The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

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Revolution in Toronto’s Russian Colony; Tragedy of Ten Thousand Exiles from Home

At the Ukrainian Church of St. Josaphat the Martyr, on Franklin avenue, men sit on one side and the women on the other. Here those Russians, still faithful to the old tradition, worship every day of the week.
The little orthodox Russian church on Royce avenue, which is now a Presbyterian mission church to the Ukrainian people, one instance of the revolution among Canadian Russians.

By Gregory Clark, December 3, 1921.

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.

Swish, Thud, SMACK-!

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 —

Tong!


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.

SMACK.

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 –

SMACK!


Editor’s Note: Boxing was one of the most popular sports in the first half of the Twentieth Century.

Fifteen Years!

“On Armistice Eve, when the city hall square in silent and deserted, the Boys, in their old khaki, with their tin hats over their eyes, with braziers winking, come back for an hour or two, to bivouac around the steps in a sort of old boys’ reunion, in answer to the call of memory”

By Gregory Clark, November 11, 1933.

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?”

“Yes, sir.”

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.


Editor’s Notes: The photo is of the the Old City Hall Cenotaph in Toronto, which was dedicated in 1925.

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.

Sir Arthur Currie, was the first Canadian commander of the Canadian Corps in WW1. Redford “Red” Mulock was a Canadian flying ace. Ernst Udet was German flying ace.

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.

One City Shop Selling 1,100 qts. of Whiskey Daily

The little old man’s assurance begins to fail him, but he demands in a quavering voice: “What’s the matter with it?”

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.

Liquor Headquarters

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.

“All gone!”

“Fini” shouts one of the cashiers, who wears a returned soldier button.

“Napoo!”

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.

Two Bankers and a “Dook”

Gregory Clark, photographed as he called a taxicab from the steps of his London hotel just before he set out for France at the beginning of the blitzkrieg. During this first trip, the baggage shown here had to be abandoned in France in his hasty departure.

By Gregory Clark, September 28, 1940.

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.

Heinkels and Dorniers were German planes in WWII.

A Murder a Day – and Proud of It

By Gregory Clark, September 19, 1925.

It Isn’t Safe to Be a Civilian In Chicago; And It Isn’t Safe to Be a Policeman – Here Is The Great Crime City of The World – The Killings May Be Cruel or Tragic But They Frequently Have Comic-Opera Sequels

A murder a day keeps the angels away.

There are no angels in Chicago. For they have a murder a day.

Of course, it doesn’t run on a daily schedule. Some days there won’t be a murder all day. But then they make up the next day by having two or three.

A whole day will go by without a single murder. Then the Chicago papers have a peculiar bare, dumb look. Everybody sits around in a sort of hush.

But all is well. The following morning, the usual cheery world is rackety once more with news of murder.

Chicago is proud of its murder. Of course, there are those amongst the three and half million people in greater Chicago who protest that they are pained by the city’s crime record. But you will find all sorts of people in a city of that size.

You take the average taxi driver or young business man or the lady who sits at a desk on each floor of the hotel, and they will tell you first about the murder record and second about the Boulevarde.

“Chicago, you know,” says any one of them, “has a murder a day. Oh, yes! That’s more than the whole of Britain put together. Have you been on Michigan Boulevarde yet? No? Well, to-day ain’t so windy, but you take a walk along there on a windy day! My….!”

Here are the figures announced by the Chicago police for the three most popular forms of crime for the past few years. The figures are stated to be absolutely accurate. As a matter of fact, in order to get the figures right, the police hadn’t the time to capture even half the criminals involved. But the figures are right, you understand. Ab-so-lute-ly.

1919 1920 1921 1922 1923 1924

Murder 330 194 190 228 270 347

Burglary 6,108 5,495 4,774 4,301 3,019 2,155

Robbery 2,912 2,782 2,658 2,007 1,402 1,799

This year, so far, there have been 262 murders to date, which brings it out exactly right, a murder a day, including Sundays and holidays.

Now, you will observe from the above table that while burglary has fallen fearfully, from 6,000 to only 2,000 in six years, and robbery – which means hold-up – has been appreciably reduced, murder, on the contrary, has showed a steady increase. Murder is obviously Chicago’s pet crime. Take away their burglaries. They can do without their hold-ups. But spare them their murders. Woodman, woodman!

“There is rarely anything poetical or mysterious about Chicago murders. They are what the police call open-and-shut. A husband tires of his wife. What will he do with her? Why, shoot her. A wife grows weary of her husband, he is such a mutt. What will she do? Why, shoot him. It is far quicker than divorce, and cheaper, too.

There is the case of a man who shot his wife and married again the next day. After the police had been hunting for him for two weeks. he came back from his honeymoon and gave himself up. The trial lasted fifteen months, owing to the fact that he was a traveler and had to be on the road a great deal of the time. A lot of the witnesses went away, and those that were left had forgotten most of the facts, having got them mixed up with other murder cases they had witnessed or read of. So that finally, the judges who were trying the case failed to re-elected in the big elections, and the new judges, not knowing the first year of the case, dismissed the matter from their minds, as they wished to begin their careers with a clean sheet.

