The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

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Little Pig Fair

A photograph of Mennonite buggies that are drawn up every month for the fair at Elmira, Ont. Gregory Clark, of The Star Weekly, RIGHT, with one of the many little porkers that go up for auction.
A humorous version of a corner of the Elmira fair, where horses, pigs, farm and home equipment are auctioned off above the clamor of the domestic animals …
Two Mennonite farmers snapped by the photographer at the Elmira Fair.

By Gregory Clark, April 20, 1935

Once a month Elmira, Ontario, holds a town fair. Two or three hundred farmers throng the streets of the town. A great buzz fills the Monday morning, with the drone of auctioneers, the murdered squeals of little pigs, the bawl of cattle and the whinny of horses making a festival sound.

It is many, many years since most of the towns of Canada gave up their monthly fair. But Elmira is different. Elmira has had a town fair since long before the oldest recollection. We searched the records, but there was always a town fair in Elmira.

And if I am any good at seeing towns, then Elmira is one of the wisest little communities in this country. For it is a long time since I have seen a town so busy as Elmira was the Monday morning I wiggled my car through the congestion of cars and horses and buggies and, after two tries, at last took a parking place away down the side street.

For the town was alive and alight with action. In the open spaces auction sales of animals and of secondhand household furniture were going full blast; agricultural implements, wagons and horses were going under the hammerless fists of old-fashioned auctioneers; I saw an axe handle, home-made, go to fifteen cents, then by one-cent bids to twenty and sold for twenty-two. I saw a handsome young farmer buy five little pigs at $4.20 a pig.

“Pigs high?” I commented.

“I lost three litters this month,” said the young man. “We wouldn’t be happy at our house unless we had a litter of pigs to raise for fall. So here they are, high or low.”

And he sunk each screaming pig into an oak sack, stowed the struggling pigs in pokes under the seat of his buggy and, with a lean, clever horse dancing in the leather, drove out of the throng.

The rest of the world may have gone in for these here newfangled motor cars. But Elmira, Ontario, sticks to buggies.

Chicago big shots may fly in eight hours to Los Angeles to get away from it all. But the big shots of Elmira, Ontario, find a nice, light pacer, in front of a smooth-going rig, fast enough to keep up with the times.

Before I give you a picture of Elmira’s monthly fair, held on a Monday, with the streets of the little town thronged with men, its open squares jammed with auctions, the hum of country gossip, the drone of auctioneers’ voices, I would like to tell about a conversation I had with an old friend. It shows the humor, the kindliness, of Elmira and its surrounding country of beautifully kept farms. Farms more beautifully kept even than the millionaire farms along the Lake Shore road or up Bayview. In fact, the education of a student of agriculture is not complete until he has driven the country roads out from Elmira and seen these beautiful acres dressed like a merchant’s show window, with never an implement left rusting in any fence corner and no litter or old planks flung about the barnyard, nor ever a fence run down, and geraniums, white, pink and scarlet, in all the sweet windows.

Biggest Buggy Market

As I stood watching the monthly fair of Elmira, with the black-hatted Mennonite men in large numbers, with their calm faces and coats of black so incredibly old that they were a sage green across the shoulders, a Mennonite stepped up and spoke to me. Three years ago I had the pleasure of writing something about the Mennonites of Elmira district, and all of what I said was kindly meant. But I learned afterwards that some Mennonites did not take kindly to being written up at all, regardless of how well we spoke of them.

“So,” said this serene-eyed man in the wide hat, “you’re the gentleman who wrote up the Mennonites in the paper?”

“Yes; did you read it?” I asked.

“I never read newspapers,” said the Mennonite, reprovingly. But I heard what was in the article.”

“Ah,” I said, “then you do not think it as wicked to think evil as to do evil?”

“Yes, I do,” said he.

“Then it is not against your principles to hear what is in the papers, but it is against your principles to read what is in them?” I stabbed.

“Very good,” laughed the gentle man, “then I did not even hear what was in the papers!”

So I asked if these two strapping boys behind him were his sons. They were. We talked, the boys speechless and shy, murmuring yes or no.

“This one,” I said, “is going to be very big, eh?”

“Ah, yes,” sighed the Mennonite. “I am terribly afraid he will be too big to inherit my coat.”

And with this we laughed, for the coat on the father was so antique, its rusty green was fading to gray and it had the cut of a mid-Victorian cab driver’s coat.

So here in the face of all change, of wars and revolutions, of the collapsing of one civilization and the colossal uprising of others, remains a race of men as simple, as filled with plain toil and happiness as if a hundred years had stood still in their part of the world. Good-humored, sincere, devoted, they probably have in their possession more plain wealth than any other community in America. More acres free of debt. More cash in the bank. More peace in their souls.

And let the rest of the world abandon their town fairs, they keep theirs agoing.

George Class of Elmira is the senior auctioneer and former Mayor Frickey of Waterloo shares the auction honors. The fair is held once a month, generally on the second Monday, year in, year out. It dwindles a little in the summer, but with September the streets are thronged again every fair day through the winter, sees a great jam from nine a.m. until well past noon. The town merchants take care that no new goods are sold at the fair in competition with their stores. That is an understanding dating back to the earliest days.

But horses, buggies, farm implements of every sort and age, household furniture of all conceivable kinds, in fact anything that is secondhand or homemade, is traded and sold.

“Little pigs,” said William Auman, a cattle-buyer who has lived his life in Elmira, “are the chief commodity now and always have been. Hundreds of young porkers are brought here every fair day and mostly bought and sold amongst the farmers themselves. Very few dealers are here. Possibly a dozen horses will be auctioned or traded each fair day. Buggies sell from $10 to $40. I suppose this is the largest buggy market in America to-day.”

Eye-Compelling Tidiness

This is due to the fact that the Mennonites faithfully hold to their horses and rigs, religiously denying themselves such luxuries as cars. I saw twenty-five buggies for sale the day I was there. I saw a democrat in first-class condition sell for $22.20. I saw an eight-year-old driving mare sell for $90 and a single farm horse at $123.50.

But while the auction drones on from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. a highly active private treaty goes on all over the place. There are three main market stands, one opposite the public library, where the pigs, cows and horses are sold, and another large open space at the bus terminal, where the farmers’ driving sheds are. Here the household effects, buggies and implements are sold.

These farmers of the Elmira district are very thrifty of everything, including their time. As I said before, their farms fairly crackle with neatness and tidiness. But what time they have left over they employ in making all kinds of wooden ware for farm use. Axe handles, double trees and yokes and tongues for heavy wagons.

“In the winter,” explained a small, sturdy Mennonite of at least seventy years, “I have not much to do, so I make tongues and double trees and sell them here to my neighbors.”

Between the two large spaces jammed with mobs of farmers watching the auctions there are sundry small stalls where country cheese is sold. These people of German descent know how to make cheese, the holey country style of cheese, and stacks of it in doorways are cut into huge gobbets and sold to other farmers, who prefer the country cheese to all the factory products.

The display of household effects is extraordinary, I happen to know that in these lovely farm homes of the Elmira country is hidden some of the loveliest walnut furniture of simple pioneer design – the kind Toronto ladies would go silly over – but there is rarely if ever a stick of such furniture gets on to the open auction of the town. The people prize it more than connoisseurs. They prize it as the designers, the makers and the users of it.

From light oak bedroom sets, all manner of tables and chairs, some rickety, some decidedly good, down to funny looking mid-Victorian sewing machines, incredible pumps, odds and ends of kitchen and barnyard furniture, the display is truly what it is supposed to be, and that is, a means of disposing of whatever is no longer of any use. For example, the day I was there, the carpenter tools of an elderly farmer who had just retired to live in Elmira was one of the items of auction. Everybody for miles around knew this old farmer had been a first-class carpenter, and the disposal of his tools attracted every thrifty man in three townships. I asked about the origin of an entire bedroom suite. The girl whose room this suite adorned in a farmhouse had recently married, and as her young husband took her into a completely furnished home, her parents felt no further need of the furniture. That’s the spirit of the Elmira town fair. If a thing is no longer needed sell it, trade it. It may account for the eye-compelling tidiness of every farm you see for miles around Elmira. Thrift has got rid of every stick, every item that is no longer needed. Surely the strangest items auctioned the day I was there was a veranda pillar. Just an old, faded wooden column or pillar off a farm house porch. It seems the mate to this one had got rotten with age and water, and the owner had made two new matching pillars. This one, which some, perhaps many men, would have chucked out in the barnyard, was put up for sale. It sold for fifty cents.

“What are you going to do with it?” I asked the wide-hatted farmer who bought it.

“Use it to make an arch over my well,” said he.

The man who sold it got the fifty cents.

“And what will you do with the fifty cents?” I asked him.

“Put it on a young pig,” he smiled.

They Don’t Like To Borrow

Beds by the dozen, little beds, big beds, whole harnesses and bits of harness, a box of live geese, chains, great big logging chains, maple syrup pails, whole rolls of second-hand wire fencing…

“Have you had that chain long?” I asked the farmer who sold the logging chain.

“Just since November,” he said. “I got it here, at the fair. I needed a chain to haul a few logs out of my woodlot. Now I’m through with the chain, and I’ll sell it for maybe a few cents less than I paid for it. I didn’t borrow it. It was mine for the time I wanted it. Now somebody else will want it. I guess that chain has been owned by a good many men. Hauled a good many logs out of the woodlots in this part of the country.”

They don’t like to borrow.

The second-hand wire fencing was in perfect condition. It was as neatly rolled as a new roll. The farmer who was selling it had used it for five years to fence off a small field. It was no longer wanted. Instead of leaving it there to die, he took it down, rolled it up and brought it to the town fair for some other farmer who was just looking for that very thing.

I saw at least twenty men carrying small bits of leather harness over their arms, little straps and gadgets whose names I would never know. But wholly necessary to a horse pulling a plow.

“More than once,” said a farmer who was carrying a pair of those eye blinkers, “I have assembled a whole set of good harness from three or four old sets offered here for sale at the fair. A piece off one. A piece off another. And there I had a full set of harness for a song.”

The strangest thing at the Elmira town fair is the absence of women. Not ten of the bonneted and sombrely dressed Mennonite women were to be seen amongst the four hundred men. And they were entirely on the outskirts of the show. None of the townspeople or Elmira ladies seemed to be present at all.

“It is a men’s show,” said Postmaster O. Weichel of Elmira. “And always has been. No home baking or sausages or that sort of thing. It is a men’s fair, and besides being an institution for trade and commerce, it is a mighty important social institution. the men gathering to talk and gossip about country affairs, they look forward to it with the greatest eagerness. They wouldn’t do without the town fair for anything.”

“Is it as big as it used to be?” I asked.

“Quite as big,” said Mr. Weichel. “Changed a little in character. In early days, it had a certain holiday quality; there used to be fights amongst the men, and factions met here to settle matters after the fair in the time-honored fashion. They used to parade their horses up and down the town streets, showing off their paces.”

Mr. Aumon, the cattle buyer, said it was best described as a “little pig market” because, unquestionably, the largest turnover each fair day was in young pigs.

And in crates behind wagons and in buggies and on cars, the little pigs come to market at Elmira. Clean, tidy little pink pigs, some of them no bigger than bedroom slipper and some of them so big and ferocious they filled a whole cart to themselves.

But it is of the little pigs I would warn you. Their screams are so arousing. Their pinky plumpness is so appealing. And if you are a city person that goes to Elmira town fair, be careful of those baby pigs. They’ll get you. You’ll buy one.

And then where are you?


Editor’s Notes: Elmira is still home to a large population of Old Order Mennonites. Note that in 1935, they would not seem as old-fashioned as they do today.

Cannibal City

All big cities are cannibalistic, absorbing what were once independent settlements. Toronto, for instance, includes within its boundaries such almost forgotten places as Chester, Macaulay Town and Leslieville.

By Gregory Clark, April 8, 1933

A big city grows by eating villages.

What gives Toronto that fine big corporation is the fact that in its time It has been cannibal and has engulfed no fewer than fifteen villages.

Not suburbs, mind you. But distinct and separate villages, an hour’s drive away (by buggy) from the city, with their own post-offices, often with their own town halls like Parkdale and Yorkville. And always with their pride.

There is no doubt that Seaton Village in its time had as fine a contempt for Toronto as Hamilton has now, or Newmarket. There may have been people in Seaton Village who thought the day might come when the thriving settlement of Seaton Village might Annex the struggling town of Toronto.

But Seaton Village was swallowed by Toronto. Seaton Village has become the exact population centre of the city of Toronto. Seaton Village is the corner of Bloor and Bathurst.

You do not need a battered old history book or a Baedecker’s Guide to Toronto to find these old villages that have been consumed but not yet digested by the big city. There are streets in Toronto that are village streets. To the very life, there they stand, as they stood almost century ago, and you do not need to half-shut your eyes to feel the illusion. In Yorkville, which is near the corner of Bay and Davenport road; in Dover Court, which is at Bloor and Dovercourt; in Chester, which is the more modern name of a village called Doncaster which stood at the junction of Bloor and Danforth, you will find whole sections of modern streets with quaint small houses of frame and of plaster and some of them of ancient brick, which are for fact village streets. And though they be old they are pretty.

We even found, in our search for the villages Toronto has swallowed, a village pump.

A common pump and a well within the city limits of Toronto. True, it is in Moore Park and down ravine and up a hill. And true, also, that owing to the curious location of this house within the city limits of the proud city of Toronto, they cannot avail themselves of the city’s water supply and must use the old-fashioned well. But there it is, a pump within the city limits, make of it what you like. O Hamilton and O Newmarket.

It is said that two-thirds of the population of Toronto is made up of people born either in the country or in small villages and towns. And they say that every once in a while these people get homesick for the sight of a village. They grow tired of splendor. They yearn for the sights and the sounds of their youth. For the benefit of these, so that they may go on a Sunday for a walk in a village without ever leaving the city limits, we are writing down the location of these country places that even the clang and clatter of cities cannot make to vanish away.

Our Forgotten Villages

Macaulay Town was not an incorporated village. But it was separate and distinct from the village of York, and if it had stood out for its rights it might have bequeathed its name to Toronto. This might have been the noble city of Macaulay Town, twelfth largest city in America. For Macauley Town was out in the suburbs. It was the corner of King and Yonge streets.

When one night stands of actors came to Toronto, if they ever did, they made jokes about Macaulay Town and got a big hand from the Toronto audience sitting there beneath the shadowy candle-lit stage. But you will see no vestige of Macaulay Town at King and Yonge streets to-day. Heigh-ho! The last assessment on the northeast corner WAS $12,500 foot. A thousand dollars an inch, ladies and gents, for Macaulay Town. Which side of our faces shall we laugh on now?

Yorkville was a thriving village, as independent of Toronto as Woodbridge is today. It grew up around the Red Lion Inn, run by Daniel Tiers for the refreshment of farmers coming to Toronto (away down by the lake) with their wagons, after the long hills. Hog’s Holla Hill was bad enough. But the Blue Hill with its terrible clay – but of course the Blue Hill is no more. Toronto looked after that. It filled the valley up with Yonge street. The Blue Hill is gone. Only the memory of it remains in that pretty ravine below Roxborough street as you sail smoothly down Yonge.

Anyway, around the Red Lion grew up the village of Yorkville and you will see authentic village sections on Bellair, Cumberland, Berryman and Scollard streets. The town hall of Yorkville is the barracks of the York Rangers, right on Yonge street. Even on Yonge street itself, at No. 877, you will see a few remnants of the village that refused to come into Toronto’s maw even when Toronto crept up and surrounded it. But a typhoid epidemic broke out in Yorkville, so Yorkville surrendered.

Parkdale is not merely a district. It was a town. It had its town hall and its separate life. So had West Toronto. In their time these towns were as far away from Toronto as Newmarket and Pickering are to-day.

But it is the little villages that are entirely forgotten that we want to remember. Brockton, out at Dundas and Lansdowne; Leslieville, far out east, and Leslie street now remains; Chester, the new-fangled name for Doncaster, standing far, off from the city at Danforth and Broadview. There were no bridges in those days, and to live in Chester was the same as living in Brampton now.

Bracondale has so utterly vanished that it is almost a Forest Hill Village in the style of its residences to-day. But once upon a time Bracondale was a village on the Albion Road, and it had a race track to which sporty Toronto used to drive in buggies, tally-hos and democrats. It was on Davenport road west of Bathurst.

Deer Park, Davisville and Eglinton had their post offices, and it took a day for a letter to get there from the Toronto post-office. Seaton Village at Bathurst and Bloor, Dover Court at Dovercourt and Bloor, and if you want to see some sweet old houses drive along Northumberland street, Shanley and Salem and Delaware. The village of Dover Court was far out the heavy, sandy highway that a century later bears the name of Mr. Jos. Bloor, brewer, of Yorkville. He supplied the Red Lion.

Carlton was a village at St. Clair and the Weston road. And Davenport lay south of it a mile or two, on the road that wandered westward after it had done its original job of bringing Col. Wells, who fought at Waterloo, from Yonge street westward to his lovely estate on the hill, called Davenport. And long after they called the hill Wells, after him.

These are the villages that were born and lived and died, far out from the little city of Toronto. They had their founders, their first families, their good men and their bad men. Two and three generations of men and women called these villages their home before the slow spreading city brought strangers to swamp and destroy their littleness and their peace.

All they have left behind them are names, names of the villages and names of their worthy people. And a few little houses, gabled and plastered, with the look of old violins about them.

For you understand, Toronto was not intended to be a city. It was just to be a fort and a military supply depot.

Governor Simcoe intended London on the Thames to be the big city of the far west of Canada. Toronto was just to be a fork in the military highways; the main one from Montreal to Detroit, and a branch one from Toronto to Penetang.

But gentry like forts. Around forts gather not merely the officers and men of the fort, but the retired officers of the Duke of Wellington and the Napoleonic wars. And being gentry they like land. Not just a house and lot. But a thousand acres of land. They like to write home to England:

“I have acquired by grants from the Crown one thousand acres of land lying on a beautiful country northward of the fort at York. I have already found, amidst the bush, a hill which will some day make a delightful site for a mansion.”

And mansions started to sprout all over the wide and unexplored country that is now Bloor street and Spadina and Lansdowne and St. Clair. You can have no idea how astonished and indignant the old gentlemen of these fine country mansions would have been if they had been informed that within the time of their grandchildren all these handsome acres would be cut into twenty and thirty foot lots and houses packed on them like cells in a bee-hive, with commerce clattering through streets as hard as a ball room floor.

The Denisons were amongst the noblest of the gentry and their great house was called Dover Court. Far out in the country. A great plantation. Around them grew the village of Dover Court. Today the name remains.

Sherrif Jarvis, after smacking down the rebels, got a large piece of country far to the north and cut off from all possible contamination from the south by a great ravine. He called his fine house Rosedale. No village grew there. But his descendants decided, half a century ago, seeing the swelling city to the south, to subdivide the crown grant into exclusive country Villas for the better-class watchmakers and flour and feed dealers who amassed a little something. So they cut crooked streets and winding lanes and they came to call that suburban retreat Rosedale.

Every Old Family Wanted One

The lieutenant-governor had a summer home far out in the country. He called it Castle Frank.

The Baldwins were great property holders in the olden days and they had a house far north of the fort called Spadina, a pretty Indian word they got from the Indians who used to come and sit around the mansion’s door yard, smoking and thinking. The Baldwins were great people and they dreamed of a broad Avenue some day coming straight up from the lake and from the fort, an avenue lined with splendid trees, up which the military could come in their carriages.

The broad avenue came, but the mansion called Spadina is vanished. No military ride up to it in carriages from the fort. Elizabeth and Phoebe and Maria, Russell, Warren, Bedford are all Baldwin names.

Colonel Wells, who was bursar of King’s College, by Jove, had to have a road cut through the woods to his fine house on the ridge, the fine house called Davenport. The people of Yorkville built houses along that road and they called it Davenport road out of respect to the residence to which it led. Then it went on, as roads do, past Davenport, that big house on the hilltop. And after it went on, out into the country, they called it the Albion road, as it led in time to Albion township, where some fine farmers lived. But the village of Carlton grew up on the Albion road, far to the west (the stockyards are the odor of the sanctity of Carlton) and some people began calling the Albion road Carlton street, while those nearer Yorkville continued to call it the Davenport road. Names take time to digest, in cannibalism.

Colonel Walter O’Hara, one of the squires, served under Wellington and he gave the names Sorauren and Roncesvalles to roads around his country estate after battles in the Peninsular War.

To understand the building of the jig-saw puzzle which is the evolution of a city we must remember that, only a century ago, hundreds of cross roads in this part of Ontario had taverns on them. To-day these cross roads that you pass without a glance are merely four fence corners. Not a stone, not an old plank, remains of a once busy cross roads hamlet, consisting of a tavern, stables and a house or two. For in those days, with no railroads, the settlers had to haul their grain and their cattle or hogs down incredible gumbo roads to the markets along the lake shore. They needed many a resting place, many a place of refreshment for man and beast.

For the fifteen villages that have been the jig-saws out of which the puzzlers have constructed the city of Toronto, in the province of Ontario as a whole, a thousand hamlets have either vanished entirely or are almost nameless cross-road communities of twenty or thirty souls.

Those who were gentry already when they came here, a century ago, or those who had the wit and brains to hope to be gentry some day obtained very large land grants, not of hundred acres, but of a thousand or more acres. They employed men. These workers settled nearby. Immediately other humbler settlers in the neighborhood became in some degree dependent on these gentry who built large mansions, cleared large acreages and built roads out to the highways leading to York. They had visions of a civilization like the Old Country, in which great estates, with splendid houses, would grace the land from end to end. Probably not one of the pioneer landed gentry ever hoped that Toronto would be more than a small, thriving country town.

The railroads came and promptly dealt the death blow to thousands of cross road villages. The farmers no longer had to haul their produce two and three day journeys past a score of wayside taverns and resting places. The day the railroads started the great cleft or abyss between city and country was created.

Summerhill, Woodlawn, Oaklands, Rathnally, Deer Park were the names of big houses set amidst broad plantations in the new colony that was to have for its centre and heart the fort down by the lake; and the little town of Toronto to feed it supplies. It would have been a long journey in a stage conch to the big city of London, where Canada’s parliament buildings were to be. But these gentry of York preferred the sweet country life to raging cities. They preferred a thousand acres, with a lovely old house in the midst, and little villages of workers for their broad farms, conveniently hidden in some gully, out of sight of the big house. From the big houses the beautiful daughters could go walking through the country lanes and pay kindly visits to the farm laborers’ villages nearby. Each family wanted a village.

Fifteen of them got villages.

And the grandchildren of the happy villagers are lords and justices, princes of money and of land.

Out in the country, far from the madding crowd, these grandchildren of the villagers are buying spacious farms and building handsome houses, where they can enjoy the sweet country life.

And their lovely daughters can spin down in scarlet roadsters to the villages, their villages, Pickering, Newmarket, Oakville, to buy cigarettes and a new vanity dab.

And the great city, like water spreading, like oil dripping, slowly spreads and crawls outward, outward, grasping, encircling, engulfing.

Cannibal city.


Editor’s Notes: These sorts of articles are interesting to me, since we can now read an 88 year-old article that describes the previous 100 years. It shows what may have still existed at the time, and can make us reflect on all that existed then which is no more. And he is describing the pre-1998 Toronto too. The whole history of Toronto Amalgamation over the years can be found here. Jim provided the creepy illustration.

Why Not A School Of Politeness For Minor Public Officials?

No Truth in the Rumor That the New Ontario Government Has Decided to Set Up Such an Institution – Possible Students Who Might Benefit by a Course.

Failing the School, Why Not Arm an Inspector With an Ammonia Pistol and Send Him Out in Search of Offenders Against the Meek and Lowly Common People?

By Gregory Clark, April 3, 1920

The report that the new Ontario Government is to open a School for Minor Public Officials seems to be unfounded.

I have interviewed several of the Cabinet Ministers on the subject, but not even the Deputy Ministers know anything about it.

The original rumor was to the effect that the UFO-Labor Government on behalf of the humble citizens of the Province, was going to open a college for the teaching of the elements of politeness, courtesy and the spirit of public service to all minor officials in the Government’s employ. The idea was to have not only Provincial minor officials but all other public officials, municipal and even Dominion, drilled and diplomad from the school.

Thus every one from the little girls who accept registered letters at the post office up to the elderly old gents who guard the mummies and insects at the Royal Ontario Museum, would be schooled in how to avoid offending or angering the public.

Hitherto, our politicians and men of power have been of that urbane and swell type which is always instantly recognized and kow-towed to by our minor officials. Ask any of the Cabinet Ministers of the past twenty years what he thought of the minor public officials, such as wicket-clerks or door-swingers, and he would reply:

“Why, I always found them most agreeable and very polite.”

Of course he did. And that was why we poor, unimpressive people always got such rough handling.

The minor official knows his public. He salaams to the swells and recovers his self-respect by bullying the plain citizen.

But as the new Government contains no swells at all, and as it is said several of our Cabinet Ministers have already had distressing encounters with petty officials who mistook them for ordinary citizens, it was hoped some such school of courtesy would be established.

However, if there is not to be a school, there is at least this consolation: that hundreds of public door-keepers, stamp-lickers and others of the minor degrees are having an unhappy time trying to pick Cabinet Ministers and influential members out of the common herd.

A few Sundays ago we visited the Royal Ontario Museum. There was an old gentleman engaged in twining the turnstile gate that admits the public. The gate would turn without his aid, but still he was turning it.

As we tried to enter, he stuck out his arm and cried:

“Stand back.”

“What’s the trouble?” we asked.

“You can’t come in here with that cane!” he replied.

“Oh,” we replied, agreeably, and turning, beheld a cane rack, with several canes and umbrellas in it. We walked over to it to place our cane.

“Hyah!” roared the old man at the turnstile.

We halted irresolute. The old fellow passed three or four more people through his turnstile and then strode over to us.

It appears, after all this bustle, that one is not permitted to take walking sticks into the Museum, but that sticks are taken and carefully checked by this old gentleman.

The school of courtesy would have done away with all this confusion and excitement by teaching the old fellow to say, as a citizen, approached with a cane –

“Just a moment, and I will check your walking stick.”

Inside the Museum, while looking at a glass case full of insects, we unfortunately placed the tip of one finger on the glass, to point out one particular specimen.

Instantly, from a far side of the room, another old boy in uniform bore down on us, crying –

“Say, do you want to give me six hours work to-morrow?”

“No. How’s that?” we replied.

“Well keep your hands off them glass cases,” replied the official, and strode onward in the performance of his public office.

The school would have taught him to say –

“Please keep hands off the cases, gentlemen, as I am an old man and don’t like extra work.”

The Museum is a beautiful and interesting institution, but it is difficult to enjoy the exhibits on account of one’s mind being startled and offended by petty officials making obscure assaults on one’s self on others or endlessly pursuing children from room to room.

Clerks, janitors and many other minor officials similarly disturb the honest citizen’s peace. The mistake most of them make is in presuming that certain facts well known to themselves should be perfectly well-known to all men.

The clerk who has been saying “Sign there!” a hundred times a day for twenty years knows perfectly well where “there” is. And it irritates him sorely to discover people, day after day, who haven’t any idea where “there” is, and who want to be shown.

When you hand a letter in the wrong wicket at the Post Office, it peeves beyond words the pert young lady or the scraggly man in the wicket. Haven’t you eyes? Can’t you see the sign over the wickets telling you just which is which? Why, she or he knows this office as well as they know their own names. What’s the matter with most people anyway?

The tax official thinks all men are experienced tax payers; to the record clerk, all men are acquainted with records; to the door keeper, all men are familiar with buildings.

But, of course, there are two sides of the question.

“You must admit,” says a well-known and always courteous member of the City Assessment Department, whose imperturbable good manners are one of the marvels of the City Hall, “you must admit there are people who go out of their way to be insolent and overbearing with public officials. Then there are others so stupid you wonder how they escape in the traffic. These types are only exceptions, but they sorely try an official’s temper as time goes on. There is, I believe, the official temperament. Officials would be chosen for an unrufflable and easy manner that quails not before the bully nor flares up with the dunderhead. But unfortunately, there are some in public positions who cringe before the bully or the official superior to them, and who seek to restore the balance of their dignity (or to get even) by bullying the decent quiet citizen.”

Seeing the Government is not going to institute a school for courtesy, there should at least be an official chosen yearly from the ranks of the polloi whose sole duty it would be to seek out and bring to court all insolent, rude or bullying public officials.

This Inspector should be a man of small stature and meek and humble bearing.

He should be armed with a large ammonia pistol or squirt gun.

On being subjected to any official insolence, he would’ whip out his squirt gun, shoot the ammonia into the tyrant’s face and drag the unconscious form before the Civil Service Commission.

The reason I insert the squirt gun is because this admits of that element of retaliation without which I, first applicant for the job, would feel unappeased.


Editor’s Note: There is no illustration to go with this tongue-in-cheek article by Greg, from over 100 years ago. In 1919, the United Farmers of Ontario won the provincial election, and formed a coalition government with the Labour party. This shocked the establishment, as the UFO members elected were mainly made up of ordinary people, and not the usual higher society people of the Conservative or Liberal parties. The joke is minor officials would not know who to suck up to. The surprise was probably not that much different than the more recent 1990 win by the provincial NDP. A popular joke from 1990 is of rich Bay Street financiers fretting over the NDP win, and one proclaiming “don’t worry, my cleaning lady is the new Minister of Finance!”

