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The Glass factory by Alexander Appleton

  

     In 1860, two dignified men came to Canessa, a small town in the northeast part of Pennsylvania, to make arrangements for the construction of a glass factory.  When the paperwork was completed, the workmen began to clear four acres of woodland to prepare a place for the factory.  The building was started in 1861 and completed in January five years later.  By springtime, operation began.  Canessa's men made up the work force and the town prospered.  Throughout the country, people used Canessa's green glass jars for canning their food.  Often, children played on the lawn in front of the factory and they were always welcomed.  The president of the factory, an elderly man with white hair, had red roses planted for the children to enjoy.

     In 1886, the workmen gave all the children of the town flat pieces of clear, green glass which could be put together like a puzzle.  The whole town celebrated twenty-five years of prosperity.  Twenty-five years later, the children of the Canessa grammar school planted an oak tree in observance of the factory's fiftieth anniversary.  The tree was in the center of the lawn.  Everyone called it "the children's tree" and watched it grow.

    When the Depression came, the glass factory business slowed down, men were laid off, and finally the factory closed its doors forever.  Construction materials were needed for other projects, so the people of Canessa tore down the  building and sold the bricks.  Within a year, all that remained of the once-stately building were several concrete walls that only stood six feet high, another wall that was 12 feet high and leaned against an embankment, and the central circular structure. This last feature was made of concrete walls about five feet high and four feet thick.  The circle was twenty feet in diameter and had once served an obscure purpose concerning the melting of glass.

    As the years passed, trees and weeds sprang up around the ruins.  At first, the property owners poured tons of fill dirt on the site, but rain storms and bad winters redistributed the earth and small ponds formed.  The owners knew they couldn't fight nature and wrote the land off as useless.  Time passed and the trees grew tall, hiding the concrete structures from view.  Frogs and turtles moved into the ponds.  Rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks built homes throughout the area.  Strawberry plants, blueberry and blackberry bushes, apple trees and flowers seemed to grow overnight.  But all this was missed by Canessa's townfolk.  They were busy erecting two paper plants and never realized that the old glass factory site was more than just another part of the forest that surrounded the town.

 

    By 1954, the four acres were a natural paradise, waiting to be found, and Jackie Russell was an eight-year-old boy in search of such a place.  Jackie was a lonely child with a mild speech defect.  The impediment was a result of constant beatings by parents who never wanted the boy and had no use for him other than as a release for their hostilities.  Jackie had no playmates.  Other children teased him because of his handicap.
   
   Jackie played alone in the front yard of his parents' home until his ninth summer.  That yeat he met Susan "Joy" Munro.  Joy was a year younger than Jackie, and a contrast to him in every way.  He had light hair and slate gray eyes,  while Joy's eyes were nearly as dark as her jet-black hair.  Jackie was shy and hesitated before speaking, but Joy spoke to anyone.

    They met on a hot, humid day in July.  Joy had come by train to spend a few weeks with her grandmother in Canessa.  The little girl asked her grandmother if any children lived nearby.  The woman remembered seeing Jackie and suggested that Joy walk down the street and look for him.  As usual, Jackie was playing with his little red race car, making imaginary roads through the weeds that grew in front of his home.  He was about to execute a difficult maneuver when he saw Joy approaching him.  She was wearing faded shorts, a white blouse, and no shoes.  Expecting her to pass, Jackie moved toward the house and away from the path.

    "Hey, does that car got a race track?"  Joy's words startled Jackie.

    "No, but th-th-there are s-s-some r-r-roads through these t-t-trees."   Jackie was surprised by his answer.

    "Trees?  That's what the weeds are?  Why doncha play at my grandma"s?  We got a big driveway.  You can make roads for your car in it."  Joy noticed the speech defect but she didn't mention it. 

     Jackie was silent for a moment, then said, "I don't w-w-wanta play th-th-there."

    "Well,  I just thought I'd say it," muttered Susan as she sat down near Jackie.  ""Hey, what's this green glass?"

    "Oh.  Th-th-that's from the b-b-big factory th-th-they used to have around h-h-here."

    "Where?  I want to see it."
    "Come on, I'll sh-sh-show you.  It's just p-p-part of the woods now."  Jackie was no longer shy with Joy and felt important as he led the way to the abandoned field of ruins that he had never really explored. 

