"Greg and Jim"

The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Surprise Party

“Good heavens,” gasped Laura … “What are you doing here?”

Greg and Jim welcome a long-lost friend by staging a surprise party – but it’s as much of a surprise to them as it is to their friend

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, March 25, 1939

“We’re invited to a surprise party,” announced Jimmie Frise.

“At our age?” I protested.

“It’s time we started taking back from the young people,” declared Jim, “some of the things we’ve handed over to them.”

“Surprise parties., I demurred, “never did appeal to me. Even in short pants.”

“We’ve handed over everything to the kids,” pursued Jim. “We have handed over authority to them. They boss us now. We’ve given them our cars. We’ve admitted them to knowledge, so that the average kid of 15 knows more than his father.”

“Let them keep the surprise parties,” I pleaded, “and we’ll take back our cars.”

“At 10 years of age,” went on Jim relentlessly, “we teach them in school the art of debate. So they can come home and confound us.”

“Surprise parties,” I insisted, “never surprise.”

“Since I was a boy,” propounded Jimmie, “a great revolution has occurred. We have handed over the world to childhood. It’s time we cut out this sentimental nonsense and started to take back a little of life for ourselves. Let’s start putting the kids in their place.”

“By going to surprise parties?” I scoffed.

“Let’s start stealing back,” said Jim. “some of the fun that formerly belonged to children. Let’s start by stealing their parties.”

“Huh, huh,” I laughed, “and play post-office?”

“The party we’re invited to,” informed Jim, “is at Bill McDoodle’s.”

“Bill McDoodle’s,” I cried. “That big shot? Why, we haven’t hardly seen Bill in 15 years.”

“He used to be our pal,” said Jim.

“Yeah,” I muttered, “until he started up in the world. Until he became a big executive with a capital B.”

“Aw, well, for old-time’s sake,” said Jim.

“Listen,” I stated, “the last 10 times I’ve seen Bill McDoodle, he hasn’t known me. He looks at me with an expression of faint recollection and then decides he must have been mistaken – it wasn’t me after all.”

“Big business makes men that way,” explained Jim.

“Big business my ear,” I cried. “He used to be just one of our gang. Then he got that vice-president job out of a blue sky. We were as pleased as he was. Don’t you remember?”

“We staged a celebration for him,” remembered Jimmie.

“And he didn’t come,” I recalled. “Inside of a year, if we ever ran into him anywhere, he was good-humoredly condescending, and chuckled over the old days. The old days, as if he had outgrown all that.”

“Well, now he wants to recapture the old days,” pleaded Jim.

“Let him chase them,” I asserted. “They’re hard to catch.”

“Listen,” wheedled Jim, “it’s his wife invited us. You remember her? A mighty fine girl.”

“Sure, I remember her,” I agreed. “Many’s the time I’ve lent her my coat. Yet one year after they’d gone up in the world, I spoke to her in the lobby of a theatre, all dolled up in an opera cloak, and she looked right past me.”

A Pathetic Figure

“Look,” said Jim. “I told her we’d come to her party. She actually begged us to come.”

“I wonder if Bill’s had a come-down?” I mused wickedly.

“It isn’t that,” explained Jim. “She told me just how it was. They’ve had their fill of society. Nothing gives them any pleasure any more. Bill is unhappy all day long and all night. He just sits, moody and glum. Business doesn’t interest him. The clubs he belongs to sour him. His wife caught him last week up in the attic, looking at his old abandoned fishing tackle and guns, and he was sitting with his hip rubber boots on, up in the attic, his head buried in his hands.”

“Huh, huh, huh,” I laughed sympathetically.

“So she’s decided to give him a big surprise,” went on Jim. “She is going to stage a surprise party, and invite about 30 of the old friends they had, 20 years ago. Friends of their youth. Not a single person they have met in the last 10 years, she said.”

“Jim” I declared, “I don’t see why we should accommodate them in this whim. Friends are too precious a possession to cast away. We’ve remained friends across all the years, with Bumpy and Vic and Skipper and all the lads. Some of us have got rich and some of us poor, but we’ve weathered all the years. We’ve retained something lovely and precious. Why should we let these people horn in on it?”

“Friendship,” said Jim, “ought to be great enough to lift across a gap of years. They used to be our friends. In folly, they cast it away. Now they ask us to take them back. If our capacity for friendship is big enough, we’ll take them back.”

“The capacity for friendship, Jim,” I informed him, “decreases with the years. When I was a boy, all boys were my friends. When I was a young man, I found I was narrowing down the field. By the time I was 30, I had pruned down my friends to a rough dozen, and I was beginning to be doubtful of some of them. I figure a man of 60 is lucky to have one friend.”

“The party,” said Jim, “is to be a surprise party and a hard times party.”

“Good grief,” I exclaimed. “They’ll play post-office for sure.”

“We can dress up in old rags and goofy hats,” enthused Jim, and it won’t be for our prosperous exterior that Bill will welcome us to his swell big house.”

“He’s got quite a house, I hear,” I admitted.

“It’s a mansion, assured Jim. “It must have cost him $50,000 and they say he gave an interior decorator $10,000 to furnish it.”

“Yet he sits in the attic,” I accused, “with his head in his hands.”

“That’s what comes,” pointed out Jim, “of letting somebody else plan your home. The home a man loves is the home he has assembled piece by piece, item by item, picture by picture. You are never lonely in a home that you have built little by little, because wherever your eye rests, you see something of yesterday. And yesterday is all that appeals to a man after he reaches the age when tomorrow makes him afraid.”

“You’re trying to make him out quite a pathetic figure,” I said.

“He is a pathetic figure,” said Jim. “And even if it is only for the mean satisfaction of showing him how happy and carefree you are, how full of friends and life, you ought to come to the party.”

“When is it?” I inquired.

“Thursday night,” said Jim.

“Thursday’s a big night on the air,” I pointed out. “I like to sit at home Thursdays.”

“If the party bores you,” said Jim, “I know you well enough to know that you’ll go and turn the radio on and sit there like a bump on a log.”