The Reward of Faith

Think of that second wife, receiving her husband back to her arms freed of all stain! Her heroism rewarded. And it was really clever of her to have gone on all that time without shooting him, until he was cleared. Now she is free to do as she likes, of course.

Jesting about murder is unseemly. But Chiago and her crime situation has reached the jesting stage. It is hard not to be jocular about Chicago’s police and judges, her crime and criminals, her social condition as a whole.

To a high police official, we put this question:

“What is the explanation of Chicago’s crime record?”

His answer:

“Politics.”

The police are appointed and controlled by the elected city officials. The judges are elected for a short term of six years. The prosecuting attorney, the clerk of the court, everybody, is elected.

Nobody can hope to be elected without the support of the bosses. Countless hundreds of good men have run for all these offices on a ticket of reform, refusing the support of the bosses. None of them ever won.

The men who chase the criminals, who catch them; the men who try the criminals, who prosecute them; all are elected. To keep their Jobs, they have to pay attention to the requirements of the bosses who virtually elected them.

What this leads to, you are not asked to guess. In 1923, there were 270 murders in Chicago. There were 135 persons tried for murder, of which 56 were sentenced to the penitentiary and 9 were sentenced to death. Of the nine, one was hanged! Seventy of those tried were acquitted.

Life, you might say, is sacred in Chicago.

One life paid for 270 lives!

If this extraordinary ratio holds good in murder, what must, the harvest be in mere property crime such as burglary and told-up? Chicago, however, seems to care more for property than for life. Because it has been the stricter application of the law in cases of burglary and hold-up that has caused the decrease in these crimes in the past five years.

The real trouble for criminals started in Chicago in 1917. One day an express company’s truck, with two armed guards aboard besides the driver, pulled up at a big munitions plant with the payroll of $9,000.

A touring car was halted at the entrance. As the express motor paused at the door, bandits in the other car fired sawed-off shot guns, killing the guards and driver, and decamped with the cash payroll. There was no hold-up. Just a flat killing.

Chicago went up in the air. This was too much. At the Chicago Association of Commerce the big business men of the city got mad. If nobody else would look out for the life and property of the city, they would. So they formed a committee of their own members to see what could be done.

The first president of this committee was Edwin W. Sims, Canadian born, a prominent lawyer and ex-judge.

In 1920, after a couple of years of discussion, this body took a charter in the state as the Chicago Crime Commission, with Colonel Henry Barrett Chamberlin, one of the original promoters of the idea, as its operating director. He was a former newspaper editor and owner, a lawyer, soldier and what not. He had a thorough knowledge of Chicago’s problem.

The first year the crime commission got busy. There were eighteen hangings in Chicago. The murder rate fell from 330 in 1919 to 194 in 1920 and 190 in 1921.

10,000 Professional Criminals

The crime commission’s method was very simple. They simply made an independent Investigation of every case, of each adjournment, and, with the power of the Association of Commerce back of them, brought the facts to notice. In the offices of the commission are files covering every crime committed in Chicago since 1920, with a record of every criminal, and of the disposition of every case. There are upward of 200,000 files in this collection.

Colonel Chamberlin, the director, says that there are about ten thousand professional criminals of all sorts in Chicago.

“That is less than a third of one per cent of the population. Yet the crime which they commit is out of every proportion with the population. In my opinion, Chicago’s unenviable crime record is due entirely to public indifference. Chicago is a careless city, not a wicked city. The problem is further complicated by the fact that there are twenty-seven nationalities making up the city, most of them creating a large enough colony to make a separate problem in itself. There are more Poles, for example, in Chicago than in any city in Poland.

“Each of these groups has brought its own social customs, its passions and habits with it. What means their police in Europe had of dealing with them the Chicago police do not know, and in any case would not likely be free to employ. They are a free people here, and freedom has its price.

“The cure of the evil,” says Colonel Cham. berlin, “lies in the administration of justice. Justice is a simple thing, intelligible to all races. But the laws of this state are in a sad state of antiquation. They need to be rewritten and revised. As they stand now, there is a loophole in every paragraph, every phrase. The law of precedent has piled up mountain high. In the state of Illinois, we are using English law, for example, that has been rejected in England for hundreds of years.”

The comical plight of the States, having got rid of the King of England but bound in a hundred ways by the will of remote kings and barons, is one that amuses Colonel Chamberlin.

“We put a bill for the revision of our criminal laws before our legislators last year, but it was thrown out by the people.”

The absurdity of the situation is shown by the bail bond system. Murderers can get bail.

Louis Bernstein, whose business was professional bondsmen for criminals, owned a building worth $25,000. On It he had a mortgage of $11,500. He had a half interest in the equity, which gave him $6,750 worth of property. With the state, his credit should have been half of that, or $3,375. Between August and February of one year Bernstein was accepted on bail bonds for offenders totaling $269,500!

And every bond was solemnly drawn on that $3,375 worth of property.

