Many of the Greg-Jim articles which have long been a feature of The Star Weekly are to-day issued in book form under the title “Which We Did.” The volume, published by S. J. Reginald Saunders, Toronto, contains sketches which have previously entertained Star Weekly readers in addition to several new ones hitherto unpublished.
A representative of The Star Weekly had in Paris recently an experience which shows that the fame of Gregory Clark and James Frise as humorists has spread far beyond Canada. The gentleman in question was introduced to an editor of Le Paris Soir, one of the largest and most successful of Parisian papers and especially famous for its feature articles and high literary standard.
“So you are from the paper that every week has the funny article,” the Paris editor ejaculated, with open arms. “They are wonderful, magnificent, classic!” Both the French and English language were totally inadequate on him.
This from a prominent editor in a country which still regards Moliere as its standard in comedy is high praise indeed and a great tribute to these collaborators’ power of comic invention.
Perhaps one of the great reasons for their success is their spontaneity and naturalness. No man knows what they are going to do next or write and draw next. Neither does Gregory Clark nor Jimmy Frise.
Necessity is often the spur to their invention, when the roaring presses will permit no further procrastination. They are like clever after-dinner speakers who, when unexpectedly called upon, can take a felicitous subject from thin air as a magician draws a rabbit from a hat. This gives their work the charm of the impromptu.
Their admirers invariably ask, “How on earth do you ever think of all the queer things you do?”
Their only answer to that is an expressive gesture which means, “Search me. How do I know?”
Their real reason is that they dip into the stream of current contemporary life, and that rich flow never fails to bring fish to their net. Their acute awareness of what is in the mind of the average man gives their work the authentic stamp of actuality.
Another question frequently put to this writer and his illustrator is, “Do you actually do all the queer stunts you say you do?”
“And the funny thing,” said Greg, “is that people will swallow our most fantastic adventures and refuse to believe some of the very simple things such as dropping a 50-cent piece on the pavement for a prosperous citizen to stamp on and claim as his own.”
“Last summer in the hot spell,” remarked Frise, “when the postman came to my door he said ‘Surely you fellows didn’t fry an egg on the city hall steps? You can’t make me believe that.'”
“I happened to have by me a photograph of Greg and I watching the egg sizzle in the sun with my dog Rusty looking over our shoulders. I showed that to the postman and seeing was believing for him. I am sure now that there is no adventure Greg can concoct which that postman won’t fall for, hook, line and sinker.”
After going through the ordeal this morning of a formal interview for The Daily Star, neither Greg nor Jim were in the mood for any further agony to provide a sprightly birth notice for “Which We Did.”
An efficiency expert would never approve of their methods of collaboration. There is good deal of artlessness in their art. They may arrange a rendezvous in an armchair lunch and the important conference may be adjourned since die without a scintilla of an idea.
Clark may climb to Frise’s tower studio and elevate his short legs to Jimmy’s littered desk while Jimmy drapes his long legs around his drawing board. There for half an hour or more they may commune like Quakers in silence. Then Greg suddenly, like Archimedes, may cry out, “Eureka! I have it,” or they may exclaim simultaneously, for their two minds are so well attuned that they often have a single comic thought.
The reading public that laughs at their printed adventures does not get half the humor that there is in their eccentric modes of joint production.
With regard to Liddell and Scott’s well-known Greek dictionary, there is a famous query as to which half was by Scott and which half was by Liddell. It is just as difficult to unscramble the partnership of Clark and Frise. Greg, of course, is the scribe who plays Boswell to Frise’s Johnson, but a Greg-Jim article without Jimmie as the eternally baffled stooge and without Jimmie’s characteristic illustration would be like “Hamlet” without Hamlet.
Frise in his modesty is apt to deprecate his own contribution, but without Jim’s art and whimsicality there would be no Greg-Jim.
Theirs is no artificial union, a mere stage partnership. Everyone who knows them is aware that they admirably balance one another’s qualities and are, as the slang phrase has it, a pair of naturals.
As it takes two greyhounds to course and capture a hare, so it is necessary for these two humorists to hunt their quarry together. Their book’s title “Which We Did,” bears witness to the duality of their comic existence.
To one who ponders the reason for the Paris editor’s remark that their humor is classic, it is apparent that it is a humor of situations, a factual humor, and not a mere fireworks of verbal wit. Their adventures can be filmed like those of Mr. Pickwick.
And so they have created a living human comedy, giving their readers a vivid sense of their essential reality as the long and the short of the genus homo, and go merrily on their way in their present book as in their past articles perpetuating as veraciously as any Mr. Gulliver, the popular illusion that their life is one long series of laughable, farcical adventures.
Editor’s Notes: This article was published on November 14, 1936 to promote their book, Which We Did (and reprinted again the next week on November 21).
R.C. Reade was a staff writer for the Toronto Star and Star Weekly, who had some of his stories illustrated by Jim in the 1920s and 1930s.
These are a series of illustrations by Jim accompanying a story by Peter Patterson, about running a summer resort. The subtitle called it “An Adventure in the Great Open Spaces, Running a Summer Resort – Being a Combination Mayor, Street Cleaner, Social Secretary and Children’s Guide – Only the Honeymooners Seemed Satisfied With Anything and Everything.”
Now on the 20th anniversary of Passchendaele it can be told – how a lone man forced the world’s cruelest battle to cease for half an hour
This big armistice we are celebrating next week was not the only armistice. It took all the kings of earth, all the prime ministers, statesmen, the international giants of industry and the super gangsters of blood and fury and the yearning hearts of 400 million people to bring about this armistice now about to enter its twentieth tremulous year.
But the little armistice, that fewer than a thousand Canadians and Germans saw, was staged by only one man.
It lasted 30 minutes. But this one man with his pallid face and his blue chin, had something. Joshua made the sun stand still on Gideon. This one man made the battle of Passchendaele stand still. And because what he had, all men may have, and what he did, any man may do, I would like to tell the tale.
It is true. You will find it recounted in the war records at Ottawa and in the history of the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles. In Schleswig-Holstein and Hanover, Germany, and in Grey county and New Brunswick, there are men who talk of it still, because they were in it.
They saw one man, alone, make Passchendaele stand still; which, in some men’s minds, was a greater feat than Joshua’s.
Passchendaele, you remember, was the titanic end of a greater battle, officially termed the Battle of Ypres, 1917, to distinguish it from all the other battles of Ypres around that shattered city which was the graveyard of an empire.
On July 31, 1917, the British, to keep up the pressure after Vimy, and to upset the Germans, who were rushing whole armies south from Russia, now that Russia had quit, started a major battle out from Ypres. They were going to smash across those Flanders lowlands, only a few feet above sea level, capture the ridges, six miles away, which were the first good ground beyond Ypres, and so relieve the three years’ pressure on that fateful city and salient.
But rain, rain that always has destroyed conquerors and always will, started to fall. That August was the wettest August in history. The plan of battle had to be postponed from day to day, waiting for the rain to cease. It did not cease. The great attack went on. But even indomitable infantry can go no faster than the guns that support it. And the rain and the guns had converted those low flats into a pudding.
Day after day, the attack waited, or tried minor moves; but the rain fell. September, it fell. And the Germans, inspired, suddenly selected all the little hillocks and bits of solid ground, amidst the quagmire, to erect solid concrete field forts, “pill boxes,” one behind the other, slantwise, the fire of each covering its neighbors. In these five-foot thick forts the German machine-gun crews hid while the British barrages reared. And the instant they lifted, the crews dashed out with their guns to the concrete wings and turned their withering fire on the plunging, floundering figures advancing not merely knee deep but often waist deep through the quaking bog. September the rain fell, October. That dreadful quagmire, flat, treeless, featureless save for the low sunk gray shadows of those pill boxes, became a quicksand filled with the bodies of British men from every part of the isles, from Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland – everywhere but Canada. The roads were no more. To move at all, the troops had to lay their wooden bathmats, four abreast, across the bog, and these shelterless paths they called “tracks.”
Not an Ordinary Battle
So 9,000 yards in three months the great attack had penetrated. And on October 26, at 20 minutes to 6 a.m., dark, with lashing rain sweeping the first ridge lifting out of this dire swamp was 2,400 yards ahead. And the Canadians were starting.
To go that 2,400 yards or to retreat 9,000 yards, back across the flats to Ypres again – that was the choice. Winter was at the door.
Our division attacked, that first Canadian day, with only three of its twelve battalions in front. We had behind us all our Third Division artillery, all the New Zealand artillery, the 49th Imperial artillery division, two army brigades of Imperial Field Artillery, the 13th and 70th groups of Heavy Artillery for counter-battery work, the 16th and 62nd Groups of Heavy Artillery for bombardment, and the 1st, 3rd and 6th Canadian Siege Batteries to cap all this immense weight of guns.
Don’t ask an infantryman how those guns got into position amidst the swamp. Don’t ask how a gun can fire aimed shots on a platform of quaking bog. But there behind three narrow-fronted battalions lost in the outermost sea of mud, were all those guns.
Trenches did not exist. Where those shelterless tracks of bathmats ended the troops took to the mud and move their forward way, in the night and eternal rain, amidst the water-full shell holes, across swollen brooks that flooded far and wide. Waist deep, they waded and foundered. Instead of trenches, they found little disconnected series of shell holes joined together, wherever a slight mound or a suggestion of dryness presented itself to those who had gone before. No landmarks showed. The furtive guides sent back to lead the platoons into their battle positions got lost. It was 5 a.m. of the 26th of October, 10 minutes before zero hour that the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles were all in position.
Ahead of them, Germans in concrete pill boxes, waiting. German cannon mased on the dry ridges of Passchendaele.
It was, of course, dark, when at 20 minutes to 6 a.m., all that British, New Zealand and Canadian artillery burst loose behind them.
The pauses between the 100-yard lifts of the barrage were 10 minutes. In ordinary battles, that pause is three or four minutes. But even 10 minutes was far too short a time for men to go the 100-yard dashes through that dark slime. Men swam. Men started only to have to return and seek a new path around some deeper bog. Men lightly wounded by the intense German bombardment that immediately broke loose sank and were smothered in the mud. The pill boxes blazed and laid the regiment in windrows. To add horror upon horror, both flanks were left open when the Canadian brigade on the right and the Imperial naval brigade on the left, were driven back, leaving the regiment enfiladed by pill boxes from both sides as well as in front. Yet when 10 a.m. came, four hours after the start of this incredible business, the 4th C.M.R. were 500 yards into the enemy, pill boxes had fallen to individuals like 17-year-old Tommy Holmes, V.C.; and the 1st, 2nd and 5th C.M.R., the fellow battalions of the brigade, were thrust forward, backing up the attacking battalion, squaring the flanks, filling the holes.
Scattered all over the front, the remnants of the battalion, isolated from one another but holding savagely on, saw, at noon, the magnificent performance of Captain Christopher O’Kelly. V.C., and Colonel W. W. Foster, of the 52nd Battalion, leading their men through a storm of fire to capture the first faint rise of ground that led on 2,000 yards to Passchendaele. This brought the right flank up. The Germans, fearful of that foothold on dry ground, began intense bombardments and counter attacks, but by 2.30 p.m., eight and a half hours from that start before the dawn, both flanks were level with the C.M.R.; and there they were, 500 yards deep. Four officers only, out of the 21 who started, were unhit; eight were killed, nine wounded. And 304 non-commissioned officers and men were killed, wounded or missing. Two of the battalion’s majors were dead.
An Astonishing Silence
But now, on the high ground, the Germans were beginning to catch their breath and realize that at last, after three months, and acres 9,000 yards, their enemy was within touching distance of solid earth and a ridge beyond which the Germans would have no direct view of that broad Ypres plain. The fury began to grow again. Now began the worst part of a battle, the holding.
It was about 3 p.m. that he was first noticed.
A familiar figure. Sturdy his helmet tilted curiously forward over his eyes.
He was surely the unlikeliest figure to be expected in such a place, in such a bloody slime and sea. He should have been back at the wagon lines, in the Canal Bank, in far-off Ypres. He was the padre.
Dramatize padres as we may have, the fact remains that the normal place to look for a chaplain is not in the middle of a battle. In the front line, frequently, yes. But this 4th C.M.R. chaplain, the Rev. W. H. Davis, was a little odd. He more or less lived in the front line.
And here he was, about 3 p.m. of the afternoon, floundering around right in the open, in full view of the enemy, in advance of the newly established line, acting in a very queer manner.
He had a handkerchief tied to his walking stick. Padres are not allowed to bear arms, by international law. Holding his stick up and waving it every time a blast of fire came near him, he went plunging about, bending and straightening, and stabbing rifles into the mud.
If it was a German wounded, he hung a German helmet on the gun butt. If Canadian, a Canadian helmet.
Men shouted to him to come in out of that. The heavens were about to break.
Aye, they were. In a funny way.
Serenely, the padre continued to quarter the dreadful ground this way, that way, while the crumps hurled in and the machine-guns stuttered and filled the air with their stomach-turning zipp and whisper.
One major caught the padre’s ear. Through the crumps, the padre waded over.
“I was getting anxious about you!” he cried.
They held him there a little while until, unnoticed, he slipped away, and appeared, far to the right, dipping and foundering, and setting up that ever-growing ragged chain of rifle butts, helmets aloft.
Small parties of his own men tried to reach him or to carry in one of the wounded he marked. But they were flattened with enemy machine-gun fire. The padre beckoned nobody. He called no man, Canadian or German, though he passed close to both. He simply stuck up the rifles, hung the helmets, and left them mutely there.
Then the heavens opened. But with silence. With a sudden gathering lull. Shellfire ceased. Machine-guns died, all across that narrow C.M.R. belt. To north, to south, the fury raged. But out from this solitary figure, resolutely plowing his zigzag course in the horror, there radiated a queer paralysis.
In a matter of minutes, silence grew. It was as if the sun stood still. As if the whole mad world were abashed. And there, all alone in the middle of the silence, walked the solitary figure, bending rising and stabbing rifles into the earth.
From the Canadian side figures crouched up, ventured forward. From the German side men rose. Where an instant before had been a three-year-old hate, grappled in its most tragic force, were men awkwardly and cautiously advancing, empty-handed, to meet one another. They ran to their own maskers, the helmets, German or Canadian. Some of the Canadians were far over amidst the Germans. Some of the wounded Germans lay back of the Canadian outposts. Canadians began to carry the Germans forward.
Padre Davis went and stood on the ruined remnants of a pill box, a few vast hunks of concrete. Aloft, he stood and beckoned the parties to him. He had established a clearing house.
They traded wounded. Enemy hands touched enemy hands. From German arms Canadian arms took wounded Canadians, tenderly. Cigarettes were offered. In amazement, enemy looked on enemy and grinned shyly. But with imperative signals and shouts, the padre bade them hurry. Waste no time. Garner in the sheaves.
For nearly 30 minutes this armistice maintained. And from back, thousand men stood and watched in astonishment.
Then, a mile away, some artillery observing officer, through his glasses, beheld the target. He could make out enemy uniforms. Yes, it must be enemy. Clustered, right in the open. What folly.
Aye, what folly. There is always an artillery observer, afar, not seeing, not hearing, not knowing.
Shells came whistling. The chaplain leaped down off his perch and commanded them all to run. Figures crouched and plunged homeward. The silence vanished in a rising mutter. In three minutes the whole dreadful business was in full roar again. And the dark came down, and the sons of God were all huddled in the foul swamp again, under the rain and the low Flanders sky, and the shriek and crack and stutter of night.
The 4th C.M.R. was relieved the next day and went away back to recruit and rebuild itself. Padre Davis was a week late in catching up with us. It took him the week to seek and find and consecrate as many of our dead as still showed a bit of themselves up in the bog. For, as you know, in two more attacks the Canadians went the full 2,400 yards and took Passchendaele and beyond, and handed it over safe and sound for the winter.
They pinned on him the M.C. when he arrived back. He put it on much as Dr. Livingstone would have put on some pagan ornament given him by the Congo savages. He was Dr. Livingstone, we were pagans. He was sane. We were a thousand lunatics.
An Order All to Himself
With his pallid, blue-jawed face, Padre Davis remains an eternal image in the memory of every 4th C.M.R. man. His pale gray eyes wide in innocent dismay and astonishment. He had the body of a man, the heart and mind of a child. He knew no fear. What we called courage – and hung decorations on him for it – he regarded with sheer amusement. He had something deeper. As preacher, with his thick Irish brogue and lilt, we could hardly understand a word he said. Even the passage from Revelations that ends the burial service – and surely we ought to know that by heart – sounded foreign as he lilted it. He had come out from Ireland as a missionary to some little Anglican Church in Alberta.
But he was a queer one. He consorted with publicans and sinners. He deliberately sought out all the blacklegs in the battalion, the drunks, the gamblers, the blasphemers, the timid, the fearful, and sat with them, by day and by night, in the trenches. He carried around haversacks of secret treasures which we who loved him most accused him of having stolen somewhere, and these he gave to the least worthy.
He wheedled patrols out of sentimental platoon officers in order to go ghouling around in No Man’s Land to seek and bury fliers, British or German, it did not matter, who fell flaming between the lines; and there, before the abashed patrol guarding him, he would kneel, helmet laid aside, in the wind and the night, speaking softly from a little open book which he could not see in the dark; and in the morning the Germans would be astonished to see, in No Man’s Land, a fresh grave and a new cross shining.
We tried to keep him. The colonel thought up special duties for him, that would detain him at the wagon lines. He was not encouraged to spend his time up in the front trenches. His friends, both officers and privates, reasoned with him. He listened to all our importunities with earnest, wide stare, as if trying so hard to understand our point of view. We told him he was becoming a moral hazard; if anything happened to him, it would ruin the morale of us all. He just laughed. He buried a hundred or two of us. He was so mad, so lawless, so childish and irresponsible, that when, ten months later, we came to the Battle of Amiens, the Colonel favored Captain Davis with a special, personal order. Not merely a mention in operation orders. An order all to himself.
“From the O.C.