“It isn’t my manners that have kept me my friends,” I agreed heartily.

“Can I count on you?” asked Jim eagerly.

“Okay,” I said, “I like to get inside a rich man’s house now and then just for a quiet smile.”

So we spent a while planning our hard times costumes. It is a little difficult in these days to get together a real hard times outfit. Your wife has given everything away. But I remembered a straw hat that hung on a nail in the cellar, and Jim recalled a derby, greenish with age, that some previous owner of his house had left on the fruit shelves. If I wasn’t mistaken, my mother-in-law had kept an old cutaway coat, vintage of about 1890, which was a relic of far-off romance, which she trotted out on festive occasions along with a great gray lustre ball gown of hers, trimmed with black velvet. I figured I could borrow the cutaway, and enhance it with a frayed shirt. Jim had a pair of faded overalls in the back of his car which he used for duck hunting.

“We’ll manage,” he assured me.

And when Thursday came, we managed all right. In the straw hat and greenish old cutaway, and a pair of antique tan boots we found in a trunk, I cut a peculiarly disgusting figure. And Jim, in the derby, and overalls and a bedraggled old sweater coat he borrowed from the furnace man, looked like something fallen off a freight train.

“There,” shouted Jim, when I called for him, “doesn’t that take you back 30 years?”

“I was just thinking we looked pretty average,” I said, “considering the times.”

So we drove from the modest neighborhood where we live up, up, into an ever more refined region, where the corner drugstores got farther and father apart and presently there were no more stores at all, but just dark and gloomy houses. By a lot of peering, we finally located Bill’s street and eventually his house, set back from the neighbors. We looked at our watch.

“Right on the nose,” said Jim, parking. “Nine p.m.”

The house seemed quiet. There were a few other cars parked about.

“Let’s wait for the gang,” I suggested.

“No, Laura said she’d meet us and steer us into a downstairs room,” said Jim. “Come on.”

We walked respectfully up the handsome steps and rang the bell. A uniformed maid opened.

“What is it?” she asked sharply.

“We have an appointment with Mrs. McDoodle,” said Jim, stepping in.

The maid looked us over shrewdly and pointed to an oak bench in the hall. She flounced her skirts at us and went upstairs. The house was deathly silent. Footsteps pattered above and then down the grand staircase came Laura.

“Good heavens!” she gasped, halting and throwing her hand to her mouth.

“What?” said Jim and I, rising smartly to our feet.

“What are you doing here?” hissed Laura, leaping down the stairs and glaring at us fiercely.

“The party?” smiled Jim thinly.

“The party’s tomorrow night,” hissed Laura, starting to shove us towards the door, the little maid standing bravely behind her.

“I thought you said Thursday night,” said Jim, all muddled and trying to recover us both.

“I said Friday night,” cried Laura, brokenly. “Now you’ll ruin it all.”

“Sssshhh,” said Jim.

For heavy footsteps came from above.

“What is it?” called down Bill in a melancholy voice.

“Nothing, dear, nothing,” said Laura, wildly jockeying us to the door.

But down the stairs came Bill and saw his wife trying to shoo two tramps out the door.

“Hey, wait a minute,” shouted Bill, hurrying.

“Oh,” moaned Laura.

“Why,” gasped Bill, when he recognized us. “Why … Laura … these are old friends. Why,

it’s Jim. And Greg. Why …”

And he came and took our arms and looked with horror-stricken eyes into our faces and down at our clothes.

Behind him danced Laura, her finger on her lips, signalling us frantically.

“Why, boys,” said Bill, with a husky voice. “Why, my dear boys.”

And gripping our elbows fiercely, he steered us back through the handsome hall and into a little den, all lined with leather and books. He shoved us in, shut the door on poor Laura who was dancing desperately behind us.

“Laura,” said Bill, a little sharply, “if you don’t mind. I’ll just see the boys alone.”

He shut the door gently on her.

He shoved chairs out for us, with pathetic eagerness. He tried his hardest not to look at us, but we could see his shocked glance furtively taking in our ragged clothes, our shapeless boots, the silly hats we carried.

“Cigars,” he said hoarsely, with trembling hands reaching for a walnut box. “Cigars, boys …”

Suddenly he halted. Pulled himself up. Tightened his jaws and then stared us square in the face.

“Bill,” began Jim, slightly hysterical.

“Boys,” cried Bill, holding his hand up commandingly. “This is very, very strange thing, I’ve been thinking of you fellows for weeks. I tell you it’s an answer to my prayers to see you here.”

“Bill …” I began, trying not to snort with laughter.

“Please,” begged Bill, brokenly, “please, let me have my say. It’s a pitiful thing, but let me say it. Boys, for years I’ve been lonelier than in hell. For months I have been wondering what was the matter with me, life had gone sour. For weeks, I have been actually thinking of you two, and Vic and Bump and Skipper and all. I’ve been praying, do you hear … praying that I could find some decent way of discovering the friends I used to have … before I… before…”

He looked at us and we at him, and of all the dreadful sights in the world, if there weren’t tears tumbling down Bill’s face.

“I didn’t know,” he said, in his nose. “I didn’t know, God be my witness, that you had come on tough times. God be my witness. Nobody ever told me. You’d think somebody would have told me. But why should anybody tell me? And Laura trying to shove you out of my house.”

He glared at us through his tears.

“Boys,” he said, “anything I’ve got is yours. You can have anything in the world you want of me. Why didn’t you come to me sooner? I’ve been so damn lonely. So damn lonely.”

And Bill suddenly leaped forward and grabbed for our hands, and began, for the first time, boldly to look close at our faded rags, our cheap and ragged shirts, at Jim’s horrible soggy sweater coat.

“But, Bill,” said Jim, after several twists of his neck to find his voice, “Bill, it’s all right. We don’t want anything. We just came to call on you.”

“It’s a miracle,” said Bill passionately. “A miracle.”

But Laura had been listening at the keyhole, the way those rich women do; and she pushed the door open and looked with a white face at Bill and us; and then she said: “Jim, what did I tell you?”

So we all had to sit down quietly while Laura and Jimmie and I patiently explained to Bill all about the surprise party and how we, as usual, had got the dates mixed. And how, therefore, Bill had been trapped into revealing something more surprising than any surprise party.

And we stayed until 1 o’clock Friday morning, and Friday night, when the whole 30 of us came, was it ever a surprise party, to them and to Bill and to us and all the old friends who meet sooner or later.


Editor’s Notes: Post office is a kissing party game played at parties between boys and girls. These sort of party games seemed much more common in the first half of the 20th century.

A “Hard Times” party was like a costume party where people wore worn out or ragged clothes, rather than their best outfits. Sometimes they may be used as fundraisers, with the idea that rather than spend money on a fancy gown, the money would then be used to collect for a charity. Since this took place during the end of the Great Depression, Greg remarked that they look average “considering the times”. It would also not be far fetched for Bill to really think that they had become poor.

$50,000 in 1939 is $914,000 in 2021, which won’t buy you a mansion in Toronto today. You’d only get a condo or a small home in serious need of repair.

This story appeared in Greg Clark & Jimmie Frise Go Fishing (1980).

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.

Juniper Junction – 03/26/47

March 26, 1947

Weaker Sex?

I was wound up and mummified and almost lost to view in the cloth

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, March 17, 1934

“I wouldn’t be surprised,” said Jimmie Frise, “if the effects of the recent depression…”

“Recent depression?” I asked.

“The late depression,” amended Jim. “I wouldn’t be surprised if its effects had not permanently changed human nature.”

“How?” I inquired.

“As all profound experience changes anything,” went on Jim. We were out walking off the ill effects of a luncheon which, in its insidious fashion, starting with the pie, backs you into a meal the wrong way on and stuffs you fuller than a bargain chesterfield. “The great ice age changed the whole animal and vegetable kingdom. Millions of species were wiped out. The species that survived that drastic experience were so altered and hardened they could stand anything. The big depression was like the ice age.”

“It was chilly,” I admitted.

“Now for instance,” went on Jimmie, as we walked along the Harbor Building park, looking at all the steamers being unprepared for a late spring, “millions of people have found out that they can get along with far less than they ever thought they could. I think, from now on, petty ambition is not going to be so great a factor in human life.”

“What will that mean?” I asked.

“It means that all this bunk about hard work will be ended,” said Jim. “Look at the way the whole human race had toiled and slaved during the past fifty years. And look at the way it was all ended in a colossal war and a perfect big smear of a peace.”

“You mean life will be more easy-going?” I said.

“The big depression was a blessing,” said Jim, “if it put an end to all that silly fury of work that the whole human race engaged in during the past half a century. Nobody loafed any more. Even when they tried to loaf, they worked like fools at it. Look at golf, the great popular pastime of the last quarter century. It grew up in this period of insane work. Look at people motoring. Another invention of the era of toil. People motoring are working, jittering, all the time. There is no rest. No idleness, pure and simple. No leisure. No loafing.”

“God,” I explained to Jimmie, “made all things to toil.”

“What rot!” cried Jimmie, as we strolled up Bay St. “Look about you! He made everything to be idle. Look at the cattle, the deer, the goats, eating and loafing. Look at the tigers and lions, taking an occasional easy meal and loafing the rest of the time. Look at the trees, the flowers! The only animals that are working are the ones man has bulldozed. The only plants doing more than was intended of them are the ones enslaved by man. Man is the demon. And all his troubles he deserves!”

Is Ambition Dead?

“But get back,” I said, “to what you were saying about that era of insane toil we have just come out of.”

“It ended in the Big Smash,” explained Jim. “We beheld the humorous, the ironic spectacle, of half the world being out of work and forced to be idle while the other half of the world works doubly as hard, like fools, to support the first half. If that isn’t the grand finale to an era of folly, what is?”

“With good times coming back again,” I pointed out, “there is not an unemployed that won’t glory in the chance to work.”

“Don’t you believe it!” cried Jim. “People have learned to get along with less. They find life pretty good without always busting themselves in an endless chase after things they don’t need. Ambition is dead. Thrift is dead. People aren’t going to go greedily rushing themselves into the grave or the hospital, and what little they do get, they are going to waste cheerfully.”

“I wish it could be so,” I said.

“Wait and see,” said Jim. “Nature always wins. And nature made man an easygoing, lazy, happy-go-lucky creature. From now on, we are going to see men being natural. They’ve had their lesson. They are going to go through life enjoying it as they go. Golf is going to be a game in which you sit down whenever you like. Motoring is going to be a pastime in which you drive, at a snail’s pace, to find some pleasant place to lie down and go to sleep.”

As we came out of the subway up Bay to Front St. we saw a bum ambling slowly toward us, and he was looking at us with that curious hovering bird of prey expression that told us we were next.

“Psst!” said Jim. “Let’s offer this guy a good job and see what happens.”

The bum slid over to us.

“Could you spare the price of a bed?” he asked.

“You’re a good-looking fellow,” said Jim. “Strong and husky. How would you like a good job?”

“I sure would, mister,” said the bum. “I haven’t had a job now for four years. Not a steady job.”

“How would you like to come with us right now and take a job in a shipping room loading crates of stoves on to trucks?” asked Jim.

“Stoves,” said the bum. “Say, mister, I couldn’t lift a stove. I got hurt years ago and it makes me kind of useless at heavy lifting.”

“Well we need a man nailing up the crates, then,” said Jim.

“I never was any good at hitting nails,” said the bum. “I always seem to hit my thumb.”

“Listen here,” cried Jim sternly, “you don’t want a job at all!”

“Well, as a matter of fact,” said the bum, suddenly losing all the hang-dog look and straightening up into as handsome and pleasant-looking a young man as you would ever want to see, “I am just stalling along until the first spring, and then I’m lighting out for the west. I’ve got a lot of friends along the railroads out west, and I figure on joining them just as soon as the weather permits.”

Army Tank Methods

“In fact, you’re a bum!” said Jim.

“In fact, I am,” said the bum. “And a happy one, too.”

“Here,” said Jim.

