The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Tag: 1920

Medicos Suffer Loss of Prestige as Result of War

Canada’s Soldiers, Forced in the Field to Believe That Nearly All Illness Was Simply a Matter of the Imagination, or at the Worst a No. 9 Pill, Now Have the Idea that They Can Get Along Without Doctors Altogether – What a Change Has Come Over the M.O.’S.

By Greg Clark, February 28, 1920

The war has put a serious crimp in the medical profession.

Not that doctors fell down – far from it. In the pure advancement of the science of medicine and surgery, the war may be said to have speeded the profession up to unparalleled pitch.

But the practice of the profession has certainly suffered in so far as It concerns half a million Canadian soldiers, their wives, dependents and next of kin.

Picture the Medical Officer at war. Ho was merely a doctor in uniform. Yet, oh, what a difference —

You felt sick and sore all over. Your stomach had a far-away, detached feeling. There were shooting pains in your joints and your head was dizzy.

So you went to the Medical Officer, with that old unerring Instinct that, in prettier days, made you telephone for the same gentleman in civies, to call on you in your bed —

Aye, with that mournfullest of bugle calls, the Reveille, blatting in your ears, you rose in the chilly morn, and stumbled, sick, sore and half-clad, down to the Medical Officer’s billet.

You found him sitting, with his cap over one ear, in his raincoat over his pyjamas He glared at you with an undisguised professional eye. A hard, flinty and skeptical eye that seemed to penetrate your tibia, tarsus and medulla oblongata.

“Well!” said he.

“Sir, I’m sick,” you replied. “I’m dizzy and have pains here and here, and a sort of –“.

“Sergeant,” said the Medical Officer, “one ounce of oil and a number nine for this man. And mark him light duty!”

“Next!”

Pfft! All over in a twinkling.

Oil! Number nine! Ugh! Light duty! Ye shades of Caesar and D’Artagnan and General Byng! Was ever a poor soldier so whelmed in ignominy, so bereft of heart! Oh, the swing and the swank and the swagger of the carefree soldier’s life!

Reader, dost know what light duty is? Peeling potatoes for the cook, skimming grease off dixies of mulligan, sweeping out billets, emptying swill.

Somehow, you swallowed the oil and the pill under the marble eye of the Medical Sergeant. Somehow you staggered back to your billet and reported to the orderly corporal for light duty. Somehow the daylight nightmare passed, and at eventide as you laid you in your chicken-wire bunk amid the fumes of charcoal braziers and drying socks, you made a vow never to “parade sick” again, but to die, like a martyr, in your tracks some day, in the heat of battle, the victim of a malignant disease, while bullets passed you harmlessly by.

Yet, never was a healthier army known. Never did men smash all the medical rules with such impunity. Sitting in slush, wallowing in mud, sleeping all the sunny day in deep and damp and foul-aired dugouts and sitting in all night in the damp, chilly, night air. Nine men out of ten should have died of pneumonia or galloping decline. But they didn’t. A marvellous medical corps shot you a pill or a spoon of oil or merely a stern glance, and lo, all ailments vanished.

The soldier came to the conclusion that practically all illness is largely a matter of Imagination or at worst a simple matter of pills.

But the soldier comes home. Back to the soft bed, the steam heated billet, the umbrellas, the rubbers and the regular hours.

One day, he feels sick. Pains in his joints, dizzy of head, and so on.

And an almost forgotten instinct twigs him. With a mysterious smile on his face, he calls on the doctor.

He is ushered into a quiet, solemn little room. Presently a grave, but friendly gentleman enters. He shakes hands and eyes the patient with kindly and solicitous eye.

“Sir,” says the ex-soldier, a faint memory prompting him, “I’m sick. I’m dizzy and have pains here and here; and a sort of –“

“Mmm!” says the doctor, sympathetically.

“Yes,” continues the ex-soldier, “and I can’t eat, and my stomach feels far-away, kind of.”

“Mmm!” repeats the doctor. “Have you been this way long?”

“No, just since this morning.”

“Have you been eating meat?”

“Yes.”

“Mmm! Let me see your tongue.”

Then the doctor takes his pulse and temperature, sounds his chest and back – scares the poor ex-soldier into a fit.

Mmmmm!” says the doctor, “Mmmm! Er – would your business permit you to lay off for a week or so?”

“Yes,” murmurs the awed ex-soldier.

“Very well. Go home,” says the doctor, “and go to bed. I shall call and prescribe certain things.”

So the patient hastens home with wobbly knees and crawls into bed.

The doctor calls twice a day for a week, feels pulse, takes temperature, prescribes dark medicine and Pulls Him Through!

But somewhere in this procedure the ex-soldier comes alive. He startles his poor wife half to death by suddenly bursting into wild laughter as he lies on his sick-bed. He has remembered. The incongruity of the thing has hit him. Again he can hear reveille sadly waking the morn with its flat ta-too, ta-too! The chilly crawl to the M.O.’s billet, the brief, disappointing interview —

“Hurroo!” yells the ex-soldier and leaps out of bed and confounds the doctor, when he calls, with a glance.

As we know now, much of the influenza was due to laymen trying to doctor themselves with various pills and powders and to fear. The best preventive of flu is to wear the hat at a jaunty angle over the ear.

But the returned soldier strikes the happy medium. He remembers that during the war he was unable to dope himself with all manner of pills from the corner drug store and that he was not subjected to any flummery on the part of the Medical Officer. Thus he was healthy.