To Captain W. H. Davis, M.C. Chaplain, 4th C.M.R
“During the coming engagement you will please remain at the battalion wagon lines at Boves Wood until you receive from the commanding officer a written order to come forward.”
At broad noon, we swept, almost a battalion in line, like in Wellington’s time, out of Le Quesnel to go, across a lovely August plateau of waving wheat, to Folies, 1,000 yards ahead.
About the middle of the line, stiff and straight, was Padre Davis, turning his head to right, to left, watching where they fell.
When enough had fallen he turned and ran back to the brick wall of the chateau in Le Quesnel and led out the bandsmen, who acted as stretcher-bearers in battle.
Leading them, pointing to where the boys had fallen, a shell struck at his feet.
And from his top left-hand breast pocket, the one the little purple and white ribbon was over, as we laid him number one in the long grave with Lieut. John McDonald and twelve men of the regiment, in Le Quesnel Catholic cemetery, though they were all Protestants, we took that same order, at the bottom of which the padre had written in pencil:
Like an answer to prayer Canada is hauling in its greatest catch in history, packing it all for Britain and starving Europe…
By Gregory Clark, October 17, 1942.
Captain Joe Katnich is 40. He is master and owner of the 63-foot fishing boat Westview, home port, Vancouver. In 10 days, Captain Joe and his six chosen crew netted 50,000 sockeye salmon averaging seven pounds apiece, in this greatest salmon run, this most miraculous salmon run, in Canada’s history.
Captain Joe owns the boat, but, for the salmon season, charters it to the big canning company which takes his fish, so as to put himself and his crew on the old-established co-operative basis with the cannery.
The catch is divided into 11 shares. That is tradition. To the boat, 2 1/2 shares. To the net, a vast, complicated seine, 1 1/2 shares, making 4 shares. The remaining 7 shares are divided equally among the seven aboard, master and six of crew.
50,000 fish at 6 1/2 lbs.
325,000 lbs. at 13 1/2 cents.
$43,875 or, with “scrap fish” added, $44,000. Each share, $4,000.
For 10 days’ work, each of the crew gets $4,000. The net belongs to Captain Joe, so he gets another 1 1/2 shares, or $6,000 more.
For 10 days work, in this miracle subterranean blizzard of precious sockeye storming up from the Pacific, Captain Joe gets $10,000.
From the 2 1/2 shares belonging to the boat, he gets a rebate, for chartering it to the company, of another three or four thousand.
High Man of the Run
For 10 days, then, of this incredible gift of the sea to us poor, food-rationed, anxious and bedevilled humanity, Captain Joe Katnich is somewhere near $15,000 richer; his crew of six, plain, strong, brave men of the sea, Slavs, Swedes, Natives, walk up the catwalk to the cannery offices and draw a yellow cheque each for $4,000. And, in the day and night humming cannery, vast and white by the teeming. stupendously generous, life-giving river, by the action of these seven men from the 325,000 pounds of fish they caught, stream out more than half a million cans of salmon, one pound, half pound and quarter pound.
To go to Britain! To go into food reserves on our coast, and in Britain. Food reserves for a starving Europe. One of the mightiest weapons of war. The promise to France, Belgium, Holland, Russia – them all.
“But,” said Captain Joe with one of those permanent Slav grins, “don’t think I’m rich. When the government gets through with that $15,000 – poof! – taxes!”
“Where do you come from, captain?”
“1925. I take one look. I made a couple hundred. I go right back and get my wife and baby.”
“Did you learn fishing here on the Pacific coast?”
“No, SIR! My family have fished the Adriatic since olden time; since the Romans.”
“You glad to be a Canadian!”
“Ohoho yes!!! Who isn’t? And it was not hard to be. In 1930, five years here, the company (packing company) think I am safe man, so they choose me for master of one of their boats. In 1936, I got enough money to buy my own boat. This is her. The Westview – 63-foot. The best.”
And best she is. For, unless the incomparable storm of salmon runs far longer than any one dreams, Captain Joe Katnich is high man of the great 1942 run, with his 50,000 big fish.
The Canneries Glutted
There were any number of other boats that made over 30,000 fish catches, some over 40,000. A few boats landed square into the middle of the run, even though it had passed up the gulf past the hordes of State of Washington seiners, and made one-day hauls of 12,000 fish. One captain got 15,000, had his boat filled to the point of sinking and then threw his seine again and filled it and had to wait until the “packer,” the company boat that comes around and takes some of the fish off the seiners, arrived. He had nearly 3,000 corralled in that net, overflow.
Of course, it is silly to try to depict this great miracle of the fishes in terms of one boat, one master, a few men.
Over 45,000,000 pounds of sockeye salmon were caught in this one swift run of only a few days. The canneries of the B.C. coast were glutted. Day after day the government had to order “cease fishing” to the seiners so that the fish would not be wasted, so terrific was the catch and so hopelessly swamped were the canneries.
All this miracle came following the dedication of the whole catch to Britain. Was it a miracle? Was it answer to a prayer? And what these Canadians have done, the Americans have done equally, in the lower American waters through which the mighty Fraser salmon run has to pass.
Well, to a stranger like myself, this spectacle at the Fraser’s mighty mouth looked more like some Wagnerian regatta of the gods than a mere industrial scene. When we speak of the large seiners like Captain Joe Katnich’s, it is nothing. There are only 100 of them. When we speak of the gill netters, in their little 30 and 40-footers, who do not go out in the treacherous gulf but labor in the more or less sheltered mouth of the Fraser, it is nothing: although there are literally hundreds of them.
They’re “Dollar Fish”
There were rowboats in this miracle. Little one-man dories. As we cruised with camera up and down the miles of river mouth in a speed boat, we saw and talked to kids, two in a boat, with a gill net 100 feet long, which they laid out over the stern of their skiff, who had got 160 salmon yesterday and had 60 more, at noon, as we passed; and they, like kids, hauling in their net into the silly little boat, with the high waves running, and taking the big seven-pound sockeyes out of the meshes and the 10 and 15-pound chums and an odd cohoe (“scraps,” says the cannery man, not meaning any insult to the fish) and one loner, a shy lad of about 20, toiling alone with a big net over the stern of a rowboat I wouldn’t go out on Toronto bay with! The sea running, the crazy little craft bouncing and rearing, with 20 sockeyes all over the floor of her, sliding; and 60 the day before.
At a dollar a fish. “Dollar fish is what they were called along the coast; although, at an average of 6 1/2 pounds, they came to 80 some cents.
“There goes a dollar,” yelled one gill netter indignantly, as our speedboat hove near and he, in paying attention to us, allowed one writhing, sea-bred seven-pounder to struggle out of his grasp from the net and back into the sea.
That sockeye, released from the mysterious net and from the hands of man, put on an incredible performance. In a vast arc, three hundred yards, at intervals of about 20 yards, it leaped along the surface, in terrific muscular leaps of 20 feet, a living torpedo, plunging, careering madly over the surface, either in terror or ecstasy; until it finally went deeper and leaped no more.
The seiners, the big boats, left at 4 a.m. from the Fraser and went as far out and down the Gulf of Georgia as they needed to meet the incoming miracle. Early in the run they went far down, near where the Americans were making their first, their choice skimming of the mighty crop. As the 10-15 day stampede drew northward to the great Fraser, home of them all, the seiners backed up, day by day. The seiners go forth in as much of a flotilla as they can, because the channels and the tides which the sockeye ride are well known to the captains, and the best captains are watched narrowly by all the rest of the flotilla.
Overside goes the dory: grabs a rope attached to the outer end of the piled seine net, with its thick corks to float it, and its big fat lead weights to sink it. And its brass rings, big around as a tea plate, to purse it when the fish are in the bag.
Past the American seiners, far more numerous, has come the silver tide. Past the seiners out of the Fraser it surges. And then the gill netters get their chance.
Besides several days of the run on which the government called a closure by reason of the glutted canneries, Saturdays and Sundays are also closed. This lets a share of the sockeye get safely past the perils of man and up into the Fraser to go through Hell’s Gate and hundreds of miles up into the rivers and lakes where they spawn and make their promise of another record run four years from now.
The gill netters are the little people of the miracle. But they have the most fun. The average gill-net boat is a chunky little craft of 32 feet, with a small cabin forward, a round drum amidships for helping haul in the net and a sort of slide or pulley at the stern over which the 150-fathom – or 300 yards long – net, with its floats and sinkers, comes, hand fed, but engine-drum hauled.
You will see little boats like them all over the waterfront of the world, in Muskoka, on the St. Lawrence, even up on the lumberjack lakes.
The reason we pick the Geddes boat, which is only a 28-footer, is because Mr. and Mrs. Lawrie Geddes were the captain and crew, man and wife, and mighty pleasant young people, too. Geddes and his wife come over to the Fraser mouth, 15 miles from Vancouver, for six months of the year. Then tie up their boat and come home to Vancouver for the other six months, where he works in the shipyards.
How the Gill Netters Work
We came alongside and talked to them, all bobbing up and down on the windblown Fraser fresh off the gulf. They had 165 fish in the boat at the moment. No. 167, because there were two threshing about in the net, half up over the stern, right where Mrs. Geddes had slipped the clutch as we hove alongside. Yesterday they took 300.
Mrs. Geddes was about 27. Lawrie Geddes about 30 or 32. Six of the spring, summer and autumn months, they fish together for a living, with gill nets, as now, in the great sockeye run; with plain trolling when the huge spring salmon or tyee are on the move, 20 to 80-pounders. They have a happy and amusing life. When we took our picture of them. Mrs. Geddes said, “Goodness, I haven’t even had a chance to redd the place up.” The place being this little boat which, with its cabin, is their home for months of every year.
Nothing like this 1942 sockeye run of the dollar fish have the Geddeses ever seen; for it was 1913 when the last great sockeye run was recorded. They make enough, in ordinary seasons, to keep them happy and paid for their time. This year, they will probably pay off all the family debt.
They feed out their net both day and night. Picking a clear spot in the crowded river, they start feeding their gill net, 900 feet long, over the stern. Mrs. Geddes lets the engine slowly pull ahead while her husband feeds its neatly folded length over the roller at the stern. Once they get a few yards of it out, it is easy to feed the rest off. They may lay it straight out, in a line; or curve it; or make a letter S of it. For this net does not enclose the salmon. The salmon, running this and that up the river, now fresh water, hit the net, shove their heads through, are caught by their shoulders. And if they try to back up, are trapped by the gills.
On the end of their net is a small wooden buoy with a bright cloth flag on it. At night, they put a lantern on it. This to warn the fishermen not to foul their net, although most of the fishing boats have a guard or skeg around their propellers, so they can ride right over a net. And if they do, okay, for sooner or later, in a madhouse like this, somebody is going to run over somebody else’s net,
The net is fed out to its full length. With its corks holding its top edge up and the weights holding its lower edge down, there it rides, 12 feet deep in the river.
Some of the gill netters leave it only half an hour. Others leave it two or three hours and have a nap in the little cabin of their craft, or eat a meal. It is all a matter hunch.
Just When They’re Needed
Of the little rowboats and skiffs we were able to get little information beyond the number of their catch which they could shout to us, because we dared not run to close in on them, due to the rough sea in the river mouth. They were all being run by boys, some of them appearing to be under 18.
They did not bring their catch into the big canneries, and we were unable to locate them along the shore. But they were having the most fun of all, their feet braced on the gunwales, as the crazy little craft bucked and leaped. If they got as much each day of the run as they had when we passed, they would make several hundred dollars; their license costs them a dollar; and their net, new, $300 from the company; or a second year net, $150. One young fellow in the Western Leckie Co. which makes nets, took his holidays in the upswing of the run, bought a fishing boat for $350, got a net for $150, caught $900 worth of fish, sold the boat for $450, and came back to work much refreshed by his vacation. And besides, he will sell nets much more efficiently from now on!
It would be nice to take another couple of pages of The Star Weekly to tell the why and wherefore of this miracle of the salmon run of 1942. For there is a why and wherefore. Twenty years ago, the salmon industry in B.C. was a $20,000,000 producer. Ten year ago, it had fallen to a mere $3,000,000. The scientists and the business men got busy. They are finding out new things about salmon every year. Why, when they dwindled to the vanishing point, this colossal resurgence of the sockeye in 1942, this year of crisis and of need?
Well, maybe the editors will let Norman James, the photographer, and me go rampaging around, at their expense, to view more miracles. This is a miracle at Hell’s Gate, on the Fraser. There, 130 miles up from the mouth, these billions of sockeye have to negotiate a terrible door. Some years it is closed. Some years it is open. Sometimes, the day, the week it is open the sockeye are not there. They are miles away, hundreds of miles, at sea. Or strewn downstream dead, from having assailed Hell’s Gate a week too soon, or too late. Then, one year, they arrive and find it open. And they are in plenty. And they go through. And then the miracle blooms. For down, the next year, come their billions of babies. And on the fourth year, return again in the marching myriads.
Then we get the miracle, like 1942.
And in 1942, it is miracles we need.
Editor’s Notes: This story was published in the middle of World War Two.
A seiner is a boat that fishes with a seine, a large net with sinkers on one edge and floats on the other that hangs vertically in the water and is used to enclose and catch fish when its ends are pulled together or are drawn ashore.
The Lot of the Radio Man at the Big Games is No Bed of Roses
A radio announcer’s job is no bed of roses, particularly in the sporting line. To most people it gives the impression of the luck some fellows have of being able to attend so many games and then to have the best seat in the house for the occasion. It sounds easy but as a matter of fact it’s hard work.
A sporting announcer, has a life similar to an actor on the stage. No matter whether he feels under the weather or not he has to suddenly “come to life” and take part in the game Itself whether the stock market goes up or down or it rains or shines. Sports broadcasts are handed in the same way as any other kind from a technical standpoint. Remote control equipment consisting of a two-stage amplifier and telephone equipment is located at the field near the announcer; the stadium or arena is hooked up with the radio station by special telephone wires. At the station the lines run through a speech input amplifier and then direct into the transmitter where it is broadcast to all those within range of the station. A radio operator is required at either end and telephone men are ready for any emergency.
Out of town pick-ups such as rugby games from Kingston and Montreal are handled in a similar manner only long distance lines are held open and more telephone men are used to make sure there is no hitch in the broadcast.
The main point in broadcasting sport is to keep up with the play. Detail is essential and listeners-in are just as interested in knowing about the crowd and their actions as they are in the actual description of the game. An odd joke or two helps to keep the listener in a good mood, but a little of it goes a long way.
Toronto’s First Sport Broadcast
Sports broadcasts for CFCA date back to March, 1923, when the first hockey game was broadcast from the Mutual street arena. The main difficulty encountered in this respect was to keep the cheers of the crowd subdued in such a way as to make the announcer’s voice clear and above the hullaballoos of an exciting game. It was agreed that a closed-in box was the solution, but the main problem was the size. First of all the box had to be on the rail so that the players could be easily identified. Then A.B. (Andy) Taylor, the rink manager, had to be considered. He raised the point that the box couldn’t be of any height as it would interfere with the spectators’ view. Another point was that the seats were practically all sold and only the space for three seats could be spared. Out of all these conditions CFCA’s first “coup” was built. It was 3 ½ x 4 feet and 4 feet high. It had glass on three sides with a heavy wire netting to protect the glass. A stool with legs six inches in height was placed inside and the stage was all set. The first broadcast nearly ended in disaster. When I did finally get in and closed the door all the air was cut off. In a few minutes my head started to go round. The heat of my breath blurred the glass and obscured the view. The game was between Kitchener and Parkdale and went 30 minutes overtime before Kitchener finally scored the winning goal.
The spectators in the rail seats, although warned before the game to keep their seats, leaned over the sides in such a way as to cut off any view of the players in the corner of the rink. The broadcast was completed with the microphone set out on the edge of the rail where the play could be followed. The cabinet was used many times after that but several holes were cut in the box to give the announcer an even chance to breathe.
In April 1923, the final game between the Granites of Toronto and Hamilton Tigers was broadcast from the rink in Hamilton. In those early days radio equipment was very crude. Instead of the complete remote control equipment of to-day only the ordinary telephone transmitter was used with the receiver off the hook dangling by your side. I was stationed on the players’ bench along the boards of the rink. During the intermission between the second and third periods we started to give the summary. Hamilton is one of the best sporting towns in the world and nobody denies it, but there were many there that night that wanted to tell the world about how good Hamilton was and to even more strongly stress how unimportant Toronto was. The barrage increased in intensity when a few loyal Toronto supporters started to talk back. Pandemonium reigned. To get away from all this turmoil I placed the telephone underneath the benches, crawled under and completed the preliminary story. The last period was hectic. Granites started off with a lead of two goals obtained in the first two periods and were trying to nurse their hard-earned lead. The Tigers, urged on by the frantic Hamilton rooters were in a frenzy. After ten minutes of play Tigers scored their first goal. Spurred on by this success they scored another two minutes later, tying the score. Alex Romeril, one of the Granite players, who was sitting on the Granite bench beside me, in his excitement picked up the dangling receiver and smashed it on the boards. That meant that while I could still go on talking I couldn’t hear whether it was going out or not. In the last five minutes a heavy mist came off the ice and the players disappeared from view every few minutes. The game ended in a tie score but as Granites had a lead from the first game played in Toronto they won the title. It sure was a struggle.
Girls Out-Talk Announcer
During the Varsity Grads-Port Arthur Allan Cup finals at the Arena two girls were seated beside the broadcasting booth. If there ever was a talkative pair they were “it.” They yelled and screamed for Port Arthur from start to finish. In desperation I made the mistake of asking them to be a little more conservative in their words of encouragement. It was just like throwing a match into a can of gasoline. They shouted even louder than before and capped it all by draping themselves in front of the box so that it made it well nigh impossible to see all of the play. A radio fan in some remote part of Saskatchewan wrote me and repeated a number of the things he had heard the girls say. If nothing else the two girls added lots of the so-called “local color” to the broadcast.
If there ever was a battle royal it was the eastern junior hockey final between North Bay Trappers and Kingston. North Bay led going into the third period 3 to 1 and looked like easy winners. Suddenly Kingston took a new lease of life and encouraged by the tremendous bellows of encouragement from Captain James T. Sutherland, which, by the way, cut into the microphone like a knife, the Limestone City sextet tied the score. In the next thirty minutes of overtime the packed arena went mad. Many frenzied North Bay fans in their eagerness to see the play scrambled on top of the broadcasting box and nearly upset the works. As fast as I would turn them away others climbed aboard so that over the radio it sounded like a broadcast of the thundering herd in full gallop. After that broadcast the booth was nailed down.
For our broadcasts of hockey games to-day a large platform is located under the rafters on the west side of the rink in line with the penalty time-keepers. While it is a considerable distance from the players all the corners of the ice are visible and there is plenty of fresh air as the broadcast is conducted in the open. At this height the roar of the crowd serves as good background but is not loud enough to affect the announcements.
At Opening of Detroit Olympia
I had the honor of broadcasting the first professional hockey game for WGHP Detroit on the occasion of the opening of the new Olympia rink last year. The Olympia is very similar to Madison Square Garden and is just about the same size.
Ottawa and Detroit were the two teams and the rink was packed with 18,000 excited fans. A university band of 150 pieces supplied the music and the tremendous double-decked structure was covered with flags. It was a wonderful sight and thrilled one to the core.
The remote control equipment, which took over a day to install, took up a section the size of a box at the Toronto Arena.
The microphone was placed on a pedestal right by the boards and I had to stand in plain view of everyone and at least 500 people in the rink could hear practically everything I said as the crowd was all around me. It was like delivering an address to the multitude, both seen and unseen.
Before the game the band paraded all over the ice and the thousands stood up and cheered. Just before the game the band played the two national anthems and then they were away.
The crowd readily took to the “fastest game in the world” and entered into the hockey match with as much pep and noise as they do for a world series baseball game. Ottawa won the game 3 to 2, but it was tied with five minutes to go so that the result was always in doubt.
Rugby is another sport governed by the elements which help to “put over” a broadcast.
It was two years ago and Varsity were scheduled to play Queens at Richardson stadium in Kingston. Varsity had to beat Queens to win the Intercollegiate title. The roof at Richardson stadium was never built as a point of vantage for a broadcaster; the roof slopes towards the ground on an angle of 35 degrees. The authorities believing that no one would ever be crazy enough to go up on top, had built only an iron ladder running up the outside of one of the corner towers.
As all rugby games should be seen from a height we decided that the root was to be our location. All the equipment had to be carried up this ladder, then on to a slippery tin roof and then held in place so it wouldn’t slide off. It was a drop of over 50 feet and when looking down and juggling a heavy battery at the same time it was no wonder that the equipment was not in place before one o’clock after two and a half hours of the trickiest work imaginable. Once up we hadn’t nerve enough to come down.
Luckily one of the operators had brought a lot of extra wire, so they put it around my neck and under my arms and lowered me to the edge of the roof. I put a soap box in front of me, placed the microphone on it, braced my feet on the flagpole and the eavestroughing and tried to make myself at home.
The game was so interesting that at times I would find myself just about hanging over the edge, but a short sharp tug on the wire and warning shout from above reminded me where I was. During the last period it started to rain. The bitter cold wind from the lake then changed it to hail and by the end of the game my clothes were frozen to the roof. I went to move and I was stuck fast. A none too gentle yank at the wire from above at the most inopportune time freed most of me with the exception of a certain amount of coat and I was dragged to the top. Queens won the game 3 to 1 and brought about the first three-cornered tie in the history of the Intercollegiate series.
Describing Rugby from Snowbank
The following week we ventured to Montreal for the first of the play-offs. All night going down on the train the snow fell so that when Montreal was reached it was a typical northern scene. On visiting Molson stadium, the McGill field, in the morning, there was more than two feet of heavy snow on the ground. Things looked hopeless for rugby. The Varsity team had failed to bring their snowshoes and were plainly worried. McGill had prayed for a dry field for their fleet half-backs and this was the answer.
At 12 o’clock the sun came out and the snow stopped and the scrapers were brought on the field. For over two hours the men worked until the field was fairly well cleared. Huge snowbanks were at 30-foot intervals when the two teams took the field. The stands were jammed to overflowing and the McGill students were noisily confident.
As all the stands were open we put up our equipment along the touchline close to the 50 yard line. We had a long table with the radio equipment placed on it and I was sitting in a four-foot snowbank all set to go. Just as the game was to start a touchline official called to the referee and pointed to us. He promptly held up the game, came over where we were and ordered us off the field, claiming that some player might injure himself against the table. Things looked black. We moved back to the cinder track but that wouldn’t satisfy the officials, so we finally ended up in front of the McGill team’s bench. The sub players did everything but throw us out, but we stuck to our post and grinned and bore the abuse punctuated with snowballs from the McGill spares.
The game was wonderful. Varsity had McGill backed up on their own line three times before the Blue team was able to break the gallant red line for a touchdown; Stollery, the star U. of T. plunger, doing the trick in the last period. Up until then the game had been tied 2-2 with the battle see-sawing every few minutes. The Varsity supporters were wild with joy. The McGill team became desperate. On their own 30-yard line they attempted an onside kick. The kick was blocked and a Varsity player dribbled it over the McGill line and fell on it for a touchdown. There was no holding the Toronto supporters then. With a minute to go they rushed along the touchline in front of us, raving like a lot of maniacs.
I stood on the table, then climbed on a chair on the table to see over their heads, but it was hopeless. The whistle blew and the surge of the crowd carried both the chair and myself off the table. It was a wild stampede. But the equipment was unscathed. The next thing was to get Warren Snyder, the Toronto captain, to say a few words over CFCA. I rushed out in the centre of the field where a large mob had “chaired” Snyder. First I yelled, but it was no use. I tried to push the crowd the right way but this failed. In desperation I kicked one of the roofers on the shins and yelled “McGill” and then ran, but they didn’t chase me. l finally grabbed Coach Ronnie MacPherson and yelled “radio” in his ear. Instantly the word through the mob and I had to use what little speed I had to beat the crowd to the microphone. When I got back to the equipment I was out breath. Both Ronnie MacPherson and Warren Snyder said a few words to the radio fans and the broadcast was over. It took me over two hours after the game to take the mud off my clothes to make myself presentable to go to the hotel. On every step my feet would sink at least three inches into the ground. With all our work completed we just made the 11 o’clock train as it was pulling out of Windsor station. We got aboard while she was pulling out. This ended a hectic day in Montreal which started at 7 a.m.
Too Cold and Stiff to Stand
The final game at Toronto with Queen’s and U. of T. was another fine game with Varsity trimming the tricolor 8 to 0 for the college title. The blue supporters rushed on the field and hundreds joined in the snake dance. In all the excitement my new hat blew off and it lit in the midst of the wild-eyed throng. I’d like to gamble anything that every soul in that stadium walked all over it and knocked it further into the mud. After the crowd had gone we sent out a search party for the missing hat, but it was lost but not forgotten. My other hat had been crushed in the McGill mud the previous Saturday, but I had rescued it on its third time down.
The Ottawa-Varsity Dominion final was cruel. It was played at Varsity stadium on one of the coldest days of the year. A terrific gale blew from the north cutting right through everything. Expecting to be cold I wore an aviator’s helmet, two sweaters, a heavy coat and a pair of over shoes. I would have been just as warm with a pair of pyjamas. There was no holding that wind. It went through me in the first five minutes so that my jaw wouldn’t function. Some kind soul had set up two oil stoves right beside us, but the wind was so strong that it carried the heat right away. All it did for me was to burn my hand when I got excited when both teams were rushing after one of the many loose balls during the game. At the conclusion of the game I was positively frozen. I felt like Vierkoetter looked when he was taken out of the water this year in the Wrigley swim, and he looked terrible. I couldn’t move. I was as still as a poker. One of the operators who must have run over ten miles on the roof during the game to keep the blood circulating, punched me, rolled me over like a bag of potatoes and generally knocked me about for ten minutes before I could stand on my feet. I sat in the ticket office for over an hour beside a hot fire before I had thawed out sufficiently to go home. For the past ten weeks of the rugby season I had taken turns at getting soaked one Saturday and frozen the next, but had no ill effects afterwards. The following Saturday I went to a theatre and got a cold that kept me in bed for three days. Such is life!
Leadley’s Mustache Grew Rapidly
Last year’s Dominion final between Hamilton Tigers and Balmy Beach was another thriller.
As is the custom, all our equipment was set and ready by 1.30 p.m. At 1.45 the heavens cut loose with enough rain to drown us. As there is no shelter on the roof of the Varsity stadium we had to lie down and take it and try to imagine it was Saturday night. When everyone was really soaked the sun had the nerve to come out for few moments. The field was nothing but mud when the ball was kicked off. Balmy Beach stepped right into Tigers and before the much touted yellow and black clan had settled down the Beachers had gained a winning lead. During the game I moved from one puddle to another but each and every one was the same. I was the human sponge that day. I never realized before that I could “take in” so much water.
As all rugby fans know, the tricky “Pep” Leadfey has a Charlie Chaplin moustache. Oa catching one of Foster’s high punts he set sail for the Beaches line. Two of the purple and gold’s outsides hit Leadley coming and going and all three disappeared from view in the mud. When Leadley came up for air his moustache had grown one hundred per cent. He had a cake of mud under his nose that must have weighed two pounds. Exhausted as were the battling players several of them were seen to have a real laugh at Leadley’s expense. “Red” Moore, and all that the same implies, had his hair a purple shade after being doused in the slimy mud. Several of the players, after being tackled, did the breast stroke or Australian crawl before they realized they were playing rugby and not a contestant in one of the Wrigley swims.
At Maple Leaf Stadium
For baseball we are located on the roof back of the home plate where the play can be watched very closely. The main worry from the announcer’s standpoint is ducking fly balls. During the course of a game two or three fouls generally come too close to be comfortable. On one occasion a foul tip came up so fast that I didn’t have time to duck it. I stuck my hand out to protect the microphone and it hit me square on the wrist. As a result I couldn’t move my hand for two or three days after.
Of the boxing bouts handled by CFCA the Rocco-Gold flyweight battle was a standout. The two mighty atoms banged away at each other for the entire ten rounds. We were located close to Rocco’s corner at the side of the ring and in the intermission between rounds we would get some of the water meant for the battlers.
One of the chief difficulties of an announcer is to get a location from which to describe the event. For the Joe Wright reception the event was handled from on top of a ten-foot ladder at the back of the stage at Sunnyside. For the. Prince of Wales reception we were located on the alcove above the steps of the city hall. For the Granites Olympic hockey champions of 1924 welcome we were right in the throng on the platform at the city hall.
CFCA, as in hockey and rugby, was the first station to broadcast horse races direct from the track during the last four years of the Ontario Jockey Club’s meetings at Woodbine Park. These broadcasts have been graphically given by W. A. Hewitt, sporting editor of The Star. The microphone has been located in the back of the main stand directly in line with the finishing point. Race broadcasts due to the ever changing of positions and the bunching of horses is exceedingly difficult to handle. Even with powerful glasses the horses are hard to identity as they speed around the big mile track and must be “called” by an expert.
The second and third Wrigley marathon swims in Lake Ontario off the Toronto Exhibition grounds were the longest continuous broadcasts in Canada and probably in the world.
Last year for the second Wrigley swim we were located on top of the captain’s cabin of the S.S. Macassa, which was recently lost in Georgian bay with twenty lives. We cruised from 8 in the morning until 8.45 at night until the German swimmer, Ernst Vierkoetter, crossed the finishing line victor after the 21-mile grind. The day was long and tedious. The boat was too large to be handled and the two hundred press representatives aboard had a hard time making “copy” as the boat “parked” in one spot for hours at a time despite the repeated requests of those aboard to move on.
During the course of the day our boat took on over 30 swimmers that were forced out of the race owing to the cold water.
At 8.30 after Vierkoetter crossed the finishing line every whistle available was blown, the thousands on the shore cheered and the tremendous volume of sound stopped the short wave transmitter on the boat from oscillating. At the time I didn’t know that the transmitter was off and I must have talked for over 15 minutes to myself without my voice going out on the air. I got the actual finish on the air, however, and I suppose that was the big thing.
This year’s Wrigley and consolation swims were handled perfectly by the engineering staffs of all the Toronto stations. It was the wonderful co-operation of the local radio stations that made the swim broadcasts the success they were.
A low power short wave transmitter was placed in one of the cabins of Herbert Hatch’s yacht, the Toddy. Batteries were used in place of a generator and the transmission from the boat was clean-cut. At the Press building a short wave receiver picked up the broadcast from the boat and sent the announcements to the loudspeakers on the shore and over land lines to all the Toronto stations. There was not a hitch in the transmission at any time.
I think the worst experience on the boat was to hear your own voice come back at you from the loudspeakers on shore. No matter where we went out in the lake the voice would simply haunt you. During the dark hours that we fol. lowed Georges Michel, the French swimmer, out on the outer course, the voice could be heard coming back to me about four seconds after I had spoken into the microphone, and we were at least a mile out in the lake.
During that long night vigil in the pitch dark, with a cold wind blowing right through us, only snatches of the swimmer could be seen. It was like a dream. The multi-colored fireworks at the Exhibition made a weird sight out in the lake. A flash would show two or three power boats almost touching one another. Another flash and the tricolor of France would show up at the bow of Michel’s boat. The next minute our boat would scrape alongside an unknown craft. To add to the creepy feeling shouts would pass from one boat to another and on the still waters would echo and re-echo. Above all the noise on the lake, the screams and shouts of happy persons could be heard coming from the Midway. Without any warning somebody out in the darkness started to sing the “Marseillaise”; it was picked up from boat to boat until half a hundred were singing at the top of their voices in a different time and an unknown key. It was a case of every man for himself.
Fan Letters Greatly Appreciated
At 10.15 when Michel reached the last outside buoy someone shouted “he is out.” The twenty or more boats that had drifted practically as one suddenly put on a burst of speed to get a real view of the gallant swimmer coming out of the water. It was like a traffic light turning green. Our boat due to its quick pick-up and ably pushed by two or three others trying to beat us to it, was right beside the scene in no time. Suddenly the flares went up for the “movie” men and it was as bright as day. Every one blinked and it was hard to see anything after being used to the dark. Michel was all in when taken out of the water by four sturdy lifesavers, and was rushed to the hospital. With the race completed the boats threw caution to the winds and raced each other to the shore.
One of the most interesting sights during the swim was when the various swimmers were taken out of the water. In every case a heavy rope was put over the swimmer’s neck and under his arms and he was held by one of the lifesavers until help arrived. In Vierkoetter’s case it took five men five minutes to haul him over the side of the life-saving launch. Each time they got him at the edge of the boat he would slip back into the water, due to the heavy coating of grease and the dead weight. He was as stiff as a poker and had a glassy stare in his eyes as if he was dead. Most of the other cases were the same, but Vierkoetter was the hardest man to haul into the boat.
In the consolation swim broadcast we took George Young aboard to say a few words over the radio. In helping him on the boat Mr. A. P. Howells was covered with grease from head to foot and looked like a marathon swimmer. George seemed to enjoy getting grease on us as when he spoke into the mike he kept bumping into me until I looked like another contender in the swim.
In CFCA’s sports broadcasts for over five years we have received a great many letters from fans all over America. All the letters are greatly appreciated, but the biggest “kick” of all is to hear from places such as Christie Street Hospital, Hamilton, Gravenhurst and Weston Sanatoriums, patients in hospitals and from persons who are bedridden or have lost their sight. Radio has been a godsend to them and for the announcer to hear that he has brought a little ray of sunshine into these homes and institutions it gives a thrill that cannot be described in print.
There’s a big gang down at “Mike’s” place at Oshawa that attend the various sports via CFCA.
In Little Current a party of ten men close up shop every time a baseball game is put on the air. The fans up north crave hockey and around St. Catharines the boxing fans hold sway.
It is a wonderful listening public and all are good sports.
To be able to “see” the games for good Canadian sports on the radio is not work but a pleasure.
“Nothing,” I said. “I can’t seem to get going since that article by Charles.”
“That was only meant in fun,” said the editor
“It may be, but I’ve had to shave off my moustache, borrow $500 to pay a lot of debts, answer a lot of letters and generally clean up. I haven’t had time to do any work.”
“Why,” asked the editor, “not take your revenge?”
“Charles is bigger than me.”
“I mean,” said the editor, “take your revenge by writing one about Charles. Revenge is sweet.”
“He wouldn’t stand for it,” said I. “He’s funny that way.”
The editor and I leaned out and looked through the door at Charles. He was sitting at his desk, close up to it, his back very straight. Charles looks at everything with the same expression. You can’t tell whether the thing he is reading is a cheque from his brokers or vice versa. He even reads his own stories with perfect emotional control. In all the time he has been with us he has never been known to stop the rest of the office working while he read aloud a few choice sentences.
“Not a very promising looking prospect,” said I.
“Every man is vain,” the editor mused. “Charles is probably no different. Go at him by stealth. Don’t let on you are going to interview him. But if he suspects anything his vanity may overcome his suspicions.”
“Yeah, but,” said I, “what will I interview him on? He hasn’t got any weaknesses, therefore you can’t describe his character.”
“Eh?’ said the editor.
“And he hasn’t got any hobbies, so you can’t make fun of him.”
“Don’t be bitter,” the editor said.
“He’s one of those cold-minded men that nobody could interview but himself. You know the kind of people Charles interviews? I’d sooner go out and interview Scarborough Bluffs.”
“You are afraid of Charles,”
“Say, listen …”
I got up and walked out to Charles. He was reading something. It looked like the annual report of a bank or something.
“Good morning, Greg,” he replied, looking up politely.
“Say, Charles, you ought to have some kind of sport. You ought to fish or shoot or something.”
“Why? Don’t I look well?”
“Yes, you look all right. But I don’t like to see a man who hasn’t any hobby.”
“I have. I play golf.”
