Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Festival of the Rose

     Sunday I attended the paying of the rent by Zion Lutheran Church in Manheim, Pennsylvania. Paying rent doesn't sound like such a big deal – one writes a check and hands it to the landlord – but in this case it was a payment that started 239 years ago.
     In 1762 (Baron) Henry William Stiegel and two partners purchased a tract of land on which Stiegel laid out the town of Manheim. In 1772 Stiegel, a devout Lutheran, deeded a tract of land to the church for “for five shillings and in the month of June yearly hereafter the rent of One Red Rose if the same shall be lawfully demanded.” According to tradition, Stiegel received the annual rent only two times, and apparently did not lawfully demand it thereafter.
     In 1892 the present church was built, and except for two years during WWII, the annual payment of the red rose has been paid to a descendant of Stiegel ever since.
     The 2011 payment was made to Wallace Stiegel of Windemere, Florida, an eighth generation descendant of the Baron. Mr. Stiegel's daughter and granddaughter were also in attendance, thus guaranteeing that “landlords” will be available for quite a few more years.
     One would think it might be difficult to find descendants of the Baron, but in 1977 the Reverend Raymond Foellner completed a genealogy of the lineal heirs. In past years some have come from as far away as Colorado, and they seem as interested in keeping the tradition alive as the members of the church.
     The ceremony itself was quite impressive – the church's attorney presented the rose to the heir, both signed the receipt book, and Mr. Stiegel made a short “thank you” speech. The church was beautifully decorated with, what else? red roses.
     Hopefully this beautiful ceremony will be repeated annually for another 239 years or so.
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     In my opinion a more practical and intelligible system is to be found in an article published by a “Humor Expert” in the New York Times on May 2, 1909. Entitled “New Jokes? There Are No New Jokes, There Is Only One Joke,” it goes on to say that all jokes are a distortion, and lists seven categories of distortion; as in the Freudian system, every joke will fit into one of the categories. I believe that repetition, whether of seven techniques or seven distortions, changed the original concept into “seven jokes” a la the children's game of Whisper Down the Lane.
     Introduction – There Are Only Seven Jokes.

“There Are Only Seven Jokes” and “The Spirit Runs Through It” and are available in paperback, or at the Kindle Store.

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