Chapter 13 New Boy 50 years a Watchtower slave
They get my heart, soul and my body
Saturday morning I was up at 6:30. It was fun trying to share small bathroom with seven other guys, all trying to get ready in 20 minutes. I threw some cloths on and headed to first “morning worship.” Gilbert said I could sit on his table since there was an extra space there. Hundreds of “brothers” and “Sisters” swarmed into the 124 building, since that was where most the dining rooms were at. Some came in from underground tunnels from the 119 and 107 buildings. The society owned about a half a dozen buildings in the Heights at the time and would be buying lots more over the next few years.
We set down at a table in the upper dinner room. The dining room was full of tables that fit exactly ten people. Each table had a “table head” and the “table foot.” The table head was where usually a Bethel Elder would sit. I set down at a table with my new friend Gilbert. The table was set with all white china, cups, saucers and plates. I set there in amazement. I looked up to see many TV sets mounted on the walls.
A middle age “sister” smiled as she looked at me.
“So Gilbert who is your new friend?”
“His name is Keith Casarona. He just got here.”
“Welcome brother Casarona. I’m Sister Jones.”
“Hi I just…” Before I could say another word. There was a voice coming over all the TVs in the upper dining room. I was none other than Brother Knorr himself, the president of the society. He was leading comments, about the daily text. Sooner or later everyone in the Bethel family would have to make their comments about the daily text in front of the whole Bethel family. You would get a chance to share your thoughts and your wisdom about every six months. Almost two thousand “brothers and sisters” plus the governing body and all Bethel Elders would be watching you as you set in front of the cameras. That would be months away for me. Over the years some of the things that came out of people’s mouths on that text table would blow your mind. After the text was over and Knorr was making the last of his announcements, the food started coming up the elevators. Breakfast and lunch were the two best meals at the Lord house, with dinner coming in at away distant third. At the time most of the food eaten there was grown on the society’s farms. Over all, the food was pretty good. When I got there I weighed 155 pounds. Six months later I was at 185. The use to say “It’s the best food in the world….. before they cooked it.”
Some of the food would be on the tables already before we got there. Other food would be dropped off next to the table head. The table head would pass the platers down one side first. When the platers were empty, they would pass them out to a waiters. The platers would come back a few minutes later. They usually had less food on them. The table head would then pass the platers down the opposite side of the table. What table you were assigned to was a big deal because you were usually sitting there for at least an hour or more a day. I found out later that If Knorr got into one of his rants we would be sitting there a whole lot longer, with very cold food waiting for us when it was over.
Once the text was over there was a prayer before eat breakfast. Everyone pulled out their white linen napkins that were folded and hidden under the table and put them on their laps. There wasn’t much talking at the table as chowing down had now began. I had a thousand questions but I felt this wasn’t the time or place to bring them up. I pulled out the napkin under my place setting and started to place it on my lap.
The table head who hadn’t said a word to me as of yet looked up from his scrambled eggs and said. “Brother, you need to put the napkin back where you found it.”
“Ok.” I folded the napkin and put it back under the table in its place.
Sister Jones piped in. “We all get one clean napkin a week for our personal use and no matter where we sit we don’t use other people’s napkins.”
This of course was just one of the hundreds of written and unwritten laws and codes of conduct that a person would need to know if they were “Dwell together in unity” at the lord’s house.
After about fifteen minutes of eating there was a dismissal prayer. Everyone got up from theirs seats and pushed their chairs in. Brother Knorr said a few words of prayer and breakfast was over. Some set back down and kept on eating. If you worked in the home you had some extra time before you had get to work at 8:00, since you didn’t have the twenty walk to the factory. Most of everyone else would go to their job assignments immediately.
Gilbert informed me since I had come early, I needed to go the Bethel office to check in.
Once there I was given my Bethel key, and packet of documents with the booklet, “Dwelling together in unity.” My key number was number 499. This key would allow you access to all the major buildings the society own. The key was to be guarded with your life. If the key was lost, two thousand brothers and sisters wellbeing could be at risk. I looked at the key and wondered how many other people before me was the proud owner of key 499. The key was also one of the ways they could identify you. More about that later.
The booklet “Dwelling together in unity.” was not mine to keep. I had to read the booklet and return it to the Bethel office. It was a private and confidential publication for Bethelites eyes only. The booklet contained just some of the many rules and regulations that a person needed to know. You had two thousands roommates now and there lots to learn. You learned that you needed to obey your overseers (they didn’t have Elders yet) in every way. They were appointed by god’s Holy Spirit. It told you about everything from hygiene to marriage, from vacations to sickness. For example, If you were there less than five years and were sick too long they would take away your vacation time from you. Also if you got sick or injured there it might be best if you left there so you wouldn't be a burden on them. Some brave soul snuck copy of this booklet out and put it on the internet. Check it out. Written by none other than the President himself. Mr. Knorr.
There was a lot of documents I needed to sign before I could join the club. I hardly read any of them. I felt there wasn’t anything the society wanted me to do that wasn’t in my best interest. One document was a bit strange. It was a form that said that the society would have the legal right to keep my body, if I should die of natural or unnatural causes. Yes, even if I get murdered or decide to kill myself while at Bethel, Bethel still wanted to keep my body. While I was at Bethel, I did know of Bethelites that were either murdered or who killed themselves. They ended up being buried somewhere on the Watchtower farm. So what’s the reason behind all this? Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe the society likes to spend money on funerals….no, I don’t think so. What the society does like, is to stay away from expensive lawsuits. Maybe those controlling your corpse can prevent some kind of legal action. Who knows? It doesn’t matter, I signed everything they put in front of me.
I was never leaving Bethel before Armageddon anyway.
i'd rather go to prison.
I visited my brother who was at Bethel in the 70's, and I recall the same table scene that Keith describes. The visitors (like me) and the new boys stood out like a sore thumb because they didn't have the table methods down right. Passing the food the wrong direction, etc, got a swift correction.
We visited our local branch and had lunch with them. I felt like I was stealing when offered an apple. It was so weird. I could never ever live and work in there.
Seems with Warwick, they've finally figured out that any WT HQ needs to be a relatively pleasant place to come to live and work (if only to provide some kind of incentive for young loyalists to aspire towards).
A little less stick, a little more carrot.
Took 'em long enough.
You didn't say anything about the three legged chairs and how they could fall over when everybody stood up for the prayer at the end of the meal. I remember my years there, what a weird trip.........groovy.....heavy duty.
new boy - "...I did know of Bethelites that were either murdered or who killed themselves..."
Wait, what? Murdered?
Thanks Keith you the man !!!
"Wait, what? Murdered?
Yes its true. One poor brother was working on the Murray Hill kingdom hall and someone walked up to him and stabbed him to death. I think this was in the early Spring of 1974 if I remember correctly. But that doesn't even include those who died because of improper care in the Bethel Infirmary. Frank Lewis (now long dead I believe) has blood on his hands from improper medical 'diagnosis' and treatment or more truthfully the lack of proper medical treatment by a 'real' doctor.