This is a sample of the loopholes and the looseness of administration of United States law which practically invites people to be crooks. It is too easy. The secret of the matter was that Bernstein controlled a big vote in the part of the city where he lived. A score of others could be quoted from Chicago records. But Bernstein’s $269,000 is the best one.

Needed: A Dictator

Some people say that criminals commit crimes in order to get away from Chicago. Chicago has hundreds of miles of cobblestone roads. Chicago has more smells than a Chinese village. Chicago has streets of houses in which people live that would not be tolerated by the Toronto health department even as stables. It has a beautiful side and a horrible side. On the way out to some of the nicest residential regions to be found on earth, Los Angeles included, you have to pass over an open drain of raw sewage as big as a river. It has a Catholic church to every square mile of city, with churches of the other forty-two denominations in proportion. But its traffic policemen bawl you out like Thames bargemen. You are likely to be spat on out of any of the handsome giant office building windows. You rent an apartment for one year; then you move out because the bedbugs have moved in.

Not a mile from its main centre you will see a pedlar shoving a rattle-trap cart and screaming:

“ZzZbissaouto!! Szchickzts!”

He is calling fruit or vegetables in one of the twenty-seven languages of the great mid-American metropolis.

It is a city to get away from, yet three and a half millions live there in pride.

Whether it is the political corruption or the indifference of the people that is the major cause of Chicago’s Gilbert and Sullivan opera plot, there is little likelihood of improvement in the lifetime of those present. In one of the municipal offices, two men were being interviewed on the subject.

“What we need,” said one, “is a benevolent despot. We ought to pick a man famous for his wisdom and character, and appoint him dictator for a time …”

“Excuse me,” broke in the other official. “But who would appoint him – the Republicans or the Democrats?”

And the circle closes.

The manager of one of Chicago’s great hotels has his opinion of crime:

“The real trouble with Chicago is that nobody gives a darn about anybody else so long as nobody interferes with him. Now, that crime you read about is all confined to the criminal classes. They don’t come up and disturb the decent people. So leave ’em alone. Let them kill each other. It is purely local.”

That appears to be the attitude of Chicago towards a murder a day.

In a theatre, the manager came in front of the curtain and announced:

“Ladies and gentlemen – there have been a number of reports of pickpockets in this theatre. Will you kindly watch your pockets and purses. The theatre cannot be responsible for any losses occurring in this manner.”

The audience, was so little impressed by this extraordinary announcement that it did not turn its head to look at its neighbors.

Chicago has roughly six thousand men on its police force. A very large number of these are employed as traffic police, and wear a khaki uniform to distinguish them from the regular police who wear blue. In the downtown district and in those regions where crime flourishes, detectives in large automobiles patrol small areas constantly day and night. They are called the “flying squad.”

In plain clothes, leaning back as comfortably as their large guns will let them, smoking cigars, these detectives roll along. eyeing the people on the sidewalks, stopping to investigate everything out of the ordinary.

The Terrible Newsboy

Following one of these cars for some distance, in a taxi, we came to a large crowd on the sidewalk, peering into an alley. Two large detectives leaped out of the car ahead, and charged the crowd like rugby players.

“What is it?” we asked our taxi driver.

“Oh, I dunno; a broker committed suicide or a girl has shot her sweetie, I suppose.”

Presently the two huge detectives came out of the mob, dragging a small boy with them. We asked some one what the trouble was.

“A newsboy using profane language,” said he.

Chicago has its thrills. We followed around in the vain hope of seeing that day’s murder. But we had to leave the flying squad talking and laughing interminably with a couple of girls at the least busy corner of their patrol area.

That day’s murder took place. It was duly chronicled in the evening papers.

In three years twenty-one policemen were shot and killed by thugs, and ninety-six persons were shot and killed by the police in the enforcement of law and order. These ninety-six were not included in the murders of those years.

The causes of the shooting of civilians by policemen as given in the police reports are illuminating: “Attempted to escape from police officer; failed to stop auto on command; resisted arrest; made move as if to draw gun when found hiding; refused to halt on order; stray bullet while dispersing gamblers.”

It isn’t safe to be a civilian in Chicago. And it isn’t safe to be a policeman. The best thing to be is a casual visitor, in the day time.

Michael Heinan, aged 17, was shot and killed by Thomas Chap, a bartender. Chap defended his action, saying that Heinan had scratched matches on the new bar and had kicked his dog. (This is on record). Chap was released on $10,000 bail, being a well known and responsible citizen.

Eight and one-half years later the Crime Commission, mulling over ancient documents, discovered this case, which had never come up to trial!

They brought it to trial. The jury dismissed Chap, on the ground that the case was so old!

“It is an axiom,” says Colonel Chamberlin, “that cases delayed one year come fifty per cent closer to acquittal. And our laws are so involved the delays in getting a case to trial are inevitable.

“On top of the technical assets to the criminal in the complexity of our laws, there has been another thing to blame, I think, in the production of this situation we find ourselves in. And that is, there has been too much mollycoddling of the criminal, of the less than one-third of one per cent of our population which is criminal. Suppose we pause in our sentimental consideration of the condition of jails and spend some time and energy in safeguarding the law-abiding citizen and the property he has acquired by honest toil!”