If Everybody Helps

By Gregory Clark, March 24, 1928

Mr. Fred Roy of Peterboro startled the committee of the legislature on fish and game the other day when he stated:

“Bank clearings last season showed that tourists had left, during the two summer months, in Peterboro and district the sum of $507,000!”

Cash.

The Ontario government announced that last year tourists had left in Ontario the sum of 80 million dollars.

Premier Ferguson is known to have made a separate estimate. His guess is that the tourists left in Ontario last season 150 million dollars.

In 1910, at the request of the late Sir James Whitney, a special commissioner made a two-year investigation of the fish and game question in Ontario, and brought in a report demanding many fundamental changes in the system of administration.

At that time – 1910 – the commissioner said more importance should be attached to fish and game, since the tourist traffic was estimated to be bringing into Ontario something like $800,000.

Of course, the report was filed. Nothing was done about it. The tourist traffic has swelled from less than a million to 150 millions.

Each year, since 1910, has seen a vaster tidal wave of tourists overwhelming the lakes and streams of Ontario.

The motor car has pushed into the farther wilderness. The motor boat has advanced with the car.

Nature cannot stand such overwhelming onslaughts – all the northern states testify to that.

Oddly enough, it is not the bankers and boards of trade, merchants and hotelkeepers who to-day are roaring at the tops of their voices about the dangerous situation as regards the game fisheries of the province. It is the sportsmen. They are anxious about the tourist traffic. But they are anxious merely because they see their own sport on the verge of ruin.

This week there was founded in Toronto an organization of sportsmen known as the Ontario Federation of Anglers. It embraces a large number of local sportsmen’s clubs.

And all they want from the government is an investigation.

They want to know why the government always takes half the yearly revenue of fish and game and puts it into the general treasury? Why the hatcheries of the province are still turning out commercial fish almost to the exclusion of game fish? Why the hatcheries are still functioning on a theory that has been exploded for at least five years? Why there are only 75 game overseers in all Ontario, from Manitoba to Quebec? Why the game overseers are not on a proper police basis in regard to age and qualifications? Why middle-aged and sometimes elderly men are actually appointed to the warden’s job? Why the department has not kept in proper touch with propagation work in adjoining states?

Our Hatchery Practice a Joke

The sportsmen want a commission – a small, powerful, thoroughly financed commission that can get action before that hour, somewhere within the next five years, when successive and overwhelming tidal waves of tourists shall have skinned the game fish of the province to the vanishing point.

Certainly the most unfortunate factor in the whole situation is the general belief, cheerfully entertained by the government as well as by the public, that plenty of hatcheries and generous restocking would make up, at any time, for the wholesale slaughter of game fish.

It is rather a horrible discovery that we have recently made.

We have discovered that a point may easily be reached where restocking is impossible.

In the first place we have fished, for forty years, for the game fish alone, bass, trout, muskies. We have left the rival fish to multiply unchecked.

Now the few remaining bass try to propagate. They raise their broods. The little bass less than an inch long are suddenly left to shift for themselves. But there are, in the shore waters with the little bass, a thousand sunfish and perch where, in the old balance of nature, there used to be ten. And the chances of any of those baby bass maturing are practically nil.

It is the same with other species of fish. The rivals or enemy fish have been left unmolested. Their normal enemy, the game fish, are nearly gone. It must be a great day for a sunfish!

Then we have dammed lakes and changed their levels, altered their temperatures thereby. Weeds are growing in lakes that never know of weeds fifteen years ago.

Pollution by mills, factories, creameries, is doing its share.

And instead of diminishing, the rods that eternally seek the game fish are increasing in a sort of geometric rate of progression every year.

What is the government doing?

It is busy with its solemn business. It continues to rake off half the income of game and fisheries and turn it into the treasury.

Instead of spending a few dollars to send its officials down to Pennsylvania or New Jersey to see what hatchery practice has come to, it continues to raise millions of fry and distribute them according to a theory that has been disposed of long ago.

Ontario’s hatchery practice has been a great joke for many years. Rather than continue the farce, the sportsmen of Ontario would rather see them all closed up until such time as they can be organized on a proper basis.

Planting Fry is Wrong

In the first place, the hatcheries of Ontario produce almost exclusively the fry of commercial fish -whitefish, herring and pickerel. These fry are taken out in cans almost as soon as they hatch – poor, frail, infinitely small wrigglers of a quarter of an inch or so – and are dumped into the lakes. Whether they live or not nobody can possibly tell.

In the first place, these twelve-gallon cans of water are supposed to hold 50,000 fry, at least. Now, before this can of fry can be dumped into the open lake the water temperature in the lake and in the can must be equalized. If you dump the can as it comes from the hatchery right into the cold lake the fry will be instantly killed by the shock. The job of equalizing the temperature of the water in that can of 50,000 fry is a very delicate one. It requires care and cleverness.

Care and cleverness, of course, may be applied.

Why does the government plant this tiny fry? Why not hold the fry until it is older and better able to shift for itself when dumped loose in the middle of the lake?

Because they cannot hold them. They would die if held at the hatcheries beyond a certain time.

Now! Game fish.

For years Ontario has raised a fine showing of speckled trout on its annual reports.

Page after page of the blue book shows speckled trout distributed – ten thousand here, twenty thousand there. At the rate in which trout have been distributed over old and new Ontario in the past ten years the streams should fairly be bursting with fish.

But they are not. The trout that were shipped out, all these years, were fry, mostly. They were shipped in twelve-gallon cans, to those who applied – with political assistance – for trout fry.

The best possible practice nowadays for planting even advanced fry or small fingerlings is so complex and careful a procedure that it is very doubtful if a fraction of one per cent of all that tremendous planting of trout fry has been effective.

It you had a stream in which you felt you would like to plant some speckled trout, you filled out a proper application form.

In due time you would receive telegraphic notice that the fry would be shipped on a certain train. You must be there to meet the shipment and transport it to the stream.

A hatchery employee usually went with these shipments, but his duty was to accompany a large number of cans, aerate them during the train journey, and see them safely off the train at a series of destinations. Hatchery men did not accompany each shipment. The government did not even know the nature of the stream the fry were going into. Six or seven or more lots would be shipped in the care of one man, and the minute he had unloaded a set of cans at a station platform that was the last of it, as far as he was concerned.

What the recipient should have done was this. He should be right there to meet the cans with a conveyance. The cans should have been transported at once to the water they were destined for. During the drive one man should have constantly aerated the water by means of a dipper.

An Out-of-Date System

On arriving at the stream the cans should have been placed in the stream to cool, and by means of dipping water out of the cans and dipping stream water back into the cans, the temperatures of the water in the can with that of the stream should have been equalized.

Then, carrying a can at a time, the fry should have been taken to what are called “feeder brooks” – small, sheltered little runnels leading into the main brook, sheltered, free of enemy fish, with a known constant supply of fresh, spring water.

And into these feeders the fry should have been dipped, a few here, a few there, so scattering them where they could survive enemies as well as find a fair food supply.

The number of these thousands of cans of trout that have been received at the station, left standing about for hours and finally carried to the open stream and just dumped in any way would unquestionably exceed those that had been handled with scientific care.

Yet – it is now doubted If five per cent of the fry handled in the foregoing so-called proper method would survive!

In other words, how much of this hatchery hocus pocus for years past has been merely a waste of time and public money?

A few examples of what has been going on in regard to hatcheries is worth recounting.

The fish car “Beaver” was bought second-hand from the United States. It never was up to-date in its equipment. Now it has been condemned even from the railroad point of view, and can only be operated on the tail-end of a way freight. For handling live fish, it is hardly the thing, so most of the shipping is done via the baggage cars of the C.N.R. or C.P.R.

The Glenora hatchery, which was opened a few years ago with much whoop and hurrah, is so unsuited to hatchery work that all the fish in it have to be got rid of before June, because the temperature of the water then rises so high as to kill the fish. When it was opened 100,000 trout were shipped from the Soo hatchery. Fifteen thousand are said to have died in transit. Eighty thousand are reported as having died in the water of the hatchery. The remaining five thousand were hurriedly got rid of in the nearest crick to the hatchery.

For several years past all the states bordering on Canada have known that fry planting has been useless and they have equipped their hatcheries with rearing ponds into which the fry from the troughs are transferred and raised to fingerling size before being distributed to the streams.

Some of the acts connected with hatcheries seem incredible. In 1924, in the month of June, when the trout fingerlings were two inches long or better, 50,000 of them were shipped to the Fleming river, in the Thunder Bay district, from the Mount Pleasant hatchery, near Brantford, Ontario – something like seven hundred miles.

These 50,000 were shipped in forty cans – that works out at 1,250 fingerlings to a twelve-gallon can – for a 700-mile train journey!

A hatchery man went with the shipments, and no doubt he sat up all night in the baggage car, refreshing the water and icing it.

The Fleming river may or may not be a trout stream. It is believed to have plenty of pike in it.

The distance from the railway station which this one hatchery man had to transport those forty twelve-gallon cans containing 50,000 trout was about 300 yards. No doubt, also, he distributed these 50,000 trout carefully over several miles of the stream! No doubt each of the forty cans was carefully equalized in temperature with the stream.

From the same hatchery, the same month, another 50,000 shipment, in 40 cans, went to the White Sand river in Thunder Bay.

We’re Importing Trout Eggs!

In the same month, from the same hatchery, 50,000 June fingerlings were released in Eugenia Pond, near Flesherton. Mount Pleasant produced a great quantity of trout that season, and they were widely distributed. Those anglers who have fished patiently by the hour in Eugenia Pond and never caught one trout would be interested to know where the 50,000 went. In 1922 122,000 speckled trout fry were released in Eugenia Pond. In 1923 100,000; in 1924, 50,000. By the time the pond was opened to fishing, in 1926, those fish should have been well grown. Nothing points the finger of mockery at Ontario’s hatchery practice more than Eugenia Pond.

The speckled trout try and fingerlings raised, according to the government reports since 1921, were:

1921……………….1,147,500

1922………………..2,184,000

1923………………..2,238,800

1924………………..1,898,500

1925………………..676,000

1926……………….1,085,300

The story of Ontario’s effort to raise bass is not even as heroic. The Mount Pleasant hatchery has seven ponds, but instead of employing these for rearing trout to advanced fingerling stage or better, they were the scene of an attempt to propagate black bass. The parent bass, about 1,500 of them, were taken in pound nets, either from Port Rowan or Mitchell’s Bay in Lake St. Clair, and transported by crate, truck and the fish car “Beaver” and by truck again, to the Mount Pleasant hatchery. Here they were released in the ponds, and those which nested after their unhappy journeying in barrels were robbed of their babies few days after they hatched and rose from the nests, and these tiny bass fry, after being kept a short period within the troughs of the hatchery, were shipped to their various destinations by the same process as the trout, and liberated with the same element of chance or mischance, and about an equal hope of them surviving.

In distributing fry the government was doing merely what the sportsmen have been doing, and from the same motive – ignorance. The sportsmen, starting to fish on June 15, have been catching the male bass off the nest, where he was engaged for two or three weeks, in guarding the nest until the fry were old enough to hide in the weeds. The fry distributed from the hatcheries were often so small they had not absorbed the yolk sack and could not swim!

Two years ago the government employed its first trained biologist. A new principle was adopted whereby the biologist inspects all water before applications for trout fry are filled. There is also a new note to the effect that the hatchery man who takes the shipment of fry must see it distributed according to the best theory.

This has greatly cut down the amount of fry produced by the hatcheries. And it will take a little time to tell whether there is any good effect felt.

But in the meantime the government visits such places as Eugenia Pond, which it has stocked so handsomely, in the effort to collect trout eggs, and fails with nets to catch enough trout to get eggs for any purpose. It visits Dorset, with the same result.

So it imports trout eggs from the United States hatcheries!

For several years past it has purchased large quantities of trout eggs, running into several thousands of dollars, from United States hatcheries with which to stock the depleted trout streams of Canada for the benefit of the American tourist!

American Plan Far Better

A full Investigation of the hatcheries of Ontario is long overdue.

New Jersey, which has the most advanced hatchery practice in America, under the direction of Charles O. Hayford, does not believe in distributing fry at all. Last season New Jersey raised and distributed from its 192 ponds as Hackettstown 297,200 speckled trout from 6 to 16 inches in length, and 533,900 fry and fingerlings sent to sportsmen’s organizations to be reared in the rearing ponds kept up by the sportsmen, who will distribute the adult fish to the public waters of the state.

And New Jersey also raised last season 498,083 small mouth bass two to three inches long before they left the hatchery at all.

Ontario raised no bass at all in 1925, and reports 12,500 bass fry for 1926, fry, of course.

One of the quaint touches in regard to the bass raising by Ontario is the rumor that a goodly percentage of the bass shipped from Mount Pleasant were sticklebacks, which never grew to more than minnow size.

There is a way out of this muddle. Ontario could take some of the three million dollars to has saved in annual surpluses in the last ten years off fish and game and apply it to building modern hatcheries with rearing ponds for the raising of the fish to adult size before distributing them. A modern fish car should do the distributing, with a staff of biologists – cheap at a hundred times the price – to supervise all planting.

Or Ontario could adopt the American plan of game restoration.

This lets everybody help.

It is a very simple scheme. The government breeds and produces the fry.

The sportsmen take the fry and rear them to safe size for transplanting.

In other words, all the sportsmen’s organizations in the province – if they really mean business – would get together, under expert government biologist’s supervision, build a series of rearing ponds in their locality, and assume full responsibility for them.

Then the government would ship the fry from the hatcheries to these rearing ponds. When the fish were of sufficient size to be released – say in the fall of the year – the government biologist would again supervise the distribution the fingerlings in the public streams of the neighborhood. The sportsmen would have to help. Toronto associations, not being on the spot – could support its rearing pond somewhere up the country. The smaller local organizations could actually turn out and help dig the ponds, cart the gravel, and do the work of distributing the fish in the fall. It would be fun.

And the streams would then have fish in them.

The game restoration plan is already being worked in Ontario in connection with pheasants. Farmers are doing with pheasants what the associations should do with trout and bass. They should rear them.

This removes a tremendous expense from the government. And under this scheme the government could cut down its hatchery production to the exact quantity asked for by the sportsmen who have the rearing ponds. Quality of product, not quantity, would then be the rule.

Sportsmen in Ontario are now looking forward to a small compact commission or committee to investigate the whole problem of game fish. Such a commission would meet the sportsmen’s organizations and be in a position to put it up to the sportsmen to undertake a fair share of the work of restoring fish to our waters.

If sportsmen are not willing to undertake the job then the whole problem must subside one more into the political pickle it has been in for thirty years past.

Have You Listened to the Wireless Phone?

In a Toronto boy’s den, listening to concerts, by wireless telephone, in Pittsburg or Chicago. In the head-sets, clamped to the ears, the music and speeches are often so loud as to necessitate removing the ear-pieces. Through the horn amplifier, the music comes remotely, but as clear as the vast sky through which it has flown.

By Greg Clark, March 4, 1922

Hundreds of People in Toronto are Now Using This Latest and Greatest of the World’s Marvels.

Music Travels 1,000 Miles Instantaneously

Sound Is Much Clearer Than by Ordinary Telephone and by Amplifier Much Louder Than Phonograph.

Darius, the king of the earth, standing in dismay upon the bank of the swift Danube, with his mighty army back of him, summoned a certain Egyptian, who had a voice louder than any other man in the world…

And Darius commanded him to call across the river, a mile broad, to the King’s allies on the further shore, to come with ships and rescue him.

And lo, the shout was heard!

A boy of sixteen, sitting at a sort of telephone switchboard in his attic den, in Toronto, turns a black knob on the board —

“– number on the program,” says a man’s voice, suddenly. “Miss Jane English will sing, ‘Caro Nome’ from Rigoletto.”

The boy turns from the instrument board:

“Chicago!” says he.

A piano strikes a few chords. Then a smooth soprano voice sweeps into the attic room, singing the famous aria.

You don’t believe it?

Neither would have Darius, king of kings, with his loud man who could yell a mile.

For that piano and that voice, from a room in Chicago, are sounding through five hundred miles of space into this wireless amateur’s den in Toronto. And it is coming so fast through space that the time between the striking of the piano keys in Chicago and your hearing it in Toronto is too small a part of a second for the human mind to grasp. Rap your table twice in succession as swiftly as you can. That is ten times slower than this girl’s voice leaping five hundred miles through the starry night.

The young fellow at the instrument board turns the black knob, fiddles with some switches.

The room is filled with crackling, whistling sounds. Then silence; and clearly, staccato, come Morse signals, dot, dash, dot –

The boy listens:

“International code: that’s a ship on the Atlantic ocean calling a coast station.”

Turning and tuning; again whistles rising and falling, again rushing, crackling sounds as this Toronto boy searches through the vast night sky with his miraculous antennae; then a sudden silence; and out of it, the clear sound of a jazz band playing one of the latest popular dance tunes. You can hear the saxophone doing its fancy tooting, the trick drummer, and all –

“Chicago again?” you ask.

“No,” says the young operator, “Newark, New Jersey. I think.”

You listen. The band stops. A man’s voice, clear, quiet, remote as in a phonograph or telephone, but lacking both the rasp of the phonograph and the metallic buzz of the phone, announces that the next number on the program will be so and so.

“No,” says the boy. “That’s Springfield, Massachusetts.”

What is all this?

Reader, it’s the most astonishing thing in the world. It is the wireless telephone. It is the sending of the human voice and of instrumental music or any other sound through hundreds of miles of space at instantaneous speed.

You stick up a wire in the air. With an intricate electric apparatus, you shoot electric waves bearing your sound into space. And anybody else with a wire in the air, by tuning their apparatus to receive your waves, which are of a particular length, can hear your sound. Wireless started with the dot-dash system. By adding the telephone principle, you can hear a hundred times better than by telephone. For there are no metal wires to foul the sounds: Just clean, limitless space.

And what is the music?

These are wireless concerts put on every day and night of the week by the Westinghouse Electric Company at Pittsburg, Chicago, Newark. N.J., and Springfield, Mass., for any who wants to, to hear.

At these points, musical artists, public entertainers of all kinds, are brought together, and perform in front of a transmitting device which “broadcasts” the performance over the whole of the eastern half of the American continent. Public speakers also give short addresses on educational themes. There are said to be 20,000 amateur wireless operators in the States. There are, at a conservative estimate, 300 in Toronto, all of whom can hear these concerts in the distant American cities.

G. W. McClain, son of T. W. McClain, of 342 Brunswick avenue, allowed The Star Weekly representative and artist to attend concerts in four distant cities of America the other night. First, Pittsburgh, then Newark, then Springfield and Chicago. As quick as thought.

Young Mr. McClain has one of the most advanced amateur sets in Canada. With it he has heard signals from Nauen, Germany; the Eiffel Tower, Paris; from the Hawaiian Islands, and he frequently is in connection, not by voice, but by straight signals, with amateurs in Chicago, and points as far away as Kentucky. The night the Weekly was present, he got in touch with a man in Indiana, and they exchanged greetings, the Toronto man informing the Indiana man that he was just letting some astonished newspapermen hear concerts in cities a thousand miles apart.

It is all just in the beginning. Every month sees improvement. Young Mr. McClain attended the Dempsey-Carpentier fight by wireless. He heard the bells ring. He heard the crowds shouting and cheering, and the voice of the operator at the ringside, telling of each move in the fight.

