of the Fortnightly Club of Redlands
JANUARY 24, 1995
A Toast to the Future of the Fortnightly Club
by Northcutt Ely
Casa Loma Room, University of Redlands
I have been nominated to serve as an in-house Nostradamus, to enlighten you on the Fortnightly Club's future. Here I have a major advantage over the usual Fortnightly Club speaker. He is aware that at least three people in the audience know more about the subject than he does, and this makes a speaker jittery. Tonight, you don't know any more about the subject than I do.
Unlike the first Nostradamus, I will not talk in riddles, but will give you three unambiguous prophecies that you can take to the bank.
The first is good for one year. I predict that the Club's bylaws will be amended in a vital respect. Recently a speaker, about to read his paper, apologized for its length. President Clark sent shockwaves through the audience by saying, That's quite alright; the bylaws permit you to talk for two hours. Fortunately, the speaker was a urologist. He knew better than to keep a roomful of old men cooped up for two hours. The bylaws, being contrary to a law of nature, are unconstitutional, and will be amended.
My second prophecy is good for five years. It is on the question of whether the Fortnightly Club will become coeducation,. There is every argument for it. This is the spirit of the times. The girls are smarter than we are and better company. But it won't happen soon, for a compelling reason. The Fortnightly Club is universally, if unfairly, referred to as The Old Men's Club-. There aren't five women in Redlands who would want to be elected to "The Old Ladies' Club".
My third prophecy is valid for the Fortnightly Club's second hundred years, assuming that we have not been wiped out by asteroids or governors of Arkansas.
In 1895 a speaker who undertook to foretell the events of the next 100 years might have guessed that there would be a war with Spain, and he might have heard unlikely rumors about a horseless carriage or someone's attempt to build an airplane. But he would have missed almost everything else: Two World Wars, a half dozen lesser wars, the telephone, radio, television, atomic energy, the Cold War, antibiotics, organ transplants, the computer, earthquakes, even the Simpson trial. He would have been right on one prophecy, a quite unlikely one: that the Fortnightly Club, just hatched, would be alive and sell in the year 1995.
So tonight I will not share with you, any more than Nostradamus did, any inside information about the stock market or Speaker Gingrich's future. Instead, this prophecy is restricted to the future of the Fortnightly Club.
Before delivering it, let me lay a foundation.
A general, inspecting a company of volunteer parachute troops, asked each soldier, You like to jump?- The first three answered, Yes, sir.- The fourth said No, sir.- The General: If you don't like to jump, why did you volunteer for parachute duty?. answer: ·I like to be around fellows who like to jump."
Similarly, the Fortnightly Club consists of some very unusual and talented people, plus those of us who like to be around such people.
James Thurber made my point in another way when he wrote that it is good for our souls to go to the circus, to see people doing with apparent ease what we cannot possibly do..
The Club's roll call includes physicians, clergymen, teachersū in my opinion, the three most noble professionsū plus administrators, scholars, businessmen, musicians, artists, writers, librarians, holders of public office, explorers, benefactors of charities, computer experts, military men, plus a very few lawyers and only one banker. Bankers are discouraged by our high dues.
What we have in common is intellectual curiosity, a quality that Mankind shares with the baboon and other great apes, reaching its most advanced level in this club.
I therefore predict, with confidence, that the Fortnightly Club's second century will be about like its first, a company of distinguished eccentrics telling the rest of us tall tales on subjects about which we are ignorant but curious and gullible.
There will be one big difference. A hundred years from now old ladies will join in deciding which old men, if any, are qualified for membership.