OSWALD'S ACOLYTES: MANASSEH WENDE
Manasseh Wende (center), CEO of Wende Enterprises, leaves a meeting with Chuck Oswald in 1973)
During his decades-long reign of American politics, Chuck Oswald acquired some of the most "unique" adjutants, assistants, goons and yes-men. When one thinks of men and women of these stripes, one usually imagines them as mere underlings and cretins without much character or human interest beyond serving their master. But where Chuck Oswald's coattails went, so too did power.
The group of acolytes that surrounded Oswald eventually became known as the "Rat Pack," known for wild nights of partying, drinking, and excess into the night as they toasted the Pinnacle Future. The Rat Pack, its name a tongue-in-cheek reference to Joseph Steele's personal Wolf Pack private security force, consisted of not only entry-level young bodyguards but also the graying upper echelons of large companies. These older men (and occasionally women) served as Oswald's personal movers and shakers within the Economic Clans. While the Steele Era saw unbelievable amounts of direct government control over the Clans, Oswald was engineering a relaxed, laissez faire, hands-off system for the Pinnacle Future. Quite simply, Joe Steele's overbearing and ruthless control over the corporations would inevitably end in the Clans revolting against the government and mass civil unrest. Chuck Oswald won the support of many CEOs and corporate honchos from day one in his new position of Supreme Chief of ORRA, long before he assumed the Presidency.
While many historians would claim Mortimer Krummhorn as the chief of Oswald's disciples, most would struggle to name the runner-up, because the ranks were ever-shifting and subject to Oswald's whims. Only Krummhorn was a true constant. But the story of the Rat Pack, and its beginnings in the 1940s, would not be complete without the story of one Manasseh Wende, the so-called "Flying Dutchman," CEO of Wende Enterprises. Wende Enterprises would rise from nothing to a globe-spanning mega-corporation, and it would expand from toys and wooden kitchen items to general household goods, chemicals, and finally, the emerging tabulatics industry.
Our story begins in Switzerland, of all places, during the late 1600s. Members of a strange Christian sect known as the Amish were fleeing persecution in Europe and seeking a new life in North America, most commonly along Pennsylvania's Susquehanna River in Lancaster County. A town sprang up, calling itself "Ammanburg" after the founding father and namesake of their faith Joseph Amman. At first they survived and thrived alongside their fellow pacifists, the Quakers, all while maintaining their unique cultural identity and native tongue, speaking a form of German that would eventually be termed with the misnomer "Pennsylvania Dutch." As the years marched on and the French and Indian War and subsequent American Revolution came and went, the hands of time seemed to stand still in Lancaster. The Amish kept up their farming and humble, plain way of living, ignoring the troubles and tribulations of the outside world.
But it was not to last. Most of the Quakers, the Amish folk's most tolerant ally, fled to the Old South to avoid the Canadian Invasion of the Republican Union during the War of 1812. On May 20, 1814, Gordon Drummond, infamous Commander of the British Army in Canada, was about to engage the Yankee, Virginian, Marylander, and Carolinian allied forces at Clarion, the high point of the war. One Colonel Charles Fauntroy, leader of a Canadian militia regiment burning and scavenging its way south, saw the Amish town of pacifists as laughably easy prey and an easy way to resupply his exhausted, blood-soaked troops. The Sack of Ammanburg would actually mark the closest that British and Canadian soldiers ever came to attacking Philadelphia itself.
Over 300 men were slain by the Canadians, even though most tried to offer them food, drink, and lodging in exchange for peace. The orgy of violence was as unnecessary as it was disgusting, with redcoat officers taking or burning everything and raping many of the women. On the morning of May 21, a squadron of Virginia dragoons--under the command of the aging Revolutionary War hero Henry Lee III--engaged the Canadians in a short battle. Colonel Fauntroy was bleeding out from a shot to the leg in a barn when a group of Amish women beat him to death with butter churn rods. Lee, upon seeing the mutilated corpses of the Amish and the unrecognizable body of Fauntroy, told his adjutant, "It is well that war is so terrible, lest we should grow too fond of it." The Virginians offered what assistance they could and gave chase to the Canadian survivors.
We move forward in our story. The years once more pass and Ammanburg stubbornly rebuilds. But after nearly two centuries in Lancaster County, the rising tide of the American Fundamentalist Christian Church was overwhelming. Locals who had once traded and befriended the Amish began to shun them, referring to them as heretics and worse. During the Great American War, the public viewed them as disgusting draft-dodgers. Lincoln himself referred to them as "disgusting lads inclined to homosexual activities in the barns and orchards of their little city-states," in a letter to the then-governor of Pennsylvania, Amerigo Rodrick. But the worst was yet to come.