And he handed him a dollar and shook his hand warmly.

“Hully gee!” said the bum.

“There you are,” cried Jim as we walked up Bay. “There is the new style man. He has got sense.”

“But you offered him a tough job,” I cried. “Lifting stoves!”

We stamped up Bay, past King, past Adelaide.

“Let’s go once through the big stores,” said Jim, “and see if they have their fishing tackle on display yet.”

We went in the big stores. They still had skis on display.

We went up the escalator to wander amongst all the bright fabrics and dress goods. We like to see the tartans every once in a while. It makes us feel Scotch, which is a nice feeling, even if you are Canadian of unknown origin.

“Take a look at that,” said Jim, who sees farther in a crowd than I do.

It was a sale.

About a hundred and fifty women were attempting to get at some gorgeous bolts of dress goods marked “98 cents a yard, while they last.”

They were blue, red, yellow, green.

In the dense pack, of which you could only see the rear views of the ladies, young and old, the bright cloth was billowing and flying above their heads. Every moment some woman would back, by sheer army tank methods, thrusting, from side to side with her anatomy, as they say, out of the throng, clutching a bolt of cloth, and she would look wildly about for a clerk, while other women came and seized the ends of the bolt. Pulling-matches, shoving-matches.

And five excited and frightened clerks were flipping their books agitatedly, and wetting the tips of their pencils in their mouths.

A small, bald-headed man in a gray suit, one of those calm small men, was standing to one side pressing his fingertips to his lips. As we passed him, we heard him saying:

“Oh, dear; oh, dear; oh, dear!”

“Are you the manager?” I asked.

“Yes,” he whispered.

Women Always Acquisitive

“A fine fight you have got here,” I said.

“Terrible, terrible,” said the man. “I hope none of the directors come along this way.”

“What will you do?” I asked.

“It will soon be over,” said the manager, anxiously.

But the women were still boring in. We saw two elderly ladies fighting over a bolt, and suddenly the larger of them started unwinding the material, and it was torn before anybody could come between them.

“Keep out of this,” warned Jimmie, a he saw me start to puff up. I always puff up when I am going to do something I deem to be my duty.

The manager said: “Oh, sir!”

I stepped amidst the ladies. I took firm hold of the bolt of bright cloth. I shouted in the army voice: “Ladies, if you please!”

But one lady went one way on a clerk, and the other lady went another way, and I was wound up and mummified and lost to view not only in the cloth but in the crowd.

It was some time before I was rescued. The sale was practically over when Jim and the manager and one of the directors undid me and stood me up.

The director expressed regret on behalf of the firm. The customer, he said, is always right, but in this instance I was not a customer. The manager expressed regrets on behalf of the department, also adding that the customer, etc.

“Have you anything to say?” I asked Jimmie, as he led me toward the escalator.

“Only that I wish you would not interfere in things that are, after all, purely phenomena for us to observe.”

“I hate injustice,” I said.

“What was unjust about that bargain sale?” demanded Jim.

“The way those big women we trampling all over the little women,” I said. “But how about the big depression, Mr. Frise? How about ambition being dead? How about nobody wanting anything anymore?

“I was afraid you’d notice that,” said Jim. “But I was speaking of men. Not of women. Women will always be acquisitive.”

“They are the stronger sex,” I said. “And they will give birth to those who will be just as acquisitive as men ever were. You can’t change human nature. Not when women have something to do with it.”

“If it weren’t for the women,” said Jim, as we went down the escalator, “what wonderful bums us men could be in a couple of generations!”


Editor’s Notes: It seems premature to call the depression the “late depression” in 1934. Unemployment did reach it’s peak in 1933, but it was a slow decent to get back to 1929 levels. This would not occur until the War economy started in 1940.

When Greg speaks of coming “out of the subway up Bay to Front St.”, he means the part of Bay Street under the rail lines next to Union Station.

It seemed odd to me that the young bum would exclaim “Hully Gee”, which was a saying in the 1890s, and the catch phrase of the Yellow Kid.

Hazing a Real Barbaric Act at Varsity Thirty Years Ago

March 15, 1924

This illustration by Jim accompanied an article by Fred Griffin about hazing rituals at the University of Toronto’s University College. Apparently, in the 1880s and 1890s, there was a “secret society” in the “old residence” called the K.K.K. (It seemed to have no affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan).

The Winter’s Crop

March 16, 1940

“You Look Bad”

“You look bad,” said George. “What’s the matter?” “We’re O.K.,” said Jim emphatically.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, March 12, 1938

“What’s the matter?” cried Jimmie Frise sharply.

“How, who?” I replied, startled.

“You,” said Jim. “You look as if you had been pulled through a knothole.”

“I feel all right,” I stated.

“You look bad,” said Jim. “You look terrible. My dear chap.”

He stood staring at me, his face full of anxiety and concern.

“Wh-hy,” I laughed nervously. “I feel all right. I feel the same as ever.”

“Were you reading late?” inquired Jim, earnestly, “Or anything?”

“I was in bed before 11,” I said stoutly, “and I slept like a log and woke, now you mention it, feeling like a million dollars. Why. my family was all kidding me, not an hour ago, about my singing while I was shaving.”

“Hmmm,” said Jim, scrutinizing me narrowly, as I took off and hung up my hat and overcoat.

I sat down at my desk, rubbing my hands together. I smiled around the familiar office, at its pictures, mottoes and framed cartoons. I felt fine. I felt perfect. Not a pain or an ache.

“Maybe,” I suggested, “I just need a haircut.”

But I felt Jimmie watching me covertly. In fact, each time I looked up from opening my mail, I caught Jimmie just glancing away from me, with a secret look about him.

“Look here,” I said, “what’s the idea? What’s the big idea of peeping at me like that?”

Jim sat back in his chair and looked long and earnestly at me.

“How long is it,” he asked tenderly, “since you saw a doctor?”

“Say,” I cried, “what the dickens is the matter?”

“I’m asking you,” said Jim. “How long is it since you saw a doctor?”

“I had a life insurance examination,” I informed him, “less than two years back.”