The Marconi Company in Toronto puts on a concert in their King street office every Tuesday night. On that occasion, locally, the listener can not keep the head-set on his ears, it is so loud. And the amplifier (Mr. McClain uses an ordinary wooden phonograph horn), fills the house with the Marconi music by local musicians, louder than any phonograph.

Mr. McClain, Sr., had a euchre party at the house one Tuesday evening, and he ran a wire down to his drawing room, attached the amplifier horn, and had the Marconi concert during the card party, as no phonograph ever performed; as if the musicians themselves were in the next room.


Editor’s Note: Early radio was not unlike early home computing of the 1970s. It was dominated by amateurs, who were doing their own broadcasting and listening (with few regulations, so that transmissions could travel large distances with no concern of overlap). Professional stations would develop during this time. There would be no indications of when or what might be playing, hence the need to “search” for whatever you could find. Some stations might only broadcast once a week, or during certain hours. It would not be until the mid-1920s that radio would move away from hobbyists with homemade kits, to radios sold in stores for easy purchase.

Jack Dempsey fought Georges Carpentier on July 2, 1921 for the heavyweight championship boxing title. It was called “the largest audience in history,” as 300,000 people were estimated to have heard it on the radio, and it was considered one of the first radio broadcasts of a special event in history.

When You Get a Wrong Number, Whose Fault is It?

A glimpse of the switchboards in one of the Toronto exchanges.
Girl messengers on roller skates carry memos in the long distance room.
The tired business man who roars, snarls, swears, growls, groans, and yells.

By Gregory Clark, February 17, 1923

Training 3,000 Really Human Girls Not To Talk Back When They Are Barked at – a Triumph of Feminine Psychology.

What is your favorite telephone hate?

Wrong number? Line busy? Cut off? Delay in getting central?

All old stuff. We’ve heard a good deal about YOUR hates.

What about the girl at the other end of the wire? What is central’s favorite hate?

Without exception, the hello girl gives it to the tired business man who roars, snarls, swears, growls, groans and yells.

It all the assorted sounds that are sent in over the wires in one day to a downtown central office of the telephone company were saved and set loose at once, it would sound very much like Ringling’s Circus at feeding time in the big tent.

Men are the worst offenders in rattling the nerves of the swift fingered girls who handle the delicate nerve-system of the telephone exchange. But there are women offenders, too. There is a sweet, meowing kind of lady who can say the cattiest things–

How few wrong numbers you get, how astoundingly few errors you are served with in your daily use of your telephone you will never know, you can’t know, until you have seen the system, have a faint, superficial idea of this miracle of wire and buttons which, in the city of Toronto alone, handles from one million and a quarter to one million and a half telephone calls every twenty-four hours.

Errors occur – in which it has been fairly estimated that YOU are in perhaps half the cases partly to blame.

Delays occur – many of which are caused by YOU taking the time to express your opinion of the girl at central.

And in at least half the errors that do occur the central girl on whom you pour out the vials of your wrath has no more to do with the error than the lady in the moon.

Let’s take a case in point.

Suppose you are phoning from your home in a Parkdale number to another Parkdale number.

The central to whom you give your number reaches with the plug from your phone direct to the hole under the number you have asked for.

Now suppose the lady you are calling is upstairs and is slow answering her phone. You get impatient. You can hear it ringing all right, but you begin to think something is wrong. So you start rapidly clicking your receiver hook up and down.

This causes something strange to happen on central’s board in front of her. When you first took your receiver down, a light lit in front of central. When she plugged in to answer you that little light went out. As soon as you hang up your receiver, that light comes on again, as a sign that you are through. Central promptly switches the cord out of your number and you are disconnected.

Now, when you begin jiggling your hook up and down, that light comes off and on, off and on, but so rapidly that it appears to be on. That is central’s sign to disconnect. She does so. It is your fault.

If you want central, move that hook slowly up and down, to the beat of a grandfather’s clock.

Have you ever been called out of bed to answer the phone, only to find when you get there that there is nobody on the line, and central asks politely: “Number?”

Say your phone is in the Hillcrest exchange. Somebody in the North exchange has decided to call you up. The North person gives his central your number. That central does not, cannot give him the number direct. She presses a button on her board which automatically connects her with the Hillcrest exchange, and a girl in the Hillcrest building, miles away, takes the number, gives the North girl the number of a “trunk line” to put your friend through, and then your phone starts ringing.

In the meantime the North girl and the Hillcrest “trunk line” girl go on with their automatic labor of answering other little lights and switching thirty-four plugs and cords about their board.

Your friend listens to your phone ringing. He wonders at the delay. He looks at his watch and discover it is much later than he had thought. He doesn’t want to get you out of bed. So he hangs up the receiver.

On come the lights in his central’s office. His central promptly pulls out the plug. The light comes on in the Hillcrest “trunk line” girl’s board, and out comes her plug.

By this time you are at the phone and are prayerfully yelling “hello, hello,” and variations thereof.

Suddenly you hear central’s quiet voice say “number,” just as if nothing was amiss.

You roar. You rave.

“I’m sorry,” says central, “there is no one on your line now.”

“Well, what do you mean dragging me out of bed?”

And the fact is, of course, this little girl yon are speaking to doesn’t know any more about your mysterious call than you do. The call had been handled by two switchboards that she didn’t see, one miles away, the other in a different part of the building. In fact, until your friend’s plugs were pulled out after he had hung up, and until you lifted the receiver off, no light came on the board of this central of yours.

She is no more to blame than the lady in the moon. And if she cuts you off in the middle of your abuse you have a hemorrhage.

When you are cut off in the middle of a conversation, be sure of several things before you raise your voice. If you are talking from an office where there is a private switchboard, the cutting may have been done by the fair lady who presides at this board, for in most offices she is not only switchboard operator, but office boy, stenographer, private secretary to the head clerk and several other things. Then if you are speaking to someone outside your own exchange, as from Main to Junction, it may not be the central you can speak to at all, but the girl away out in West Toronto.

So don’t blame the only girl you can speak to.

The telephone company is listening in all the time for the purpose of checking their staff, a whole platoon of supervisors and instructors being employed in every exchange for this purpose every hour of the day. These experts declare that at least half the wrong numbers are due to the indistinct speaking of the person asking for the number, or to the defective memory of the customer, who asks for Main 6017 when the number he wants to Main 6107 – and when he gets what he asks for, Main 6017, says to the party at the other end:

“Oh. I’m sorry, central gave me the wrong number.”

Only the rules of the company prevent the supervisors who overhear such conversations as that from taking their revenge and yelling over the phone a triumphant –

“Yah!”

The telephone is a miraculous development of a thousand frail things into a substantial and ever-ready service to mankind. Back of that box on your wall is a mechanism so intricate as to stun a layman.

It is also a triumph of psychology. To take three thousand girls, feminine to their fingertips every one, and train them not to talk back – what more profound reform of feminine nature than that? Yet despite the blame and the bullying they are subjected to (a thing which is decreasing every year in marked degree), they must not talk back, however innocent they are, however in the wrong the bully is. Speed is the watchword! Service! And to every irate subscriber they must be polite, lest they prolong the argument, and delay the service with its million and a half calls a day!

But it is not merely mechanical after all. The girls are human. Many of them are strained and unnerved by the grumblers and barkers. The girls get to know the plug holes or “jacks” of the chronic grouses. They come to detest that man – unseen, but visualized as a fat, mottled-faced crank – oh, they are human enough to fancy the faces behind those little plugs, behind those voices kind or rough, quiet or petulant, smiling or snarling.

Human! You ought to see the long distance office. Girls on roller skates! Yes, sir! Young girl messengers whizzing about that big room from board to board, carrying the memos of calls from one town to another by means of one roller skate, propelling themselves with one foot and scooting like streaks on the ether, from Toronto to North Bay or Belleville, that is to say, the boards representing those towns. It looks like great fun. But it’s work – for you, that you might be served with speed. Some time when you are in Eaton’s, drop into the Grill Room at 10.30 a.m. or 3 p.m. and see the demonstration the telephone company is putting on there in connection with the Made-in-Canada exhibit all the month of February. They have the switchboards up, and girls demonstrating the entire process, with all the points referred to in this article graphically explained by means of little dramatic skits.


Editor’s Note: The early days of phones usually required the need to talk to an operator and give the number, which could include the name of the exchange you were calling. Toronto had a 2-letter, 4-number system until 1957 when it switched to a 2-letter, 5-number system to meet new North American standards. The letters could be converted to numbers seen on the dial, which could also accommodate direct dialing without the need of an operator. The letter system was dropped from directories in 1966 when the conversion to 7 numbers was completed.

Toronto is Biggest Betting Place in North America

December 29, 1923

Jim provided this illustration to a story on horse racing by Ernest Hemingway. The famous author worked as a freelance journalist for the Toronto Star and Star Weekly in the early 1920s as he was starting out. Because he was fond of the outdoors (hunting and fishing), he became good friends with Greg and Jim. During his time in Paris, Hemingway still filed stories with the Toronto Star. When his third son was born in 1931, he named him Gregory after Greg Clark.

Canine Chorus Boys

To win prizes at shows a knowledge of barbering may prove a first requisite

By Gregory Clark, December 3, 1932

The difference between a dog show and a baby show is that the mothers are not trying to sell their babies and, as a rule, the dog fanciers are.

“What strikes you most forcibly as you walk through the aisles of stalls at the dog show is the tense, anxious and absorbed air of the ladies sitting on the edges of the kennels beside their pets. It is the deadly seriousness of the men standing guard over their dogs.

The smaller the dogs, the greater the seriousness. The men with the police dogs and bloodhounds are almost cheery. Down the line the cheeriness departs, until you come to the Bostons, the Pekes and the tiny toy dogs. And there you find ladies, as a rule, and they wear an air of almost tragic despair.

That is the most comic part of a dog show.

But there is a good deal of comedy about the dog business, both visible and unseen.

To be a good breeder of dogs to win prizes at shows, you must be a good poker player, a first-class politician and a real smart barber.