In Shicagwa in 1866, future dictator George Armstrong Custer founded Custer's Company, a private mercenary army that would one day evolve into the freshman class of the Office of Racial and Religious Affairs. Their stated mission was to: "Secure a better way of life for the Betters of Society and secure them from foreigners and the mongoloid races, especially Irish, Slavs, Italians, Polocks, Redskins, Catholics, Orthodoxers of any type, Amish, Hindoos, Ancestor-Worshipers, and Mohammedans." They would hire themselves to local towns to provide "security" and maintain the deepening segregation of AFC "Betters of Society" from the "common guttersnipes." In 1880, in one of his last missions as head of Custer's Company before the 1881 Washington Pub Revolt marked the beginning of the MDP's Velvet Revolution, Custer received this letter:
The Greater Community of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in conjunction with the Lancaster County Homeowners Association, does ask of Custer's Company that an immediate and swift removal of the Zwinglian heretics be performed with haste and vigor. In what is only the latest but most repugnant stain soaked into our county by these Dutch buttermongers, a local whelp has sought the hand of Martha Thompson, niece of the noble Mayor of Lancaster Jasper Thompson, and together they have run off to live a life of simple-minded sin and degeneracy. We request that Martha Thompson be returned safely to her family, but the gloves are off for anyone else of this Medieval cult. Payment for your services will be delivered half up front and the other half after the expulsion is complete.
Yours in good faith,
The Greater Community of Lancaster County and the Lancaster County Homeowners Association
Never the one to disappoint and with a deep-set personal hatred of pacifists, Custer marched his force of some 700 mercenaries to Ammanburg and announced that the "Zwinglian cultist followers of the long-dead Joseph Amman are no longer welcome in Lancaster County. We are here for Martha Thompson. Give us the girl and no one gets hurt."
Faced with what would potentially be the second sack of their town in the century, the Amish town fathers met with Custer and agreed to go peacefully, despite the resistance of some of the younger, more firebrand young men of the community. One Calamus Wende, the town doctor, managed to convince Martha that going home was the only option. With Martha locked in his personal carriage, Custer instructed his men to "help" the Amish gather their immediate necessities. Long wagon trains formed, with the simple people struggling to pack what little they had time to grab as Company men screamed at them and laughingly, drunkenly fired shots into the air to "motivate" the Amish. Several men were brutally beaten in the street if they dared contemplate breaking their oath to pacifism. The "local whelp" who had dared to ask Martha to marry him was beaten black and blue. By morning the next day, Custer announced that time was up. Company men rolled barrels of gunpowder and explosives against the Amish churches and meeting houses and detonated them. The rest of the town was to be saved for use by normal citizens. The "Trail of Beards," or so it was called, began.
THE TRAIL OF BEARDS
Members of Custer's Company pose by grinder guns during the Expulsion of the Amish from Ammansburg
The expulsion of the Amish community of Ammanburg left some 6,000 of the heretics without a home, and more would join them as the long caravan advanced upon neighboring, smaller Amish hamlets. By the time all was said and done, over 8,000 Amish, almost every single one in the county, was under "citizen's arrest" by Custer's Company. Men in blue rode up and down the lines, lashing the Amish with riding crops and rifle butts. The elderly, sick, and infirm were tossed into "meatwagons," where the living and the dead piled atop one another. When they crossed the Susquehanna, the citizens of both York and Mechanicsburg lined the roads to watch the procession, jeering epithets and mockeries at the helpless men, women, and children. The event made Custer a legend in the area and it would always be one of his most loyal regions.
Multiple attempts were made to place the Amish somewhere they "wouldn't bother their Betters." But no place would have them. Eventually, Custer utilized the "Pennsylvania Dutchmen" as a sort of traveling sideshow. It was an almost carnival-like atmosphere as the caravan crossed into Ohio, and then Iowai. At the Mississippi River, Custer formally forbade the Amish from ever going east again. As his men pilfered and looted through whatever meager scraps the Amish had, he quite literally dumped them there and rode home to Shicagwa. Over 1100 men, women, and children had passed away along the trip. Still more slowly but surely shaved their beards and denounced their faith, then allowed to leave in peace, lending the march its name.