    The two children looked at the field from the dirt road.   Joy spoke.  "Let's look at it.  Maybe there's something left.  Maybe we can play in it."

    Jackie and Joy walked into the field with a sense of awe.  During the two hours they spent there, they picked berries, talked and laughed.  Jackie had never been so happy in his life.  As he climbed a large tree in the center of the area, Jackie called to Joy.  "Le-le-let's b-b-build a treehouse.  We c-c-could live here forever and be h-h-happy."

    "Yes, we'll build one and nobody can ever bother us."

     The treehouse idea thrilled Jackie.  He planned the design while he and Joy walked home.  Together they decided on two rooms and a small porch.  After so many years, the tree had again become 'the children's tree.'

    They constructed their treehouse from odd boards and materials they found around town and were happy that summer.  Jackie didn't have his speech defect when he talked to Joy.  The misery was gone from his life. 

    He built a racetrack for his car on a flat section of the field.  Joy brought her dolls and played house in the home in the tree.

    When the month ended and Joy had to return home, she begged Jackie to take care of the treehouse in the old glass factory.  "I'll come back next summer, so don't let our house fall down.  You can play there all the time and make sure everything is all right."  Joy wished she could stay with Jackie and her new-found playground, even though she had many playmates in her hometown.

    Jackie promised to take good care of the treehouse, although he wasn't certain just what that responsibility would entail.
     The next summer, Joy and Jackie met again and played in the glass factory.  The children explored the entire area and claimed the central, circular structure as their fort.  Sometimes when they played near the road, they met passing strangers and asked them their names.  If someone failed to answer, Joy called the person Mr. Man or Mrs. Lady.  Names were a subject that interested Jackie and Joy.
     "My name is really Janet, but everyone calls me Joy because I'm happy."  Joy was truly 'joyful.'
     "Well, my real name isn't Jackie.  It's John, but my father's name is John, too, so my mother calls me Jackie."  The little boy no longer stuttered when he spoke to Joy.  "Nobody ever called me John, and when I grow up, people will call me Jack."
     "We both got 'J' names.  Lotsa people do.  Even my grandma.  She's Jennifer."

     During that summer and the summers that followed, Joy and Jackie became very close friends.  They kept no secrets from each other.  Many times, Joy's grandmother packed sandwiches for the children to eat in their fort.  The boy and girl thanked the woman with big bouquets of the beautiful red roses that grew beneath the treehouse.  They also put chunks of green glass in the grandmother's flower bed as a decoration. 
     Joy's grandmother died the year the girl was twelve.  She went to the funeral and visited Jackie.  Together, they visited the glass factory so Joy could see it covered with snow.  They talked about playing in the area as children.  When Joy insisted that she would visit Canessa sometime again, Jackie didn't believe her.

     For the next few years, they exchanged letters.  Jackie wrote that he intended to quit school in his junior year and join the Army.  Joy wrote back, begging him to reconsider, but he dropped out without answering her letter.  A few weeks later, Jackie's mother called Joy and reversed the charges.
     "I know you and my boy Jackie were good friends, even if you weren't around here for a while.  Well, I just thought you ought to know he was killed in basic training when a grenade misfired.  The funeral's tomorrow, if you want to come."
     Joy thanked the woman for calling and hung up the phone before losing control of the tears that welled up in her eyes.  She traveled by train to Canessa the next morning and attended the funeral.  After the ceremony, Joy stopped to see Jackie's parents.  As she approached them, a strange girl spoke tearfully to Joy.  "Oh, John and I were such close friends.  I'll never be the same after this terrible experience!"  Joy said nothing, but she was disgusted by the self-pitying girl who obviously had never known Jackie.
     She couldn't stay at the house; the next train wouldn't leave for an hour, so Joy decided to visit the old playground - her beloved glass factory.  As she approached the four acres, Joy felt a hard lump form in her chest.  The glass factory had been plowed with modern machines.  No trees were standing.  The concrete structures had been destroyed.  The glass factory was now a level field and little boys were playing baseball on the new diamond. 

    Joy walked closer and a small boy who was sitting on the sidelines called to her.  "Hey!  What's your name?"

     Joy leaned over and picked up a fragment of green glass.  She looked back at the little boy and answered, "My name ,  my name is Janet."  Then she turned and walked toward the train station and away from the field.

The End

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