In fact, barbering may be the first requisite. By clipping, plucking and otherwise hairdressing a wire-haired terrier or a spaniel, you can disguise his bow legs, his weak chin, his funny back, his splay feet and any other defect with which mature may have endowed him. Go to a dog show and see the wire-haired terriers with their stiff, thick little legs, their extraordinary square heads and beards like a Scottish divine, and then go home and look sadly at your own wire hair.

There is not even faint resemblance between the average pure-bred wire hair you see on the streets and the one that takes the prize at the dog show. What is the difference? Just barbering.

Underneath all that primping and manicuring may be in your homely terrier a better dog, from every true standard of dog breeding, than the terrier that won the ribbons.

A handler of dogs at shows told me cold-bloodedly that it was a common practice for the show people to trim a poor little dog’s toe-nails so close to the quick a few days before the show, that he was forced to walk delicately and mincingly with that sprightly and dainty trend, so as to spare his poor, paining feet.

Is it possible that judges cannot see these tricks and throw out the dogs that are dressed for the show ring by trickery? As a matter of fact, the days of trickery are fast vanishing. A few years ago, the dog show business was based almost completely on commercialism. The winning of ribbons was part of the business of selling dogs for high prices. The most incredible things were done to dogs. Distorted breeds were made popular, toy breeds were bred to look like frogs or golliwogs, bulldogs were so “altered,” as they say, that they could scarcely breathe; Bostons had their eyes popped right out of their heads, little terriers had hair grown on them so that the poor little critter underneath it all was like a frail little man wearing a Santa Claus suit all year round.

What About the Show Dog?

Today, the whole sentiment has swung. The much-abused police dog is evidence of the violence of the change in public taste. From flat-faced, crooked-limbed, bug-eyed, hairy, spindly dogs, public taste has faced about toward the normal, healthy, natural dog. The spaniel and airedale showed the way. The poor old police dog, so-called, is the present extreme of the swing. In dog-loving cities like Toronto, where half the homes or more possess dogs, the most popular breeds are straight terriers, such as the fox, wire hair, Airedale and Scotch; and the spaniels.

With this return of common sense in dogs, the show business has come to be cleaner. Judges are looking for the dog underneath the barber shop work.

Col. G. F. McFarlane, whose hobby is bull terriers, and who is recognized as a judge of that breed all over America, admitted that the ideal of dog breeding to-day was to succeed in awarding at shows the ribbons to the dogs that came nearest to the standards of perfection in each breed, which world-wide experience and competition had revealed over a long period of study.

“There still remains in the dog-breeding world,” said Col. McFarlane, “an element of dyed-in-the-wool fanciers who pay much attention to trifles and tricks that have nothing to do with the dog’s real character or his use. For example, I remember causing a sensation at an important show in large American city some time ago. I was judging bull terriers. A bull terrier is supposed to stand well up on his toes. That is an important feature. From time immemorial, it has been a trick in the showing of bull terriers for the handler to hold the leash tight, lifting the dog by the neck so as to cause him to appear to be standing on his toes, as he should. At this show, I demanded the handlers to slack the leashes. You never heard such indignation. Naturally, the terrier that really stood up on his toes won the decision. But there was a great sense of wrong in the minds of all those handlers who felt that it was enough if the dog seemed to be up on his toes.

“Proper teeth is another point in these terriers. I came to one fine specimen, and when I went to examine his teeth, the handler warned me not to touch the dog, as he was vicious. I ordered the handler to open his mouth and, as I expected, the teeth were bad.”

As a matter of fact, the mere training of a dog for show purposes contains not a little hardship and rough treatment. From puppyhood, once a dog appears to be a championship candidate, many handlers cuff him to stand steady, they comb and pluck and oil him, they train him daily to stand and show on a leash, and any happy quality the dog may have that interferes with the serious and all-important business of being a show dog is soon cuffed out of him. More and more the judges are looking for signs of that sort of training. More and more they are trying to judge a dog on his merits rather than on theatrical tricks taught for the purpose of showing off his points.

There are roughly three kinds of dogs: pets, working dogs and sporting dogs. Any dos destined to be a pet is not harmed by being trained as a show dog. Working dogs may also be trained for show since the discipline and loss of spirit may be useful when the dog has to answer commands in working. But hunting dogs trained for the show bench are almost always ruined by training for the show. And what is more to the point, the greatest sporting dogs would rarely if ever win a prize in a show.

This may be true also of pets and of working dogs; the best dog would not win in a show. It is a commonplace remark amongst dog fanciers that bench winners are good for nothing else.

Doesn’t this suggest something radically wrong with the whole show business?

Scientific Study Needed

Light on this angle of the dog question was thrown by several vets, notably Dr. Alan Secord, a new arrival in Toronto’s animal constituency.

“Certain breeds of dog,” said Dr. Secord, “especially the popular police dog, are the descendants of a very few ancestors imported into this country. In other words, every police dog in your neighborhood is more or less distantly related to every other police dog. This inbreeding over a short period of years, but in vast numbers to meet the demand, has resulted in a serious decline in the quality of the species. They are weak physically and mentally. They catch distemper and are goners, as sure as shooting. It takes the greatest care to save them from diseases that a common mongrel will weather without the slightest trouble.

“This fact is true of several popular breeds of dogs. It is due to man’s habit of taking periodic and passionate fancies to certain new breeds. A few fine specimens of that breed are imported, and presently you have a thin and inbred generation of that kind of dog that bears no resemblance whatever to the noble creatures that were imported. They have neither brains nor physique, yet they still bear the outward signs of excellence that catch ribbons at shows.

“A few more years’ experience along these lines,” said Dr. Secord, “and a little wider scientific study of dogs, and dog-loving cities like Toronto will favor old and widely disseminated breeds that will survive and serve in a way they have always been intended to.”

Dr. Secord points out that there has never been a public or government fund for the scientific study of dogs. Not until the fox breeders formed an industry and got government grants for research was there founded special branch at the agricultural colleges for laboratory work on canine diseases and care. And more has been learned about dogs since the scientific study for the benefit of fox ranchers than in any similar short period in history.

Nowadays it is commonplace to operate on dogs for appendicitis, tonsils, mastoid, cancer. Pyorrhea is treated in toy dogs that get too much candy and slops. The X-ray department of the human hospitals are receiving visits from dogs with fractures, and marvellous splints are being devised, bone plating is being done. They even have an apparatus for blood transfusion in dogs. Caesarian sections for the birth of “altered” breeds such bulldogs and Bostons have been commonplace for a long time.

What mankind has done to dogs in the passion for special and fancy breeds can hardly be credited to man’s nobility. But these experiments must be laid to the door of the fanciers, because the sporting breeds, some of them hundreds of years old, such as hounds and spaniels, have never been tainted with alterations other than in the direction of strength and intelligence.

But while one man raises a dog to be barbered and weighted and splinted, curled and combed and cuffed for the bench, another man, honored with the ownership of the blood brother of the other dog, wants him to run gaily with him down the street, or guard his wife and children at the summer cottage; or if a lover of the gun, to seek and put up partridges, rabbits.

We once had a black cocker whose brothers and sisters rose to fame in the dry-goods business, amassing ribbon by the yard. But Bonnie had too much brains and not enough lines for the show bench.

What he used to do, the minute supper was over, every night of his life, no matter how the fun raged outdoors, or how interesting the company downstairs, was to proceed with all dignity to the door of the upstairs room where a baby sister slept.

Across the door sill Bonnie would stretch out his jet black length, and there, never moving for hours he would lie, hall asleep, waking to every turn or twist of the sleeping baby, until at length the grown-ups came to bed.

Then Bonnie would toddle and scratch-foot his way downstairs to his old basket in the basement.

He was not taught this. He just thought it up for himself.

It gave him a purpose in life.

It dignified him in his own eyes.

And ours.

Mayor Says Club’s Show “Too Crude”

Right next door we glimpse Jane Terry, one of the beauties of the Club Esquire, the opening of which has been attended with some discussion as to the propriety of dress worn by the stunning entertainers. Some opinions express shock, while other citizens are content to preach a policy of laissez faire. Adjoining Jane Terry, in the style of the gay nineties, is another gay lady, Mae West, those memory can hark back to the day when the police patrol wagon backed up against her theatre, with no great detriment to the box office revenues.

By Gregory Clark, November 28, 1936

“Too crude, too rough,” declared Mayor W. D. Robbins to-day when shown photographs of the chorus girls of the new Club Esquire at Sunnyside, which opened with a $7.50 per couple bang last night.

“I have been asked for a report,” admitted Sergeant George Eagleson, head of the Toronto morality squad, who attended not only an official police preview but the big bang as well.

“I shall report the matter to Chief Constable Draper on his return to the city Monday,” said Deputy Chief George Guthrie.

Thus once more the defenders of this good old Alcazar, Toronto the Good, are manning the ramparts to guard against the invasion of the city by fourteen Eves, with little more than a fig leaf and a few pine needles apiece to cover them.

“There were many eminent citizens at the opening of the club,” said Sergeant Eagleson, “I heard no adverse comments.”

Last night, when the Club Esquire opened, this reporter happened to be in Callander, Ont. visiting the Quints, which is a fine way for a newspaperman to miss the last boat. But a few discreet inquiries amongst friends who had $7.50 plus some loose change for hat checking and car parking and such emergencies of a gentleman of fashion’s life, discover the fact that compared with New York, Montreal, Chicago and Buffalo night clubs, the performance was decidedly prim and proper. But that compared with any previous attempts at introducing night clubs to Toronto. It was a long step either forward, backward or sideways.

Looks Like Free Ad

“In some of the numbers,” they told me, “the girls did that floating gauze dance like they do at the Skating Carnival, only they were dressed for summer, not winter, and they had no skates. They had, as a matter of fact, what is called a G-string in the night club business, plus a brassiere perhaps not quite as big as those bandana handkerchief brassieres that were so popular last summer at the swimming beaches. But of course, it was nothing like the strip-acts that have created former scandals in Toronto burlesque theatres, nor even remotely as daring as the acts to be seen at practically every night club everywhere in the world except Toronto.”

As a matter of fact, this whole action on the part of the city fathers come Monday will probably boil down to a beautiful free ad for Mr. William Beasley, promoter of the Club Esquire, a publicity which he couldn’t buy even if he did spend $70,000 on his new club.

In feeling Toronto’s pulse, as they say, about this matter, I did not interview any ministers, because we know anyway what ministers would think and say. Nor did I interview any furriers or ladies’ tailors, since obviously they too would condemn any move toward nudism. Being unable to reach Sir Edward Beatty, president of the C.P.R., I only talked to a ticket seller at the station, and he said it would certainly cut the traffic to New York and elsewhere if night clubs like this were allowed in Toronto, since the only thing Toronto hasn’t got, as a convention city, is a series of night clubs adequate to the convention business.

“Wow, Oh Boy”

But I did sneak the pictures of the girls off the editor’s desk and took them out into the snowstorm to show to the man on the street, as the saying is.

And was he ever interested?

“Wow, oh, boy!” and things like that were their comments, in the same tone of voice you will hear from the lads at the swimming baths in July and August, when a particularly daisy one strolls, ah, so unconsciously, along the concrete in a three-ounce bathing costume.

One thing that always stands out in this controversy every time it recurs in Toronto is the lack of humor displayed on both sides. The condemners are shocked beyond measure. The upholders are as mad as wet hens.

A quarter of a century ago, when I was a cub reporter, Rev. John Coburn created a front page sensation by attending a burlesque show disguised in smoked glasses and then reporting a sensational disclosure of the depravity of man or the theatre. I forget which.

Rev. J. Coburn’s View

Here, a quarter of a century later, Rev. John Coburn makes the following statement:

“Toronto does not need to import the American night club. There are already abundant means of entertainment for the people. I was shocked this morning to find that a group of people had spent $10,000 last night on that kind of thing. For thoughtless people to spend $10,000 a night in dissipation while multitudes of good folk are forced to live in semi-starvation here is to inspire and encourage violent discontent. Such callous disregard of the needs of the disinherited is one of the forces making for revolution. A newspaperman has shown me some photographs which he claims were taken at this club. If these photographs are true pictures I have no hesitation in saying that the entertainment was not of a wholesome character.”

Hard to Draw Line

I was thinking of going to see a snazzy movie to-night, but now I guess I won’t. It’s hard to draw a line. What tickles me doesn’t tickle these 1,000 top hatters who went to the Esquire last night at all. They probably wouldn’t even twitch their upper lip at Laurel and Hardy, whereas I actually get down under my pew and stuff my plaid neck muffler down my throat to prevent myself dying at Laurel and Hardy. It’s pretty depraved of me to enjoy myself so in times like these. And all I say is, anybody who has got $7.50 plus a little loose change in case of a flat tire or anything, and a silk hat and a dress suit, is probably so depraved anyway that there is practically no use trying to lift him up.

It each of those 500 couples who were at the Esquire last night will kick in $7.50 to The Star Santa Claus Fund, I personally will for give them this once.

And as for Mr. Willie Beasley and his fourteen little girls who were probably positively perspiring I under all that gauze and stuff, Mayor Robbins Chief Draper and Sergeant Eagleton, the eagle eye, will tell us Monday.


Editor’s Notes: $7.50 in 1936 is equal to $139 in 2020.

William D. Robbins was mayor of Toronto briefly between 1936-37. He was appointed mayor after the death of incumbent Sam McBride and remained in office until defeated by Ralph Day in the 1937 elections.

The Morality department of the Toronto Police was formed in 1886, to go after drinking, gambling, prostitution, Sunday opening, juvenile delinquency, and other “social evils”. Some context can be found here and here. Because of this strict morality, Toronto was known as “Toronto the Good”. As the article indicated, it was considered by some as much too strict.

The history of Club Esquire at Sunnyside Beach can be found here. Built in 1917, the Sunnyside Pavilion held two restaurants and a tea garden with views looking out on to the lakeshore. In 1920, the building was enlarged and a new south entrance was added. At this time, the pavilion became known for the Blue Room, with a capacity for 400 diners or 175 dancing couples, and the Rose Room, which could seat 300 or hold 150 couples. Dancing would follow supper, with music often provided by a live orchestra. In 1936, the Sunnyside Pavilion was renovated and became known as the Club Esquire Supper Club, with stage shows and dancing. In 1941, the building was converted again, into the Top Hat Night Club. The building was eventually demolished in 1956 to make way for the new westbound lanes of Lake Shore Boulevard.

Greg and Jim Write Book Now It’s Up to Posterity

GREG AND JIM GO LITERARY
Twirling back the pages of time, Greg Clark and Jim Frise have taken a peep into the past to bring forth “Which We Did” – the official publication of their many and varied experiences on the bumpy road of life. It is their first attempt at book writing and the proud fathers of Birdseye Center and the Adventures of Greg and Jim have outdone any of their previous mirth-making efforts in this new brain child. Left is a picture of Greg Clark and on the right an adventure as depicted by the able pen of Jimmy Frise.

By R.C. Reade, November 14, 1936

Many of the Greg-Jim articles which have long been a feature of The Star Weekly are to-day issued in book form under the title “Which We Did.” The volume, published by S. J. Reginald Saunders, Toronto, contains sketches which have previously entertained Star Weekly readers in addition to several new ones hitherto unpublished.

A representative of The Star Weekly had in Paris recently an experience which shows that the fame of Gregory Clark and James Frise as humorists has spread far beyond Canada. The gentleman in question was introduced to an editor of Le Paris Soir, one of the largest and most successful of Parisian papers and especially famous for its feature articles and high literary standard.

“So you are from the paper that every week has the funny article,” the Paris editor ejaculated, with open arms. “They are wonderful, magnificent, classic!” Both the French and English language were totally inadequate on him.

This from a prominent editor in a country which still regards Moliere as its standard in comedy is high praise indeed and a great tribute to these collaborators’ power of comic invention.

Perhaps one of the great reasons for their success is their spontaneity and naturalness. No man knows what they are going to do next or write and draw next. Neither does Gregory Clark nor Jimmy Frise.

Necessity is often the spur to their invention, when the roaring presses will permit no further procrastination. They are like clever after-dinner speakers who, when unexpectedly called upon, can take a felicitous subject from thin air as a magician draws a rabbit from a hat. This gives their work the charm of the impromptu.

Their admirers invariably ask, “How on earth do you ever think of all the queer things you do?”

Their only answer to that is an expressive gesture which means, “Search me. How do I know?”

Their real reason is that they dip into the stream of current contemporary life, and that rich flow never fails to bring fish to their net. Their acute awareness of what is in the mind of the average man gives their work the authentic stamp of actuality.

Another question frequently put to this writer and his illustrator is, “Do you actually do all the queer stunts you say you do?”

“And the funny thing,” said Greg, “is that people will swallow our most fantastic adventures and refuse to believe some of the very simple things such as dropping a 50-cent piece on the pavement for a prosperous citizen to stamp on and claim as his own.”

“Last summer in the hot spell,” remarked Frise, “when the postman came to my door he said ‘Surely you fellows didn’t fry an egg on the city hall steps? You can’t make me believe that.'”

“I happened to have by me a photograph of Greg and I watching the egg sizzle in the sun with my dog Rusty looking over our shoulders. I showed that to the postman and seeing was believing for him. I am sure now that there is no adventure Greg can concoct which that postman won’t fall for, hook, line and sinker.”

After going through the ordeal this morning of a formal interview for The Daily Star, neither Greg nor Jim were in the mood for any further agony to provide a sprightly birth notice for “Which We Did.”

An efficiency expert would never approve of their methods of collaboration. There is good deal of artlessness in their art. They may arrange a rendezvous in an armchair lunch and the important conference may be adjourned since die without a scintilla of an idea.

Clark may climb to Frise’s tower studio and elevate his short legs to Jimmy’s littered desk while Jimmy drapes his long legs around his drawing board. There for half an hour or more they may commune like Quakers in silence. Then Greg suddenly, like Archimedes, may cry out, “Eureka! I have it,” or they may exclaim simultaneously, for their two minds are so well attuned that they often have a single comic thought.

The reading public that laughs at their printed adventures does not get half the humor that there is in their eccentric modes of joint production.

With regard to Liddell and Scott’s well-known Greek dictionary, there is a famous query as to which half was by Scott and which half was by Liddell. It is just as difficult to unscramble the partnership of Clark and Frise. Greg, of course, is the scribe who plays Boswell to Frise’s Johnson, but a Greg-Jim article without Jimmie as the eternally baffled stooge and without Jimmie’s characteristic illustration would be like “Hamlet” without Hamlet.

Frise in his modesty is apt to deprecate his own contribution, but without Jim’s art and whimsicality there would be no Greg-Jim.

Theirs is no artificial union, a mere stage partnership. Everyone who knows them is aware that they admirably balance one another’s qualities and are, as the slang phrase has it, a pair of naturals.

As it takes two greyhounds to course and capture a hare, so it is necessary for these two humorists to hunt their quarry together. Their book’s title “Which We Did,” bears witness to the duality of their comic existence.

To one who ponders the reason for the Paris editor’s remark that their humor is classic, it is apparent that it is a humor of situations, a factual humor, and not a mere fireworks of verbal wit. Their adventures can be filmed like those of Mr. Pickwick.

And so they have created a living human comedy, giving their readers a vivid sense of their essential reality as the long and the short of the genus homo, and go merrily on their way in their present book as in their past articles perpetuating as veraciously as any Mr. Gulliver, the popular illusion that their life is one long series of laughable, farcical adventures.


Editor’s Notes: This article was published on November 14, 1936 to promote their book, Which We Did (and reprinted again the next week on November 21).

R.C. Reade was a staff writer for the Toronto Star and Star Weekly, who had some of his stories illustrated by Jim in the 1920s and 1930s.

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