“You will be dropping down, in your Helicopter in this garden, every Friday evening to take me for a week-end on Georgian Bay,” predicted Jim.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, June 26, 1943.

“Hosing the garden,” ruminated Jimmie Frise, as he waggled the hose this way and that, “is a pleasure at the start of summer.”

“But by August?” I suggested.

“Even by mid-July,” declared Jim, “it becomes a fag.1

“Here,” I said, “let me hose this part.”

Jim handed me the hose, which dribbled quite lively at the nozzle and which, about six feet in rear of you, allowed a fine spray to catch you unawares in the seat of the pants if you did not forcibly twist the hose to keep the leak pointed earthward.

“After the war,” said Jim, sitting down in the lawn chair, “among the great changes which are to come, ought to be a system whereby you install a few pipes underground, with nozzles sticking up here and there in the garden, like the nozzles of a fire prevention sprinkler system. All you would do would be to turn on a tap, and all over the garden, little sprays like fountains would spring up.”2

“It will be some time after the war,” I submitted, “before metal pipes become plentiful enough to be wasted on tricks as silly as that.”

“Silly?” cried Jim. “I tell you it is the duty of all thinking men to go silly right now, if that is silly, and start thinking up ways of consuming things. The only way we can prevent a gigantic slump right after the war is by thinking up ways of using all the things that are being produced now.”

“But not foolish things,” I protested, “like fountains in plain people’s back yards.”

“Why not?” demanded Jimmie. “Who is going to decide what is wise and what is foolish? If we let old men do the deciding, they can’t help but struggle to get us back on the mean, mingy, stingy way of life to which they have been accustomed. So, first of all, let us start agitating that nobody over 40 should have anything whatever to do with the peace negotiations, either with the enemy or here at home. Because, don’t forget, not all the peace negotiations are going to made around a table in Paris or Berlin. A lot of peace negotiations have to be made in every city and every town and every home.”

“Are you advocating?” I inquired, “that we enter upon another Bacchanalian era after the war like 1926 to 1929, after the last war?”

“I am advocating,” stated Jim, “that we all start getting used to thinking about consuming. For the past four years, we have thought so hard about producing that, when the war ends, and the excessive production of war comes to an end, we are liable to have forgotten how to consume. The minute the war ends, we have all got to start consuming just as hard as we have been producing. Otherwise, ruin.”

“Such as,” I scoffed, artistically swaying the hose over new patches of garden, “such as installing fountains in back yards?”

For a Flourishing World

“I don’t care how you consume,” said Jim, “so long as you can think up ways of using everything the stepped-up factories of Canada can produce, so that not one man or one girl has to be laid off.”

“Where would we get the money?” I inquired. “After we have spent our few paltry war bonds, what would we use?”

“I see you have no imagination,” stated Jim, “Our national savings are a few paltry hundred millions. But our national income is a great many thousand millions. At present. The trick is to keep those national earnings going. To heck with savings. For centuries, we have been taught that the big thing is to save. For centuries, the world has been in a constant mess. What we are about to learn is, that it is not savings that matter at all. It is earnings. Keep everybody earning and everybody spending, and the world will flourish like a green bay tree.”

“It sounds good,” I confessed, holding the hose a little farther out from me, because the dribble was increasing, “but if it would work, why hasn’t somebody thought of it long ago?”

“It has been thought of long ago,” declared Jimmie, “but the world was in the clutches of financiers and businessmen who found it more exciting and much more profitable to pursue the savings tradition. To them, business and finance was a game, a sort of super poker game. If everybody was busy and everybody happy, if all mankind were producing and consuming and nobody saving, how could these big shots stage their regular ten year financial collapses in which to scoop up everybody’s savings? If the world was always busy, it wouldn’t be like a poker game at all. It wouldn’t even be a game. It would just be like a world-wide dance around the maypole on the village green. And big financiers can’t get any kick out of maypole dances. They like action. They like big killings. After all, the world is the poker table for about one thousand big poker players.”

