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Back to Their Future

As I was packing up my few effects to bid farewell forever to the halls and walls I had looked upon for the last 20 yrs., I received the following letter:

      Albany, N. Y., May 2d 1915.

      Mr. Will Smith, Sing Sing, N. Y.

      My Dear Sir:

      As our great Music Co. will reach Sing Sing for the purpose of giving a concert on the 25th of May, I hope to have the pleasure of meeting you at that time and renewing old acquaintances.  If you will use your influence in advertising our concert you will greatly oblige.

      Your friend

      Alfred Adams.

A mist seemed to hang like a veil over my memory for a few moments; but gradually came floating to me the light and shade, the grave and gay; the joys and sorrows of my schooldays way out west in Pawnee City, back in the preceding century, in 1888, just 27 yrs. ago.  Among my classmates was Alfred Adams; and here he was to come to Sing Sing just as I was ready to leave, and wrote me to use my influence in behalf of his concert.  Alf.  A great singer traveling over the world?  It seemed strange to me until I recollected that in our schooldays he had often told me he intended taking a course of vocal training.

Soon the bell tapped, the curtain rose, and then the singer stepped into view.  The effect of his presence was magical, sublime; the very air seemed affected.  He struck an attitude -- for want of something else to strike -- and opened his mouth to sing.  Then the effect on the audience was wonderful, awful; but as there was a space of several feet between the stage and the first row of seats, they, of course, had nothing to fear; they listened, spellbound, for the first sound of the singer.  The first note reminded me of one of my old classmates -- Harry Foster -- but as he sang he gained courage, and I thought I was certainly mistaken; but at the close of his song I saw him do this (----) ; then I knew it was Harry.  He had changed wonderfully since leaving school, for we all thought he was studying for the law.

I found out, too, that Alf. had got married in 1889, to Miss Merinda Beavers, who had graduated in the Pawnee High School in 1898.  She was traveling with the Music Co., making all business engagements, handling the cash, etc.

We soon got to talking of our school days and schoolmates, and I learned that Eugene Hollister was located in Pawnee City.  After having spent a great deal of time in the laboratory and in machine shops, he had at last invented a talking machine about the shape of a drum, but made of metals and alloys, mostly brass.

This machine will talk of the future, predict election returns; and give the contents of a brother's or sister's letter while it is being written even 1000 miles away.  It requires ten men, talking as fast as I am now, to talk this machine full in 2 ½ hours; but I was told the inventor could fill it in 40 minutes.

As Gene secured the patent, under the new patent laws of 1910, he is on the high road to wealth, and is now living happily with his most excellent wife -- formerly Miss Hattie Ashley, assistant principal of the Pawnee School, in 1888. They live in a $200,000. mansion on the north part of the Bookwalter land, which land he had bought in 1913 for $150,000., Bookwalter having held it until then for speculations.

Some of Gene's children are now going to school in the same old schoolhouse where he used to go, almost 30 years ago.

I also learned from Alf. and Harry, that another of my classmates -- Estelle Atkinson -- was now living in the northern part of Ohio, about 50 miles from the city of Sandusky.

As that was in my line of march toward the west, I made up my mind to stop and see her as I passed through.  I came one day about noon to a small farm house, the careless order of things about which led me to think that although the inhabitants must be very shiftless, they were also clever, and I determined to try to get something to eat.

A tall, slim, middle aged lady came to the door, and when I made known my errand invited me in, as dinner was just ready.

While seated at the table enjoying the excellent fare, we began to talk.  During the conversation our minds drifted into travel and lecture, and I soon learned that mine hostess had traveled considerably, having been in almost every state in the union giving temperance lectures and working for the grand old "Woman's Suffrage" party.

Presently, to my great surprise, one of the persons at the table addressed her as Miss Atkinson.  What I did I do, faint?  No.  Rush across the table to shake hands, etc.?  No.  I just kept quiet and let her talk, until I learned that her health had failed while she was lecturing and she had retired from the platform and had been writing for the cause.

She said the "Woman's Rights" party was now so strong in this land of 250,000,000 of people that 270 of its representatives were women, and from the 48 states there were 40 women in the senate; and she was a possible candidate for presidency in the year 1916.

She then spoke of the class of 1888; said she lost all trace of most of them; but that Harry Mahan had gone to the island of Borneo about 5 years ago, as a missionary; which fact I was aware of, as he had visited me while I was at Sing Sing, and told me he was on his way to pastures new.

Estelle said the last she heard from him he was spending most of his time preaching to and teaching the cannibals; while in his spare moments he was earning his living by writing for the Saturday Night.

I also learned during my stay that May Robb was now living in what used to be known as "No Man's Land."  After faithfully studying the mysterious problems of Geometry, she had married Rev. Cyril Miller, a methodist minister, and they had gone to their new home, where she was as faithfully studying the equally mysterious problem of how to feed and clothe a family of 7 on the proceeds of semi-annual donation parties and $300. per year, which was her husband's earthly reward for pointing the way and guiding the poor sinners' feet along the straight and narrow path, and which reward is generally paid in wood, hay, potatoes, or grain, according to the convenience of the aforesaid sinners.

Such are some of the pleasures she is enjoying in that new city of 10,000 inhabitants, down in the garden of the southwest.

I soon resumed my tramping, and by the middle of September had reached the Rocky Mountains, when I one day chanced to see an old man standing on the side of the mountain closely examining a piece of rock he had found.  No matter how old he seemed, or if his flowing beard was almost as white as the snow above him, yet, when I saw him standing there I knew it was our old Prof., and I found he knew me, too.

Conversing with him I learned that that he was living, with his family, on the mountain, on $200 per year pension provided by the society for broken down and indigent teachers.

His boys work the bit of soil, while he is still studying Geology and Chemistry, and experimenting with all the strange rocks he can find on his place -- and there are plenty of them there.  He still sticks to experiments -- kind of second nature, you know.

Prof. told me he had heard of my fame, and I began to think I would have to keep on traveling if I wished to go where I was not known, so I continued my travels toward the setting sun.

I had now heard from all my classmates except one, and by the time I had reached the coast I had given up all hopes of ever seeing him again, when, as I was walking along the beach one day, a middle aged man whose heavy beard and dark hair bore a pretty thick sprinkling of gray, stepped up to me; and it surely was not my fault that I did not recognize in him the smooth faced boy with taffy colored hair who went to school with me in Pawnee; but he proved to be Clarence Morgan just the same.  After a short conversation he began to talk on the subject which seemed to occupy his mind; he told me he had a plan in mind, and all he needed now to insure fabulous riches for himself and another who cared to join him, was some money to put his plan into operation.

After hearing him talk awhile I became convinced that I wished to join him in the glorious project, and still having a great deal of my Sing Sing salary hidden away I determined to risk the investment.

His plan was to open up South Victoria, an ice bound land near the south pole, for settlement.  We procured the right of way from the nations interested in that country, and began operations at once.  It was cold work -- 170o below zero -- but we got the machinery in operation and bored down toward the centre of the earth.

We struck the melted interior at the depth of 34 miles, when our highly tempered steel augers were melted instantly, and the heat rushed forth with such force as to melt the ice all over the land, and the water rushed in foaming torrents to the sea.

Then was revealed a rich black soil never before beheld by human eyes, because it had lain under hundreds of feet of ice, through countless ages.

We procured a cap for our heat-well, which could not be melted, as it was made of the new compound of platinum and blue steel invented by Ella Anderson, a member of the class of 1889 in the Pawnee Schools.

We were then able to turn the heat on or off at our pleasure, and we kept the island at an even temperature of about 65o.

Having planted seeds and grain we opened a trading port with the different steamers and airlines of the world.  These airships -- invented in 1905 -- sailed through the atmosphere from one part of the globe to another at the rate of about 150 miles per hour, and were quite handy now in furnishing rapid communications between us and the world.  We then marked out a large portion of the land into town lots and advertised for sale, but the people of the U. S., England, etc., said vegetation wouldn't grow without sunlight, and we would soon experience 6 months darkness.

It having been demonstrated years ago while we were boys at school plants would grow under the electric light without the sun, we put up electric lights during the remainder of our day and run those during the 6 months night, and the result was we raised the best crops in the world.  Our fortunes were made.  Our town-lots sold rapidly at wonderful prices, farms were laid out, and government was formed.

Now our capital has 500,000 inhabitants and the territory contains over 100,000,000.  There are now 1000 heat-wells in the land, and it is one of the richest and happiest countries in the world.

Clarence and I are traveling now and visiting the scenes of our boyhood.  That is why we are here tonight to tell you of our great enterprise; and any time you Pawnee people will visit our country land at Crow city, the capital, and our wise and venerable mayor, Mrs. Anna S. Van Petten, will give you a hearty welcome.

The real estate office of Morgan & Smith, on the corner of Ferris and McDill streets is headquarters for corner lots cheap for cash, or on easy payments with good security.

 


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