Sometimes it may seem that Bop City came together entirely through Sam’s doing. While the Park would certainly not exist without him, Sam was never the only person involved. Dr. Amwerth and Burk were with him from the beginning, and although I don’t claim any part of the Park as my own, I was as well. There were others, too, who are often overlooked in the Park’s story.
Tony “Wheels” San Giancarlo owned Cars of the Stars on Tour, driving and exhibiting famous autos and autos of the famous before ground was ever broken for the Park. Sam approached Tony and offered him a permanent home in Bop with a custom-built domed gallery and unique displays for each specimen. The deal was made, and the gallery built as another pre-opening draw. On opening day, the gallery was beset by thieves. It proved to be a most advantageous robbery attempt—for Sam. The crooks were captured without loss of life or property when the Mechanic, Rockville’s first hero, returned to action for the first time in twenty years. The foiled robbery, caught live on camera and seen around the world, set the stage for Bop’s new heroic tradition and provided another level of attraction for the Park. Tony offered the exhibit, renamed Cadillac Ranch, as the Mechanic’s HQ. He agreed and built his base below the gallery, calling it the Garage. Bop’s annual Star Car Rally is also held at the Ranch.
Speaking of early heroes, the Rockville Warrior also joined Sam early in the Park’s development, and it was a great benefit to Sam that he did. The Warrior had been active before the Second World War on both sides of the river, along with his juvenile aides the Thunder Road Irregulars, in crushing the numerous illegal activities typically found in a river town like Rockville. He consulted with Sam for years and still drops by the offices at Bop City Central when he feels the need arises. No one knows the Park and the City better anymore.
The Irregulars, all grown up now, have played differing roles in Rockville and Bop City. Of those who remained in Bop, three entered public service and one furthered his family’s business interests to become the wealthiest man in the state. As Sam had promised, those who wished to continue farming had their land transferred out of the city. Joe Filson did just that, leaving his tenant farmers to work the soil outside Bop and becoming the largest landholder to transfer property to Sam and the Park. Tavon Shields and Monroe Morris will be discussed another time.* The other Irregular who entered public service became Chief Prosecutor, a thought that would have been unlikely if it had been any woman but Dani Puterbaugh. Her father had been Constable before Rockville was incorporated, and her great-grandfather had been one of the first to build a house in the town. No one could have named a family with more vested in Rockville. She was always the voice of reason in the Irregulars and had carried that with her to adulthood. The last Irregular was Ptolemy Tiernan, “The Smartest Kid in School”—any school. Lemmy was the kind of kid no other kid picked on because they knew someday they would need him. The lovable nature of this genius made the way his life ended all the more tragic.
*Heck, let’s meet them now.
As promised, I want to bring you Sam’s own words whenever possible. Although it wasn’t the first time he touched the world’s stage, Sam’s appearance before the Rockville town council did mark a turning point in his career. It was the first instance of an increasingly familiar phenomenon, the successful media figure taking a serious role in politics. The derision Sam would soon face was merciless as his Park and his plan had to be successful to be taken seriously and the slightest misstep was judged catastrophic. For these reasons Sam tolerated no errors; his planning was complete and his execution flawless. The following is both a transcript and description of the recording Sam made of his proposal to Rockville. He insisted it be captured on film so there would be no misquotes, exaggerations, or elaborations later. Of course there were, but he squelched them quickly and the Park progressed all the better for it.
The Rockville Town Council meeting of November 18, 1953, began like any other, a little late, with the six members of the council and the mayor settling restlessly into their seats and talking about how soon it would be over so they could get home. They didn’t realize Sam had staff in the room already recording audio; he didn’t want to miss a thing. The regular business wrapped in a hurry—funds allocated to replace a bent road sign, committee meetings extended—then turned to the one new and curious item: the proposal from an out-of-state holding company to bring new commerce to their small town. The name of the company, Pandora Productions, was deliberately provocative and completely bogus. The address and phone number were mine, and I had a neighbor answer the only three times it rang. If Sam and a small handful of other strangers hadn’t been in town hall before the meeting started, I think they would have just redlined it altogether and headed home to Arthur Godfrey.
That wasn’t how it went.
Mayor Morris: Finally this evening, we have a representative from Pandora Productions with a business proposal for Rockville. Are you here, Mr. …Nugetre?
Sam: Actually, Mr. Mayor, it’s Bop. Sam Bop.
(Naturally, this revelation met with a certain uproar from the council. There were only two other citizens at the meeting, one who had come about the sign and one who was waiting to be released for a DUI.)
Order, order! Well, welcome to Rockville, Mr. Bop! I’m sure we’re all eager to hear anything you have to say.
Thank you, Mr. Mayor. I hope the entire town will be as cordial toward my proposition.