“A lot of things,” said Jim, hollowly. “can develop in two years. In two weeks, even.”

And after a long, lingering stare, he returned to his work.

I finished opening the mail and noticed, incidentally, that my hands looked a little different from the last time I had looked at them. They seemed knucklier. The skin on them seemed drier and more crinkled than I had noticed ever before. I held up the left one. I was astonished to see that it was shaking slightly. Very slightly. When I tried to hold it perfectly steady, it trembled most decidedly. A very slight, but certainly a decided, tremble. I felt Jimmie watching me slyly, and looked up in time to catch him at it. He glanced away with an expression of shame.

“Hrrrmmph,” I said.

“When Did You See a Doctor?”

I leaned back in my chair and looked out the window. I then slowly went all over myself, with my mind, as it were, feeling all my joints, parts and insides. Slipping my thumb casually in the armhole of my vest, I felt my heart, first of all.

“Ga-bump, ga-bump, tiddle, ga-bump,” went my heart.

I had never noticed that “tiddle” before. In fact, that “ga” in front of the “bump” was not altogether familiar.

I listened, as it were, to my lungs, liver, kidneys and stomach. Quite suddenly, and without warning, I noted my eyes seemed queerly dull. The gray March light outside seemed grayer than March used to be. I tasted a little different taste in my mouth than I had ever observed before. And finally. I seemed to feel a slight limpness or numbness in my wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees and ankles.

As I turned from this contemplation of myself, this stock-taking, I caught Jim just turning his head from having been watching me intently.

“Jim,” I said, rising, “what is it you notice about me? Do I look pale?”

Jim got up and came to meet me.

“Look,” he said, “you just look kind of queer, that’s all. Not pale, but sort of drawn and peaked. There is a funny look to your eyes. You seem to have shrunk, somehow.”

“Jim,” I said, “what do you suppose it is?”

“How would I know?” demanded Jim. “But as your old friend. I think I have the right to tell you you look bad, when you do.”

I looked intently at Jim, to read his thoughts, to know the truth. And then I noticed Jim had a funny look about him. His eyes, which, the last time I had bothered to observe, were bright with light and twinkle, now seemed, as it were, faded. His skin seemed polished across the cheek bones. There were pouches under his eyes and the bridge of his nose looked bony.

“Jim,” I suggested sympathetically, “you don’t look so good yourself.”

“Eh?” said Jim.

“You don’t look very well yourself,” I said gently. “How have you been feeling lately?”

“Never better,” said Jim heartily. “I feel in the pink, that’s what made me conscious of you, I guess.”

“Jim,” I corrected, “you may feel in the pink, but you don’t look it. Now that my attention is drawn to it, your eyes have a dull sort of look, there are heavy pouches under your eyes, and look the way you are standing!”

Jim straightened sharply.

“Ah,” I pointed out, “you have been walking around awfully stoop-shouldered this last while. We get so used to seeing each other, we don’t notice these things until something forces our attention to it. Jim, you’re a kind of yellow color, do you know that? How is your liver? When did you see a doctor last?”

Jim walked over and looked out the window. He pulled up his belt and straightened his shoulders. He coughed and shrugged and I could see he, too, in his turn, was giving himself a mental going over, outside and in.

“Why,” he said, “I had a doctor look me over just last spring, when I had that tooth trouble. Or was that two springs ago?”

“Hmmmm,” said I. “a lot can happen…”

Sudden Anxiety

Jim turned from the window anxiously.

“How do you mean I look kind of yellow?” he asked, earnestly.

“Bilious, or jaundicey,” I said, turning him to the light so I could give him a good honest report. “Why, Jim, isn’t it funny how we change so suddenly? The last time I remember looking at you, and I see you every day of my life, practically, you were a lithe, springy, ruddy fellow, life in your eyes and skin and every movement.”

“And what’s the matter with me now?” questioned Jim crisply.

“Well,” I said sympathetically, “to put it very simply, Jim, you seem to have suddenly aged, your skin is sort of parchment like, your eyes have a dull look. I don’t know, you just seem to be aged, somehow.”

Jim stiffened and walked back to his desk. He sat down and picked up his drawing pen and started to scratch with it. He glanced up and caught me watching him.

“Let’s forget it,” he suggested, “Let’s just forget it.”

“Very well,” I agreed. “There is nothing we can do right now, but I’m going to see the doctor to-night.”

“The same here,” said Jim, humping down over his drawing board. And I addressed myself to the typewriter with intensity.

So through the morning Jim scratched, with little to say, and I banged and thundered on the machine, though I noticed long pauses in Jim’s scratching, and the pauses of my own machine grew ponderous and frightening, as I slowed between thoughts. I hated to feel a pause. I wrote many pages that I tore up because there was really nothing on them, only words that I wrote to fill the office with a busy sound.

We were both very happy when it came 12 o’clock and lunch. We put on our coats with an obvious sense of relief. We smiled and joked extra loudly in the corridors, as we met our colleagues of many departments going to lunch. We cracked the usual ones with the elevator man. It was a snappy day, and Jim and I, instead of dawdling along, stepped out with conscious vigor, and wove in and out through the lazy noon hour crowd. We arrived at the lunch counter we favor on those days we feel like walking three blocks and got stools side by side.

George, the boss of the lunch counter, who stepped up to ask us our order and dish us a glass of water, froze when he saw us.

“Hello,” he said, “what’s the trouble?”

“Eh?” said Jim and I heartily.

“You look bad; what’s the matter?” said George, solicitous and low leaning over the counter.

“We’re o.k.,” said Jim, emphatically. “I’ll take a hot beef sandwich with peas and coffee.”

“Have you had any bad news or anything?” queried George.

“Make mine,” I stated firmly. “hot pork with plenty of gravy, french fried and peas on the side. Brown bread.”

Friends are Solicitous

George looked at me closely.

“I wouldn’t recommend pork,” he said, surreptitiously. “Pork’s heavy.”

Saying which, he slid Jim’s plate on the counter, the big sandwich drowned in rich gravy. the peas vivid green, scoop of soft pallid mashed potatoes balanced on the edge.

