The little Russian church with its onion dome on Royce avenue still stands, with its queer triple cross on the steeple. But it is a Presbyterian church now.
No more do the humble Russians kiss the priest’s hand. No more do they kiss the feet of the crucified Jesus in the vestibule of their rough-cast church.
For they are Presbyterians now, and kiss nothing. They come boldly into their pews. The icons and sacred pictures have gone. There is nothing left to be afraid of. Even the minister has put aside his black robes.
Down the street, on Franklin avenue, the Greek Catholic church of St. Josaphat the Martyr is resplendent with great sacred paintings, its altar is ablaze with gold and silver ornaments and royal blue banners. Two thousand members is the estimate of the Rev. Dr. Joseph Zuk, its rector, recently arrived from Vienna.
But down at Templar’s Hall, at Queen and Dovercourt, last Saturday night, the Ukrainian Unity Society put on before a packed house of Russians a play entitled “Tsar Nicholas the Third” a bitter comedy aimed at the priests, which was cheered by the audience.
Toronto’s ten thousand Russians and Ukrainians are passing through a little revolution of their own.
The question naturally arises, since Russia and that part of South Russia known as the Ukraine are “bolshevik”, or under soviet government, what are the sentiments of these ten thousand Russians and Ukrainians in Toronto?
The answer is that they are divided. Dr. Zuk, only a few weeks out from Vienna, and whose command of English is not yet complete, appears to be very hostile to the bolsheviks. He is priest of the Greek Catholic church. When asked how many of the Russians and Ukrainians in Toronto belonged to his congregation, he said two thousand, and referred sternly to the remainder as being “bolsheviks, Presbyterians and socialists.”
But that a large number if not a majority of the Russians and Ukrainians in Toronto are frankly in sympathy with soviet Russia is fairly definite.
And it is perfectly natural under the circumstances that it should be so. For these people came to Canada to escape the conditions which the bolsheviks claim to have remedied. And while they have no direct news of Russia, and rely on bolshevik pamphlets and other literature printed in New York, which is secretly passed from hand to hand, there has been a sufficient reverberation of the Russian revolution in this country to make many of our Russians socialists at heart.
But that they entertain no hostile socialist ideas towards Canada is also evident.
“We regard Canada,” said one frankly avowed Toronto bolshevik, “as the land to which we came for sanctuary. If our socialist ideas show us anything wrong in Canada, it is none of our business. It is a far, far better land than Russia was, or we would never have come to it. At heart we are socialists, and we yearn for Russia.”
“It is six years,” said a Russian youth from near Kiev, “since I had a letter from my father. The last word I heard from home was that my four brothers had gone to the war.”
“I do not know,” he said, simply, “if I have four brothers, now, or a father or a mother. I do not know if they are starving. Here am I, working every day, eating fine meals, living in warm lodgings, saving a little money. But I am not happy, because always at my bench and at home in the evenings, I am wondering about my father and brothers.”
“Yet,” I asked, “how can you be a socialist, when you are so comfortable and they are in misery?”
“It is not easy,” he replied, “for you to understand. You do not know what Russia was when I left it; the power and comfort of the few, the misery and pain of the vast many. As far as Canada is concerned, I am not a socialist. You Canadians have a separate destiny. But for Russia, I am a socialist.”
“I have sworn,” he said, with a straight look in his wide-set blue eyes, ” to go back to Russia as soon as I can. I too wish to suffer with my father and brothers for the freedom of my race. Nineteen of my friends from Toronto have returned to Russia in the last year. All have written on the way from England, France, Poland. Then no more. Not another letter. They are gone utterly. To what? Well, I am ready to go.”
At the Templar’s Hall, a week ago tonight, I attended the play, “Tsar Nicholas the Third.”
It was Tsar Nicholas the Second who was executed. Tsar Nicholas of the play is the priest who fooled and robbed the people.
When you consider that ten years ago, Russians were the most childishly and superstitiously religious people in the world, this satirical comedy, acted by a group of amateur actors in a Toronto hall before six or seven hundred Russians, shows how complete the change has been. The priest who was revered and feared and trusted was shown on the stage as an immoral, leering villain.
The actors are men who work in Toronto factories, and one or two are common laborers. The women of the cast are the wives of Toronto workmen. They acted extremely well.
The audience was a remarkably fine looking one, largely South Russians or Ukrainians. The so-called “typical Russian” of broad features and heavy frame was not conspicuous. The great majority were clean-cut, handsome men, and the girls were slim and pretty. It was unlike a Canadian theatre audience only in that whole families were present, little children prattled about and mothers made frequent journeys up and down the aisles with their little ones. And nobody minded.
The orchestra was a Ukrainian brass band.
There is about them all the restlessness of a people in exile. For a century, this revolution has been the dream, the dark, secret, terrifying dream of the Russian people. Their literature proves it. In desperation, they exile themselves to a free and beautiful country. Then comes the revolution. And they can get no news of it. Beyond their most secret dreams, the revolution comes. “The Tsar is killed! The land is divided amongst the people. And all they can hear of it is that Russia is starving, their mothers and brothers are starving.
All exiles can sympathize with them: Englishmen, Irishmen, and Scotsmen can picture their dismay if not their joy.
“I was sending fifteen dollars a month,” said a grim, dark Russian, “to my wife of a month. She was to follow me in a year. My baby was born. It is six years old and I have never seen it. The last letter I got, five years ago, said my baby’s fifth tooth had come, and that it would look at my picture when they said my name.
“I do not know, yet,” he added, “whether I am a bolshevik or not!”
Editor’s Notes: This article shows the status of Russian immigrants after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution that brought the communists to power. On the one had, many of the common people would be glad for the Tsar to be gone, but the revolution brought war and famine. The church leaders would be anti-bolshevist.
St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral still exists today in the same spot, but not the same building. The original from the article would be fairly new, having been dedicated in 1914, but it was destroyed by fire in 1964, and rebuilt in 1965.
The former church at Royce Avenue (now Dupont Street) and Perth Avenue that became Presbyterian is no longer there. A Presbyterian Church was built there, but eventually torn down. It is now a dreary looking strip mall.
Templar’s Hall started as the Western branch of the YMCA in Toronto in 1889. It housed many organizations throughout it’s history, and is now the Great Hall.
By Gregory Clark, (Illustrated by James Frise), November 25, 1922.
“Come,” says Pontius Pilate, “let us go down to the amphitheatre and see a couple of men pound each other into a purple pulp.”
“Right-o,” responds his friend, J. Cassius Brutus, “maybe they’ll poke a few teeth out of each other, or an eye.”
And the two citizens hasten down into the city.
Roman citizens? Nit! Citizens of Toronto, ratepayers, voters on prohibition, radials, supporters of a sporting city council. I changed their names just to make it hard. Their real names are William D. (“Bill”) Skillett, and P. Christopher Munch.
Swish, swish, thud, thud!
Swish, swish, thud, thud, SMACK!
This is music.
Danse music. Man music. This is the music of prize ring, the soft, barbaric music of the box-fight.
Swish, swish, is the sound of crafty feet sliding over the resin on the floor. Thud, thud, is the sound of heels as the two game cocks dance their weird dance about each other, circling, panting, lunging, skilfully poised as Pavlova, pretty, guileful, light as feathers, heavy as down.
SMACK is the sound of a fist, padded with ounces of leather and hair, as it crashes like forked lightning on to the bared teeth of a hurling boxer.
Swish, swish, thud, thud, SMACK!
Music in the foetid caves of our fathers, how many thousand years ago. Music still in the smoke haze of the Gayety Theatre, under the white dazzle of nitrogen bulbs.
The theatre is dark, save for this one blaze of white light on the stage. The audience is not a theatre audience, not even a Gayety theatre audience. It has a quality all its own. It smokes, belches smoke. The air is bitter with smoke. The eyes sting with it. It swirls in the dazzling spot of light on the stage.
There is a continual heavy murmur and mutter of sound filling the house. A fight crowd is a noisy crowd. The murmur is broken by load shouts of praise or blame, scattered shouts of encouragement, long wails of disgust.
Under the blazing lights, the ring is squared in with three heights of white-washed rope. And huddling in close to these ropes, as many as the stage will hold, are the ringside seats with a hunched, intent mass of men, ducking and moving their heads as they watch every move. Every step, every punch of the contestants in the ring.
Three figures in the ring – the two fighters, naked save for light silk running trunks, shining with sweat, lithe, smooth, clean, dancing and swaying elusively even in that glare. The third figure is the referee in a white shirt, who glances closely about the fighters, breaking them apart, bending to watch their hands in batches, barking and bellowing at them.
The first round is nearly always pretty.
It is like some barbaric dance. The noise of the crowd dies down. The fighters jut and poke and jab. You can hear the hissed breaths drawn in by a thousand watchers as some blow fails to go home. You hear the out-blown sniffle of the fighters – a peculiar venomous sound. Swish, swish thud, thud.
Somewhere in the second or the third or the fourth round, it loses its prettiness.
The dance goes out of it. The measure falls slower. The smoke-shrouded crowd out there in the dark becomes louder, there is a buzz of blood in their cries, some madman keeps bellowing an indistinguishable word over and over.
The fighters are losing their grace. They prance not at all. They cling heavily to each other. They are mussed up. Their hair hangs over their eyes. They have blood on their faces. They wipe their bleeding noses on each other’s shoulders in the clinches.
The referee’s white shirt has a stain on it.
The bell —
The last round – if there is a last round – is no dance. It is only a fight. A terrible, weary, heavy fight between two broken men. They have been evenly matched, these two. But one is more weary than the other.
He can’t guard his face so smartly. He takes a terrible wipe on the eye. Another on the nose. His eye sockets are both green in this vicious light of the nitrogen bulbs. Blood Is falling from his chin.
His tired adversary will have no mercy though. He makes a desperate effort to prance. It is pitiful. A blow takes him on the chin.
He falls, clumsily, helplessly, piteously. He reclines on one arm, his breath coming in sobs, spitting blood heedlessly before him, while the referee counts loudly to eight ….
He heaves himself to his feet like a stricken thing.
The tired adversary is not too tired to be there, however, and to smash him another on the face.
His arms fumble vainly to guard.
All agleam, white and red, under the shrieking lights, he lies in a huddle on the resined floor.
The white shirt referee reaches out and holds on high the bloody gloved hand of the swaying victor.
“Aaaahhhhhh” breathes the mob out in the gloom, cheers, claps its hands as ladies at a matinee, shouts, swaps money on bets made.
Is this the end?
No. It’s the end of one fight.
There are five fights on the bill to-night. A great big generous bill.
So much for the fighters – marvelous, clean, brilliant boys, brave to the last merciful smash.
But what of the mob out there in the smoky gloom?
Sizing up the fighters, backing their opinions with cash money, turning in their seats, between rounds, to argue heatedly over the merits of fighters.
A queer crowd – dudes and toughs, refined and in the rough, regular fellows and irregular fellows, plain men and fancy men, your neighbor and strange strangers, normal profiles and odd, unbalanced profiles, and stunted faces of men you wouldn’t want to deliver the groceries at home…..
A church crowd has a certain look, a theatre crowd us a quality of its own, a spiritualist seance has a something different from the rest. A fight crowd has that same distinction of quality. You will see these men all assembled no place else.
Among them are some fighters. But the vast majority of them are not fighters. They are fighters by proxy.
What I am going to get at can very easily be expressed in the language of science, of the psycho-analyst. But that murky, fuddly language.
In all men is the instinct to fight. But with the passing of civilized generations, the will to fight has become weakened.
The most Christian and law-abiding of gentlemen knows at least a half dozen men he would like to kick the living daylights out of. But he lacks the will to do it, either because he is successfully civilized or because he has not been handed down the necessary nerve by thoughtless ancestors.
But he can do it, by proxy, as far as the satisfying of his own soul is concerned.
He can sit at this prize fight and get in some terrible smashes at his enemies – by proxy.
BIFF! There’s a stinger for that blankety blanky street car conductor!
SMACK! Aha, what smash that is for that blinkety blank foreman, eh!
He projects himself into one or the other of the fighters before him. You can sense that in the uncertainty at the beginning of a fight. The onlookers are trying to decide which of the two battlers they will be!
Just as in reading a story, you project yourself into the part of the hero or heroine, and thrill to all the adventures and love scenes depicted, the average fight fan – you can see it In his eyes – secretly or even sub-consciously, projects himself into the part of his favorite in the ring.
It is easy to take punishment by proxy.
It is glorious to be a victor by proxy. Such is the talent of the human imagination.
All the pent-up fury of a hundred encounters with overbearing men that you could not lick, can be released in three hours at a box-fight…
Civilization has forbidden us to fight, except under the direction of the king and his councillors, in which case it is one of the highest virtues.
Civilization has left us also the institution of prize fighting by which a lot of dangerous, pent-up steam may be blown off harmlessly, via the imagination.
And all being sons of Adam, and therefore in direct line from Cain and other bloody-minded men, we can still feel the poetry, the music, the charm of this weird dance, swish, swish, thud, thud, this measure beaded with blood, tinctured with pain, which ends so gracelessly –
Editor’s Note: Boxing was one of the most popular sports in the first half of the Twentieth Century.
During the wars, soldiers on leave could be invited to people’s homes for a meal and entertainment. This illustration came with a story by Gwenyth Barrington, who recalled being a child in WW1 when soldiers would come to her home in groups of 6 to 10. In the article, she provides suggestions for “puzzle parties” that could be used for entertainment. The joke in the comic is that grown men would not like to play the children’s game “Button, button“, as suggested by the well meaning old ladies.
At the cenotaph in front of the city hall in Toronto there are wreaths and people and bands.
From the windows of the busy buildings high about, the faces of girls watch down. The street cars push respectfully through the gathering throng.
Then comes the Silence. And everybody is quite proud of it. It is a fine Silence. In the midst of it, Big Ben tolls with an unfamiliar tone, deep and fateful. We hold ourselves consciously, as full participants in this Silence. We feel deeply moved by some ancient, profound instinct. We try to concentrate our minds, but in the Silence our minds wheel in great circles, frightened, aimless.
This cannot be all. Some of us have queer and pagan notions. One of our fancies is that on Armistice Eve, when all the city hall square is silent and deserted, the Boys start to foregather around this tall white pillar of remembrance.
In their old khaki, with their tin hats over their eyes, in battle order, with braziers winking, the Boys come back for an hour or two, while they may, to bivouac around the city hall steps, a sort of old boys’ reunion, in answer to the call of memory.
And if we have eyes to see them, we can see them, in the November night, a glow about them, as they pass and repass in the braziers’ uncertain light, joking and laughing, the way they used to be. It is impossible for us to remember them with mournfulness. When an old soldier calls up a tender ghost in memory to mourn with him, lo, the ghost is full of life and laughter, and in a moment, instead of the remembered one being brought forward from the past, it is the shadowy one who has carried us backward with him, to the past. It is a curious thing.
But I know an old lady who, at eleven o’clock every Armistice Day, holds a private service in her own room.
She takes a photograph in her two hands and sits ready with it.
When the hour arrives, she sits, her old head tremulous, staring steadily into the eyes that look so boldly out of the photograph at her.
She, too, has the gift of imagination.
When the Hour strikes, it seems to her that the picture before her is suddenly suffused with life. The eyes shimmer tenderly at her. The corners of the mouth twitch in a fleeting, meaningful smile.
For that smile, the old lady will wait the whole long year.
Dear old lady, forgive me this story.
We have invested our memorial day with so much of pomp and circumstance that we are in danger of letting the drums beat without the muffling of crepe. There should be pathos in this day. Pathos for all the lives laid down for us that we might have something better, higher, nobler. There is pathos in this story now.
It is an orchard.
Never, I trust, will you see such an orchard. It is like a drawing by the artist, Gustav Dore, illustrating Dante’s Inferno.
In the twilight, while harsh small snowflakes rattle down, an unearthly light streams from a narrow strip of fiery sky along the west, and lights up the grotesque arms of the apple trees, riven and torn. The orchard is terribly plowed.
In this orchard are more than two hundred men. But you cannot see them. They are hiding in shallow ditches, in the strange furrows of the gigantic plow that has lately worked this land. In mud and slush, two hundred men are hiding. On their helmets tinkle the small dry snowflakes. Over their heads wail demons. With no tune or rhythm, some satanic drummer plays a tune with drums like thunder.
But look! Somebody is moving. There. By those apple trees. Just this side of that sprawled heap of bricks and charred timbers.
It is a skinny lieutenant, with sunken eyes.
“Sergeant,” he says, “we’ll start now. It is dark enough.”
Out of the ground crawls the sergeant.
“Come along, you,” says the sergeant.
And two more figures rise, heavy, grotesque, out of the sodden earth. These two carry shovels.
Amidst the broken and gnarled apple trees, the four figures move hurriedly, cautiously, stooping, heavy-footed.
“Are there any more since?” asks the lieutenant over his shoulder.
“Just the seven,” says the sergeant. “We could wait for the padre to come up to-morrow.”
“No,” says the lieutenant. “The padre will be busy all night back yonder. They say he has forty to look after between the old front lines alone. But nevertheless, I won’t have these boys lying out here overnight. I can’t bear that. All alone. They look like little kids, somehow, when they are like that….”
The lieutenant is going a little leery.
“Pull up, sir,” warns the sergeant, kindly.
“I’m sorry, sergeant, but to-morrow, maybe we can have the padre come up and say a regular service over them. All I want is cover over them, you understand ….”
“Yes, sir; yes, sir. Let it go at that.”
The crawling little party, struggling over the shadowy ragged earth, reach a spot where a large shell hole has already been squared away, its sides chopped off and made into a pit, six feet deep.
And in the pit lie seven forms, over each one a coarse gray blanket. You can see only the square, rough boots sticking out from the bottom of the blankets. That is for counting.
“Now?” says the lieutenant, as the four stand, like figures in the picture called the Angelus, at the edge of the pit.
“First,” says the sergeant, “you take their identity discs and personal effects such as pay books, watches, rings, and tie them up in their handkerchiefs.”
“Sergeant,” says the lieutenant, “if you don’t mind, will you do that?”
The sergeant slides heavily down and one by one opens each tunic collar and removes the identity discs, searches briefly in the simple pockets, makes a little heap of papers, trinkets, frayed and flattened letters, on the blanket.
It is growing dark.
The sergeant down in the pit works quickly, stooping in the gloom. He ties each bundle in a khaki handkerchief with a knot. He hands up the seven small bundles and reaches up a hand for a lift.
“Now, sir,” says the sergeant, dusting off his hands. “It is customary for the officer to say a short prayer.”
“Oh,” says the lieutenant in a small voice. “A prayer.”
“The Lord’s Prayer,” suggests the sergeant.
The lieutenant is stumped.
“Ah, yes, the Lord’s Prayer,” he says, shifting his cane to his arm and clasping his hands in front of his belt.
The Lord’s Prayer, the Lord’s Prayer! Back through his bewildered, blistered, tortured brain he scurries, seeking down long, empty aisles of memory, down forgotten corridors, scampering, frightened, seeking, the Lord’s Prayer, how does it start?
His mind is blank. Just a bare, shabby room, as if his spirit had moved somewhere else.
How does it go, the Lord’s Prayer?
Tinkling on his steel helmet, the dry small snow. Around him the three men, heads bowed, resting on their shovels, waiting.
Tinkling, far back down the long hall of his memory, from far and far away, from babyhood, here it comes, the Lord’s Prayer, sweetly, coming, coming.
“Now I lay me down to sleep,” says the lieutenant, clearly, proudly.
“I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
“If I should die before I wake,
“I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
The men bow to the shovels. The dark earth tumbles in.
They stand there, still, the sergeant and he. The satanic drumming throbs. Baleful flickers of lightning. dragons’ tongues, dance about the edges of the world.
And the skinny lieutenant with the sunken eyes does not know, until the sergeant tells him three days later, in a dry town, under the bright April sun, that he has not got the Lord’s Prayer.
Since 1920, when the present organization took Christie hospital off military hands, 26,626 old soldiers have entered its doors to stay for weeks or months. This doesn’t mean out-patients. They have from 40,000 to 50,000 out-patient cases every year. But the 26,626 brought their bundles with them. That is a lot of men. It is more than half the number that had bayonets in their hands and carried the glory of Canada as the spear-head of the Allies at Amiens in 1918. It is more than thirty regiments, line strength. And it is only one hospital in a long string of hospitals, that stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
In those thirteen years, 828 have died in Christie hospital. Perhaps you don’t recall Euclid Hall. It was a special hospital, set aside in the early days for that little group of local men who never would rise again. Well, there were forty men in Euclid Hall when it was closed and the inmates transferred to Christie St.
There are six left.
The tempo increases. So far this year, Christie St. has faced the west, to watch a good man out, seventy-four times!
There are two banquets at the big hotel Armistice night. The one is a gathering of war pilots from far and near, three or four hundred of them. The other is a banquet to launch a new veterans’ organization, the University Veterans League. Sir Arthur Currie is speaking to this second crowd, and hundreds and hundreds of Varsity men from Toronto, McGill, Queen’s, Dalhousie, the west, will be there to try to recapture, somehow, the lost legend.
The legend of passion, of patriotism, of unselfish sacrifice, of loyalty, leadership, courage.
They had it. In the war they all had it, the thousands of these privileged men, educated, fine, forward reaching. There is a sort of cloister up at Varsity, a sheltered place whose walls are carven from vaulted roof to floor with the myriad names of Toronto Varsity men who died. These who came home are now, fifteen years after, holding a great banquet, their guest the Canadian whom they honor above all other Canadians, and they are seeking the lost legend.
On Armistice night, the fifteenth anniversary, they will try to pick up the torch, flung to them from failing hands…
“Who,” I asked the committee in charge of the other big banquet, the war pilots, “are your speakers?”
“We are having no speakers,” said they. “No guests. No prime ministers, mayors, celebrities. Old Red Mulock will likely get up and ask us to drink to those who did not fly home. And of course, someone will toast the King.”
“But four hundred of you …?”
“Maybe,” said the committee. “Ernst Udet, the German ace, might run up from New York. We are trying to get him.”
“Will he speak?”
“No speeches,” reiterated the committee.
Ten, five, even one year ago, Armistice had speeches about it, but now we see a thousand Varsity men from a score of different universities coming for the first time together in humility with the confessed design of trying to find something very precious they have lost.
And the pilots …
I wish I could dress up as a waiter and be your eye-witness at that banquet.
To be a pilot, remember, you had to be young and free. Maybe 17, 18, 19 years old. You could not be in love. If you went on leave to Blighty and fell in love, you were no good when you rejoined your squadron. Not a care in the world. That was what you had to have when you were a war pilot.
Look at them now. Thirty-five. Forty. Heavy. Careful. Frightened of their banker. Fifteen Armistices ago, all they knew of banks was a queer little sweeping turn they gave the joy-sticks as they eagled their way across a far distant sky.
And whatever it is they want this night, when they gather together, it is not speeches.
God rest them merry.
Chateau de la Haie was just north of Villers au Bois.
It was a great, squat chateau standing amidst park ground, with walls and a gate letting into a stately drive under tall elms.
It used to be Madame Patti’s country estate.
But then we came along and made it a divisional headquarters, with hundreds of Nissen huts, those round-roofed tin huts, in the park, and staff cars and motorcycle dispatch riders tearing in the gates and brass hats embarrassingly numerous.
The last snapshot any of the boys have seen of the Chateau de la Haie showed the poor old gates fallen ajar, grass growing rankly in the entrance, and through the tall trees, the chateau standing and lonely within.
But up on Sturgeon lake in Ontario there is a new Chateau de la Haie.
It is an old farm house, and it is the permanent headquarters of the 67th Battery, Canadian Field Artillery.
There they have annual Armistice banquets. They have frequent reunions and outings, summer, winter. All through the year, you will likely find some of the battery there. In the summer, they go in turn with their families, a club house.
The 67th was the University of Toronto battery. It recruited students and graduates and people associated with the university. They never went to France as a unit, but they were long enough together to found what is perhaps the most lasting friendship to be found in any unit of the corps that assimilated half a million Canadian men.
They started in a casual way with a reunion dinner after the war. Being a battery, they were few enough in number to be manageable. They formed a lively association. They published a humorous and happy history of the unit. Then they bought the farm.
In the secret recesses of the farm is hidden a bottle of old and good Burgundy. Safe and sacred it lies, until at last there shall be only two members left of the 67th battery to inherit the riches and tradition of the Chateau de la Haie.
And when there are only two, they are pledged to open the Burgundy and drink a toast to the memory of a hundred men who were unique in that, all rank cast aside, officer and man, they maintained the fellowship of war through the vicissitudes of peace.
They are up there to-night.
Where is the G.W.V.A.?
And all the other veterans’ associations, with their meetings and deputations and parades, their clamor for a bonus, their leaders whose names we have now forgotten so that when someone recalls them, it strikes no familiar chord?
All in one legion now.
Orderly now, front page news no more, doing a quiet, steady work, taking up cases, fighting unobtrusively and resolutely for those speechless ones who don’t know the ropes that lead to pensions, hospital care, justice.
Poppy Fund? It assures us proudly that for some $30,000 received last year from public subscriptions and tag days it expended $85,000 worth of relief by ingenious development of its funds and activities, and on its list of directors are twenty imposing names of generals, colonels and well-known civilians.
Like the sea after a storm, it takes time to settle down.
After a typhoon, you do not expect a smiling calm.
The sea is not like that, nor the hearts of men. The hearts of men are hidden, mysterious, fathomless. At the university, I bought a second-hand textbook on philosophy to save myself the price of a matinee at the old Gaiety. The textbook set forth the whole mind of man, out of all the ages. It explained all. Classified all. It was authoritative and urbane. It had the mind and soul of man set out like canned goods on the grocery shelf. The professor saw me with the textbook. “It is no good,” he said. “It is ten years old.”
This mysterious, unknown soul of man, which still defies understanding, has suffered a great storm on a more universal scale than anything it has experienced perhaps since the Ice Age.
After the storm came the long rolleth in the 1920’s, bearing us along so splendidly, in the bright sunshine after the tempest, toward some shore, we felt certain.
Then came the calm. The sea was filled with flotsam, and we discovered a thing we had not observed, so happy were we to be spared. We found, when the sea subsided, that our vessel was battered and wrecked. And there was no appreciable shore.
Well, there are signs of a breeze. To bear us along again on the normal voyage, toward that still uncharted haven.
We are busy clearing away the wreckage, setting the ship in order.
And those of us who were on deck during the last storm devoutly hope that our navigators will do their duty on the bridge, where they can see the weather, instead of working it out in the chart house with the blinds drawn.
The Angelus is a painting by Jean-François Millet. Greg has written the story of the officer who could not remember the words of the Lord’s Prayer mnay times. Identity discs were used for identification of soldiers in the First World War, like modern “Dog tags“.
The Christie Street Veterans’ Hospital was at the corner of Lambertlodge Avenue and Christie Street, north of Dupont Street. It was originally a factory of the National Cash Register Company, but was converted into a hospital near the end of WW1. Overcrowding at the end of World War 2 contributed to the decision to build a new hospital at Bayview and Lawrence called Sunnybrook, opening in 1948. The old hospital became a seniors’ home known as Lambert Lodge, and was eventually torn down. On the site now is the Christie Gardens Apartments and Care Facility.
Euclid Hall was a grand home in Toronto at 515 Jarvis Street. The building was originally built in 1867 for Arthur McMaster. In 1882, it was purchased by Hart Massey. The building was then bequeathed to the University of Toronto’s Victoria College in 1915. Today it is a restaurant, the Keg Mansion.
The G.W.V.A. was the Great War Veteran’s Association, one of many groups that advocated for veterans after the war. Since the number of groups separately were ineffective, they all merged in 1925 to become the Canadian Legion.
The story of the officer forgetting the Lord’s Prayer was one Greg would often write about.
Nearly Everybody Around Yonge and Front Seems to Carry a Handbag. Govt. Dispensary Sells Alcohol, Too Far More Sick People Requiring Prescriptions on Saturday Than on Other Days.
By Gregory Clark, November 1, 1919.
Looking at the passersby at the corner of Yonge and Front streets, one would conclude that about seventy-five per cent of them were traveling salesmen. For they all carry some sort of a little hand-bag. The little square miniature suitcase is the favorite style. But the variety runs from the plain old family valise down to the homely sateen shopping bag.
The style of bag doesn’t matter, so long as it will contain one quart bottle of whiskey.
For this stream of apparent salesmen is nothing less than the eight hundred daily customers of Ontario Government Dispensary, No. 1, of 29 Front street east.
Eight hundred to a thousand customers a day is the average run on this, the leading Government liquor store in the Province. And one quart of whiskey is the average purchase. Saturday the customers average as high as 1,700 to 2,000. Thus we an arrive at the conclusion that Toronto consumes per day about one thousand one hundred quarts of liquor from this source.
The Government Dispensary on Front street is one of two in Toronto, the other being at the corner of Dundas and Dovercourt road. It is one of seven in Ontario, the others being one each in Ottawa, Kingston, Hamilton, London and Windsor.
But the Front street shop, which is the liquor headquarters of the Province, does fifty per cent of all the business of the Province, or as much as the six other shops put together. This includes not only the large daily trade over the counter to Torontonians, but also an immense mail order trade, the liquor being shipped by express to all points in the Province.
But this liquor headquarters hath a mild and orderly appearance, for all its activity. The shop itself is no larger than the liquor shop of the bad old days. One wall is entirely covered with shelves full of liquor. The back of the shop is occupied by three little cages, labelled, “Censor” and “Cashier.” The main part of the room is nicely railed off with iron bars like the approach to the ticket booths at the Exhibition.
The customer on entering the shop is directed into the railed runway by a Provincial policeman, who keeps order to the shop. The runway leads to the censor’s cage.
The censors, much to the customer’s astonishment, are not fierce and skeptical old men, but demure and dainty young ladies.
The customer produces his “doctor’s prescription” for one of these fair young censors to look at. She gives it a once over and stamps it. The customer moves on to the cashier’s cage and pays the price of his liquor. Then he reaches the counter, where three busy salesmen are at work. One of these takes the customer’s prescription, skewers it on a file and hands out the quart of whiskey, gin, wine or pure alcohol, as called for.
Then the customer slips his bottle into the little hand-bag and emerges into the open with the keen expression of a stationery salesman looking for business.
It is amazing to watch the lineup of patients at Store No. 1. There are the elderly, dignified old business gentlemen and the poor draggled, old washerwomen; rakish, tilt-hatted toughs in their dancing clothes, and slim, cool-eyed young business men, who have been smoking cigarets for two years; rich, poor, old and young.
Here comes a furiously-bearded old foreigner in a frock coat.
“Vishnick!” he cries, hoarsely, to the Provincial Policeman.
Foreigners Get Alcohol
“Vishnick’s all gone,” says the young lady censor.
” Vishnick! Vishnick!” yells the old man, violently, waving his special prescription from the rabbi.
“Fini” shouts one of the cashiers, who wears a returned soldier button.
And the prophetical-looking old man is ushered out, hoarsely roaring “Vishnick!”
Here comes a poor, seedy little old man with the marks of the demon on every part of his frail old form. And he assumes a jaunty and assured air that fits him ill.
He presents his prescription to the fair censor. She gives it the critical eye, apparently finds something amiss with it, and calls the Provincial Policeman over to look at it.
The little old man’s assurance begins to fail him, but he demands in a quavering voice, “What’s the matter wiff it?”
The moment the Policeman turns his back to go and telephone the doctor whose prescription this purports to be, the little old man wheels, and with remarkable agility, makes a lightning exit, and returns no more.
Here come two high-cheeked sandy mustached Russians, who each secure one quart of pure alcohol.
This mystery we later discuss with Assistant Deputy Chief of Police, Robert Geddes.
“Surely,” we protest. “It is as plain as day that those Russians get that pure alcohol for no other purpose than to manufacture more liquor in illicit stills!”
“Possibly, possibly!” replied the Assistant Deputy. “But you must also take into consideration the racial peculiarities of the Russians. They take a thimbleful of this pure alcohol and hold it in their mouths till their eyes pop from their sockets and their heads are bathed in sweat. That cures all their ills. Furthermore, the Russians mix alcohol with their porridge, soup, and other foods. Very nourishing, they say.”
From the above facts, the following truths appear to arise:
That one out of every five hundred men, women, and children in Toronto require one quart of whiskey per day for the relief or cure of disease, at a doctor’s order.
That on Saturday there are twice as many sick people who require whiskey as there are on other week days.
That Russians are a peculiarly constituted people, whose ailments are better treated with pure alcohol than by whiskey or gin. There were sixty-nine quarts of pure alcohol sold last Saturday, part of it to Russians.
These things we took to Chief License Commissioner J. D. Flavelle.
With regard to the young lady censors, he said:
“They are supplied with copies of all doctors’ signatures. They can censor quite as well as any man could.”
With regard to the selling of liquor to doubtful-looking customers and of pure alcohol to foreigners, Mr. Flavelle said:
“We have no responsibilities whatever in that regard. We have simply to carry out what the doctor’s prescription calls for. The responsibility for the amount of liquor and for the sale of the liquor rests wholly upon the doctors of Ontario.”
Twice a month the Dispensary furnishes the Board of License Commissioners with a complete list of sales, showing the number of prescriptions issued by each doctor. These records are kept on file, and are open to the inspection of the Provincial Government.
Editor’s Notes: This article shows the craziness of early prohibition in Ontario. People would need doctor’s notes for purchasing alcohol for “medicinal” purposes, but obviously people were breaking the rules. Everybody knew it was nonsense, hence the mocking tone of Greg’s writing about the “patients”, and “sick people”, and how everyone wanted to hide from others that they were buying alcohol by carrying their little bags. It is also a little racist, pointing out that “foreigners” or “Russians” can buy pure alcohol, and the assumption is they are up to something illegal. I was also struck with how few stores initially existed, with the rest of the province having to rely on mail-order, not unlike the roll-out of legal cannabis in Ontario in 2019, 100 years later.
“Vishnick”, or Vishnyak is a cherry liqueur popular with Eastern European Jews at the time.
Here’s a mask of Gregory Clark waiting for you to cut out and wear as a false face
It’s a Cinch to Make This Mask
ARE you going to a Hallowe’en party? The Star Weekly comic masks are made to order to liven up that spooky night’s fun. If you start right now and cut out Gregory Clark, you’ll have five different masks to wear, for next week you’ll have Wimpy, then Maggie, then Jimmie Frise, then Jiggs. That’ll bring you right up to Hallowe’en when you’ll be looking around for a funny disguise to wear. And if you want more, you can get back issues of The Star Weekly for masks of Popeye, Old Archie and Olive Oyl. Just wear them and you’ll find they’ll bring you more fun than a bushel of monkeys whether you’re going to a Halloween party or not.
Cut out this illustration of GREG CLARK in a square, leaving about an inch border all the way around. Get a sheet of paper about 15 inches square. Any good heavy wrapping paper or light-weight cardboard will do. Paste the illustration, on the paper. When dry, cut the outer edges of the mask but be sure to follow the line around the square flaps indicated at each of GREG CLARK’S ears. Use a razor blade or a sharply pointed knife to cut around his nose, eyes and chin on the dotted black line. Next, fold down the flap along his ears. Get two medium sized rubber bands. Place one side of the rubber band inside the fold of the flap and paste down firmly. Do not attempt to use the mask until the flap is dry and firm. Now, placing the rubber bands around your ears, march over to a mirror and there you are, GREGORY CLARK himself.
HEY, KIDS Look who’s here!
It’s JIMMIE FRISE
your seventh STAR WEEKLY FALSE FACE
Be ready for Hallowe’en with this mask of Jimmie
YOU’LL FIND THE STAR WEEKLY COMIC MASKS MORE FUN THAN A BARREL OF MONKEYS FOR A “SHELL-OUT” OR HOUSE PARTY THIS HALLOWEEN. SO BRING OUT YOUR PASTE POT AND SCISSORS RIGHT AWAY AND JOIN IN THE FUN.
Cut out this illustration of JIMMIE FRISE in a square, leaving about an inch border all the way around. Get a sheet of light weight cardboard about 15 inches square. Paste the illustration on the cardboard. When dry, cut the outer edges of the mask but be sure to follow the line around the square flaps indicated at each of JIMMIE’S ears. Use a razor blade or a sharply pointed knife to cut through the inner pink circle of his eyes. Smaller children can use the mask if they cut out the portion of the white circle nearest JIMMIE’S nose. Next, fold down the flaps along his ears. Get two medium sized rubber bands. Place one side of the rubber band inside the fold of the flap and paste down firmly. Do not attempt to use the mark until the flap is dry and firm. Now, placing the rubber bands around your ears, march over to a mirror and there you are, JIMMIE FRISE himself.
Editor’s Notes: In October 1938, the Toronto Star Weekly printed Halloween masks based on comic strip characters that kids could cut out and use. Note that “trick or treating” was not as common at the time, (referred to as “shell out” above), so it was suggested they could be worn to a party. I like that Greg characteristically has his hat at a jaunty angle, and Jimmie is portrayed with his ever present cigarette in his mouth.
These illustrations came with an article on militias and civil unrest in Canada during the Great Depression. The article specifically touched on the role of the militia in those situation, given the riot that occurred in Estevan Saskatchewan the previous month. It emphasized the poor state of the militia due to funding, and how the members of militia were “angels”, willing to do so much and provided so little. The pretty woman in the photo holding the gun had nothing to do with it, she was just added to draw attention to the story.
This ad is in reference to the 1935 Canadian federal election, which was held on October 14. The Liberals won since the Conservatives were unfortunate enough to be in power during the worst of the Great Depression.
These three men stepped out of their roles of being “big” persons and became just little men for the moment
In the famous blitzkrieg on France, only three battalions of Canadians, and some artillery, army service corps and stuff got to France. They got there, started on a railway journey inland and were turned around and landed back in the port of Brest within 24 hours. To say they never fired a shot in the blitzkrieg would not be accurate. They did fire their Brens at German mine-layer planes that flew over Brest while the Canadians were packed on a little channel steamer, the Canterbury, tied to the quay, waiting for permission to leave the harbor for England again.
However, some odd things happened on that in-and-out. We had arrived in Brest at daybreak Friday morning. Three battalions in two ships. It was a fine sunny morning.
These Canadians were the first-born of the new war. These were the first comers; and I tried to concentrate my mind and imagination on them to capture if I could the feelings of soldiers going to battle for the first time. But they marched off the ships and got into the waiting trains as glib and easy as children going on a picnic. And mark you, this was June 14, and for more than a month, the world had been rocked by the blitzkrieg. For all they knew, the three battalions of them were heading straight into hell. But it was a fine morning for it.
Alas, or hallelujah, as the case may be, they did not meet hell. We who saw the three battalions off waited around all day Friday in Brest, in expectation of fresh shiploads of Canadians arriving. It was that evening, in Brest, already jammed and seething with refugees and that air of bright-eyed hope on the verge of disaster, that we learned the three trains of Canadians were already being ordered to turn around. The next afternoon, Saturday, they arrived back in Brest and marched without delay straight aboard the little Canterbury tied to the east quays of that crowded harbor.
There at the quay we stayed, tied up, all Saturday evening, all Sunday night and all day long of the bright Sunday, until nearly 6 p.m. before orders came to cast off moorings and hie for England. To me, who had been through the blitzkrieg three weeks before and had been at Boulogne and seen what the Germans could do with Heinkels and Dorniers to a seaport, the delay was agonizing. These blythe Canadians, bitter at being re-embarked, all packed like buttons in in a bag aboard this tiny channel steamer.
Big Man Takes It Easy
It was Saturday evening just before dark, and we all crowded the rails to look ashore in expectation of casting off hawsers any minute, when a big rich-looking civilian car rolled out on the quay. In it sat a chauffeur, and behind a large, elderly gentleman in civilian tweeds. The car was packed to the roof with handsome leather bags, brief and dispatch cases.
Out of the car stepped the large gentleman, with his walking stick, a massive, elderly man with a military moustache. He showed some papers to the guard at the gangway. Officers inspected the documents and the stranger was at once passed up the gangway aboard the ship.
I, being a war correspondent, walked up to the stranger and inquired who he was, the only civilian on this ship. He was Hon. Hugo Baring, continental director of the Westminster bank.
One of the famous Baring family that has been engaged for generations in British banking and world business enterprise. Sixth son of the first Lord Revelstoke, related to the Earl of Cromer and many other Barings who have become peers.
In these brown leather bags were items of interest to Westminster bank, as to its continental affairs. Mr. Baring told me that he had dispatched the bank’s gold, documents, etc., and 30 of its staff off by a more southern French port. He had decided to make a lone departure via Brest.
Could he get a cabin, he inquired? Ah, the cabins were all full of wounded, of nursing sisters and a group of some 20 Salvation Army lassies driven from their canteens across France. Where could he settle himself, then, in the salon or where? Ah, the salon was all rigged up as a first aid and emergency station. How about something to eat? Well, there were no arrangements on board for eating. This was a troopship, and all there was aboard, in the nature of grub, were the rations of the troops.
This elderly, amiable man sat down on his bags on the open deck of the Canterbury finding space for his well-shod feet amidst the legs of recumbent bucks of the R.C.R. and Hasty P’s; rested his big hands on his stick and relaxed. This continental director of one of the greatest and, at the moment, perhaps most embarrassed banks on earth, remarked mildly that this was nothing new to him. It was not until I got back to London and looked him up in the blue books that I found he had been wounded in the South African war with the 4th Hussars, wounded at Ypres with the British G.H.Q.. and had been in Siberia in 1918 with the British forces. That accounted for a kind of limp and a twist the big man showed when he walked.
He sat and walked among us all that night, next day, next night and then Monday morning saw Plymouth with the rest of us from the foggy deck of the Canterbury. In all that time, he had no food but the bully beef, the little new style hardtack cookies of the private troops, and the sergeant-major’s tea. He slept with his head on a table or a rail, or with his hands clasped on his stick, his body resting forward on it. Elderly, rugged, continental director of a great bank, he seemed perfectly at ease in body and mind. Never referred once to his business. Never wondered aloud what was going on, where was his staff from Paris, where his gold.
But amid all that was abortive, broken, twisted, lost and bewildered amidst the famous in-and-out of Brest, this picture of a great banker, scion of nobility, master of wealth, partner of destiny, dependent upon the charity of private soldiers from the far distant face of the earth, remains to me. He was discovering what wealth is; what nobility; what destiny. All in the hands of private soldiers.
Banker Sews on a Button
It was at Brest I also met a duke and did him a little service. But before I leave one banker, I would like to mention another I met, on board a ship coming to Canada. A most charming man, Simon Epstein, a Jewish banker born in Russia, most of his life spent in Paris, but for the last 10 years in London. An international banker, of great wealth from time to time, probably a millionaire more than once. But at the time I met him, a refugee, not very sure whether he had any money or not. And not much caring, because his wife and sons were safe in America.