While Custer's men might have backed off at last, the Amish were now completely and utterly lost and with nowhere to go. Despite the wide open spaces of the shrinking frontier, the cowboys of the plains didn't care for the pacifists much either. Camps of Amish survivors would frequently be robbed at gunpoint or held for ransom by outlaws, police and local sheriffs would refuse to help them, and many would hire them to build barns and other structures and then simply refuse to pay.
By the time Custer was President and ORRA began officially rounding up Inferiors, most of the Ammanburg survivors lived outside of Barnumsburg, Oregon, under the tired but watchful eye of Calamus Wende, who had become their de facto leader. By 1900, most of the Amish had denounced their faith and joined the AFC. Calamus Wende passed away that year, leaving the few survivors, now numbering about 900, without a leader or a plan beyond farming in the woods and praying that ORRA didn't decide to deport them, shoot them, or put them in a human zoo, like the few remaining Plains Indians. Order in Wendeburg, as the tiny community was now unofficially called, broke down. Most began leaving. After a scuffle with locals in 1901, ORRA showed up and gave the Amish an ultimatum: denounce their faith or be deported to Cuba, where they would essentially be slaves to the Clans, and their children forced into AFC schools. A few devout families stood strong and accepted their fate, while a majority at last denounced their long-held beliefs and were accepted into Barnumsburg as Betters.
THE WENDICO STORY BEGINS
A wooden soldier crafted by Wendi Wende
Among the group of newly-baptized AFC Pennsylvania Dutchmen was almost the entirety of the Wende household, who had long viewed Grandfather Calamus' hope in continuing their faith as stubbornly noble but futile. Wendi Wende, first cousin and wife of Calamus' grandson Nicodemus Wende, was known as an excellent baker and craftswoman, creating everything from cookies and cakes to quilts and small wooden toys. It is here that the story comes back around at last to the origins of Wende Enterprises. In 1913, during the height of the Great World War rationing and supply shortages, she began selling toys at a local general store. That Patriot-Saints Day Father Abe would leave many a toy soldier carved with Amish skill under the trees of Barnumsburg children. They were a massive hit. The general store became inundated with requests for more of the toys, and Wendi suddenly found herself becoming one of the first female business owners in the Republican Union to achieve not only nationwide success, but also fame. Her traditional, happy, All-American appearance took on an air of quiet dignity when she opened up the Wende Toy Company in 1916. By 1920, just a few short years later, she was running the biggest toy company on the West Coast. She was the first self-made female millionaire in American history.
In 1921, she divorced her husband Nicodemus, who never fully embraced not only the American way of life but also his wife's success. Wende remained her last name due to the incestuous nature of her marriage. In 1923, she opened the Wendi Wende Home for Wayward Women in Barnumsburg to assist prostitutes and other girls in unfortunate situations in learning life and career skills to get off the streets. By 1929, the foundation was laid for the Miss Wende's Female Academy, the largest all-girl college in Oregon. The same year also saw her expand into the baking ingredients and household cleaner market. It was one home run after another for the woman, except for her private life.
Portrait of Wendi Wende, America's first female millionaire
Manasseh Wende (b. 1910), her son by Nicodemus, struggled with learning disabilities, a speech impediment, and social awkwardness from an early age. He was frequently getting into fights with other boys who mocked his prominent nose and referred to him as the "Flying Dutchman" for his tendency to run away from fights and for his pacifist heritage. Manasseh resented his Amish blood and thought of himself, secretly for the longest time, as genuinely Inferior. Despite her addiction to alcohol to block out memories of her time during the Trail of Beards, Wendi told her son to never let anyone take him for a ride, beat him up, or call him an Inferior. Despite the ability to enroll him in a private school, she instead told him to stand his ground in public school. By the age of 16, Manasseh could only be described as a mountain of a boy, standing six foot two and weighing 190 pounds. In any other family he would have been either fodder for a military career or a back alley thug. He would brutally beat other boys who mocked him. While he still suffered from a stutter, listening to the great speeches of American history on recordings over and over enabled him to communicate clearly and manage the impediment. His peers began to say the name "Flying Dutchman" with fear and respect, not mockery, and he embraced it.