(Sam ruffles some papers, clears his throat, and generally pretends he needs to prepare the pitch he’s had in mind for years.)
As I’m sure the council is aware, the nature of our country has changed since the war. Entertainment is becoming a higher priority for the American family. Automobiles are becoming a necessity for families, often two or more to a household. Those autos take the family to the drive-in, the theatre, visiting near and far. I propose to help Rockville seize an opportunity to bring those families here for fun with an entertainment destination unlike any previously seen.
(Here Sam unveils the first of several paintings of Bop City, with sweeping coasters and towering resort buildings looking like Monte Carlo. The council is stunned, then a couple members can barely contain their laughter. I still wonder if they thought Sam was delusional, or if one or both could see that if Sam thought it was a good idea, then Rockville had hit the jackpot.)
Gentlemen, this is Bop City, the world’s first Theme Park That is a City. It will employ every current citizen of Rockville, and several thousand more I anticipate attracting. It is fully self-sufficient, producing all the food, power, and other resources necessary to make a city thrive. Additionally, it will attract a half-million visitors in its first year of operation, with no practical upper limit.
Don Warren, Council member: Mr. Bop, forgive me interrupting here, but…what are you talking about? This is a small town! There aren’t two million people in the entire state! How do you arrive at those numbers, why would they come here, what would they do…what would we do with them?
(Mumbling among the council)
Mr. Warren, all your questions are quite valid, and believe me I’ve considered them thoroughly. If you’ll look over the brief I’ve prepared for each of you, you’ll see the numbers are not only accurate, but conservative. I offer Rockville a chance to be the vanguard of a new type of community, a new type of resort, for a new nation, and I offer this with no risk to the town. With the council’s blessing and the town’s cooperation, Rockville will be reborn as the prosperous community in which everyone longs to live.
Hezekieh Dinwiddy, Council member: Mr. Bop, what makes you think the good citizens of Rockville aren’t already living where they ‘long’ to?
Well put, Mr. Dinwiddy. Let me respond by sharing with you some numbers you may find interesting. Since 1945, the population of Rockville has dropped by 12%. That is measurable, but wouldn’t be alarming in a much larger town. As it is, it represents the loss of five graduating classes for Rockville. Interestingly, that is not far from the actual loss; Rockville is hemorrhaging its young people, and new people are not moving in. Between the loss of young natives, death, and lack of immigrants, this town will be abandoned in a generation. There will always be farmers, yes, but industrialization has passed Rockville by, and its youth are going elsewhere for better-paying jobs. I am offering those jobs: better pay, here at home, providing a stake in keeping Rockville alive.
But it wouldn’t be Rockville, would it, Mr. Bop? It would be Bop City. Your city.
True enough, Mr. Warren. Since I would be assuming the entire risk and responsibility for keeping the community alive, I would also like to position it with a name I believe would encourage its success.
Tavon Shields, Council member: I see your modesty has not been overestimated, Mr. Bop. In return for your generosity, what would be expected of the good people of Rockville–or Bop City?
Nothing and everything, Mr. Shields. I would assume full fiscal responsibility for the town for the generation I mentioned earlier; for twenty years I will guarantee every Bop citizen a higher standard of living than he or she would otherwise have experienced in Rockville. In return, I will be the decision-maker on the direction and future of the Park.
The Park? You mean the town? The city?
All of the above, Mr. Mayor. The town will become a city, and the City is the Park.
And you would be the emperor, huh?
Nothing so lofty, Mr. Dinwiddy. I believe you would find I have a reputation as a quite amenable employer and would hope only to broaden that reputation with this, the greatest undertaking my companies have ever considered.
Stackhouse Porter, Council member: And what if you fail, Mr. Bop? Where does that leave Rockville?
First, without becoming contentious, Mr. Porter, I would direct you to my business record. I have never experienced anything like failure. That said, again, I guarantee the future of every citizen with my personal assets. No one will suffer through this offer. If, after my proposed twenty year period, the Park is not seen to be a success, I shall happily withdraw and Rockville can resume its previous path.
I think we all can see that a project such as you envision would be irreversible, Mr. Bop, but it is incumbent upon us as stewards of the town to review your proposal and share it with the citizens. Thank you for your time this evening. We will let you know something as soon as possible.
I’m sure of that, Mr. Mayor. Thank you, gentlemen.
The abrupt way the mayor ended the meeting always puzzled me. I don’t know if he thought the other councilmen were going to become increasingly disrespectful to Sam or if he thought he needed to talk to them away from Sam before he lost every bit of his power. The story of the Morris family’s power is one for another day, however. Next time I’d like to talk about some of the other pivotal members of Sam’s life, and how they relate to the Park’s story.