting on all public buildings; with a grand illumination at night. Stationary lights should glow from all points on which a light could stand, hang, or swing; and gigantic rays should swoop and swish across clouds and sky. Bands should play; boys and girls march and sing; and a vast crowd would pour into City Hall. As on similar occasions, a bad rush for chairs was apt to occur, a company of military units should occupy all important points, to hold back anything simulating a jam.
Now, if you think our Organization wasn’t all agog and wild, with youthful anticipation at having a diploma for work out of school hours, you just don’t know Youth. Boys and girls, though not full grown inhabitants of a city, do know what will add to its popularity; and having had a part in bringing about such conditions, it was but natural to look back upon such, as any military man might at winning a difficult fight.
So, finally our big day was at hand! That it might not cut into school hours, it was on a Saturday; and, by noon, about a thousand kids, singing, shouting and waving flags, stood in formation at City Park, awaiting with growing thrills, a signal which would start as big a turn-out as Branton Hills had known in all its history. Up at City Hall awaiting arrivals of city officials, a big crowd sat; row upon row of chairs which not only took up all floor room, but also many a small spot, in door-way or on a balcony in which a chair or stool could find footing; and all who could not find such an opportunity willingly stood in back. Just as a group of officials sat down on that flag-bound platform, distant throbbing of drums, and bright, snappy band music told of Branton Hills approaching thousands of kids, who, finally marching in through City Hall’s main door, stood in a solid mass around that big room.
Naturally Gadsby had to put his satisfaction into words; and, advancing to a mahogany stand, stood waiting for a storm of hand-clapping and shouts to quit, and said:—
“Your Honor, Mayor of Branton Hills, its Council, and all you out in front:—If you would only stop rating a child’s ability by your own; and try to find out just what ability a child has, our young folks throughout this big world would show a surprisingly willing disposition to try things which would bring your approbation. A child’s brain is an astonishing thing. It has, in its construction, an astounding capacity for absorbing what is brought to it; and not only to think about, but to find ways for improving it. It is today’s child who, tomorrow, will, you know, laugh at our ways of doing things. So, in putting across this campaign of building up our community into a municipality which has won acclaim, not only from its officials and inhabitants, but from surrounding towns I found, in our young folks, an out-and-out inclination to assist; and you, today, can look upon it as labor in which your adult aid was but a small factor. So now, my Organization of Youth, if you will pass across this platform, your Mayor will hand you your diplomas.”
Not in all Branton Hills’ history had any boy or girl known such a thrill as upon winning that hard-won roll! And from solid banks of humanity roars of congratulation burst forth. As soon as Mayor Brown shook hands (and such tiny, warm, soft young hands, too!) with all, a big out-door lunch was found waiting on a charming lawn back of City Hall; and this was no World War mobilization lunch of doughnuts and a hot dog sandwich; but, as two of Gadsby’s sons said, was “an all-round, good, big fill-up;” and many a boy’s and girl’s “tummy” was soon as round and taut as a balloon.
As twilight was turning to dusk, boys in an adjoining lot shot skyward a crashing bomb, announcing a grand illumination as a fitting climax for so glorious a day; and thousands sat on rock-walls, grassy knolls, in cars or at windows, with a big crowd standing along curbs and crosswalks. Myriads of lights of all colors, in solid balls, sprays, sparkling fountains, and bursts of glory, shot, in criss-cross paths, up and down, back and forth, across a star-lit sky; providing a display without a par in local annals.
But not only did Youth thrill at so fantastic a show. Adults had many a Fourth of July brought back from a distant past; in which our national custom wound up our most important holiday with a similar display; only, in our Fourths of long ago, horrifying, gigantic concussions would disturb old folks and invalids until midnight; at which hour, according to law, all such carrying-on must stop. But did it? Possibly in your town, but not around my district! All Fourth of July outfits don’t always function at first, you know; and no kid, (or adult!) would think of quitting until that last pop should pop; or that last bang should bang. And so, many a dawn on July fifth found things still going, full blast.