No Angle of Approach
“Gosh. It’s the first I ever heard of it. I never heard you even speak of golf.”
“Why should I?”
“Well, what I mean to say … a fellow might … what I mean to say, you hear me mention fishing now and then.”
“Your fishing wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t hear about it,” said Charles.
The trouble with interviews is you are liable to get into arguments.
“We’ll let that pass,” I said. “How about your golf? What’s your handicap?”
“It’s a delicate subject,” replied Charles.
“Sure, but I’m interested, Charles. Just as a friend, you understand? This is very interesting about you. Suddenly coming across a thing like that. Tell me something about it.”
“What shall I tell you?”
“Well, for instance, about golf. Which is your favorite golf stick?”
Charles has an inscrutable way of gazing at you. He began to tap the paper he was reading ever so gently on his desk. Then a smile slowly spread all over his face. And he just looked at me and said nothing. Not a word.
“I’ve been decent with you,” I said. “I’ve told you all about fishing. You might tell me about golf. I’d like to hear about golf. Maybe I’d like to play it if it was a good game.”
Charles continued to smile.
“Ask some of the other boys,” said he. “Bill Orr or Deacon Johnson know far more about it than I do.”
“Oh, well,” said I.
I went back into what is generally called the editor’s sanctum.
“No luck,” I said. “Revenge may be sweet, but this is sour.”
“Well, you don’t expect to get an interview in three minutes, do you?”
“No,” I said. “But there isn’t any angle of approach. I tried to get him going on sport. He plays golf.”
“Certainly,” said the editor. “The way to Interview him is to go and play a game of golf with him.”
“I’d drop dead before I’d ever take a golf stick in my hand.”
“Take him to lunch then. That’s the way he interviews the big fellows. Lunch or a golf game.”
“Who? Henry Ford and Al Smith and all those fellows?”
“That’s the way he gets them,” said the editor. “They’re all human, after all.”
“Charles isn’t,” said I.
“Well, then, work him this way. Tell him you are going to interview somebody and ask him how he goes about it. It would make an interesting story. The public like to know how you go about interviewing these big men.”
“But,” said I, “I don’t want to play him up. I want to get my revenge on him. I want to describe his character.”
“Won’t that show when you tell how he gets the facts out of men like Hoover and Big Bill Thompson of Chicago?”
A Psychological Gunman
“I suppose I could make him out a sort of a gunman.”
“Sure,” said the editor. “A dandy heading, ‘Psychological Gunman.'”
“You would spoil it!”
“Don’t give up. Revenge is sweet,” the editor egged me on. “Get after him. You can pry him open.”
“With a brad awl. Like an oyster,” said I.
I walked out to Charles again. He had a pink slip in his hand. It looked like the second notice from the electric light company. But Charles was viewing it with the same composure with which he would regard a complimentary memo from the chief.
“Good morning again,” said he.
“I’ve got a big interview I’ve got to do. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind giving me some ideas about interviewing big men.”
“Are you kidding?” asked Charles.
“Certainly not. You’re the interview man. I never do interviews.”
“Then why not let me interview this fellow? Who is he?” asked Charles.
“No, the editor has asked me to get this interview and I couldn’t very well pass it up, could I? But tell me, what’s your method of approaching these big fellows?”
“Usually on foot,” Charles replied.
“But seriously, Charles. There is surely some technique about it. Do you write them first? Do you make appointments and so forth, and arrive in some ceremony?”
“Yes, I hire the town band and get a bunch of the boys to make a torchlight procession.”
“I wish you’d help me, Charles. I’ve often helped you. Remember the time I introduced you to the police sergeant?”
“Well, then, what do you want?”
“I want to know how you go about interviewing these nabobs, these moguls of finance and industry and politics.”
“All right,” said Charles. “You walk into the room. They ask you to sit down. They offer you a cigar. You don’t take it. You talk to them. They talk to you. You look at your watch. In twenty-five minutes your train is leaving. You apologize, rise, shake, hands and depart. That is an interview.”
“But what about technique?”
“It is all bunk.”
“How do you analyze them? How do you arrive at an estimate of their character?”
“No man reaches a high place in any work whose character has not been made manifest.”
“Then interviews are easy?”
“Easy as rolling off a log,” said Charles.
“I disagree with you.” I retorted, and walked back into the editor’s room.
“Well?” asked the editor.
“Bad,” said I. “Think of all the years Charles and I have been friends, working on the same jobs, sharing our toothbrushes and so forth, and now he turns to me the frozen face.”
“Maybe he is on to you. If Charles is nothing else he is shrewd.”
“I have been very guarded.”
The Art of Interviewing
“Well, do what he did to you, then,” said the editor. “Ask him all about his views on Canada as a nation and whether we should have a governor-general.”
“We couldn’t possibly print Charles’ views on that sort of thing.”
“That’s right. But didn’t you get anything out of him on the art of interviewing?”
“He said it was nothing.”
“We know better.”
“Yeah, but how can you describe the character of a man who says to you that the art of interviewing is all bunk?”
“Well,” said the editor quietly, “that’s kind of a character sketch in itself.”
“I don’t want to leave a good impression like that,” I said. “He’s got to get his.”
“Well,” said the editor, “he’s a worker. You know that. Make him out a regular steam engine for work. The public likes to think of other people working like the dickens. It explains the general failure.”
“Then I’ll make out that Charles is nothing but a toiler. A kind of robot. A mechanical man. That’s the stuff.”
“All right,” said the editor, “get him to tell you how he got on top of that stuff about the St. Lawrence waterways. There was a job.”
Once again I crossed the room to Charles
“Ah,” said he. “Welcome. You seem a little restless this morning.”
“Say, Charles, a fellow was asking me the other day how you got around all that material about the St. Lawrence waterways, how you went about it, and so forth. By golly, I couldn’t tell him. I wish you’d tell me some time the story of how you go about getting a grasp on subjects like that – technical and involved and complex.”
“It is work,” said Charles. “You wouldn’t understand that.”
“Charles, you are being nasty?”
“No, I am being careful.”
“Look here, Charles, you don’t suspect me of anything, do you?”
“Well, I mean to say, we’ve been friends long time. We’ve slept in the snow together and ridden in aeroplanes together and been summer bachelors together and all that sort of thing.”
“Granted,” said Charles.
“We’ve banged around all these years together in the unhappy business of amusing and entertaining the public, getting frozen in Elk Lake and attending functions that made us both sick, risking our lives and going hungry together …”
“You got the big half of that porcupine,” interrupted Charles. “But what are you driving at?”
“Well, then, Charles, why don’t you help me? I want you to tell me some things about you?”
“You asked me my object in life and I told you.”
“So you did.”
“Then will you tell me your object in life?”
“Yes. My object in life is to have a large bathroom with a fireplace in it.”
Well, what I mean to say, what can you do with a man like that!
Editor’s Notes: This is a story about Charles Vining, a fellow reporter at the Star Weekly. He was only at the Star Weekly for three years, with this year, 1928, as his last.
One thing the father of a first born infant must beware of is an alarm clock.
Those first few weeks when a young man is making the acquaintance of his first child are fraught with many difficulties. For one thing, he need expect no sympathy or understanding from anybody connected with his household. However enthusiastic he may be, everything he does will be wrong. But of all things in this dark, blundering and difficult time, let him put not his trust in alarm clocks.
A certain young man recently was presented with a large and lusty son. It might be said right at the start that from the moment of the arrival of this remarkable small son the poor young father entered on a career of unparalleled and unenlightened blunder.
The first thing he did was to rush down town and buy a beautiful blue enamel and gold locket, heart shaped.
This, with sundry gladioli, roses, zinnias, marigolds, candies, all-day suckers, rattles, dolls, horses, and teething rings, he bore triumphantly and proudly to the hospital.
Several female relations on both sides of the family, various nurses, hospital officials, and other people of the indignant sex were grouped around the sanctum where his new son lay.
Of course, they did not notice his approach. In fact, they had not been aware of his existence all day. They had told him of the arrival of his son merely as an afterthought.
The poor young man stood there, proud, smiling eagerly, yearning to be recognized as a party to this great event. The ladies were cooing and exclaiming, oblivious to his presence. So the father produced the blue locket on its chain, and advanced with an air of proprietorship to hang it about the neck of his son.
The cries of the multitude, when they beheld what he was about to do, filled the whole hospital. The young father was well nigh done to death by the infuriated ladies. A nurse threatened him with a chloroform pad.
It appears that heart-shaped lockets are for girls, and girls only. To present a boy with a locket is considered the most deadly of insults!
But who was to tell the young father that beforehand? Nobody! Nobody cared.
Now the young man is kept in fear and trembling by all his relations, who threaten to tell his wife all about it as soon as she is up and about. And he has hidden the locket, the horses, the candy bulls-eyes, and the teething rings in his desk at the office.
A book of hints to young fathers should certainly be written. The etiquette, for instance, of the drawing-room is a bagatelle to the etiquette of the nursery. When a father, beholding his first born son for the first time, sees him lying helplessly on his side, his little face pressed on the hard, flat mattress and crying fit to explode, nothing could be more natural for the father to do than to try to set the little fellow up on end and make interesting faces to amuse him. But it is astonishing the way every body will jump on him if he tries it.
