After the war, Sam and Dr. Amwerth traveled the country a good bit scouting locations for the Park. Much as he had before enlisting, Sam sought out live music wherever he went. Now he was intent on building a resort area celebrating the music he loved, as well as capitalizing on the success the Wacky Boys were having in Hollywood. In 1953 Amwerth convinced him to check the Memphis area, which Sam did indeed relish. He was still undecided; he liked Chicago but was afraid the climate would never work out. He also visited Burk Wise in Hollywood in 1953 but was unsatisfied with land availability. He returned to Crittenden County, Arkansas, which had become his home base, and made his pitch to the town council of Rockville: he would be given carte blanche to tear down the town and construct, as he saw fit, the world’s first and only rock and roll theme park that is a city. In return, he guaranteed the residents of the county a higher standard of living for one generation—20 years of prosperity. If the residents chose to leave town, so be it. If they stayed, they lived and worked at Sam’s will—where and how he directed, with the promise of more money and better living conditions.
A few of the Wacky Boys and Girls ca. 1950
The most strenuous objections came from two bodies: the farmers and the Morrises. The farmers saw the proposal as the forced extinction of their way of life. Sam’s initial plan—to build the city over the farmland and install light-diffusing lenses throughout the park—was shot down; the farmers refused to be ‘moles’ for Sam, and seemed ready to block the Park at any cost. Ultimately, Sam paid to relocate the intractable parties in toto outside the county. He moved the houses, barns, even the soil itself to a depth that insured the families were in fact plowing their ancestral earth. Once finished, however, they enjoyed no promise of security like the townsfolk who remained. Some succeeded and some failed, the farmer’s life for centuries.
The Morrises, meanwhile, had been Rockville’s most prominent family for years. Morton Morris was elected mayor in 1942. His son Marvin practiced law in town. Both opposed Sam’s offer, knowing it represented at least a significant blow to the family’s power. Although the town was split on the decision, Sam prevailed and construction began in 1956. Sam continued to travel the world gathering inspiration for the park.
The reason Amwerth had been so intent on Sam basing his operations in Rockville was his knowledge of the area’s peculiar history. Rockville had been one of the few small towns before or during the war with meta-heroic activity. The Mechanic was Rockville’s first powered hero, but he was soon joined by the original King Cougar, the Prophet, the Rockville Warrior and the Thunder Road Irregulars, Man O’War, and others. This heroic tradition appealed to Sam also, and led directly to some of Amwerth’s later activities. The doctor really exploited the city’s pride in its native heroes by introducing new versions of the classics and originals of his own creation by the combination of his quantum research, genetic material collected over the years of his association with Sam, and one more element about which almost no one knew.
Next time we’ll talk about how The Mechanic came to Rockville and became its first modern hero.
Crittenden County’s NASCAR track