By Gregory Clark, November 14, 1925.

Did you go in for radio heckling during the campaign?1

It’s the latest sport.

Amongst those invited in to hear the speech of the Right. Hon. Mackenzie King was our Aunt Jess.

She is getting on in years, but still bears a stout and doughty attitude towards life. And she is a Tory.

During the preliminary speeches Aunt Jess sat in stony silence, a slight smile on her face, which curled with mild scorn whenever there came the buzz of thunderous applause out the horn.

When the prime minister was announced she sat forward in her chair and bent a challenging gaze into the amplifier.

“Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen,” began the prime minister.

“Bah for you!” shouted Aunt Jess.

“Sssh!” we all hissed, in astonishment.

“It is a source of very special pride and pleasure,” continued the prime minister, unabashed by Aunt Jess’ rude interruption, “for me to-night…”

“Daddy, what did you do in the great war!” yelled Aunt Jess, who is a reader of the Telegram as well as the Mail.

“Sssh!, Whisssht!” we expostulated.

“… to have with me on this platform to night,” continued the prime minister, “my chief lieutenant in the government of this country.”

“For five days more!” yelled Aunt Jess, in a loud voice, and very red in the face.

We turned off the switch.

“Look here, Aunt Jess,” we cried, “you can’t do that! He can’t hear you, you know.”

“I know that, my lad,” replied Aunt Jess. “But you don’t know what pleasure it gives me to be quite rowdy. I have never heckled in my life before and here’s my chance. Turn that thing on again.”

“Please, Aunt Jess, we want to hear Mr. King’s message.”

“Would you deny an old woman her dying wish? Turn that thing on!”

“But –“

“But nothing. I have been going to political meetings all my life and have had to sit like a fool, afraid to open my mouth for fear everyone would turn and stare at me. Now’s my chance. Let ‘er go!”

Sat Closer Than Before

And Aunt Jess sat up closer to the horn than before, in a most rowdy attitude, her eyes sparkling. “Let ‘er go!”

“I understand, ladies and gentlemen,” came Mr. King’s voice, “that the right honorable the leader of the opposition…”

“Hurray! Hurray! Hurray! Tiger!!!” roared Aunt Jess into the amplifier, while Mr. King’s voice continued unperturbed but somewhat drowned by the lone cheers.

“I would like to ask Mr. Meighen to do what I have attempted to do here,” went on the prime minister.

“Oh, is that so!” shouted Aunt Jess.

“I would like him to state on this platform, who he will have in his cabinet from Quebec, and who he will have in his cabinet from the west?”

“Better men than you’ve got!” cried Aunt Jess, her face up to the horn.

The old lady’s spirit was infectious. We all began to see this as a battle between Aunt Jess and the prime minister. As the speech went on Aunt Jess unloosed some expressions, some modern and some quite old and well-worn, that we had no idea she possessed in her ladylike vocabulary. When the prime minister got going in his stride, with long, oratorical sentences that could not very well be broken in on, Aunt Jess would merely retort with long, raucous laughter, utterly confusing and spoiling the effect of the prime minister’s best arguments. She produced a small flag from her sateen bag and began waving it in front of the horn with derisive shouts.

“These are the policies,” said the prime minister, “for which the Liberal party not only stands…”

“But falls!” shrilled Aunt Jess. And she rose to her feet.

Continued Right to the End

The prime minister was marching to a close.

Aunt Jess removed her little bonnet which she wears in the house. Eyes alight, voice husky from use, she continued her heckling right to the end.

“.. and with that greater understanding,” concluded the prime minister eloquently, “a larger fellowship for the good of the individuals concerned and the greater good of all.”

Aunt Jess hurled her bonnet into the horn, thus muffling the Liberal cheers which sprang from it.

“Hurray for Meighen!” she screamed. “Hurray! Hurray!” And she did a sort of dervish dance in front of the amplifier.

“The best time I ever had in my life,” declared Aunt Jess, breathlessly. “How much do these radio things cost?”

Aunt Jess has a lot of old scores to pay.

“There are singers I want to inform that they have rotten voices. There are certain ministers in this city I would like to interrupt.”

(Aunt Jess is an Anti2, you understand.)

“All my life, for over sixty years, I have had to go to concerts, meetings, and to church, and listen to people that irritated me beyond measure. Here is my chance to tell them what is on my mind. You see, I give them no offense, yet I get a burden off my mind that has weighed too heavily… Turn on some singer until I see what it feels like.”

We got a station in which a lady with a slow soprano was singing “Marquita.”

We sat in silence. Aunt Jess lifted her chin and tapped with her knitting needles.

“Too slow,” she called into the horn. “Don’t chew your words, girl. Enunciate. Enunciate. Oh, horrible. Stop her!”

We switched off.

Aunt Jess tossed her head delightedly.

“What a treat!” said Aunt Jess. “Are there any Unionist ministers preaching to-night?”

“No, not until Sunday.”

“Very well, I’ll be here Sunday,” said Aunt Jess.

Editor’s Notes:

  1. The 1925 federal election was close, with no party winning a majority. ↩︎
  2. In this case, she would be against the union of multiple churches to form the United Church of Canada in 1925. ↩︎