George waited on somebody else while I thought what I wanted other than pork. Jim stared intently at the beef sandwich and picked up his knife and fork slowly and deliberately.

“I think,” said Jim, “I think I’ll change my mind. Make mine a… ah… a chopped egg sandwich and a glass of cold milk, eh, George?”

“Good,” said George.

“Mine the same,” I stated.

“Good,” said George, very kindly. “You’ll feel better than eating a big meal, the way you feel now.”

He slid away, but we could feel, as we nibbled the sandwiches, that George’s friendly eye was on us, sideways. I stole a glance at Jim. He was gaunt and hunched, and he was eating his sandwich as if it contained poison. I felt Jim looking at me, and I tried to take a big bite of my sandwich but I choked slightly.

“Here,” muttered Jim, flinging down the half of his sandwich. “Let’s get out and go for a walk. What we need is fresh air.”

As we paid our checks, we encountered three of the boys from the composing room.

“Well, well, well,” said they, standing us back to look at us, “what kind of flowers do you guys like? Will we make it a wreath or just a spray? Those sprays of spring flowers are …”

But Jim and I pushed out the door and got into the throng.

The lazy throng. The noon throng with gaze turned inward, digesting their food or perhaps pondering problems left unfinished at their offices. How comfortable and at ease they all looked, especially the girls, the business girls, with that superb look of indifference which distinguishes them from non-business girls.

Listlessly we drifted with them, they thrusting and pushing by with vigor and energy.

“Ah,” sighed Jimmie, as a particularly fat, healthy girl bounced past as if she was made of rubber all over, “little do they guess.”

“I never saw people so disgustingly healthy,” I stated. “They seem to flaunt it.”

“Yet any day,” said Jim, “any one of all these may glance in the mirror in the morning, and see the signs.”

“They look lovely now,” I submitted.

“One of the evils of being well,” said Jim, is that you never think of your health. It’s only when you lose it you think of it. We ought to have big posters all over the streets, saying in great big type, ‘Do you feel well? All right, then gloat.’ Or something of that kind.”

“I think,” I said, thinly. “I’ll lay off for the afternoon I’ll just go home and lie down for two or three hours.”

“I’ve got a good notion,” said Jim, “to slip up and see the doctor. His hours are from one to two.”

“That’s a better idea,” I admitted. “We’ll both go, and that will save time and money. We’ve both got the same trouble anyway.”

So we got Jim’s car and drove out home to see Jim’s doctor. We drove slowly. In fact, we drove too slowly.

“Just put a little steam into it, Jim,” I suggested. This slow pace sort of, sort of …”

So Jim put on the gas; even so, we did not travel along the Lake Shore at quite our usual pace. The doctor was in but there were three people ahead of us, an old lady whose head trembled all the time and who had a look of despair; a man with a bandage over his face, concealing something mysterious; and a young woman as pale as a ghost who never raised her eyes from the ragged old magazine she was only pretending to read. One by one, these three were called ahead of us, and we could hear far off, dim sad sounds in the utter silence of the waiting room.

When our turn came, we were so limp we could hardly get to our feet.

“Well, for heaven’s sakes,” said the doctor, with that relief doctors always feel when they come to their last patient, “and what are you two old hickories doing here?”

“How do we look, doc?” demanded Jim, posing.

“You look all right to me,” said the doctor. “What is it? Life insurance? Or are you trying to get me on some committee. Sit down and rest your feet.”

“Honest, doc,” said Jim, “how do we look?”

Feeling Terrible

The doctor sat back and looked with that secret professional eye at both of us sitting very stiff and pretty.

“Well,” he said, “off hand, I should say you look like a couple of steers all combed up for the Royal Winter Fair. Why, what’s up? Am I supposed to see a rash on you or something?”

So we told him. We said we were feeling fine, but we both had noticed how the other had failed lately, and then, when we went to lunch, everybody looked at us and said we looked bad.

“And did you feel bad?” asked the doctor.

“Not until Jim noticed how badly I looked,” I admitted.

“You do feel bad?” asked the doctor.

“Doctor,” I declared, “I feel terrible. To tell the truth. I feel kind of gone. My eyes feel dull and I can’t eat. I choke on my food, my mouth has a funny taste, and in all my joints, I’ve got a weak feeling, see?”

“How about inside?” asked the doctor.

“I have no pain,” I confessed, “but I have a sort of woozy feeling, as if something was wrong, something seriously wrong, perhaps.”

“Exactly the same here,” said Jim. “only I didn’t like to say so. I feel as if any minute I would get a sharp shooting pain in my insides.”

“Well,” said the doctor, very earnestly, “I’ll tell you what it is. It’s the spring.”

“The spring?” said we.

“The spring,” said the doctor. This time of year is like 4 o’clock in the morning. If you wake up at 4 in the morning, your faculties, your glands and humors are all at their darkest ebb. You feel only half alive. It is the same now, in March and part of April, until the first iris reaches up until the first buds get sticky, until the first robin nests in your tree.”

I looked at Jimmie. He was transformed. Before my very eyes, he seemed suddenly flooded with life and health.

“Maybe,” said the doctor, “you need a little sulphur and molasses, but probably you don’t. Probably all you need is to keep from thinking about how you feel. Don’t think at all. Don’t feel. Just wait for these weeks to pass…”

“Why, look at him,” cried Jim, pointing at me. “Look at the little beggar, fairly busting with health. What’s he been trying to put over, drooping around the office this morning as if he were in a galloping decline!”

I stood up. Jim stood up. The doctor stood up.

“Listen,” said the doctor, “never tell anybody they look bad, especially at this time of year.”

“That’s an idea,” admitted Jim.

“And here’s a trick,” laughed the doctor. “If anybody ever says you look bad, tell them right back that they look terrible.”

“Ha, ha, ha,” laughed Jimmie and I heartily, shaking the doctor’s hand muscularly and leaping into the car and driving back along the Lake Shore hell for leather.


Editor’s Notes: Sulphur and molasses made up a home remedy, also known as a “spring tonic” because of the laxative influence of sulfur.

