"Greg and Jim"

The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

What’s Comin’ Off?

The canoe lid off right under the wheels of a great big lorry.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, June 22, 1946.

“Let’s see,” reflected Jimmie Frise, “there’s the canoe…”

“And my mattress,” I reminded.

“And the boy’s bicycle,” listed Jim. “And what else?”

“Just a few cartons,” I submitted, “that will easily go in the back seat and the luggage, compartment.”

“It seems to me,” said Jim, “we used to take more junk than that on our first trip to the cottage.”

“We did,” I agreed. “But over the years, we’ve taken so much junk up to the cottage, there isn’t much more room left. Besides, we don’t have to transport as much supplies as we used to. Civilization is thrusting its ugly nose farther and farther into the summer resort country, so that now we’ve got good stores within a couple of miles of us.”

“It’s getting too tame,” declared Jim. “What is a summer cottage for? It is to escape from civilization. It is to get away into the unspoiled wilderness. And then comes civilization sneaking up on us…”

“Don’t forget, mister,” I protested, “how we welcomed the good roads when they came. Don’t forget, we bought the first outboard engines on our lake.”

“I suppose,” sighed Jim.

“First.” I explained, “we go and seek out a wilderness spot for our summer cottage. Next, we start agitating for the electric power to be brought out to us, so we can have an electric refrigerator.”

“The first instinct in a man, the minute he gets a little money,” reasoned Jim, “is to escape from civilization. So he sets up a wildness cabin. The next instinct is to convert the cabin into as civilized an establishment as can be managed. I wouldn’t be surprised if men unconsciously set up a cabin in the wilds for no other reason than to experience the thrill of conquering the wilds and turning the wilderness cabin into a city bungalow as fast as possible.”

“Ah, the insatiable pride of man!” I bemoaned.

“At first,” ventured Jim, “I don’t believe I wanted comforts and conveniences at the cottage. If I recollect, I gloried in its primitive qualities. I used to boast how hard it was to get in to it. We used to have to travel all day, in the Muskoka train. Then we had to sleep overnight in a little country hotel, and catch the boat early the next morning.”

“And you had to take supplies,” I pointed out, “to last most of the time you were planning to stay.”

“It was an adventure,” declared Jim, “a journey and a voyage. To get into our cabin in the wilds was something to plan for and dream about for 10 months of the year. Then the cabin: it was primitive, we used candles and later oil lamps. The wilderness came right down to our back door, full of mystery, menace, silence. Today, back of the cottage that is built on the site of that cabin, a great highway runs. And all day and all night, it roars with the traffic of the summer resort business.”

“Of course,” I pointed out, “there are young fellows now, like us when we were starting out, who are experiencing the same thing away back on the outer fringe of the wilderness. The summer resort area grows just the same way as a city grows.”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” remarked Jim. “In a city,” I explained, “when the young people grow up, they move out to the fringes of the city, to the new residential suburbs. They leave the old, shabby district they were born and brought up in. Then they, too, grow old, their families grow up, the new residential district has become old and shabby. And the young folk move on out to the new fringes.”

“It’s the same with summer resorts,” admitted Jim.

Comfort and Security

“Some young people, of the tamer sort,” I elucidated, “the kind who go for dancing and juke-boxes and sailing dinghies, remain in the old summer resorts of their fathers. But the more strenuous, imaginative and vigorous young people – like us when we were young, eh? – hanker to escape from all that sissy stuff. And they push on to the fringes, to the ever-vanishing edge of civilization. All over Canada, young people are hacking cabins out of the real wilds, the way we did when we were young.”

“I suppose,” ruminated Jimmie, “what we think of as our summer homes are really only suburban homes after all.”

“It can’t be helped, Jim,” I reminded. “Civilization is like that. What is civilization but comfort? The desire for comfort is what rules us all. Comfort and security. When we are young, we have a natural desire to escape from the comfort and security of civilization, so we build a cabin in the wilds. But shortly after we have done so, we decide that mosquitoes are a pest, so we install screens. Next, we find it a little troublesome to row down to the steamer dock for the mail, so we buy an outboard engine. The end is, we join committees of other cottagers in the district and start an agitation for the electric power lines to be extended out our way. And we have electric refrigerators, and a motor highway passing right back of the cabin. We wanted comfort. We got civilization. In our old age, the thing we ran away from has got us back in its embrace.”

“Hmmmm,” reflected Jim.

“There is something in us all,” I submitted “that yearns for the primitive and the untamed. In the healthiest of us, it expresses itself in this ceaseless pushing back of the frontiers, the building of summer cabins on a still farther lake. In the less vigorous of us, it expresses itself in this polite formality, of ‘going away for the summer’. And even the pudgy old ladies of the best families have to go where there is some pretence of wilderness. At least some pines. Yet the end is always the same. Comfort and security destroy the thing we love and yearn for.”

“Are you opposed to comfort and security?” inquired Jim darkly.

“No. But what is going to happen.” I demanded “when civilization is complete? When the last wild place has hot dog stands and juke boxes in it? When there isn’t any place left on earth where you can’t go by motor or by comfortable cabin plane? What’s going to happen to that deep instinct in us all to escape from civilization?”

“We should worry,” smiled Jim. “It will be a long time before that happens: by which time maybe human nature will have changed, and we won’t yearn for the wild and untamed.”

“Look, Jim,” I said sharply. “At this very minute parties of American tourists are fishing and camping all over the Arctic edge of Canada. They’ve flown in. In big private planes.”

“Well, there’s the Matto Grosso1,” dodged Jim, “the impenetrable wilderness of Brazil -“

“Full of tourists,” I assured him.

“Well, there’s Baffin Land2,” evaded Jim.

“Aircraft, yachts, all over the place,” I assured him. “Jim, we are in the midst of one of the greatest revolutions in history and we don’t realize it. People are going all over the world, into the most impenetrable regions – for fun!”

“More power to them,” said Jin, airily.

Everyone Seeking Escape

“Look!” I insisted. “A Chicago broker flies up to Ellesmere Island in the Arctic for 10 days camping and fishing for Arctic char. He does it in less time and with less discomfort than his grandfather, also a Chicago broker, travelled by train and boat to Muskoka.”

“More than that,” corrected Jim. “He flies to the Arctic in less time than it takes you and me to motor to the top end of Algonquin Park.”

“All right!” I cried. “Don’t you realize what this is going to do to humanity in the next few years? There isn’t going to be any escape left. There isn’t going to be any place left to escape TO!”

“I’m getting tired,” Jim said icily, “of this ESCAPE business! Escape literature. Escape movies. It’s time the whole world stood still and faced the facts of this world, instead of scattering in all directions madly to escape – like ants when you lift a rotten log and let the day light in.”

“But if you have no escape…” I began.

“Except for a few carefully censored newsreels,” declared Jim, “all the movies are escape movies. Except for a few brief commentators, the whole of radio is escape radio – comedy, drama. Except for the newspapers, cautiously measuring out the amount of grim fact the public can take without gagging – the whole of the printed word, pouring like hail upon the earth, is escape literature. Unreal, romantic, visionary, out of this world.”

“The idealistic…” I tried to butt in.

“The whole world,” cried Jimmie, “rushing into movies, crouching in front of radios, buried in books and magazines, trying to escape the terrible facts of this world, by every hook and crook that can be devised.”

“But surely,” I protested, “after a long and horrifying war, we are entitled to a little escape…”

“Not,” declared Jim, “while the greater part of the world is facing utterly inescapable tragedy. We here in North America escaped the war in a sense that Britain, Europe and Asia didn’t. We still want to escape! What’s the matter with us?”

“It’s human,” I stated, “to want to escape.”

“It’s human,” cut in Jimmie, “to want to be comfortable, to be secure: so that’s civilization. It’s human to want to escape. And what’s that?”

“Civilization too.” I admitted heavily.

“Britain, Germany, Russia and Italy didn’t escape the war,” pursued Jim, “and now they can’t escape the consequences of the war – famine and political ruin. And while they’re busy with that we are busy still escaping.”

“Wouldn’t the people of Europe escape if they could?” I demanded.

“Er…” said Jim:

“Would they face the terrible facts,” I gripped, “if they didn’t have to?”

“I guess the ruin that fell on Europe,” reasoned Jimmie, “was the result of everybody so busy escaping from reality that they let a gang of lugs, in all countries, muddle them into a terrible war. What’s going to happen to us, then, do you suppose, escaping we’re doing as the result, of all the now?”

“Nothing HAS to happen,” I pleaded.

“Something always happens,” asserted Jim, “to escapists. We want comfort. We want security. We want to escape.”

“Escape what?” I demanded, suddenly irritated.

“Escape our responsibility,” shot Jim, “for our share of the cost of OUR comfort and OUR security.”

“We went to war…” I cried hotly.

“War never in history did anything,” said Jimmie, “but destroy the security of one people and temporarily bolster up the comfort of another.”

“Temporarily?” I scoffed. “We British have been pretty comfortable for a good many centuries!

“But uneasy,” smiled Jimmie, “at last!”

“We’re not uneasy!” I snorted.

“No?” inquired Jim softly.

But No Canoe

“The canoe,” I reverted suddenly, picking up Jim’s list. “The canoe, my mattress. the boy’s bike…”

“What do you want with that mattress?” asked Jim.

“My old mattress,” I explained, “has been up at the cottage for 20 years. Mice have nested in it. It is full of lumps.”

“Comfort, comfort,” sighed Jim. “Always thinking of your comfort. That old mattress was good enough for you in the old days. when wilderness surrounded the cottage…”

“The new one will make a nice soft pad for the canoe, on top of your car,” I pointed out very willy.

“Oh, yeah,” agreed Jim promptly. “Okay. We’ll load the car tonight over at your place, and be ready to leave at 9 in the morning, eh?”

Loading the car was easy for old hands like Jim and me. We have loaded summer baggage on cars now for so many years we know all the tricks. We have learned the best way to secure the canoe on top. For years, we used haphazard knots. But then, about 1930, I read an article about how cowboys lash the packs on pack horses. Diamond hitches, double diamond hitches, the miner’s hitch, the lone packer or Basco hitch. These hitches made a science of fastening luggage on a car and there isn’t a Boy Scout in the country who can tie a double diamond the way Jim and I can.

My nice fat mattress was just like a bucking broncho. And the canoe on top was like a kayak or saddle bag of ungainly proportions. But we cinched it up snug, completed the double diamond and Jim slowly drove away with the load, all ready for the morning.

The family went on in my open touring job. Jim tooted shortly after 9, and we loaded the few cartons of odds and ends for the cottage. Nowadays, we don’t even take a lunch. There are any number of lunch place, all the way up the highway.

We drove across the city to hit Yonge St., and at one of those main intersections they had one of these new traffic policemen on duty whose job is to hustle traffic up. He carries a whistle, and waves his arms at you to come on, come on! Make it snappy!

I do not blame Jimmie for what happened. I will even pay my half of a new canoe. I can sew the mattress up myself.

As we neared the intersection, the policeman was blowing his whistle and waving us on imperiously. As if we were a couple of old fogeys. Jim stepped on the gas; at which minute, the lights changed.

Well; whom do you obey? A young policeman with a whistle? Or the red light? To us old-timers, trained for years on those red lights, there can be no question as to which we will obey.

Jim tramped on the brakes, despite the whistles and gesticulations. The sudden jolt jerked our diamond hitch, beautiful as it was, into mere empty space. The canoe slid off, right under the wheels of a great big trailer lorry, whose screeching brakes we heard all in the same instant in which we heard a splintering and crushing sound, as of giant egg shells.

The mattress, of course, did its best. I know it tried to defend the canoe against the monstrous truck. It got full of splinters.

There was quite a traffic tie-up for a while, but we got all the pieces swept off the street, and this time, we tied the mattress on with what is called a bucking hitch – used by cowboys and Boy Scouts for tying things on bucking horses.

And we got to the cottage all right.

But no canoe.

Editor’s Notes:

  1. Mato Grosso is a state in Brazil which means “Thick Bush”. ↩︎
  2. Baffin Land was the former name for Baffin Island. ↩︎

Innocent Handbags

June 18, 1927

By Gregory Clark, June 18, 1927.

Mr. Bodkin, who works in our office, carries a handbag.

He has carried it for years, and with his handbag, umbrella and his rubbers on, he is so serious and dignified a personage, none of us has ever ventured to jolly him about the bag.

As far as we know, he never carries anything in it. It just seems to be a habit of long standing, and he would as soon go out with no collar and tie on and come to business without his faithful old handbag.

Now it so happens that he parks his car three blocks away from the office, half a block from one of the new liquor stores.1

And that handbag has taken on a new and horrible significance.

The first day liquor was on sale, Mr. Bodkin came down Church street and saw the line-up. And being an old newspaperman, the instinct to stop, look and ask naturally halted him.

He is a shy sort of man, however, who depends on his powers of observation rather than his tongue, and he stood about for all of five minutes before he spoke to one of his neighbors in the crowd, to ask what the line-up was for and where everybody was going, because everybody was carrying a bag of some description.

“Booze,” replied the neighbor. “This is the opening day.”

You can imagine Mr. Bodkin’s horror. He has been a prohibitionist since birth, a tremendous worker for the dries, the author of many a strong article and influential pamphlet on the liquor traffic.

And here he had been standing, bag in hand, in the liquor store line-up for five long minutes while curious crowds of onlookers stared.

He got out of there so fast, he was limp when he reached the office.

We helped him out of his coat, and he flung the old handbag to the floor.

“If it hadn’t been for that!” he cried, with a mortified air.

We gathered around him.

And he told us of the tragedy.

“Five long minutes I stood there!” he wailed. “Goodness knows who saw me. Hundreds and hundreds passed by and paused to look. Amongst them must have, been scores of acquaintances, and probably the telephones wires are at this moment being burned up with the scandal that Bodkin, the great prohibition worker, was amongst the first to line up for his liquor!”

We soothed him.

“Boys,” said Bodkin, “do me a favor. Help me out of this mess, will you? Pass the word around amongst your friends that I was standing there in all innocence, as a newspaper man. That’s good fellows!”

“But,” said Jimmie, “that handbag. It will be hard to explain away that handbag.”

“Oh, dear!” sighed Mr. Bodkin.

For two days, he came to work without the handbag, but he was like a lost soul. He wandered around like a man who has forgotten his pipe. The rest of us could do no work, with him wandering around. He would sit and stare moodily at the place beside his desk where he used to park the handbag.

“I don’t enjoy the walk anymore.” he confided to me. “I have carried that bag for twenty years, and I think it has become part of me. Little did I dream the liquor business would ever strike me in a vulnerable spot. Its ramifications are so insidious, reaching into a man’s most sacred life. Curse the liquor traffic, I say!”

Jimmie had the inspiration.

“Look here,” said he to Bodkin, “just have the words ‘MSS Only’2 inscribed in gold letters on the bag, good and big.”

So Bodkin has his bag again and all is well. He has the words “MSS Only” in letters two inches freshly gilded on the faithful old bag. And he comes down Yonge instead of Church street now.

“It’s a much finer way to come anyway,” he says.

There must be hundreds and hundreds of people who have been made self-conscious since the liquor stores opened, lawyers, doctors, salesmen, who have to carry bags in the daily vocation.

But they can all follow Mr. Bodkin’s lead. Doctors can quite excusably work in a little free advertising for themselves by inscribing their name and title on their bags in large characters. Lawyers can put “Legal Documents Only.” Travelers can have the name of their firm or commodity emblazoned.

Or, to put another interpretation on the idea, although this is hardly fair to Bodkin, now that he has employed the idea in self-defence, could not those who do line up at the liquor stores camouflage their bag’s contents by all sorts of disarming inscriptions such as “MSS Only.” “Dr. Smith. horse doctor,” “Use Squkm Gramophone Needles,” “Hokem and Pokem, Barristers, Etc.”

The clever concealment of the true function of a handbag that is solely employed for the purpose of carrying two crocks from the liquor store will now be one of those things that will tax the ingenuity of a necessarily ingenious section of the public.

Editor’s Notes:

  1. The Liquor Control Act overturned prohibition as legislated in the Ontario Temperance Act and established the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), through which the province managed liquor distribution with government-run stores taking effect on June 1 1927. ↩︎
  2. MSS is an abbreviation for manuscripts.  ↩︎

Juniper Junction – 06/18/47

Rejuvenation Pills

I got into the wagon first. “Get off,” said Jim, grasping my coat and pulling.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, June 17, 1939.

This Greg-Jim adventure is from Gregory Clark’s book, “Which We Did,” published by Reginald Saunders, Toronto.

“I wish,” said Jimmie Frise, “we were living 100 years from now.”

“A hundred years ago would be better,” I disagreed.

“Ah!” said Jim, “100 years from now, all this bewilderment we are living amidst will be over. All the problems solved. We’d know how communism turned out. And what became of Germany and Italy.”

“If we’d lived 100 years ago,” I debated, “we would know now what had happened. I would feel a lot safer if I had lived 100 years ago,”

“Think of the miracles,” cried Jim, “that are certain to come to pass in the next 100 years. Do you realize that in our lifetime more miracles have happened than in the rest of the entire history of the world?”

“I guess we have lived in a thrilling time,” I admitted.

“Thrilling?” said Jim. “Listen. Human history is divided into two parts. The past 100 years is one half. The other half are all the millions of years before.”

“Maybe it’s over,” I suggested.

“When we were born,” said Jim, “the telegraph was the last supreme wonder of the world – the telegraph. Since we were born, recollect the miracles that have come to pass. The telephone, the phonograph, the electric light, the gas engine, the motor car, the paved highway, radio, the airplane, television, the x-ray, a million per cent. development of electrical and mechanical understanding, several thousand per cent. increase in medical science.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Previous to our birth,” continued Jim, “the greatest event they could tell us about in the school books was that Columbus sailed across the ocean. Now people fly the ocean in a few hours.”

“A hundred years from now, I suppose,” supposed, “all we will need to do is go up to community stratosphere platforms overnight, and wait for the earth to revolve underneath us, and then come down for breakfast in London or Calcutta.”

“Boy,” said Jim, “how I would love to live 100 years from now. What will we look like? What will we be doing? Will there be newspapers or only news broadcasts with television? For example, the news agencies all over the world will be television reporters with their outfits to rush from place to place. All you will have to do is tune in on a world news centre, say, in London. There you will learn from an announcer what is going on. A revolution in Spain. A big parade in Moscow. A murder in Chicago. You just twist the dials and get the local station, and there, instead of X marks the spot where the body lay, you can see the police carrying the body out and the suspect being grilled like a pork chop.”

“In which case,” I explained, “you and I would be out of jobs. They won’t need cartoonists and writers.”

Mankind’s Two Classes

“In 100 years,” said Jim, “I doubt if many people will have to work. We are just about now beginning to discover that work is the bunk. Despite the million discoveries of how to do things easily and painlessly, we still have the silly idea that we all have to toil and labor the way we did back in the days of wooden plows and Magna Carta. But in 100 years I bet nobody will have to work except those that want to work.”

“Will anybody want to work?” I protested.

“Don’t be absurd,” said Jim. “Mankind is divided into two classes – those who don’t want to work, a very large class, and those who can’t help working, a small class, but easily able to support all the rest of us. This interesting division into classes has been staring us in the face now for nearly 100 years. But we haven’t tumbled to it yet. We still think it is a political division. It’s nothing of the sort. It’s purely a biological distinction. Some men are born to like work. To be unhappy unless they are working. They get as much kick out of work as we get out of fishing.”

“For heaven’s sake,” I cried, “it’s true.”

“Of course it’s true,” said Jim. “Take one of these people away from their work and they actually pine, grow ill and die. It’s like liquor to them. They are work addicts. Yet, from time immemorial, we have foolishly allowed these people, these addicts, to possess the earth and the fullness thereof. With their energy and pep, they have bossed us and bullied us and made life miserable for countless generations of mankind.”

“How simple it all is,” I mused.

“A hundred years from now,” went on Jimmie, “with the aid of medical science, advanced psychology and that sort of thing, we will have all work addicts classified. We will put them in a special uniform. We will supply them with all the machinery they, in their folly, have invented. And we will permit them to work to their hearts’ content, the poor addicts, while the rest of us, the natural man, the human, lazy, happy multitude, will be amply supported in glorious leisure.”

“Jim,” I confessed, “I, too, would like to be living 100 years from now.”

“It will be a great time,” declaimed Jimmie. “The workers will be honored by us all, instead of hated for their wealth and industry.”

“I would feel kind of sorry for them,” I confessed.

“They would likely be very snobbish about it all,” said Jim thoughtfully, “and as the years went by we might behold the comic spectacle of our own children aspiring to be workers.”

“Like now,” I offered, “young people wanting to be movie stars and aviators.”

“As a matter of fact,” said Jim, “there is in all human hearts a faint desire to want to do something. When it is no longer necessary, 100 years from now, to do anything unless you want to, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a most extraordinary development. We might get those cathedral builders we used to have centuries ago. We might get poets again. People might actually get to like living so much that they would just naturally want to make their lives beautiful.”

The Secret of Life

“A minute ago, Jim,” I said, “I was happy to be alive in this exciting age. But now, you make it all seem kind of drab. As if we were here standing in the dawn, in the cold and fog and grayness, waiting for the day we will never see.”

“You never can tell,” declared Jim. “Sometimes I get the feeling we are on the very edge of the secret of life. As if we were hovering on the very brim of immense revelations, when all our troubles and misunderstandings will vanish away like mist, and we’ll stand in the clear, all over the world, understanding, comprehending and realizing. Almost any day now some scientist will discover the very essence of life. Maybe before we die we can take a pill or drink a liquid that will restore our youth and allow us to live indefinitely.”

“Come on, science,” I cheered.

“Oh, it’s partly done already,” said Jim. “What do you suppose those monkey gland experiments were for?1 And all these gland pills and rejuvenation pills?”

“I hadn’t paid much attention to that stuff,” I said. “I guess I still feel pretty peppy.”

“You can buy pills now,” said Jim, “that make you 20 years younger. For a little while. But you have to keep taking them or else you feel about 80.”

“I guess they only make you feel 20 years younger,” I suggested. “I’ve seen some of my friends acting 30 years younger and they didn’t take rejuvenation pills.”

“No,” said Jim. “I’m told these pills actually make you 20 years younger. For as long as they last, they restore to your system the worn-out essences of life itself. To all intents and purposes you are 20 years younger.”

“That would be a nice feeling,” I admitted, trying to remember what 20 years ago felt like.

“The way I understand it,” said Jim, “we are all lit up inside by our glands, as if they were a string of those little lights you put on a Christmas tree. Some are bright and some are dim, according to the way we are born. Sometimes one of them burns too bright and all the rest go dim. Sometimes one goes out, and then they all go out. Our glands are all hooked up on a sort of circuit.”

“Taking pills then,” I said, “is like putting in a fresh bulb?”

“Sort of,” agreed Jim. “We have glands in our head and neck and all over our bodies. Some of them are so small they haven’t been discovered yet. Others are so newly found the doctors don’t know what they are for, but they all work together to make us what we are. One gland makes us lazy and another makes us work. One makes us bad tempered and another makes us have dry skin or bushy hair. In a few years they will be able to give a gland pill so you can see a joke. Or to improve your ear for music.”

“Character won’t be worth having,” I protested, “if you can buy it at the drug store.”

“You see what I am getting at?” said Jim. “A few more steps in this game and they’ll find a gland preservative and then we can live to be 500 years old.”

“Are any of these pills to be had?” I asked.

“Doctors use them all the time,” said Jim. “You’ve heard of thyroid pills and adrenalin pills?”

“As journalists, Jim,” I declared, “we ought to have been looking into this long ago. We should even have been taking some of these pills.”

“You can’t take them without a doctor’s orders,” Jim said. “If your glands are good and you took a pill, goodness knows what it might do to you. But of course these rejuvenation pills you can get anywhere. They’re on sale like any patent medicine.”

Not Wanting to Be Younger

“I’m not particularly anxious to be 20 years younger,” I mused. “Twenty years ago I remember the war too vividly. I’m not very sure I would like to be as I was then.”

“Even 10 years ago,” agreed Jim. “I wouldn’t like to go back 10. I used to be so anxious and working and worrying and full of trouble.”

“Ten years ago,” I said, “I had the eczema.”

“Even five years,” said Jim. “Five years ago I thought I would never get my house paid for. It used to keep me awake at night. Now I don’t care.”

“It would probably,” I said, “be only a physical feeling. It would only last a couple of hours. Let’s try it. We owe it to humanity.”

“On an empty stomach,” said Jim. “We’ll take a couple of hours for lunch.”

Our favorite druggist spoke very highly of four or five brands of rejuvenation pills. He told us of an elderly gentleman amongst his clients who had taken off 30 years on one brand of pill. There were Chinese pills, big jelly looking objects; and tiny pinhead pills made in Europe by societies with long names, that were the secret, the druggist told us, of the fact that all the fashion styles come from Paris. Some of the pills were in old-fashioned packages with pen drawings of virile looking gentlemen with long black beards. Others were done up very discreetly in vivid modernistic style; others in a plain envelope, as the saying is.

“This here,” said the druggist, “is one of the newest. It comes from Europe. They say the German army, is fed on them daily.”2

We bought that one. Fifty pills – $2.753.

They were small white flat pills with a curious pallid expression. We read the instructions: “The effect of this prescription is cumulative. Take one tablet the first time, two tablets the second time, and so on until a maximum of five pills at a time are taken; by which time a permanent sense of rejuvenation and well-being will permeate the whole system.”

“Well,” laughed Jimmie, “let’s take the first one here at the soda fountain to begin with.”

Which we did and then went forth to stroll in the crisp noon air, amidst all the hurrying throng of luncheoners.

“It does not say,” said Jim, “at what intervals to take them. But I suppose we ought to give them at least time to dissolve.”

“I feel a slight sense of well-being already, Jim,” I submitted, squaring my shoulders.

“They have a minty flavor,” said Jim. “Not at all bad to take.”

“Pop us out a couple,” I suggested, and Jim produced the bottle and we each palmed and swallowed two.

We mingled with the crowds up towards the big department store corners.

“Jim,” I said, “do you notice anything?”

“I certainly feel light on my feet,” said Jim. “But the best part of it is, how nice everything looks. And everybody.”

“Ah, this is a great old town,” I agreed. “Anybody that couldn’t be happy here couldn’t be happy anywhere.”

“Wheeeeee,” said Jimmie. So we went through the revolving doors of one of the big stores and stood in the lobby while we took the next course; three pills each this time.

“They dissolve quick,” said Jim.

At the Magic Counter

We stood in the lobby for a little while, letting them dissolve and watching all the lovely people hurrying through. There were a lot of other people, mostly young men, standing in the lobby. It felt good to be there with them, standing and watching everybody passing.

“Where to?” asked Jim.

“Let’s go through the gent’s furnishings,” I said. “I’ve got the idea I’d like to look at some ties and shirts and things.”

We spent a happy 20 minutes looking at the haberdashery. I had no idea haberdashery had developed so interestingly of late. Snappy, we used to call it when I was younger. Jim and I both agreed that the youth’s and young gent’s was away ahead of the rest of the department, and we told the salesmen so, Jim finally bought a club stripe tie and I got two blue shirts with nifty fall-over collars that expose the throat.

“How do you feel?” I asked Jim.

“Hungry,” said Jim. I observed that he had his hat on the back of his head and his hair was sticking out in front. It looked nice. So I put my hat the same way. Jim began picking things up off the counter and putting them down again. I followed him and did the same. It was fun.

We saw the escalator at the same time and raced for it. We rode up three floors on it and then came down four. Then Jimmie invented the trick of going down the up escalators and up the down ones. A man came over and told us not to do that.

“Let’s go to the toy department,” said Jim. Did we ever have a swell time in the toy department? We tried all the things, the pop-guns and the mechanical automobiles. We blew the horns and beat the drums. We pushed dolls off the counters and spent a long time at the magic counter. It was when we got to the wagon and tricycle department that the difficulties began.

There was one lovely wagon like an automobile. It was blue and had shining metal headlights and disc wheels. I got into it first. “Get off,” said Jim, grasping my coat and pulling.

“I got it first,” I retorted.

“Get off it,” hissed Jimmie, giving me a dirty pinch.

“I won’t,” I yelled.

Jim put his shoulder against me and sent me flying to the floor. Weeping with rage, I rushed him and we clinched and punched and pinched and shoved all over the department, stumbling over carts and tricycles, while girls tried to separate us and managers came dashing up. They got us apart and Jimmie leaned sobbing bitterly against the counter.

“Aw, Jimmie,” I said. “I’m sorry.”

“Now,” sobbed Jimmie, his fists in his eyes, “we’ll be late for school.”

Editor’s Notes: As was indicated at the start, this story was originally exclusive to the book Which We Did (1936).

  1. This refers to the work of Serge Voronoff who gained fame for his practice of xenotransplantation of monkey testicle tissues onto the testicles of men for purportedly as anti-aging therapy while working in France in the 1920s and 1930s. ↩︎
  2. The German army was provided a drug called Pervitin, an early form of methamphetamine. ↩︎
  3. $2.75 in 1939 is about $58 in 2024. ↩︎

Are Chicago’s Boy Thrill-Killers Moral Imbeciles? Jekyll And Hyde Personalities Exist Say Alienists

June 14, 1924

This illustration went with an article about the case of Leopold and Loeb, one of the many “Crimes of the Century” in the 20th century. Two American students at the University of Chicago kidnapped and murdered a 14-year-old boy on May 21, 1924. They committed the murder thinking they were superior men that they believe entitled them to carry out a “perfect crime” without consequences. Both were sentenced to life in prison. Loeb was murdered by a fellow prisoner in 1936. Leopold was released on parole in 1958.

The Barn Dance

June 10, 1922


The big man was hurling handfuls of sod at the little old bailiff…

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, June 8, 1935.

“The nerve,” said Jimmie Frise, “of some people.”

We had just passed a rather cheesey-looking individual on the highway, who thumbed us most imperatively as we sailed by.

“He looked,” I admitted, “as if you might get bugs from him.”

“Why a raggedy-looking specimen like that,” said Jim, “should expect a lift is more than I can understand. I don’t mind giving a lift to a respectable-looking person, but some of the hikers who thumb most commandingly should hardly expect to be allowed in at a dog fight.”

“Maybe we could write something,” I suggested, “that would suggest to hikers that they clean themselves up. Let’s tip off the hiking fraternity that the ratio of the lifts they get is in exact proportion to their clean and tidy appearance.”

“Not a bad idea,” said Jim. “Yet I’m a little leery of those too tidy ones. Last week, I gave a lift to a very polished gentleman along by Port Hope, and he wondered if I wouldn’t be so kind as to run him up a few miles north of the highway to some forsaken little dump he mentioned.”

“The nerve!”

“Yes,” said Jimmie, “and when I refused, he got out of my car with all the outraged airs of a bank president who couldn’t get front row seats at the box office.”

“This whole business of hitch hikers is queer one,” I related. “I know a chap who was signalled by a nice-looking girl on the highway out near Oakville. She stepped right out in front of the car and he had to stop. She was in a hurry to get to Toronto. So he took her aboard. Just as they came over the Humber bridge, the girl suddenly tore her blouse and rumpled her hair, and started to scream. My friend slowed down in fright and astonishment. ‘Now,’ says the nice young lady, there’s a cop at the far end of the bridge. You come across with $5 or I’ll lean out and scream at him, and what a nice mess you’ll be in!””

“Good grief!” gasped Jimmie. “What did he do?”

“He did the only sensible thing,” I delighted to tell him. “He drove straight to the cop, and said, ‘Here’s a young lady who signalled me for a ride out the highway, and now she has torn her dress and said she’d scream to you if I didn’t hand her over $5.’ And the cop said, ‘Good, we’ve been on the watch for this jane for three weeks,’ so they all drove up to the police station.”

“Boy,” breathed Jim, “I wouldn’t know what to do in a jam like that.”

“I knew another chap picked up a young man and a girl,” I told, “and they said they were going to Orillia. My friend was going to Gravenhurst, so he said hop in. When they were passing one of those swamps beyond Barrie, the girl, who said she had once lived on a farm near there, told about a wonderful cold spring that bubbled out of the earth right near the road. The coldest, loveliest water you ever tasted.”

“I see what’s coming,” said Jim.

“So,” I related, “they stopped by the road and everybody got out and went into the cedar swamp. And the girl led the way into the thicket and said it’s right around here somewhere, so they scattered out to look, when my friend heard his car start.”

“Holy,” said Jim.

“So by the time my friend got out to the pavement,” I concluded, “there was his car vanishing up the road at sixty miles an hour. He flagged a lift and gave chase, but the car had disappeared. You can’t expect the first guy you beg a lift off to hit sixty. He got the police at Orillia to help him. But the next he saw his car, it was in Goderich, with a seized engine, and all his property gone out of it, and old tires on it in place of the good tires.”

“Well I never,” confessed Jimmie.

“The great thing is,” I stated, “don’t pick anybody up. It is better to be a meanie a thousand times than to try to explain something to your wife even once.”

“I suppose so,” agreed Jim. “There is enough trouble in this world, dealing only with your immediate friends and relatives, without getting yourself tangled up with strangers.”

We drove along in philosophic silence.

“Yet it seems a pity,” pursued Jim, “that a thousand deserving people, with sore feet and weary hearts, should have to be left standing on the side of the road all for the fear of the one scoundrel.”

“You can pretty well tell,” I said, “what a man is like from the outside. Men, for the most part, are pretty simple and straight-forward. Most men are not schemers.”

“I hate schemers,” declared Jim. “But I pride myself on the fact that I can smell a schemer a mile off. I can tell by their eyes. They have an honest, wide-eyed sort of look. They look you right in the eye.”

“I thought it was the other way around,” I exclaimed. “I thought schemers were shifty-eyed and never could meet your gaze.”

“That’s a lot of stuff you read in novels,” said Jim. “Just think of your friends. Think of the most honest of them all. Is he wide-eyed and innocent?”

I thought for a moment.

“No, by George,” I admitted, “now that you mention it, he has a shy and shifty glance. I never noticed that before.”

“It’s always the way,” pointed out Jim. “Human nature, at its best, is shy and timid and kindly and uncertain. But the boys who are certain and bold and crafty, they are the ones who look you bung in the eye.”

“Well, sir, that’s news to me,” I agreed.

Ahead of us, far up Yonge street, as we zoomed along for Lake Simcoe, we saw a figure of a man hobbling painfully on a stick.

As we neared him, we saw that he was elderly and bowed, and his foot was done up in a bandage. He was barely able to hobble.

“Poor chap,” said Jim, “I wonder if he has far to go?”

“This is an exception,” I admitted. “We couldn’t really pass him by.”

Jimmie was already slackening the car. We drew up ahead of the poor old chap, and as we did so, his face lighted up with pleased surprise and he hastened as fast as his bandaged foot would let him.

“Have you far to go?” called Jim, as I opened the car door.

“Just a little way,” cried the old man anxiously. “Up two cross roads, and then in one concession.”

“We can’t see you hobbling along like that,” said Jim.

“It’s a mighty sore foot,” said the old chap. “But of course I wouldn’t expect you to drive me right in. Just you gentlemen leave me on the corner, and somebody will come along sooner or later and take me in.”

“Not at all, not at all,” assured Jim. “We’ve nothing to do. We’re just going fishing. It won’t be ten minutes out of our way.”

The old chap’s face was a delight to behold, at this information.

“You’ll take me right to the door?” he exclaimed. “Well, now, I call that mighty fine of you gentlemen. You don’t find many folks that way these days.”

He got in the back seat and made himself comfortable. I noticed how wide and innocent and blue his eyes were. He had a candid gaze, if ever a man did. But I realized that in the country they have a more gentle and innocent outlook on life than we city slickers. They don’t have to be so crafty in the country.

“Two roads up,” said Jim, as he got the car booming along again.

“Two roads up, and then turn right, and it’s just near the end of the concession,” said the old chap. “My, this is nice of you. And what a nice big car you’ve got.”

“We couldn’t very well pass a man of your age, struggling along the way you were going,” admitted Jim. “Did you hurt your foot?”

“No, it isn’t exactly hurt,” contributed the old chap. “It’s a kind of sciaticky1 or arthritis or something. It catches me something terrible. And then all of a sudden it leaves me.”

“It isn’t gout?” asked Jim.

“No, not gout,” said the old chap. “I hardly ever took a drink in my life, scarcely. I think it’s what we used to call the rheumatics. But it’s an awful painful thing.”

Delivering a Blue Paper

“It must be bad getting around, if you’re a farmer,” suggested Jim.

“I’m not exactly a farmer,” said the old chap. I was turned to face him and I noticed how clear and guileless his eyes were. I thought of Gray’s Elegy2 and honest plowmen and all sorts of things. “No, I ain’t a farmer, exactly, although I have done farming.”

“What is your business?” asked Jim.

“Well, I’m a kind of an official,” said the old chap, proudly. “I’m a kind of sheriff’s man, a kind of bailiff, so to speak.”

“You ought to have plenty to do these days,” laughed Jimmie over his shoulder. “Throwing people off their farms and that sort of thing.”

“Oh, yes, I get some fun,” said the old chap.

“Is this the turn?” called Jim.

“Yes, this is it,” said the bailiff. “Now, if you feel you can’t waste the time…”

“Nonsense,” cried Jim. “It won’t take us five minutes. One concession over?”

“One concession,” agreed the old fellow. So we turned east and swung along a nice gravel road, passing farms on right and left.

“You live in here?” asked Jim.

“No,” said the bailiff, “I’m just delivering a paper in here. If it wouldn’t put you out any, I thought, maybe, while you are turning your car around, you might wait until I deliver the paper, and then I could get a lift back out to the road…”

“Certainly, certainly,” said Jim, but he gave me a look just the same.

“You gentlemen certainly are very kind,” said the bailiff. “I hope some day I can return you the favor.”

“It’s quite all right,” said Jim. “You won’t be long?”

“The next lane,” said the old fellow. “Just run up the next lane. You can see the farm house from here, see? And while you turn the car around, I can just pop this document in and be right aboard again.”

He seemed a little breathless. His wide. innocent eyes were shining with suppressed excitement.

Up the lane we ran, and into a farmyard in the midst of which stood a tidy house. But it had a sort of fortified look, if I make myself clear. There were no implements nor buck saws leaning about, not even a chair on the front porch. The blinds were down.

“Everybody away?” I said.

“No, he’ll be in all right,” said the old gentleman, as we drew up alongside the back door. He was shaking with excitement. He opened the car door quickly and hopped out, at the same time drawing a large blue paper from his pocket.

Jim started to turn the car. The old chap, whose sciaticky seemed much improved, skipped to the door and rapped loudly. The door opened, and as we were busy backing the car and turning it, I saw a huge man in overalls, with stubble all over his chin, looking fiercely out of the crack of the door down at the little man who was holding out the blue paper.

As we completed the turn in the yard. and started to back up to the door again for our passenger, we were both astonished to see him running wildly down the lane past us, with no trace of sciaticky at all in his foot, and behind him, taking large jumps and stooping to pick up handfuls of sods and gravel, the big man was bounding, shouting angrily and hurling the divots at the back of the neck of the little old bailiff.

“Here, here,” said Jim, starting the car. But the big chap was returning towards us with giant strides. We stopped.

The big fellow reached in and seized Jimmie by the scruff of his necktie and shirt front.

“So,” he said, “you’re a couple of professional bullies, eh? Who’s the little squirt, eh? Would it be Jack Dempsey3, maybe?”

And before I could say a word, he had reached past Jimmie and, seizing the brim of my hat, yanked it down over my nose.

“Keep out of here,” roared the big man, giving Jim’s head an awful waggle with that grip he had of Jim’s tie. “Don’t show your snoot around here, if you don’t want to be kicked over that there barn.”

“Yes, sir,” said Jim.

“Yes, sir,” said I.

Jim started the car. Down the lane we rocked, and made the turn. Far ahead, just vanishing over a rise in the road, we saw the bailiff. He was making time a high school boy would envy.

“I’ll run over him,” grated Jim, slamming into high gear.

As we came near, the bailiff jumped off into the grassy ditch. The bandage on his foot had come loose and was trailing. His face was flushed and he seemed to laughing.

“Would you mind,” shouted Jim, “explaining what this is all about?”

“It’s all right, it’s all right,” assured the little man, with anxious looks down the road. “I was serving eviction papers on him.”

“And what’s this about us being prize-fighters?” inquired Jimmie icily.

“Oh, I just told him for fun that I had a couple of hired prize-fighters along with me in the car,” deprecated the little old man.

“He nearly strangled me,” declared Jim, “with my own necktie.”

“He pulled my hat over my eyes,” I added indignantly.

“He didn’t catch me,” said the little bailiff, proudly.

“By the way, what about that sore foot?” demanded Jim. “You were hardly able to walk when we first saw you fifteen minutes ago.”

“Oh, just one of those things a bailiff has to think of,” said he, stooping to unwind the bandages. “I couldn’t get any of the local boys to come with me. They wouldn’t even come in a car. They wouldn’t even come as far as the lane, and wait down on the road. No, sir. I couldn’t get anybody in the whole township to come with me to serve those papers. So I just had to use strategy. I had six cars stop before you came along, but I wanted the right car, and that was you.”

“Strategy,” sneered Jim. “Strategy. A dirty trick, I call it.”

“If you were a bailiff,” said the old chap his rosy face bright with indignation, “you wouldn’t call it a dirty trick to try to get somebody to come with you to serve eviction papers on a man like that.”

In the distance, we heard buggy wheels flying on gravel.

“Hey,” gasped the little old man, scrambling towards us.

But Jim just slammed her into gear and away.

“Strategy,” he yelled back.

And we never waited to see whether be caught him or not.

Editor’s Notes:

  1. He means Sciatica, pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling in the leg. ↩︎
  2. This is Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, a poem by Thomas Gray. ↩︎
  3. Jack Dempsey was a famous boxer. ↩︎

Women and Children First

“EVERY STEP ON THE WAY in this awful flight was blazing with terror. The path before these refugees was filled with menace… They fled from one in the full knowledge that they were heading into unremitting horror…”

Writing from London after returning there from France and Belgium, Gregory Clark tells the tragic story of the millions of refugees who have been forced to flee from their native lands, from their homes-into an unknown filled with ever-present horror and peril

By Gregory Clark, June 8, 1940.


Neither Attila the Hun nor Genghis Khan, who mercilessly exterminated all humanity they met in their paths for the same reason that we might exterminate grasshoppers in the west, ever had pleasure of seeing more human tragedy and disaster than we have seen in Belgium and France in the past few weeks.

The tragedy of the refugees was not fully told at its full tide because of the staggering character of other news. The speed of the German mechanized attack and unexpected twists of events stole the spotlight from what was after all a far greater tragedy–the bloody pilgrimage of several millions of people from their native lands, from their kind homes, into an unknown filled with ever present horror and peril. In what used to be called the Great War there also was tragic pilgrimage of Belgians, but at least they fled with the path fairly open before them.

In this awful flight every step of the way was blazing with terror. The path before them was filled with menace. They fled from the one horror in the full knowledge that they were heading into unremitting horror of the millions who took part, and are still taking part in that awful pilgrimage I feel sure I saw nearly 200,000 of them in the seven days I toiled my way from Brussels to the coast ahead of the rapidly advancing enemy. And this article will detail with such detachment as possible to an emotional man the main features of the picture that now must hang on the walls of humanity’s grand gallery along with the tragic murals of Caesar, Attila, Genghis Khan, Napoleon and all the great names of pride.

Like a Forest Fire

But do not console yourselves as you read this in thinking all this is over. It goes on. Where could these rivers of humanity go? Could they just sink into the ground? At the time of writing, the estimate is that 150,000 of them have perished and so sunk into the ground. But poor splendid France has taken them in their millions and is spreading them somehow all over her already crowded campagne. In my time I have heard my fellow countrymen speak critically of the French, saying they were too canny, too parsimonious, too greedy for money. Never again can I be silent before so vicious an opinion. For I have seen France with absolutely wide arms welcoming to her soil these tortured, laboring, penniless millions. Not with canniness, but with generosity sublime from the highest to the lowest, France has to her great military peril welcomed and made safe the path of these refugees. If France is canny about money it is because so many times each century France has to mother another million of the earth’s forsaken. To be so great a mother France must indeed be thrifty.

Many years ago when I was a boy camping on the Muskosh river in the Georgian bay, I saw a great forest fire. I witnessed that never-to-be-forgotten spectacle of the forest’s secret people, the deer, the birds, the squirrels, the fox, the slow, struggling porcupine fleeing before the crackling horror of fire.

When I stood on the road between Tournai and Brussels and watched the full tide of refugee columns I saw the gentle creatures of the wilds once more.

Here before me on the wide highway was an endless throng, in cars, in huge farm wagons, on bicycles, but far the greatest number just on foot, toiling, not fast but with exhaustion already two or three days old in terrible forward-bending agony. In a forest fire creatures do not race, they flee in little exhausted, bewildered spurts. So with these women and children and men in a never ending flood to the number of millions on all roads.

Allies Show Humanity

I first contacted the tragedy at Arras, where I arrived in the war area by train. The advance guard of the refugees were there–the fairly well off, who had good cars and experience of travel to enable them to make time. These were citizens of Holland and Belgium who had already experience of bombing in the larger cities of their native lands. The night I arrived Arras was bombed for the first time. It was set on fire, and hardly had flames started to leap, before out from hotels, private homes, sheds and shelters where they had taken refuge, emerged the tide of refugees to continue their tragic way.

“We cannot remain,” they told me. “We have already been bombed every place we have stopped since we left our homes. We must be on our way.”

“Where to?” I always asked and without one exception to that question the answer was ever the same. They did not know.

From the moment of my arrival until, along with all the rest of the war correspondents, I was marched by the officers in charge of us aboard a ship at Boulogne, already under intense bomb fire, there was no yard of road, no village however tiny, no field that was not filled with this awful tide of humble humanity. You must realize now, of course, that this refugee flood was a German weapon as coldly calculated and as viciously employed as any fifth column. In despatches to The Daily Star I called it the sixth column, and that describes it. The reason for the random bombing of cities and towns was merely to drive out of those places onto the roads again the pilgrim hordes to block and embarrass the roads for French and British armies. With heart in mouth, I watched from day to day for any sign that our armies might face the problem with an almost lawful necessity and drive the refugees from the roads. God be praised, whatever the net results of this first battle may be, both French and British treated these hopeless people with humanity that never lapsed.

Look at Your Canada

So much for argument of the case. Now for the evidence. If these be too cruel throw the paper aside, get to your feet and look out the window at your beloved Canada, and dedicate yourself to it anew. For there are no non-military objectives any more. Your sweetest child is today a military objective of first rank. For if that tender child be blasted before your eyes so rendering you and all who see it helpless, then surely is not that a military objective of greatest importance?

Near Enghien while watching Junker dive bombers methodically and very technically blasting that little town to radiant hell, I stood on the roadside while the refugee throng, hurried by this fury, went bending by. Two children, possibly three and four years old, hand in hand, their heads wobbling on necks so weary were they, struggled along behind their parents. The father pushed a barrow, the mother carried a great sheet bag of treasures. They got ahead of the toddlers following, when one Junker, having dropped its bombs on Enghien, banked around and followed the road, emptying machine-guns into the crowds. Three great Belgian horses drawing a heavy cart stampeded. Nobody had time to reach the children. They were trampled as little moths and crushed under foot.

I carne through Tournai in the morning and saw in the sunlit old Belgian town dense mobs of refugees trying to buy bread massed in the park and all along the curbs in family and village groups, while old men went foraging in vain. It was like a fair day. But on every face were terror and exhaustion. Eyes were glazed in the fight with sleep, for sleep was too deadly for a mother with their children lying in attitudes of endless weariness across their laps or clasped in their arms. There could be no sleep in this funeral march of a nation for at any minute out of blue summer sky might come howling death.

Seeing a City Die

On my way back through Tournai five hours later, after witnessing the death and destruction of cities and towns, I found that 29 bombers in precise formation had come over at 4.30 in the afternoon and dropped 200 high-explosive bombs at random into the fair-day-thronged town. No place of military importance had been hit; not the station, not the main road junctions in or around the town, no barracks, no defences. Just the streets, the parks, two churches, a convent. And how many died in that carnage of a summer afternoon has not been known.

With heart shut tight and eyes half closed against the horror, we went through Tournai, its flames rising in four great pillars of smoke for the spectacled professors on high in their planes to note and check. In the streets and alleys and doorways the dead had been already laid aside by the doggedly toiling Belgian police, firemen and emergency crews. In one convent four nuns at prayer were killed and 20 wounded and their mother superior, a princess of Belgium 67 years of age, was marshalling what was left of her Benedictine daughters to flee and join the sleepless army on the road.

In Amiens we arrived to find a city with street cars and traffic and busy shops not unlike a decent residential area of Paris. The following morning bombs were falling, and the city was dying under our eyes, with shops and homes deserted. Amiens, crammed with refugees at nightfall, was by morning light a city of the dead, with all its people and all its refugees joined in that strange, slow toiling flood, that slow stampede if such a thing is imaginable. Near Amiens I saw a car laden on the roof with mattresses packed with family and bags and with a dead child tied on a running board seeking a burial place and an hour’s respite for the last rites. Hundreds of young people had bandaged heads and bodies. Older people injured simply gave up and quit the flight.

I saw a company of Belgian boy scouts on bicycles in scout uniform, three of them with bandaged wounds pull up where a bomb had fallen near the road to render first aid to 10 or 15 people laid out in fields. A scoutmaster about 20, who was superintending work of his refugee scouts, said rather hopelessly to me, “The trouble is these poor souls want to die. We haven’t been able to do much good this past week because the minute they get hit they take it for an excuse to go and die under a hedge. Maybe I will be the same when my turn comes.”

I saw this same scoutmaster in Boulogne later and three of his boys were killed in bombing at Arras while working in the inferno there, rescuing wounded. Three boys I had seen stacking bicycles on the roadside to leap to the help of others.

Use Refugees as Screen

The thing to remember amidst all this of which I only give most terribly sketchy glimpses of what I, one man, was able to see at any tiny given instant at one tiny spot in wide France, is that amidst it all, the British and French armies had to try to organize defence against the on-rushing enemy. All savage tribes shove a screen of prisoners ahead of them in attacking. Nobody who witnessed that first terrible week in Belgium and Northern France can ever be persuaded that the Germans did not use with complete heartlessness the screen of millions of refugees behind which to make their attack.

But do not think of the refugees as having found rest now at last. Millions of them are in France and a haven has to be found for them. Millions with only what they could carry of their earthly goods. Few of them without some member of their little flock lost.

They are members now of that ancient and noble brotherhood embracing all races and all ages of the martyrs of innocent and trampled humanity.

Editor’s Note: Greg arrived as a war correspondent just in time to see the early retreats and fall of France during World War 2.

She’ll Never be the Same

June 5, 1943

In the Swim

Slowly Jim lifted one foot and then the other off bottom and started to make excited and frantic motions with his arms and legs.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, June 3, 1933.

“I’ve decided,” said Jim Frise, “not to go with you on your Quebec trip.”

“Aw,” said I.

“Those birch bark canoes you tell about,” went on Jim; “I don’t like the idea of fishing from a bark canoe.”

“They’re as steady as any other canoe,” I protested.

“Sure,” said Jim. “Since no canoe is steady.”

“Well, you can swim, can’t you?” I exclaimed. This was to have been a good trip.

“No, I can’t swim,” stated Jim coolly.

“Can’t swim!” I cried. “Can’t swim! Good heavens, man, every Canadian ought to know how to swim almost as soon as he knows how to walk. Don’t you know that one-half the area of Ontario is water?”

“Is it?” asked Jim.

“Take a look at any map,” I went on. “Especially in the newer parts of the province. The map is half blue. I tell you your life is not safe in Ontario unless you can swim.”

“I’ve got along all right so far,” said Jim. “I’ve never even been dumped out of a canoe. Let’s put it this way, every Canadian ought to know how to swim or else he ought to keep out of boats. I keep out of boats, especially birch bark canoes.”

“Swimming is as easy and natural,” I said, “as walking. How is it you never learned to swim?”

“I don’t know,” said Jim. “I guess I just never had the opportunity to learn.”

“Well, it’s never too late,” said I. “Swimming comes as natural to man as it does to a duck. If I could teach you to swim in the next few weeks would you come to Quebec with me?”

“I’m pretty sure I can never learn to swim,” put in Jim. “I just have that feeling.”

“I bet you felt that way about driving a car,” said I. “It is just the same. You think you will never, by any stretch of the imagination, be able to drive a car in traffic. And the next thing you know you are driving down Yonge St. It’s the same with swimming.”

“How would you teach me?” asked Jim.

“Well, the best way is simply to throw a man in, and he’ll swim. But the most humane way is to get a long pole, like a clothes-prop, and tie a six-foot length of clothes-line on it. Then you tie a belt around the pupil, tie the rope to the belt, have him get into the water, and then with the teacher on the bank or wharf the swimmer strokes along, with the pole holding him up, and as he goes through the motions of swimming the first thing you know he IS swimming, and the teacher quietly relaxes the support of the pole and rope. Presto! The pupil is swimming. That pole is just a moral support. It gives confidence and gets the pupil over that feeling of doubt that, by the motion of his arms and legs, he can keep himself on the surface.”

“It sounds simple,” said Jim. “Have you ever taught anybody before?”

“Scores and scores of people,” I said. “All my family. In fact up on the Georgian bay I am recognized as one of the most skillful teachers.”

“Well, well,” said Jim, gazing about uncertainly. “Well, maybe, some day I might try it. It would be good to know how to swim.”

“Listen as soon as the Humber gets warm,” I said, “let’s go out and get a quiet swimming hole and I’ll teach you, and then will you come to Quebec with me?”

“If I learn to swim,” said Jim, “so that I feel confident I could look after myself in a bark canoe I’ll go with you.”

“Sold!” I shouted.

The last warm spell I got a clothes-prop from my house and tied a stout piece of clothes-line to it and stood it ready in the garage. Jimmie had got to the place in his cartoon where he has to write the words in the balloons, as they call them in art circles, and I knew he always liked to run away from that. He hates spelling. So I walked over to him, staring at those empty spaces in Birdseye Center, and suggested that we take our first swimming lesson. At such a time Jim would accept almost any suggestion.

“Great!” he said. So we drove out and got our swimming suits and the long pole with rope.

“Where will we change into our swimming suits?” asked Jim.

“In the bushes,” said I. “Let’s be old fashioned.”

We drove out to the Humber and upstream a few miles looking for a good deep hole where Jim’s long legs wouldn’t touch bottom.

“I’m a little nervous,” confessed Jim. “I’ve started to learn to swim a dozen times in my life, but I always lost my nerve at the last minute. It’s funny how a thing like that gets into your very bones, isn’t it? I just feel I’ll never learn to swim.”

“Listen,” I assured him, “I’ll have you swimming inside of an hour.”

“It sure will make me feel good,” admitted Jim. “Whenever I’m fishing I always have that fear lurking in my mind.”

“Boy,” I cried, “to be able to sit in a canoe, even a birch bark canoe, without any sense of fear is one of the most lovely sensations in the world. Fearless! It’s a great way to be.”

We came to a nice broad place in the river, and except for a few cows in the pasture beside the stream the place was deserted.

We parked the car and got into some bushes and changed into our swim suits. Jim’s was one of those limp kind that dangled off him, while mine was just the least little bit shrunk to my form. I got the long pole, an old belt, and we strolled down to the water.

“I feel pretty funny,” said Jim, his arms wrapped around himself.

“Stage fright,” I said.

“The water looks cold,” said Jim, “and muddy.”

“I thought you were a country fellow?” I sneered.

“Suppose I just practise the motions today,” said Jim, “and then next day I’ll have the rope tied to me?”

“Suppose my neck,” I said. “The way to learn to swim is just to jump in. The perfect way is to be pushed in and have to swim. I’m going to all this trouble with pole and rope just to make it easy for you. For Pete’s sake!”

“All right,” said Jimmie, submitting to the belt being strapped around him. We were down on the bank of the pool and I fastened the rope into the belt.

“Make it good and tight,” said Jim. “Water makes knots slippery.”

“Listen, I’ve taught scores.”

I could feel Jim shivering, although the day was perfect and the water was almost lukewarm.

“Now,” said I, “wade in.”

“You go in first and give me a few lessons by demonstration,” said Jim.

“And then stand out here and shiver while holding you on the pole?” I cried. “Go ahead, I’ve got you. Wade In.”

Jim put one toe in the water and snatched it out.

“Gee,” he said, “I hate this.”

“What’s the matter?” I cried. “Haven’t I got you on a rope big enough to hold a steamboat?”

Jim stood with his arms around himself, staring at the water, and then, slowly, like a man in a trance, he stepped in and with a kind of pallid determination he waded to his waist. He looked back at me with imploring eyes.

“Don’t let go that pole,” he chattered.

“Duck,” I commanded.

Jim ducked.

“Now,” I began, lie forward in the water and take slow easy strokes with your arms and kick out behind with your legs.”

Jim squatted a couple of times and stood up.

“Are you holding me?” he quavered.

I hoisted the pole and Jim could feel the rope and bet tighten on him.

“All, right, go ahead,” I commanded.

Jim eased himself down into the water. I held up on the pole and he gave two or three rapid kicks and splashes, and stood up again, gasping and coughing.

“How’s that?” he exclaimed proudly.

“Wait till we get you over here into deeper water,” I said.

I walked along the bank and towed Jim along.

“Now swim,” I ordered.

Slowly Jim lifted one foot and then the other off bottom and started to make excited and frantic motions with his arms and legs. Puffing and sputtering and splashing.

I pulled along the bank, to get him into the deepest part of the hole.

Now, nobody is sorrier than I am for what happened. In theory, the idea is to get your pupil in deep so that he has to trust the pole. Then, when he is actually swimming, ease off on the pole and he sees he is swimming unaided.

In pulling Jim along I put too much strain on the knot which tied the rope to the pole. It simply slipped off the end of the pole, and there, to my horror, was Jim vanishing in the muddy pool.

“Jim!” I screamed.

I did a very foolish thing. I threw the pole in to him. His head popped up and he thrashed about and got hold of the pole. But it was too light to support him. He sank again, the pole slowly sticking upright out of the water as Jim clamped himself around it.

“Jimmie!” I screamed again.

As if in reply, his head rose out of the water again and spouting a mouthful of water he croaked at me:

“Come in and save me!”

“I can’t SWIM!” I confessed wildly.

Jim sank sadly out of sight again, the pole waving drunkenly out of the pool.

I was dancing along the bank, shouting, when I saw the pole go rigid, and I knew Jim had stuck the lower end of it into the mud bottom of the swimming hole. To my joy, I saw Jim slowly emerge again, clinging to the pole like a monkey on a stick. He hung tenderly to it, as it swayed, barely holding.

“Did you say you can’t swim?” croaked Jim, spouting more water.

“Not a stroke,” I said brokenly. “Jim, I’m so sorry! Wait there until I get help.”

“No,” said Jim, coughing. “I’m going to learn to swim right now. You stay there and watch me.”

His eyes glared with a mountainous effort of the will. He took a look at the bank, six feet away. He took a deep breath. And then he let go the pole, and with strong, wide strokes, he fairly lifted himself through the water and grabbed the bank. Along the bank he pulled himself, and I was there at the beach to hold out rescuing arms to him. I dragged him on to the beach, where he sagged exhausted. He clung to me desperately.

“Jimmie!” I exulted. “You can swim!” He coughed. And he still clung tight to me.

“You can swim!” I shouted again.

Jim rose to his feet, holding desperately to my arm.

“The best way to learn,” he said, looking at me out of bloodshot eyes which glittered, “is to just be thrown in.”

“That’s what the best teachers say,” I admitted a little nervously.

“To think of you,” said Jim, “my dear friend, risking your life in birch bark canoes in Quebec, away off there, and not being able to swim!”

“I’ll learn some day,” I said brightly, “sooner or later.”

“Sooner,” said Jim.

He whirled me around. He took me by both elbows from behind, he hoisted me six feet in the air and threw me, in cold blood, right out into the middle of that deep, terrible pool.

I don’t recall much. I came up once and saw Jim in the act of sitting down on the bank.

I came up twice, and saw Jim resting his chin on his elbows, watching me. I let out a yell, but water got in it.

I saw my past life passing before me. Not all my life, but mostly the last few minutes. I wished I had told Jimmie I was only a theorist. But I felt sad for myself, because, after all, most of us are theorists, anyway. We know a lot of things, but we don’t have to be able to do them ourselves in order to tell others, do we? Politics for example. Or the gold standard.

I was just thinking about the gold standard, when I felt myself seized from behind in a terrific vise-like grip. I was hauled to the surface, and I took a vast breath of air, when suddenly I felt a terrific blow on the chin. I went away, away.

The next thing I knew I was lying on the hard beach, and Jim was jouncing me up and down around the stomach.

“Ah, back again?” he asked, turning me face up.

“Ooooooh,” I said.

“Sorry to have to sock you on the jaw,” said Jim. “But the great danger in saving a drowning man is that he is likely to struggle and drown you too. So the best thing to do is sock him on the jaw, knock him out and then you can save him in peace.”

“I see.” I said, weakly.

“As soon as you feel well enough,” said Jim, “I’ll teach you to swim.”

“Not to-day!” I cried.

“No time like the present.”

“Jimmie, in my weakened condition, you wouldn’t throw me in again!”

“It’s the best way,” said Jim. “Get it over with. After this experience, you are likely to be so afraid you will never learn. I don’t want you sitting all cringed up with fright in that birch bark canoe in Quebec.”

“I feel faint,” said I.

“Water will revive you,” said Jim.

“If I wade in myself.” I said, “and swim once across that pool, will that be enough?”

Jim considered carefully.

“All right,” he said.

“Get that pole in case I get into difficulty,” I begged.

Jim took the pole and tied the rope back on it.

“The knot may hold,” he said.

He stood by while I waded into the pool.

I felt the muddy, stoney bottom under my feet.

“Swim,” commanded Jim. “Lay forward and swim.”

I lay forward and with great splashes and coughing. I swam across the pool. But what Jimmie does not know is that I had my feet on bottom all the way across. At the far side, I turned and swam back, then turned and swam grandly – but cautiously – out toward the middle of the pool where Jim had so nearly drowned, and I touched bottom all the way.

There wasn’t a foot of that pond over my head. If Jim had not had his knees bent up in horror, as he plunged and splashed, he would not have been over his armpits.

“Good boy!” cried Jim admiringly, as I stroked grandly around the pool.

When I got tired, I crawled ashore and Jim assisted me.

“Good for you!” he shouted. “Isn’t it great to know how to swim!”

So we dried and dressed, like old friends again, and we drove back to town.

And it is nice to know not only that I am a good teacher but, what is more to the point, that from now on, one of us can swim.

June 8, 1940

Editor’s Note: This story appeared in Greg Clark & Jimmie Frise Outdoors (1979). It was also repeated on June 8, 1940, as “The Hard Way”.

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