"Greg and Jim"

The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Spinach

We are capitalizing on the piety of the people. They associate whiskers with saints

For lunch we had an eggnog through a straw

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, January 14, 1933

“I see by the papers,” said Jim Frise, “that whiskers are coming in again.”

“It’s about time,” said I. “Nothing but whiskers will save the world.”

“What are you giving us?” snorted Jim.

“I’m telling you,” I repeated, “nothing but whiskers can save the world. Whiskers went out of style about forty years ago. And since then what have we had? Just a series of mistakes, disasters, wars and calamities. A lot of women have been running the world. The razor is Satan’s cleverest invention.”

“How could whiskers help us?” asked Jim.

“Whiskers,” I said, “are the symbols of masculine authority. The trouble with the world these days is that there is no authority. Nobody is boss. All faces are bared to the light of day and each of us can see what poor, weak faces all the rest of us have. Now, God provided us with whiskers to disguise our true character. A man hidden behind a bush of imposing red whiskers can get away with anything. You can’t see his expression. It is the same as a masked bandit. You are impressed by him. You can’t see his lips trembling with anxiety or nervousness. He seems to be a rock of purpose and courage.”

“Maybe you’re not so far wrong,” admitted Jimmie.

“Just look at the past ten years,” I went on. “Just a series of bare-faced disasters. International conferences where a lot of woman-faced politicians revealed their true intentions to one another, and each world conference more useless than the last. Whereas, if nobody but men with whiskers had been allowed to attend those conferences, all entrenched behind their barricades of fur, with nothing but their sharp and clever eyes peering out at one another, I bet you the world’s problems would have been solved by 1925.”

“By gosh,” said Jim, “when you come to think of it I am a lot more impressed by Dr. Chase’s remedies on account of the late Dr. Chase’s whiskers than I am by President Hoover’s problem solving, just because I look at Hoover’s face and say to myself, nobody with an expression like that could think of anything new.”

“You’ve got it,” said I.

“The past half a century,” said Jim, “has been a period of revelation. Revealing everything, even our faces. No secret of nature or science too sacred to be yanked out into the full view. What we need is a return to concealment. I tell you what! I’ll start growing whiskers if you will.”

“M’m,” said I. “It takes time to grow whiskers.”

“What of it?” demanded Jim.

“The worst part of whiskers is what you might call the period of incubation. One time I grew whiskers for a month on a camping trip. I know about whiskers. They don’t grow the same length at the same time. Here and there they are thicker than elsewhere. It makes you look as if you had leprosy or the mange.”

“What do you care for appearances?” cried Jim.

“Well,” said I, “to tell you the truth, my wife …”

“Ah, there you go!” accused Jim. “There’s the secret! It was the women who robbed us of our whiskers, like Delilah did to Samson. And they will die fighting before they will ever let us get back our old glory and power.”

Feeling a Sense of Power

“I tell you what we might do, Jimmie,” I suggested. “We might, experiment a little. We can get very good false whiskers at these masquerade costume places. I’ve seen them. They put them on so cleverly nowadays that they would fool even a detective.”

“You mean,” said Jim, “we could go around and see what effect whiskers would have in increasing our authority?”

“Precisely.”

“I’m on,” shouted Jim. “Black whiskers for me and red whiskers for you!”

And that was how it came about that you could have seen walking along King street the other morning two gentlemen who might have stepped right out of the eighteen-seventies. Jimmie’s whiskers were a sort of blue-black, suiting his lean and oriental cast of countenance. They were wide and full, concealing not only all his features but his eyes and nose but also his necktie and scarf. They entirely transformed that genial gentleman, whom all bums instinctively salute for a dime, into a sinister and menacing Riff chieftain.

My whiskers unfortunately were governed by the fact that I have hardly any neck, and they were therefore reddish, short and bushy, and no matter how the masquerade costume man tried to make me look romantic or imposing all he could make out of me was a sort of bad-tempered man peering spitefully out of a fox-colored hedge.

“We ought to have different overcoats,” I said to Jim. “Our friends will know us by our clothes.”

“I wouldn’t know you,” said Jim. “In fact, I don’t believe it is you now.”

So we went out on to King street and started walking bravely toward the business district.

The effects of our whiskers were instantaneous. Instead of the casual glances of passing strangers, every person we passed looked at us with a most respectful and even a slightly shocked expression.

“By gosh,” said Jim, as two girls went by with scared averted eyes after one swift, wide-eyed survey of us, “I feel a sense of power.”

“Maybe,” said I, “it is one of those instinctive feelings of respect our whiskers inspire. When all these people were little they were brought up on pictures of the twelve apostles, and they all had whiskers. We are capitalizing on the early piety of the public. They associate whiskers with saints.”

As we got into the business section dozens, scores, hundreds of people passed and every one of them gave us a definite, respectful and awakened glance. I know how Professor de Champ feels now.

“Look who’s coming!” hissed Jimmie.

It was our editor. He is a wide-eyed and observant man. He saw us forty feet away and fastened his eyes on us. We stared back at him. He did not remove his eyes from us until we passed, and never before nor ever again shall we achieve such a respectful expression in our editor’s gaze.

“Boy!” breathed Jim, as the ordeal was over. “Let’s do all our conferences with him in these whiskers.”

In the next block, which was near the office, we passed six different men and two girls who are known to us and who know us. They stared at us and drew delicately aside as we passed.

Our friend, Horses Ayers, runs a tobacco shop in between writing times as a horse authority. He knows us better than a brother. He knows us as only a man can know those who borrow money. We walked into his store.

“Cigarettes,” I commanded, in my ordinary voice, naming my usual brand. I handed him a two-dollar bill.

