The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Category: Miscellaneous Page 1 of 29

Innocent Handbags

June 18, 1927

By Gregory Clark, June 18, 1927.

Mr. Bodkin, who works in our office, carries a handbag.

He has carried it for years, and with his handbag, umbrella and his rubbers on, he is so serious and dignified a personage, none of us has ever ventured to jolly him about the bag.

As far as we know, he never carries anything in it. It just seems to be a habit of long standing, and he would as soon go out with no collar and tie on and come to business without his faithful old handbag.

Now it so happens that he parks his car three blocks away from the office, half a block from one of the new liquor stores.1

And that handbag has taken on a new and horrible significance.

The first day liquor was on sale, Mr. Bodkin came down Church street and saw the line-up. And being an old newspaperman, the instinct to stop, look and ask naturally halted him.

He is a shy sort of man, however, who depends on his powers of observation rather than his tongue, and he stood about for all of five minutes before he spoke to one of his neighbors in the crowd, to ask what the line-up was for and where everybody was going, because everybody was carrying a bag of some description.

“Booze,” replied the neighbor. “This is the opening day.”

You can imagine Mr. Bodkin’s horror. He has been a prohibitionist since birth, a tremendous worker for the dries, the author of many a strong article and influential pamphlet on the liquor traffic.

And here he had been standing, bag in hand, in the liquor store line-up for five long minutes while curious crowds of onlookers stared.

He got out of there so fast, he was limp when he reached the office.

We helped him out of his coat, and he flung the old handbag to the floor.

“If it hadn’t been for that!” he cried, with a mortified air.

We gathered around him.

And he told us of the tragedy.

“Five long minutes I stood there!” he wailed. “Goodness knows who saw me. Hundreds and hundreds passed by and paused to look. Amongst them must have, been scores of acquaintances, and probably the telephones wires are at this moment being burned up with the scandal that Bodkin, the great prohibition worker, was amongst the first to line up for his liquor!”

We soothed him.

“Boys,” said Bodkin, “do me a favor. Help me out of this mess, will you? Pass the word around amongst your friends that I was standing there in all innocence, as a newspaper man. That’s good fellows!”

“But,” said Jimmie, “that handbag. It will be hard to explain away that handbag.”

“Oh, dear!” sighed Mr. Bodkin.

For two days, he came to work without the handbag, but he was like a lost soul. He wandered around like a man who has forgotten his pipe. The rest of us could do no work, with him wandering around. He would sit and stare moodily at the place beside his desk where he used to park the handbag.

“I don’t enjoy the walk anymore.” he confided to me. “I have carried that bag for twenty years, and I think it has become part of me. Little did I dream the liquor business would ever strike me in a vulnerable spot. Its ramifications are so insidious, reaching into a man’s most sacred life. Curse the liquor traffic, I say!”

Jimmie had the inspiration.

“Look here,” said he to Bodkin, “just have the words ‘MSS Only’2 inscribed in gold letters on the bag, good and big.”

So Bodkin has his bag again and all is well. He has the words “MSS Only” in letters two inches freshly gilded on the faithful old bag. And he comes down Yonge instead of Church street now.

“It’s a much finer way to come anyway,” he says.

There must be hundreds and hundreds of people who have been made self-conscious since the liquor stores opened, lawyers, doctors, salesmen, who have to carry bags in the daily vocation.

But they can all follow Mr. Bodkin’s lead. Doctors can quite excusably work in a little free advertising for themselves by inscribing their name and title on their bags in large characters. Lawyers can put “Legal Documents Only.” Travelers can have the name of their firm or commodity emblazoned.

Or, to put another interpretation on the idea, although this is hardly fair to Bodkin, now that he has employed the idea in self-defence, could not those who do line up at the liquor stores camouflage their bag’s contents by all sorts of disarming inscriptions such as “MSS Only.” “Dr. Smith. horse doctor,” “Use Squkm Gramophone Needles,” “Hokem and Pokem, Barristers, Etc.”

The clever concealment of the true function of a handbag that is solely employed for the purpose of carrying two crocks from the liquor store will now be one of those things that will tax the ingenuity of a necessarily ingenious section of the public.

Editor’s Notes:

  1. The Liquor Control Act overturned prohibition as legislated in the Ontario Temperance Act and established the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), through which the province managed liquor distribution with government-run stores taking effect on June 1 1927. ↩︎
  2. MSS is an abbreviation for manuscripts.  ↩︎

Are Chicago’s Boy Thrill-Killers Moral Imbeciles? Jekyll And Hyde Personalities Exist Say Alienists

June 14, 1924

This illustration went with an article about the case of Leopold and Loeb, one of the many “Crimes of the Century” in the 20th century. Two American students at the University of Chicago kidnapped and murdered a 14-year-old boy on May 21, 1924. They committed the murder thinking they were superior men that they believe entitled them to carry out a “perfect crime” without consequences. Both were sentenced to life in prison. Loeb was murdered by a fellow prisoner in 1936. Leopold was released on parole in 1958.

Women and Children First

“EVERY STEP ON THE WAY in this awful flight was blazing with terror. The path before these refugees was filled with menace… They fled from one in the full knowledge that they were heading into unremitting horror…”

Writing from London after returning there from France and Belgium, Gregory Clark tells the tragic story of the millions of refugees who have been forced to flee from their native lands, from their homes-into an unknown filled with ever-present horror and peril

By Gregory Clark, June 8, 1940.


