THE BEST YEARS OF THEIR LIVES
JOHN NORMAN HARRIS
Freedom, travel, leisure... that’s what the company promised George and the missus when George retired. But the missus knew better than that
The assignment that had been given to Irving Morris (Personnel) and Bill McBride (Public Relations) was right up Morris' alley, but nevertheless it was McBride who discovered George Gould, the perfect guinea pig for the scheme.
Messrs. Morris and McBride had been told to do something about the retirement problem, which was really not one problem but a whole lot of problems. For instance, some men were so worried about retiring and having nothing to do that they got neurotic, while others could hardly wait to do nothing, and wanted to coast during their last couple of years. But mainly the problem was that the pensioners couldn't live on their reduced incomes, and more particularly the elderly clerical workers who had never got beyond the minimum salaries.
"Research and experiment should be the keynote,” Morris had said when he and McBride were planning their campaign. "We must set up a pattern for happy retired life on a small income, and then find a way of applying it more widely. Bill, this is a great thing. We have the privilege of showing these people how to live . . .”
"Egg-sucking instruction, grandmothers for the use of,” Bill McBride said. “Between you and me, I think the way to make people happy is to let 'em be miserable in their owm w'ay. But if you want a guinea pig. I've got him. During forty-two years w'ith Eastern he has done nothing that I can see except prepare himself for the role of guinea pig.”
“Name? Department?” Morris asked crisply.
“Name: George Gould. Department: Ac-
counting. Occupation: sticking invoices, vouchers and receipts together. His work would be taken over by a business machine, only the machines are built now so's they can think, and they would find it too boring. But not George. The company is retiring him at sixty, which is its inalienable right, and his pension will be the minimum.”
"Poor fellow,” Morris said sympathetically.
“Don't waste your tears,” McBride said. “On the ladder of success George Gould never quite reached the first rung. Nevertheless, in his miserable way he has achieved a sort of happiness. In fact, in his way he's a genius. He has a car and owns his home. He has reared two children, one "m” and one "f,” now full grown, married and independent. And he doesn’t owe a cent. So . . .”
“Let’s have him up,” Morris suggested.
The summons reached George Gould in mid-
morning. just after he had ascertained—by getting the mail girl to question the elevator girl who had got it from the dietitian—that there would be liver and bacon for lunch in the company cafeteria. To be summoned to the personnel department was deeply disturbing to George Gould, who relied on protective coloring to keep from being noticed. A summons anywhere, he knew, usually meant trouble and explanations. With deep misgivings he made his way to the carpeted splendor of the personnel department, w'here, after preliminary shufflings and stammerings. he was seated in the office of Irving Morris.
"Now tell me, Mr. Gould,” Morris began after briefly explaining the scheme, “just what is the present pattern of your life? I mean, what are the things you enjoy, what do you look forward to? What are the bright spots?”
George Gould thought for a while.
“Well, lunch for one thing.” he said at last. “Lunch?”
“Yeah, lunch. See, with gettin’ this thirty-cent special in the company cafeteria, you eat good and pick what you want. You’re sort of free. And then afterward 1 go down to the basement lounge and stretch out and have a snooze. Believe me. that’s good.”
"I see. And what else is good?”
"Well now. there’s the TV. I like the boxing show, although the missus don't particularly like it—I gotta keep the sound turned way down. And 1 kind of like reading the paper.”
“Is that all? Are those your only pleasures?” Morris demanded. "What about your vacation —don't you look forward to that?”
“Well, yeah, it’s okay,” George Gould said. “We go in April. I get three weeks. We drive somewheres. like Florida. The prices arc all away down, and the wife really goes for it. She haggles with these here motels and boarding houses and she buys appliances and things you can get cheap in the States. Sometimes she puts an ad in the paper and rents our house while we're away, and then the trip don't cost us hardly anything.”
“And you—do you enjoy these holidays?" “Well, it's okay. It’s certainly a change. But you know, with a woman you stick right close to her, shopping and all that, and the two of you do what she wants to.”
Otherwise. George explained, his life consisted of daily rising to stoke the furnace and shovel snow, in season, daily catching of a jampacked streetcar, a continued on page 30
continued on page 30
The best years of their lives
Continued from page 25
long semicomato.se period of matching vouchers and receipts, and then the long grind home, where the missus interrogated him, fed him, and then shoved a dish towel into his hand. On Saturday he polished doors, painted verandas, washed storm windows or screens, or worked in the garden. On Sundays he attended divine worship twice (under escort) and managed to sleep in the afternoon unless the kids came to visit, and unless the missus decided it was time to take another Floral Tribute to the Last Resting Place of her mother. On Wednesday evening George also regularly attended prayer meeting.
Bill McBride, taking a bold course, suggested that it was a remarkable achievement to acquire a house, a car and a TV on a — er — moderate salary, after bringing up two fine children.
“Well. 1 dunno,” George said modestly. “I guess we don't spend it on a lot of other things, like picture shows and liquor and tobacco. I quit smokin’ soon alter 1 got married, and 1 don’t have a drink more’n three-four times a year. But all the same, we had a lot of luck to get where we did.”
“Luck?” Morris asked tenderly, in a tone that indicated that George Gould was being too modest.
“Yeah, see, I won the car—the first one—at a Lions’ Club picnic and rally. A ’35 Chev. The ticket cost two bits. It was the wife’s car, because the quarter come out of the housekeeping money. Then in ’38 a guy clipped me, smashed the car all up, and I was in the hospital for six weeks. Well, this guy was some big shot, and he had a blonde with him and maybe they’d had a few. Anyway, the wife wasn’t hurt at all, and she sure fixed him. He signed right up and said he’d pay lor everything, or his insurance would. We got a new car and all the hospital bills and money for loss of time and pain and anguish and all that stuff— and all the time the company was paying my salary. We made over six hundred bucks clear, and the missus put it down for a payment on the house. She paid the mortgage off in fifteen years too.”
“But 1 believe Mr. McBride said you have a new car?”
“Sure. In ’45, when there was no cars to be had, the missus sold our ’38 car for a heck of a price, and kept the money in the bank till the new cars were out. Well, since then, the missus has kept in touch with a finance company that sometimes repossesses cars that have hardly run at all. Her sister’s husband works there. So, every couple of years there’s a real bargain, and she grabs hold of it.”
NOON having arrived, McBride and Morris persuaded George Gould to forego the liver in the cafeteria, and to lunch with them at a club, where he showed no reluctance to have not one but three drinks before the meal, and a brandy afterward. He also consumed a large round of underdone roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, over which he hovered as if he half expected somebody to snatch it away before he was finished.
Between bites he managed to round off the story of his life with an account of his career in the company.
He had left high school—-or Parkdale Collegiate Institute, to be exact — after two undistinguished years, at the age of
sixteen, and had spent the two following undistinguished years as messenger boy for a printer who supplied certain printed forms for the Eastern Company. In 1914, when Eastern suffered certain personnel losses owing to a war, George got his chance at a clerical post, which he had held ever since, hut for two brief interludes. The first was when he sprang to arms on receipt of his call-up papers in April 1918, after which he served for eight months as a batman in the Army Pay Corps at Long Branch, Ont. The second came in 1928, when he was appointed chief clerk in one of the sections of his department, a position which he relinquished in the following year, under circumstances that the personnel records dealt with only sketchily.
“Oh, that,” George said casually, after McBride had tried to word a tactful question on the obscure epoch. “Well, see, that was a hell of a tough job. I didn't have anybody with any brains under me, and everything got in a mess, and right at the worst time I got into a kind of a mess too. We had this department picnic up to Bond Lake on the radial cars, and cornin’ back this dame —never mind who she was—she sort of got fooling around, sitting next to me— you know, horsing about. Well, I must of been nuts, because I got ideas. Anyway, one night going on five-thirty I go into the old stationery cupboard and there she is, and I grab ahold of her. Holy smokes! And right then Kerwin walks in and tells us we’re both fired. You know the rule about company women.”