Hell for leather” means “At full speed”.

Real Stories of the War, Told by Returned Soldiers

March 8, 1919

Jim produced two illustrations for a selection of short anecdotes that were published in the Star Weekly from submissions from veterans of the Great War. The newspaper offered cash prizes. The first illustration was from the first prize ($10) winner “Captured by the Relief”.

March 8, 1919

The second illustration was from the second prize ($5) winner “Huns Behind our Lines”. All other winners of stories published received $1. $1 in 1919 is about $13.50 in 2020.

Thumbs Down!

March 9, 1946

The Hard Way

“Excuse me,” I said, “could you spare me a dime for a cup of coffee?” “You’re a comic, Mr. Clark,” laughed the tall man, all his solemnity departed.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, March 9, 1940

In which Greg and Jim learn it’s not easy job panhandling or selling on the street

Jim Frise and I were walking back from lunch when a young man with his coat-collar turned up stopped us and whispered:

“Could you spare me the price of a cup of coffee?”

I fumbled and Jim paid. A quarter. And a kind smile.

“Jim,” I said, “how much do you give away in a week to panhandlers?”

“Bread on the waters,” said Jim. “Get a line of credit. Some day I may be wanting a dime.”

“I bet,” said I, “it costs more than two bits to work up courage enough to beg a dime on the street.”

“It would take more than I’ve got,” said Jim.

“That would make an interesting story for the folks,” said I. “You and me trying our hand at bumming dimes.”

“You do the bumming,” said Jim, “and I’ll follow at a distance and make sketches.”

“You’re afraid,” I declared.

“So are you,” said Jim.

It was a sunny March day. Spring was in the air. The noon streets were crowded. I made a quick, rabbit shooter’s estimate of the throng and selected a tall, solemn man wearing a hard hat and smoking a cigar.

“Excuse me,” I said, touching his arm and falling out to the side of the pavement. I turned up my coat collar.

“Could you spare me a dime for a cup of coffee?” I muttered.

“Ha, ha!” laughed he.

“Please,” said I: “I ain’t had nothing to eat or drink since the day before yesterday.”

“You’re a comic, Mr. Clark,” laughed the tall man, all his solemnity departed.

I looked at him. But his face was unfamiliar.

“I’m not worrying about that $47,” he smiled. “Take your time. I know you’re good for it.”

Forty-seven dollars! Let’s see, who did I owe $47 to? Sixty-five, 40, nineteen… ah. yes! Forty-seven dollars to the insurance company that insures my car. I suddenly recognized him as the cashier who accepted my cheques through a cage at the insurance company.

“Ha, ha,” said I. Jim was right at my elbow by now. “I was afraid you would be getting after me for that money. Ha, ha.”

“Quite all right,” said the cashier. He was still chuckling. “You’ve got a great line, Mr. Clark.”

“Good-day,” I said laughingly.

“How much did you get?” asked Jim, very puzzled.

“Hang it,” said I, “I owe too many people money to attempt panhandling. I knew that guy. He was the cashier of the insurance company that handles my car insurance and I owe them $47. He thought I was kidding him about owing the money.”

“Try again,” said Jim. “Pick somebody not so well dressed. See what it feels like to be turned down.”

“Don’t Spend It on Drink”

We came to The Star lane and there was a seedy-looking man in a derby hat standing watching the crowd pass. I sidled up to him.

“Excuse me,” said I, “but could you spare me the price of a cup of coffee?”

He looked sharply at me, up and down.

“Listen, buddy,” said he; “I’m working this side. You pick another block, will you?”

“Huh?”

“You’re pretty well dressed to be working this game,” said the man in the derby. “Are you really hungry?”

“Haven’t et since Thursday,” said I.

“Here,” he exclaimed sympathetically. He dug down into his pocket, pulled out a half a dozen dimes and nickels and handed me one dime.

“Don’t spend it,” said the man in the derby, “on strong drink.”

Jim and I shuffled off down the street.

“I’ll frame this dime,” said I. “The first dime I ever panhandled.”

“This adventure,” said Jim, “is going all flooey. We ought to think up something else to study the situation, I tell you. Let’s sell something. Let’s put up one of these stands in a lane or in some nook along the street and sell things. We will see what it feels like to make an honest living.”

“How about stuff to take spots off vests?” I asked.

“Or corn killer?” said Jim.

“You’re a good spieler,” said Jim. “You make up the spiel and I’ll handle the sales in silence.”

“But let’s get something unusual to sell, something useful. The big thing in all merchandising is the idea,” said I.

“One thing I always want and never have around my house,” said Jimmie, “is nails. No matter how many nails and tacks and screws I buy I never can find them.”

“That’s an idea,” said I. “We could get a little tin box about the size of a tobacco tin and fill it with an assortment of tacks and nails and sell them like hot cakes. After we have exhausted the street corner sales we could go from door to door. We could organize a company and hire hundreds of unemployed men, and not only would we be relieving the economic situation but we would be rendering real public service to the homes of this city. And at the same time we could make money. “Suppose,” said I, “we only made one cent on each box of assorted nails. There are at least 90,000 homes in Toronto alone. Let’s not think of Canada yet. But 90,000 cents is how much, Jimmie? Nine thousand dollars! Nine thousand dollars! Jimmie, at one cent profit. That’s $4,500 apiece.”

Jimmie was walking with his head in the air, thinking.

“It’s $900, not $9,000,” said he. I did a little figuring.

“Well, anyway,” said I, “that’s $450 each. Just from Toronto alone. You take Ontario-“

“Wait a minute,” said Jimmie. “We are going to do this for a story. Let’s go down to one of those wholesale hardwares and get a supply of them and try it. Are you game?”

So we went down to Wellington St. and went into a hardware supply house, and while Jimmie did the buying I leaned on the counter and wrote out the notes for my selling talk.

A young clerk with red hair waited on Jim.

Ten of these little boxes,” said the clerk, “at seven cents each. And nails?” He did a little figuring. “One-inch brads, one-and-a-half, two-inch, two-and-a-half and three-inch nails, a couple of packages of tacks, some screws, assorted screws.”

