I got into the wagon first. “Get off,” said Jim, grasping my coat and pulling.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, June 17, 1939.

This Greg-Jim adventure is from Gregory Clark’s book, “Which We Did,” published by Reginald Saunders, Toronto.

“I wish,” said Jimmie Frise, “we were living 100 years from now.”

“A hundred years ago would be better,” I disagreed.

“Ah!” said Jim, “100 years from now, all this bewilderment we are living amidst will be over. All the problems solved. We’d know how communism turned out. And what became of Germany and Italy.”

“If we’d lived 100 years ago,” I debated, “we would know now what had happened. I would feel a lot safer if I had lived 100 years ago,”

“Think of the miracles,” cried Jim, “that are certain to come to pass in the next 100 years. Do you realize that in our lifetime more miracles have happened than in the rest of the entire history of the world?”

“I guess we have lived in a thrilling time,” I admitted.

“Thrilling?” said Jim. “Listen. Human history is divided into two parts. The past 100 years is one half. The other half are all the millions of years before.”

“Maybe it’s over,” I suggested.

“When we were born,” said Jim, “the telegraph was the last supreme wonder of the world – the telegraph. Since we were born, recollect the miracles that have come to pass. The telephone, the phonograph, the electric light, the gas engine, the motor car, the paved highway, radio, the airplane, television, the x-ray, a million per cent. development of electrical and mechanical understanding, several thousand per cent. increase in medical science.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Previous to our birth,” continued Jim, “the greatest event they could tell us about in the school books was that Columbus sailed across the ocean. Now people fly the ocean in a few hours.”

“A hundred years from now, I suppose,” supposed, “all we will need to do is go up to community stratosphere platforms overnight, and wait for the earth to revolve underneath us, and then come down for breakfast in London or Calcutta.”

“Boy,” said Jim, “how I would love to live 100 years from now. What will we look like? What will we be doing? Will there be newspapers or only news broadcasts with television? For example, the news agencies all over the world will be television reporters with their outfits to rush from place to place. All you will have to do is tune in on a world news centre, say, in London. There you will learn from an announcer what is going on. A revolution in Spain. A big parade in Moscow. A murder in Chicago. You just twist the dials and get the local station, and there, instead of X marks the spot where the body lay, you can see the police carrying the body out and the suspect being grilled like a pork chop.”

“In which case,” I explained, “you and I would be out of jobs. They won’t need cartoonists and writers.”

Mankind’s Two Classes

“In 100 years,” said Jim, “I doubt if many people will have to work. We are just about now beginning to discover that work is the bunk. Despite the million discoveries of how to do things easily and painlessly, we still have the silly idea that we all have to toil and labor the way we did back in the days of wooden plows and Magna Carta. But in 100 years I bet nobody will have to work except those that want to work.”

“Will anybody want to work?” I protested.

“Don’t be absurd,” said Jim. “Mankind is divided into two classes – those who don’t want to work, a very large class, and those who can’t help working, a small class, but easily able to support all the rest of us. This interesting division into classes has been staring us in the face now for nearly 100 years. But we haven’t tumbled to it yet. We still think it is a political division. It’s nothing of the sort. It’s purely a biological distinction. Some men are born to like work. To be unhappy unless they are working. They get as much kick out of work as we get out of fishing.”

“For heaven’s sake,” I cried, “it’s true.”

“Of course it’s true,” said Jim. “Take one of these people away from their work and they actually pine, grow ill and die. It’s like liquor to them. They are work addicts. Yet, from time immemorial, we have foolishly allowed these people, these addicts, to possess the earth and the fullness thereof. With their energy and pep, they have bossed us and bullied us and made life miserable for countless generations of mankind.”

“How simple it all is,” I mused.

“A hundred years from now,” went on Jimmie, “with the aid of medical science, advanced psychology and that sort of thing, we will have all work addicts classified. We will put them in a special uniform. We will supply them with all the machinery they, in their folly, have invented. And we will permit them to work to their hearts’ content, the poor addicts, while the rest of us, the natural man, the human, lazy, happy multitude, will be amply supported in glorious leisure.”

“Jim,” I confessed, “I, too, would like to be living 100 years from now.”

“It will be a great time,” declaimed Jimmie. “The workers will be honored by us all, instead of hated for their wealth and industry.”

“I would feel kind of sorry for them,” I confessed.

“They would likely be very snobbish about it all,” said Jim thoughtfully, “and as the years went by we might behold the comic spectacle of our own children aspiring to be workers.”