The best men in Chicago want their laws rewritten and revised, want the police and judicial system remodelled to take it out of political grasp, want the United States brought up to date from the time they threw kings over board. They want to get rid of King John and the barons.

But what Chicago wants is not what its best men want, necessarily. The big city still lifts its gigantic towers and colossal smells to the marvelling sky. They still sell the Wrigley building to visitors from Canada and the sticks. And they provide their one-a-day.


Editor’s Note: Even at the time, people were fascinated with the prohibition-era crime of Chicago, and its mobsters like Al Capone.

“Ye Maggye McGintye Tea Shoppe,” a Symptom of What?

There are the arty people.

In 1910 There Were But Three Tea Rooms in the City – Now There are at Least 224 – A Study in the Transmutation of a Residential District.

By Gregory Clark, September 18, 1920.

In 1914 there were, according to a rum-hound of my acquaintance who has turned eminently respectable and sells second-hand motor cars, one hundred and twelve liquor bars in Toronto.

To-day, according to a tea-hound of my acquaintance, there are in Toronto no fewer than two hundred and twenty-four tea rooms of the various types.

What this indicates, I will leave to both the Referendum Committee and the Distillers’ Liberty League. Everyone is entitled to his opinion, however outmoded.

Tea rooms, which now constitute, with the movies the principal downtown diversion of the young, are of quite recent origin in Toronto. As far back as 1910, there were only three in the city.

To-day, there are dozens within a two hundred-yard circle of King and Yonge streets. They are popping up in the semi-business and residential districts. Fine old mansions which you have admired for years as stout homes that have defied the encroachment of business, are unexpectedly sprouting out genteel signs announcing “Tea Shoppes,” with old-fashioned names prefixed, such as Mary Anne, Sarah Louise or Eliza Jane.

There is one on the Humber. There are two away up Yonge street where motorists roam. They are scattered at random all over the city; the sprinkling becoming thickest on Yonge, between Queen and King.

They are of all sizes, shapes and fashions. The oldest of the tea rooms are furnished in the Victorian or side-whisker style of interior decoration. In them, you will find the last relics of horsehair furniture in use. The walls and all other space not needed for actual teaing are covered with brass and copper pots, pans, and old china, including Buddhas and porcelain cats.

Others are done in very modern style; very matter-of-fact chairs and tables, no decoration but wall paper; quite restauranty.

But the latest type of tea room, known as the “Tea Shoppe,” is the one that has sprung up the last year or two in the threatened residential district. These “tea shoppes” are designed to be “homey.” They are quaint, and frankly unmodern. Hence the “shoppe.”

Close by a block or two away, business shouts its conquest. Houses have been altered into stores. On the very street the “tea shoppe” is on, several houses have been secretly taking boarders for ten years past. Within the past year, four of those fine old residences have been unostentatiously remodelled into duplexes. The relentless advance of “business” has put the dent in residential. A “modiste” has placed a modest brass sign, like a doctor’s, on her front door. Another stranger has recently moved into the street and a much larger sign has appeared on her house-front – a French name daring, snappy; with the single word “robes” beneath it.

By these subtle changes does a fine old street move from residential to semi-business.

For, as sure as fate, somebody then opens “tea shoppe.”

Let me escort you to a nice, homey cup of tea into one of these latest tea rooms.

It is not a hundred miles from Bloor and Yonge streets.

On the door of what appears to be la fine old residence of a judge, or retired merchant or some other distinguished citizen hangs a quaint sign in white and gilt with, let us say, the legend: “Ye Maggye McGintye Tea Shoppe.”

There is an iron fence around the lawn and flowers in the borders. On the massive front door is a big brass knocker.

Does one knock or just walk in? While standing in doubt, a watchful lady behind the curtains of the parlor window sees your indecision and hastens to open the door to you.

She is a middle-aged lady of spinsterly bearing. She welcomes with a dignified smile.

Inside, you fear for an awkward moment that you have intruded into a private home. But a glimpse of many little white-covered tables within the dim parlor reassures.

The parlor and dining-room are given over to little tea-tables. Beyond that, the house is left as “homey” as possible. Crowded along the walls are the articles of normal furniture – the 1890 period furniture, red plush covered, bandy-legged, with innumerable scrolls and squiggles. On the walls, sepia prints of deer and pleasant scenes of rivers with spires in the distance. Aye, even to the gummy portraits in oils of the ancestors of the house. Behold, in one corner, a “what-not,” seldom seen but oft referred to; a little three-decked, three-cornered table, with, among other items on it, a pink sea-shell.

Let us sit at one of the tables. We are indeed “homey.” For the first time since childhood, since last you were at Grandmama’s before she gave up her old home, you sit on a horsehair-covered chair, and feel the fine prickle of the hairs working through your clothing. You begin to understand, now, the fashion for heavy broadcloth trousers, crinolines, flounces and bustles which flourished a generation and more ago.

The ladies who wait on you are all middle-aged and “homey.” The dishes are old-fashioned, chipped to a nice degree of antiquity; the menu card, written in quaint, old-fashioned script reads:

“Special blend of Maggye McGintye Tea, 15 cents a pot.

“Toast – 15 cents.

“Cinnamon Toast – 20 cents.

“Sandwiches, pickle, cheese, nut, tongue, ham – 25 cents.

“Maggye McGintye trifle – 25 cents.

“Ice Cream – 20 cents.”

Yes, it is very homey. At all the little tables, people have their backs to you. A soft symphony of talk and dishes fills the house. The ladies-in waiting stalk in and out amongst the tables.

The patrons are mixed. The University is only a couple of blocks away, and there is quite a sprinkling of Varsity people preparing for the opening, talking enthusiastically about lifeless matters. There are also some arty people (the ladies, of course, smoking plain 18-cent cigarets) – talking rather more loudly than others about what Varley is doing, and what Lauren Harris’ sixteenth study of Snow will be. The rest are mainly young people, fled in here, shoulder to shoulder and back to back with strangers, in order to be alone.

All the while, an elderly and melancholy gentleman with a worried and beaten look about him may be glimpsed through doorways, past curtains; a harried air to him. He is not doing anything. He seems to have come downstairs to look for his tobacco pouch, and doesn’t know how to get back, unseen. Several of the ladies-in-waiting stare warningly at him as be makes his stealthy dashes from curtain to hallway.

This is Mr. McGintye, Maggye’s father. No doubt as fine a business man, in his day, as ever swung a walking-stick down Yonge street.

But in the process of transmutation of residential district, this old gentleman has been shanghaied by his womenfolk, given the name of McGintye and made partner in tea shoppe.


Editor’s Note: All I could think of while reading this story from over 100 years ago was the appearance of Starbuck’s coffee shops everywhere.

Mr. King on Post-War Canada

Prime Minister Mackenzie King of Canada

By Gregory Clark, August 14, 1943.

What will it be like in Canada after the war? By what changes in our way of life shall we Canadians who remain pay the debt of life and blood we owe to the Canadians who have passed over the highest and noblest divide?

Prime Minister Mackenzie King gave me his answers to these questions in an interview in Ottawa.

“There can be no doubt whatever now,” said Mr. King, “that Canada will be a better and a more interesting place for all to live in after the war. The foundations of the changes to come are already firmly laid down and everybody surely is aware of them. First of these fundamental facts is one over which there can be no disagreement among us. It is this: In the last war, by reason largely of her fighting men and their unforgettable performance, Canada emerged not only in her own consciousness but in the opinion of the world as a nation. In this war, by reason not merely of her fighting men but of her people as a whole and their wonderful performance, Canada is emerging as a world power. As a world power Canada’s policies will have to be world policies. It is unthinkable that Canada will not march with the very forefront of our United Nations in all things.

“The times in which we live,” said Mr. King, “constitute an epoch in human affairs. Human relations have never been so searchingly examined by mankind as a whole. This is not a time in which a little part of the world of a few nations have advanced themselves in the endless struggle of human progress. In this struggle the whole human race in involved. Canada finds herself at this critical and epochal hour just emerging as a world power entitled to march in the van. That is my reason for believing that after the war Canada will be a better, a happier, a more interesting place in which to live for every last one of us.”

“What changes do you foresee?” I asked.

“Social changes,” said Mr. King. “Security and the four freedoms first and last. The policy the government proposes to pursue will be to enlarge the field of opportunity for every man, woman and child by removing the inequalities that arise from false standards of wealth or social position.”

“That,” I said, “sounds like socialism.”

“It is social service,” declared the prime minister: “Simply social service. In the past social service has been held to narrow confines. The elements in our community life developed into social service have been special groups. It is, you might say, as if social service had been a scouting party out ahead of the main body of society. But social service now becomes, not a program but an actuality, not an ideal but a fact. What the scouting parties have discovered we move into. I think I can best describe what I expect Canada to be after the war as the promised land. For the promises of social service and social science for the past 50 years have had a definite goal in mind and that goal I sincerely believe is now in full sight.”

I suggested to Mr. King a theme that is receiving a good deal of attention lately, about the eternal problem of what to do with the clever and the shrewd in this world. Thousands of years ago we decided it was absurd that the strong should rule that the biggest man in the valley should rule the tribe, that he should steal all the prettiest girls, invade the most comfortable cave, beat into submission all others in the community was finally conceded to be unjust; and so law was born. Century by century the use of physical force was brought under control until today it is unlawful for you or me to carry a jackknife with a blade of more than three inches. Today we are at war with a new and perhaps the last great struggle of physical force to resume its mastery over human destiny. But in our long battle we forgot the mentally strong, the strong-willed, the strong-minded. What is the difference between a 250-pound man with a battle-axe and a measly little man with fifty million dollars? Have we come to the time when those endowed with mental strength must be persuaded as we have persuaded the physically strong that the strength belongs to us all and is not a gift in their own right to use lawlessly as they see fit for the control the intimidation and the abuse of their fellow men?

“That fits perfectly,” agreed the prime minister, “with a curious notion I have had lately that history has been on three planes, the earth, the sea and the sky. In ancient days life was lived and wars fought on land. That might be the epoch of physical rule. Then men discovered the seas and went abroad into the world exploring and investigating one another and warring still. That would correspond to the epoch of mental and intellectual rule. Now mankind has moved into the air, the sky. Suddenly we are not only in intimate contact with all the world about us but we are terribly at war with one another.”

“Do you think,” I asked, “that there is spiritual strength in man in view of the world as it appears today?”

“I believe,” said the prime minister in sudden complete simplicity, “in the survival after death of human personality. I believe that a man is an end in himself and not a means to any end. I believe humanity is above all race and all class and that we should love our fellow man not because he is a Canadian or a Frenchman or a Chinese but because he is a fellow mortal bent upon the same journey with us. With all my heart after nearly 50 years of a life devoted entirely to social service, I am convinced that the spiritual capacity of the human race is at its dawn. And when you ask me will Canada be a better place to live in after the war my answer is the world will be a better place to live in.”

“Why are you so sure?” I asked.

“Because the whole history of humanity has been a struggle, often cruel and long sustained,” said the prime minister, “but a never-ending victory for the greater number. Human progress has never been a steady upward slope. It has been a series of plateaus and of sudden steep ascents. We are in the midst of one of the steepest ascents yet experienced. To go back to your analogy of the physically strong and mentally strong, our enemies have asserted again and probably for the last time, the ancient claims of the physically strong. They have persecuted and destroyed among themselves and among their victims those who asserted spiritual or intellectual strength. Their battle today is for the restoration of physical strength to its prehistoric eminence. They will fail. They will be destroyed, and I trust with them all claims forever to the right of physical strength to rule mankind. But in this struggle we are climbing another ascent in the series of plateaus and cliffs by which humanity moves. And in this ascent I believe we shall discover at the top another plateau in which strength of mind or will or even of spirit will no longer demand the rights and privileges over the rest of humanity it has claimed in the past.”

A Curious Parallel

“You spoke a minute ago,” I said, “of your life devoted to social service?”

The prime minister smiled awkwardly and pressed the button on his desk. Walter Turnbull, the private secretary, came in.

“Where are those little handbills,” inquired the prime minister. “I was looking at the other day?”

In a few minutes Walter Turnbull returned with three little old handbills each about the size of a sheet of letter paper. They were faded and in an old fashion. I examined one. It was headed, “The Passmore Edwards Settlement, Tavistock Place, London,” and it was dated December, 1899. It announced a series of lectures by W. L. Mackenzie King. The first lecture was, “What is the Main Feature of the Labor Problem?” The second lecture in that settlement house in a London working class region 44 years ago was entitled, “Some Current Industrial Troubles.”

“How old are you, sir?” I inquired.

“Sixty-eight,” said Mr. King.

“Then you were 24 when you were delivering these lectures in a London slum?” I inquired, “Will you tell me a little about that? How did you come to be looking at these old handbills just lately?”

“I was invited to Columbia university,” he said, “three months or so ago to receive an honorary degree. On the same occasion Sir William Beveridge was receiving a degree. I then recollected that while I was at the Passmore Edwards, or Mary Ward Settlement as it is now called, in London, Sir William Beveridge was warden at Toynbee Hall, another settlement a few blocks away in the poor districts of London doing the same work. I thought it a curious parallel that two young men living and serving at the same time in the same work in London’s laboring district should meet after 44 years at Columbia university for the purpose of receiving honorary degrees. Sir William remained in the academic field to which I had every intention of devoting my life. By accident I was directed into public life and politics, yet I regard my life as having been devoted to social service.”

Three little cheap leaflets advertising meetings in a London Slum settlement at the very dawn of this century at which lectures on social security and labor were delivered by a young man destined to become prime minister of a great and rising young nation. In 1896 and 1897 Mackenzie King, newly graduated from Toronto university, lived at Hull House in Chicago where, under the direction of the famous Jane Addams, he studied poverty and social problems in the slums of the uprising American city. Then he went to Harvard for two years and won a travelling scholarship that took him to the Mary Ward Settlement in London for two years where he lived right in the settlement day and night studying and serving the needs of the working masses of London, lecturing to them and leading discussion groups. It was this experience that led him to accept Sir William Mulock’s invitation when still in his late 20’s to organize for the Canadian government a department of labor. That is how a social service worker of 44 years ago became a social service worker in the great modern field of tomorrow.

The prime minister told me that his book. published in 1918, “Industry and Humanity,” which is still a live textbook in universities in all parts of the world, was mainly the result of his experience in the social settlements of Chicago and London.


Editor’s Notes: This seems like a very simple interview with softball questions by Greg. It also seems padded out to fill space. The Toronto Star was a Liberal supporting paper at the time so, this would be expected.

You can read more about William Lyon Mackenzie King, Walter Turnbull, William Beveridge, and Jane Addams.

Country in the City

July 17, 1935

This is another illustration Jim did for a news article by our old friend, Merrill Denison, former Star Weekly regular, after he moved to New York. It was an article about nature and farms that were still within New York City limits at the time.

Radio in the Kitchen

No longer is the radio mere novelty in a few of the rural homes of Ontario, but it is an established institution, presenting a regular galaxy of stars and entertainment

By Gregory Clark, July 15, 1933.

Into the village of Terra Nova – which lies somewhere between the desert sands of Camp Borden and the jungles of the Nottawasaga Valley – we drove and pulled up by the garage.

Over on the general store steps sat five young men. They had on faded overalls, shapeless caps and hats on the back of their heads. They wore that air of doing nothing forever that seems a gift of general store steps.

I got out of the car and walked around to the radiator cap which I pretended to be examining.

And then, very casually, I started to whistle some bars from “Stormy Weather,” the Cotton club tune which at the moment is making snakes hips from the Panama canal to the Arctic Circle.

Out of the corners of our eyes we watched.

The five lads on the general store steps tired lazy heads to look at each other. They grinned mildly.

Then two of them joined me in the tune, whistling, moving sympathetically in snakes hips motions on the general store steps.

Another softly clapped his hands to the sweet, moving rhythm of this up-to-the-minute tune.

The fourth rolled his eyes up in the familiar ecstasy of the jazz.

Hicks nevermore!

Hick towns are suddenly vanished from the face of our earth.

The same night that Cab Calloway in his Cotton club with coffee-colored Ethel Waters electrified exotic New York with “Stormy Weather,” these same boys of Terra Nova, fresh from the plow and the harrow on the lonely hills of remote and lost portion of Ontario, heard it, stilled to it, rose to it, thrilled to it, through the magic, the distance-destroying timeless, house-changing, farm-changing, style-changing, habit-changing magic of radio.

Ten years ago, those five youths, up from their solitary toil on these steps for a soft drink, might never have heard “Stormy Weather.” They might have heard it when it was old and stale in some Chinese restaurant in Shelburne or Barrie, sizzling out on a worn victrola record, when they came to town for their monthly or half-yearly bust of recreation.

In blue suits, stiff-legged, dangle-handed, they would have sat shyly, and red of face, in the cubicle of a Chinese restaurant in country town, half pickled with the bright lights, the spaciousness, the busy thronging crowds of Barrie or a Shelbourne Chinese cafe. And they would have barely heard it and at once have forgotten it.

Today, they know it, they know their popular, their classic, their artists, their humorists, their stylists of the earth and the air better than the very New Yorkers who sit in the club where these elegances are first born. For radio is a selector. And country people, with silence and space and loneliness all about them, are selective, too.

We went out all over central Ontario, down side roads up clay back roads, visiting farms and finding out what radio means to the farm.

We found many curious and delightful things. We found, for instance, that in the farm, the radio net is in the kitchen.

We found that it has transformed lonely houses into homes filled with life.

We found that lonely women, who spent all day listening to the far music of their men’s voices directing horses on distant fields, now have company all the long day, bright clever women talking about women’s affairs, music, funny talks by funny men, and talks by that heart-breaker, Tony Wons.

They see their men-folk coming hurrying across the meadows in the middle of the day to listen to some special program, some speech, debate, discussion of affairs. Or to join with the women in laughing at some favorite joker. Because in the country, they love fun.

“It seems to me,” said Adrain Bateman, whose lovely and prosperous farm lies between Bradford and Bond Hend, in little known but rich section of Ontario, “that radio must mean twice as much to the farmer as it does to the town men. For example, I can’t say how much I would miss the weather forecast and the news. It is a small thing to you. But an important, all important, thing to the farmer. Until lately there was a noon broadcast of livestock prices taken at the stock yards that same morning. That is bread and butter to the farmer; when a buyer came along in the afternoon, you knew and could refer to the current prices of stock. You can watch from day to day the prices of the very thing you are producing, stock, grain and produce.”

In Mr. Adrian Bateman’s fine home, where geraniums gleam at the windows, there are grown-up children and an old man, to whom that radio with its thousand voices, Its Amos ‘n’ Andy, its hockey games, is the difference between happiness and unrest.

“I have no doubt,” said Mr. Bateman, “that throughout the country, the younger people are much happier, much more satisfied to remain on the farm than they have been for many years. The radio in some degree restores what farm life lost when the towns and cities took such an enormous lead in the entertaining aspect of life.”

Mr. Tom Huxtable dwells somewhere in between that village of Terra Nova and the more widely known village of Horning’s Mills; although there is no harm if you never heard of it either.

“What programs do the country people like?” we asked.

“Well,” said he. “I like the news morning and night. And I like speeches on politics and current affairs.”

“And the family?”

Mr. Huxtable’s family numbers eight.

“Each member of the family has his or her own likes,” said he. “Eddie Cantor, certain orchestras. certain singers. I don’t quite follow it all, but it seems to me the average country family is an authority on all that is liveliest, newest and best on the air. You can hear a debate on music, drama or any of the arts at any fence corner, at any cross roads from one end of the country to the other.”

“You like news?”

“Yes,” said Mr. Huxtable, “and I find I know more about what is going on in Toronto and New York than the city people I talk to. They apparently haven’t time to keep up with what’s going on.”

Has Transformed Farm Life

But near Stroud, which is in Simcoe county, the family of Mr. Bert Marquis is half boys and half girls.

“We want breakfast before the news broadcast,” said one son. “But we usually have to wait for lunch until the noon broadcast is over.”

“And how about the 11 p.m. new broadcast?”

“The head man always sits up for that,” answered the daughter. “You will see lights burning all over the country now, where darkness reigned before 10 p.m. five years ago. In the winter, especially on Saturday nights when there are hockey games and Wade’s square dance orchestra, the lights burn a lot later than they ever have in the entire history of farming. One night last winter, they burned until after 2 o’clock. That was the famous five-hour game. Those who have radios invite their less fortunate neighbors over. The radio has transformed social life on the farm. Radio has brought more neighborliness into the country than perhaps all the organizations there have been for creating a social spirit on the farm.”

We encountered one farmer who said that he had a large room in his house in which, on the average winter Saturday night, ten families from the surrounding township were represented.

“Such visiting was never heard of five years ago,” and he. “The room filled with visitors, the radio going. the women-folk preparing sandwiches and coffee. Radio has created a new atmosphere on the farm.”

The storekeeper at Bond Head thought that perhaps 30 per cent of all the farmers had radios in operation.

Nat Bredin, who runs the hotel at Bond Head, says he owes radio a good deal of business, because all winter long, especially on Saturday nights, it attracted twenty to thirty farmers from all around who wanted to hear the game. And the food programs during the week draw customers for the soft drinks, the pool tables and the pleasant company of the hotel common room. The bar was abolished and hotels went lean. Now radio in making the hotel a gathering place once more.

Out Stayner way there was one farmer who resolutely refused to buy a radio.

“It is an instrument of the devil,” he declared to the various radio salesmen who called at his farm. The radio salesmen make the rounds of the country the way they cannot in towns and cities. “Instrument of the devil,” asserted this well-to-do farmer. “It is nothing but jazz and nonsense. Bringing more of that city stuff into the country. Turning all the young people’s heads. Taking everybody’s mind off the serious business of farming. No, sir, no radio for me!”

This farmer was a religious man of the type still found in large numbers on the land. One clever radio salesman took a radio out one Sunday morning. Owing to the difference between city and country time it was possible for him to get one of the big Toronto churches at 10 o’clock country time, before the farmer was ready to go to church. The farmer did not want the thing in his house but the salesman explained that he merely wanted to show that for all its faults, the radio was great instrument for good.

The farmer heard choirs lifting their mighty voices, organs resounding, deep voices intoning prayer that filled the farm house. He was deeply impressed. He was sorry he had to leave for church just as the radio minister got nicely launched into the sermon.

Front Rooms Opening Up

“Besides church,” said the salesman, “you can get the prime minister of Canada, the president of the United States, and yes, the King of England himself, discussing public questions.”

“And,” said our informant, “one month later, you could go by that farmhouse at any hour of the night, and you could hear all the jazz bands in the world lifting the roof of it!”

You know that front room in farm houses? The one immediately behind that front door that never opens? That room in used for funerals, weddings and nothing else.

But not always, since radio.

Because those who bought radios in the pre-shiver days, bought those large console or cabinet style, and naturally you could not clutter up a farm kitchen with a great big elegant piece of furniture like that. So was put either just beyond the kitchen door, or right in that parlor.

And now many farm parlors of Ontario are back in circulation again.

We saw radios on shelves, on top of sewing machines, on ice boxes, radios in chairs, on cream separators in comers, on the floor.

But the kitchen wins out by a big majority as the favorite position.

“I hope the radio commission will give us country people a set program of farm market reports,” said one.

“I wish they would give us a news broadcast at 10 o’clock at night,” said another. “Eleven is too late for farmers to stay up.”

But the great majority had no suggestions to make.

They like the same things the New York broker in his love nest likes, the same joker who jokes for Broadway gets across with the little house hidden down the narrow ways

Their speech is coming easier, since they hear so much of it in their once quiet houses all day long.

What the greatest cities have of laughter, of wisdom, of art and science they are spilling out into the sky, to fall like the rain on the bourgeoning earth.

And, like rain, like sunlight, it is making things grow in the country.


Editor’s Notes: The song, “Stormy Weather“, came out the year this was published, first played in the famous Cotton Club nightclub in New York.

“Snake Hips”, was a type of dance.

Tony Wons Scrapbook“, was a popular program as Anthony “Tony” Wons was also known as “scrapbookman” as he collected works of writing from Shelley, Whitman, and other great writers. The show was conversational in nature, like an old friend who stops by for a chat.  He often asked the listening audience “Are you listening?”

Eddie Cantor was a popular singer and comedian.

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