“That’s awful talk,” I exclaimed.

“It’s true,” asserted Jim. “I bet the big brains who control the world’s finances don’t number more than a thousand. And all that interests them is the game they play and who can scuttle who. They like the mass of mankind to work and save so that there are large numbers of chips available for the grand slam. If everybody had work and nobody had savings to put into the ventures of the big shots, what the Sam Hill would the big shots do for relaxation?”

“You’re cynical,” I submitted.

“Look,” said Jim, “do you remember the big stock crash of 1929? Do you recall all your friends worth twenty thousand, thirty thousand in imaginary stock winnings?”

“Ah, that was just paper,” I pointed out.

“But they all put real money in too,” explained Jim. “They borrowed on their houses. They scraped all their cash up and put it into stocks. They invested, one, two thousand dollars. And it swelled up, like a balloon, to ten, twenty thousand. Then the balloon burst. Away went the twenty, thirty thousand. But away, too, went the one, two thousand. And left them, often, another couple of thousands in the hole, to be paid off in grief and chagrin. Where did all those one and two thousands go? We are all very airy about the imaginary money that went up in smoke. But the real money, my boy, the real hard cash – where did it go?”

“Hmmm,” I admitted.

“It didn’t go up in smoke, me lad,” said Jim. “It went some place. Where do you suppose it went?”

“I see,” I muttered.

“Yes, sir,” said Jim, “there were billions of real money lost in that smash. And I think I know who got it. And it certainly wasn’t you or me or our friends.”

“I can’t think of a single solitary soul,” I confessed, “who made a cent. They all lost.”

“We suckers,” said Jim, “ought to wake up. Why should we serve, forever, as bellhops carrying chips to the big poker game on the mezzanine?”

“If only,” I sighed, “we could produce somebody to lead us who would talk as plainly about economies as Winston Churchill talks about war!”

“If you could see the seat of your pants,” said Jimmie, leaning back in the garden chair, “you wouldn’t think it a silly idea for all of us to have sprinkler fountains in our back yards.”

I felt my trousers and found them beautifully frosted with the spray from Jim’s hose. The act of feeling caused the water to seep through the fabric.

“Here,” I said, “take your hose. Let me do the surmising for a while.”

“Sit down, do,” said Jim rising and taking the hose.

But I preferred to stand.

Travel By Helicopter

“Think of the machine tools,” I proposed, “the thousands and thousands of machine tools this country has got since the war broke out four years ago. How could we ever keep them busy?”

“Making radios,” retorted Jim, “with television. Why do you suppose there has been no advance in television this past five years? Because there was nobody with money to buy them. But now, there are millions of men and women working at machine tools, at good wages, who will buy them.

“Think,” I pursued, “of the airplane industry, the tens of thousands of people working in this country on engines, wings, parts, gadgets.”

“I have heard the rumor,” announced Jim, “that an implement firm in Canada has already got the rights for the Helicopter3, and as soon as the war ends, they, like airplane factories all over the world, are going to start producing small, domestic aircraft for common use. People who will still drive cars will be like people who drove buggies in 1930; old-fashioned. There is still room for buggies. There will still be plenty of room for cars. But the world in general will be using aircraft. And you, my fine feathered friend, will be dropping down, in your Helicopter, right in this garden, every Friday evening, to take me for a week-end on the Georgian Bay.”

“Aw,” I scoffed.

“Before you are five years older,” predicted Jim, calmly, “you will own a Helicopter that can land in a garden the size of this. You will drop it down here as calmly as you back your car out of your side drive. There was a time – do you remember? – when you thought with horror of packing up a motor car. You think with horror of dropping a Helicopter into this garden. But I tell you, the answer to all tomorrow’s worries is in the production of new and known devices for the use and comfort and amusement of mankind. Television and aircraft are only two items which will do for the next 20 years what the motor car and the radio did for the past 20 years.”

“With a happier ending, I hope?” I said.

“The miracle of Radar,” said Jim, “which has enabled the British to see, by radio, enemy aircraft taking off from their airfields in France, will be as common a miracle in 10 years as the telephone was in our youth. You will be receiving air force blue summonses4 for breaking the air traffic laws in another five years. Radar will be checking your every move, as you fly from this garden to Go Home Bay5, on the Georgian Bay. Being a Helicopter, you will have to keep to the Blue Lane, northbound, which is 500 feet high, two miles wide. immediately west of Yonge St. The faster stuff, which your sons will drive, will use the Silver Lane, which is the northbound track. 5,000 feet high, four miles wide, immediately west of Yonge St. As you approach the Radar station at Barrie, they will give you your signals, just like a traffic cop, as to when to turn right or left, depending whether you are going west to the Georgian Bay, or east, over Lake Simcoe.”

“Suppose I can’t see,” I inquired. “Suppose it is raining?”

“Your orders will be spoken into your earphones,” explained Jim. “If you get off your lane, a Radar cop will call your number and warn you to get up or down to your level, or east or west, on to the lane. If anybody tries cutting in on you, you should worry. A Radar voice will hand him a radio summons to land at the next airfield and report to the local air traffic magistrate forthwith.”

“Suppose he doesn’t?” I inquired, watching the hose slowly dying in Jim’s hand.

“Then a Radar speed cop,” explained Jim, “will take off and chase the traffic offender, force him down and his flying license will be cancelled for six months, first offence.”

Life is Certainly Funny

Slowly the hose stream died, and we both turned and looked back towards the house, where the hose was attached to a good old-fashioned tap of about 1917. A new leak had sprung. A large fountain was spraying blithely over the perennial phlox, back near the steps.

Jim dropped the hose and ran back to the tap which he turned off.

“I’ll go and get the electric tape,” he said.

“What you need is a new hose,” I suggested. “One factory that needn’t worry about the war ending will be the rubber hose factory.”

Jim came back in a few minutes with the electric tape. It was a gummy and small roll and after a little while Jim succeeded in picking loose a section of it, with which he wound the leak.

“This stuff is getting scarce, too,” said Jim.

He turned on the tap again and we hurried forward to pick up the nozzle before it had, gouged a hole in the lawn.

“If the war ends,” said Jim, “before we have had time to talk and plan and dream up all the ways we are going to use the discoveries and developments of industry and science for war, we will slip back into our old ways. The same old gang will resume possession of the world. The motor car manufacturers will try to out-bluff the aircraft manufacturers. The radio makers will try to draw to a straight flush to the two pairs of the television boys. The old poker game will be resumed. What we, the people, have got to do is get busy dreaming. We’ve got to dream, of a world that is not a game.”

Again the stream from the hose began to slacken. We turned and looked back along its decrepit length.

From the leak Jim had fixed with tape, a small burble was flowing. But from another place much nearer, a beautiful little spray was curving into the evening air.

“Hold it, Jim,” I cried. “You’ve got the answer. Why worry about burying iron water pipes in your garden? Just keep your old hose and let it sprinkle all over to its heart’s desire.”

For now, three beautiful jets were playing in different parts of the yard, and by a deft twitch to the hose, we could shift the fountains to any part of the garden we liked.

“The funny part of life, Jim,” I submitted, “is that often it isn’t a new thing you need, but an old one. And in this instance, the older the better.”

“Except for the looks of it,” muttered Jimmie.

Editor’s Notes:

  1. In this case, “fag” means a boring or wearisome task. ↩︎
  2. I’m not sure when home sprinkler systems were invented, but certainly after the war. ↩︎
  3. Helicopters were already invented, but the Sikorsky R-4 became the first helicopter to reach full-scale production in 1942. ↩︎
  4. Blue tickets were traffic tickets. ↩︎
  5. Greg’s real cottage was on Go Home Bay, a community where his father was a founding member. ↩︎