Neither Attila the Hun nor Genghis Khan, who mercilessly exterminated all humanity they met in their paths for the same reason that we might exterminate grasshoppers in the west, ever had pleasure of seeing more human tragedy and disaster than we have seen in Belgium and France in the past few weeks.

The tragedy of the refugees was not fully told at its full tide because of the staggering character of other news. The speed of the German mechanized attack and unexpected twists of events stole the spotlight from what was after all a far greater tragedy–the bloody pilgrimage of several millions of people from their native lands, from their kind homes, into an unknown filled with ever present horror and peril. In what used to be called the Great War there also was tragic pilgrimage of Belgians, but at least they fled with the path fairly open before them.

In this awful flight every step of the way was blazing with terror. The path before them was filled with menace. They fled from the one horror in the full knowledge that they were heading into unremitting horror of the millions who took part, and are still taking part in that awful pilgrimage I feel sure I saw nearly 200,000 of them in the seven days I toiled my way from Brussels to the coast ahead of the rapidly advancing enemy. And this article will detail with such detachment as possible to an emotional man the main features of the picture that now must hang on the walls of humanity’s grand gallery along with the tragic murals of Caesar, Attila, Genghis Khan, Napoleon and all the great names of pride.

Like a Forest Fire

But do not console yourselves as you read this in thinking all this is over. It goes on. Where could these rivers of humanity go? Could they just sink into the ground? At the time of writing, the estimate is that 150,000 of them have perished and so sunk into the ground. But poor splendid France has taken them in their millions and is spreading them somehow all over her already crowded campagne. In my time I have heard my fellow countrymen speak critically of the French, saying they were too canny, too parsimonious, too greedy for money. Never again can I be silent before so vicious an opinion. For I have seen France with absolutely wide arms welcoming to her soil these tortured, laboring, penniless millions. Not with canniness, but with generosity sublime from the highest to the lowest, France has to her great military peril welcomed and made safe the path of these refugees. If France is canny about money it is because so many times each century France has to mother another million of the earth’s forsaken. To be so great a mother France must indeed be thrifty.

Many years ago when I was a boy camping on the Muskosh river in the Georgian bay, I saw a great forest fire. I witnessed that never-to-be-forgotten spectacle of the forest’s secret people, the deer, the birds, the squirrels, the fox, the slow, struggling porcupine fleeing before the crackling horror of fire.

When I stood on the road between Tournai and Brussels and watched the full tide of refugee columns I saw the gentle creatures of the wilds once more.

Here before me on the wide highway was an endless throng, in cars, in huge farm wagons, on bicycles, but far the greatest number just on foot, toiling, not fast but with exhaustion already two or three days old in terrible forward-bending agony. In a forest fire creatures do not race, they flee in little exhausted, bewildered spurts. So with these women and children and men in a never ending flood to the number of millions on all roads.

Allies Show Humanity

I first contacted the tragedy at Arras, where I arrived in the war area by train. The advance guard of the refugees were there–the fairly well off, who had good cars and experience of travel to enable them to make time. These were citizens of Holland and Belgium who had already experience of bombing in the larger cities of their native lands. The night I arrived Arras was bombed for the first time. It was set on fire, and hardly had flames started to leap, before out from hotels, private homes, sheds and shelters where they had taken refuge, emerged the tide of refugees to continue their tragic way.

“We cannot remain,” they told me. “We have already been bombed every place we have stopped since we left our homes. We must be on our way.”

“Where to?” I always asked and without one exception to that question the answer was ever the same. They did not know.

From the moment of my arrival until, along with all the rest of the war correspondents, I was marched by the officers in charge of us aboard a ship at Boulogne, already under intense bomb fire, there was no yard of road, no village however tiny, no field that was not filled with this awful tide of humble humanity. You must realize now, of course, that this refugee flood was a German weapon as coldly calculated and as viciously employed as any fifth column. In despatches to The Daily Star I called it the sixth column, and that describes it. The reason for the random bombing of cities and towns was merely to drive out of those places onto the roads again the pilgrim hordes to block and embarrass the roads for French and British armies. With heart in mouth, I watched from day to day for any sign that our armies might face the problem with an almost lawful necessity and drive the refugees from the roads. God be praised, whatever the net results of this first battle may be, both French and British treated these hopeless people with humanity that never lapsed.

Look at Your Canada

So much for argument of the case. Now for the evidence. If these be too cruel throw the paper aside, get to your feet and look out the window at your beloved Canada, and dedicate yourself to it anew. For there are no non-military objectives any more. Your sweetest child is today a military objective of first rank. For if that tender child be blasted before your eyes so rendering you and all who see it helpless, then surely is not that a military objective of greatest importance?

Near Enghien while watching Junker dive bombers methodically and very technically blasting that little town to radiant hell, I stood on the roadside while the refugee throng, hurried by this fury, went bending by. Two children, possibly three and four years old, hand in hand, their heads wobbling on necks so weary were they, struggled along behind their parents. The father pushed a barrow, the mother carried a great sheet bag of treasures. They got ahead of the toddlers following, when one Junker, having dropped its bombs on Enghien, banked around and followed the road, emptying machine-guns into the crowds. Three great Belgian horses drawing a heavy cart stampeded. Nobody had time to reach the children. They were trampled as little moths and crushed under foot.

I carne through Tournai in the morning and saw in the sunlit old Belgian town dense mobs of refugees trying to buy bread massed in the park and all along the curbs in family and village groups, while old men went foraging in vain. It was like a fair day. But on every face were terror and exhaustion. Eyes were glazed in the fight with sleep, for sleep was too deadly for a mother with their children lying in attitudes of endless weariness across their laps or clasped in their arms. There could be no sleep in this funeral march of a nation for at any minute out of blue summer sky might come howling death.

Seeing a City Die

On my way back through Tournai five hours later, after witnessing the death and destruction of cities and towns, I found that 29 bombers in precise formation had come over at 4.30 in the afternoon and dropped 200 high-explosive bombs at random into the fair-day-thronged town. No place of military importance had been hit; not the station, not the main road junctions in or around the town, no barracks, no defences. Just the streets, the parks, two churches, a convent. And how many died in that carnage of a summer afternoon has not been known.

With heart shut tight and eyes half closed against the horror, we went through Tournai, its flames rising in four great pillars of smoke for the spectacled professors on high in their planes to note and check. In the streets and alleys and doorways the dead had been already laid aside by the doggedly toiling Belgian police, firemen and emergency crews. In one convent four nuns at prayer were killed and 20 wounded and their mother superior, a princess of Belgium 67 years of age, was marshalling what was left of her Benedictine daughters to flee and join the sleepless army on the road.

In Amiens we arrived to find a city with street cars and traffic and busy shops not unlike a decent residential area of Paris. The following morning bombs were falling, and the city was dying under our eyes, with shops and homes deserted. Amiens, crammed with refugees at nightfall, was by morning light a city of the dead, with all its people and all its refugees joined in that strange, slow toiling flood, that slow stampede if such a thing is imaginable. Near Amiens I saw a car laden on the roof with mattresses packed with family and bags and with a dead child tied on a running board seeking a burial place and an hour’s respite for the last rites. Hundreds of young people had bandaged heads and bodies. Older people injured simply gave up and quit the flight.

I saw a company of Belgian boy scouts on bicycles in scout uniform, three of them with bandaged wounds pull up where a bomb had fallen near the road to render first aid to 10 or 15 people laid out in fields. A scoutmaster about 20, who was superintending work of his refugee scouts, said rather hopelessly to me, “The trouble is these poor souls want to die. We haven’t been able to do much good this past week because the minute they get hit they take it for an excuse to go and die under a hedge. Maybe I will be the same when my turn comes.”

I saw this same scoutmaster in Boulogne later and three of his boys were killed in bombing at Arras while working in the inferno there, rescuing wounded. Three boys I had seen stacking bicycles on the roadside to leap to the help of others.

Use Refugees as Screen

The thing to remember amidst all this of which I only give most terribly sketchy glimpses of what I, one man, was able to see at any tiny given instant at one tiny spot in wide France, is that amidst it all, the British and French armies had to try to organize defence against the on-rushing enemy. All savage tribes shove a screen of prisoners ahead of them in attacking. Nobody who witnessed that first terrible week in Belgium and Northern France can ever be persuaded that the Germans did not use with complete heartlessness the screen of millions of refugees behind which to make their attack.

But do not think of the refugees as having found rest now at last. Millions of them are in France and a haven has to be found for them. Millions with only what they could carry of their earthly goods. Few of them without some member of their little flock lost.

They are members now of that ancient and noble brotherhood embracing all races and all ages of the martyrs of innocent and trampled humanity.

Editor’s Note: Greg arrived as a war correspondent just in time to see the early retreats and fall of France during World War 2.

Trout Fishing Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be–Not This Year!

Swish, thump! Out came a ten-inch beauty.

The Thrills Prove Chiefly to Be in the Anticipation – Farmers’
Minds Seem Hopelessly Confused on Some Things, But One of Them Breaks All the Traditions of Trout Fishing and Catches Three Beauties in Ten Minutes.

By Gregory Clark, May 29, 1920.

When you go trout fishing, take along a good supply of magazines, novels, an indoor baseball outfit and a ouija board.

For, about 2.30 o’clock of the afternoon of your first day on the fishing ground, you will begin to yearn for one or the other of the above forms of recreation.

Trout fishing consists, in the finer aspects, of anticipation and retrospection. There is no finer thrill than in picking early spring model fishworms in your backyard and visioning the swift stream and the flashing speckled jewel you will catch with each squirming wormlet. The planning, the talking it over, poetically, dramatically, with your friends, the packing, the first railway journey of the season – Ah! It is romance!

And the telling of it afterwards. In June, the eleven poor little trout you caught have multiplied to twenty-five. By midsummer, they are, fifty speckled beauties. By autumn, when a sportsman is at his best, from a literary point of view, that stingy little eleven has grown to many creels-full, with a whacking big realistic, dramatic lie attached to every fish.

There are three trout streams to the average trout expedition. The first is the brook you had in mind when you started on the trip. It is fished the first day, when enthusiasm is still high, and before the truth of the old adage about anticipation has sunk in. This first stream, the scene of all your spring dreams, yields three small trout of doubtfully lawful size.

The second stream is the one about four miles away which the natives inform you is full of fish. You visit it the second day, and after landing five three-inch chub, in one hour, you retire to a sunny bank and wait for the gang to re-assemble.

The third type of stream is the fabulous brook in which trout under one pound in weight are seldom if ever caught. The farmers and residents assure you that it is the real thing in trout streams But it is ten miles inland. And its a dirty and difficult stream to fish.

This third type renders up not even a chub. It runs cold and swift, full of dark, log-bound holes where beautiful trout should be lurking. But the most skilful sneaking of your bait in under these shadowy pools results in merely hooking a log.

At least, this was our experience up Lake of Bays way last week-end. We aren’t grouching, understand. We had our share of sport in planning, in the thrill of the journey, the arrival at Huntsville at 2 a.m., and the departure by boat from Huntsville at the still frostier hour of 7 a.m. But we hadn’t along any magazines or baseball kit.

The trout fisherman is advised to fish in the parts of the stream hardest to get at, because the easier places have been fished out. We tried that. We fought through acres of underbush and swamp and then found our rods were too long. They caught the line on all kinds of unexpected twigs. It is all nonsense to say that trees have no intelligence. After one day’s trout fishing, anyone who would say that all those branches grew where they were merely by chance is lacking in spiritual perception. Trees, especially alders, have a sense of humor, too.

Well, well! So we shortened our rods, and then found we couldn’t reach the best holes. About then, we began to yearn for a snappy detective story.

The confusion in the minds of the farmers and residents in the trout neighborhood is alarming. In the same family, father will say it is too cold for the trout to bite; son will say, it is too warm. At one farmhouse on the third or fabulous stream, where we were to get nothing but, one-pounders, the farmer said the trout hadn’t come up from the lake yet, and five minutes later, his wife assured us that the trout hadn’t come down from the spring sources yet.

Over near Baysville, I fished the second day until I had landed four chub out of a 500-yard stretch of creek. Not a trout did I flush. Not a fingerling. So I retired to a sunny bank and smoked, awaiting the gang’s return.

Down to the corduroy bridge came a young farmer and his small boy and a dog.

“Gettin’ any?” he asked, amiably.

“No. Not biting to-day. Too cold” I replied.

“Well, I’m counting on a couple for supper,” said he.

From behind a stump, he drew from concealment a seven-foot alder pole with a hook and line on it. Out of his vest pocket he produced a worm. The little boy scampered up and down the creek, peering and yelling into the pools I had so warily stalked. The dog excitedly followed the boy, barking at the creek. Dad threw his bait in and – swish, thump! Out came a ten-inch beauty. In 40 yards, be performed this deed three times, whistled for his boy and his dog, replaced his pole in hiding, bade me good evening and went home to a trout supper.

As soon as he was out of sight, I arose from the sunny bank and fished that stream inch by inch, carefully, carelessly; sneaking up to it one time, and standing boldly exposed the next; even yelling like a small boy and barking like a dog. But all I got was one pallid chub.

Where’s the sense in this, anyway?

However, the second phase of trout-fishing, retrospection, sets in early. When we got on the boat to go back to Huntsville, the purser asked us if we had any luck. And without collusion and nary a blush, we jovially assured him we had never had better sport, and we led him to believe our hand-bags were full of trout. By the time we reached the town, among the forty-odd passengers, we were pointed out as ardent trout experts returning from the kill. And thereupon began to form in our minds next autumn’s thundering tales of grand battles amid the alder groves of gleaming brooks.

At the hotel in Huntsville, we found two Presbyterian ministers standing beside a wooden box that was leaking water on the floor. They had ordinary 50-cent brass-jointed bamboo rods tied with string.

We manoeuvred into converse with them.

“Fish?” we asked, glancing at the big leaky box.

“Yes,” they said. “Speckled trout. We only had a couple of days, and we only got seventy. And now, it the ice doesn’t hold out, we’re afraid they might spoil.”

They were ministers. We had to believe them.

Our Confidential Vacation Guide

May 21, 1921

This illustration went with a story by Ernest Hemmingway.

Toronto’s Bohemians

By Gregory Clark, May 15, 1926.

Toronto has no Bohemian colony, no Montmartre1, no Greenwich Village, no Soho.

But the Bohemians are there, just the same, artists, art students, musicians, sculptors, stainers of glass, toolers of leather, batterers of brass, batikers of batik2, designers of theatres, chapels, book covers, and writers of all the unprofitable branches of literature from sonnets and one-act plays to free verse, free in both senses.

Down in the basement of the Ontario College of Art, which is back of the new art gallery in Grange park, we talked to a crowd of smocked art students whose hands were all muddy with clay which they were piling up in shapeless masses that presently would emerge as symbolic figures.

“Is there a province of Bohemia in Toronto?”

“No. There are Bohemians, but they are not organized into a colony.”

“Where do most of them live? Is there no favored district?”

“Within walking distance of the college of art. That means anywhere from the Ward to the Humber or the Beach. And wherever rooms can be got cheapest, with a north light.”

“That’s vague.”

“Several have rooms over old-fashioned stables back of old-fashioned mansions.”

“That is better.”

“Many have attic rooms, and third floor backs, and hall bedrooms.”

“Bohemianer and Bohemianer!”

“Some move once a month or as often as the rent is due.”

“And is there a Bohemian restaurant, a popular cafe?”

“No. Eating…”

This art is a strange thing. It takes hold of men and maids, a passion transcending love. A large number of the parents of the younger art students feel that their offspring are addled. Everything founded on commonsense is sacrificed. There are girls studying art in Toronto today who are living on less than two dollars a week for their food. There are young men who have recently performed the miracle of existing the full eight months of the year’s course at art school on absolutely no income. Minimum of everything – food, furniture, clothing, comforts of the most elementary sort – is the rule.

Amongst the majority of the art students those students who have well-to-do parents back of them are referred to as the “Four Hundred.”

“What,” asked Arthur Lismer, who is vice-principal of the college, of one of the students who had several terms of experience, “is the very least you can get along with as living expenses?”

“Well, you can get a perfectly good room for little as two dollars a week, though three would be a more general minimum. It isn’t much of a room, of course, but it doesn’t need be does it?”


“Fifty or sixty cents a day will feed you nicely, that is, buying your meals. But of course, some of the girls can do it less than that by buying the raw materials and cooking their food. Some of them don’t even buy bread, but bake their own.”

Living on Nothing a Day

“So-and-so,” said Mr. Lismer, mentioning another student, “did it on less than that.”

“Ah yes, but he restricted himself to soda biscuits and milk. And then, of course, there Whatyoucallem” (and the clay-fisted students all grinned at the mention of the name), “who subsisted on the milk he used to pinch off doorsteps in his early morning foraging expeditions. Winter was a great hardship to him, when the early morning deliveries were cut off.”

“Tell us more about him!” we begged.

“There’s little enough. He was determined to study art and he had no means whatever. The only time the police nearly got him was when he broke into a cellar to steal a lump of coal for his grate and the police were called and he hid under the coal while they prodded around the cellar.”

“Why didn’t he work to put himself through?”

“How could he work?” retorted the students scornfully. “He worked at his art in the holidays.”

Adding all the conservatories of music, the art schools and other sources of instruction in the high arts, there are several hundred students of these what you might call unprofitable professions in Toronto, and a decided majority of them are the type who are smitten with that mysterious quest of an unnamable goal and who have back of them little or no financial support.

“A father,” said one girl student, “will help his son get an education to be a lawyer or engineer. But few fathers, other than wealthy and careless ones, will encourage their children in what they regard to be so crazy-headed and unprofitable an enterprise as art. Most of our relations are strained as a matter of fact.”

These students, whose Bohemianism is largely a blossom of youth, nevertheless swell the ranks of the graduate Bohemians of which Toronto is gradually collecting its quota.

“If a census were taken,” says Arthur Lismer, “of all the people who, in the secrecy of their rooms, are either painting pictures, designing in one of the crafts, writing poems or plays, or in some field of art seeking to express the mystery that is pressing from within, it would run into hundreds and hundreds.”

Few of the art students know what their goal is. They are making definite and practical sacrifices. They are living sparely, with conscious effort at economy. But few of them have any expectation of making even a moderate fortune out of their art. The student of engineering can suffer hardship with the vision before him of great rewards. But there are no examples of rich rewards in the arts around Toronto.

We asked about this from a group of students at the college.

“What do you expect to get out of it all?”

“It is hard to put a name to it. We are not at all painfully aware of restrictions or hardships of any sort. Sacrifice is part and parcel of the whole thing. You can’t imagine a fat and comfortable art student really getting ahead with his art.”

“And then,” put in another girl student in the group, “we have fun.”

Toronto’s Little Bohemian Club

They have fun. The art students’ ball last month was one of the most picturesque events of the social season. Masquerade, of the period of the Italian renaissance, original presentation of dramatic masque of Dante, directed by Roy Mitchell, and then the fox trot to one of the city’s smart orchestras on, on into morn, in costumes antedating the minuet by centuries. And the students were outnumbered, five to one, by Bohemians of all ages, from University professors to the pretty partners of bond salesmen whose experience of the plastic arts is lipstick – the partners, not the bond salesmen.

The college is open at nights. Where night classes are not going on, the students are free to work and to foregather. The Ontario College of Art is entirely co-educational. There is no segregating of sexes. And that is a very odd thing. Because the art school in Montreal, that city which is boasted to be so much freer in spirit than Toronto, segregates the men from the girls not merely in different wings of the school, but has different times of admitting and dismissing the two sexes – the men at 9 o’clock and the girls at 9.15 in the morning, and the same in the afternoon.

There are a number of little clubs of a Bohemian aspect in the city, the most active of which is the Theatre Arts Club, which actually puts on plays. These young people have their club in a quaint old building next door to the morgue on Lombard street, which formerly was a Catholic boys’ home. Some of the old churchy benches remain, and here they have erected a stage and prepared such properties as they can make with their own wits and hands entirely.

One thing about all the Bohemians, especially the younger students and practitioners of the arts, is that they want something else in their atmosphere besides air. There is an obvious approach, with self-conscious bravado, to those subjects which from time immemorial, but particularly within modern times, have belonged strictly to the arts. The Theatre Arts Club’s latest presentation, for example, was Oscar Wilde’s “Salome.” Who amongst us does not remember having quivered all over to the luscious music of this brilliant steal from the Song of Solomon in our undergraduate days?

Atmosphere is Bohemia. It appears to be a fact that unlike cows, fat and contented artists seldom produce anything worth while. The bare and limited life that results in all the compromises and makeshifts that comfortable people call Bohemia is somehow stimulating to the spirit. It is as if the restriction of all human desires such as the desire for comfort and food and property and everything else average people desire were a means of conserving a spiritual fuel for the fires that create.

There is, however, the story of a girl who came to the collage from a mansion on the Hill – the sort of girl who showed no promise of anything, not even beauty, couldn’t play, couldn’t sing, cook, fish, garden, play golf. But in her was a queer streak which her family, utterly baffled, as the famille of artists often are, diagnosed rather fearfully as art. So they sent her in all the trappings of one of the negligible “Four Hundred,” to the college. In a few months, the whole thing had captured her, body and soul.

Not Many Have Arty Look

And right before all eyes there went on the astonishing process of this girl denuding herself of all the comforts her family had accustomed her to, reducing her needs, unconsciously, almost, to a minimum, sacrificing, glorying in being admitted into the sacrificial intimacy of the hardest working students, reducing her life to the bare terms, as far as material things were concerned, in which the spirit can live in understanding with the unnamable mystery of art and creation.

That is all Bohemia is – an atmosphere, artificial, as art is artificial, in which there is subjugation of a lot of desires to spare fuel for the big desire and to free the vision far enough away to get the perspective of truth that artists must have to make art. Perhaps those who are nearest God’s image, of all mankind, are artists, who have inherited from on high a little more than others the passion to create. And it, naturally, is a mystery, from within and without.

Our Bohemians are not the least eccentric in their clothing. The reason is – no colony. If they could live and dine together they would wear their badge with pride. Amongst the elder members of the artistic cult are few even with odd haircuts. Look at the group of seven! They look more like a staff of schoolmasters than like the popular conception of artists. The only one who wears a fancy coiffure says he does it to spare himself being mistaken in railway smokers for a traveling man. It spares him a lot of conversation of that sort. Roy Mitchell, head of the stagecraft department of the college, has always had an arty look, even back before he wore the mackintosh cape, and that was about the time Red Dixon used to play fullback. An artist gets the same internal kick out of certain externals that a soldier gets out of his uniform or a golfer out of his plus fours. But until Toronto acquires a Bohemian resort, it can look for few picturesque figures among the artists.

The musical circle of Toronto contains no outstanding salons of Bohemia. Literary groups show no tendency towards the unconventionalities of what Soho, Montmartre and Greenwich Village used to be before tea rooms invited the slummer in and the artists out. Most of the literary clubs look like church socials, and sound like them, too.

Commercial art offers a way out for those students who can no longer resist the temptation of comforts, home and wife. The others head on for the larger theatres of art, New York, London, Paris, Brussels. Toronto does not hold many of its visiting art students – and a very large number of them come from far places in Canada. One of the most promising of them all comes from British Columbia, and we visited him in his attic room, vivid with sketches on every wall, a saucepan of shaving water steaming on a gas stove, a cello in a corner, paints, fragments of art material scattered about. When he welcomed us, I noticed a cigaret butt, caught and dangling from the tail of his sweater coat.

We had called with Arthur Lismer, who wanted to consult him about another picture to add to what this student was already asked to show in the group of seven exhibition. This was a great honor – the first time a student had ever been asked to show with his masters. Immediately after greeting us, this student began hunting for his cigaret butt. While Mr. Lismer talked, the student kept prowling about the attic studio with a mystified air. He looked on table, stove, shelf, floor. He stared intently at the floor. But no cigaret butt.

“Give us that one with the children bathing in the blue water,” said Mr. Lismer.

“Well, I would,” said the student. “But it won’t fit my frame, I’ve got only the two frames, and it won’t fit.”

They argued this quaint question – show held up for the want of a frame – and then the cigaret butt fell from its hiding place on to that space of floor where the student had looked most intently.

He looked at the butt with amazement. He glanced quickly about, with the air of one on whom impa are playing tricks. There was something so innocent, so elfin, so warmly comic about that whole scene, the spirited conversation between master and student, about pictures and treasured picture frames, the cigaret butt so eagerly sought and in hiding on his cost tall, and in the mysterious restoration of it, that it stood a perfect piece of all that innocence and asceticism which is all the Bohemia Toronto has.

Editor’s Note:

  1. From the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th, Montmartre in Paris was where many artists lived, worked, or had studios. ↩︎
  2. Batik is an Indonesian technique of wax-resist dyeing applied to cloth. There was an artist inspired craze in Europe and the Americas for Batik in the early 1920s. ↩︎

Spring Cleaning Isn’t What It Used to Be

May 7, 1921

By Gregory Clark, May 7, 1921.

Man is a lucky creature.

But isn’t he brutally ungrateful?

This spring, the newspapers and magazines are as full as ever of spring-cleaning jokes, poems and cartoons.

The same old line of bunk: father afraid to come home to his muddled household; hubby going golfing or staying down to business at night to escape the madness that has overcome his home.

Is it possible! – is it possible that men are still under the impression that spring cleaning is the old bogey it was in the nineteenth century? Is it possible that men are unaware of the greatest revolution in womenkind since Eve.

The beating of carpets is no longer to be heard in the land. The sight of husbands eating supper on the back steps is no more.

For all unheralded, greeted indeed ungrateful indifference, has come the modernization of spring cleaning, a reform amongst women which for economic importance far exceeds their capture of the vote or their right to sit on juries.

It has been a most sweeping reform. It has affected every male citizen of the community. Yet have the men recognized it, hailed it, acclaimed it? No. They still perpetrate the outmoded jokes and jests of a bygone age.

Twenty years ago, what was spring cleaning? Ah, let us grant that was a terror.

As soon as the last foul snow had fled from the yard corners, the womenfolk began to set the date for the big bee. Father, sons and all were formally warned to be on hand yet out of the way. Soap, new scrubbing brushes and yellow ochre were bought in large quantities. Carpet beaters, step-ladders and curtain-stretchers were brought forth out of the cellar. As the fated day drew nigh, the women could scarcely contain themselves.

Then like doom, the day broke.

Off came curtains, carpets, pictures from the whole house, attic to kitchen. Out came books, out came the contents of the drawers, out came furniture, out came the hidden treasures of clothes closets.

For they did it all at a swipe, a generation ago.

There was a mad orgy of washing curtains, scrubbing floors, woodwork; beating carpets, dusting books, pictures, furniture. The curtains were dipped in yellow ochre to give them that correct creamy color, and then were stretched on frames with millions of pins, out in the backyard sun.

It lasted from three days to a week. Father had to come home early to beat carpets, ate meals in the kitchen, slept in a damp room on a strange bed, in a bare, curtainless, disorganized universe. He knew his books were being mixed up beyond redemption, that his desk was in confusion and all his valuable papers and memoranda lost forever.

He had to carry, heave, lift, tear up, tack down, and risk his neck hanging pictures which never would be straight again.

Those were days-

But what of the present!

To-day, a man never knows spring cleaning is going on if his wife didn’t tell him to notice how nice and clean everything was.

It is the greatest revolution in domestic customs since man moved out of caves into shanties.

For they now do it room by room!

A room a day. After, the men are off in the morning, the women tackle one room, wash and iron the curtains, vacuum the rug, dust and polish the floor and woodwork, clean windows, and so on.

Thus in a week or ten days the house is “done” and nobody would know the ancient fury had struck the place except the neighbors across the road who, peering out in true neighborly fashion, observed the curtains off for a few hours.

Where are the curtain-stretchers of yesterday? The carpet-beaters, the furniture piled in hallways, the tacks in the feet, the damp floors, the fury, the unrest of it all?

Are we not as cleanly as the former generations?

A dear old lady, who has seen many changes since stage coaches used to leave King and Yonge streets, explained the revolution as follows:

“Twenty years ago, had you suggested to a good housewife that she do one room at a time, she would have been scandalized.

“And have the dirt fly from one room to another!” she would have cried.

“To-day, you have machines that inhale the dust, so to speak. Lace curtains of creamy color are no longer the fashion. Little curtains of to-day are easily and quickly washed and ironed.

“But the secret of this great reform is this.

“Twenty years ago, women had very few pleasures. The annual spring-cleaning jamboree was one of their few real athletic pastimes. They had one grand fling, and then contented themselves with the occasional euchre party for the rest of the year.

“To-day what have we? The movie, the motor car. Home is no longer the chief thing in life. It is merely a shelter in bad weather and a place to sleep at nights.

“Movies, motor-cars, tea-rooms, the Daughters of this and the Women’s Association of that are inventions of the last 20 years

“So spring-cleaning, as a pastime, has declined. And as a nuisance, it has been modified into the tame little thing it is to-day.”

The old lady picked up her crochet work again.

“Women do not change,” she said. “Only times do.”

Would You Like to be a Juror? Few Men, No Women Have a Chance

May 2, 1925

This illustration went with an article by Fred Griffin on how juries are selected in Ontario. It notes that Ontario still does not allow women on juries while jurisdictions like Alberta and some U.S. states have allowed it since 1922 and 1920 respectfully, despite recent changes giving women the vote. The article also lists all of the conditions to become a juror such as being over 21, being a British subject, not infirm, and owning $600 of property in cities or $400 in towns or villages.

All Bets Are Off!

April 23, 1932

These illustrations went with a story by Cyrus Leger about horse racing.

April 23, 1932
April 23, 1932

Oh, To Be Poor or Safe in Jail Now That the Income Tax is Due!

April 19, 1924

By Gregory Clark, April 19, 1924.

Residential Streets Deserted These Evenings, While the Children Are Put to Bed and Dad Struggles With His Tax Forms – If You’re Puzzled Lots of Your Clever Friends Can Help You.

O to be in jail, now that April’s here! O, to be a bachelor, earning about eight hundred dollars a year!

Blessed are the poor, for they don’t know what income tax forms are.

Do you know why the dominion government set the last day of April as the date income tax forms have to be in?