Wendi Wende and her adult son were extremely close, some would say too close. They would actually both be present in Yankee Stadium for the September 1, 1927, Purge, when 40,000 businessmen were decimated for their crimes against the state by President Steele. They stood tall and strong as men were unceremoniously dispatched left and right, and it certainly hardened Manasseh even more. When Wendi died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1934, the business was at last left to Manasseh. The bullied son of Amish heretics now controlled one of the most popular brands of the century. Even in the Confederation of the Carolinas, "Wende" meant quality. In 1935, to celebrate and honor his mother, the Wende Company became "WendiCo." The company was finally reorganized into WendiCo Enterprises in 1936, covering all the bases for the ever-increasing range of products and services offered.
Like almost all prominent Americans of the 20th century, Manasseh was curious about communicating with the dead via the teachings of Spiritual Marxism. However, he found it unsatisfactory to have to call in an ordained minister every single time he wanted to channel the Other Side. Most of all, he desired to speak to his mother once more and ask her for advice. Most company decisions were made with supposed input from his corpse-mother, but this made his suspicious of the ordained ministers tampering with the spirit boards and other implements in order to manipulate stocks (a similar situation had occurred at Family Van Buren's Old Kinderhook Enterprises in 1923). "What if," he thought, "one could cut the minister out of the direct equation without allowing an opportunity for demons and bugaboos to slip in?"
In 1940, he patented his first real invention of his own, created without any input from his bevy of sales analysts or toy experts. It was a spirit board, not unlike those used by AFC ministers. It was about one foot by two foot, and contained the words, "Yes," "No," and "Goodbye," as well as every letter of the alphabet. The spade, what Europeans would know as a "Planchette," was shaped like the playing card emblem, the symbol of the 13th ORRA Mechanized "Bad Luck Brigade." Using a light touch of the fingers, one would ask the board a question and hopefully communicate with the dead. Formerly, this was only the realm of the ordained and trained. The difference was that each board would be blessed by an ordained minister at the factory itself and, printed on the reverse of each board, was a rolling script of Enochian warding, supposedly preventing the demonic from gaining access.
In a time of mass casualties during Manifest Climax, thousands of Americans wanted a way to speak to their slain sons, to experience some form of closure, and reverends were quite simply too busy to visit and channel the dead with every single person who wanted to do so. This combined with the rising popularity of Billy Graham's messages to the common people to create the home channeling industry, and it was all the idea of the Flying Dutchman. With patents locked down for the process and a great slogan in "Don't Open a Portal to HELL, Open a Portal to FUN!", WendiCo now held an almost absolute monopoly on this new and emerging market. And among the investors sinking money into new factories and stores was Joseph Oswald's Phoenix Oil. Chuck Oswald himself invested heavily in WendiCo stocks as an opportunity to diversify his portfolio with the ethereal. The good times seemed like they would never end. And then there was the Great Spirit Board Panic of '41-'42.
THE GREAT SPIRIT BOARD PANIC1960s ad for the WendiCo Spirit Board
Legally known as the Great Spirit Board Panic in the official history of the Republican Union, though the "WendiCo Board Panic" or "Dreamcrawler Panic" were both far more common names used by the masses, the public relations nightmare of 1941 would forever place the Flying Dutchman under the thumb of Chuck Oswald. On December 7, a talkiebox station in Independence, Osage, would receive a call from a local yokel named Abraham Umble, a farmer who had bought his young son a WendiCo Brand Spirit Board as an early Patriot-Saints Day gift. He claimed that his son was now unable to put the board away and was being messaged and tormented by a being calling itself the "Dreamcrawler." The station instructed the farmer to call the local ORRA office or AFC minister, but the damage was done. To acknowledge the Dreamcrawler as real would be a matter of subjective information. The more commonly-held belief by historians is that it is, like the Trinity City Apeman, an obvious instance of a story spreading through a stressed population like wildfire and causing mass hysteria. Children and families everywhere began to complain of an entity known as the Dreamcrawler speaking to them through WendiCo boards. ORRA offices and churches were overwhelmed, as was WendiCo headquarters. Parents were burning the boards in the streets in public displays, although many ministers and toy company officials warned that "Destroying or tampering with your WendiCo Brand Spirit Board not only voids its warranty, but potentially traps the beings of the Other Side, whatever beings those might be, in the realm of the living, leading to side effects such as depression, anxiety, nausea, diarrhea, lack of clarity, blurred vision, and possession by creatures from beyond the Veil."