We laid the empty boxes along the counter and with the nails and tacks spread out we took a pinch of this and a pinch of that and filled the boxes.

“What do these come to?” asked Jim.

“The red-headed clerk added up the cost. “Seventy for the tins and 45 for the nails and screws. A dollar and 15 cents.”

“Let’s see,” said Jim. “That comes to 11 ½ cents a box. We will charge 15 for them and make three and a half cents a box.”

The clerk listened and nodded.

So Jim and I sunk the boxes in our coat pockets and went out to look for a good place to stand.

“Let’s get well away from the office,” said I. “Our friends will buy them if they see us. We don’t want any sympathy buying. Let’s sell on our merits.”

So we got on Church St. above King. There was a vacant store front, with dust and papers gathered in the doorway.

Jim held a box in each hand and I started my spiel:

“Come this way, gents; come this way!” Three men were passing, but none of them looked at us. “Here y’are,” I shouted louder. “Here y’are, gents! A boon to every household. The secret of domestic happiness. No more quarrels about where the hammer and nails are. No more fingers smashed trying to straighten old nails. No more lockjaw from fooling with rusty nails. Here y’are, gents, the discovery of the century. Something you have been looking for all your life. This way, gents.”

Jim had the lids off and the boxes held forth to the public view. But seven more people passed and none of them paused.

“Sensational value!” I yelled. “A dollar’s worth of handiness for only 10 cents.”

“Fifteen,” hissed Jim.

“Fifteen cents,” I bellowed. “Come this way, ladies and gents, and give your wife a surprise! Bring peace and comfort to your home. Hang that picture! Nail up that fruit shelf in the cellar! Mend that broken window sill. For 15 cents, gents, a box of nails that will last you a lifetime.”

There are not many people on Church St. anyway.

“Make it louder,” said Jim. “And funnier.”

“Take a box of nails home to your little boy, ladies and gents. A boy can have the time of his life with this little magic box. He can nail up everything. Every boy is yearning for a box of nails like this. Look, 15 cents!

Not as Easy as It Looks

One man stopped and looked at us.

“That’s a good idea,” he said. And walked on.

“Make it 10 cents,” said Jim.

“Ten cents,” I bellowed. “Less than cost, ladies and gents. The greatest boon to the housewife-“

“Appeal to the men,” growled Jim. “There aren’t any women.”

“Hide this box of nails in your collar-box,” I cried, “and you’ll always have nails-“

“Men don’t have collar boxes any more,” said Jim. “Your spiel is rotten. Offer 11 ½ cents worth of nails for 10 cents.”

“Going out of business,” I bellowed. “Selling at a loss, 11 ½ cents worth of nails for 10 cents!”

A man with a tool-bag stopped and looked as us.

“Do you mean to say,” he demanded sourly, “that that is 11 cents worth of nails?”

“Counting the tin box and the nails,” said Jim, “there is 11 ½ cents worth there.”

“Well, then,” said the man, “don’t offer 11 cents worth of nails for 10 cents, because you haven’t got ’em.”

A young fellow was standing out on the curb.

“Ten cents,” I yelled. “A box of nails for 10 cents. How about you?”

The young chap came over.

“How many have you got at 10 cents,” he asked.

“Ten,” said I.

“I’ll take the lot,” said he. He held out a dollar bill.

Jim and I unloaded our pockets, and the young man took them all and stuffed them into his coat.

“Excuse me,” said Jim, “but aren’t you the fellow at the hardware store that waited on us?”

“Yes,” smiled he, and I saw his red hair under his cap.

“Well,” said Jim and I.

“I make 15 cents on this deal,” said he. “In times like these, 15 cents isn’t to be sneezed at. It buys my lunch.”

Jim and I went one way and he went the other.

“The trouble was,” said Jim, “your spiel was no good. You have to be a special kind of personality for selling things.”

“All you did,” said I, “was stand there like a cigar store Indian with the boxes in your hands. You should have used gestures. You should have held them and demonstrated them.”

“Like a cloak model,” said Jim.

“I guess panhandling and selling things the street isn’t as easy as it looks,” said I. “But I wish we had kept one of those boxes of assorted nails. That was a swell idea. They’d come in mighty handy around the house.”

So we both turned back down to the hardware supply house and got a box each from the red-headed clerk.

He charged us 15 cents.

“Labor and overhead,” he said.

“Could you spare me a dime for a cup of coffee?” I muttered to the tall man.
“Here y’are gents!” I shouted. “A boon to every household!”
“Listen buddy,” said he, “I’m working this side. You pick another block, will you?”

Editor’s Notes: This story seemed too “Depression related” for 1940. The style seemed a little off too, so I decided to investigate further. There are so many stories, that I have not read them all, and usually only read them for the first time when I randomly choose one to feature. I knew that there were stories repeated when Greg was away on different occasions as a war correspondent in World War Two, but was not aware of the extent. So I did a more extensive review of the stories , and this is indeed a repeat of “Dimes Come Tough” from November 19th, 1932, one of their earliest ones. I’m still missing some time periods from the war, but there seems to have been extensive periods of repeats in early and late 1940, and from the summer of 1943 right to the beginning of 1945. The images at the bottom are from the 1932 story.

“Cast your bread upon the waters” is from the Bible, Ecclesiastes 11:1. Nowadays we would say “pay it forward”, meaning, do a good deed and someday someone will do a good deed for you.

It may be confusing when Greg mentioned the well-dressed man had a “hard hat”. In this case he meant that he was wearing a Bowler hat, which is made of hard felt, rather than a fedora, or other style, which would be made out of a softer felt.

Greg was also showing his age when he suggested the nails could be kept in a collar box, and Jim told him so. Circa 1860-1920, men’s collars and cuffs were detachable from shirts. The idea was that you could change the collars and cuffs to keep them looking nice without having to change the shirt. They could also be made of separate material like celluloid to keep them stiff. The collar box was somewhere where you could store them to keep them clean.

Page 2 of 37

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén