Man Is Like a Fruit Tree

Bobst, Elmer Holmes


  • Elmer Bobst, President of Warner-Hudnut Incorporated, describes his 82-year-old friend Bernard Baruch, and describes his belief that long life and happiness are achieved through the act of remaining productive, even after retirement.
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And now, This I Believe, the living philosophies of thoughtful men and women, presented in the hope they may strengthen your beliefs so that your life may be richer, fuller, happier. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Elmer H. Bobst began his career as a pharmacist assistant in a Philadelphia drugstore. Now he is President of Warner-Hudnut Incorporated, which makes drugs and cosmetics. He was born in Clear Springs, Maryland, a village in the Blue Ridge Mountains. His father was a Lutheran minister. Bobst never went to college; he educated himself by constant reading. He has long been interested in medical research. He now lives in Montclair, New Jersey. Here is his creed.
While taking my boat down the inland waterway to Florida a few weeks ago, I decided to tie up at Georgetown, South Carolina, for the night and visit with an old friend. As we approached the Esso dock, I saw him through my binoculars standing there awaiting us. Tall and straight as an arrow he stood, facing a cold, penetrating wind—truly a picture of a sturdy man, even though his next birthday will make him eighty-two. Yes, the man was our elder statesman, Bernard Baruch.
He loaded us into his station wagon and we were off to his famous Hobcaw Barony for dinner. We sat and talked in the great living room where many notables and statesmen, including Roosevelt and Churchill, have sat and taken their cues. In his
eighty-second year, still a human dynamo, Mr. Baruch talks not of the past but of present problems and the future, deploring our ignorance of history, economics, and psychology. His only reference to the past was to tell me, with a wonderful sparkle in his eye, that he was only able to get eight quail out of the ten shots the day before. What is the secret of this great man’s value to the world at eighty-one? The answer is his insatiable desire to keep being productive.
Two of the hardest things to accomplish in this world are to acquire wealth by honest effort and, having gained it, to learn how to use it properly. Recently I walked into the locker room of a rather well-known golf club after finishing a round. It was in the late afternoon and most of the members had left for their homes. But a half-dozen or so men past
middle age were still seated at tables talking aimlessly and drinking more than was good for them. These same men can be found there day after day and, strangely enough, each one of these men had been a man of affairs and wealth, successful in business and respected in the community. If material prosperity were the chief requisite for happiness, then each one should have been happy. Yet, it seemed to me, something very important was missing, else there would not have been the constant effort to escape the realities of life through Scotch and soda. They knew, each one of them, that their productivity had ceased. When a fruit tree ceases to bear its fruit, it is dying. And it is even so with man.
What is the answer to a long and happy existence in this world of ours? I think I found it long ago in a passage from the book, Genesis, which caught my eyes while I was thumbing through my Bible. The words were few, but they became indelibly impressed on my mind: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread.”
To me, that has been a challenge from my earliest recollections. In fact, the battle of life, of existence, is a challenge to everyone. The immortal words of St. Paul, too, have been and always will be a great inspiration to me. At the end of the road I want to be able to feel that I have fought a good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.
That was Elmer H. Bobst, a drug and cosmetic manufacturer, a self-made man in the American tradition.