In 1910 There Were But Three Tea Rooms in the City – Now There are at Least 224 – A Study in the Transmutation of a Residential District.
By Gregory Clark, September 18, 1920.
In 1914 there were, according to a rum-hound of my acquaintance who has turned eminently respectable and sells second-hand motor cars, one hundred and twelve liquor bars in Toronto.
To-day, according to a tea-hound of my acquaintance, there are in Toronto no fewer than two hundred and twenty-four tea rooms of the various types.
What this indicates, I will leave to both the Referendum Committee and the Distillers’ Liberty League. Everyone is entitled to his opinion, however outmoded.
Tea rooms, which now constitute, with the movies the principal downtown diversion of the young, are of quite recent origin in Toronto. As far back as 1910, there were only three in the city.
To-day, there are dozens within a two hundred-yard circle of King and Yonge streets. They are popping up in the semi-business and residential districts. Fine old mansions which you have admired for years as stout homes that have defied the encroachment of business, are unexpectedly sprouting out genteel signs announcing “Tea Shoppes,” with old-fashioned names prefixed, such as Mary Anne, Sarah Louise or Eliza Jane.
There is one on the Humber. There are two away up Yonge street where motorists roam. They are scattered at random all over the city; the sprinkling becoming thickest on Yonge, between Queen and King.
They are of all sizes, shapes and fashions. The oldest of the tea rooms are furnished in the Victorian or side-whisker style of interior decoration. In them, you will find the last relics of horsehair furniture in use. The walls and all other space not needed for actual teaing are covered with brass and copper pots, pans, and old china, including Buddhas and porcelain cats.
Others are done in very modern style; very matter-of-fact chairs and tables, no decoration but wall paper; quite restauranty.
But the latest type of tea room, known as the “Tea Shoppe,” is the one that has sprung up the last year or two in the threatened residential district. These “tea shoppes” are designed to be “homey.” They are quaint, and frankly unmodern. Hence the “shoppe.”
Close by a block or two away, business shouts its conquest. Houses have been altered into stores. On the very street the “tea shoppe” is on, several houses have been secretly taking boarders for ten years past. Within the past year, four of those fine old residences have been unostentatiously remodelled into duplexes. The relentless advance of “business” has put the dent in residential. A “modiste” has placed a modest brass sign, like a doctor’s, on her front door. Another stranger has recently moved into the street and a much larger sign has appeared on her house-front – a French name daring, snappy; with the single word “robes” beneath it.
By these subtle changes does a fine old street move from residential to semi-business.
For, as sure as fate, somebody then opens “tea shoppe.”
Let me escort you to a nice, homey cup of tea into one of these latest tea rooms.
It is not a hundred miles from Bloor and Yonge streets.
On the door of what appears to be la fine old residence of a judge, or retired merchant or some other distinguished citizen hangs a quaint sign in white and gilt with, let us say, the legend: “Ye Maggye McGintye Tea Shoppe.”
There is an iron fence around the lawn and flowers in the borders. On the massive front door is a big brass knocker.
Does one knock or just walk in? While standing in doubt, a watchful lady behind the curtains of the parlor window sees your indecision and hastens to open the door to you.
She is a middle-aged lady of spinsterly bearing. She welcomes with a dignified smile.
Inside, you fear for an awkward moment that you have intruded into a private home. But a glimpse of many little white-covered tables within the dim parlor reassures.
The parlor and dining-room are given over to little tea-tables. Beyond that, the house is left as “homey” as possible. Crowded along the walls are the articles of normal furniture – the 1890 period furniture, red plush covered, bandy-legged, with innumerable scrolls and squiggles. On the walls, sepia prints of deer and pleasant scenes of rivers with spires in the distance. Aye, even to the gummy portraits in oils of the ancestors of the house. Behold, in one corner, a “what-not,” seldom seen but oft referred to; a little three-decked, three-cornered table, with, among other items on it, a pink sea-shell.
Let us sit at one of the tables. We are indeed “homey.” For the first time since childhood, since last you were at Grandmama’s before she gave up her old home, you sit on a horsehair-covered chair, and feel the fine prickle of the hairs working through your clothing. You begin to understand, now, the fashion for heavy broadcloth trousers, crinolines, flounces and bustles which flourished a generation and more ago.
The ladies who wait on you are all middle-aged and “homey.” The dishes are old-fashioned, chipped to a nice degree of antiquity; the menu card, written in quaint, old-fashioned script reads:
“Special blend of Maggye McGintye Tea, 15 cents a pot.
“Toast – 15 cents.
“Cinnamon Toast – 20 cents.
“Sandwiches, pickle, cheese, nut, tongue, ham – 25 cents.
“Maggye McGintye trifle – 25 cents.
“Ice Cream – 20 cents.”
Yes, it is very homey. At all the little tables, people have their backs to you. A soft symphony of talk and dishes fills the house. The ladies-in waiting stalk in and out amongst the tables.
The patrons are mixed. The University is only a couple of blocks away, and there is quite a sprinkling of Varsity people preparing for the opening, talking enthusiastically about lifeless matters. There are also some arty people (the ladies, of course, smoking plain 18-cent cigarets) – talking rather more loudly than others about what Varley is doing, and what Lauren Harris’ sixteenth study of Snow will be. The rest are mainly young people, fled in here, shoulder to shoulder and back to back with strangers, in order to be alone.
All the while, an elderly and melancholy gentleman with a worried and beaten look about him may be glimpsed through doorways, past curtains; a harried air to him. He is not doing anything. He seems to have come downstairs to look for his tobacco pouch, and doesn’t know how to get back, unseen. Several of the ladies-in-waiting stare warningly at him as be makes his stealthy dashes from curtain to hallway.
This is Mr. McGintye, Maggye’s father. No doubt as fine a business man, in his day, as ever swung a walking-stick down Yonge street.
But in the process of transmutation of residential district, this old gentleman has been shanghaied by his womenfolk, given the name of McGintye and made partner in tea shoppe.
Editor’s Note: All I could think of while reading this story from over 100 years ago was the appearance of Starbuck’s coffee shops everywhere.
By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, September 12, 1936.
“If we are going abroad,” said Jimmie Frise, “we ought to get evening clothes.”
“Dress suits?” I asked.
“Tails,” said Jim. “And even a frock coat for afternoon occasions.”
“It’s all very well for people with long legs like you,” I protested. “But you can have no idea of the way we short people feel about things like that. Tails. And frock coats. I can wear a tuxedo without being mistaken for a waiter more than two or three times in an evening. But in tails, or even a frock coat, I always look as if I were standing in mud up to my knees.”
“You can get away with a tuxedo in Canada,” said Jim, “but not in England. Suppose we get invited to Buckingham Palace?”
“Jimmie,” I said, “I am sorry I cannot wear tails.”
“Then,” stated Jim, “your future is restricted to the semi-formal. You can never become really great or famous. You are doomed for life to the fringe of things. You are forever an almost.”
“Do you mean to say,” I demanded, “that no matter how great I may become, even if I went into politics and in time became prime minister, that my refusal to wear certain kinds of monkey clothes would handicap me?”
“All I say is,” said Jim, “that if we go to England and get invited around to meet really big people, you can’t go without tails.”