“Yes, sir,” said Horses, in soft and polite voice. He gave me the cigarettes and change, $1.75.

“That was a five-dollar bill I gave you,” I said sternly, making my red whiskers bristle.

“I BEG your pardon!” cried Horses, diving into the till and giving me three dollars more. “I BEG your pardon.”

“I beg your pardon,” said “Horses,” diving into the till and giving me three dollars more

“Granted!” said I, splendidly.

Jim and I stalked out of the store and got out of sight and had our first practise at laughing in whiskers. It is rather a terrible experience. There you are looking at your friend yelling haw, haw, haw, and it is like a corpse laughing.

“Listen,” groaned Jim, “anybody that can take three dollars off Horses Ayers..!”

“We could make a good living out of short-changing in whiskers,” said I.

“It just goes to show you,” said Jim. “Whiskers give you power.”

Symbols of Authority

“What now?” said I.

“Let’s go up to the city hall and complain about the tax rate,” said Jim.

There is no need to give you the details of our journey all over town. We were received with remarkable politeness by the mayor’s office. They were extremely sorry his worship was out, but they took down carefully all we had to say about the tax rate. We went up to see Premier Henry, but he was out of town. Anyway, they were most cordial. Our complaint to Premier Henry was about the color of this year’s automobile licenses. Yellow again! Could they not think of any colors but yellow and white? Had they, no imagination at all? In sad times like these did they not realize the psychological importance of brightness? Why did they not make the 1933 markers a bright cherry red?

They took it all down and said the matter would receive the attention of the minister.

“Of the cabinet council!” said Jimmie, sternly.

“Yes, sir, of the cabinet council,” replied the official, his hand trembling with the pencil.

We asked a policeman where there was a good speakeasy in the neighborhood. He was sorry he did not know. A real estate agent drove us all over Forest Hill village and showed us through the fifty-thousand-dollar houses.

“Haven’t I seen your picture?” asked the realtor of Jim. “Your face is very familiar.”

“Doubtless, doubtless,” said Jimmie.

When he asked us our names we informed him that our names did not matter. We had seen his goods and if we wanted any of them we would let him know. Hidden behind those whiskers, with the tell-tale mouth and the expressive lines of the face all concealed, it is astonishing how rude and bold you can be.

“How about lunch?” Jim asked about one thirty.

“Nothing doing,” said I. “It takes a lifetime to learn to eat through whiskers, and then very few of them ever learn to do it well.”

“But I don’t want to take these oft yet,” said Jim, thinking of the painful operation of removing the gum that attached the hair to us.

“Let’s have an eggnog through a straw,” said I. Which we did.

“Now,” said Jim, as the afternoon wore on and we could think of no further ways of proving the power of whiskers. “Let’s go home and see what happens.”

So we went home. I do not know the true facts about Jimmie’s case. He says they just laughed. His wife is supported by four daughters, which is, of course, an unfair disposition of the troops in any case.

“Oh, they just laughed,” said Jim.

When I let myself in the front door the maid screamed and ran into the kitchen.

My wife came into the hall and stood staring at me.

“Are you hurt?” she gasped.

“How do you like me in whiskers?” I asked.

“What on earth are you up to?” said my wife. “I thought that was some kind of a fancy bandage you have on your neck.”

“Whiskers,” said I. “How do I look in them?”

“You look as if you had the eczema,” laughed my Delilah.

“Aw, go easy,” I begged. “Don’t they sort of give me a look of importance?”

“Boys,” called my lady, “come and take a look at your daddy!”

My various boys trooped in and all at once the whole scene became a rowdy pandemonium, with everybody dancing around me and dragging me into the light.

“He looks like Duke!” shrieked my mother-in-law. Duke is an Airedale dog of our acquaintance.

“Wait! Wait!” roared the oldest boy. “I know who it is! It’s Paddy Lone!”

Paddy being a feeble-minded gentleman who sits on the side roads up in our part of Muskoka.

I strode upstairs and removed the whiskers.

All of which goes to prove that whiskers do give a man a power, an authority he does not enjoy in his bare-faced condition.

Everywhere except at home.


Editor’s Notes: Spinach” is slang for a beard. It seems to have been most in use in the intra-war years. Since the 1870s and 1880s were the high point of extravagant beards and moustaches, it would be older men who still sported them in 1933.

The “late Dr. Chase” is Dr. A.W. Chase, a 19th century “patent medicine” seller who sold home remedy recipes, under the title Dr. Chase’s Recipes; or, Information for Everybody. He would also sponsor popular almanacs that would still be sold by his company long after his death, and would be known in 1933. He had a very long beard.

Referring to Jim as a “Riff chieftain”, is in refence to the Rif War, a 1920s colonial war between the Spanish and French on one side, and Berber tribes of the Rif mountainous region of Morocco on the other.

Greg indicated that “I know how Professor de Champ feels”. He is referring to Charles Saint-Elme de Champ, founder of the Alliance Française de Toronto. He also had a magnificent beard.

George Stewart Henry was Premier of Ontario from 1930-1934.

Though 1933 Ontario licence plates were yellow, they did go with red in 1937.

Compulsory National Service for Everybody

“Each calling will be known by a number, and this number will then be painlessly branded in small, neat figures on the left ear lobe of each child.”

By Gregory Clark, January 17, 1920

Major-General G. B. Tallowhead, C.B., C.M.C., Outlines His Ideas as to How Canada May Profit as a Result of the Late Lamented War and Be Ready For Another at a Moment’s Notice.

It was with the greatest difficulty and only, through the efforts of certain personages in high political and diplomatic circles, that we secured the following interview with Major-General G. B. Tallowhead, C.B., C.M.C., etc, on the subject of universal military service for Canada.

General Tallowhead, it will be recalled, was an international authority, during the late war, on the subject of the tactical employment of field-kitchens. And his work in the salvage of bully-beef tins, wastepaper, and beef-dripping in the battle zone, with the enormous saving in money and material, was one of the factors in the ultimate success of the allies.

After a great deal of circumlocution and circumnavigation, we were admitted to a secret interview with the General in the rotunda of the King Edward Hotel.

Safely secluded behind a pillar, we opened the interview, as is well to do with distinguished personages, with a challenge.

“Is it not, sir,” we asked, “an historically typical thing that we British having fought Germany on the grounds of freedom and democracy, should now propose to adopt some of Germany’s most offensive principles? We refer, sir, to Brig.-General A. W Griesbach’s plan for compulsory military service in Canada, which was recently exploited in the Canadian newspapers.”

General Tallowhead’s face became purple with earnestness as he said:

“Not at all, sir, not at all! We British learn the secrets of civil government only in war. In the late war, we have taken far more than cash indemnities from Germany. We have taken the secret of her civil success. Not only do I believe in compulsory military training. I stand for compulsory social training, and a compulsory national organization for both peace and war!

“General Griesbach,” said General Tallowhead, “is a distinguished Canadian soldier. But I am deeply disappointed that he promotes such a half-measure as he outlined recently. His plan, in a word, is to take boys at the age of twelve and carry them through a period of compulsory military training until they are twenty-three, whereupon they enter a military reserve and are held in various reserves until they are sixty.

“Very elementary!” declared General Tallowhead. “After the lesson of the late bloody war, surely Canada is prepared to go further than that feeble compromise.

“My plan,” said the General in a loud voice, “is national civil service!

“To describe it briefly, it is as follows:

“On reaching the age of twelve years, all children, male and female, will come before a tribunal, which I will be appointed in each municipality and township.

“This tribunal will investigate the physical condition, parentage, mental force and general tendency of each child and then will decide for it what its trade, occupation or profession will be. Each calling will be known by a number. And this number will then be painlessly branded in small neat figures on the left ear-lobe of each child. I have myself, just patented a small branding device on the principle of the electric toaster and the rubber stamp.

“That, then, is the basic principle of my plan. As you can see, it will do away once and for all with the absolutely crazy irresponsibility of our present national life. Instead of leaving the future of a man or woman to mere chance, life will be consciously directed by the State. To an extent, it will do away with personal ambition. For instance, the son of a plumber whom our tribunal decides is to be a plumber cannot become a captain of industry or a lawyer. But there nothing to prevent him becoming a great plumber!

“In a word,” said the General, “it will do away with the ridiculous case of a golf professional masquerading in his spare time as a lawyer or a banker The State will consciously direct its citizenship. We will know where we are at.

“Upon being branded, these children will then be separated into their respective groups. Instead of our present absurd educational system, where we have twenty schools in a city all teaching the same generalities to children as a whole and leaving their futures in their own hands, we will institute specialized State education. These children will be wards of the State. Those who are labelled as artisans will go to the school of artisanry, and there learn nothing but what they require to know. So with all grades – lawyers, doctors, dentists and so on.

“The girls will each be taught a useful occupation. And all the while, military training will be going on in an intensive manner. The boys will be graded into the different arms of the service and thoroughly drilled and trained. The girls will be trained as nurses, munition-makers, conductorettes, postwomen, clothing makers, in addition to being taught a few of the lighter military subjects, such as the machine gun, anti-aircraft defence, and sniping from attic windows; these for home defence.

“Now,” said General Tallowhead, enthusiastically, “picture Canada on the hour of the declaration of war!

“The State, owning all the citizens, owns all property as well. Word goes out, and every man reports to his military headquarters. Every woman leaves her home and goes to the factory, munition works, car-barn or office to which she has been allotted as her reserve.

“The State, owning all money, would promptly institute military rates of pay for everyone; and having charge of all industries, would control all prices.

“Not weeks and months, but only hours would elapse before this country would be established on a war footing. The slacker and profiteer would be eliminated. War would become, not a monstrous burden of debt, but a paying enterprise for the State.

“Aside from war altogether,” said General Tallowhead, you can see clearly how this organization would benefit the nation in times of peace. Canada would be like a huge regiment, with each member doing his or her allotted task. State discipline I would be modelled on army discipline, and our laws, instead of being hazy concoctions from out of the ages, would be smartly designed on the Manual of Military Law. Elections of our Governors would be done away with, and our Governors, etc., trained as such from boyhood, would be promoted from alderman, to mayor, premier, etc., as officers and N.C.O.s are promoted in the army.

And as soldiers are happier than civilians, so would the nation be happier, under compulsory national control than they are now under the present reign of casual, drifting, undirected indifference.

“It is going to take time,” concluded General Tallowhead, “to educate the public to this plan of mine. But I am assured that it has a big appeal to all thinking men.”


Editor’s Note: There was no doubt some recent discussion on national military service which prompted this tongue-in-cheek response.

The Chief’s from Missouri

January 14, 1928

The title seems to make no sense, but there was likely a well publicized story about a police officer in Missouri testing people’s brakes this way. Jim would sometimes get his ideas from a news story that may be printed recently.

[Update]: A reader has suggested that the joke might play on Missouri being the “Show me” State, a saying that indicates that proof is always required.

The Green Parcel

Just as the big guy flirtatiously closed his eyes in sniffing, I reached out smoothly and…

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, Janaury 11, 1947

“Well, of all the nerve!” murmured Jimmie Frise in my ear.

“Mmmm?” I inquired.

“Did you see that?” hissed Jim more sharply. “Did you see that guy calmly pick up my parcel?”

“Uh?” I said, removing my attention from the counter where Jim and I were inspecting fleece-lined gloves.

“My green parcel!” whispered Jim. “See? That big guy at the end of the counter….”

At the end of the counter, a big fellow was pausing casually to look at some merchandise. Along with another smaller parcel, he was carrying Jim’s green package containing a beautiful llama wool sport cap of the kind the Swiss hunters wear, a sort of round wool cap that can be pulled down around the neck and ears. Grand for rabbit hunting at this time of year.

“He was standing here beside us,” whispered Jim hurriedly. “I’d laid my parcel down. Just as he walked away, I noticed my parcel gone….”

“Go and ask him for it!” I commanded promptly. “Before he gets away.”

“Nix,” said Jim, “let’s follow the guy. Let’s watch him operate. It’ll be an education.”

“It’ll be a story,” I corrected. “Okay. Now don’t let him see we’re on to him.”

We went ahead examining gloves. Out of the corners of our eyes we watched the big guy stalling around. Obviously he was stalling. He was waiting to see if we would miss the green package and raise an outcry. In which case he could easily plead he had picked the parcel up with his other, by mistake.

“He’s waiting,” murmured Jim guardedly, “for a bunch of people to come by in the aisle and then he’ll just melt into the crowd.”

“Okay,” I agreed. “Don’t let’s lose him.”

“We can’t lose him,” said Jim. “Imagine a guy the size of that engaging in shoplifting! Why, he’s as conspicuous as a moose.”

“And intimidating,” I submitted. “Lots of people, even if they suspected him, would be a little leery of tackling a man that size.”

At which moment, just as we expected, a little crowd of people came down the wide aisle of the store. And as smooth as silk, the big fellow quietly swung in with them and started away.

“Heh, heh, heh,” I chuckled, as Jim and I, without hurry, calmly fell in pursuit.

“The nerve of him!” admired Jim. “Look, he doesn’t ever try to conceal the parcel. Look, he’s carrying it more conspicuously than the other.”

“Aplomb,” I said. “A shoplifter, or any other kind of crook for that matter, has to have aplomb.”

“What the heck is aplomb?’ inquired Jim.

We Study the Master

“It’s self-possession, sort of,” I explained, as we casually strolled along in the shopping crowd, our victim fair in view. “The word aplomb comes from the same root as plummet. It means perpendicular. Straight up and down. A hotel doorman has aplomb. A bishop has aplomb. This guy has aplomb. Look at the proud, self-possessed way he carries himself! A successful crook always has that air. An unsuccessful crook cringes, is bent over, looks anxious. You can see he is a crook. But this kind of smooth operator is always ready to carry off any accident with the greatest assurance. I bet he wiggles out of 100 per cent of the cases in which he is caught in the act.”

He had paused at the notions counter. He was slowly moving, a step at a time, along the counter, studying with rapt attention the cards of buttons, the cards of hooks and eyes, dome fasteners.

“See!” hissed Jimmie, as we too slowed along the opposite side of the aisle. “See that woman ahead of him? And that expensive-looking package she’s carrying? Well, wait till she lays it down!”

We watched covertly with bated breath.

“What art!” I breathed. “What technique! The guy is a master. He knows that in the notions counter women are always picking things up, and in order to pick things up, they’ve got to lay things down. How much do you bet he gets that expensive-looking package?”

“By the look of that package,” assessed Jim. “I figure she’s got a $15 bed-jacket. Or maybe one of those $20 cashmere cardigans …”

Slowly, the unsuspecting lady, with the parcel tucked under her arm, moved along the notions counter, peering at everything, the spools, the safety pins, the knitting needles. And slowly behind her, moving with the greatest indifference, lost in contemplation of the trivial things on the counter, drifted the big man.

She halted. The man halted. She picked up a large spool of colored elastic. She studied it intently. She made as if to take the package from under her arm. We stiffened.

But she suddenly changed her mind and tossed the elastic back and walked briskly on. The man followed. When the lady turned right at the end of the notions counter, the big fellow paused, and then turned left.

“He takes his time,” admired Jim, as we followed, at leisure. “No ordinary packages for him. He only chooses the best.”

“What a queer hobby!” I mused. “It’s sort of like gambling. He never knows what he’s getting until he gets home.”

We followed him up the main aisle, and then began a most fascinating chase. He went to the escalator and took it up. At a discreet distance, we followed.

“Do you think he’d recognize us following him?” I inquired.

“Not him,” said Jim. “He’s like a hound on the scent. He’s like a setter at point. Each job, once done, is forgotten in favor of a new victim…”

The Vulnerable Point

“But look here, Jim, how about your llama cap?” I demanded. “At what stage are you going to get that green parcel back? If by any chance he did see us, and recognize us as the two guys he stuck down there at the glove counter, he might make a sudden dive into an elevator or something … Or he might even chuck your green parcel out a window.”

“Hmmmm,” said Jim uneasily. “I don’t want to lose that $3 cap. Let’s keep a closer watch …”

So instead of following 30 feet behind, we moved up to about 15 feet.

He was marvellous. He got off the escalator at the third floor and wandered straight over to the ladies’ lingerie department. If there is any place the ladies lay their parcels down, it is in the lingerie department. No lady is ever satisfied merely to look at lingerie. She’s got to feel it, finger it, twiddle the silk between her fingers. And to do that, she’s got to put her parcels down on a counter.

“I wonder if he takes purses?” I suggested.

“I wouldn’t think so,” said Jim. “Purses are too easily identified, too immediately noticed if gone. Ladies don’t often lay down their purses, even when they set down all their packages. And besides, there is never very much in a woman’s purse. Maybe $3 or $4. No, it’s parcels this guy is after. They’re easily explained a mistake, madam, a mistake! I’m very sorry! With that aplomb …”

We followed the big fellow around the lingerie department. He was a superb actor. He paused here and there to examine various garments with that shy and slightly self-conscious air a man uses in the lingerie.

When the masterful salesladies of the lingerie department came and spoke to him, he just smiled, shook his head and wandered on.

Two or three times, we thought we were about to witness a snatch. Ladies did lay parcels down and wander a few feet away. The big guy DID pause, long enough to cast his practised eye over the packages. But apparently none of them were good enough to merit his attention.

“I guess an expert,” said Jim, “can tell at a glance what’s in a parcel.”

We followed him up to the fourth floor, then to the fifth. He went with unerring instinct to the departments where people set parcels down. The wool department. No lady can buy wool with other packages in her arms. She must feel the wool, fondle it.

The china department. Several people laid themselves open, became vulnerable here. To examine a tea cup or a cheese dish, you’ve got to lay your parcels down. The big fellow moved calmly about the china department, pausing here, pausing there; and we could see, in each instance, just which victim he was appraising.

In the china department, he startled us by actually buying something. He bought a green glass beer mug with a wooden handle.

“Hmmm,” said Jim, puzzled. “Do you suppose by any chance he has spotted us following him around? Do you think this little purchase is intended to throw us off the scent?”

“Jim,” I urged, as we retreated a little way in confusion, “let’s get it over with now. Either walk right up to him and demand the parcel back, or else get a floor-walker to act for us. The floor-walker can do it very nicely, no scene …”

“Are you afraid of that big lug?” Jim demanded meanly.

“Well, there’s no use getting punched on the nose,” I submitted.

One on Him!

“Listen, all we’ll do,” said Jim, covertly watching the rascal as he calmly awaited his parcel and change, “is walk up to him quietly and ask him what is in the green parcel. Tell him we saw him pick up our parcel and have followed him all over the store. That’ll frighten him. He’ll know we’re on to him. When we ask him what’s in the green parcel, of course he won’t know. Whatever he says, we’ll say it’s a llama wool cap. We’ll demand he open it, or we’ll call the store detectives…”

“Look!” I exclaimed. “I’ve got a better idea, Jim. Why not serve him his own trick? Why not US pinch your green parcel off HIM?”.

“Eh!” Jim checked.

“Let’s,” I said with increasing excitement, “beat him at his own game! Let’s tag on to him until he lays HIS parcels down and quietly snatch yours back.”

Jim looked speculatively over to where the big crook was standing with his back to us, awaiting his parcel. He had, for a fact, laid his other parcels down. Jim’s green one was on top.

“That,” chuckled Jim suddenly, “is an idea! Imagine his feelings when he finds the green parcel gone! He’ll be in a panic …”

At which moment, the salesgirl came back and gave him the beer mug which, after a moment, he stuffed into his overcoat pocket. Then he meandered over to the elevator and took it down to the main floor, us packed beside him in the car. It was breathtaking to be this close to the scoundrel. For there, just under my nose, and not a foot from Jim’s, was Jim’s green parcel brazenly exposed. Oh, it was exciting!

We let him off first. He led us to the perfume counter. He laid his two parcels down, green one on top. He spoke jokingly to a salesgirl, and she proceeded to let him sniff a variety of perfume bottles.

It was an odd sight. This big goof going through all the ecstasies, and refinements of selecting an itty-bitty bottle of perfume…

I cased the joint. Jim moved over to protect me from the off side. Just as the big guy flirtatiously closed his eyes in sniffing, I reached out smoothly and, all in one sweet swipe, picked the green package off the counter, moved on and handed the parcel to Jim. Without pause, we went straight out the main door and down Yonge St.

Our hearts were beating wildly. Our breath was coming fast. But it was with laughter we were bursting.

“What a joke!” bellowed Jim as we got out into the winter air. “Boy, I’d like to see that guy’s face right now…”

Who Robbed Who?

We went into a coffee shop for our 11 o’clock pot of tea and relaxed. Ah, it was delightful! There is nothing more enlivening to the humdrum life of modern society than a little excursion like this into the realm of the unusual, the bizarre…

I got my tea and sat back. From my coat pocket I took my own package and opened it to have a look at the muffler I had bought.

Jim, with doting fingers, undid his green parcel to try on the llama cap.

It WASN’T a llama cap!

It was a lady’s bright blue nightgown!

“Oh, my gosh…” gasped Jim, struggling to his feet. “Oh, OH, my gosh!”

We stood transfixed with horror.

“What do we do?” moaned Jim. “What do we DO!”

“The.. uh… who … aw …” I explained.

“Don’t you see!” wailed Jimmie. “We’ve ROBBED a guy, a poor, innocent big guy…”

“You saw him snatch the parcel … the green parcel…” I croaked.

Jim stood staring agonized into space.

“No,” he whispered. “No! Now that I come to think of it, I believe I left my green parcel on the fishing tackle counter, when we were talking to Jack Sutton …”

“You … you …” I accused.

So we left our tea and hastily wrapped the green package and ran back up the street to the big store.

We ran to the perfume counter. We hastily searched the aisles, but in the crowds we knew it was hopeless. We hastened to the tackle counter and, as soon as Jack Sutton saw us coming, he reached down under the counter and picked up a green parcel, which he waved reassuringly to Jim.

“Oh … oh … OH!” moaned Jim.

So this is what we did.

We went up to the lost and found office and turned the other green parcel over to the girl.

We said we had found it on Yonge St, and, on opening it, we had found the bill inside and knew it had come from this store.

“You are very kind,” the girl smiled, “and very HONEST.” (The capitals are mine.)

“Say, just for fun,” I said, “will you keep track of whoever calls for that parcel, if someone does I’d like to know what kind of person buys nightgowns that color?”

“Tee-hee-hee, I will,” assured the girl.

I telephoned the next day.

“It was a great big man,” the girl informed me. “He was a policeman on his day off. And he was so glad to get the parcel, because he was sure somebody had snatched it on him. Some shoplifter. And he said he was SO MAD…!”

Just as the big guy flirtatiously closed his eyes in sniffing, I reached out smoothly and…

Editor’s Note: This was the last Greg-Jim story published in the Toronto Star Weekly before they moved to the Montreal Standard. The microfilmed image is at the end, while the colour image is from an online auction.

Snakes and Theology

By Gregory Clark, January 9, 1926

“What is a snake for?” asked the heir to my millions.

There are some things a child of four cannot solve by reasoning. A snake is one of them.

“What a question!” I parried. “What a question!”

And I attempted to change the subject by introducing a little wrestling bout. But it was no use.

“Now tell me what a snake is for?” he asked, after wrestling had been carried to its furthest usefulness.

“Well, sir, snake is a very useful little creature. It eats mice and wicked insects.”

“Are mice wicked?”

“Well, you know what they did to your little mattress up at the summer cottage.”

“Did God make snakes?”

“Undoubtedly.”

“To eat mice and insecks?”

“Indubitably.”

“And did He make mice and insecks too?”

“Now, son, theology is no subject for little boys.”

We have a private understanding that when I put on certain grave and solemn air and screw my face up horribly, he does not ask the obvious and next question, which, in this case, as you can see, would have been – “What is theology?” It is a cowardly device, but I can’t help it.

“Well,” said he, “why didn’t God make snakes pretty?”

“I think,” I said, “that he made them pretty to begin with, but after they had been eating mice and wicked insects for a long time, they turned into the sort of looking things they are now.”

The boy’s grandmother, who has already commenced teaching him a few Bible stories, went –

“Ahem!” She signalled me, sternly, for this tale of mine would be sure to conflict with the Adam and Eve story, to which she would be coming one of these days. She finds it hard enough, as it is.

“Did God make everything pretty?”

“I am sure He did.”

The boy sat studying the problem earnestly.

“What,” he asked, “does Mrs. Tootum eat?”

Mrs. Tootum is an elderly friend of his grandmother’s, who has the misfortune to be somewhat unprepossessing in her later years because of an absence of teeth.

In the silence that followed the question, Grandmother got up and left the room. We could bear her crying as she walked up stairs. At least, we thought it was crying. Her face was very red.

The boy came over to me with a rather horrified air.

“What does Mrs. Tootum eat, Daddie?” he whispered, confidentially. “Does she…. does she eat……?”

And be nodded his head suggestively.

“My boy,” said I, “what might be true of snakes is not true of men and women. Some of the nicest people in the world God made – well, not pretty.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, God made birds pretty, because they sing. He made chocolate eclairs pretty because they taste nice, He made Mamma pretty because she is my Mamma, and He made snakes ugly because they eat mice and insecks, and toads ugly because they hop, and motor trucks ugly because they run over. That’s what God does.”

“It doesn’t always work,” I said, profoundly.

Pondering the question, he went upstairs, and I heard him say to his grandmother very sweetly.

“When is Mrs. Tootum coming to dinner again?”

Lunch-time Pastimes

January 5, 1924

Cat’s Paw

With nasty spitting sounds, the cat retreated farther and farther out on the cross-beam.

“What life requires of us, now and then, is a feeling of sudden desperation.” Like climbing telephone poles after cats, for instance

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, January 6, 1940

“Come for a walk,” said Jimmie Frise, appearing at my front door. “It’s a lovely Sunday afternoon.”

“A walk?” I said, being in the middle of a good book on trout fishing.

“A walk,” said Jim. “W-a-l-k. Look, you move your feet like this. Walk.”

“Okay,” I said. “Only you sort of surprised me.”

“The way you acted,” said Jim, as I threw on my overcoat, “you would think I had invited you to come for a fly or a creep or a hop-scotch or something.”

Rusty was with him, waiting on the steps, and I joined them and we stepped merrily out into the mellow winter sunshine. It was for a fact a lovely afternoon.

“Walking,” said Jim, as we started away, “is becoming an unusual act. Your surprise, at my invitation, was probably quite normal. It is probably far more unusual to receive an invitation to come for a walk than to receive an invitation to come for a fly in an airplane.”

“Walking,” I agreed, “is going out of fashion. The only walking we do any more is the little we have to do between vehicles. We walk to the garage. Then we walk from the parking lot to the office. Then we take the elevator.”

“At the office,” went on Jim, “everything is laid out on an economic plan that requires as little walking as possible between departments. The less walking done in a modern plant, the happier the management is.”

“And rather than walk three rooms to see a colleague,” I pointed out, “we telephone him on the private switchboard.”

“The whole scheme of modern life,” said Jimmie, “is to eliminate walking. I suppose the perfection towards which we are struggling is to have all mankind squatted on a soft pillow and carried from place to place by miraculous vehicles. A vehicle to lift us, on our pillow, out of bed in the morning, carry us all over the world, and then deposit us tenderly back in bed at nightfall, without having to set foot on the vulgar earth.”

“I wonder, Jim,” I submitted, “if all our troubles may not be due to our loss of touch with the earth? My grandmother would never let me wear rubber-soled running shoes when I was a boy because she said it would give me weak eyes. She held the opinion that it was necessary for human beings to touch the earth all day. If you cut yourself off from the earth by any unnatural substance like rubber, you were like a plant whose stem was cut.”

“Well, the less we walk,” said Jim, “the worse off we seem to become. The more we perfect our mechanization, the less human we grow. Never in the world’s history did we walk less. And never were we in a greater muddle, intellectual, spiritual and physical.”

“My grandmother may have been right,” I declared. “Maybe we are children of the earth after all. Maybe we have to keep touch with the soil. Maybe there is some divine elixir, like electricity, that exudes out of the earth into our bodies. And to have perfect strength and health of mind and body, we have to get our daily charging, through our feet.”

Contact With the Earth

“Well, I will say this,” submitted Jimmie. “Most of the craziness of the present world comes from cities rather than from the country. You don’t find many country people in the governments that lead the various nations to disaster. The more industrialized people grow, the crazier they grow. And living in cities, they rarely touch the earth with their feet.”

“We might have hold of something there, Jim,” I declared.

“Look at Rusty,” said Jim, pointing to his amiable Irish water spaniel. “See how he scorns the sidewalk. The sidewalk is dry and warmed by the sun. Yet Rusty prefers to adventure out on the icy and snowy lawns. Why? Because he is in contact with the true earth.”

“Maybe my grandmother was right,” I repeated. “Maybe there is some strength we get out of walking on the earth.”

“When people are ill,” said Jim, “we send them out into the country. We say it is the country air. With the wind blowing all day, how can country air be any different from the air in cities? No, it isn’t the air that heals people. It is something that comes out of the earth, some emanation, some rays, unseen, essential. And we can’t get them in cities of concrete and brick.”

“There is a blind need to put our feet on the earth,” I pointed out. “Look at golfers. Is there anything in the game of golf to justify the passion golfers develop for it? Biffing a silly little ball around the fields? But when you understand that the passion these men have for the game arises out of the soil, then all is clear. They think they love the game because of the club and ball. They really love it because, as slaves of the city, they are given the opportunity, in golf, to walk on the earth and absorb the life-giving rays, whatever they are.”

”That’s true of all outdoor sports,” said Jimmie. “What can there be in fishing trips which are always a fizzle, or shooting trips where you never see any game, yet which call us out, time after time?”

“You’re right,” I agreed. “As the bee is drawn to the flower we are drawn to the country. We think up a thousand excuses for going to the country. The simple fact is, we have to go to the country to get recharged out of the earth.”

“Walking,” asserted Jim, “should be enforced. The more our masters, the industrialists, eliminate walking as waste, the more we should make laws requiring so many miles of walking from all of us who are workers in cities. All city workers should work five days. And then, by law, have to go walking in the country for two days. Then the world would return to normal.”

“I’m glad you brought me on this walk, anyway,” I informed him. “I feel more normal already.”

Nothing Like Walking

There is a kind of winter’s afternoon that is not excelled by any other hour of all the year. May and early June at its loveliest always is lovelier by reason of contrast with the dreary March and April that preceded it. Star-scattered nights of August are incomparable, but there is the murmur of September in them. A mid-January afternoon, with a slight melting at the edges of roofs and crispness unsalted with wind or chill, is a jewel of time. Its vivid brightness, its purity, its hardness is like a diamond. It defies comparison with May or October. It has no sadness or envy in it. Every sound rings. No thought of sprouting flower or of vivid dying leaves creates that sense of time’s movement. Men close to 50 might choose to live in a perpetual afternoon of mid-January.

“Did you ever try to keep a record,” I asked Jimmie, “of the actually perfect hours of your life? There are not many of them.”

“Most of them,” said Jim, “have usually been associated with walking.”

“You’re quite right,” I agreed. “You don’t get into accidents or smashups while walking, Mischief never suggests itself to a man on his two feet.”

“Walking is the most peaceful of all things,” said Jim. “Let even two such peaceful men as we are sit down for five minutes, and trouble starts.”

“Atta boy, Rusty,” I said suddenly.

Because Rusty had come upon a cat sunning itself on a sidewalk. And with his tail wagging and a look of expectation, Rusty was moving in a stiff circle around the cat which slowly arched itself into a standing position and turned its head malevolently towards Rusty.

“Here, Rusty,” commanded Jim shortly.

“Atta, boy, Rusty,” I muttered.

And with a pounce and a hoarse bark, Rusty accepted the more agreeable of the two suggestions and made for the cat.

“Hyah,” roared Jim indignantly.

But Rusty was after the cat and chased it briefly to a telephone pole, up which it went, much to Rusty’s delight.

“Now, look,” accused Jim. “See what you did.”

“Good boy, Rusty,” I asserted.

Jim walked over and scolded Rusty away from the pole where he was barking,

“Okay, come on,” I suggested.

“You can’t leave a cat up a pole like that,” said Jim hotly.

“What are you talking about,” I retorted. “If a cat can run up a pole, can’t it run down?”

“No, it can’t,” said Jim. “The poor creature might be marooned up there all night. It might never come down. They might have to get the fire department to come and rescue it.”

“Oh, nonsense,” I protested. “You’ve another of those cat-conscious people. Don’t baby them.”

“Furthermore,” said Jim, “I don’t altogether like the way you interfere between me and my dog. When I speak to my dog. I don’t like people to countermand my orders.”

“Cats always excite me,” I apologized. “I’m sorry, Jim, but whenever I see a cat, something malicious springs to life in me.”

“There are people who love cats more than we love dogs,” stated Jim.

“A cat is not a normal human associate,” I stated. “It is purely a pet. You might just as reasonably love a crocodile. A dog is a natural friend of man, because it serves him, hunts for him, guards him. What does a cat do? Just creeps slyly about the house. And kills songbirds.”

A door opened in the house immediately beside us and a lady looked out.

“How,” she asked, “are you going to get it down?”

“Oh, it’ll come down as soon as we go away, madam,” I explained nicely.

“Oh, no it won’t,” said the lady. “We’ve had to have the fire department come more than once to rescue that cat.”

I looked up the pole, and hanged if the silly thing had not gone up right to the crosspiece.

“Why do people keep animals like that around?” I demanded.

“Why do people keep dogs,” retorted the lady, “that haven’t been sufficiently trained to leave cats alone?”

“The dog is perfectly all right,” Jimmie informed her, “if he weren’t sicked on by people who have no business to.”

“Do you suggest,” I asked, “that I climb up that pole and rescue that cat?”

“Well, you don’t suggest I do?” countered Jim.

“I’ll go up,” offered a small boy standing by, “for a quarter, mister.”

“No you won’t,” cried the lady. “We don’t want any children killed around here just because people keep savage dogs.”

“Lady,” said Jim. “this dog is no savage.”

“There are usually some young fellows hanging around that drug store Sunday afternoons, Jim,” I suggested. “Suppose we walk around by the corner and I get a couple of them to come and climb the pole?”

“Are you scared of a little climb like that?” demanded Jim. “With those rungs sticking out?”

“Certainly not,” I informed him. “But what do I do when I get the cat? I hate the feel of cats. So soft and limp.”

“Pshaw,” scoffed Jimmie. “Scared of a kitten. And I’ve seen you grab great big slimy muskellunge and haul them bodily into a canoe …”

“I don’t like soft, mushy things,” I stated firmly.

“Okay,” said Jim, unpleasantly, “okay, come on and hire some young hero hanging around the drugstore.”

“Just a minute,” called the lady on the veranda. “Are you going to leave that cat up there?”

“We are going to get somebody to bring it down,” I explained.

“Why can’t you get it down?” demanded the lady in one of those penetrating voices.

“Because,” called Jimmie, “he doesn’t like soft, mushy…”

Which caused me to leap to the pole and start up it before he even got the sentence finished. What life requires of us, now and then, is a feeling of sudden desperation.

But It Just Backed Up

Much as I dislike heights, even moderate ones, I clambered from spike to spike up the pole, and as I approached the top, the cat, with nasty spitting sounds, retreated farther out on the cross-beam.

“Come on, kitty,” I said, masking my natural instincts regarding cats in a gruff, kindly manner.

But cats have always been to me creatures that lacked any true human affinity. Even the most pampered cats act as if they didn’t really give a tinker’s rivet for their master or mistress or the fine home they share. True, they have a coy way of arching their backs and rubbing themselves against your leg. Or they will lie and purr on your lap. But that only goes to show how cheaply, with a little purring, you can wangle your way through life.

This cat eyed me with hard, glaring eyes. It bared its teeth in a soundless meow and arched its whiskers at me.

“Come on,” I said, not unkindly “Let’s both get down out of this.”

But it just backed up.

“Grab it,” called Jim. “Pick it up by the scruff of the neck. It won’t hurt you.”

In my boyhood, I have carried mice and even snakes in my pockets and all I can ask is, that those who dislike mice or snakes offer me the same respect I have for their fancies.

“Will you come down,” I hissed at the cat.

“Ffftt,” said the cat.

“He won’t come down,” I explained to Jim.

“For Pete’s sake,” said Jim disgusted.

So I reached quickly and caught the cat by the horribly loose fur on his neck, and pulled him clear of the cross-beam to which he stuck like a burr with all his nasty little claws. I lifted him and he curled around and clawed my wrist but I hung on and came down the rungs so slick and so quick Jim says I practically slid the whole way.

As I neared ground, I let go the cat and it lit as light as a ping pong ball and danced away for the veranda.

And even Rusty didn’t move. He just sat and looked eagerly at Jimmie and I never opened my mouth.

So we went to the drug store after all and I got a 15-cent bottle of iodine and carefully dabbed all my scratches. And for the remainder of the walk, we talked about the war, not about walking.


Editor’s Notes: More homespun wisdom from Greg’s Grandma Greig can be found in many of the stories Greg wrote that were collected in his solo books.

This was a nice example of Jim working a different angle, making the illustration long and thin, taking up the whole length of the newspaper page.

Some new pages

Happy New Year! I’ve added two entries to the regular pages today. The first is “Why Greg and Jim“, which explains why I started this whole thing in the first place. The second is “Working with Microfilm“, which shows some of the issues you can run into why working on a project like this.

Toronto is Biggest Betting Place in North America

December 29, 1923

Jim provided this illustration to a story on horse racing by Ernest Hemingway. The famous author worked as a freelance journalist for the Toronto Star and Star Weekly in the early 1920s as he was starting out. Because he was fond of the outdoors (hunting and fishing), he became good friends with Greg and Jim. During his time in Paris, Hemingway still filed stories with the Toronto Star. When his third son was born in 1931, he named him Gregory after Greg Clark.

Bringing in the New Year

December 27, 1919

It is encouraging to see that very early in Jim’s career (when he drew his comic in a realistic style), that he did not resort to physical stereotypes, as was common in comics of the era. See my post on About Stereotypes for more information. Though Jim did not use a physical stereotype in this comic, the speech of the Black man still is.

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