“An indispensable rule,” Morris said primly.
“Sure. Well, anyway 1 was scared stiff, but this Madge was some gal. Right around then Langley—you know, the guy that retired as president—he was having himself some trouble. Like he was divorcin’ his wife and she was divorcin’ him, and there was a lot of stuff in the paper about wild parties and chorus girls. Those little scandal sheets were really giving it the works. So Madge bounces in to see Kerwin next morning and says how’s it going to look, two poor employees fired for a little harmless neckin’ when the big boss is havin’ nudist parties at his private beach? And she says don’t worry, if we was fired, she would give the whole works to the scandal sheets.”
“And it worked?” Morris demanded. “Sure it worked. And I’ll tell you for why. Kerwin got to be president of this company for one thing — he avoided trouble all along. You ask anyone. If he thought any trouble was going to boil up and bother the big shots, Kerwin would stop it. If she’d of tried to pull that on Langley, he'd of said go ahead and tell the papers any damn thing. But not Kerwin, so we didn’t get fired, only I got demoted.”
“And everybody was happy,” McBride suggested.
“Don’t you believe it,” George Gould said. “The story was all over the company, so it got to somebody at the church, and then some old hen got the missus and said it was her duty to tell her. Holy cow! That was twenty-seven years ago, and I still hear about it three times a week.”
“Irving.” McBride said, pulling Morris aside when they were leaving the table, “we’re talking to the wrong person. With-
out the missus wc’rc nowhere, agreed?” “No doubt about it,” Morris said. “That’s where we make our deal.”
“George,” McBride said as they rejoined their guest, “I think we’re doing fine, but we'd also like to talk with your good lady. Is there any chance of our slipping out to the house to interview her?”
“Well, there sure is!” George said, with the enthusiasm of a man grasping at the chance to take home buffers against conjugal wrath. “If you boys would like to come home with me you can stay for supper and talk to the missus all you like, although by golly you’re lucky if you can get a word in edgewise.” It was therefore agreed that George should phone home and give due warning, and they walked back to the office together, arriving at twenty past two, a fact which George noted with apparent satisfaction.
WHEN, reunited, they arrived at the Gould residence, a small six-room semidetached house, they found Mrs. Gould in her very best dress, unpinning the tea towels from the slip covers on the sofa. She, and her house, looked as if they had been hastily given an added clean and polish, although they had certainly not needed it.
“Do come in,” she said happily. “I’m real pleased. I’m sure. My gracious, when George phoned and said he was bringing home two high officials of the company I didn’t know what to think! I didn't have a thing in the house, and the place was in a terrible mess, a real pickle. Just set right down there. My, you’re both very young looking, if you don’t mind me saying so! You must be pretty smart. My boy George is pretty smart too. He’s supervising foreman on the assembly, and he’s already earning half as much again as his dad! Oh, do you want to smoke? George, go get the ashtray—it’s on the rad in the kitchen, under some newspapers. Well, whatever is all this about our retiring plan?”
“Uh, well,” Morris said, stumbling like a football player to whom the quarterback has handed the ball by mistake, “you see, we have been researching the problem area of preand post-retirement difficulties in order to blueprint a practical program of reorientation to bridge the adjustment gap that. . .”
Irving Morris began to peter out as he watched the bright, eager and utterly uncomprehending face of Mrs. Gould.
“It’s like this,” McBride said, recovering the fumbled ball. “A lot of people are unhappy when they retire, for various reasons. They have no hobbies or activities, and the thought of idleness appalls them . . .”
“It wouldn’t appall George,” Mrs. Gould said. “What’s more, it wouldn’t get the chance—not around here, let me tell you. I’ll keep him busy . . .”
"And then there’s the problem of reduced income, which often requires adjusting here and there, but we believe that with a bit of imagination it should be possible to make out very well. And if the pensioners who find things tough could only see the wonderful world that opens out to them, all the finer things of life that they can now enjoy, even with a reduced income, well, we feel that they would really get the benefit of these leisure years.”
“Are you going to show me how to budget?” Mrs. Gould asked, with a faintly challenging note.
“Perish the thought,” McBride said. “My gosh, I think you must be one of the best managers in the country. I mean . . .”
But apology was unnecessary. Mrs.
Gould smiled and lowered her chin with a touch of coyness, and a moment later suggested that they should repair to the supper table, which was revealed when a velour curtain at the rear of the living room was drawn back.
The table was resplendent with a Madeira cloth, the good sterling silver, Crown Derby teacups, and candles in silver sticks. There were tomato-juice glasses at each place, and a plump roast chicken appeared shortly after the men were seated. George Gould, in raptures at eating beef and chicken on the same day, carved the bird under strict supervision. Some certain instinct warned Bill McBride to refuse the proffered drumstick, and he did not miss the look of gratitude on the face of his host, who promptly set it aside for himself.
The conversation during supper was in the main a monologue by Mrs. Gould about shopping, bargains, detergents, the Women’s Missionary Society at the church, and a certain young neighbor woman whose housekeeping was the scandal of the entire district.
After supper—which wound up with strawberry shortcake—the guests return-
ed to the living room where McBride noted the consummate artistry with which every object had been turned cornerwise for added elegance. And there, after announcing that she was simply going to stack the dishes and leave them, Mrs. Gould allowed the interviewers to go to work.
HER hobbies and interests were simple: her house was her life, and her glory was her ability to make George’s income stretch farther than anybody else could. They had never bought a single thing by installments, except the house itself. When great bargains appeared, Mrs. Gould always had the ready cash. (Bill McBride, who had not paid for the clothes he was wearing, groaned his admiration.) After managing her own affairs, Mrs. Gould liked to manage other people’s, by running the WMS and the Ladies’ Aid, in spite of the interference of a young snip of a minister's wife who was got up as if she were no better than she ought to be.
“Now tell me, both of you,” Morris said. “Is there anything you’ve wanted very badly in life that you think you've
missed? If you had it to do over again, is there any other objective you would aim for? 1 mean, on the whole, do you feel that your life, your career, has been a success?”
There was a long pause for thinking. “Well, no, not really,” George said. "Anybody would've liked to be a millionaire and a big shot, but if you haven't got a college degree and if you don't know somebody, well, you can’t hope for that. Well now, when I was a kid we used to think a three-thousand-a-year man was a real success, a guy with four thousand a year was real well-to-do, and a five-thousand man was rich. Well, it ain't so much now, but I passed the three-thousand mark, and I darn near hit four—thirtyeight hundred, to be exact. I always sort of had an ambition to hit the five-thousand mark before I finished, but 1 know that's impossible now.”
"After I'm dead and buried, you can go and make five thousand a year for Madge,” Mrs. Gould said, with a little move in the direction of the visitors. "But if you really want all my dark secrets. I'll tell you. I always kind of wanted to have a house on a curved street—they're usually called something-or-other Crescent. I always thought they had real class, but that kind of thing is not for the likes of us. Like Kirriemuir Crescent just up north four blocks—there're some really lovely homes there, but they cost about eighteen thousand dollars.
"And I would have liked to go to Paris, France, and Rome, Italy, and London, England, and all those faraway places. There was a lady at the church, Mrs. Muncey, who went over last year, and she gave a lantern talk about her travels, and it was simply fabulous! They stayed in a hotel that was over three hundred years old!”
"Mrs. Gould,” Irving Morris said with a low emphasis. “The years that lie ahead of you can be the best years of your lives! Now listen to me! You will be able to enjoy the greatest boon on earth: freedom! George will be free of the weary grind of two hours a day on streetcars, and seven hours of routine work. Both of you will be able to plan a life of busy leisure, doing the things you want to do. You can travel, you can see the faraway places. And you can have the sort of house that is designed for the sort of living you mean to do. You will be able to discover books, and music, and flowers. You will be able to discover the joy of making things and doing things because you want to. We have been studying this matter, and we have roughly formulated a plan. Help us to test our plan, and I think I can guarantee you a chance to live and do and BE. Will you try it?” “Well, I’ll listen to it,” said the managing genius.
Only slightly jarred by this sudden return to earth, Morris launched himself anew, and unfolded his plan.
THE Goulds had been provident; they owned their house and their car, which was all to the good. Sell the house, at once, Morris advised, for the best price attainable — perhaps as much as twelve thousand dollars. Then let him help with the search for a suitable house in some pleasant village; there were good houses within a hundred miles that could be purchased for around four thousand.
Settle in some lovely village where the taxes were low and the gardens large. They could grow their own vegetables, can them, and fill the deep freeze. They could buy all sorts of things at low prices. They might keep a few chickens and have their own eggs. They could have their TV, their books, their record player. They could have an extra bedroom or
two, to put the children up when they came for a visit. By car, train, or bus they could get up to the city for a day or so, whenever they wanted to. and visit old friends. Old friends would be happy to drive down and visit them.
In such a place, with proper organization. their pension would be more than adequate, and they might have another eight thousand or so to invest from the proceeds of the sale of the city house. In an annuity it might give them another fifty dollars a month.
At last, dry-mouthed, he stopped.
"But that would mean living outside of Toronto!” Mr. and Mrs. Gould chorused in perfect unison.
Patiently Irving Morris went to work again, pointing out that there were millions of people living outside Toronto, and many of them enjoyed very good lives. There was much more to the world than Toronto, and part of their new joy could be discovering that world. And then there was the question of travel.
“Yeah, how about that?” George asked. "How we going to travel on oar pension? You know how much it is?”
"Ves." Morris said, "and I'm just coming to that. You see, you can travel in the oft season. You can travel on passenger-cargo ships, which are dirt cheap, but you get good food and accommodations. You can go to places in the winter where you can live for three dollars a day for the pair of you—all found. 1 mean, take for instance Ibiza: that's an island in the Balearic's, in the Mediterranean. You can get a room for two and all your meals for three dollars a day—ninety dollars a month, in perfect weather! If you can rent your house, you can go and stay
there for three months or so and save money. Therc’re lots of places like that to go to.”
“Yes, but we wouldn’t want to live outside Toronto,” Mrs. Gould repeated.
Irving Morris dropped his hands and sat still.
“Admit you’re licked, Irv,” Bill McBride said. “Mrs. Gould, I understand perfectly. We are perfectly happy to live your lives for you and tell you how to run your business, but maybe you don’t want that. Chacun à son goût, as the cannibal said to the sword swallower. However, the company is quite keen on this scheme. They say the retirement business has risen to the proportions of a real problem, so they are prepared to make a deal. If you are willing to play along, I think the company will grant George one year’s leave of absence on full salary before retirement—which, by the way, will have the effect of increasing the pension thereafter to something over twenty-four hundred. That year on salary will mean an extra fifteen hundred bucks, and will pay for a lot of travel.”
There was a stony silence for a full minute when he had finished, broken at last by Mrs. Gould.
“That’s different,” she said. “It’s a deal. Now tell me what we’ve got to do.”
THE weeks that followed were busy ones for all concerned. Bill McBride and Irv Morris, who had been assigned the project of showing pensioners how to live, enjoy, and BE, talked to real-estate agents and shipping companies, and drove hundreds of miles to remote villages (for which they got an allowance of ten cents a mile from the company) and studied the advertisements in all sorts of foreign papers.
Bill claimed at one stage to have found a village in the Belgian Congo where a grass hut could be rented for fifty cents a month, and a couple could live modestly on giraffe meat and fried bananas for seventy-five dollars a year. He also located (so he claimed) ancient cargo vessels that would take cargo passengers from Madagascar to tne Persian Gulf for the equivalent of eight dollars.
“But getting them to Madagascar’s the problem,” he sighed.
“Bill,” Irv Morris said, “quit clowning. Your attitude is too frivolous. You treat the whole thing as a joke. Don’t you realize what a wonderful thing this is? Here is a vast company — a great, heartless corporation, if you like—trying to solve a problem of living. Just imagine—this company cares about people, and in an intelligent way!”