Of the many amusing stories he told, this one remains. It was 10 years ago, when he was a Parisian, and spoke English very little. He came to America to visit friends in Chicago. He had only part of a day in New York, so he made the Grand Central Station his headquarters and walked up Fifth and Madison Park Aves., drinking in the wonder and the beauty of downtown New York. It was his first view of the new world and it amazed him. He was a wealthy banker. Strolling the golden streets of New York. He felt his braces slip as a pants’ button came off.
Banker or no banker, he halted and saw the button roll on the pavement. He picked it up and recollected having seen, a few blocks back, one of those little hole-in-the-wall pressing and tailoring establishments, operated by co-religionists of his, tucked in amidst the towering splendors of New York. He strolled back and went in and with his poor English and their various English, managed to purchase a needle and small spool of thread for five cents.
For mark you, one does not become a wealthy banker by being too proud to sew on a button. Mr. Epstein had noted, in the Grand Central Station, that downstairs was a magnificent marble department, the toilets and lavatories, which included among its other marvels, a whole row-of private chambrettes or toilets into which you were able to purchase your private way by inserting five cents in the slot on the little individual door handle.
Mr. Epstein proceeded to select a cubicle. He removed his trousers and sat down on the seat to sew the button on. As he started to thread the needle, the spool, as spools will, rolled off his knee and spun away along the floor, under the partitions of two of the adjoining cabinets.
Mr. Epstein peered under the partitions and tried to draw the spool back. But it just rolled and unwound. No matter what he did, the spool played truant. Now, banker or no banker, five cents or no five cents, a man who is a man is not going to let a spool of thread get away on him. Mr. Epstein opened the cubicle door and peered out. In the great marble hall of these super toilets, nothing stirred. Mr. Epstein, laying his trousers on the seat, nipped out and picked up the spool. And heard the door click behind him.
There stood Mr. Epstein, Paris banker, in his coat and vest but no pants, in the vast, forbidding marble emptiness of the Grand Central gentlemen’s department; and his pants inside and all his money in the pants. In a foreign city, his command of the language sketchy in the extreme, Mr. Epstein felt panic. Down the marble stairs he heard footfalls.
The stranger saw the spectacle of Mr. Epstein, paused and half turned to retreat upstairs.
“A neeckel,” said Mr. Epstein. “A neeckel, please.”
And with motions of his hands, he tried to explain that if he had a nickel, he could open the door and recover his pants. But the stranger eyed him with increasing suspicion and fled upstairs. To return almost immediately with a New York cop swinging his stick and demanding to know what was going on here.
Mr. Epstein, needle and spool in hand, explained in various French, Russian and English gestures, the calamity of what had happened
“A neeckel,” he pleaded, in conclusion.
It took four nickels to locate the right cubicle, because Mr. Epstein had forgotten which one he had selected, since they all look
alike. But he got his pants, returned the cop’s four nickels very happily, retired into the cubicle, threaded the needle, sewed on the button and duly returned to walk the sounding streets of New York.
And this was the story Mr. Simon Epstein told as we plunged across the wastes of seas off the northwest coast of Ireland, all lights out, and the watch stared into the wind and spray, westward-bound for the new world where Mr. Epstein, international banker, refugee, hoped to see his wife and sons.
Souvenir of a Duke
To get back to Brest for a minute; on the Saturday, as we waited in mounting anxiety for the 48th Highlanders, I got assurance from the officers of the Canterbury that they could not sail for at least a couple of hours by reason of tides; and I went back into the city to visit the hotel which was military headquarters for the area to see if they had any word of the missing Canadians. The city was already showing the unmistakeable signs of that fatal despair which I had seen, three weeks before, in Lille, Arras, Amiens, Boulogne. The streets were jammed from wall to wall with crowds of refugees in a slow-motion, almost immobile anxiety.
At the H.Q. hotel, a captain of the movement control staff eyed my badges and stepped up to me.
“You are a correspondent?” he asked. “My name is Keith-Braden. When are you planning to leave here?”
“I’ve already got aboard the Canterbury,” I said.
“How are you fixed for baggage?” he asked. “We movement control blighters are in a bit of a hole. We have to stay to the last and we won’t have any chance to get our baggage off…”
“You get me a working party,” I said, “and I’ll take all the baggage you want.”
“I’ve got a friend here,” said Keith Braden, and a middle-aged major came over, a quiet, scholar type of a man rather than the sort of dasher they usually have on staffs. The major said he had a suitcase and a cavalry great coat.
“Send ’em along,” I said. “As long as I have somebody to carry the stuff down to the Canterbury …”
The two officers disappeared and presently came back with two big, shabby suitcases, the kind of suitcases of which I have several in the attic. And a huge cavalry great coat. We arranged where I was to deliver them in London.
“Take mine,” said Keith Braden, “to my tailor’s in Bond St. And the Marquess will want his sent to his house, I suppose.”
“The Marquess?” said I.
“This is the Marquess of Cambridge,” explained Keith Braden, and the scholarly gentleman shook hands with me.
“Ah,” said I, “I’ll take your baggage anyway. You don’t have to be a marquess.”
“But he IS the Marquess of Cambridge,” laughed Keith Braden.
And while they tied tags on their shabby suitcases I stood and looked out the big hotel windows at the surging mobs of the poor French, their faces turned upwards while the air raid sirens bansheed, for there were German raiders over by this time. And it did seem a strange thing to see a marquess of the royal connection stooped over, in the foreground of that grim and woeful window picture, tying a tag on a rusty old valise.
I put the bags on the Canterbury deck where the boys of the Hasty P’s and the R.C.R. could see the tag. I left them and the cavalry great coat in the care of the nearest of the lads, sprawled in half sleep on the deck. And when it rained in the middle of the night, went up and found one of the lads had put on the marquess’ great coat and was lying wrapped in its voluminous folds asleep. It was a tidy when I retrieved it in the morning.
And it was all tidy when I returned the baggage to the Marchioness two days later in London.
“How was he when you saw him,” asked her grace.
“Fine,” I assured her, thinking of him bending over tying on tags, against that hotel window with its great surging picture of despair moving across it.
“I do hope he gets away,” she said.
He did. Keith Braden wrote me a note of thanks, and said they nipped off on the last boat, after seeing Brest set afire.
Editor’s Notes: This story was printed as Greg was a war correspondent in WWII. The original photo of him in his uniform in the microfilm of the newspaper was muddied, so I substituted it with a better copy of the same photo from one of his books.