To save population. If the tax forms had to be made out in the dismal month of November or in the heat of the summer, hundreds would be jumping out of upstairs windows or running amok in the streets screaming: “Four per cent, less allowance for normal tax, on dividends, plus amount of surtax forward from No. 35 (ii). OO-wah!”

The next few evenings you will notice the streets deserted. The little children will be banished to bed. There will be no ratepayers out gardening. No voters ring gladly underneath their cars in the side drive. Save for the song of the robins, the gorgeous April evenings will be desolate.

Papa is indoors struggling with his income tax forms.

It’s a pity the ratepayers’ associations haven’t Instituted evening classes in the public schools during April to have chartered accountants give a course in “Mathematics for Taxpayers.”

“For once set out on paper, the whole thing is very simple,” says Hugh D. Patterson, dominion inspector of taxation for Toronto district. “Like any rules, the tax regulations have a formidable look. Tell the public that we have a special staff of men put on for the sole purpose of explaining the regulations to them, and if they strike difficulties, to bring them to the tax office and we will make their forms out for them.”

Mr. Patterson, who is not an, aged, grizzled and fearsome official like a Roman governor, but a young man with black hair and black eyes and an awful understanding of the most obscure things, and who can calculate fractions of fractions with an ordinary pencil, has made out two samples for the guidance of the poor rich.

Here’s the Way to Do It

People with moderate incomes have no trouble. It is the people with incomes over five thousand who need sympathy.

“So here are two examples, worked out step by step. If everyone follows these diagrams, step by step, they will come out all right.”

And, gentlemen, get your scissors. these in your hats. Here they are:

“Remember this,” added the inspector.

“The surtax is figured on your total income, if it is over $5,000, regardless of the other tax, regardless of your family, or dependents. Marital status has nothing to do with the surtax. The trouble is, to keep these two taxes separate, in your mind. Work out the normal tax, as shown. Then work out the surtax as an entirely different proposition. Follow the diagram.”

Much of the trouble people have is in not knowing their exemptions. Single men, as a rule, don’t know that they are exempt the two thousand if they have a dependent parent, grandparent, sister or, if over twenty-one, a brother mentally or physically incapacitated and totally dependent.

A single man who has one child dependent on him is exempt only the $300. A widower with one child, is exempt as a married man, as well as for the child.

All speculation is exempt. If you lose five thousand dollars on a speculation in oil stocks, your regular business being a clerk in an office, you are not exempt for the loss. If you win five thousand, you don’t have to include that in your earnings for the year.

But if you win a million dollars selling the government some bonds – that isn’t speculation – that’s business. And you have to include it under the head of commissions earned.

The main thing is, don’t guess. Call up the income tax office or go in and see them.

One Toronto man, in clearing up his wife’s estate after her death, made the discovery that she had never rendered an income tax return. He could not get an order to distribute the estate until he had satisfied the tax department. He had then to make out tax returns for every year since 1917, pay penalties for each year she had failed to make a return, and from 1920 on had to pay ten per cent. tax on the estate, interest accruing, for her failure to declare.

That estate, a good one, paid a handsome sum into the government.

No earthly excuse will be accepted for failing to render your tax return on or before April. 30. If you go on May the first and tell them that yesterday you were knocked down by a street car and were unconscious the whole of April 30, they will take the greatest sympathetic interest in your story, but it won’t save you the five per cent. of the tax penalty which the law calls for.

No Excuse For Anyone

One Toronto man, wealthy, was in Florida and was having such a good time he forgot all about taxes. He paid a penalty that equalled the cost of his trip to Florida. Another man was at sea, on his way home, on April 30. He had to pay the penalty.

“No excuses are provided for in the act. Therefore no excuses exist, as far as the department is concerned,” said Mr. Patterson.

A man was in hospital for several weeks before and after April 30. He was undergoing operations and was near death’s door. Nobody thought about income tax returns. But he paid the penalty just the same as the careless man. Nobody gets away. Professional entertainers, the great musicians and artists who only come to Toronto for a visit of twenty-four hours pay taxes on the income of an hour’s singing. Massey Hall makes its return of money taken in and paid out. The government writes to the artist’s agent in New York – and to make future visits possible the artist comes across with her tax.

People who are leaving the country for good are usually Interviewed before their departure and taxes are collected. There are various ways the department gets word of their intended departure – often a letter from a neighbor.

The government has actually collected taxes from bootleggers, as such. That is, the department reads in the newspaper of a conviction of someone as a bootlegger. Looking up records, they note no income recorded. So they pay a visit to the convicted party and demand to see his bank books. They examine back records of the bank account. They demand a proper income return. And the bootlegger, alarmed at the possibilities of prosecution, renders returns on his ill-gotten gains.

“The policy of the department,” said Mr. Patterson, “is to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, as far as prosecution in the courts is concerned, until the act has been in force long enough for everyone to thoroughly understand it. We do come across many cases where returns have not properly been filed. All we do is secure the return and collect the money, with full penalties exacted., We do not often prosecute. But instructions are likely to be promulgated at any time for a tightening up of the regulations, and prosecutions will be in order.”

A final instruction is this: no one knows better how to make an income tax form than people who don’t have to make them out. If you have one of these amongst your friends, get him to make yours out.

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