"Greg and Jim"

The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Shooting 40 Million

June 4, 1927

By Gregory Clark, June 4, 1927.

Since the opening of the racing season I have made twenty-one mind bets.

I lost then all.

Of all the forms of saving money none is more stirring than making mind bets. In the mind, I bet five dollars each on the twenty-one horses I picked with a pin out of the newspaper entries.

That makes $105 I have saved in a couple of weeks.

From now on I am raising my bets to $25 each, and by the end of the racing season I will have probably saved several thousand dollars.

The betting men around the office say:

“Wait a few days until you strike a skin that pays thirty to one. That will wipe out your entire savings. There’s the makings of a race fan in you yet.”

But there is a funny thing about betting. Last year Canada bet forty million dollars on the horses that ran on Canada’s tracks. Forty million dollars cash, not counting mind bets nor the money a man wished he had bet as he stands with his two-dollar winning ticket in his hand staring ruefully into space.

This forty million was all lost.

When you put up five dollars and win fifty, the fifty does not come out of the air. It comes out of the pockets of all the down-hearted people standing around you.

Forty million dollars was lost by race-goers last year. But forty millions was not won. Because the government took a share of it in taxes and the betting machines took some in percentages.

No money comes out of the air. It comes out of pockets.

This is a fact the ladies don’t seem able to grasp.

The ladies have the idea that they are betting against the race track company.

“Excuse me,” said a lady to one of the ticket-sellers in the case, “but this is the fifth bet I’ve lost to-day in a row. I wonder if you couldn’t give me back my two dollars just this time and let me try once more?”

In shooting the forty million Canada seems to have a lot of fun. The game would not be so popular if it were not amusing. But the peak, crest and topknot of the fun that is to be seen around a race track, funnier sure than the face of a cock-sure man who is licked, funnier than the conversation of the man who keeps repeating to his friends that he KNEW this was a good one, and why didn’t he put fifty dollars on it instead of two dollars – the funniest thing on a race track is a woman who bets.

Oh, yes, they bet. At the near end of the pari-mutuel machine sheds there is a compartment reserved exclusively for the lady gamblers.

This enclosure is funny to begin with. It has separate wickets for $2 bets to show which means betting $2 that the horse will be either first second or third. This wicket is the one where the long line-up of the ladies is.

Then there are wickets for the $2 bets for place and straight. There are in all a dozen $2 bet wickets.

Last of all comes one wicket where $5 bet tickets are sold for straight, place or show. And there are hardly any ladies ever at this wicket.

Ladies Are Pikers

The ladies are pikers. If the policeman will let you get near enough to the line-up of women of all ages and sizes, you will discover that there are many of them in pairs, and that they are splitting a $2 ticket between them, thus managing to make a $1 bet, although the race track company does not provide for such small bets.

From all that has been written and said about race tracks you might expect that these line-ups of ladies would consist, if not entirely of painted and powdered ladies with loud clothes, at least of ladies of fashion who have no objection to being photographed by crouching press photographers.

The line-up is absolutely astonishing. A girl with the least decoration on her face stands forth like a Jezebel.

The majority are drab, sober ladies, school-maamy, house-wifey, some of them a little threadbare even, and certainly most of them with a sobriety of face that one associates more with church work and welfare societies than with the race track. The impression given by the line-up in the women’s enclosures is that there are going to be a lot of tired men going to have late suppers tonight.

No air of gaiety hangs over the scene. The thing it is most like is the line-up outside a court room. Everybody concentrating on the story they are going to tell and determining to stick to it. No smiles. No giggling. No adventurous agitation. Most of them are slightly pallid and hushed. And it is $2 tickets they are waiting for.

These women did not accompany their men to the track. If they had they would have got their menfolk to buy the tickets. You know women. They have come on their own and in pairs and groups. Possibly some of them are placing their husbands’ bets, husbands being at work.

They line-up for their next bets much earlier than the men. The minute one race is over and while the men are still watching for “official” or studying the odds for the next race, the women are in line. The bargain counter habit, maybe. But there are no bargains in tickets.

One young woman arrives at her turn at the wicket in a tremendous state of confusion.

“Oh, dear,” she cries, “I’ve forgotten which horse it is. The names are so alike. I can’t remember whether it is Miguel or St. Patrick!”

“Please hurry, madam,” says the ticket seller. The ladies immediately behind in the line-up make impatient sounds.

“If I go and ask my friends will I lose my place in the line?”

“Certainly you will, madam,”

“You couldn’t wait a minute?”

Turning her head she cries, “Ellen! Oh. Ellen!” into space, and then staring fiercely at the card in her hand moans:

“Oh, give me a ticket on-on–High Heels!”

A $2 ticket.

“A special kind of a sap has to be given these jobs,” said one of the ticket men in the women’s betting enclosure. “You have to have tact and be polite, but forceful, you know. They come and ask you which horse you like best. They ask for either Black Smoke or Hamlet and leave it to you to select which. They accuse you of having given them the wrong ticket. They want to engage in conversation, and they have far, more nerve than men have with a line-up of excited people right on their heels. They often don’t make up their minds until it is their turn at the wicket.

“What do I think they bet for? Some of these women expect to outfit themselves for the year out of their winnings. Some have visions of a regular gold strike. They bet long shots, not the favorite, and they all think they are betting not against all the other people on the track, but against the company. I have had plenty of women try to beg back their money.”

They are not very quick, as a rule, in the little knacks of the racing game. They forget their colors, they mix up their horses’ numbers. A steeplechase was being run, and two girls standing up in front were screaming for their horse, which was several lengths in the lead.

The Torn-Up Ticket

They thought it was their horse.

It fell, and the two sat down in dismay. A whole two bucks gone! They stared at each other with that woebegone expression that comes so easily to the face of a girl. As the horses passed in the final spurt the two girls stood up grudgingly, drawn to their feet by the roar of cheers.

And there was their horse – their right horse – by the number of it – coming in first.

“You said yellow and blue!” accused one.

“It says yellow and blue here,” retorted the other. “Oh no. I was looking at the wrong horse.”

“Hurray!” they yelled together and waved their tickets for the multitude to admire.

Many of them know all the chatter about odds, past performance, what was his last mile, who he ran second to. They can find their way apparently through the intricacies of the form chart. But the words come oddly from their lips.

One elderly lady, stout, slightly dowdy, her spectacles low on her short nose, was the midst of a family party of sons and daughters around her.

“Oh, Albert,” she cried in a chagrined voice, “it was Tangler I was on!”

“No, Maw, you distinctly said Galloper.”

“I said Tangier! I meant Tangler. Oh!”

“Galloper you said and Galloper I got,” said Albert, while the rest of the family party listened in silence.

“Why, Albert, I had Tangler last night. You know it. I was talking Tangier all last night. Wasn’t I?”

“But you said Galloper.”

“It was a slip. It must have been. You were on Tangier, anyway.”

“I know that.”

“Well, I think we ought to split. It was a slip, I tell you. Why, I was talking Tangier all last night.”

The old lady tore her ticket on Galloper – he galloped last – into bits, and Albert retreated to a seat two rows further up the grandstand.

The peculiar gentry air that descends on many people the minute they even start for the races seems to affect women more than men. A slight, obvious pretentiousness, a certain air, a certain manner, so obviously play-acting that it is comic. If the homely baggage-toting immigrant ancestors of these people could see them at the races, how impressed the old ancestors would be. How their descendants had come up in the world! At the races! Gentry.

The ladies for the most part – except the accustomed ones, and you can spot them by their externals every time – go about with a conscious air. They are, it is clear, functioning socially.

It is hard to keep their minds on such intricacies as the weird names of horses, on colors, numbers and so forth, when you must at the same time be conscious, socially.

Taurus and Troutlet were a coupled entry in the King’s Plate. A lady had Taurus, number 15, but did not know about the elegance of such entries.

When Troutlet won, she tore up her ticket. Several dozen people had torn up tickets in her immediate vicinity before her.

When her friends whooped and congratulated her, if you ever saw a lady in need of a broom, there she was.

She must have picked up a bushel of ticket fragments before she was sure. Then she retreated up to an abandoned part of the grandstand to sort out the hundreds of bits, and spent the rest of the afternoon at the job.

Forty million dollars is a lot of cash to be popped around from hand to hand like corn in the griddle.

It is accompanied by more comedy than any other form of exchange, including poker.

But comedy often hurts. A man who has, in all confidence, been cleaned of a hundred dollars that he could ill afford is not exactly a merry sight, though he is comic.

There is only one sight sadder.

That’s a lady who has been cheated of a half of a two dollar bet.


Editor’s Notes: This is another news article in the vein of men being surprised at what women were now doing in the 1920s. It also has that snarky tone that women couldn’t possibly understand men’s activities.

$40 million in 1927 would be $638 million in 2022. $2 would be $32. It seems funny to me that $2 has remained the usual bet across the decades, despite inflation.

No Less Than Three Happy Young Couples Left Birdseye Center Last Night, on the 7.15

May 31, 1924

Laying Down the Law

At 50, we spun, escorted, a short distance out the highway and then up a gravel side road.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by Jim Frise, May 31, 1947.

“Are you nervous?” accused Jimmie Frise.

“You’re hitting 60!” I gritted.

“I’m barely doing 50!” said Jim, slackening speed to look at the speedometer. “Look: 52.”

“In the first place,” I announced, “the speed limit is 50…”

“We don’t average 50,” countered Jim, “what with slowing down through towns, and for traffic on the road.”

“The law,” I stated, “does not concern itself with your average speed. It says you can’t exceed 50…on your speedometer.”

“Personally,” said Jim, airily, “I think the law is a little more intelligent than most people give it credit for. Common law is nothing more or less than common sense. I think the speed limit of 50 naturally refers to your average speed.”

“Well, then,” I shifted, “I think you are showing very little common sense in driving this old rattle-trap at anything more than 40.”

“Rattle-trap!” snorted Jim. “Why, she’s just nicely broken in.”

“She’s 10 years old, Jim,” I reminded him.

“Just,” he said, accelerating slightly, “nicely broken in.”

At 30 miles an hour, Jim’s car is a lot noisier than at 40. At 50, the various clanks, clucks, hisses and hums all blend into a kind of high whine which is not entirely unpleasant. In fact, it lulls you.

He got it back to 50, and as I sat taut and tense watching the speedometer needle slowly rise to 53, 55, I heard a new and rather alarming sound rising above the normal whine.

It sounded like explosions: I gripped the seat in expectation of the whole engine flying apart.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw what the new sound was.

It was a speed cop on a motorcycle, slowly forging alongside us, with one hand upraised.

“Cop, Jim!” I shouted above the din. “Pull over!”

“Of all the luck!” grated Jim, as he slacked speed and the cop shot past us and led towards the shoulder of the highway. “We’ll never get there now …”

We came to a steaming stop. The cop unlegged himself over the motorcycle and walked slowly back to us, feeling for his book.

“Let me see your driver’s permit,” he proceeded with the ritual.

He noted down Jim’s name: Took the car license number.

“What’s the trouble, officer,” inquired Jim humbly, with that innocent old Sunday school superintendent air we all assume in these situations.

“I paced you,” said the cop. “Doing 60. In this old crate. And on this piece of highway. Didn’t you notice this was a specially curvy stretch of pavement?”

“Officer,” protested Jim, very shocked, “I never go much over 40 …”

“You were going 60,” said the cop, “and we’ve had a lot of accidents along this stretch. We’re clamping down.”

He slapped his book and put it back in his pocket.

“Look, officer,” said Jim, can you give me any idea when this summons will be for? I’m going to be a long way off in the next couple of weeks…”

“Okay, I’ll take you before the magistrate right now, if you prefer,” said the cop agreeably. “It’s just in the next town, here.”

I nudged Jim sharply. We were going fishing right now. We were late as it was. This would delay us maybe half the afternoon …

“Fine,” exclaimed Jim. “How do I find the court house…?”

“Just follow me,” said the cop, walking to his cycle.

“Jim, you dope!” I hissed. “Here it is two o’clock. We’ve got a good two hours’ drive before we get to the trout pond. This ruins everything!”

“Do I want to come back,” snorted Jim angrily, “the middle of next week sometime, just to answer this summons…?”

“Maybe we could turn it into another fishing trip,” I suggested.

“We’ll get it over with,” muttered Jim, starting up the car, “and be done with it. It won’t take more than 20 minutes.”

“You’ll see!” I prophesied gloomily. “The fishing trip is ruined.”

“A fine fishing trip!” shouted Jimmie above the din, since the cop was leading us away at about 40, which is Jim’s car’s noisiest. “Bellyaching and back-seat driving all the way, and then … pinched!”

“All I say is,” I stated stoutly, “part of a fishing trip is the journey, the drive. A fishing trip should be leisurely, recreative, without stress or strain. If we drive like maniacs to get to the fishing spot, the trip is half ruined to begin with.”

“The evening rise will be over, at this rate,” ignored Jim.

“We present-day sportsmen,” I enlarged, in an attempt to take some of the sting out of the situation, “are destroying the very thing we seek. Fishing is called the contemplative man’s recreation. It is peace personified. Centuries ago, men wrote imperishable books about the healing power of angling. But never in human history more than now do we need the peace, the solitude and the escape of fishing.”

“If cops,” put in Jim, “would let us get any.”

“No, I declared, “we ourselves are destroying the virtue of fishing by pulling it into the hectic riot of the modern way of life. We GO fishing at 60 miles an hour, Izaac Walton WALKED to his fishing. Miles! And enjoyed the walk as much as the fishing. What do we do? After we get there, we insist on outboard motors, fast boats, expert guides to cut down the time wasted … WASTED we say! – in locating the fish. Hang it, locating the fish is more than half the mystery of fishing. Do you know what we have done, in recent years? We have, in the best tradition of efficient business, converted fishing into catching fish !!!”

“Hmmff!” said Jim bitterly.

“Business enterprise,” I philosophized loudly above the car’s row, “has taken the emphasis off fishing and put it on FISH.”

“Look at that cop,” cried Jim, “slowing down, so he can lead us in triumph through the town …!”

Glancing over his shoulder from time to time, as we entered the town limits, the cop slowed until he had us directly in tow. And thus we drove in to the court house.

He directed us where to park, then came and joined us.

“The magistrate,” he stated, “usually sits at two. It’s 2.20 now. If we haven’t missed him, okay. If we have, I’ll just forward the summons in the usual way.”

We walked into the court house, and in one of its dingy rooms we found the magistrate sitting at a desk with half a dozen prior customers.

We took the chairs indicated by the cop. And the magistrate glanced up and favored us with a nasty look.

He also gave the cop a nasty look.

The magistrate, in fact, was a pretty tough old customer. He was irritated, flushed and peevish. of maybe 60, with a weather-beaten face and wearing, to my way of thinking, pretty shabby old tweeds for a man of his rank and station in the community.

He was not holding court. He was simply in his office, settling certain matters out of court. The case in hand, when we entered, was a citizen charged with keeping chickens within the town limits in contravention of a by-law.

He was fined a dollar.

Next case: A man charged with keeping a vicious dog.

“Bring this up,” snapped the magistrate, “at the regular session of the court.”

“But Bill,” protested the accused, “you know as well as I do I can’t come in the morning!”

Bill was the magistrate.

“I want evidence,” chopped the magistrate. “Bring this up in the morning!”

“Well, doggone…” said the accused, flushed and angry. “At this season of the year, there’s no justice in this town …”

He jammed his hat on his head and stamped out, the magistrate following him with a malevolent look.

Two more cases presented their summonses, and with an air of fury, the little old magistrate jerked and rattled at the papers and burst into invective as to the type of people who can’t be content to appear in court in the normal course.

Jimmie and I exchanged glances. The cop sitting beside us leaned over and whispered:

“I guess we made a mistake, eh?”

I showed my wrist watch to Jim. 10 to three!

“Why didn’t you let the thing ride?” I whispered to Jim. “You’ll get the limit.”

“Silence!” roared the magistrate. “How do you expect me to attend to these things with everybody jabbering…!”

Jim gave me a reproving look.

At exactly three o’clock, by the town clock bell, the magistrate finished the business in hand, waved the defendants on their way and turned to us with indignation:

“Now, what do you want?” he demanded acidly.

“These gentlemen,” explained the cop standing up, “are charged by me with travelling at a rate in excess of 50 miles an hour, to wit 60. And as they will be out of the country in the next few weeks, they requested I bring them before you immediately. As not to have to come back later in response to the usual summons.”

“Indeed!” said the magistrate bitterly. “INDEED? For your convenience, I am to spend the whole day here fiddling… Constable, have you got a charge made out”

“Yes, your worship,” said the cop, sliding forward form he had filled out.

Jim stood up.

“Sixty miles an hour, eh?” grated the magistrate. “Do you plead guilty?”

“I would like to say,” began Jimmie …

“Unless you admit the charge,” roped the old gent, “you can’t settle it here. You’ll have to appear in court. Later.”

He tossed the charge sheet on the table and half rose, reaching for his hat.

“I admit it,” hastened Jim.

“H’m! 60 miles an hour?” said the magistrate. “You were in a hurry, eh? Well, so am I! 10 dollars and costs.”

“14 dollars,” said the constable promptly.

And he led us along the corridor to the clerk’s office.

“3.20, Jim,” I said gloomily, as we waited for the receipt. “And 60 more miles to go. There’ll be little fishing for us this trip.”

“Come on,” growled Jim.

We hustled down the hall and collided in the doorway with another hustling figure.

It was the magistrate.

“Hang it!” he howled, as we stood aside to let him pass out first. “You people still in a rush?”

He paused outside to adjust his hat and gave us an appraising stare.

He fixed his eyes on my hat.

“Hello?” he said, stepping up and lifting my hat off.

He examined the half dozen battered old trout flies I stuck in the band.

“Too big,” he said. “And too gaudy. I never use anything larger than size 12 at this time of year. And all drab, like the Greenwell’s Glory or a March Brown. Spider preferred.”

He put my hat back on my head, and reached up and took Jim’s hat off.

“You fellows are wasting your time,” he snapped, “using big loud flies like these. Hey! You two going fishing? Is that why you were in such a rush?”

“Yes, sir,” said Jim hollowly.

“Yes, sir,” I echoed.

“Well,” he said, “what do you suppose I’m in a hurry for? How far are you going?”

We named our destination, 60 miles off.

“You’ll never make it,” he cried, glancing up at the town clock. “The farmer who owns my pond phoned me an hour ago that the trout were rising like mad. You’ll never make it. It’ll be over by the time you go 60 miles.”

He opened the court house door again.

“Sam!” he bellowed.

The cop appeared.

“Jump on your bike,” he commanded, “and clear the road for us, out to the farm!”

“Yessir!” said the cop.

“Now,” yelped the old gent, “where’s your car? Make it snappy …”

And we ran for the car.

“My tackle’s out at the pond,” puffed the old boy, throwing himself in the back seat.

At 50, we spun, escorted, a short distance out the highway and then up a gravel side road.

At 4 pm, we lurched to a stop in a farm yard.

At 4.10, we were back of the barn, clambering into a punt.

At 4.12, the old boy had a half pound trout on.

At 4.12½, we all three had a half pound trout on.

At 4.12, we all three had a half-pound trout on.

It lasted until dark. And at dinner, in the farm house … (speckled trout and hashed brown potatoes) … the old magistrate laid down the law to us.

“In fishing,” he pronounced, “never, never be in a hurry!”


Editor’s Notes: Izaak Walton wrote one of Greg’s favourite books, The Compleat Angler.

$14 in 1947 would be $212 in 2022.

Exiled Canadians Ship as Hoboes of the Sea

On a windy Liverpool dock, a man huddled in the shelter of packing cares. It isn’t uncommon to find the dead bodies of stowaways after a voyage. He was turned over to the stoke hold.

Stranded Overseas, They Try to Get Back in Desperation as Stowaways – Hiding in the Coal Bunkers is Challenging Death – Sometimes a Woman is found in the Hold.

In the dead of night on a windy Liverpool dock, a man sat huddled in the shelter of a great square pile of packing cases.

Single lights waved in the wind at lonely intervals down the length of the dock. In their fitful gleam, the funnels and masts of steamers could be seen, a great tangle of shipping. The night was filled with the groan of hawsers and cables, the splash of waves. The air was heavy with the smell of the salt sea, of paint and tar and coal smoke.

The man in the shadows had his eyes fixed tirelessly on the far end of the dock, where a small, second-rate liner was taking on cargo. Under the glare of portable calcium lamps the crane was swinging net loads of packages and rope tied cases up off the dock, over and down into the steamer’s hold. With shouting and whistling, groups of men on the dock and on be ship’s deck loaded and unloaded the crane’s burden.

For hours the man in hiding watched this ceaseless, noisy toil of the loading of a ship. He squirmed with cold in his worn tweed suit, and twisted the collar up about his neck to help a blue cotton handkerchief keep out the chill.

There was a look of desperation in his face. He needed a wash, a shave. His hands clutched restlessly at a bundle of sacking beside him on the planks.

As he started up the dark dock the crane suddenly paused in its swinging, and there was a commotion amongst the groups of men. There was shouting and shrill whistling. After a pause of about five minutes, two small squads of men came slowly down the dark dock bearing heavy burdens.

The man in hiding rose as they approached. He saw that the burdens were men, who twisted and moaned with pain.

“Thank God!” muttered the shabby man as they passed. Forgetting his sack bundle, be ran up the dock, towards the groups under the calcium lights. Work had recommenced. Slowing up, collecting his breath, he stepped up to one who was clearly a foreman, and said:

“Need any more help?”

“Yes,” said the foreman, hurriedly. “Get up on deck, there, and ease that net into the hold. Just had a couple of men smashed there. Watch yourself, now!”

Breathing blessings on heaven, the shabby one stumbled up a rough gangway to the deck. In a moment. under the direction of a fierce man in a blue great coat, he was seizing the huge swinging packages as they came overside, and was shouting and cursing with the rest of them, like an old-time wharf rat.

But he wasn’t a wharf rat. He was a Canadian clerk. His business was the writing down and adding up of figures in a ledger. But it was so long since he had written anything but his signature in employment agency lists that he had forgotten what ink and ledgers smell like.

He had come over to Europe to share in a certain war that took place some seven to eight years ago. He had sucked mud at the Somme, climbed Vimy, gone swimming at Passchendaele, done the great sightseeing tour from Amiens to the Rhine, and then, on his way home to Canada, had married a girl from Cherriton, whom he had wooed in those far-off Shorncliffe days; and then had taken his discharge from the Canadians in England.

He had planned to loaf about Blightey for year or so, and then return to Canada at leisure. But there was a great industrial slump in England right after the war, and he found himself, as weeks flowed into months, living off his wife’s parents. He could get no work. He had no friends in England. His people had no money to send him from Canada. When he called at the Canadian commissioner’s in London to get sent home, they regretted to inform him that since he had taken his discharge in England, the Canadian government could assume no responsibility for him.

He got rough jobs here and there for a day a week, for four or five days a month. He was destitute, broke, alone, shabby.

Down and out.

By long, hard stages he got to Liverpool. He haunted the docks, trying to get a job on the crew of Canada-bound ships. The ships officers pushed him out of their way. There were hundreds of qualified seamen begging for jobs.

Day after day he saw great liners draw gracefully out into the harbor, Canada bound. He saw great crowds aboard them – going home.

He grew rather crazy.

And then dreams of his boyhood came back to him. He recalled the tales of olden days, of great sailing ships, and of boys who went as stowaways on high adventure.

And, in a dim sort of ecstasy he decided to get home to Canada as a stowaway on one of these ships curving out to sea.

For six weeks the haunted the docks. The regular dock workers gave him no chance to get jobs. They were a jealous and brutal lot. He took several beatings and bootings for being found hanging about the waterfront. But by securing occasional pitiful jobs in the city, and with the proceeds buying the odd drink for sailors in the taverns by the docks, he picked up a little useful information.

In a piece of sacking he got together three or four pounds of emergency rations, some sea biscuit, a tin of bully beef, an old army water bottle full of cold tea. He even stole some dried herrings from in front of poor little shop.

And every night, evading watchmen and dock workers, he crept into the neighborhood of the Canada-bound steamers.

One night he was caught trying to board a tramp freighter for Montreal, and was nearly drowned when the crew pushed him over the side. Another time, when he was pretending to help a squad load a great packing case into the side of a ship, the foreman of the gang spotted him and booted him off the deck.

He realized that in some way he must get a job loading cargo into a ship.

And then came this night, when two men had their legs crushed by tons of cargo; and it being three o’clock in the morning, with none of the usual hangers-on about, the foreman of the dock gang had welcomed him, and sent him on deck.

He nearly broke out sobbing when he looked down into the vast dim hold of that ship. His hands were shaking so, his legs so weak, that the deck gang had to swear at him over and over. He toiled an hour. His hands were bleeding. His starved stomach was caving in.

“Come down here, some of you!” bellowed a voice from the hold.

He followed frantically a couple of the squad who moved away to obey the summons.

Down in the hold they were stowing cargo. Crates, cases, packages were being ranged solidly and immovably down in this safe bosom of the ship – Canada bound! So strenuously and willingly did he work, heaving and pushing the great weights about, that the men gave him the dirtiest work to do. He peered. He squinted. He pried. Into every corner his wild eyes bored. And presently, as he and his mates shoved a great crated machine of some sort into a position against the side of the ship, he saw a little space, just big enough for a man to crouch, under that machine.

He manoeuvred other pieces of cargo into position so as to screen the space.

When the attention of the gang was in another corner of the hold, he slipped breathlessly into his cranny and there he crouched. He heard them call him, hunt for him. He heard them say he must have gone off.

He heard tons of cargo come aboard, and then the sounds of day, the whistling of tugs, the splash of fresh wind on the ship.

But the ship did not sail, in spite of the hurry to load her at night, till late that following afternoon. And then he remembered he had left his parcel of food the dock. He huddled in his corner, starved, half crazy with thirst, fearful that the ship might have ports of call in Ireland where he could be put ashore. Forty-eight hours he crouched in that dark hold, until he heard voices of some of the crew seeking something in the hold. They were far at sea. So he shouted with all his might for help.

They had to shift tons of cargo to get him.

They took him before the captain of the ship. He told them he had been knocked senseless while helping stow cargo and had not come to until the ship was at sea.

The captain smiled grimly.

“Aren’t you a Canadian?” asked the captain.

“Yes,” admitted the stowaway.

“Send him down to spell the trimmers,” said the captain, a little more grimly.

They don’t like stowaways, at sea. If stowing away were not discouraged, a ship’s master would never know where he got off. He might find himself with a dozen extra mouths to feed, every voyage. Then it gets ships’ officers in trouble with immigration authorities. Stowaways are decidedly a nuisance. So ship officers discourage stowing away.

Our Canadian wanderer they took down into the bowels of the ship and handed him over to the third engineer. The engineer turned him over to the stoke hold, and there he was introduced to a bad, coal-blackened squad of men known as trimmers. The trimmers grinned startlingly out of their black faces when the word stowaway was pronounced. They took possession of the shabby young man and set him to work, relieving them, turn about, at filling and wheeling barrows of coal from the bunkers to the stokers, who stood ceaselessly firing the great raging boilers.

For eight days the stowaway earned his passage among the trimmers. He worked as long as the trimmers wanted him to work. No union hours for him.

“The Somme was a picnic to that trip in the stoke hold,” he said to me – for he told me his adventures one night in Halifax, where he was awaiting money from his people to bring him the short – ah, blissfully short – journey from Halifax to western Ontario.

When the ship finally docked at Halifax, he was let up out of that hell in the bowels of the ship. He ached in every cell. He was bruised and aged and weary. But he was home. They banded him over to the immigration officers. The trimmers had mockingly assured him that he would be sent back by the Canadian immigration officers by the same ship he had come on, to the same port he had left. He was a listless and hopeless figure when he stood before the officers.

He nearly fell dead when he learned that, it he could prove he was a Canadian citizen and could get the money to pay his are back to his own people, he would be freed.

He wired for confirmation of his Canadian citizenship, and money was promised immediately.

Canada is very easy with stowaways who turn out to be Canadians. But with all others she is as stern as the rest of the world. And it is said that hundreds of the Canadians who were stranded in England after foolishly obtaining their discharge overseas, have come home either as members of the crews of ships, deserting on their arrival in a Canadian port, or else as stowaways.

Most of the stowaways do not go through all the hardships described. The easiest way to get aboard a ship is by bribing one or more members of the crew. The night before sailing, these sailors bring the stowaway aboard in the pretence that it is one of their mates a little the worse for liquor. He staggers and hangs his head, and the officer and members of the watch are unsuspicious.

They feed him from their own ration till the ship is clear of land, and then they let him be discovered, and he is put to work by an irate ship’s officer either in the stokehold, trimming, or scrubbing decks or relieving the cook’s helper of the dirtiest work that falls to that dignitary’s lot.

The agents of one of the big steamship companies tell a comic story of a stowaway who got aboard at Liverpool, a fine-looking young man in the best of business tweeds. How he got on the ship nobody ever found out. He slept in one of the lifeboats, and stole other passengers’ steamer rugs off the chairs on the boat deck. He spent his days cheerfully on deck and in the saloon, and he actually played cards and won from some of the passengers. He went down for meals with the rest of the passengers, and the stewards assigned him a place at one of the tables.

The day before landing, the lifeboats were swung in on their davits, and one of the sailors, noting that the cover of one of the boats was loose, lifted it and looked inside. There was a snug little nest, lined with the missing steamer rugs. He reported it to his officer, and that night, after everybody had retired, they came and opened the boat and found the elegant stowaway curled up sound asleep in his big cradle.

The elegant stowaway snug in his great cradle

This man agreed to pay the company his passage, and after much telegraphing the money for the trip was produced by relatives in western Canada.

The scheme of signing on with a ship and deserting at a Canadian port is a good one, if the job can be got in the first place. Ships’ officers are very fussy about experienced men, and usually refuse to sign a man on these days unless he has papers to show he’s an experienced and able seaman.

Most of the stowaways on the high seas are not romantic figures, bucking fate, but are simply the sea counterparts of the hobo of the land who rides the rattlers and the blind baggages and steals rides in freight cars.

They are the hobos of the sea, and as soon as they tire of one port, they stow away for a cruise to another – they don’t care much, which. The customary procedure with these vagabonds is to get a job at coaling of the steamer, during which they smuggle in a bundle of food and water and hide themselves in the coal bunkers. These are the ones who get the rough and tumble treatment from the officers if they are caught.

Boys are great nuisances as stowaways. Too young to be taken on as sailors, without the influence to get signed on as boys, they have no other means of working off their-romantic fevers but to stow away. There is one of these boys who plies between Halifax, Sydney and St. John’s, Newfoundland, who has been a stowaway on practically every ship that, run regularly between the ports. He has become a sort of a port joke but is getting old enough to be taken seriously, and one of these days he will find himself trimming a tramp to Valparaiso or the Antipodes.

Women stowaways are rare. Sometimes a sailor will pick up a sweetheart in some port and induce her to stow away aboard his ship. But it is no life for a woman. Halifax had one very pitiful as recently. A sailor brought aboard a young girl of sixteen and hid her in the coal bunkers. He fed her. But she was very seasick, and he abused her frightfully, and on the run from Newfoundland she had her feet and hands frozen. He got a jail sentence out of it, and the girl was sent back to her home in Newfoundland.

She hid in the coal bunkers

Steamers carrying food cargoes, such as fruit and other ready edibles, are favorites with the sea hoboes. Most of these ships are refrigerated, but some of them carry deck loads or hold cargoes of crated fruit. This ensures both food and drink to the hobo, who lies snug throughout the journey in among the crates he helped load, and then he slips overside in the night, when port is reached, and swims ashore.

It isn’t uncommon to find the dead body of a stowaway when a ship is discharging cargo. One fruit steamer found two dead stowaways who, in loading the ship in the West Indies, had left a space for themselves when the officer in charge of the loading was not looking. They had the hidden themselves in this space. But they had forgotten that even in a fair sea cargo will sometimes shift. During the voyage the ship rolled a good deal, and the pair were crushed to death by the crates of fruit.

Bodies have also been found in the coal bunkers, in the cargo hold, starved to death or crushed, and one poor boy had hidden himself underneath some planking in the hold and was drowned in bilge when the ship took on all her cargo.

In the old day of sailing ships, when stowaways faced death for a change of air, there was no Salvation Army, no colonial offices and agents to help a man on his way to the other side of the world. It is easy now to cross the sea one way or another within the law. Only the hoboes and the very desperate resort to stowing away.

The hoboes do it from habit. The desperate are never that desperate again.

‘Ome Agine

May 22, 1937

This was the third and last of a series of comics where some of the Birdseye Center townsfolk sailed to the coronation of King George VI on the Noazark.

For Our Grandchildren’s Sake

We tried to look like mining promoters. We shook hand, over and over again with Mr. Milligrew and wished him luck.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, May 22, 1937.

“We ought to find some prospector,” stated Jimmie Frise, “and grubstake him.”

“What for?” I demanded.

“Grubstake him,” said Jimmie, “and send him forth to find us a gold mine.”

“What a chance,” I scoffed.

“I tell you,” cried Jim, “we’re derelict in our duty. What will our grandchildren think of us in years to come? When they know that we lived right in this great age of mineral exploration of Canada, and all we did was draw silly pictures and write sillier stories? What will they think of us?”

“Just what we think of our grandparents,” I suggested.

Think of all the great family fortunes in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver,” Jim exclaimed. “What were they founded on? On lumber and water power and railroad building. To-day the same opportunity to found our families fortunes lies before us. Mines, my boy. Gold mines are being discovered every day. Platinum mines. Radium mines. And here we sit, twiddling our fingers.”

“Stick to our trade,” I counselled.

“It’s so easy to grubstake a prospector,” explained Jimmie. “And in all the greatest mines of the past, it was the grubstakers who made the dough, not the finders of the mine. For about fifty dollars each, we could grubstake some practical experienced prospector and send him to the newest gold areas and, who can say – maybe six months from now, you and I would be on easy street.”

“It sounds too easy,” I protested. “I’m suspicious of easy ways of doing anything.”

“Ah, don’t be a sap,” cried Jim. “It’s plain business. Here are prospectors just dying to go prospecting. And here are we, just dying to own a gold mine. We bring our resources together. We provide the dough. The prospector provides the knowledge and experience. Without each other we are all helpless. Together, we set forces in motion that might lead to fortune.”

“I could use $50 a lot of ways right now,” I demurred.

“Listen,” said Jim. “Look at it in a bigger way. Never mind about you making a couple of million dollars. Think of what you owe Canada. Shouldn’t you help explore and develop Canadian resources? Think of the new wealth it would turn loose. Think of the work it would give thousands of men, if we found a gold mine. Think of the little town that would spring up around our mine, full of happy little homes. You could be honorary mayor of it. You could be patron of the hockey team. You could …”

“Where would we find a prospector?” I protested. “Prospectors aren’t wandering around city streets. They’re all in the bush at this season of the year.”

“No,” said Jim. “There is a constant flow of prospectors to and from cities at all times of the year. The minute a prospector makes a find, he rushes to the city with his samples to show it to the big shots. We could easily find a prospector if we wanted one.”

“Well,” I agreed doubtfully, “if we happen to meet up with a prospector …”

A Picturesque Figure

So we proceeded to make a systematic tour of the brokers’ board rooms downtown during our lunch hours. Jimmie explained that birds of a feather flock together. We might meet one in the hotels, but the best place would be in brokers’ board rooms where the old-timers would be gathered to see how the market was. And the second noon hour, sure enough, in one of the largest mining brokers’ ticker room, we spotted a prospector sitting all alone in one of the chairs at the back of the room, eating a sandwich.

He was a picturesque figure. He was about sixty, with a short grizzled beard.

After a cautious scrutiny, Jim and I decided to walk boldly up and accost him.

“Look at the simple, eager, child-like expression of him,” I whispered to Jim. “He’s the real thing.”

Nobody was paying any attention to him as he sat there munching his sandwich. I thought to myself, how true to life, all these pallid city slickers with their fifty-cent bets on mining stocks, ignoring this nobleman of the north, this seeker, this finder.

“Been down long?” we asked casually, dropping into the chairs on either side of the old-timer.

He nearly choked on his sandwich he was so delighted to be spoken to.

“Jist out,” he gasped excitedly. “Been out a couple of weeks. And wish to hell I was back agin.”

“Did you bring down some samples?” we asked.

“No, sir,” he said, “I came out to git me a grubstake to go into that there new Golconda Lake area. I was in there thirty years ago. Know every foot of it. But all me old friends is gone. I can’t locate nobody to grubstake me. I’m right down to this.”

And he held up the crusts of his sandwich with a broad grin.

“Me,” he said. “Old Pete Milligrew that has been in on all the gold rushes from the Klondyke to Great Bear Lake. And I can’t find me a grubstake. I guess it’s my age.”

“Shouldn’t age be an advantage?” I asked.

“Well, shouldn’t it?” demanded Mr. Milligrew mightily. “I should say it is. Half these kids rushing in there don’t know copper pyrites from pick splinters and wouldn’t know a fault if they committed it themselves.”

“Maybe they think you couldn’t stand the hardships?” I parried.

“Hardships?” cried Mr. Milligrew. “Me? Why, if them soft, pampered engineers and pretty boys can live in their fancy heated shanties and fly around in their cabin airyplanes, I guess old Pete Milligrew can throw up a brush lean-to any time he likes.

“How old are you, Mr. Milligrew?” I asked

“I’m in my prime,” said Mr. Milligrew proudly, “rising and thrusting out his chest and bending his biceps.

“Mr. Milligrew,” said Jim, quietly, “how much is a grubstake?”

And the old gentleman sank weakly back into his chair and rubbed his whiskers.

“Two hundred dollars,” he said, out of the corner of his beard, “would see me safe into the heart of Golconda Lake area and set me up for four months.”

“Would a hundred be any good to you?” asked Jim. “My friend and I might be willing to set up $50 apiece”

“Make it $150 between you,” said Mr. Milligrew.

“What would we get out of it?” I inquired.

“A fifty-fifty split on all I stake,” said Mr. Milligrew “We draw up articles. I take half and you take half between you. I tell you I know every foot of that country. I was all over it thirty years back, before I knew as much as I know now. I must have walked right over some of them million dollar finds. But they only got the edge of them. They’ve missed the core. I know the core. I camped on it for two months. Nobody’s there yet. It’s in a swamp. I can walk straight to it.”

“Mr. Milligrew,” said Jim, “when can you start?”

“I’ll catch the 9.30 train to-night,” said Mr. Milligrew.

And before our lunch hour was up, we had visited a lawyer of Mr. Milligrew’s acquaintance in a little office in a skyscraper and had signed a brief legal document wherein and whereby and whereas Mr. Peter Milligrew, party of the first part, undertook to share one-half of all mining claims, leases, etc., with the parties of the second part in consideration of the sum of $150, that is, $75 each from Jim and me.

And instead of going back to work, we took and fed Mr. Milligrew at a restaurant where for two hours he recounted for us the most fascinating tales of the north, about mining and prospecting and wild animals and tough characters. And hardly had we got to know one another before it was supper time and we decided to stay right with him until train time.

We dined him again on steak and onions.

“I won’t be seeing steak and onions for some time,” smiled the rugged old man, as he spread his legs beneath the table and shoved the minor accessories of eating aside to make him room. “Did you ever hear tell of a character that used to be up in the Porcupine…”

“Ah, but them days are done,” sighed Mr. Milligrew, shoving his meat plate aside and hauling the pie before him. “It’s all engineers now. Pale young guys in spectacles riding around the sky in airyplanes and hauling complete outfits all over the north with tractors. They live in camps with Eyetalian cooks and Chinese valets, with radio and liberries and everything.”

“Perhaps it’s just as well,” I said.

Partners in Adventure

And presently we found it was only an hour to train time, so we helped carry Mr. Milligrew’s packsack and bundles down to the Union Station, where we stood with him while interested throngs eyed us, enviously, as we saw our prospector off to the great north in the search for gold. It was a nice feeling. We tried to look like mining promoters. We shook hands over and over again with Mr. Milligrew and wished him luck and slapped his back and hired him a redcap to carry his duffle.

“How strange,” Jim said as we went and got our car. “This morning, we were just a couple of dumb guys squatting at desks. To-night, we are partners in the adventure of the age. Gold. Gold.”

“No matter what he finds, Jim,” I said, “I am not going to let it make any immediate difference to me. I’m not going to buy any big palace of a home. I’m not going to try and be a swell. We’ve got our children to think of, and nothing ruins a family like sudden wealth.”

Thus we chatted, Jimmie of race horses and I of cabins in the wilds near famous trout streams such as the Nipigon; and we drove west towards home, passing along Dundas St.

Jim tramped on the brakes at the same instant I saw Mr. Milligrew, with his packsack on his back and his bundles under his arms, hurrying along the crowded night street.

“Blow the horn, Jim,” I cried. “Signal him.”

“No, no,” hissed Jim. “What’s he doing here? He must have got off the train at the West Toronto station.”

“The old crook,” I said.

“No, no,” warned Jim. “He may have forgotten something. A map or chart or something important. We’ll just follow along and think this thing out. We mustn’t accuse him or he might throw it all back in our faces.”

Mr. Milligrew hurried, heavy under his packsack, in his prospector’s garb, along the unheeding street and turned up a dark side street. After a moment, so did we, driving slow. He turned in at a house and we saw him admitted.

“Well,” said Jim, drawing up to the curb and turning off the engine.

“He got off at West Toronto station,” I said. “It’s only three blocks away.”

“He’s doubtless forgotten something,” said Jim. “Anyway, his ticket is still good. He can catch the morning train.”

We sat watching and waiting. Presently a car drove up and two men got out and entered the same house. A little while later, two more men walked up and entered, all busy and active.

“Let’s go and ask for him.” I demanded.

“Give him half an hour,” said Jim. If he doesn’t come out in half an hour, we’ll call.”

Three more men came and entered the same house.

“It must be a lodge meeting,” said I.

“All right,” said Jim, “the half hour is up.”

We rang the bell and a man answered the door.

“Is Mr. Milligrew here?” we asked.

“Old Pete?” said the man.

“Can we see him?” we inquired.

“Are you friends of his?” asked the man. “Are you in the game?”

“Yes, we’re partners of his.”

“Oh, step right in,” said the man. Fling your coats right there in the hallway.”

Nothing Else to Say

There were a dozen hats and coats hung. We followed the man upstairs and along another hall where we could hear a mumble and buzz of sound. He threw a door open and showed us in.

There was a large table with green cloth tacked on it. Around the table, in the smoke-filled room, were gathered a dozen men of all ages and descriptions. At one end, a man with a green eye-shade sat on a high stool.

Mr. Milligrew was standing with back to us, bending over the table. He turned his head over his shoulder when we came in.

“Ah, gents, just one minute and I’ll be with you,” he said.

We stepped up. On the table before him were three twenty-five-cent pieces. Out in various parts of the table were other piles of bills and silver in front of the different men.

Mr. Milligrew was waving his right hand in the air.

He threw. Two dice bounced and rolled over the green cloth.

Mr. Milligrew shoved the three quarters away and turned to us.

“Now, gents,” he said, “just step outside here in the hall a minute.”

“Mr. Milligrew,” I said fiercely, when we got into the hall, “what does this mean?”

“Now, gents,” said Mr. Milligrew, “It looks to me as if I was being framed.”

“Framed?” we both yelled.

“Sssshh,” said Mr. Milligrew. “I been in the mining now for fifty years and I never saw anybody get anything out of it yet. Seeing what nice boys you are, feeding me and everything, I figured I could do better with your $150 than take it up and lose it in the bush. So I just come here to some old friends of mine and tried – honest I did try – to double your money. Or even better. I was figuring on walking in on you tomorrow and surprising you with your money doubled. One hundred and fifty dollars – each!”

“Mr. Milligrew, we could jail you!”

“Ah, don’t be hasty,” he said. I’ll get your money back. There’s lots of grubstakes floating around. Leave it to me. I’ve got your addresses. Right here on this paper, see?”

“Give us the railway ticket,” I demanded.

“I sold it to a friend of mine on the train,” said Mr. Milligrew. “He was going up prospecting.”

“Mr. Milligrew,” I said, but could think of nothing else to say.

So we left him and went down and let ourselves out,

“It’s a shame to leave the old boy broke,” said Jim.

“Broke?” I said. “He’s got a packsack and clothes and a prospector’s pick and new high boots…”

“He’ll have no trouble,” said Jim, getting another grubstake,”


Editor’s Notes: Grubstake means what it implies in the story, providing financial backing for a share of profits. It was a commonly used term in prospecting.

$50 in 1937 would equal $965 in 2022.

Bobbing It

May 20, 1922

By Gregory Clark, May 20, 1922.

Every girl would like to bob her hair.

It is the irrevocability of the act that deters her.

Even marriage is not so final and therefore not so fearful a thing as bobbing hair. With marriage one can still change one’s mind. One can return to live with Mamma.

But bobbed hair puts a girl into the unbearable position of not being able to change her mind. There is no retreat, no evasion, no camouflage possible.

Every girl, as soon as she has her hair bobbed immediately wishes she hadn’t. Some of them cry. Some of them have what used to be called conniption fits. But that is merely the violent revulsion of the female mind on discovering that it is in a predicament from which it can devise no escape.

If she doesn’t like her hair bobbed, there is only one thing she can do – wait for it to grow. And that means months of weary waiting while the hair grows straggly and stringy, and nerves wear out in the desperate effort to make the hair look as if it were either bobbed or put up, and knowing that it looks like neither.

But that thousands of girls in Toronto have had their hair bobbed is proof of an ability to make up the mind which is enough to confound the bachelors.

The appointment with the bob barber, or coiffeur as he describes himself, is invariably a terrible ordeal. When the shears take their first bite into the long locks that have been the subject of a traditional and life-long care, every girl nearly dies in the chair. One bob barber says that ninety-eight per cent of them emit a moan at the fall of the first gob of hair onto the floor.

When they see themselves for the first time in the glass, before the curling irons have made it look frizzed out, they are filled with dismay. After it is curled they are reassured, for bobbing invariably makes a girl look years younger, and that flatters all of them over eighteen.

This bob barber tells of one girl who made three appointments with him for the fatal operation, and canceled them all. Finally, after several weeks, she made a fourth appointment and came. At the barber’s she went through the motions of changing her mind four times more. She would sit in the chair and then leap up with a scream as soon as the barber picked up his scissors. She actually put her hat on to go home. And when the barber held out her coat for her she took her hat off again, and with pale set face seated herself in the execution chair.

Pitying the poor young lady the barber decided to get the ordeal over as quickly as possible. So he made one vicious swipe with his scissors and cut off about a pound of hair at one snip. Sure enough, the girl had one more opportunity to change her mind, and she leaped up screaming, glanced at herself in the mirror, and fled home. She came back an hour later with her mamma and had the lobsided effect removed by a nice short bob.

There are no hairpins with bobbed hair, no putting up, no fussing with it. But there is curling. Not one girl in a hundred can wear bobbed hair straight. They all think they can until they see themselves in the glass and curling bobbed hair is a daily necessity. The bob barbers and hair-dressers make a great business out of curling bobbed hair. Not only the regular hair-dressing establishments, but numerous of their employees who have cut loose and gone into business on their own, are crowded with curling appointments. It takes a week to get an appointment with many of these public and private hair-dressers. By private is meant certain of them who won’t take a client unless she is introduced by one of his older customers. That’s how good the bobbed hair curling business is.

Bobbed hair is another evidence of the emancipation of women. It is more significant than votes, and the privilege of sitting in parliaments and the councils of men. It is a step in spiritual progress.

It is a voluntary sacrifice of the immemorial right to change their minds.


Editor’s Note: Women bobbing their hair as the new style was an iconic symbol of the 1920s.

The Sport of Kings

May 19, 1923

The reference to a “cracked spark plug” likely is a callout to Spark Plug, the racehorse introduced in the comic strip Barney Google, which was wildly popular since his introduction in 1922. His first race became one of comics’ first national media events, eagerly anticipated by millions of newspaper readers. So great was the public’s enthusiasm that Billy DeBeck (the creator), who had been planning to retire him after that one storyline, made him a permanent part of the cast.

Barney Google and Spark Plug

Fishermen’s Luck

The trout rose and struck. … “Run up to the sporting department,” I said to Jim, “and get a landing net.”

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, May 12, 1934.

“How,” asked Jimmie Frise, “do you like my new fishing costume?”

“Beautiful, Jimmie!” I cried.

And it was beautiful. It was a rich Donegal tweed with large patch pockets and big pleats behind his arms and down the back.

It had plus fours so baggy and so long that they hung nearly to his boottops. It had that look you see in the advertisements of the very latest English styles in the very smartest American magazines.

“Jimmie,” I exclaimed, “you wouldn’t go fishing in that lovely suit!”

“Why not?” demanded Jim, still turning round and round for me to see him in all his Old Country splendor.

“Why, it’s for sitting on the verandas of exclusive clubhouses!” I declared. “You could go to the races in it and get your picture in the rotogravure. It is for walking about the lawns of those magnificent homes in Toronto’s latest up-the-creek suburb. That isn’t a suit for going fishing. That is a sport suit.”

“Isn’t fishing sport?” asked Jim.

“It certainly isn’t,” I assured him. “Look at sport model cars, sport model clothes, well-known sportsmen and so on and you’ll see what sport means. Sport means where there are a lot of people to see you. The races, baseball, horse shows. That’s sport.”

“What is fishing then?” inquired Jimmie, draping himself carefully on a chair.

“Fishing is a pastime,” I replied.

“Then this is my new pastime suit,” said Jim. “I am sick and tired of seeing people looking like tramps when they go fishing or camping. I see no reason why people should want to look dirty and shabby when they go forth to commune with Mother Nature. If we love Nature we should put on our best raiment when we enter her temples.”

“That’s good, Jimmie, but it isn’t practical,” I said.

“Why not?” demanded Jim. “These tweeds are as easy and loose as any old sweater I ever had. And these plus fours are twice as easy as any canvas pants I ever bought, badly cut and cramping your movements. And can’t I drive my car and walk across meadows and wander along streamsides quite as happily in these garments as in a lot of misshapen cast-offs? Won’t I feel better fishing in these clothes?”

“They’ll get dirty,” I said.

“There is no dirt in the country,” said Jim. “It is in the city there is dirt. In the country all is clean and pure. You dust off any clean earth that might touch you. I say, save your old clothes for the city, where there is dust and soot and filth and grease. And save your good clothes for the lovely clean country.”

Humble Ancestry Calls

“You certainly seem right,” I admitted, “but there must be some reason back of the universal habit of putting on shabby old clothes to go fishing.”

“I’ll tell you what it is,” said Jim. “It is the Old Adam in us. We are descendants of a long line of dirt farmers, sheep herders, peasants, peat burners, cotters, laborers, shingle splitters, and so forth. In every ship that came to Canada a century ago there were, in the cabins above deck, two or three families of nervous gentry, younger sons of obscure small town politicians who had enough pull with Queen Victoria’s uncles to get their bewildered offsprings jobs as surveyors, curates, town council clerks, and so forth in the colonies.

“Down in the steerage, below decks,” went on Jimmie, “were some hundreds of odds and ends, starved farmers, unemployed carpenters and masons, wild young men, people who could no longer pay their rent or who were sick and tired of Napoleon and his wars and the Duke of Wellington and his peace, and who came heaving and rolling across the Atlantic to a promised land of freedom and opportunity.

“Now,” said Jimmie, redraping himself on the chair, “those half a dozen nobles in the cabin above decks have multiplied enormously in the past three or four generations. And those hundreds down in the steerage have practically died out. No trace of them remains. There is not in the whole of Ontario a single descendant of the steerage. Who were your ancestors?”

“Er-ah –” I said.

“Precisely,” said Jimmie. “Your ancestors were English officers retired on half-pay and given big land grants or something? Or were they government officials sent out to help rule the illiterate colonies?”

“I wear old clothes when I go fishing,” I said humbly.

“Good!” applauded Jimmie. “Good for you. An honest man. You wear old clothes when you go fishing because your humble ancestry calls to you, your humble blood begs within you to dress for a little while the way your race has dressed for ages – in homely and undistinguished garments.”

“I see,” I said.

“You love to put on old clothes,” went on Jim, “because it gives a feeling of spiritual honesty. No more pretense. No more bluffing. There you stand, in ragged garments, and all your ancestors for a thousand years, in the bogs of Ireland and on the sheep-clad hills of Scotland, salute you!”

“When I am fishing,” I admitted, “I do seem to see people on the hillsides.”

“However,” said Jim, “I have bought this suit to go fishing in and to go rabbit shooting next fall. I am through with my ancestors.”

“I would be willing to bet you,” I said, “that in my old brown pants and green sweater I could catch more fish than you can in that fancy sport suit.”

“Clothing,” said Jim, “has nothing to do with it.”

“I bet you,” I repeated.

“Ha, Getting Respectable!”

“I take you,” said Jim. “I wish we could I go fishing right now.”

“We can,” I stated.

“It’s the middle of the week,” said Jim.

“We can go fishing right now,” I insisted.

“For suckers or mud-cats in the Island lagoon?” asked Jim, with all the contempt of Donegal tweed.

“For speckled trout,” said I, “one and two pounders. Fourteen to eighteen inches long!”

Jim undraped himself from his chair.

“Where?” he breathed.

“In the basement of a departmental store,” I said, “right here in town.”

Jim looked at me wildly.

“There is a fountain down in the glassware department in the basement of the store,” I went on. “In that fountain are at least two dozen trout. Big ones.”

“But we can’t fish for them,” cried Jimmie.

“Who is to stop us?” I asked.

“Why, the floorwalkers, the store detectives, the salesgirls,” said Jimmie, disgustedly.

“We could fish for ten minutes before anybody could make up their mind what to do,” I said. “The first salesgirl to see us fishing would have to run and tell an older salesgirl. And she would have to go and find the manager of the glassware. And he might be hiding behind any one of those tall counters of glass or pottery. I judge we would have a full ten minutes.”

“‘It sounds nutty to me,” said Jim.

“See,” I cried. “That’s what fancy clothes do to you in fishing. It takes away your nerve. It makes you respectable.”

“It isn’t that,” muttered Jim, who hates to be accused.

“Let’s run up to my house,” I said. “I’ll get on my old green sweater and canvas pants. We’ll use one fly. We’ll toss to see who gets first cast. If the first one of us doesn’t get a trout in five minutes he hands the rod to the other. I bet you I get either a bigger or more trout than you do. And I lay it all on the clothes. Because we will be using the same rod, leader and fly.”

“It sounds nutty,” said Jim.

“Ha, getting respectable!” I sneered.

“What will we say when they stop us?” asked Jim.

“We will say we are simply testing out a fly we had bought at the sporting goods department.”

“It still sounds nutty,” said Jim.

But he stood up and took his hat.

We slipped into my house and I got into my green sweater and canvas pants. I also got my old fishing hat. I got out my light fly rod, reel and line. And we drove downtown.

Fishing in the Fountain

At this season of the year it is not out of the way to see a gentleman carrying a fishing rod. We got into the basement and I led Jimmie over to the fountain, where he stood and stared with rapt joy at the pool in which some large goldfish and a few mud turtles profaned the crystal water in which lazily great olive colored trout fanned the water anxiously and felt the spring creeping through their veins. Unhappy trout, I thought, as I looked at them. Here in a pool, safe, no doubt, but so far from all the mischief and adventure of the dancing stream, the changing skies, the soft sweet loveliness of May…

“Ah, well,” I said, “we’ll be giving them a little fun in a minute.”

“Sssshhh!” warned Jim.

Three ladies, four men and two children were standing about the fountain, gazing without a word at these fish lazily moving about the limpid pool. Especially the men. They were shabby men. They needed haircuts. They stood with hands behind them, with one knee bent, as if they had been, and were going to be, there forever. It would be nice, I thought, to know the thoughts that wandered in the minds of these four shabby men, standing staring so secretly at the trout, those jewels of the Madonna.

I led Jim back from the fountain and we got behind a pillar which was piled high with glassware. Nobody was around and nobody would pay any attention. I jointed the little rod and quickly threaded the line and knotted on the leader.

“Toss,” I said.

Jim took a coin and tossed. “Heads,” said I.

And it was heads.

I walked casually over to the fountain. Jim came behind me. I smiled two of the four men out of the way, and then I knelt beside the fountain. I whipped out the line. waved it to yet a yard or two of length, and then dropped the little greeny-gray fly fair over the nose of the biggest of the trout.

Crash! The trout rose and struck so instantly, so savagely, I had no idea how homesick he had been.

I stood up. The trout raced frantically about the pool, lashing it into a foam. The other trout raced crazily about and the goldfish fluttered excitedly about. A mud turtle became so perturbed he climbed right out of the fountain and started for the exit.

“Run up to the sporting department,” I shouted to Jim, “and get a landing net!”

Old Clothes are Luckier

By this time, of course, a crowd was gathering. One of the shabby men was shouting encouragement to me in a hoarse Scottish voice. Ladies were screaming. Then I felt a hand grip my arm and the gentleman who turned me around was a stranger.

“Pardon me,” I cried, “don’t you see I’m busy!”

And then my line came free. A sickening sensation. The trout was off. Peace descended on the pool. But the crowd was starting to mill about for a view, as crowds will when the victim is a small man.

“My friend,” I said, “will explain. We were trying out a new lot of trout flies we had got at the sporting goods.”

“What friend?” said the man who had my arm.

Jimmie was standing over by the decanters, in all his tweedy magnificence.

“That gentleman over there,” I said, “In the tweeds.”

“Is he a friend of yours?” asked the man, looking me up and down, hat and all.

“Certainly: he is with me.”

“Ha, ha,” said the man. He wore a blue suit. He had a cold Irish countenance.

“Jimmie!” I called, as the man shoved me through the gathering.

But Jimmie just picked up a decanter and looked at it appraisingly, as if he had not heard me.

The man took me up to the sporting goods. Fortunately, the manager knew me. He explained to the man in blue that I was an ardent angler, a fly fisher, in fact, and that at this season of the year all anglers, but especially fly fishers, were likely to be a little touched.

I bought two dozen flies and the matter was closed. I unjointed the fly rod and went quietly back down to the basement. Jimmie was standing by the fountain, looking with interest at the trout.

“Well,” I said, “I guess I win.”

“I wish I had won the loss,” said Jim gloomily. “Look at that trout there, the one by the corner!”

I turned cautiously and there was the large man in the blue suit, his hands behind his back, rocking on his heels and toes. He was looking straight at us and there was no expression at all in his eyes.

“Old clothes,” I said to Jim, “are luckier than new clothes.”

So Jim is going to save his Donegal tweeds for the races.


Editor’s Notes: Plus fours are a particular type of trousers, popular at the time.

Rotogravure is a photographic process, but by this time, meant the photo insert section of newspapers like the Star Weekly.

Donegal tweed is a woven tweed manufactured in County Donegal, Ireland.

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

Knights of the Head Table

May 11, 1929

These illustrations by Jim went with a article by our old pal Merrill Denison, who wrote an article that stated that since the Nickle Resolution of 1919, Canadians could not receive knighthoods, which resulted in various luncheon clubs bestowing honours on notable people. He also bemoaned that there were no Canadian based honours, however that would change with the creation of the Order of Canada in 1967.

May 11, 1929

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