“Bosh, Irving, all bosh,” Bill said.
In due course Irving Morris came across the perfect house for a retired couple, and phoned Mrs. Gould in considerable excitement.
It consisted of six rooms, all on one floor, in the village of Hemford, on the banks of the Grand River. It had an oil furnace, and a superb view of the Grand River valley. There was a good store in the village, and bus service to two thriving cities in midwestern Ontario. It was only a couple of hours by train or car to Toronto, and it had over an acre of lawn and garden. The taxes were sixty dollars a year, and it was said to be in perfect repair.
The house had belonged to an elderly widow, who had died a week or so before, and her son was anxious to wind up the estate as quickly as possible because he had to get back to his job in Akron, Ohio. He was talking about five thousand dollars, but a cash offer of much less would probably swing the deal. Mrs. Gould agreed to look at it.
On the following Saturday she did,
and so did George Gould and Bill McBride and Irving Morris.
Mrs. Gould not only looked at it, but in it, into it, under it and over it, in the presence of the late occupant’s son. She found flaws in the plumbing, heating, and plastering. She found subsidence at one corner, and incipient cracks in the masonry. She found dry rot and traces of mice and loose window sashes.
Finally she said to the son-executor: “How much do you want for it — all cash?”
“I’ll take four thousand for an immediate cash sale,” he replied.
“Good,” she said. “I’ll give you four thousand—with all the rugs and furnishings thrown in.”
“But — but — the furnishings . . .” he began.
“They’d fetch junk prices,” she said. “Not worth the cost of auctioning them off. Take it or leave it.”
“It’s a deal,” he said lamely.
Early in the autumn George Gould proceeded on leave-of-absence prior to his retirement. In a brief farewell ceremony the chief accountant presented him with a set of matched traveling cases on behalf of the staff, and made a speech in which the emphasis was on long and faithful service and a good record of punctuality. A vice-president under full sail had come down for the occasion, and he also said a few words. He was photographed with Mr. Gould, as he was in the act of presenting a wallet to him on behalf of the company.
George, who had come prepared to make a full-scale oration, also said only a few words, because the vice-president, with sound executive judgment, cut in at the first pause for breath, and said it had really been a heart-warming ceremony, and after that everybody went home.
FOUR days later Mr. and Mrs. Gould sailed from Montreal aboard the SS Birnam Wood, for Cardiff. Bill McBride, who saw them aboard (accompanied by a photographer), extracted a promise that they would write regularly, recounting their experiences, which would be incorporated in the great feature that was being planned for Eastern Topics, the company magazine.
What is more, they did write. Mrs. Gould reported that they had visited a genuine ancient castle, owned by an earl. They had paid a shilling (each) entrance fee, and while they were being shown round by a guide, they bumped into the genuine earl himself, who talked to them just like they were old friends. George reported that in the neighborhood of Piccadilly Circus he was spoken to by several young women, complete strangers, and added that, boy oh boy, it would really be something to make the trip by yourself.
Mrs. Gould liked France, except for the lack of proper cooking and the difficulty involved in getting a glass of milk with your lunch. George reported that they had gone to a show in Paris called the Bal Tabarin, and he had nearly died of embarrassment having the missus right there. He said it really made the girlesque shows at home look sick. He had also found a restaurant that served American food, but the corn on the cob was tough.
Rome was a bit better because there Mrs. Gould met a lady from Hammersmith Avenue, only a few blocks from their home, who knew two of the ladies at their own church, and they had had some lovely chats in the evening. But she said it was hard to find a church on Sunday, because nearly every place of worship seemed to be Roman Catholic. George, who was silent on Rome, wrote
from Naples to say that he had got to a part of ancient Pompeii where no women were allowed to enter, and boy oh boy!
After that the Goulds went to Ibiza, and contrived to live for even less than three dollars a day for a couple of months. But home was calling, so they were very happy when, after a brief stop in Barcelona, they sailed from Lisbon for Boston.
Their housewarming party at Hemford was memorable because Bill McBride had managed to interest a national week-end paper in the story of a retired couple's bold answer to the cost-of-living program. With several photographers on hand, it was fairly easy to persuade the president of the company to attend, and Tiere was even a brief broadcast of the event over a local radio station.
A full half of Eastern Topics was tilled with the story, including photographs of the two Goulds, taken by each other, in various European capitals, and detailed glimpses of their new rural haven, including a shot of the asparagus bed that was one of the chief glories of their estate.
"Bill,” Irving Morris said afterward,
' we’ve done something good. We've opened the eyes of those old people. They’ve æen the great world. They will enjoy a good life — fresh asparagus, their own strawberries, books, music, travel. I don't think I've ever had a more rewarding job."
"I'll say amen to that," McBride said.
AND that, to all intents and purposes, was the end of the story. The company received two awards, one from a personnel association, the other from the sociology department of an American university, for undertaking such a bold and practical project. Irving Morris was given the title “retirement counselor" to add to his already imposing array, and many people on retirement benefited from sage advice on how to live.
-But there was one small postscript to the story that was never published in Eastern Topics. The summer passed, and the winds of autumn blew. And there came a day when Bill McBride bumped into George Gould at the corner of King and Yonge.
‘What ho, squire,” he said. “What are you doing in the big city?"
"Got to hurry,” George Gould said. "I’ve got to buy one of them clicker things. Suppose I'd get it at Woolworth's or Aikenhead’s? You know, one of the things you use in a lantern talk to tell the guy when to put in the next slide."
"Do tell,” McBride said. “Are you giving a lantern talk?”
“No — the missus, at the church, all about our trip to Europe. I'm on my lunch hour, so I gotta hurry.”
. “Lunch hour?”
“Sure, I’m workin’ at Fairbrother and Murphy’s, in the office. They got a lunchroom too—costs you forty cents, but it's a swell lunch. Pork chops today, and chocolate pudding.”
“Working? But the country house— the leisure—Hemford? What of all that?” "Aw heck, I couldn’t of stood that place,” George said. “The people were all stoopid hicks—they hadn’t got no go nor ambition. Give me Toronto.”
"Gladly,” McBride said, “in exchange for Chilliwack, B.C. But what about the house?”
"Oh that,” George said. "See, the missus figured maybe we wouldn’t like it there, so she decided we wouldn’t sell the city place. We took out a mortgage on it. six thousand bucks, to pay for the new place and some over. So we rented the city house, furnished, to the assistant minister at the church, for a hundred bucks a month. Well, after all those articles appeared lots of people wrote, en-
quirin’ about the country house. One guy, a retired doctor from the States, who likes to paint, he up and offered us ten thousand bucks just like that, so Grace took it—soon’s our year’s leave of absence was up.”
“So you’re back at your old house,” McBride said.
“Heck no,” George said. “See. even with that big mortgage on it. we were able to sell that house too, for fourteen thousand, which give us eight thousand more free cash. So we got a new house, for seventeen thousand eight hundred
bucks and had money over for furrfiture and curtains and decorating. So we’re nicely fixed, see? 1 get fifty bucks a week on this job, handling overdue accounts and stuff. It's quite easy, once you get onto the differences.”
“Well, like they've got a form just like our old 482-b. but they don't call it that. They call it a 78-a. Stuff like that.” “Teaching an old dog new forms,” McBride said. “By golly. George, fifty bucks a week—that’s twenty-six hundred a year. With your pension . . .”
“Yep.” Gedrge said, grinning happily, "I'm a five-thousand-a-year man now. So long, nice to see you again."
He had gone before McBride remembered the other important question, but it was a simple matter to dial 113 and ask the information operator.
“Yes sir,” she said, her voice wreathed in smiles, “there is a George Gould at 54 Kirriemuir Crescent, the number is Oxford 1 . . .”
“No. no, 1 won't. I'll never tell Irv,” McBride said weakly, as he hung up the receiver. ★