Then again, they don’t feed a baby till it is two or three days old. Ordinary people may believe this is right. But you can’t expect a father to believe it, when he sees his child desperately trying to eat its own little hands.
This young man I speak of brought up a couple of egg sandwiches and a few arrowroot biscuits in his pocket the second day, intending to sneak them surreptitiously to his son. But the nurse caught him, and ejected him with violence from the room. They simply won’t trust you at all.
It is when the baby arrives home from hospital that the real trials begin, and young fathers should be warned of this period.
The last thing the nurse tells you at hospital is not to “spoil” the baby. If it cries, don’t pick it up. If you pick it up it will learn to cry until you do pick it up. Of course, if you think it has a pain you can pick it up for a moment–
In the case I speak of, the baby slept all day and all evening of its first day home. But at midnight it opened up. Naturally, it was in pain. Father, mother, and maternal grandmother All took turns till dawn in relieving its pain. The minute it was laid down it was in pain. The minute it was picked up and sung hymns to its pain departed.
After two nights of this, the father stated it was his opinion that the baby was not in pain, but was, in short, in danger of being spoiled.
In vain he quoted nurses. He might as well have been a murderer. What little respect for him was left in his family’s eyes was by this statement dissipated into thin air.
Now comes the alarm clock. This young man wound up his trusty, old alarm clock and set it for two o’clock in the morning, the baby’s halfway feeding time.
To the ladies of the household he said:
“Retire. I will keep watch. I will let him cry little, before lifting him, to see if he won’t stop of himself. And don’t worry about the time. I have set my alarm clock for two. I will get up and bring the baby in.”
This speech, delivered with a dignity and an air of authority, did much to restore the prestige he had lost in recent weeks.
Now, this is what happened. At two o’clock the baby was in his mother’s arms, and had been there for some hours. Maternal grandma was sitting rocking into the small hours. Father lay in the adjoining room sound asleep on his couch.
Suddenly the alarm clock bursts forth. It rings and rings. Even the baby’s cries are stilled by it.
Father moves drowsily. He reaches out and turns off the alarm, and with comfortable snuggle sinks again into profound slumber.
And in the other lighted room, grandma and mother and baby look significantly at each other, in silence.
To what greater depths of ignominy can that father fall? Betrayed by sleep and an alarm clock, he let his little son go hang! Go starve!
He will not hear the end of that. It matters not that the family all was and the baby warm and cuddled.
It to the spirit, not the performance, that counts, that cuts.
Editor’s Note: This is one of a number of stories Greg wrote about in the early 1920s about being a father.
Into the private office of the manager of a large wholesale establishment on Wellington street was admitted a middle-aged gentleman of refined appearance who told the information girl guarding the sanctum that he was an old friend of the manager.
The manager looked up as the visitor entered, stared at him with a look of puzzlement on his face, and smiled.
The visitor was smiling broadly.
“I have called,” he said, “to see if I could write you up for some insurance under a new plan my company offers men of your age.”
“Now, I’m pretty busy,” said the manager. Then, halting, he asked:
“Look here: I know your face well, but hanged if I can place you.”
Still smiling broadly, the visitor came closer to the manager’s desk. Laying his hat down, he snatched a newspaper off the desk, flicked it open, and, with a sudden movement, tucked it like an apron into his vest. Then, leaning both hands on the manager’s desk he leaned forward and said:
“What’s yours, sir?”
The effect was remarkable on the manager. He leaped to his feet and cried:
“Tim, you old scoundrel! Where have you been all these years?”
And the two set about shaking hands as if they were long-lost brothers.
But they were simply two old friends, a bartender and one of his pet customers, meeting for the first time after seven years of drought.
Tim was head bartender in the downtown bar regularly patronized by this business man for years. An intimacy had grown up between them such as few not habituated to drinking in bars can imagine. A formal intimacy like that between golfers and their old pro, or between a lady and her housekeeper of twenty years.
Making him seated and comfortable, the manager asked his old friend:
“What have you been doing?”
“Well,” said Tim, pulling on the cigar. “I have had some rough times. When the old establishment closed, in 1916, I had no plans, like all bartenders, and couldn’t believe it when the doors were really closed. The old boss offered me a job around the hotel as a sort of watchman. But I was deeply insulted. A soft drink bar was opened in the old bar, and I served exactly four days there, for some of the old boys came in, and to see the look on their faces as they drank a glass of pink pop was really more than I could bear. I felt fallen in the world. I felt unclassed. Without warning, for my kids were all grown up, I packed a valise and went over to the States. Not belonging to their union, I had a bad two years there. I was in several New York towns in succession, but getting further and further down in the mouth.
“When the States went dry, I hadn’t enough money to take me to Montreal, the last oasis. So I worked at odd jobs and darn near starved–“
“Poor old Tim,” stuck in the manager, with real sympathy.
“No, no. It was good for me,” said Tim. “While serving in a bar in Syracuse I made the acquaintance of an insurance man. Two years ago I met him on the street one day, and he gave me a job selling insurance.
“‘If a man who has listened to as many sad life stories as you can’t sell insurance,’ he said to me. ‘nobody can.'”
“So here I am looking up, one by one, all my old friends across the mahogany. Do you remember that sad story you told me one night–“
“Easy, Tim, easy!” implored the manager, a changed man after seven years.
“–about your fears for your poor family, and you feeling that your heart was in a delicate condition?”
“Tut, Tim I have a golf handicap of eight.”
At any rate, Tim drew forth, in the approved manner, his booklets and folders outlining in graphic style the proposition his company had to make to business men of fifty and over. And It was a good proposition, in spite of the sentimental appendages to the deal.
For Tim wrote his old friend policy for ten thousand.
Where are the four hundred and fifty bartenders who, up to seven years ago, were quenching Toronto’s thirst with beers, wines and liquors? Where are the skilful jugglers amongst them whom men traveled far to see, as they tossed a cocktail from glass to glass, a gleaming rainbow four feet long? Where are these repositories of the sad life stories of thousands of male citizens of this now happy city?
Their union is broken up. Thorough enquiries at the Toronto Labor Temple failed to discover Arthur O’Leary, former business agent of the Bartenders’ Union, in his heyday one of the most popular figures in the labor world.
Strange to relate, a good many of Toronto’s bartenders have stuck to bartending, even though the quality of the goods they sell is different.
In remnant of what used to be one of the longest bars in Toronto, now remodeled down to a mere fragment of its old glory, a bartender of twenty years’ experience admitted that he was too old to change his calling just because the law changed.
“Is there much difference between selling liquor and soft drinks?” he was asked.
“I feel,” he replied, “like a banker who has failed and has had to take up the grocery business for a livelihood. As a bartender, I was the friend and confidante of members of the business world, half the city hall staff knew me by name, city fathers took council with me, mayors have wept on my shoulder. In the old days, my customers were regular customers. But of that bunch–“
And he waved a contemptuous hand at a dozen people, mostly idle young men, lounging against the soda bar.
“–of that bunch I don’t know one. Never saw them before in my life.”
“What effect has prohibition had on your income?”
“I don’t get one-third the wages I used to make and I get no tips. My income is about a quarter what it was.”
“Prohibition has hit you hard?”
“Yes it has. But I still think the going of the bar is the best thing ever happened. I do, really. For one good bar, where men had a drink, there were three crooked bars where men got drunk. I never let a man get drunk off my bar in my life. Some bartenders considered their job was to rake over the coin. Some of us, however, figured our job was to serve refreshment to men. But we all got hit just the same.”
Most of the bartenders who are still serving drinks are serving them over the former bars of old hotels. Only a couple are in soda parlors.
A few of the bartenders have gone up in the world. One owns a good hotel near the centre of the city. Others have retail businesses, grocery, hardware and boot and shoe.
One very gifted bartender is now in charge of a gasoline station, and is serving up gas and oil without a hint, in the way he serves up a pint of “medium,” that he was in his day one of the most skilful drink slingers in the city.
But others, the older ones, have had a very poor time the last seven years. Some are jobless, some are janitors and handy men around old hostelries.
“It took prohibition,” said one old bartender, who has been out of a job four of the seven years since his profession quit him, “to show up how shallow was bar-room friendship. I had lived in it so long that I had begun to imagine it was genuine.”
“Men who called me affectionately by name when they ordered a drink, sports who got me to do favors for them, men I’ve cashed checks for, all turned me down when I called on them.”
“I wanted a job, recommendation. But a month after the bars were closed, most of them had forgotten who I was. Not three out of fifty of them held out the helping hand when I was in need.”
Perhaps the hardest part of prohibition to the bartender was not the loss of his calling, but the discovery of the fact that the bar-room affection that shed a glamor over his trade was as thin and unsubstantial as the beer fumes that induced it.
Editor’s Note: Prohibition went through all sorts of referendums and polls between 1916 and 1927 in Ontario when it was repealed. Greg was likely not in favour of prohibition, but his newspaper was. At the time of the article in 1923, Howard Ferguson had been elected Premier, and would move slowly and cautiously on limiting the restrictions.