“What if I went in tweeds?” I insisted. “Suppose I acted the part of an eccentric genius. You know, landed at the function in baggy tweeds, and smoking a pipe?”
“The butler would not let you in,” said Jim. “If you were a famous labor leader or a world famous portrait painter or poet, maybe yes. Maybe the butler would have special instructions. But remember, we’re just a couple of guys from Canada.”
“Well, then,” I said bitterly, “I guess I won’t be going abroad. That’s all.”
“Ah,” smiled Jim, “leave the big social functions to me. You can have plenty of fun looking in the windows of shops on the Strand and that sort of thing. You can spend your evenings sitting in the back seats of galleries of theatres. You’ll have a swell time. I’ll attend to the social end. If anyone asks for you, I’ll say you are unfortunately indisposed.”
“Indisposed to make a monkey of myself,” I declared. “What’s more, there are plenty of things in England besides standing about in self-conscious attitudes in drawing rooms. Some of the greatest fly fishers in the world are in England and Scotland. Suppose I get invited to go fishing on the Test or the Itchen? Will I need monkey suits there? Not me. My good old Canadian tweeds are plenty good enough. I’ve got a fishing coat or two that will make even an English duke sit up.”
“There is one thing about it,” said Jim, “you can meet the most important people in England in lots of places besides full dress functions. The races for example.”
“I don’t care for races,” I reminded him.
“Or,” said Jim, “at the tennis matches at Wimbledon. You don’t need to dress up for that. In fact, from pictures I’ve seen of the swells in the English society magazines, you look exactly like them. Kind of moth-eaten, as if you had slept outside the free pass gate all night.”
“Funny,” I agreed, “how the English all look like tramps at four p.m. and by eight p.m. they all look like the nobility.”
“We’d Be in Like a Duck”
“Or polo,” said Jim suddenly, “Hurlingham and polo! We can pretend to be big polo enthusiasts. And if anybody in the middle classes over there wishes to entertain us and asks us how, we can say we are nuts about polo. And after five or six visits, to Ranelagh or some of the swell polo grounds, we are sure to meet the upper classes. The English aren’t hard to meet after five or six tries.”
“Polo,” I said, “Polo. That’s the game you play with mallets on horseback, banging a ball around.”
“Listen,” said Jim. “you’re an old mounted rifles officer. I’m an old artillery gunner. We both know horses. I wonder how long it would take us to learn the rudiments of polo?”
“Jimmie,” I warned.
“Listen,” cried Jim, standing up so as to think easier. “I’ve got an idea. There are several guys I know around Toronto who play polo, sort of Suppose we get a half dozen lessons in polo? Don’t you see? In England, if you play polo, you are in. Like a duck.”
“Jimmie,” I warned him again.
“Why, it’s a cinch,” shouted Jim. “All we have to do is buy a polo outfit, the white britches and shirts, the helmet, boots and so forth. Far cheaper than a dress suit. And when anybody wants to entertain us, all we have to do is say we’d like a spot of polo, see? A couple of chukkers.”
“Chukkers?” I asked.
“It’s a polo term,” said Jim. “Like a hole of golf. Or a set of tennis. Or a period in hockey. Why my dear boy, this is brain wave. You know as well as I do that the English are simply nutty about polo. It is played only by the cream de la cream. I’ll call you major. You’d look magnificent in a polo kit.”
“But my dear boy,” I pointed out, “we’d have to play. And that would be the end of it.”
“Now, now,” said Jim. “Polo, like everything else, consists mostly of standing about the clubhouse verandas and lawns. We can laughingly assure everybody that we are dreadful dubs. You know the way. Laughingly. And then if we are dubs we can the rules are different in the part of Canada we come from. Anyway, we can ride furiously around the field on borrowed ponies.”
“Ponies?” I said. “Ah, that’s different.”
“They call the horses ponies,” said Jim. They’re pretty nearly full-sized horses. But the main thing is in our polo outfits. We would meet everybody, lords, dukes, bishops and everything. We’d be in. Like a duck. They wouldn’t expect a couple of colonials like us to be able to play really. But they would admire in us the ambition, anyway. It’s a swell idea.”
“I don’t like it,” I demurred. “I’d rather stick to fishing or the Kensington Museum and the Tower of London, and so forth.”
“Just like any tourist,” sneered Jim. “I thought you were a man of ambition. Little did I think that a few imaginary social barriers would beat a man of your radical mind. How on earth did you ever get to be a major in the war?”
“By all the tall officers getting killed,” I explained.
“You can choose,” said Jim, “between evening dress with tails or polo kit. One or the other. Otherwise you can resign yourself to the high spot of your trip being the London Zoo.”
Two Gentlemen From Canada
So he kept at it. Each day he would renew the attack. He even arranged to borrow a couple of riding horses. He even got friend to lend us a field on his farm. So finally, I submitted.
“It won’t do any harm,” I agreed, “to try it out. You may be night. Maybe there is the makings of a real polo player in me. I have been looking over these English society magazines the last few days and I see a lot of small men in the polo teams. And middle-aged men like me too. Majory looking little men. Maybe I’ve got it in me.”
“My boy,” said Jim, “I knew you had it in you. Instead of this trip abroad being a case of a couple of tourists trying to keep track of their laundry, you may be the means of getting us into the finest society. By George, we might even get our pictures in the society magazines. Two gentlemen from Canada who have been performing well at Ranelagh this season. You know the sort of thing?”
“Smiling haughtily,” I agreed. “Holding our helmets in the crook of our arms, right leg bent with foot turned out.”
“Right,” cried Jim.
Whereupon we took the afternoon off and went up beyond Summit to the farm of one of Jimmie’s race track friends. We took with us our old army breeches and a polo shirt, they call it, borrowed from our children, and also those sun helmets they wear. Jim had arranged with an acquaintance who belongs to the Hunt Club to borrow a couple of polo sticks, but when he went to borrow them they were locked up. So Jim brought a couple of croquet mallets which, he said, would do as well for practice purposes. And on our arrival at the farm, the handyman led us to the stable where two large horses were stalled.
“I thought you said ponies,” I accused Jim.
“Make the best of it,” said Jim. “I’ll take the larger one.”
But they were both large horses, and after examining them carefully, I took the one with the kindest expression. The handyman saddled them up and shortened the stirrups to the last hole for me, and we mounted.
“Here’s your mallet,” said Jim, handing me up the pretty thing.
“I can’t touch the ground with it,” I showed him, “even when I hang right out of the saddle.”
“Wait until we get into the excitement of the game,” counselled Jim.
We joggled and bumped down the lane to the field where the handyman opened a gate. Jim gave me one end of the field and he took the other.
“We’ll start in the middle,” he said, “and whoever hits the other’s fence first, wins the chukker.”
Riding Off Your Opponent
He tossed a rubber ball to the ground.
“Shoot,” he said, and swinging low, hit the ball a bang towards my fence. I geed my horse and playfully it see-sawed after Jimmie, but Jim, with the greatest of ease, beat me to the ball and with about six bangs, sent the ball against my fence and so took the first chukker.
“Now” said Jim, “put a little more vim into it. Get after me. The big thing in polo is to ride your opponent of the ball. When you see me with the ball, ride at me, put the shoulder of your horse at me, and push me aside, so as to get a fair swing at the ball.”
“Wait,” I said, “until I get my sea legs on this horse. It’s too high. I ought to have a longer mallet.”
“Go on,” scorned Jim. “Lean down. You can hit a ball that size.”
“Toss it in,” I said, we having teetered back to midfield.
Jim tossed the ball and with a quick swoop, I landed a neat crack, sending the ball through my horse’s legs towards Jim’s fence. We swung the steeds and galloped neck and neck thirty feet after the ball. Jim getting there first and hitting the ball back, I got my horse turned and beat Jim to it, but he charged his horse at mine, and shouldered us aside, stealing the shot, and making a terrific slam that carried the ball bounding down again towards my fence.
I felt my horse stiffen under me at this attack. He snorted and pawed the sod like a bull for a moment before I could get him under way again. So that Jim beat me easily to the ball, and scored another goal. But my horse was going beautifully by the time I neared Jim, and as Jim swung down to poke the ball under the rail fence, where it had stuck, my horse, whirling on its feet as we drew alongside, turned and lashed out a beautiful kick, which caught Jim’s horse in the ribs.
“Hey,” yelled Jim, as he struggled to recover his balance. His horse curvetted and danced angrily.
“I didn’t do it,” I called to him. “My horse did.”
“Cut that stuff out,” cried Jim. “Keep your horse in hand.”
“How did I know what he was going to do?” I demanded. “You butted us. So I suppose he thinks this is a free for all.”
“Keep him in hand,” commanded Jim, tapping the ball back to mid-field to start a third round.
I could see a nasty look on Jim’s horse’s face, however, as we curved around in mid-field for a fresh start. And when he called “go,” I felt my horse go all rubbery under me, and it sprang toward Jim. And Jim’s came, head down, toward us. And as we met, with mallets upswung for the stroke, both horses suddenly wheeled on their bunched feet and lashed at each other.
“Hey, hey,” we both yelled, rearing tight and kicking our heels into them.
Horses Are Militaristic
A horse, however, is a horse. And a polo pony probably takes years to learn that polo is a game for gentlemen, both two-legged and four-legged. And these two horses were just plain cross-country riders. Circling warily, with tails and heads up and snorting and neighing and blowing their noses violently like pugilists, they suddenly bunched themselves and charged again. Again Jim and I swung back our mallets for the ball. But again the horses whirled their hind ends to each other and lashed violently.
“Hey, hey,” we both roared again, jerking the reins and kicking their ribs and speaking horse words to them.
“Ride yours down the field away,” yelled Jim, “and we’ll quiet them.”
So I went to one end of the field and Jim to the other and we talked soothingly to them and slapped their necks comfortingly, and after a few minutes, we had them gentled and I called:
“O.K. now. Jim.”
So we rode quietly toward middle field where the ball still lay, and we watched each other’s horse warily. Their ears were twitching. Their necks arched. Their eyes shining with the effort to understand.
“Go,” said Jim, uplifting his mallet,
And with a squeal, the two horses crouched, leaped, whirled and kicked, and I felt a loud grunt as my horse landed a doozer on the ribs of Jim’s. Jim’s – its name was Nettie – screamed and as quick as a cat, turned with bared yellow teeth and, narrowly missing my knee, took a good fat hold of my horse’s hide. I could hear her teeth click.
“Wah, hah, hah,” roared my horse in an agonized bellow and broke away in a dreadful series of bucks and kicks and hump backs, punctuating each wild jump with a short squeal of fury.
“Ride away,” I heard Jim cry.
And seeing Nettie coming with neck outstretched. I kicked mine in the ribs, shook out the reins and let him run. Around and around the field we raced, Jim dragging on Nettie’s bit and I giving my horse all the encouragement of heel and hand and tongue I would muster.
Whenever we paused, Nettie would make a sudden furious charge, cutting corners, until the handyman came running down the lane.
“What is it?” he bellowed. “The battle of Waterloo?”
“Open the gate,” commanded Jim, in the best Ranelagh manner. And I rode my horse to safety.
In a moment, the handyman had me on shore. He led my horse to the stable. Jim then rode Nettie, all slathered with foam and furious of eye, down the lane and the handyman held her head while Jim slid off and sprang aside.
“I didn’t think they’d stand for polo,” said the handyman apologetically.
“I never understood cavalry before,” said Jim. “Now I can see what the charge of the Light Brigade meant. Or the battle of Agincourt. I always thought it was only the men that fought.”
“Ah,” said the handyman, “a horse is a militaristic beast.”
“You see, though,” said Jim to me, “what a thrilling game polo could be?”
“How much,” I asked, “is a dress suit with tails?”
Editor’s Notes: This story takes place just before they leave for Britain and France, for the Vimy pilgrimage. This was the trip taken by many veterans of WWI to the dedication of the Vimy memorial in France. Greg and Jim were sent with other Toronto Star veterans to cover it, and their next 4 stories would take place in England and France.
Though men wore suits regularly in the 1930s, more formal attire could be required for special evening events, thus the possibility of needing tails or frock coats.
This nice illustration by Jim accompanied an article by Ely Waters about cars with radios in them. Since radios back then had vacuum tubes, they could be very expensive. The first commercial car radio debuted in 1930 for $130 (almost $2000 in 2021), which could be 25% the price of a car.
I love this line from the story: “If you have a son who drives like a lunatic and every time the telephone rings after eleven p.m. you are afraid to answer it because it might be the hospital or the morgue, give him a car radio. It will cut his speed in two.”
By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, September 4, 1937.
“Mmmmmm,” moaned Jimmie Frise, “have I got a toothache!”
“Poor chap,” I sympathized. “When are you going?”
“I’m waiting,” said Jim, “to see if it will go away. Often, if you just sit tight…”
“My dear man,” I protested. “Don’t be absurd. You might just as well wait for a broken ankle to go away. A toothache is a reality. A dreadful reality. The tooth enamel has decayed and exposed the nerve. Or maybe it’s an abscess at the root. Anyway you’ve got to get it fixed. And right away.”
“Lots of times,” said Jim, “I’ve had little twinges and they’ve gone away.”
“How ridiculous,” I cried. “Jim, have you no sense at all? Don’t you even read the advertisements? Those little twinges were warnings. Now you’re getting the works.”
“You’re telling me,” said Jim, with a gaunt look, placing his palm tenderly against his jaw.
“Clean your teeth twice a day,” I quoted. “See your dentist twice a year, whether you think you need it or not. But good heavens, man, when you have had twinges of toothache, don’t you realize…?”
“I hate dentists,” said Jim, intensely. “I hate them.”
“What nonsense,” I stated. “Do you hate doctors? Do you hate motor mechanics?”
“I don’t know,” said Jim, haggardly. “Dentists are different.”
“Poppycock,” I said. “You go into a garage and see your poor car all dismembered and lying around in horrible rusty gobs, greasy and repellent. There with its hind end all jacked up in the air on a pulley, stands your poor car, the companion of your joys and sorrows, and do you hate the guy that has done it? Even when he presents you with the bill, do you hate him?”
“That isn’t it,” said Jim hollowly, looking at space.
“A doctor hurts you a heck of a lot more than a dentist,” I pointed out. “He cuts right through your hide. He makes swipes with his knife that are sheer agony.”
“Yeah, but you don’t feel them,” said Jim. “You’re unconscious.”
“Dentists have anaesthetics,” I cried.
“Local anaesthetics,” said Jim. “They jab a needle into your gums.”
“You can take gas,” I reminded him. “You can take a local anaesthetic, and feel nothing until you wake up.”
“Yeah,” said Jim. “But who would want to take a total anaesthetic for a mere toothache?”
I looked at him pityingly.
“What’s the use of arguing with a man like you?” I demanded. “You hate dentists, yet they can do more for you than any doctor living. They can whisk a tooth out, so you never feel it.”
“Until after,” said Jim.
“They can put you right under and do a week’s work on you,” I declared. “And you don’t know anything until it is over.”
“Yeah,” withered Jim, “until it’s over.”
Closely Allied to the Brain
“Anyway,” I said with finality, “you’ve got to go to a dentist. This tooth has been warning you. Like a baby, you have ignored the warnings. At last, it has collapsed. Now you’ve got to face the music. The nerve is exposed. Like a live wire, there it is, jumping and sizzling.”
“Throbbing,” said Jim, passionately.
“Exactly,” I said. “And now that you have delayed as long as possible, there is only one recourse. Who’s your dentist? I’ll make an appointment.”
I picked up the telephone.
“No, no,” begged Jim. “Wait a second. I think it is going away already.”
“Jim,” I said earnestly, “even if it does go away, don’t you understand that every twinge is a warning? This tooth is ill. It is slowly going to pieces.”
“What did our ancestors do,” demanded Jim, “before there were any dentists? They just grinned and bore it. And they were better men than us.”
“Jim,” I pleaded, “don’t be silly. Our ancestors died at the age of 40. It was their teeth that killed them.”
“They were tough,” said Jim. “They could take it.”
“Look at the miracles,” I informed him, “that modern dentistry is performing. They are discovering new connections every day between the teeth and disease. You see one of your friends slowly growing thin and old. His eyes are dim. He is suffering from arthritis. He is slowly withering away. They pull a few teeth, and presto, he is born again. His teeth were slowly poisoning him.”
“I’ve heard all that,” said Jim. “But there’s nothing the matter with me. All I’ve got is a thumping toothache.”
“They’re finding more than that,” I persisted. “They’re discovering that teeth are responsible for thousand things besides physical disease. Teeth are responsible for bad temper, insomnia, indigestion, high blood pressure, overweight, thinness, baldness, failing eyesight, sinus trouble, antrum trouble.”
“Corns, warts and bunions,” said Jim.
“The teeth,” I informed him, “are in the head. The nerves of the teeth are closely allied to the brain. It is only a matter of a fraction of an inch from the tooth to the brain. They are beginning to believe that teeth are responsible for our mental quirks. They think criminal tendencies are due to defective teeth.”
“Now who’s been reading the advertisements?” jeered Jim.
“I tell you,” I announced, “they have pulled teeth out of habitual criminals and cured them. The poison from those teeth was responsible for the weakness, the instability, the mental and nervous disturbance that made criminals of the subject.”
“Maybe I’m a cartoonist,” said Jim, “because my teeth are defective? Maybe if you had your teeth pulled, you’d be an insurance agent?”
“I wouldn’t wonder,” I assured him. “Only a thin, fragile bit of bone separates the teeth from the brain. That nerve that is jumping in your jaw right now, is it any wonder you are suffering?”
“Mmmmmmmm,” said Jim, hissing cold air through his teeth and putting on an expression of agony.
Too Much Imagination
“Come,” I said, “what’s your dentist’s name? We’ll get this over with.
“If only they wouldn’t fiddle,” moaned Jimmie. “If they wouldn’t fiddle and poke around and pry. If only they didn’t have that drill.”
“They’ve got to prospect around,” l explained. They have to locate the source and nature of the trouble.”
“Why don’t they just yank it out?” asked Jim. “I think I’d be willing to have it yanked out.”
“Don’t be silly,” I laughed. “They know their jobs. Come, what’s his name?”
So Jim gave me the name of his dentist and I looked up the number in the book and Jim himself called him.
“I’d like you to have a look at my teeth,” said Jim, smiling easily into the telephone, “one of these days.”
“Here!” I commanded sharply.
“Haven’t you a spot about a week from now?” said Jim, quite cheerfully.
Apparently the dentist had not. Apparently, he was going on his holidays at this late season, he being a musky fisherman. So Jim had to take an immediate appointment.
“This afternoon,” said Jim, wanly, as he hung up the receiver. “At 4.”
“Good,” I said, “That’s the boy. I’ll go with you.”
“Come along,” said Jim hollowly. “See me suffer. Sit out in the office, reading last December’s magazines and hear me groan.”
But nothing could deter me from accompanying Jimmie to the dentist’s. I wouldn’t put it past him running his car into a hydrant half way to the dentist’s rather than face the music. He is a man of too much imagination. I made it my business to stay right with him for the balance of the morning, had lunch with him and then, with ever increasing vigilance, remained in sight of him as the afternoon drew on. At lunch, he barely ate anything, so severely did his toothache make him suffer. Beads of perspiration came out on his forehead and he kept issuing great sighs instead of groans.
But about 3 p.m. he began to brighten.
“Do you know,” he said,” the blame thing is weakening! Really weakening. I can hardly feel it, for minutes at a time.”
“Go on,” I scorned.” Don’t kid yourself.”
“It’s a fact,” he declared. “I honestly believe it was just another of those twinges…”
“Jim,” I said, “use your head.”
“That’s precisely what I am doing,” said he. “Why embarrass my dentist who is hurrying to clean up his business so as to get away on a holiday? Why start something that may take weeks to finish? If this twinge goes away, like the others did. I can telephone him and make an appointment for October, some time, when he’s back, and he can do a proper series of work on that tooth.”
“Jim,” I said, “I never heard such subterfuging. Anybody knows that a toothache seems better as soon as you reach the dentist’s office. This is just a case of your imagination getting the better of you.”
“I Gave You More Credit”
“I’ll give him a ring,” said Jim, getting up.
“Jim,” I shouted. “I gave you more credit. This is childish. Your tooth is aching like sin. Get it fixed.”
Jim sat down again, his eyes turned aside as he listened for the toothache, as it were. A shadow of pain crossed his face.
“Very well,” he said, thinly. “We’ll go.”
And we went. I drove. We arrived promptly and without mishap at the dentist’s office at precisely 4 o’clock. There was one woman in the chair and three more waiting when we got up to his waiting room. It was 20 minutes to five by the time Jim’s turn came, and we read all the Geographic Magazines back as far as 1932 and Jim kept growing more and more cheerful as each of our predecessors was silently called into the inner studio. But at last Jim’s turn came, and the dentist, with a merry smile, beckoned him in. I walked in too, because in my heart, I knew perfectly well that old Jim was going to stage an alibi.
“Well,” laughed Jim heartily. “I’ve often heard about a toothache vanishing the minute you arrive at the dentist’s, but I never had it happen to me before.”
“Up here,” said the dentist tenderly, indicating the chair. “We’ll just have a look around.”
“I don’t even remember which side it was on,” said Jim, astonished at himself.
“We’ll just take a look,” soothed the dentist.
Jim straightened like a hero going to his execution, and sat up in the chair. The dentist tied on the bib and took the little mirror in hand and stood expectantly. Jim opened his mouth slightly.
The dentist peered and probed. He tapped around.
“Was it in this jaw?” he asked.
“Nnn, nnn,” said Jim, shaking his head.
“Upper jaw?” said the dentist.
“Nnnn, nnn, nnnn,” repeated Jim firmly.
The dentist got a little light and peered within the cavern. He probed and Jim sat like a rock. He had a kind of nut pick, with which he jabbed and scraped. Jim never uttered a sound, and the dentist frowning, sighed and grunted into Jim’s face.
“Well,” said the dentist, “I can’t see anything much wrong here. Was it on the left side or the right?”
“To tell you the truth,” said Jim, “I’m darned if I can recall. Maybe it was only a little neuralgia? Eh?”
“I see no signs of any cavities,” said the dentist. “As a matter of fact, your teeth are in pretty sound shape.”
Jim sat up eagerly.
“Wait a minute,” I said in a level voice. “Doctor, this man was in agony up to about an hour ago. It was his left jaw he had been holding all morning. A regular thumping toothache.”
“So You May Think”
The dentist was looking at me in a curious way. His eyes seemed narrowed right on to my mouth, as I spoke.
“Excuse me,” he said, suddenly stepping forward and taking my chin in his fingers. “Open. Open.”
“What is this?” I said, opening slightly.
“My dear sir,” said thee dentist anxiously “Step up here. Let me have a look at this.”
“What is it?” I said, standing firm.
“Caries. I’m afraid,” said the dentist, sadly. “Or perhaps trench mouth. Did you serve in the war?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“Sit up here, please,” said he, as Jim slid off the chair. I climbed into the chair numbly.
“Open,” said the dentist, the nut pick poised.
“Mmmmm,” he said, peering inside “Mmmm, mmm, mmmm.”
“Nnnn, nnnnnn?” I asked.
“Your teeth are in wicked shape,” he said. “Wicked shape. Have you been attending to your dental responsibilities regularly?”
“I have had no trouble with my teeth,” I assured him, “for ten years. They’re perfect.”
“So you may think,” said the dentist gravely. “That is the worst of our profession. Unless you are driven here by the toothache, you imagine your teeth are in no need. I assure you, sir, that if you don’t have these attended to immediately, you will have no teeth in a year or so.”
“Nonsense,” I said, “I can crack hickory nuts with my teeth.”
“You will be toothless in two years,” retorted the dentist.
“I’ll have them looked at,” I said, starting to get up.
“Wait a minute,” cried Jim, seizing my elbows and pulling me back down in the chair. “I’m alarmed. Doctor, take a look. Give us a survey. It won’t take a second. Just tell him the extent of the damage.”
“I’ve got my own dentist,” I said firmly.
“I’m worried,” said Jim. “This is my partner. I’m entitled to know about this. Good heavens, anything might happen to him if he lets his teeth go. Let’s have an outline of the situation.”
The dentist pried. He scraped and cracked things loose. He jabbed down under the edges and pried up. While my eyes were closed in disgust, he got his drill, unseen by me, and began drilling. I let out an indignant nnnn or two, but he went right ahead, with Jim holding me firmly but kindly.
“There’s about ten hours’ work on them,” said the dentist, at last. “Ten hours good work.”
Jim released me.
“I’ll see my dentist at once,” I said, getting out of the chair with dignity.
“I’ll make a memorandum for him,” said the doctor, earnestly.
So I’ve got an appointment for next week.
Editor’s Notes: I’ve mentioned before that stories were sometimes repeated while Greg was off as a war correspondent during World War Two, but this one had the unusual distinction of being repeated twice, in 1943 with the same title Vice Versa, and again in 1944 as Open Your Mouth.
I had never heard of a nut pick, a sharp metal pick for digging the meat out of a nut, often sold in sets with nut crackers, but I guess they are not as common now.
“Caries” is just another term for cavities, and “trench mouth” is an infection that causes swelling and ulcers in the gums. The term comes from World War I, when this infection was common among soldiers.
You ask the kind of fellow who likes flying what flying is like and he brightens up perceptibly and says:
“Oh, it’s great. Great stuff.”
“But what’s it like? Tell us something about it.”
And his vivid eyes in his wind-red face stare anxiously at space as he bites his lips, trying to think.
For those who like flying as a rule are feelers, not thinkers. And how can you describe feelings? How would you describe the taste of oysters?
When the Goodyear people were kind enough to offer The Star Weekly a nice long ride in their little dirigible, “The Puritan,” we decided that here was a good chance to describe one aspect of flying – height.
So we took the train down to Akron, the Goodyear city, and at six o’clock in the morning, climbed the ladder into the four-passenger gondola of the little airship to fly to Toronto. We had aboard a hundred gallons of gas, because there was a strong east wind blowing, and as the dirigible only makes a true speed of about fifty miles an hour, the head wind would cut it down to thirty or thirty-five, just as a wind behind us would boost our speed to sixty-five or seventy. And in addition to the pilot, Jack Boettler, who is about a hundred and eighty pounds, besides being the acknowledged best airship pilot in America and who taught the United States Navy most of what it knows about blimps, there was August O’Neil, the boss mechanic, who is another near six-footer, and H. E. Blythe, assistant to the president of the Goodyear corporation in the States, who wears forty-twos.
Seeing old navy blimps at Folkestone during the war, I had the notion that a dirigible was a kind of balloon with a propeller and that it floated along through the air aided and abetted by an engine that helped it on its way.
I did not know It could put its nose straight up in the air and shoot skyward like a rocket, or pointing Its nose to earth, dive like a plummet.
But when we were all aboard at Akron, with twenty men hanging on to our drag ropes and removing the heavy sand bags that held us down, the ground crew slowly hauled us out of the great hangar, and at a word of command let go the ropes.
The two engines, one on each side of the gondola, roared, and with a rush and a whoosh, the little dirigible pointed its nose to the sky and leaped, in a breath-taking instant, to a height of a thousand feet. I have taken off as a passenger, in Bristol Fighters, RE 8’s and big, modern five-passenger planes, but nothing I ever felt, not even New York elevators, shot me aloft quite so suddenly and swiftly, as this little airship that I was cheerfully expecting to float off the ground like thistle down.
Quite Different to a Plane
When you look at it, silver and glistening and huge, crawling through the air, it looks so smooth and bloated, you cannot imagine it is hitting up a speed that would make your motor car vibrate even on a pavement.
The sensation in a balloon is utterly unlike that in a plane. They call it an airship. And a ship it is. It rides the waves of air.
The sky is filled with great rollers, rapids, backwaters, eddies, currents. When an aeroplane goes tearing through the sky, it is smashing and backing these waves and pockets. Sometimes a plane will drop, with a sickening sensation, scores or hundreds of feet into an unseen abyss in the ether.
But the airship slowly and cheerfully heaves up over these air waves, lifts her nose to the near side and dips her nose down into the far side of them. In the aeroplane, the pilot is continually fiddling and manoeuvring with his stick as the plane rushes and leaps, like a sea flea, over the air currents. In the blimp, the pilot, sitting back in his easy chair, in a nice little cabin hung in space, has a large wheel beside him, like a ship’s wheel turned sideways. This is the elevator control. When the ship lifts her nose on a roller, he depresses the elevator. And when she rides across the top and starts down the far side of the unseen, heaving waves of air, he lifts her nose.
There is no sensation of speed, of tumult, of force. The vibration and frenzy of the aeroplane do not exist. The big fat bag can be seen looming above, out of the windows of the gondola. The gondola is about the size of a limousine, with four chairs. It has windows all around, and the ones beside you open so that you can rest your elbow out them and see the world go by.
There being nothing between you and the earth, there is no sensation of dizziness or of great height. I get slightly sick when I look over the top of the new Star building. I let my wife hang pictures and put new bulbs in the light fixtures. But when you look over the side of an aeroplane or an airship, you simply don’t believe it anyway. So it doesn’t hurt your feelings.
The world seems to contract. Grow small. Trees and houses and fences become tiny, like the toy farms and houses you buy the boy for Christmas. And ever so much prettier than they look close up. They seem clean and ordered. All the stains and dirt are lost to sight. Toronto is one of the most beautiful sights in the world from a thousand feet above it. The wild geese must have a very great respect and admiration for men.
Leaving Akron, we leaped, with not merely engines hoisting us, but a huge helium-filled gas bag, to a thousand feet, and Pilot Boettler tested the air. That is, he turned his nose into the wind and found it strong and bucking hard. So little by little, he steered the ship lower and lower, as he began the drive northward towards Lake Erie, until he found the altitude at which the air was least disturbed by boiling currents and heaving waves, and the wind mild and steady. It was at about four hundred feet that we made the first few miles of the journey.
Like a Monstrous Flying Pig
That is the one great cardinal virtue of airships. You can fly so low, with a good margin of safety. Pilot Boettler dropped us down to two hundred feet in some places to have a look at the ground. An aeroplane rushes along at such a pace, the scene is blurred if you are low, and if you are high enough for a safety margin, the earth is in map-like miniature.
We sailed along, like yachting, so low that we could wave to the farm children that ran out to see us passing. We could see their faces. I noted and identified two kinds of hawks floating in the air beneath us. We put the wind up the bird world something terribly, for an atavistic memory made them dream for an instant of ichthyosauri and other monsters that flew in vastly bygone ages.
Cows were the least moved of all creation by our appearance. A few went so far as to rise clumsily to their feet as we sailed over. But most of them went right on biting grass. It takes a lot to make a cow worry about the future. But pigs!
You see, a blimp looks something like a monstrous flying pig. It is huge and fat and sleek.
We arrived low over a field in which there was a litter of seven or eight pigs about the size of spaniels. They were busy in a bunch when suddenly they saw – well, maybe they thought it was the god of pigs coming down to earth! Anyway, they stood in a circle for a moment, in consternation, heads lowered, turned aside, afraid to believe their eyes and ears. Here was the hugest pig imaginable, with the longest sustained grunt and squeal they had ever heard, and it was making right for them.
Then as we approached, and they believed, they broke and fled, scampering in a tight, tangled mass, simply crazy with fright. But pigs can’t run fifty miles an hour, so we overtook them, and they halted suddenly, all in a frantic heap, and stood, with heads lowered and hidden, until we passed with a roar over them.
And then – when we had passed, they pursued us, chased desperately across the field in our path, until a fence halted them. I imagine they stood for some time, squealing their supplications after us as the god of pigdom.
Horses when we appeared would lash their tails and scam per excitedly around the field, first away from us and then, with a kind of arch-necked bravado, right towards us.
It is not far, by air, from Akron to Toronto. But we went across Lake Erle between Chatham and St. Thomas, and then passed over London, Woodstock, Brantford and Hamilton on a kind of sightseeing tour. Yet this journey took us nine straight continuous flying hours. We left at six a.m. and we landed on the Goodyear lawn at New Toronto at 3p.m., a working day of nine hours steadily plodding through the air against an east wind that sometimes was a young gale.
A Nice Sleep in the Air
We were two hours crossing Lake Erie, two hours with nothing but the steel-gray lake eight hundred feet below us, with little gulls waving out of our course far below. Mr. Blythe leaned back in his deck chair and had a nice sleep over Lake Erie. We passed a number of freighters that seemed to be stopped, so smartly did we outdistance them, even though bucking a wind. They were toy ships. I wanted one for my boy, but Captain Boettler said it probably belonged to somebody anyway.
When we came at last to the Canadian side, we did not know the precise locality on account of the possible drift that had occurred over the lake, so we saw, just a little way inland, a railway, and on the railway a station and a village.
Captain Boettler pointed the ship’s nose at the village, ran down to within a hundred feet, shut down his engines! – that was a curious thing to one who had flown in a plane – slowed them down until they idled, and the ship just hung there in space about a hundred feet above the village while we read the name on the station. West Lorne. Then we waved good-by, thank you, tilted the prow upwards, turned on the engine and went soaring away while the pilot got out his map, located our position and laid a course across country for London. He has a compass floating in front of him.
Canada seems to be so much more cultivated than the part of the States we passed over.
Every field that is not woodlot is under cultivation. The fields are laid out better in orderly lots with fences. But the farm houses lack the paint and color of the American farms.
Every few miles, the air currents would shift and change. Where it was best riding a four hundred feet at West Lorne, it was much quieter at eight hundred as we neared London. The pilot, sitting back in his chair, with his feet cocked up on the railing in front of him, with a sort of bay window in it that made it feel as if he were sitting in an old fashioned hotel settin’ room, the pilot would keep the ship’s nose on the course and lift and lower her over hundred-foot waves that sometimes rolled under us.
It was exactly like yachting. When we heaved up over a wave, the ship’s nose would veer to one side or the other, and the rudder, which is controlled by foot pedals, would have to correct her direction while the elevator wheel kept her on an even keel.
Landing on a Dollar Bill
Nine hours is a long time to fly, or even to motor, without once getting down to stetch your legs or eat a little lunch. It was a relief to come at last out over the mountain at Hamilton, where fierce air rapids boiled and rushed up and over the great wooded cliffs. We swooped and slid about on them as Captain Boettler aimed her down, down into the valley and over the lake, heading for Toronto, and able from our height, already to see the tall white towers of Toronto that are beginning to make it a city against the sky.
We sailed over the Exhibition, just to let Mr. Blythe see what Toronto can do in that sort of thing.
“Sail her over high and do a dive,” I said to the plot. “These people think this is just a balloon. They don’t know it can stunt.”
So we dove and climbed while I shot pictures out the window with a camera – none of which turned out because the developer did not know they were panchromatic plates. And the views of the crowd from on high were failure.
When we turned back to New Toronto the Goodyear plant, and hovered over the vast factory, I could not figure out how Boettler was going to dock his sky ship on so small a piece of ground. There were chimneys al about and the recreation ground was hemmed in by houses and telegraph lines.
“Oh,” said Mr. Blythe “he can land on a dollar bill!”
Far below, we saw the ground crew of two men waiting on the grass. We sailed down wind, turned nose into the wind and suddenly, startlingly. Boettler swung the nose of the ship straight down. And with engines on, we dove at forty-five degrees straight for the landing ground. With a whirl of the wheel, he flattened her out, slacked off his engines, dropped the long trailing ropes that had been coiled up, and the ground crew had us. Sand bags were slung on. And there we were, riding on our single tire, with ladder dropped from the cabin door.
But the first thing that happened as we set foot on the ground, a young man in blue stepped forward:
“Any baggage, Mr. Clark?”
“Yes. My valise here.”
“Would you open it, please?”
“Yes, please. I’m from the Customs.”
I thought he was joking. But he was not. He was an officer of the Customs.
So even if I did smoke Luckies, which for mercy’s sake I don’t, it wouldn’t have done any good smuggling by air.
New Toronto used to be a separate village in the Etobicoke area of Toronto which housed the Goodyear Tire and Rubber plant from 1916 until 1987.
Panchromatic film was a type that was available commercially in 1906, however it was more expensive, and had to be developed in total darkness (no red lights). It would still be something relatively new in 1928, and could be ruined if not processed properly.
“Luckies” were Lucky Strike cigarettes, the top-selling cigarette brand in the United States during the 1930s and 1940s.
By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by Jim Frise, August 30, 1947.
“It’s hard to believe!” muttered Jimmie Frise.
“That summer’s over?” I sympathized.
“No,” said Jim, heatedly. “That here we are, all packed and waiting for Joe Badeau to come with the launch and take us away. And not one – NOT ONE – thing have we done that we planned to do this summer!”
“We fished,” I pointed out.
“Yah, but the roof!” cried Jim. “We planned to stain the shingles on the roof. We’ve got the shingle stain down there in the boathouse, and it’s been there since early July!”
“And the verandah and steps,” I recollected.
“Yes, and the paint for them,” declared Jim angrily, “has been right there in the boathouse, too.”
“And the wharf!” I remembered.
“Yes,” said Jim bitterly, “the wharf! Remember the plans we drew last April and May, of the new wharf? Those sketches must be around here somewhere.”
“Aw, Jim,” I consoled, “it’s always like that at a summer cottage. Nobody ever gets the jobs done that they plan in spring.”
“But, Greg,” protested Jim sharply, “this isn’t the first year we’ve fiddled away on that wharf. Last summer, don’t you remember, we came up here with every intention of repairing the wharf and putting some new logs under the far end?”
“Well, last year,” I pointed out kindly, “don’t forget, there was a nail shortage. You couldn’t get spikes …”
“Spikes!” cried Jim. “Why, the year before that, we got a whole pailful of six-inch spikes! Don’t you recall? They’re down in the boathouse, too!”
“Ah, yes,” I admitted. “Then, this is the third summer…”
“And the blankets!” went on Jim, enumerating our sins. “My wife brought up all those blankets from the city for us to wash in this lovely soft water”
“We never got around to it,” I excused.
“Never got around to it?” expostulated Jim. “We never got around to anything!”
The baggage was all stacked on the cottage verandah. Inside, all was clean and tidy and ready to be abandoned to the long silence of fall, winter and spring. The shutters were up. Screen doors removed and stacked in the spare room. Pails turned upside down. Kettles emptied. All left-over food of every description packed in a carton to take home. And in a little while, around the islands, would come Joe Badeau with his launch to carry us off.
“Blankets,” I pondered. “I can’t understand why we didn’t do the blankets. There’s nothing I like better than tramping blankets in a tub.”
“You can’t wash blankets in a city,” agreed Jim, “the way you can up here. A tubful of warm water. A good mild suds. And us in our bare feet, tramping, tramping, tramping…”
“And then, two separate tubfuls of clear water to rinse them,” I reminded. “Tramping and tramping again.”
“And don’t forget the shaking,” gloated Jim. “The two of us with a blanket between us, shaking and whipping the water out, until it is white and fluffy.”
“And then,” I concluded, “hanging them on the line, in a fresh west wind, on a fine sunny day. Man, no new fangled washing machine can wash blankets like that!”
“How sweet and soft they are,” sighed Jim, “for the winter!”
“But,” I sighed too, “we didn’t do them! We didn’t get around to it.”
Jim got up off the trunk he was sitting on and stood staring out over the bay.
“What DID we do this summer?” he demanded. “Let’s just pause and take stock of ourselves. I tell you, it’s nothing to feel smug and easy about. When you think of all the things we had set down in black and white…”
“Listen, Jim,” I soothed, “summer is like that. Summer cottages are like that. You aren’t supposed to do anything, really, at the summer cottage. At home, in the spring, when you’re dreaming of summer, you are in the grip of the city and its purposeful spirit. You make a lot of plans. That’s part of being in the city. But the real joy of summer is to let everything go hang ….”
“But you’d think,” cut in Jim, “that we would at least have enough sense, enough energy, to attend to the upkeep of the place. Most of the things we intended to do were necessary repairs and upkeep. I can’t think why we didn’t stain those shingles on the roof, for one thing.”
“Or the wharf,” I admitted. “We were in swimming every day, down there at the wharf. There’s all those logs there, on the beach. All we had to do, any day, was go and get an axe, a hammer, and that pail of spikes out of the boathouse …”
“Exactly!” cried Jim. “Every time we were in swimming, that dilapidated old wharf was right there before our eyes. What happens to people like us when they seem to go blind to their duty, to their plans, to their intentions …”
“Aw,” I soothed, “when you’re in swimming, it’s so cool and pleasant and dreamy.”
“But that wharf!” protested Jim. “GLARING at us.”
We both turned our embarrassed gaze down at the old wharf. I don’t know how many years old it really is. It is a composite of many years and many wharves. Some of the logs and a few of the planks must date back 30 years. The stone-filled crib that is the foundation of the outer end has been skewgee as long as anybody can remember. The inner end leans upon the rock, inches under water when the water is high: cockeyed and aslant and high and dry when the water is low. It has been unsafe to walk on for five seasons. Guests and strangers alike have sprained ankles on it; picked up splinters; skidded off into the water from it. It is an eyesore and a public reproach.
Yet, with a few pieces of log pried under it for legs with a couple of fresh chunks spiked on to the trembling crib, a dock fit for another 10 years could be made by two gentlemen in their bathing suits in about, say, 40 minutes.
“Conscience, Jim,” I propounded, “must be at its lowest ebb in summer. It may be that conscience is like a barometer and has its high periods and its low periods. Maybe the seasons have a lot to do with human conduct. For instance, I would think conscience is at its highest fury about the middle of February and at its lowest about the end of July.”
“All these jobs stared at us,” gloomed Jim, “day after day. And we utterly ignored them.”
“Human nature remains,” I uttered, “a profound mystery. For centuries, great minds – philosophers, teachers, preachers, kings, politicians – have been studying human nature with tireless zeal. Billions of words have been written by men of every race and clime, trying to solve the mystery of human nature. But guys like you and me go right on being mysterious, even to ourselves.”
“What time is it?” demanded Jimmie, with sudden intent.
“Ten-twenty,” I informed him. “Every once in a while across the centuries, some great leader rises up who thinks he has got the mystery of human nature solved. And he sets forth to master the world with his knowledge. Hitler was the latest of them …”
“Joe Badeau will be here at 11,” stated Jim, taking off his city coat and starting to unbutton his city shirt collar. “We’ve got exactly 40 minutes ….!”
“No, no, no, Jim!” I protested, leaping up.
“We’ll put on our bathing suits,” he declared. “In a jiffy. We can hoick a couple of logs under this end of the wharf. I’ll get the spikes and the axe …”
“Aw, Jim, Jim!” I begged. “You can’t make good in 40 minutes the errors and omissions of a whole summer. Look, sit down, take it easy. It’s our last few minutes here in this lovely place …”
But Jim had popped indoors and seized our bathing trunks off the hook in the store room. He came forth and tossed me mine.
“Jim, be reasonable, “I pleaded. “Joe Badeau always arrives ahead of time. He’ll be rounding the point in five or 10 minutes.”
“Come on,” commanded Jim, filled with an extraordinary zeal.
And he popped out of his trousers and shorts and into his trunks.
“I’ll go get the axe, and the pail of spikes,” he announced, striding off the verandah, “and we can haul a few short logs.”
Now, I like a dip about as well as anybody. But this I was one of those coolish August days with a brisk west wind ablowing, and the cool water of the deeper lake being churned by lively waves.
“Jim,” I called, “we don’t both have to be in our trunks, do we?”
“Don’t hedge!” shouted Jim over his shoulder “Here’s our chance to make some amends to our character. Come on, get into your trunks!”
Character! Is surrendering to the soft and Idle charm of summer a weakness of character? Is it wrong to enjoy the bounty of the seasons? Why should summer end in a hasty scramble, as though we were slaves, and conscious the driver with a whip? Why should not summer end like a song, lingering in the heart?
I got into my trunks.
I listened for the far mutter of Joe Badeau’s engine. But the August wind and waves denied me.
Jim unlocked the boathouse and came out with the axe and a large bucket containing the six-inch spikes purchased three, maybe four, years ago, for this very purpose. I picked up the hammer and the swede saw from its nail. The swede saw is that lumberjack weapon like a modernized bucksaw. It melts its way through old dry logs.
“Snappy, now,” ordered Jimmie. “Let’s select three or four good stout logs.”
Boldly, he jumped into the water up to his armpits at the deeper end of the dock and scrutinized the underpinnings.
“We need a six-foot log on this side,” he announced very engineeringly, “and the mate to it on the opposite side. Here on the crib, I should think three pieces, let’s see, four feet long, will tighten her up.”
“The ice, this winter,” I prophesied coldly, “will swipe the logs from under…”
“Then, we need a nice light log, about 20 feet long, as a crowbar, to hoist her up a little while I spike the…”
I walked off the dock and into the rushes along the beach where sundry logs, drifted in over the years, were either lying half-buried in the sand, or were dry as old bones up among the shrubbery of the shore:
Jim came behind me with the swede saw.
“Here’s one,” he announced. “Cedar, at that!”
And out of the harsh grass, he hoisted one end of an eight-inch cedar log, dried and bare from maybe half a century of weathering. Out of its middle, we cut two fine posts six feet long. The swede saw released the imperishable aroma of cedar with the sawdust.
A little farther along, we pulled out two old pine sawlogs that probably escaped from the lumberjacks’ booms years ago when they were cutting through this part of the country.
“Enough here,” announced Jim. “to build an entire new crib.”
With the saw, we cut four good billets for the crib.
“I think I hear Joe Badeau!” I exclaimed.
We both paused to listen.
“I don’t hear him,” said Jim.
Neither did I.
So we went and hunted up a long, light log for me to use as a pry or lever, while Jim was setting the new legs under the dock.
All these selected pieces of wood we dragged over to the wharf. Using a boulder for a base, I thrust one end of the 20-foot pole under the edge of the wharf, and then leaned all my weight on the other end. This raised the more dilapidated end of the wharf slightly, so that Jim, in the water, could jag one of his six-foot logs underneath, upright, for a leg or support. With his six-inch spikes, driven in obliquely, he secured the legs to the battered old stingers.
Working fast, Jim set both legs in place and then moved around to the crib. This was where I entered the water too, to tow the crib pieces into place and hold them while Jim, with the axe, drove spikes wherever he could find a spot they would bite between the fresh logs and the old cribbing,
“I hear him!” I announced.
Jim harked a moment.
“Okay,” he said, “we’ve just got time to get half a dozen rocks to put in the crib.”
Many of the original rocks had fallen out of the crib during the years of disintegration. Three or four we found with our feet on the lake bottom, and these we lifted easily, in the water, and set back in the crib.
“That’ll hold her,” I suggested, hopefully.
“The crib is the foundation of the whole thing,” asserted Jim. “Come on.”
In the neighboring sand, we found and uprooted half a dozen more boulders, which tear the arms out of you to carry. We were exhausted by the time the crib was declared full by Jim.
“There!” he heaved. “Now I can face the winter with a decent conscience!”
Joe Badeau was rounding the point, a mile away.
We dashed up to the house, dried, and dived into our clothes. Together, we carried down the trunk. Individually, we toted down the dunnage bags, grips and cartons.
“There,” cried Jim. “Feel how solid she is!”
The old wharf DID feel solid.
Joe Badeau was 100 hundred yards out.
Jim dashed up to the cottage to lock the door.
I stood on the wharf while Joe steamed in.
The wind was with him.
His boat is old, his engine older.
Often before this, it had failed to respond to his rusty gear shifts and throttles.
On it came.
“Hey!” I warned.
Jim was half-way down the rocks.
“Whoa!” yelled Joe Badeau.
But inexorably, the old boat bored straight ahead.
There was a splintering crash. Everything gave way. The old wharf just tilted up and surrendered.
In went all the baggage, the trunks, the cartons, the dunnage bags, the grips.
“How’s your conscience?” I gritted, as Jim lent me a helping hand back onto the rock.
Editor’s Notes: This is another example where you can see the difference between the original colour image, and the microfiched version, especially in the case of later Montreal Standard stories where the image is split over 2 pages. This is the only example of a Montreal Standard story where I have the original, and you can see that the picture is not printed in full colour. I’m not sure what this printing process is called, but it can be seen in some older magazines, which I assume was cheaper.
Skewgee means slanted or crooked.
A Swede saw was a name for a modern bow saw. It was invented in the 1920s by a Swedish company.
This is quite the tongue in cheek article by Mary Lowrey Ross, making fun of beauty pageants by reversing the gender roles. Jim illustrates this excellently with the men being paraded in bathing suits in front of women judges, and the spectator shouting out that “he is too cute for words,” along with the loving embrace with his father. Unfortunately, I cannot find out much about Mrs. Ross (she was married to W. W. E. Ross, a geophysicist and poet). His Wikipedia entry just says “on June 3, 1924, he married Mary Evelyn Lowrey, the well-known journalist.” She was born in 1891 in Brantford Ontario and died in 1984 in Brighton Ontario. She wrote for other publications like Maclean’s and Saturday Night. The Maclean’s article linked is also from 1926, and includes a photo of her reproduced below. A Google search will return a number of her articles.