Saturday, June 21, 2008

So Tell Me About Belleville...

-It's a one horse town that's been visited by horse thieves. The horse in question was named Mr. Stuckey, and by all accounts was much beloved. He was kind to children, enjoyed carrots, micturated discreetly, and wore a straw hat with holes cut out for his ears (this may not have been by choice). In 1933 Mr. Stuckey vanished mysteriously. There were signs of struggle in his stable, and although his spare shoes were left behind, his saddle, bridle and bit were taken, leaving little doubt that Mr. Stuckey did not go of his own accord. Neither the thieves nor the horse were ever found, but under a quirk of Wayne County law the case remains open 75 years later, so Belleville retains it's "one horse" status. When we file the renewal papers each year we have to put "HORSE CURRENTLY MISSING" in the notes section.

-At night the sidewalks roll up. Then they're loaded onto a municipal flatbed truck and transported to the sidewalk storage shed, where they are carefully registered, tagged, and stacked. The sidewalks spend the night under lock and key in a climate controlled environment, safe from vandals and the elements. Assuming the next day is a sidewalk day (Saturdays, Mondays, Wednesdays, and alternate Thursdays), they get picked up in the morning and are usually reinstalled by eleven.

-We have our own currency, but it's just US dollars with "BELLEVILLE BUX" written on it in black Sharpie. The Treasury sent an agent once to investigate the large number of defaced bills emanating from the area. Supposedly he was very nice, and everyone was very cooperative. It's still not clear how the accident happened, or what he thought he'd find out on the lake. There's a series of tasteful commemorative plaques marking the various places his remains were found.

-Nearly every state in the US has a Belleville, the only holdouts being one of the Dakotas and Rhode Island. The Dakota refused its Belleville at gunpoint, and Rhode Island simply wasn't big enough. All the Bellevilles were originally manufactured in 1916 at the Evanston Small Town Foundry, the first production run for the then new industry of manufactured towns. While a few of the Bellevilles were installed right away, World War I disrupted the process, and installations didn't resume until a few decades later as part of the WPA. When Alaska and Hawaii became states, the occasion was officially marked each time by a Belleville installation. This largely ceremonial gesture has had unintended consequences for Puerto Rican statehood as all 48 of the original Bellevilles have now been installed, and the Evanston Foundry was decommissioned years ago. So-called Bellevilleistas, who demand that the ceremony must happen for true statehood to be conferred, have successfully blocked each bid. Rumor has it that Washington has suggested a square mile of the original Levittown as a compromise recently, and that the offer is being considered.

No comments: