All this business, factories, offices, miles of streets – everything started because somebody was in love with somebody else
“This isn’t him,” she said to the big fellow. “Put on your dressing gown”

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, February 11, 1933.

“Us non-conformists,” said Jim Frise, “are funny. We have thrown over all the saints except a few that are of commercial value.”

“Such as?” I inquired.

“Santy Claus and St. Valentine,” said Jim. “I think I’ll suggest to the government that they restore all the saints again and make a commercial hook-up with each of them, so that every day of the year we would have to send something to our friends. If that wouldn’t revive business, what would?”

“Pardon me,” said I, “for my brains. But, as a matter of fact, Jimmie, St. Valentine’s day1 is a lot older than any of the several St. Valentines. The custom of sending valentines and flowers and candies to your love on February 14 was in full swing long before the Christian era.”

“How?” asked Jim.

“February 14 was the day,” I went on proudly, “in ancient Rome when all the boys drew lots for their girls, in preparation for the next day, February 15, when Rome celebrated the arrival of spring. It was the day of Juno Februaria2, if you know what that means, because I don’t. It was a day of dancing and feasting. It was a day of rejoicing, love making.3

“Whoopee,” said Jim.

“Hotcha,” said I. “They killed nanny goats and threw hunks of meat at the girls, for luck.”

“Just like the elections in Toronto,” said Jim.

“You can’t think up anything new,” I said. “Rome went wawa4 for a couple of days. All in honor of spring. Bands marching up and down the main street, all the old men slightly pickled, all the old ladies in the kitchen roasting chickens, and all the young people galloping up and down, arm in arm, singing and hollering at each other.”

“You make it seem almost modern,” said Jim. “Except for the setting, it might be to-day.”

“No,” said I, “business interferes nowadays. All we’ve got is the shadow of the old customs. We mail a few valentines, and a few people give valentine parties. But on February 14, you won’t see any jubilee in this country.”

“Yes,” said Jimmie, sentimentally, dreaming out the window, “but love remains.”

“Does it?”

“Sure,” said Jim. “The outward customs may have changed, but love is just as strong as it ever was. All this great city, jammed full of love. All the men in all these tall buildings, all in love; all the pretty girls pretending to be working, but first of all in love. All the houses side by side, in a thousand streets, each one thinking it is hiding a secret, but every house a monument to love!”

“That’s swell, Jim!”

“Yeah, and out in the country, all the fields plowed, what for? For love. All the young men leaning on the rail fences, looking across the country at some house, some hillside, for love. Love is at the bottom of it all. Maybe they get lost, as time goes on. But love started everything. All this business, these factories, offices, miles of streets, everything started because somebody was in love with somebody else, and wanted to make things for her. Make her a fortune. Make her a living. Make her dreams come true. Every skyscraper a valentine, every mansion, every cottage, every shop counter, work bench, a valentine to some unknown, perhaps forgotten love!”

“Not bad, Jim.”

In Quest of Love

“So don’t let’s be cynical. St. Valentine’s day is the day for the celebration of love, and when we look at all this hustle and bustle, we ought to give love her due.”

“Then why not have our modern St. Valentine’s day,” I asked, “on October first, the beginning of the fiscal year?”

“There you go!” cried Jim. “You are cynical about love. You don’t think love is what it used to be?”

“I think we have reduced love to a pretty small potato in relation to life as a whole, to business, labor, success, progress or whatever it is we are trying to do these days.”

“All nonsense!” stated Jim. “I could take you out and show you more love in one evening than you could have seen in the whole of Rome, even in the midst of their whoopee.”


“Anywhere,” said Jim. “Any street, any village.”

“It might make a story,” I admitted. “You take me to-night and show me.”

After dinner I walked around to Jim’s and, telling his family that he was going to a political meeting with me (it’s great to be newspapermen!), he led me forth in quest of love.

“An apartment house,” said Jimmie, “is a regular love nest. I am taking you to an apartment where a couple of my friends live. They are, to my mind, the most joyously loving couple I have ever heard of. I just love to visit them. They know everybody else in the apartments, and they all visit each other, and the halls are filled with happy laughing people, young and middle-aged and old, every night. The place rings with happiness. Talk about ancient Rome! Why, that apartment house is just one big Roman festival all year long.”

“Oh, I admit,” I said, as we drove through the night, “I admit there are spots here and there. But on the great average love doesn’t cut much figure in the life of people nowadays.”

“These are average!” cried Jim. “This apartment house is just a cross section of humanity. You wait. Just because blinds are drawn and houses are detached, you needn’t think your house is the only abode of love in the whole world!”

We drove up Avenue road and came to a pleasant district where apartment houses cast their communal radiance into the night. We pulled up in front of a very handsome one and Jim led me into the foyer. It was Roman. Rich gilding and bright colors and Roman tile floor. A self-serve elevator carried us up three floors.

A number of muffled radios could be heard as we walked along the carpeted corridor past numbered doors. We heard a child crying. At another door we heard a lay5 screaming. At still another, as we marched along, we heard a man yell:

“Oh, is zat so!”

I plucked Jim’s coatsleeve and hinted with a head-movement that we scram.

“Just radio,” said Jim. “Listening to mystery dramas.”

“It sounded awfully life-like to me,” I replied.

Around a turn in the corridor we marched. This was a big cross section of humanity, this one. A door opened ahead of us and a young man holding a bowler hat tightly on his head, with his face very pale and set, came bouncing out and rushed past us in the hall, nearly knocking me down.

“You Home-Breaker!”

We paused outside the door. But inside was absolute silence. Not even a radio.

