"Greg and Jim"

The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Fake Magic

Into the tube after the rabbits they went…
Out from the hole in the table came the frightened rabbits, one right after the other…

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, December 5, 1936.

“Do you know anything,” asked Jimmie Frise, “about magic?”

“You mean black magic?” I inquired.

“I mean ordinary magic for kids,” said Jim. “Parlor magic. Tricks.”

“At one time,” I replied, “I was going to be a magician. I think that was when I was about fifteen.”

“Do you remember any tricks?” asked Jim.

“No, I gave up the magic idea,” I confessed, “after a few tries. I’m one of those people who wants to make the coin really disappear. If I flip the coin up my sleeve, I am the first to see through it.”

“There’s a kids’ party at my house,” said Jim, “and I was thinking I could put on some magic for them.”

“Between the two of us,” I suggested, “we could pull some magic.”

“Let’s get a book of magic,” said Jim, “and practice up some tricks. I think it would be swell if we could work out a little program of magic. We could not only do parties at our own homes, but we could render a nice favor to our friends, going about putting on children’s shows like that.”

We got a book of magic and it was wonderful the simple tricks we learned in no time. The card tricks and coin tricks are mostly done by quickness of the hand deceiving the eye, and neither Jim nor I were very good at that. Our eyes were too quick, and our hands not quick enough. However, we practiced these hand tricks patiently, and even though we couldn’t fool each other, we felt that we would at least fool children; especially small children.

It was, however, in the tricks of magic requiring devices that we discovered the most interesting field. For example, by fastening things to long pieces of elastic, we could make them vanish like lightning. Under our coats, we could fasten a handkerchief or a flower or a ball, the elastic holding it hidden. By a quick, careless swing of the hand, we could pull the object into view, in the hand. Then, with a kind of mumbo-jumbo and a wave of the hand, we simply let go of the object and it vanished past our elbow out of sight, so fast nobody would see it. After showing our empty hands, we made the casual, quick snatch and produced it again, apparently from the air.

So we had a very nice time, sitting around with all doors shut, practicing with cards and coins and elastics, and investigating the interesting realm of magic. We spent about $3.65 on all kinds of magic balls, vanishing cups, trick match boxes, and inside-out silk handkerchiefs that you could turn from red to blue by a simple movement of the hand. We developed these mechanical tricks to a high state of perfection, and the children’s party drew rapidly nigh.

“Jim,” I assured him, “we’ll be a knock-out.”

For a Grand Finale

“Kids are so hard to fool, nowadays,” said he. “They know it all. Even The little ones all have the oh yeah complex.”

“We’re short,” I suggested, “one big grand slam trick to wind our program up. We’ve got a nice lot of little ones that we can run through like seasoned veterans. But we ought to have a grand finale sort of act.”

“The nearer I get to the party,” said Jim, “the less confident I feel. Kids aren’t like they used to be. Once upon a time, adults used to be kept busy keeping things from the children. Nowadays, the children are busy keeping things from the adults.”

“My dear Jimmie,” I laughed, “we’ll roll them in the aisles with our act. We’re perfect. I assure you. That vanishing watch trick of yours will have them absolutely mystified. And as for my trick with the three red balls under the cup, I venture to say I could go on the stage with it.”

“I wish we had a rabbit act or something,” said Jim. “Or one of those sword acts where I put you in a box and stick a sword through it, only to find you vanished when the box is opened.”

“I prefer a rabbit act,” I agreed. “Maybe an act, with six rabbits. Like that one in the book where the six rabbits come out of the plug hat.”

“We could do that easily enough,” said Jim. “All we need is a table with a hole in the top and about fifteen feet of stove pipe.”

“I’m with you,” I exclaimed. “The grand finale. We get a cheap table and cut a hole the size of a stove pipe in the top. We run the stove pipe down along the floor into the kitchen. I feed the rabbits in the pipe and then shove the long wire with the piece of fox fur on the end of it, to chase them through to you.”

“I set the plug hat with the loose top,” said Jim, “on the table, covering the hole where the pipe emerges. The loose top falls aside, and as I make the magic passes, you start the rabbits coming. The wire chases them through, and out they come from the hat, like bullets out of a gun.”

“I can picture it, Jim,” I exulted.

“The only thing,” said Jim, “is the stove pipe. How could we conceal it from the kids? They’ll be all over the house before the show starts. They’ll see the stove pipe along the floor of the hall.”

“I tell you what,” I exclaimed. “Let’s use a cloth tube instead of stove pipe. We could sew up a long tube of cotton, and brace it with barrel hoops. Just a few minutes before this final act, while you are entertaining them, I’ll slip out to the hall and string out the cloth tube. Very quiet, see?”

“How would you scare the rabbits through?” asked Jim.

“If we made it big enough,” I cried, “I could come through the tube, chasing the rabbits ahead of me, and last of all, up through the table would come my head, wearing the hat.”

“Great,” agreed Jim. “Unique. Different. A real creation. The true magician is the one who invents or improves upon tricks.”

With little time to spare, Jim and I bought twenty-two feet of cotton sheeting and sewed it up, in secret, into a tube. From the grocer on the corner we got enough wooden hoops off old barrels to set them every four feet inside the cloth tube, tacking them in place. So that, closed up like a concertina, it was easy for me to handle alone.

We got an old pine table and cut a hole in its top just the size of a plug hat which we had given us by the widow of an Orangeman, and we so tapered the end of the cloth tube that it could be quickly fastened into the hole in the table, from beneath, with a wire ring. We practiced stringing the cloth tube silently and skillfully along the back hall from the living room doorway where Jim and I were to stage our magic performance.

“For fear of discovery,” explained Jim, “we’ll keep the rabbits in a box out in the yard, and we’ll hide the cloth tube on the shelf in the clothes closet. It will be only a matter of a minute for you to slip out, set up the cloth tube from my table to the kitchen, pick the rabbits from the box in the yard and pop them into the tube. Then you chase them through to me.”

“Perfect,” I said. “Letter perfect.”

The night of the party Jim and I donned our tuxedos for the occasion to give the correct magic tone. We were both on hand before six o’clock to arrange all our effects. And at six, the children began to arrive. Both boys and girls, all old friends of the neighborhood, who, after a few moments of remembering their parental warnings, and getting over the strangeness of seeing one another in their Sunday clothes, promptly let loose; and the familiar din of a children’s party filled the house,

The first item on the program was the party supper, which took a good three-quarters of an hour. Then there was a miniature movie, which, it seems, all the children had seen before several times. Then there were games for about twenty minutes, which ended up with two little girls crying because they didn’t get all the prizes, and two little boys staging a fight in the hall. And at last, came the great event of the evening, the Magic Hour, by Messrs. Frise and Clark. I must say, Jimmie and I were both trembling with excitement.

All the children were ranged on chairs and stools and benches in the living room, well back from the entrance from the hall; and in this entrance, Jimmie and I set our table.

“Now, children,” said Jim, the lights being dimmed, and soft music being located on the radio, “we are about to show you a few tricks of legerdemain which my assistant and I have learned in our travels in many parts of the world.”

“Birdseye Center,” said a boy’s voice.

Jim and I stood face to face behind the table, and began manipulating the red celluloid balls, Jim’s vanishing miraculously from between his outspread fingers while mine miraculously appeared. It was pretty well done, except that mine slipped a few times and I had to pick them up, as they rattled lightly on the floor.

“Let Pinkie Do It”

“Whhhooop,” comes a raspberry from the audience.

“Let Pinkie do it,” called a girl’s voice. “He can do it good.”

And Pinkie; a freckled little boy of about seven with red hair, came up and took the balls from me and manipulated them like lightning.

“Heh, heh, heh,” Jimmie and I applauded, to show him it was time for him to go back and sit down. But he kept on doing tricks with the red balls, making them vanish in his hands, plucking them out of his ears and from the back of my neck, until the house almost came down, and finally I had to give the little brat a pinch and hiss to him to go and sit down. Whose show was it, anyway?

We then did the colored handkerchief, and loud raspberries and cat calls greeted this performance; Jim hastily started picking the magic watch off his pant leg, where the watch is caught by a small pin projecting from it. But only loud jeers met all these efforts, while several of the boys crowded forward and seized the appurtenances of our art off the table and began doing the tricks we had been intending to do, only doing them better, if I must say it.

So Jim and I stood back, while the various boys put on the show.

“You see,” explained Jim, “one of the commonest Christmas and birthday presents during the past five years has been magic sets. All the big stores have departments now for selling magic and the salesmen are magicians who teach the kids the tricks.”

“Ah,” I told him, “but we’ve got one trick in the bag, thank heaven. Wait till they see the rabbits coming shooting out of that plug hat.”

In due time, the little boys had exhibited all our tricks, simultaneously, a sort of seven or eight-ring circus. They broke most of the things, snatching them from one another, and at last they wore everything out, and Jimmie stepped forward, calling for order.

“Now, children,” he laughed, “you have all had a good time, as we intended, performing these tricks which we provided you. But there is some magic you are not so familiar with. I grant these little common tricks are all very nice. But my assistant and I have prepared a little surprise for you.”

As Jim began this speech, I quietly slipped out through the dining room and into the hall. Lifted the concertina cloth tube down and loosened its hoops, and strung it along the hallway. Concealed behind the curtain draped over Jim’s table, I crawled in and fastened the tapered end of the cloth tube with a wire ring into the hole in the table.

With this to hold the tube firm, I backed up the hall, lifting the hoop-supported tube into shape and backed into the kitchen. There Jimmie and I had arranged some hooks in the wall to hold the other end of the tube taut, thus keeping the tunnel gaping open right through.

“This is a very mysterious trick,” I could hear Jim saying in a hushed voice. I place this hat, empty, as you all see, on the table like this. Now, in a few minutes, I shall make a mystic series of passes over this hat, and if I have the mystic rite right, out of that hat will come a rabbit. Maybe two rabbits. Maybe three. It all depends on how quiet you are as I begin the incantations.”

I slipped out the back door, where we had left the box with the six white rabbits we had rented from the bird store.

A strange sight met my eyes in the darkness. Around the wooden crate were grouped a regular pack of dogs. Jimmie’s Gordon setter, Gyp, was playing hostess.

She had apparently invited all the dogs in the neighborhood to the party, to smell the box full of rabbits.

There were spaniels and wire-haired terriers, Bostons and Pekes, a Chow, a young Newfoundland and sundry mutts, all sitting in a group around the rabbit box, some of them anxiously rising to sniff at the cracks.

“Hyah,” I snarled at them, but Gyp bounded happily to meet me, “Get away out of that, you …”

The box was heavy, but I lugged it to the back door. The whole party of dogs followed, anxiously and noisily jumping at the box, and ganging one another, with yips and growls. I managed to get the door open with only Gyp and one other dog getting past with me. Inside, I laid the box down until I had shooed Gyp and her friend out.

Carefully opening the box, I lifted the rabbits out two by two and set them inside the cotton tube a couple of feet.

Just as I stooped to enter the tube and chase the bunnies through, the back kitchen door burst open with the plunging of the dogs and in they came, yipping and snarling, a mob. I turned to meet them, but they were over and under and around me and into the tube.

All hushed, in the dim-lighted living room, the incantations were being recited by Jimmie, waving his wand.

There was a scuffle, a series of muffled yips and snarls.

Out of the plug hat popped a rabbit.

The hat was shot rolling.

One, two three, out from the hole in the table popped a sort of sausage string of rabbits, so fast they could hardly be seen, said Jim.

The dogs, trapped in the narrowed end of the cloth tube, writhed and fought furiously in the confusion. The ring came loose from the table. From under the table writhed a monstrous shape, a giant twisting serpent of ghostly white in the dimness.

The children rose in a screaming body and fled and leaped and clutched, while the bagful of dog twisted and snarled and writhed with a dreadful sound all over the living room, bumping, banging, while the little darlings leaped on chairs and screeched into the halls and up the stairs.

Jimmie and I dragged the tube out to the kitchen and then accompanied the dogs into the yard, where we remained for some time, until the last parent had called and taken her child away.

“Magic,” sighed Jimmie, “is great stuff.”

“Especially,” I explained, “If you have a magician working for you.”

From under the table writhed a monstrous shape, a giant twisting serpent of ghostly white.

Editor’s Notes: This story was repeated on December 4, 1943, under the title “Hocus Pocus” (with the artwork at the end).

An Orangeman is a member of the Orange Order in Canada. Orangeman played a major role in politics for a very long time, but declined after World War 2 as a result of more secularization and less association to Britain in society.

A concertina is a small bellows based musical instrument that was losing favour at the time, being replaced by accordions in popularity.

At a time when men wore suits all of the time, wearing a tuxedo would be considered “dressing up”. Greg and Jim could have owned them for attending fancy evening parties. Also note that the children were wearing their “Sunday clothes”, meaning that it was expected that they would also dress up for a party, in this case wearing their nice clothes they would wear to church.

Legerdemain is a phase meaning “sleight of hand” when doing tricks.

Since Jim’s dog Rusty is a recurring character in so many stories, it is a bit unusual that this one has Gyp, the Gordon Setter.

Revolution in Toronto’s Russian Colony; Tragedy of Ten Thousand Exiles from Home

At the Ukrainian Church of St. Josaphat the Martyr, on Franklin avenue, men sit on one side and the women on the other. Here those Russians, still faithful to the old tradition, worship every day of the week.
The little orthodox Russian church on Royce avenue, which is now a Presbyterian mission church to the Ukrainian people, one instance of the revolution among Canadian Russians.

By Gregory Clark, December 3, 1921.

The little Russian church with its onion dome on Royce avenue still stands, with its queer triple cross on the steeple. But it is a Presbyterian church now.

No more do the humble Russians kiss the priest’s hand. No more do they kiss the feet of the crucified Jesus in the vestibule of their rough-cast church.

For they are Presbyterians now, and kiss nothing. They come boldly into their pews. The icons and sacred pictures have gone. There is nothing left to be afraid of. Even the minister has put aside his black robes.

Down the street, on Franklin avenue, the Greek Catholic church of St. Josaphat the Martyr is resplendent with great sacred paintings, its altar is ablaze with gold and silver ornaments and royal blue banners. Two thousand members is the estimate of the Rev. Dr. Joseph Zuk, its rector, recently arrived from Vienna.

But down at Templar’s Hall, at Queen and Dovercourt, last Saturday night, the Ukrainian Unity Society put on before a packed house of Russians a play entitled “Tsar Nicholas the Third” a bitter comedy aimed at the priests, which was cheered by the audience.

Toronto’s ten thousand Russians and Ukrainians are passing through a little revolution of their own.

The question naturally arises, since Russia and that part of South Russia known as the Ukraine are “bolshevik”, or under soviet government, what are the sentiments of these ten thousand Russians and Ukrainians in Toronto?

The answer is that they are divided. Dr. Zuk, only a few weeks out from Vienna, and whose command of English is not yet complete, appears to be very hostile to the bolsheviks. He is priest of the Greek Catholic church. When asked how many of the Russians and Ukrainians in Toronto belonged to his congregation, he said two thousand, and referred sternly to the remainder as being “bolsheviks, Presbyterians and socialists.”

But that a large number if not a majority of the Russians and Ukrainians in Toronto are frankly in sympathy with soviet Russia is fairly definite.

And it is perfectly natural under the circumstances that it should be so. For these people came to Canada to escape the conditions which the bolsheviks claim to have remedied. And while they have no direct news of Russia, and rely on bolshevik pamphlets and other literature printed in New York, which is secretly passed from hand to hand, there has been a sufficient reverberation of the Russian revolution in this country to make many of our Russians socialists at heart.

But that they entertain no hostile socialist ideas towards Canada is also evident.

“We regard Canada,” said one frankly avowed Toronto bolshevik, “as the land to which we came for sanctuary. If our socialist ideas show us anything wrong in Canada, it is none of our business. It is a far, far better land than Russia was, or we would never have come to it. At heart we are socialists, and we yearn for Russia.”

“It is six years,” said a Russian youth from near Kiev, “since I had a letter from my father. The last word I heard from home was that my four brothers had gone to the war.”

“I do not know,” he said, simply, “if I have four brothers, now, or a father or a mother. I do not know if they are starving. Here am I, working every day, eating fine meals, living in warm lodgings, saving a little money. But I am not happy, because always at my bench and at home in the evenings, I am wondering about my father and brothers.”

“Yet,” I asked, “how can you be a socialist, when you are so comfortable and they are in misery?”

“It is not easy,” he replied, “for you to understand. You do not know what Russia was when I left it; the power and comfort of the few, the misery and pain of the vast many. As far as Canada is concerned, I am not a socialist. You Canadians have a separate destiny. But for Russia, I am a socialist.”

“I have sworn,” he said, with a straight look in his wide-set blue eyes, ” to go back to Russia as soon as I can. I too wish to suffer with my father and brothers for the freedom of my race. Nineteen of my friends from Toronto have returned to Russia in the last year. All have written on the way from England, France, Poland. Then no more. Not another letter. They are gone utterly. To what? Well, I am ready to go.”

At the Templar’s Hall, a week ago tonight, I attended the play, “Tsar Nicholas the Third.”

It was Tsar Nicholas the Second who was executed. Tsar Nicholas of the play is the priest who fooled and robbed the people.

When you consider that ten years ago, Russians were the most childishly and superstitiously religious people in the world, this satirical comedy, acted by a group of amateur actors in a Toronto hall before six or seven hundred Russians, shows how complete the change has been. The priest who was revered and feared and trusted was shown on the stage as an immoral, leering villain.

The actors are men who work in Toronto factories, and one or two are common laborers. The women of the cast are the wives of Toronto workmen. They acted extremely well.

The audience was a remarkably fine looking one, largely South Russians or Ukrainians. The so-called “typical Russian” of broad features and heavy frame was not conspicuous. The great majority were clean-cut, handsome men, and the girls were slim and pretty. It was unlike a Canadian theatre audience only in that whole families were present, little children prattled about and mothers made frequent journeys up and down the aisles with their little ones. And nobody minded.

The orchestra was a Ukrainian brass band.

There is about them all the restlessness of a people in exile. For a century, this revolution has been the dream, the dark, secret, terrifying dream of the Russian people. Their literature proves it. In desperation, they exile themselves to a free and beautiful country. Then comes the revolution. And they can get no news of it. Beyond their most secret dreams, the revolution comes. “The Tsar is killed! The land is divided amongst the people. And all they can hear of it is that Russia is starving, their mothers and brothers are starving.

All exiles can sympathize with them: Englishmen, Irishmen, and Scotsmen can picture their dismay if not their joy.

“I was sending fifteen dollars a month,” said a grim, dark Russian, “to my wife of a month. She was to follow me in a year. My baby was born. It is six years old and I have never seen it. The last letter I got, five years ago, said my baby’s fifth tooth had come, and that it would look at my picture when they said my name.

“I do not know, yet,” he added, “whether I am a bolshevik or not!”


Editor’s Notes: This article shows the status of Russian immigrants after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution that brought the communists to power. On the one had, many of the common people would be glad for the Tsar to be gone, but the revolution brought war and famine. The church leaders would be anti-bolshevist.

St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral still exists today in the same spot, but not the same building. The original from the article would be fairly new, having been dedicated in 1914, but it was destroyed by fire in 1964, and rebuilt in 1965.

The former church at Royce Avenue (now Dupont Street) and Perth Avenue that became Presbyterian is no longer there. A Presbyterian Church was built there, but eventually torn down. It is now a dreary looking strip mall.

Templar’s Hall started as the Western branch of the YMCA in Toronto in 1889. It housed many organizations throughout it’s history, and is now the Great Hall.

Dirty Work at the Cross-roads

November 28, 1925

Cock fighting has been illegal in Canada since 1870, but still happens even now.

Hardships of War

As we came through the door, a lady from behind gave an impatient shove, and to my horror, the bag of sugar, balanced conspicuously on the top of my load, fell off and burst with a most horrible squash fair in a puddle on the rainy sidewalk.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, November 28, 1942.

“I’ve got the week-end shopping to do,” announced Jimmie Frise. “Want to come along?”

“Wait till I phone,” I said, “and see if I can do our family shopping, too.”

And I phoned and got a list of a few things the house required together with due warnings not to go and buy up a lot of silly things we didn’t need.

“You’d think,” I said to Jim, “women would be glad of a change.”

“Aw,” smiled Jim, “the Saturday shopping trip is the most delightful fixture of the housewife’s life. The market place is one of the oldest of human institutions. And in the modern city, where the market place is spread along miles and miles of shopping streets, it is still perhaps the greatest human institution.”

“In days gone by,” I offered, “it was in the market place that public opinion was formed. Nowadays, to form public opinion, you have to organize service clubs, like Rotary and Kiwanis, the Board of Trade and other business organizations.”

“And the trade unions, don’t forget,” added Jim, “and the churches. In the olden days, when the market place was the centre of the community, all they did in church was worship God.”

“I have the idea,” I submitted, “that as the market place gave way to rows and rows of shops, and men stopped coming to market and let their wives do all the shopping, public opinion began to lose its power.”

“Nonsense,” scoffed Jim. “There was never so much public opinion as there is now.”

“Nor was it ever more confused and formless,” I retorted. “In the time of King Charles, the yokels in the market places had more opinion that mattered than we have within half a mile in all directions from King and Yonge streets. They had so much that the king lost his head.”

“Puh,” said Jim, “you can always dramatize history. It was just a gang of Nazis that executed King Charles. That was the only time Britain ever had a dictatorship.”

“They had market places in the days of the Roman Empire,” I recounted, “and in those market places, a little bunch of agitators called Christians told their story and took possession of the whole earth. They had market places all across the ages that followed and there resulted the slow and patient destruction, by an ever maturing public opinion, of tyrants and masters and cruel government. In the palaces, the rulers gave forth their edicts. But the palaces fell to dust and the market places stayed on. In the monasteries and colleges and churches, the thinkers spoke and wrote with the sublime power of logic and intelligence. But what they spoke and wrote seemed silly in 50 years, even to their own successors, and the market places stayed on and flourished. For in the market places, the mass of mankind met and talked, free of all party or sect, because in the market place, there is no room for party or sect.”

To Form Public Opinion

“But they could go home with their vegetables in their arms,” pointed out Jim, “but with their prejudices and convictions still in their minds.”

“No, sir,” I stated, “in the market place you go to buy or sell. And to buy well or sell well, you can’t take into account your own personal opinions nor those of the man you deal with. A service club or a lodge or a union or a church, you join it to signify the opinions you already hold. It is a place in which not to change your opinions. But in the market place, new, strange and often disturbing opinions are to be met with. You are exposed to the ever-present danger of the germ of a new idea in the market place.”

“You’re just one of those,” accused Jimmie, “who try to see something noble and spiritual in sordid business.”

“Far from it,” I responded. “It is the way in which sordid modern business has robbed us of the market place that disturbs me. For it is the way modern business has cut all men off from one another so that most business is done without men ever meeting one another and sharing each other’s minds that has got us all adrift in a vast sea of trouble.”

“The world has got too big,” said Jim, “for market places. The market place we are heading for now, down on Bloor St., is 15 miles long and 60 feet wide.”

“And in no half mile of it,” I declared, “is public opinion the same. Sometimes, Jim, I feel awfully suspicious of Nature in connection with this war. I wonder sometimes if it isn’t Nature that flings us headlong at each other’s throats every once in a while. Because we are too numerous. She is always trying to cut us down in numbers, so that we can get together more easily. In the rest of the animal kingdom, whenever rabbits or pigeons or anything else grow too numerous, a plague gets loose among them and they are practically wiped out – all except the strongest and toughest. As rabbits grow more susceptible to plague, the more numerous they are, so do men grow more susceptible to war, the more numerous they are. Because they can’t get together in market places and form their opinions. They have no opinions. Then along comes a small gang with a powerful opinion – like the plague germ in rabbits -and away we all go into a dreadful war.”

“There might be something in it,” said Jimmie, as we neared the corner and could see ahead the principal shopping district of our neighborhood. “And I can’t think of any cure for it, unless it was made the civic duty of all men to go shopping with their wives.”

“That is an important idea, Jim,” I exclaimed. “The civic duty of all men to go shopping with their wives. And while the wives are shopping around the shelves, the men could gather in little neighborly groups and chat together. ….”

“The way it is now,” said Jim, “the weekend is given over to men to golf or go fishing. The one period of the week when men might get together, as neighbors, and exchange a few ideas is given over to escaping from their neighbors, and to the companionship of those they have chosen to be with.”

“Yet there seems to be quite a lot of men, Jim,” I said, as we reached the corner and looked over the throng of Saturday afternoon shoppers milling along. “Why, there are hundreds of men out with their wives.”

“I should say, then,” pronounced Jim, “that these men we see are full of civic virtue. These are our better fellow citizens.”

Men Who Go Shopping

And despite the fact that a little rain had started to fall, cold November rain, we stood on the corner, watching the crowds of shoppers hurrying past, with our eyes especially on the men, to see what manner of men they were.

There were plenty of middle-aged men and not a few men in their 30s. And here and there some quite young house husbands. 30 and under.

“There is one thing about the men in this shopping scene,” said Jim, a little doubtfully, “they do look a little hen-pecked. Don’t you think?”

“Well, not hen-pecked, exactly,” I submitted. “They just look like guys who can’t think of anything better to do.”

“Now that one there,” muttered Jim, as a young, rosy faced man in spectacles and with light red hair, passed by with arms full of parcels, “looks as if he were fond of his stomach. I can understand him coming shopping.”

“And that cadaverous bird,” I pointed out. “He looks as if he wouldn’t trust his wife with the money. Maybe he just comes along to pay the bill.”

“And that one,” checked Jim, as a thin, neat little man trotted anxiously past in the wake of his large, commanding wife, “is obviously just brought along to carry the parcels.”.

“Our theory,” I submitted, “is not upset in the least by these examples. It is the men who don’t want to come shopping who should be obliged by law to come to market.”

And upon this reflection, and the rain starting to come down in earnest, Jimmie and I stepped into the stream of shoppers and hustled along to the big store where Jimmie prefers, if not to buy all his supplies, at least to look over the vast array of provender and get some ideas as to what to buy from the smaller merchants whom he has known for years and who give you the feeling of having bought something rather than having popped something out of a slot.

“I’ll get my tea here,” said Jimmie, putting Rusty on the leash and picking up a basket from the basket rack. “I’ve got the tea coupons, I hope.”

And to our astonishment, he had the tea coupons sure enough, and we went and got the one precious pound of tea for Jim’s numerous family. And then we started exploring, after tying Rusty up in the vestibule. One thing about these big modern groceries is that there seems to be no end to their expansion. The next thing they will be selling is phonograph records and 49 cent novels; and then the drug business will really have to step out.

I had a basket, and we moved happily along the high banks of merchandise, I getting a new shoe brush, a bottle of ginger marmalade and a new kind of light rope clothes line I had never seen before that would come in very handy next summer for putting new bow lines on the rowboat and canoes, up at the cottage.

Jim collected oranges, two cauliflower, ketchup, a small bag of flour, a carton of salt, a peck of potatoes and so forth; and then we came to the canned goods. We love the canned goods. Not only their immense array and variety but the human comedy that goes on in their presence. It is delightful to edge slowly along past the high cliffs of brightly clad cans, noting all the endless variety of the things that can be bought already cooked, from vegetables to filet mignons, from carrots to pig’s tails; fish, flesh, fruit, of every description. But one of the best things about the canned goods section is a lady buying a can of anything. Jimmie and I have spent hours observing the ladies. They stand wrapt before a huge pile of one sort of canned goods. There are 50 cans, all the same, all containing the same thing, all the same size, the same brand, all the same price. Nothing, not even a fly speck, distinguishes one can from the other.

The Wrong Basket

But it is more than a lady can stand. Not easily does a lady give in to the triumph of modern business.

There she stands, baffled and troubled. She stares intently at the trim stack of, let us say, canned tomatoes; all the same brand, same size, alike as modern scientific perfection can make them. She picks one off the top and examines it. Then she puts it back and takes down its neighbor. This she sets back, carefully, on the pile, and removing two other cans to one side, selects one perilously from the second row.

She nearly takes this one. She almost gets it into her basket but her eye unwillingly strays back to the stack and she pauses. Fascinated, she stares again, returns the can she has selected to its place and, with still greater risk of upsetting the whole stack, takes one from the third row. This she studies intently and thoughtfully for a moment, then steps back and stands gazing with wide-awake intelligence at the whole stack.

Abruptly, she steps forward, sets the can she has in her hand resolutely back on the shelf and takes one, any one, from the top of the stack. This, with an air of great resolution, she drops into the basket; and with an air of tremendous accomplishment, she moves along to the next stack.

“It never fails,” breathed Jimmie, rejoicing.

“Maybe there is something about the solder, or the way the can is closed,” I suggested.

“No, no! They all do it,” gloated Jim.

And he reached down to pick up his basket so that we could proceed with our own affairs.

“Hey,” he said. “Where’s my basket?”

“That’s yours,” I assured him.

“No it isn’t,” declared Jim. “I didn’t buy any bread. And hey… where’s my TEA!!”

He was looking in the basket. There was no doubt of it. His precious pound of tea was gone.

“Why, somebody has picked up my basket by mistake,” he said, raising his voice in the hope of attracting the attention of the guilty party. Everybody around examined their baskets. But Jim’s was not among them.

“Let’s get to the turnstile, quick,” I advised. For I too like tea.

At the turnstile, we explained to all the young ladies what had happened, and inquired if anybody had found a pound of tea they didn’t belong to. But nothing of the sort had been reported.

Again we examined Jim’s basket. In in among other things, was a bag of sugar, about six pounds.

“Well,” said the head girl, “whoever has lost that sugar would probably be as anxious to get it back as you are the tea.”

So Jim took one aisle and I another and we cruised up and down, looking at every body’s basket, without any luck.

“Look here,” said Jim, very worried, “that was our two week’s ration of tea. Can I get any more, by explaining….?”

“Maybe if you wrote the Tea Controller,” suggested the girl.

“Was That My Sugar?”

So Jim took back all the stuff in the basket, and set each item back where it belonged, except the sugar, which he kept as hostage. And then refilled his basket with the oranges, ketchup, potatoes, cauliflower, etc. that he required. And very crestfallen, stood before the tea counter for a while, hoping somebody would restore his tea. And also before the sugar counter, hoping that the loser of the sugar would come with his complaint.

“Men,” said Jimmie, as we wended our way hopelessly back to the turnstile, “should never be allowed to go shopping. They are too sloppy. They pick up the wrong basket.”

“How do you know it was a man?” I inquired.

“No woman would pick up the wrong basket.” said Jim.

Our parcels were bagged up, all except the sugar, which Jim gave me to carry as he wished to lay no claim to it.

“Take your time,” he pleaded, “Don’t let’s be in a hurry. Let’s even hang around in front for a few minutes…”

As we came through the door, a lady from behind gave an impatient shove, and to my horror, the bag of sugar, balanced conspicuously on the top of my load, fell off and burst with a most horrible squash fair in a puddle on the rainy sidewalk.

“Was that my sugar?” cried the lady angrily.

She had a square package in her hand.

“Is that my tea?” inquired Jimmie, taking it.

I was trying to scoop what sugar was still dry into my hat, and at the same time chasing Rusty away from the widening pool of sweetness.

Everybody was sympathetic about the sugar, but the lady accused us of having picked up her basket; and we retorted by fetching witnesses to prove our basket had been picked up first, because we had gone all over the place trying to set the mistake right; whereas the lady had to admit that she had only discovered her mistake when she came to the counter a moment before.

So Jim got his tea. And the lady accepted as a compromise the three pounds I had salvaged in my hat, plus a pound each from Jimmie and me, which we would faithfully deliver to her house in a few minutes, from our own domestic supply.

“For after all,” said Jimmie eloquently, clutching his pound of tea firmly, “aren’t all in this war together?”


Editor’s Note: Receiving rationed goods during the war would require you to hand in ration coupon before receiving the product (it would be behind a counter that someone would have to get for you). This would explain why Jim was distressed while he was still shopping when he lost his tea, as the coupon was already spent, and why he could hold the sugar “hostage”.

“Wrapt” is an archaic spelling of “rapt”.

Swish, Thud, SMACK-!

By Gregory Clark, (Illustrated by James Frise), November 25, 1922.

“Come,” says Pontius Pilate, “let us go down to the amphitheatre and see a couple of men pound each other into a purple pulp.”

“Right-o,” responds his friend, J. Cassius Brutus, “maybe they’ll poke a few teeth out of each other, or an eye.”

And the two citizens hasten down into the city.

Roman citizens? Nit! Citizens of Toronto, ratepayers, voters on prohibition, radials, supporters of a sporting city council. I changed their names just to make it hard. Their real names are William D. (“Bill”) Skillett, and P. Christopher Munch.


Swish, swish, thud, thud!

Swish, swish, thud, thud, SMACK!

This is music.

Danse music. Man music. This is the music of prize ring, the soft, barbaric music of the box-fight.

Swish, swish, is the sound of crafty feet sliding over the resin on the floor. Thud, thud, is the sound of heels as the two game cocks dance their weird dance about each other, circling, panting, lunging, skilfully poised as Pavlova, pretty, guileful, light as feathers, heavy as down.

SMACK is the sound of a fist, padded with ounces of leather and hair, as it crashes like forked lightning on to the bared teeth of a hurling boxer.

Swish, swish, thud, thud, SMACK!

Music in the foetid caves of our fathers, how many thousand years ago. Music still in the smoke haze of the Gayety Theatre, under the white dazzle of nitrogen bulbs.


The theatre is dark, save for this one blaze of white light on the stage. The audience is not a theatre audience, not even a Gayety theatre audience. It has a quality all its own. It smokes, belches smoke. The air is bitter with smoke. The eyes sting with it. It swirls in the dazzling spot of light on the stage.

There is a continual heavy murmur and mutter of sound filling the house. A fight crowd is a noisy crowd. The murmur is broken by load shouts of praise or blame, scattered shouts of encouragement, long wails of disgust.

Under the blazing lights, the ring is squared in with three heights of white-washed rope. And huddling in close to these ropes, as many as the stage will hold, are the ringside seats with a hunched, intent mass of men, ducking and moving their heads as they watch every move. Every step, every punch of the contestants in the ring.

Three figures in the ring – the two fighters, naked save for light silk running trunks, shining with sweat, lithe, smooth, clean, dancing and swaying elusively even in that glare. The third figure is the referee in a white shirt, who glances closely about the fighters, breaking them apart, bending to watch their hands in batches, barking and bellowing at them.


The first round is nearly always pretty.

It is like some barbaric dance. The noise of the crowd dies down. The fighters jut and poke and jab. You can hear the hissed breaths drawn in by a thousand watchers as some blow fails to go home. You hear the out-blown sniffle of the fighters – a peculiar venomous sound. Swish, swish thud, thud.


Somewhere in the second or the third or the fourth round, it loses its prettiness.

The dance goes out of it. The measure falls slower. The smoke-shrouded crowd out there in the dark becomes louder, there is a buzz of blood in their cries, some madman keeps bellowing an indistinguishable word over and over.

The fighters are losing their grace. They prance not at all. They cling heavily to each other. They are mussed up. Their hair hangs over their eyes. They have blood on their faces. They wipe their bleeding noses on each other’s shoulders in the clinches.

The referee’s white shirt has a stain on it.

The bell —

Tong!


The last round – if there is a last round – is no dance. It is only a fight. A terrible, weary, heavy fight between two broken men. They have been evenly matched, these two. But one is more weary than the other.

He can’t guard his face so smartly. He takes a terrible wipe on the eye. Another on the nose. His eye sockets are both green in this vicious light of the nitrogen bulbs. Blood Is falling from his chin.

His tired adversary will have no mercy though. He makes a desperate effort to prance. It is pitiful. A blow takes him on the chin.

He falls, clumsily, helplessly, piteously. He reclines on one arm, his breath coming in sobs, spitting blood heedlessly before him, while the referee counts loudly to eight ….

He heaves himself to his feet like a stricken thing.

The tired adversary is not too tired to be there, however, and to smash him another on the face.

His arms fumble vainly to guard.

SMACK.

All agleam, white and red, under the shrieking lights, he lies in a huddle on the resined floor.

The white shirt referee reaches out and holds on high the bloody gloved hand of the swaying victor.


“Aaaahhhhhh” breathes the mob out in the gloom, cheers, claps its hands as ladies at a matinee, shouts, swaps money on bets made.


Is this the end?

No. It’s the end of one fight.

There are five fights on the bill to-night. A great big generous bill.


So much for the fighters – marvelous, clean, brilliant boys, brave to the last merciful smash.

But what of the mob out there in the smoky gloom?

Sizing up the fighters, backing their opinions with cash money, turning in their seats, between rounds, to argue heatedly over the merits of fighters.

A queer crowd – dudes and toughs, refined and in the rough, regular fellows and irregular fellows, plain men and fancy men, your neighbor and strange strangers, normal profiles and odd, unbalanced profiles, and stunted faces of men you wouldn’t want to deliver the groceries at home…..

A church crowd has a certain look, a theatre crowd us a quality of its own, a spiritualist seance has a something different from the rest. A fight crowd has that same distinction of quality. You will see these men all assembled no place else.

Among them are some fighters. But the vast majority of them are not fighters. They are fighters by proxy.

What I am going to get at can very easily be expressed in the language of science, of the psycho-analyst. But that murky, fuddly language.

In all men is the instinct to fight. But with the passing of civilized generations, the will to fight has become weakened.

The most Christian and law-abiding of gentlemen knows at least a half dozen men he would like to kick the living daylights out of. But he lacks the will to do it, either because he is successfully civilized or because he has not been handed down the necessary nerve by thoughtless ancestors.

But he can do it, by proxy, as far as the satisfying of his own soul is concerned.

He can sit at this prize fight and get in some terrible smashes at his enemies – by proxy.

BIFF! There’s a stinger for that blankety blanky street car conductor!

SMACK! Aha, what smash that is for that blinkety blank foreman, eh!

He projects himself into one or the other of the fighters before him. You can sense that in the uncertainty at the beginning of a fight. The onlookers are trying to decide which of the two battlers they will be!

Just as in reading a story, you project yourself into the part of the hero or heroine, and thrill to all the adventures and love scenes depicted, the average fight fan – you can see it In his eyes – secretly or even sub-consciously, projects himself into the part of his favorite in the ring.

It is easy to take punishment by proxy.

It is glorious to be a victor by proxy. Such is the talent of the human imagination.

All the pent-up fury of a hundred encounters with overbearing men that you could not lick, can be released in three hours at a box-fight…


Civilization has forbidden us to fight, except under the direction of the king and his councillors, in which case it is one of the highest virtues.

Civilization has left us also the institution of prize fighting by which a lot of dangerous, pent-up steam may be blown off harmlessly, via the imagination.


And all being sons of Adam, and therefore in direct line from Cain and other bloody-minded men, we can still feel the poetry, the music, the charm of this weird dance, swish, swish, thud, thud, this measure beaded with blood, tinctured with pain, which ends so gracelessly –

SMACK!


Editor’s Note: Boxing was one of the most popular sports in the first half of the Twentieth Century.

Slippery Elm!

November 20, 1943

Mad Dog Loose

There was an instant’s hush and then a riot. “Mad dog! Mad dog loose!” came the yells…

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by Jim Frise, November 22, 1947.

“Never,” counselled Jimmie Frise, “go to a dog show at night.”

“Well, it’s the only convenient time,” I submitted.

“We’ll be trampled to death,” declared Jim. “Let’s go in the morning, or even in the afternoon. The judging goes on from 10 am to 10 pm. We can find out what time the retrievers are being judged.”

“Or the hounds,” I checked. “Especially the beagles, the dear little beagles.”

“The last time we went to the Winter Fair dog show,” recollected Jim, “we had sore feet for weeks. We got trampled, stamped on, butted, biffed, shoved, dug in the ribs…”

“Jim,” I announced, “I regard that tremendous crowd at the dog show as only fitting. I think it is the proper and just tribute of human beings to the oldest and noblest companion of humanity across thousands and thousands of years.”

“But my feet …” complained Jimmie.

“Personally,” I pursued, “I prefer to get caught in the jam at a dog show. I prefer to go at night, when all the crowds are there, so as to be a part of this annual celebration in the honor of the dog. Do you realize that it is just possible that there would be NO human race if it hadn’t been for the dog?”

“How do you make that out?” demanded Jim in surprise.

“Before the introduction of agriculture,” I informed him, “what little wandering bands of human beings there were, scattered sparsely over the earth, had to live on what they could find in the perilous and monster-filled wilderness. They had to be warned of the approach of tigers and other savage creatures. They had to hunt game, their only meat. In both those profoundly important factors in the survival of these poor, trembling human beings, the dog played an immense – in fact, an absolutely essential – part.”

“Big dogs?” inquired Jim.

“Big dogs and little dogs,” I assured him. “The astonishing thing about dogs is that, either big or small, they are to be found, in the most ancient times, all over the world – Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America – everywhere but in a few Pacific islands. And wherever they were, big or small, they were the companions, the helpers, the guardians and warners of men!”

“Well, by golly….!” exclaimed Jim.

“Yes, SIR!” I warmed up. “The first actual historical record of dogs goes back to carvings and paintings of ancient Egypt, on the tomb of King Amten, in the year 4000 BC. Hunting dogs, hounds.”

“You mean,” calculated Jim, “6,000 years ago?”

“And that,” I assured him, “is only yesterday in the history of the dog. Because in the most ancient diggings in the cave men era, in all parts of the world, we find the bones of dogs mixed with the bones of men.”

“You mean,” said Jim, “that back in the days before there was any possible communication between the human tribes, say, in Europe and China, or Africa and North America, men and dogs had already got together?”

“Exactly,” I insisted, “There has been a mutual affinity between men and dogs all over the earth and from the very beginning of time. In South America, they were little dogs. In Asia they were mastiffs, giants. But they all helped man hunt, they all warned man of his monstrous wild enemies, they all shared man’s bed and board.”

“Well, this explains,” suggested Jim, “all the various and wholly different breeds of dog; yet all dogs?”

“A little Mexican chihuahua,” I recollected, “can weigh one pound. A mastiff can weigh 175 pounds. But they are both dogs, and definitely related.”

“We don’t see many mastiffs nowadays,” reflected Jimmie,

“That’s a funny thing,” I admitted. “Because we owe the very word ‘dog’ to the mastiff. When the Norman conquerors invaded Britain, they found the country full of giant mastiffs. These were the popular dogs in Britain. Every little baron, every knight, had a house full of them. Every farmer owned a couple. They were called tie-dogs. That is, tied up by day; loose by night.”

“Brrrr,” shivered Jim.

“The Norman French word for ‘mastiff’,” I explained, “was ‘dogue,’ It still is the French word for mastiff. And we poor dopey British, as so often happened to us whenever we were conquered by the Romans or the Vikings or the Saxons and so forth, had a foreign word shoved down our throats. The word ‘dogue,’ which meant ‘mastiff’ to our new bosses, came at last to mean ‘dog,’ meaning any little peewee.”

“Man, I hate to think of those early days,” murmured Jim, “when they had all those mastiffs turned loose every night.”

“Oh, the mastiff was a good many thousand years here before the Normans landed in England,” I advised. “The Romans found him in Britain, also the giant Irish wolfhound. They took ’em home and fed Christians to them in the Colosseum. The ancient kings of Persia had mastiffs. It’s only in quite recent times that men have gone in for the smaller dogs.”

“Thank heavens,” said Jim.

So, with our heaviest boots on, we went to the dog show, in the evening after all. In honor of the dog.

And just as Jimmie had predicted, it was a jam. You see, at the dog show, they have long aisles of small benches on which the show dogs recline. And the public wanders up and down these aisles, viewing the various and beautiful creatures. It could not be any other way. And I wouldn’t want it any other way. But a dog show is capable of traffic jams beyond the wildest dreams of Piccadilly or St. James street and McGill. Certain of the aisles are occupied, say, by one particularly popular breed, like the cocker spaniels. And naturally, everybody pushing along is looking for the cockers. And everybody who is already in the cocker aisle is holding firm. It takes quite a little time to look at a cocker spaniel.

Then, of course, there are the social gatherings. Mrs. Gotrox, who raises Pekingese, is sitting right on the bench, in sporty outdoorswoman costume, among her darlings. And what more natural than that all Mrs. Gotrox’s social friends, with numbers of others who merely like to bask in the obviously social atmosphere surrounding Mrs. Gotrox, should form a traffic jam in front of the Pekingese which is impossible from either direction?

But it is all very fine-tempered and smiling. People who come to look at dogs are a special breed of people. They are probably the old-fashioned kind, the ones not entirely dehumanized by civilization. They have inherited from the long past some memory of the dog that was not a friend merely, but an ally against the encircling darkness. At a dog show, you find yourself looking into the eyes of crowds of people who might easily be your brothers or sisters.

Jimmie wanted to turn left and start with the terriers. I wanted to turn right and start with the Great Danes. Either way, we would be going against the traffic. At dog shows, traffic moves in all possible directions.

“Gosh, what stallions!” gasped Jimmie, as we came in front of the Great Dane exhibit. There were 20 or 30 of them, fawn, black, brindled and harlequin – incredibly striped and blotched in black and white. Their giant jaws agape, their tiny ears pricked up, their stern gaze staring into the multitude looking for one, ONE friend.

So we edged along, passing the chows, the toys, funny balls of knitting called Pekes and Italian greyhounds so tiny and so slender that you might think the Italians got the idea of spaghetti from looking at their diminutive little greyhounds.

We came at length to the dogs Jim was looking for: the retrievers, especially the golden retrievers; although Jimmie isn’t finicky. He will look at any dog so long as it is a retriever – a Labrador, a curly-coated, flat-coated, a Chesapeake Bay. So long as it is half the size of a moose, with a coat like a duck, and with dark wise eyes that suggest it would know exactly what to do both before and after a gun barks.

Now, my fancy is hounds; and the smaller the better. Thirteen-inch beagles, for instance.

But before we got to the hounds and after Jimmie had created a half-hour traffic jam around the retrievers, with his duck-talk to them and his measuring of

But before we got to the hounds and after Jimmie had created a half-hour traffic jam around the retrievers, with his duck-talk to them and his measuring of them at the shoulder and the loin, and his picking the bored creatures up to guess their weight, and stroking their otter-like ears that lie so snug and waterproof against their heads, we had to fight our way into and through a traffic jam in front of the English bulldogs.

And the cause of this particular jam was one particular bulldog. He had the most sinister face I have ever seen, including the great Lon Chaney AND Boris Karloff. He was white, with brindle markings. He weighed well over 40 pounds. His massive brow was not only wrinkled, it twitched into new wrinkles every time he blinked his eyes, which were terrible. And under his mushed snout there protruded two white fangs, upward, bared and ready.

The traffic jam stood respectfully well back from his bench. Because, on the back of the partition of the bench was tacked this sign:

DANGEROUS

DO NOT HANDLE!

“WHAT a brute!” breathed Jimmie.

“He’s beautiful,” I stated.

And the brute looked up at me, from his squat stance, with a sudden, alert expression.

“Bee-yeautiful!’ I repeated rather cautiously,

And the brute chopped his terrible toad jaws at me in a fiendish grin, waggled his broken twisted tail ecstatically and wriggled his massive, bowlegged body into a regular fandango of friendliness.

“By golly,” gasped Jim, “he likes you!”

And a little murmur of applause rose from the silent traffic jam all around.

“Hi, Beautiful!” I said carefully.

The brute leaned out of his bench and strained on the heavy chain that held him.

“Don’t get fresh with that baby,” warned a voice behind me. “He’s a bad actor!”

I glanced to see a tall, raw-boned character in the crowd who had a know-it-all air about him.

“I know something about bulldogs,” he said wisely. “That one is a killer, A BAD dog!”

But the brute was now shimmying in a monstrous and grotesque fashion, straining on his chain in my direction, his eyes wide with friendliness and his terrific pie plate of a mouth in a wide gape of chumminess.

“Careful!” muttered Jim.

But I took a chance. I put my hand out on his head. I slid it firmly down his neck and scratched.

The bulldog snuggled right up to my thigh. And he sat down with a sort of a dump and emitted a great sigh of joy.

“He’s a fool!” said the character in the crowd.

But the traffic jam was entirely charmed by the spectacle and their murmurs rose to little cheers of delight. I sat down beside the brute on the bench and put my arm heartily around him. He fairly pushed me over, he was so happy. He licked my face and panted with brotherly love.

He fairly pushed me over, he was so happy.

The crowd closed in nearer.

I noted that the chain which held the brute was I caught under his hind leg. I tried to hoist him free of it, but he just snuggled tighter to me. I took the snap off the chain and undid it from his collar to pass the chain under him —

With bound, the massive bulldog leaped free and down into the crowd among their fast-moving legs …

The character, who had been so loud in warning me, let go in a stentorian voice:

“Look out! Bad dog loose!”

There was an instant’s hush and then a riot.

“Mad dog! Mad dog loose!” came the yells and squeals from every direction.

And you never saw a traffic jam melt so fast in your life. Not only in our particular vicinity, but in all the adjoining aisles. Out on the main exit, &a veritable stampede.

But above the tumult, I could hear one voice scolding.

And down our aisle came a man in a white sweater, lugging the brute by the collar. He hoisted him summarily into his place on the bench.

“How’d he get loose?” he demanded, seeing I was sitting on the bench.

“I’m sorry,” I confessed. “His chain was caught under him. I unsnapped it for an instant …”

“Didn’t you see that sign?” demanded the handler grimly. “Dangerous! Do not handle!”

By now the crowds were coming sheepishly back.

“That dog isn’t dangerous,” I scoffed, “The friendliest…”

“The friendliest dog in this here whole show, bar none!” said the handler to me in a low voice. “I just put that sign up to make people keep their dirty hands off him. They carry infection from one dog to another.”

“He’s a beauty,” I agreed.

“That’s his name: Beautiful,” revealed the handler. “That’s what we call him – Beautiful.”

“Ah, that explains it,” I said.

And I went ahead through the much-thinned crowd, and joined Jimmie at the beagles.


Editor’s Notes: McGill and St. James would be a busy intersection at the time in Montreal (and would be used as a reference since this was published in the Montreal Standard). Though English speakers would call it St. James, it is officially Rue Saint Jacques.

Lon Chaney and Boris Karloff were well known horror actors, playing the Hunchback of Notre Dame and Frankenstein’s monster respectfully.

Brindle markings is a coat pattern that is described as tiger-striped, though the variations of color are more subtle and blended than distinct stripes.

A stentorian voice is very loud and strong.

War in the Parlor

November 18, 1939

During the wars, soldiers on leave could be invited to people’s homes for a meal and entertainment. This illustration came with a story by Gwenyth Barrington, who recalled being a child in WW1 when soldiers would come to her home in groups of 6 to 10. In the article, she provides suggestions for “puzzle parties” that could be used for entertainment. The joke in the comic is that grown men would not like to play the children’s game “Button, button“, as suggested by the well meaning old ladies.

Autumn on the Avenue

November 18, 1922

First Prize!

The pig ran down the row of tents and suddenly ducked under a tent rope

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, November 12, 1932.

I am forced to attend three or four fall fairs every year by Jimmie Frise. He says it is to help me understand human nature. So while I wander around amongst the agricultural implements and mammoth pumpkins studying human nature, Jimmie watches the trotting races. Oh, I see through him, all right!

The “lucky number” idea has hit the fall fairs. When you buy your admission to the grounds, they give you a piece of paper with a number on it. Late in the afternoon they call out the lucky number, and you get a prize. Sometimes it is a prize donated by one of the exhibitors, like a plow-share or pint bottle of Somebody’s Ready Relief, good for man or beast, for cuts, aprains, burns, bruises and internal disorders. Sometimes it is a prize cheese or ten pounds of butter or a bag of taties.

Last week Jim took me to the Parkville Fall Fair. That isn’t its right name. But it isn’t sixty miles west of Toronto.

The man taking our money stuffed a little square of paper in my hand as we drove through the fence into the fair grounds. It was the usual lucky number, printed in pencil on a bit of cheap paper. I stuck it in my pocket.

Jim headed straight for the track to see the trotters running around. And I put my hat on the back of my head, pulled some of my front hair out under the brim of the hat, pulled my necktie crooked, and thus disguised as one of the local boys, I proceeded to mingle with the crowd to study human nature.

About four o’clock a voice started bellowing through a megaphone and all hands began moving toward it. It was the lucky number draw for five handsome prizes.

“Two seventy-one,” shouted the man with the megaphone. “Two hundred and seventy-one. Lucky number. Everybody look at your tickets, folks. The lucky number, first prize, to two seventy-one.”

I pulled the bit of paper from my pocket and looked at it

“271.”

“Here,” I shouted. “Here you are, 271!”

And everybody smilingly made way for me as I worked my way forward to the man on the wagon box.

“The first prize to-day, ladies and gents,” said the announcer, “goes to No. 271. The prize consists of a magnificent Large White. This Large White is a prize winner, donated through the kindness of our distinguished neighbor, Mr. Robertson. The lucky winner approaches. Here y’are, mister. Just step right up here.”

Willing hands and elbows hoisted me on to the wagon box amidst the throng. I stood up beside the announcer and bowed to the cheers and applause.

“What’s the name, mister?”

“Clark,” said I.

“Where from?”

“Toronto.”

“That’s great,” said the announcer. “Ladies and gents, I’d like to introduce Mr. Clark, winner of the first prize in the lucky number draw. Mr. Clark comes from Toronto, our big sister metropolis. It goes to show that the fame of Parkville is spreading when gentlemen from Toronto come here to return the compliment of our visits to their fair. Mr. Clark, your prize is there. Harry, bring forward Mr. Clark’s prize.”

At first I thought a Large White might be a chicken, which would be very handy for Sunday.

Applause For the Winner

Through the crowd came a young farmer in overalls. He was holding a stout rope which was tied to the hind leg of one of the biggest pigs I ever beheld. He was prodding the large, pink pig with a sharp stick, and as it came through the crowd, shaking its head violently from side to side, with its foamy mouth open, it was emitting noises like five o’clock and all the factories out.

“There you are, sir,” said the announcer, loudly. More applause. “Give the gent the rope, Harry.”

Harry held up the rope which I took.

“Thank you, Mr. Clark. Now the second prize winner, number eighty-nine. Number eighty-nine!”

And he signalled to me graciously that he did not need me anymore.

I handed the rope to a man below the wagon and got off the far side. My idea was to make a run for it and disappear in the crowd, but just as I got to the ground, the pig made a sudden charge and dragged the man who was holding it around before me.

“Here she is,” said the man, giving me the rope.

The pig continued to squeal in a voice that ought to have torn its windpipe. It gave a sudden jerk and the crowd opened and away we went, with every jump its roped foot kicking up mud and sawdust into my face. It was all so sudden, from start to finish, from the moment I found the lucky number in my pocket until I found myself fastened to a 300-pound pig that I couldn’t believe it.

The pig ran down the row of tents and suddenly ducked under a tent rope. Before I could decide whether to let go of the rope altogether or to duck under the tent rope, too, I had done the latter. I just went down and under that tent rope as slick as the pig did.

Suddenly the pig stopped. I never knew anything in the world to be so sudden as a pig. The one minute he was galloping clumsily on his three legs and kicking out with the one I was tied to, and the next instant he was standing there thinking, and I was on the ground beyond him where I had tripped over him. Several gentlemen and ladies came and helped me up and one of the men held the rope.

“Gracious!” said the Iady, “I guess you don’t understand pigs.”

“There are a lot of things, lady, I don’t understand, and pigs is one of the newest.”

“Where is your crate?” she asked.

“I came in a friend’s car,” I said. “It somebody would please hold that pig for a minute, I would go and get my friend. He was born and raised on the farm and he would help me.”

“George,” she said, “tie that pig up for the gentleman.”

So they tied the pig to the fence.

I found Jim sitting on the steps of the judge’s stand. He seems to know all the judges in the world.

“Hullo,” said Jim. “Have you been in fight?”

“Worse,” I said. “Listen, Jimmie, we won the first prize in the lucky number.”

“Hurray,” said Jim.

“But, listen, it’s a pig,” I said. “An enormous pink pig as big as a Union Station policeman.”

Jim slapped me on the back. “Good for you,” he said.

“Us, you mean,” I corrected. “The man at the gate gave us the one ticket, didn’t he? Well, that means it is our pig.”

“Nonsense,” said Jim. “You took the ticket. It’s your prize.”

“Excuse me, Jim,” I said, “we came in your car, didn’t we? And the one ticket was handed to us. Then it is your prize. Good for you, Jimmie! You won the first prize.”

“She’ll Be Just Like a Pet”

“Now lookit here,” said Jim, “there’s a race just starting here in a minute. Run along and look after your prize. I gotta watch this race.”

“Jimmie!” I pleaded.

“Where is it?” he asked.

“It’s tied to the fence down there.”

“It won’t run away.”

“You don’t know this pig,” I said. “Come and look at it and see what we are going to do?”

“We?” said Jim. “It’s your pig. You claimed it. Look after it yourself. And incidentally, you don’t figure I am going to let you take that pig home in the back seat of my car, do you?”

“Quit kidding me, Jim,” I said. “This is the worst jam I’ve been in since the war. Come and help me figure it out.”

“Listen,” said Jim. “You don’t figure I am going to miss the trotting races just because you go around winning prizes at fall fairs, do you? Now, you go and gloat over your prize and when the races are done, I’ll come and give you a hand.”

So I went back to the far side of the fair grounds. There was my pig standing in defiant attitude, tied to the fence. A half dozen people and some boys were standing admiring it.

“Well, sir,” said one man, “you sure won a pig. That’s a real pig.”

“How old would he be?” I inquired.

“She,” said he. “It’s a she. She’s about two years old, I’d say.”

“I don’t know what on earth to do with her,” I confessed. “You see, I live in the city, and there is a law against keeping pigs in your back yard.”

“She won’t be no trouble,” said the farmer. “Just like a pet.”

“But you don’t know the neighborhood I live in,” I said. “They object to dogs, even. I think I’ll sell her.”

“You won’t get much of a price for her,” said the farmer. “But you’d be foolish to sell her. Premier Bennett was just announcing the other day that this country’s future in tied up in the pig. He says we are going to be shipping forty million pigs to Britain by 1942.”

“I can’t keep this pig ten years,” I gasped. I had only had her about ten minutes.

“But she’s a breeder,” said the farmer. “You could raise a herd of a thousand pigs off of her in ten years. She’s a regular Bennett pig. Why don’t you be patriotic and start helping out Mr. Bennett with this here for a start? There’s maybe a fortune in it for you.”

The lady standing beside the farmer said:

“Perhaps this gentleman doesn’t understand your kind of jokes, Abner.”

Several more people came along, and everybody had nothing but admiration for my pig. They told me all kinds of interesting things about pigs. They estimated the amount of bacon on her. I sat down near her and passed the afternoon away. By the time it began to get dusk, I was a pretty good pig farmer. And then I began to watch for Jimmie.

I sat down beside her and passed the afternoon away

The last man to leave the track, he came just before dark, with that swinging, jaunty air of a man who has put in a profitable and worth-while afternoon.

“Well, sir,” he cried. “Here you are, both of you. Now, what will we do with you?”

“She’s valuable,” said I. “She’s one of the best bacon breeds in the world. If the market were any good, she’d be worth something.”

“It’s your pig,” said Jim. “If she was worth a hundred dollars I wouldn’t claim fraction of her. Twenty-five years ago I took a solemn vow that I would never have any dealings in pigs again as long as I live, and I’m not starting now.”

The people were leaving the fair. They had been leaving for an hour. Car lights were on and there was a general air of departure.

“How will we get her home?” I asked.

“She won’t ride in my car,” said Jim, flatly.

“Would she lead behind?” I suggested.

“Not she.”

A Funny Sense of Humor

“We could sort of tow her, like a rowboat,” I said.

“Cruelty to animals,” said Jim. “I’m a great friend of the Humane Society.”

“Well, for Pete’s sake, say something,” I cried.

“Why didn’t you arrange, then, to get one of the farmers that has a truck to deliver her the next time he comes to the city?”

“Because,” I said, “I still think you are entitled to a share of this pig and I didn’t want to do anything without you being in on it.”

“Get this straight,” said Jim. “That’s your pig or nobody’s.”

“If I do get somebody to bring it to the city, what will I do with it?”

“Get a cage for it and hang it in the sunroom,” said Jim. “Dear little piggie-wiggie.”

And he poked her in the side with his foot. She squealed with that torn sound again. Pigs are sensitive things; they can tell whether people like them or not.

“I’ll sell it,” I said. “I’ll go over there and ask some of those people if they would like to buy it.”

“Make it snappy,” said Jim. “We’re going to be the last out of here.”

I went over and mingled with the remaining people standing about their cars and waiting their turn to leave the fair grounds.

“Would anybody like to buy a pig?” I called. “Anybody like a pig?”

Nobody did. I went up to one man who had a trailer to his car loaded with pumpkins and baskets.

“Sir,” I said, “how would you like to buy that pig I won for first prize?”

“No, sir,” he said. “I’ve got more pigs eating their heads off over at my place than I know what to do with. I wouldn’t take it for a gift.”

“But surely somebody would like it?” I protested. “Couldn’t you take it and give it to some needy family?”

“No, sir,” said the farmer. “It was me donated that pig to the fair committee for first prize.”

“Dear me!”

Jim came running over.

“It’s all right,” he called. “I’ve got rid of her for you.”

“How much did you get?”

“I gave her away,” said Jim.

“Gave her away?” I shouted. “What’s the idea of giving my pigs away? I like that.”

I caught the farmer giving Jim a wink. Jim laughed.

“Good-by, Alex,” he said to the farmer I had been talking with.

“Good-by, Jim,” said the farmer.

At the gate the fellow who took the admission was holding a lantern to show folks out.

“Good-by, Jimmie,” yelled this man as we drove out.

“Do you know that guy?” I asked suspiciously.

“Sure, he’s my cousin.”

“You knew that other guy that I was talking to when you came over?”

“That’s another cousin of mine, Alex Robison.”

“You’ve got a lot of cousins at these fall fairs, haven’t you?”

“Yep,” said Jimmie. “That’s what I like about the country. You know everybody. It’s a great place to study human nature.”

“I learned plenty to-day,” said I, watching him narrowly.

“I thought you would,” said Jim.

And if you think what I think, I ought to keep away from the country when I’m with Jim Frise.

The country has got a funny sense of humor.


Editor’s Note: As this is one of the earlier stories, it does not follow the pattern of the standard pattern of the later stories, where they discuss something philosophically, and then do an activity where antics ensue. So it seems a little odd that they are separated for most of this one.

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