A Toronto officer visited the booklined studio of his former regimental Medical Officer. The usual jovial and profane greetings over, the officer launched into a harrowing description of his symptoms. The M.O. sounded him, pulled a long face.

“Better lay up for a few days –” he began.

“Mo, you old rascal,” yelled the officer, “do you remember that day on the Lievin front that I was sick and you wouldn’t send me out because the Colonel fancied he was short of officers? Do you remember, I really was ill? Well, to-day’s the anniversary of that day, you old scalawag, and I just thought I’d drop in and celebrate it. There isn’t a thing the matter with me!”

So the M.O. smothered his chagrin, shed his professional manner, and become once again the jovial, cynical, hard-headed and congenial old poker-player he always was.


Editor’s Note: Not taking illness seriously during World War One became a common joke for soldiers, as men were always needed. The “Number 9 Pill” was a laxative.

Some Conductors you Meet on Toronto St. Cars

By Greg Clark, October 30, 1920

There are the Aggressively Efficient Kind, Who Regard Every Passenger as a Potential Trickster, and the Courteous Variety, Who Look After Everybody’s Comfort

Which would you rather have:

The street car conductor who stands just inside the door of the car (not the P.A.Y.E. kind), and who holds up the procession by taking fares as you enter, thus creating a jam on the back steps and causing several people to be left behind?

Or the one who lets all on board and then jams his way through collecting fares?

The first types becoming numerous on the Toronto cars. He is a sort of half-way Pay-As-You-Enter person. But the only difficulty is this that while on the regular P.A.Y.E. cars the car cannot start till the back door is closed, under this other system of collecting at the door to save hunting them up and down the car, the motorman starts the car as soon as he likes. And usually it means a terrific jam on the back platform, a dozen people left behind, while there is still plenty of room forward in the car.

It is a fine scheme for the conductor. It saves him struggling up and down the car, and it saves his voice. But it is a poor stunt as far as the passengers are concerned. And conductors are practicing it more and more.

Are conductors becoming more polite and human?

There is one little, knock-kneed big mustachioed fellow on a cross-town line, who creates more unrest than the Bolsheviki in the section of the city his car serves. It is impossible to ride a complete trip with him without at least one scene.

He sits at his Pay-As-You-Enter fare-box alert as a mink. His beady eyes gleam with distrust. To him, all men, women and children are sneaks and cheats. When a crowd gets on at a main transfer point, he works himself into a frenzy of worry. He frantically holds back the crowd while he scrutinizes each transfer. Unless you wave your ticket before his nose and place it ostentatiously in the box, he is liable to follow you up the car, after his doors are closed, and demand a fare from you, swearing you didn’t pay.

He may be efficient. Enormously efficient. But some day someone is likely to take a most efficient pass at him, on general principle.

Here is a sample of his manners:

A middle-aged lady, quietly dressed, with the kindly look of a homey mother, who only gets out once or twice a month, boarded the car.

She presented her transfer, and started to pass into the car.

“Hold on there,” snarled this conductor. “This thing’s no good!”

“I beg your pardon?” said the lady, nervously.

“Put a ticket in here,” said the conductor, with the knowing air of a martyr to human trickery. “You can’t get by with this.”

“What’s the matter with it?” asked the lady.

“What’s the matter with it! Why, you can’t travel all over the city on a transfer. Put in your fare.”

Meanwhile the car was lurching on its way. The lady was still standing. The passengers all staring.

“I don’t understand,” said the lady.

“Oh, don’t you! Well, this is punched from the same part of the city you are going to.”

The lady stated where she had got on.

“No, you got on at the west end of the line,” replied the conductor.

The lady, with tears of indignation in her eyes, paid another fare and entered the car.

A man sitting near the back rose and accosted the conductor.

“You would sooner believe,” said he, “that everybody is a liar, than that other conductor was careless? You believe that for five cents a lady would lie, rather than that a stupid or slipshod conductor would punch a wrong place on the transfer? I pity you, you runt! Now, you punch my transfer correctly!”

And the passenger pointed out an error in the transfer given him by this same conductor,

But it did no good, beyond relieving the feelings of everybody in the car. For a couple of afternoons later, this same fellow was raising trouble as usual. The railway company would do well to promote this old bear to be an inspector, as to save the public.

On the other hand, on the Queen line, is a stout, middle-aged conductor, who has been with the railway for years. It hasn’t soured his temper. If you pause to pay your fare to him as you enter, to save him following you up the car, he invariably says “thank you.” He never starts the car with women on the step, and always warns, even when crowds are thickest, that he starting. He helps old people off and on his car. When a crippled person, a soldier, for instance, boards the car, this conductor calls attention to the fact by asking people to sit closer, thus always getting a seat for the unfortunate one; for most people will give their places if they see that a person is crippled. He examines not only all the transfers he receives, but every transfer he issues. And there is no conductor in Toronto who gets more “good mornings” from his passengers. For his unfailing courtesy and consideration are noted and appreciated by public that is decent if given half a chance.


Editor’s Note: P.A.Y.E. (Pay-As-You-Enter), was a new type of streetcar introduced at this time, that would be common to all future bus riders. Rather than have passengers enter from any door, and requiring conductors to collect fares by walking up and down the aisle, these had only one entrance, with the rear door for exit only. This meant you had to pay as you got on, and allowed for fewer staff needed in streetcars, and allowed for faster trips.

“Bolsheviki” was the common plural used in English shortly after the Russian Revolution for Bolsheviks.

The Church Wedding

June 5, 1920

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