“H’m,” said I. “Well, lead on. Where’s your friend?”

“That was my friend!” said Jim. “He didn’t recognize me.”

I wanted to laugh, but Jim’s face deterred me.

“Why not let’s go in and see the lady?” I suggested. “Maybe what we saw was misleading.”

Jim rapped softly with his knuckles on the apartment door.

“Go way!” screamed a feminine voice within. “I hate you!”

So Jimmie and I went away. We walked down that long carpeted hall slowly, listening as we passed each door to the muffled radios, the tapping of heels on hardwood floors, the snatches of words, the silences.

“I tell you,” said Jim, “the last time I was here my friends took me upstairs to see the nicest middle-aged couple, the Gabwins. Let’s drop in on them while we’re here.”

“This is a bad night,” I said.

But Jim got me into the automatic elevator again, a queer, slow-moving, menacing thing with buttons to push. And up we went.

Again we started along a padded hall, Jim looking at the doors.

“I think,” he said, “it was either 24 or 34.”

We paused outside 24 and just as Jim was about to knock there was a terrific crash inside the door and a male voice roared:

“Pick up your feet!”

We hurried away down the hall.

“That wasn’t Gabwin’s voice,” said Jim.

“Try 34,” said I.

“We found 34 and after listening cautiously for a moment and hearing nothing Jim rapped delicately on 34.

The door jerked open.

A big man in a purple silk dressing gown, a big man with a purplish face and the most glaring eyes, stood before us.

His gaze fastened on me and he bared his teeth.

“So!” he said, through his nose, and crouching down slightly.

I backed up.

“So!” snarled the big man, treading with catlike steps toward me, “you brought a big friend with you, eh!”

With one grab, he took me by both coat-lapels and with a yank such as you see only in the movies he hoisted me through the air and hurled me inside his apartment, where I fell in a heap on the hardwood hall floor.

“Here!” I could hear Jimmie crying beyond, “a mistake! Excuse me! The wrong apartment! Just a minute! Hey!”

But dimly, as in a dream, I felt myself picked up again and yanked this way and that, and again I was hurled and this time I lit on a large, soft chesterfield.

“Hey!” I could hear Jim. “Hey! Just a minute!”

But a door slammed and Jimmie I could hear no more.

I removed my hat so as to see, and there standing before me was this large, bluish man, with his jaw stuck out.

“I,” he said, “am going to bust every bone in your body! Thought I was out of town, did you? Ha, ha!”

He laughed like Fu Manchu.

“Home-breaker!” he bellowed. “A little squirt like you daring to come hanging around my home, heh! I’ll –“

And in a blur of purple and blue fury he whipped off his dressing gown and started to roll up his sleeves.

“Love!” I croaked, hollowly.

“Annhh?” snarled the big man, stopped in mid-air.

“I said love,” said I, tucking my feet under me and drawing my neck down into my coat collar.

An Off-Night For Sentiment

The big man looked about to burst. His forehead, his neck and his stomach all appeared about to explode. He gasped staggered back.

“You – you –” he stammered, speechless.

There was a wild thumping on the door. Voices could be heard howling. A key scraped in the door and in burst Jimmie and a man with a dirty face whom I immediately recognized as the janitor, and a beautiful young lady.

“Are you hurt?” gasped Jim.

“I dared him to touch me,” said I.

The big man made a lunge for me, but the pretty girl thrust him aside lightly.

“This isn’t him,” she said to the big fellow. “Put on your dressing gown.”

“Isn’t him!” said the big man. “Then who is it?”

“He is my friend,” said Jim, heatedly, “and we are looking for Mr. Gabwin’s apartment. And we rapped at your door and this bird grabbed my little friend and whirled him through the air –“

The big fellow said:

“Well, I feel better anyhow!”

“My husband,” said the girl, “is very jealous of my men friends.”

The janitor beckoned Jim and me out. “The Gabwins,” said the janitor, as we got out in the hall, “aren’t living here anymore.”

“Why, it was only New Year’s I was here,” said Jim.

“Yes,” said the janitor. “It was very sudden.”

“Dead!” cried Jim.

“No,” said the janitor. “No, a little domestic trouble. She’s gone back to her mother and he’s living in a boarding-house down town.”

“Love nest,” said I.

“I beg your pardon?” asked the janitor.

“It is nothing,” said I.

We got in the elevator and softly, creepily, slowly descended to the street.

“Well?” said I.

“It’s an off night,” said Jim. “An off night. How would you like to go to a movie? There’s a swell love story down at the Uptown6.”

“How,” I asked, “about going to your place and letting me see all those old Birdseye Centre originals you’ve got. You said I could pick a few out for framing some time.”

“Well,” said Jim, “as a matter of fact, I’d rather not to-night. You see, we had a little row just before I came out over the children using my studio room for a play house — Let’s go to your place and look at trout flies. It’s only ten weeks to the first of May.”

“Not to-night,” I said. “My wife didn’t want me to go out to-night, it was my turn to stay home and mind the house. So, we – I — you see?”

“That’s too bad,” said Jim. “However, it will be Valentine’s Day on Tuesday.”

“And everything will be hunky-dory then,” said I.

Editor’s Notes:

  1. Valentine’s Day history. ↩︎
  2. Specific details on Juno Februata. ↩︎
  3. “Love making” pre-1960s or so, meant courting or flirting, or perhaps a little kissing. ↩︎
  4. “Going wawa” meant acting all crazy. ↩︎
  5. I have no idea. This just might be a typo. Perhaps they meant “baby”. ↩︎
  6. The Uptown Theatre opened in 1920 and was demolished in 2003. ↩︎