With a war going on and with a stressed and dying President Steele on a warpath against anything that didn't "focus on the family," Manasseh Wende and his lawyers were desperately trying to fight the public panic and their plunging stock prices. One lawyer spoke to WUSN 1050 Metropolis to say:
"There is simply no possible way that any of our handsomely made, AFC reverend-blessed, angelically warded spirit boards could be used to summon Lucifer, demons, or any of this Dreamcrawler nonsense that sounds like something from that Euro-Inferior Goebbels fellow's science fiction stories. It's just propaganda to divide us during a time of war, er, a, uh, ongoing land reclamation and national security operation. Unless someone is doing something to alter their board or using a bootleg version, no daemoniacs can pass through! And we're looking forward to proving just that in a court of law."
Phoenix Oil, this whole time, was gobbling up WendiCo stock left and right for pennies on the dollar. Chuck Oswald was working in conjunction with his father to orchestrate the first of many economic crimes, extortion, and blackmail operations that would heralds his arrival on the national stage. The Flying Dutchman and Chuck had been acquaintances before, and Chuck had a number directly to Manasseh's office. On March 2, 1942, the distraught, stressed, and somewhat intoxicated Manasseh Wende answered the phone to hear a female voice saying, "All hail. Please stay on the line for a personal conversation from the Supreme Chief of the Office of Racial and Religious Affairs, His Excellency Charles Oswald." His eyes bulging from their sockets, his hand shaking, he heard a tinny version of "Yankee Doodle" play through the phone for a few moments after the woman's instructions ended. At last, he heard HIM.
"I trust this is Manasseh Wende, CEO?" Charles Oswald asked with a mockingly inquisitive tone.
"Yes... yes... y-y-our Excellency. It's always good to h-h-hear from you, sir. All Hail!" Manasseh squeaked, his typical baritone voice cracking and his stutter roaring back to life.
"Pleasure is all mine," Oswald said flatly. "Listen, Manasseh, pal, I have an offer to make you. An offer I don't think you're gonna wanna refuse. We're gonna say that ORRA investigated your factory and discovered that one of your reverends-for-hire was carrying forged papers. We're gonna say his boards weren't blessed properly, since he was a fuckin' fake, y'see? It's gonna clear all this up, buddy. Some two-bit preacher takes the fall, my boys in ORRA stamp out any talk of this Dreamcrawler nonsense, and you get to keep your company."
"Sir... sir? I suppose that's f-f-fine, sir, your excellency, s-sir. Wha... what do I need to do on m-my end, sir?"
The young man laughed dryly and replied, "You're gonna let Phoenix Oil buy a controlling stake in your entire business. People are dumping your stock like its quite literally made of demon shit. Buy low, low, low, we Oswalds always say. Don't worry, you get to keep plenty of your profits and your job. We'll clear all this up, no problem at all. But if you refuse... well, let's just say we'll shut down this whole 'spiritualism in the home' business, and your life, forever. Hope you like bustin' rocks in Cuba. But I don't want it to come to that, Manasseh. Just say the word and I'll clear this whole fuckin' Jev-damn mess up for you. Not only that, but I can guarantee you special government contracts."
Wende's answer is obvious to anyone who knows anything about Chuck Oswald. A minister was arrested for forged papers and shot for impersonating clergy of the AFC Church. Rumors of the whole "Dreamcrawler" entity were banned from print or talkiebox. And Phoenix Oil bought 51% of WendiCo Enterprises. This bypassed Clan negotiations, as normally there would have been a complex and time-sucking sit-down with the different companies in order to pick WendiCo dry, especially since it was a national brand at this point. The Oswalds would make millions upon millions in return investment, and violate every Clan policy in the book.
From 1942 on, the Flying Dutchman would be a constant companion of Oswald, moving and grooving and schmoozing with the Rat Pack at events and parties and estates across the Union and, eventually, the New United States. Wende needed Oswald, far more than Oswald needed Wende, but Wende viewed Oswald as merciful in the long run, and was willing to do whatever was asked of him, whenever it was asked, well up until the end of Oswald's reign. Richard Nixon would grow particularly distrustful of Manasseh, which was ironic due to Nixon's Quaker roots, with the Lucky Duck heir saying,"That sleazy Zwinglian cocksucker has no balls. Oswald clipped them ages ago. Spineless giant."
And so grandson of a hardcore Amish zealot, the son of America's first self-made female millionaire and her first cousin, the inbred child bullied and mocked for his appearance and voice, the hardened man who didn't even blink when Steele started whacking businessmen all around him, found himself bullied and cucked once more in life. All because he wanted to speak to his dead mother more conveniently. And that was the legacy of Manasseh Wende: just another boot-licking acolyte of Chuck Oswald, just another cog in the machine of the Pinnacle Future to come.