“Like now,” I offered, “young people wanting to be movie stars and aviators.”

“As a matter of fact,” said Jim, “there is in all human hearts a faint desire to want to do something. When it is no longer necessary, 100 years from now, to do anything unless you want to, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a most extraordinary development. We might get those cathedral builders we used to have centuries ago. We might get poets again. People might actually get to like living so much that they would just naturally want to make their lives beautiful.”

The Secret of Life

“A minute ago, Jim,” I said, “I was happy to be alive in this exciting age. But now, you make it all seem kind of drab. As if we were here standing in the dawn, in the cold and fog and grayness, waiting for the day we will never see.”

“You never can tell,” declared Jim. “Sometimes I get the feeling we are on the very edge of the secret of life. As if we were hovering on the very brim of immense revelations, when all our troubles and misunderstandings will vanish away like mist, and we’ll stand in the clear, all over the world, understanding, comprehending and realizing. Almost any day now some scientist will discover the very essence of life. Maybe before we die we can take a pill or drink a liquid that will restore our youth and allow us to live indefinitely.”

“Come on, science,” I cheered.

“Oh, it’s partly done already,” said Jim. “What do you suppose those monkey gland experiments were for?1 And all these gland pills and rejuvenation pills?”

“I hadn’t paid much attention to that stuff,” I said. “I guess I still feel pretty peppy.”

“You can buy pills now,” said Jim, “that make you 20 years younger. For a little while. But you have to keep taking them or else you feel about 80.”

“I guess they only make you feel 20 years younger,” I suggested. “I’ve seen some of my friends acting 30 years younger and they didn’t take rejuvenation pills.”

“No,” said Jim. “I’m told these pills actually make you 20 years younger. For as long as they last, they restore to your system the worn-out essences of life itself. To all intents and purposes you are 20 years younger.”

“That would be a nice feeling,” I admitted, trying to remember what 20 years ago felt like.

“The way I understand it,” said Jim, “we are all lit up inside by our glands, as if they were a string of those little lights you put on a Christmas tree. Some are bright and some are dim, according to the way we are born. Sometimes one of them burns too bright and all the rest go dim. Sometimes one goes out, and then they all go out. Our glands are all hooked up on a sort of circuit.”

“Taking pills then,” I said, “is like putting in a fresh bulb?”

“Sort of,” agreed Jim. “We have glands in our head and neck and all over our bodies. Some of them are so small they haven’t been discovered yet. Others are so newly found the doctors don’t know what they are for, but they all work together to make us what we are. One gland makes us lazy and another makes us work. One makes us bad tempered and another makes us have dry skin or bushy hair. In a few years they will be able to give a gland pill so you can see a joke. Or to improve your ear for music.”

“Character won’t be worth having,” I protested, “if you can buy it at the drug store.”

“You see what I am getting at?” said Jim. “A few more steps in this game and they’ll find a gland preservative and then we can live to be 500 years old.”

“Are any of these pills to be had?” I asked.

“Doctors use them all the time,” said Jim. “You’ve heard of thyroid pills and adrenalin pills?”

“As journalists, Jim,” I declared, “we ought to have been looking into this long ago. We should even have been taking some of these pills.”

“You can’t take them without a doctor’s orders,” Jim said. “If your glands are good and you took a pill, goodness knows what it might do to you. But of course these rejuvenation pills you can get anywhere. They’re on sale like any patent medicine.”

Not Wanting to Be Younger

“I’m not particularly anxious to be 20 years younger,” I mused. “Twenty years ago I remember the war too vividly. I’m not very sure I would like to be as I was then.”

“Even 10 years ago,” agreed Jim. “I wouldn’t like to go back 10. I used to be so anxious and working and worrying and full of trouble.”

“Ten years ago,” I said, “I had the eczema.”

“Even five years,” said Jim. “Five years ago I thought I would never get my house paid for. It used to keep me awake at night. Now I don’t care.”

“It would probably,” I said, “be only a physical feeling. It would only last a couple of hours. Let’s try it. We owe it to humanity.”

“On an empty stomach,” said Jim. “We’ll take a couple of hours for lunch.”

Our favorite druggist spoke very highly of four or five brands of rejuvenation pills. He told us of an elderly gentleman amongst his clients who had taken off 30 years on one brand of pill. There were Chinese pills, big jelly looking objects; and tiny pinhead pills made in Europe by societies with long names, that were the secret, the druggist told us, of the fact that all the fashion styles come from Paris. Some of the pills were in old-fashioned packages with pen drawings of virile looking gentlemen with long black beards. Others were done up very discreetly in vivid modernistic style; others in a plain envelope, as the saying is.

“This here,” said the druggist, “is one of the newest. It comes from Europe. They say the German army, is fed on them daily.”2

We bought that one. Fifty pills – $2.753.

They were small white flat pills with a curious pallid expression. We read the instructions: “The effect of this prescription is cumulative. Take one tablet the first time, two tablets the second time, and so on until a maximum of five pills at a time are taken; by which time a permanent sense of rejuvenation and well-being will permeate the whole system.”

“Well,” laughed Jimmie, “let’s take the first one here at the soda fountain to begin with.”

Which we did and then went forth to stroll in the crisp noon air, amidst all the hurrying throng of luncheoners.

“It does not say,” said Jim, “at what intervals to take them. But I suppose we ought to give them at least time to dissolve.”

“I feel a slight sense of well-being already, Jim,” I submitted, squaring my shoulders.

“They have a minty flavor,” said Jim. “Not at all bad to take.”

“Pop us out a couple,” I suggested, and Jim produced the bottle and we each palmed and swallowed two.

We mingled with the crowds up towards the big department store corners.

“Jim,” I said, “do you notice anything?”

“I certainly feel light on my feet,” said Jim. “But the best part of it is, how nice everything looks. And everybody.”

“Ah, this is a great old town,” I agreed. “Anybody that couldn’t be happy here couldn’t be happy anywhere.”

“Wheeeeee,” said Jimmie. So we went through the revolving doors of one of the big stores and stood in the lobby while we took the next course; three pills each this time.

“They dissolve quick,” said Jim.

At the Magic Counter

We stood in the lobby for a little while, letting them dissolve and watching all the lovely people hurrying through. There were a lot of other people, mostly young men, standing in the lobby. It felt good to be there with them, standing and watching everybody passing.

“Where to?” asked Jim.

“Let’s go through the gent’s furnishings,” I said. “I’ve got the idea I’d like to look at some ties and shirts and things.”

We spent a happy 20 minutes looking at the haberdashery. I had no idea haberdashery had developed so interestingly of late. Snappy, we used to call it when I was younger. Jim and I both agreed that the youth’s and young gent’s was away ahead of the rest of the department, and we told the salesmen so, Jim finally bought a club stripe tie and I got two blue shirts with nifty fall-over collars that expose the throat.

“How do you feel?” I asked Jim.

“Hungry,” said Jim. I observed that he had his hat on the back of his head and his hair was sticking out in front. It looked nice. So I put my hat the same way. Jim began picking things up off the counter and putting them down again. I followed him and did the same. It was fun.

We saw the escalator at the same time and raced for it. We rode up three floors on it and then came down four. Then Jimmie invented the trick of going down the up escalators and up the down ones. A man came over and told us not to do that.

“Let’s go to the toy department,” said Jim. Did we ever have a swell time in the toy department? We tried all the things, the pop-guns and the mechanical automobiles. We blew the horns and beat the drums. We pushed dolls off the counters and spent a long time at the magic counter. It was when we got to the wagon and tricycle department that the difficulties began.

There was one lovely wagon like an automobile. It was blue and had shining metal headlights and disc wheels. I got into it first. “Get off,” said Jim, grasping my coat and pulling.

“I got it first,” I retorted.

“Get off it,” hissed Jimmie, giving me a dirty pinch.

“I won’t,” I yelled.

Jim put his shoulder against me and sent me flying to the floor. Weeping with rage, I rushed him and we clinched and punched and pinched and shoved all over the department, stumbling over carts and tricycles, while girls tried to separate us and managers came dashing up. They got us apart and Jimmie leaned sobbing bitterly against the counter.

“Aw, Jimmie,” I said. “I’m sorry.”

“Now,” sobbed Jimmie, his fists in his eyes, “we’ll be late for school.”

Editor’s Notes: As was indicated at the start, this story was originally exclusive to the book Which We Did (1936).

  1. This refers to the work of Serge Voronoff who gained fame for his practice of xenotransplantation of monkey testicle tissues onto the testicles of men for purportedly as anti-aging therapy while working in France in the 1920s and 1930s. ↩︎
  2. The German army was provided a drug called Pervitin, an early form of methamphetamine. ↩︎
  3. $2.75 in 1939 is about $58 in 2024. ↩︎