The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Tag: 1921

Fair Fiction Fans of the Street Car

April 23, 1921

These two illustrations by Jim appeared on the same page for different articles. The first, above, is from a story by Fred Griffin about people being distracted on the streetcar, with the illustration showing a woman unable to look up while reading a book while paying her fare. Not unlike smartphones today?

April 23, 1921

This illustration is from “The ‘opkins Rent and ‘aunted ‘ouse” by Edith Bayne. It is a terrible story written in working class slang about a haunted house. The man in the illustration thinks he hears a ghost, but it turns out to be the new boarder who is a telephone switchboard operator who talks in her sleep (5 cents being the cost of a call from a pay phone).

The Sweetest Age

By Greg Clark, December 17, 1921

There is no more vain and no more popular argument in the world than at what age a baby is most sweet.

At lunch the other day, I happened to remark to George that in my opinion a baby three months old was without doubt the sweetest and quaintest creature in the universe.

“It’s astonished gaze,” I said, “It’s smile, it’s first silvery chuckle, it’s first difficult groping with its hands –“

“I disagree with you,” put in George. “To my mind, a baby is at its most delightful age at about fourteen months.”

That, of course, is precisely what George would say, for his little girl is exactly fourteen months old. As if I didn’t see through his absurd point of view, he went on:

“At fourteen months, they are intelligent beings, essaying their first little words, their first timid steps, discovering for the first time all the wonders of the world. I repeat, at fourteen months they are intelligent creatures, not mere little bundles of soft flesh, crying and kicking and oblivious to everything in the world except noisy rattles and gesticulating and diddering parents at their cribside.”

This, I might say, was a deliberate dig at me and my little boy, who, by the way, is exactly three months old, and the gentlest, cunningest – However!

George continued to shout in that manner about his little girl until everyone in the restaurant was staring at him. I never knew anyone who could blather so about a child as George can.

“Hold on, just a minute!” I exclaimed. “Give me a chance, won’t you? You’ve had fourteen months to rave about your child to me. Surely you can shut up for a minute and listen to me. As I was saying, a child of three months is not far short of fairyland. What I mean is, as a child grow older, it grows coarser, becomes, in fact, more human, and therefore more gross. Now, a baby of three months has that elfin air –“

“Look here!” shouted George, quite angrily. “What do you know about it. My baby was three months old, and six months old, and ten months old, and now It’s fourteen months old, so I know what I’m talking about.”

“I’ve seen other children,” I remarked.

“That’s not the same,” replied George.

“No,” I answered sweetly, “it is not.”

And we finished lunch without even talking about the new dominion cabinet. George and I have this kind of row about once a month.

It shows the futility of arguing about babies.

For instance, a young lady who has two very kindly asked me how our baby was.

“And is he smiling yet?” she said.

“Smiling!” I exclaimed. “My goodness, yes! He’s been smiling since he was three weeks old!”

“Oh, but not knowingly,” said she. “They don’t smile really until the seventh week.”

“Well, this boy of mine was smiling at three,” I declared.

“Of course,” she said, “a little pain or makes them appear to smile.”

Now, what could you say to that?

“He laughed out loud at three months,” was all I could think of to say at the moment. But it fell on deaf and unbelieving ears.

Our old family doctor has the misfortune to be a grandfather. His first grandchild is just about the age of our boy. And in his attitude towards our baby we can detect something just a little more than the professional manner.

“Oh, a fine boy, a fine boy!” he says, as our fellow, observing that it is the doctor, shows off his lung development in a few shouts.

“My little-grandson,” adds the doctor, “just laughs and gurgles all day long. I’ve seen countless babies in my day, but I never met so good natured a child as he.”

Of course, we discount his professional opinion to a proper degree.

“Well, now,” we all say at once, “this little fellow is so good we often wonder if it is right. We can’t imagine what has got into him just at the moment.”

“This grandson of mine,” continues the doctor in a loud, firm voice, “gains nine ounces a week.”

“Oh, surely that isn’t healthy,” exclaims my wife. “Ours gains five and a half, and that’s just about right.”

“Tut, tut,” says the family doctor. “The more the better.”

Doctors shouldn’t have grandchildren.

Our boy’s maternal grandma lives with us. She is a philosopher.

“The most beautiful age for a child,” she states, “is the age it is.”

“You will have a lot of fun with this fellow when he is creeping.”

“Not more than now,” I say.

“You will have great sport with him when he walks, and you can take him out to the parks.”

“Not more than when he is creeping,” I say.

“He will be great company when he is four or five.”

“Not more than when he first walks,” say I.

“But the greatest day of all,” says grandma, “will be the day he presents you with a little boy just such as he now is.”

And before such a mystery, at so marvelous thought, I am dumb.


Saturday Night Shoppers

December 10, 1921

“Don’t Spoil the Baby by Picking Him Up”

By Greg Clark, October 22, 1921

We are gradually getting on to the doctors.

For instance, one of their favorite tricks is to order you to do some impossible thing. And then when you fail, as you were bound to do, the doctors clear their throats, make a hopeless gesture with their eyebrows, and say – “I told you so!”

Now, take a baby, for example.

The nurse, egged on by the doctors, tells you right at the start:

“Don’t spoil the baby. Don’t rush and pick him up every time he cries. Let him cry: it won’t hurt him. It’ll exercise his little lungs.”

Then you have the doctor in, just to look over the baby to see that his legs are quite all right even if they are bent that way, and so on and so on –.

And after the usual assurances that it is indeed a remarkable child, the doctor hitches forward in his chair and says very earnestly, looking both parents in turn sternly in the eye:

“Now, don’t spoil the baby by picking him up every time he cries. You will let yourself in for to end of trouble. Just let him cry it out. He’ll be no bother after that.”

“But,” you expostulate, “maybe he has a little pain! Eh? What if he sounds as if he were in agony?”

“Oh, well, they have their little pains, you know,” replies the doctor, deprecatingly. “If you like, pick him up for a minute, and rest him against your shoulder.”

And so it goes. What a fiction! What a tradition! Let him cry it out!

This rule may be all very well for second, third, and subsequent babies. But as far as first babies go I’d like to see the parent, male or female, who has ever carried out the rule.

They always try, of course. In a case with which I am acquainted the baby sleeps beautifully, softly, finely all day. In fact, he can scarcely be waked up for his meals, and falls asleep before even they are half through. He is all pink and dimpled sighs, snuggles, with quaint momentary blinks of wakefulness when he stares Intently and somewhat embarrassingly at your teeth or your necktie or your hair.

All day he sleeps. But at six p.m., he comes alive. He stretches his little arms over his head, starts a few premonitory kicks and squirms, and then opens his mouth and yells.

The first night this occurred the parents were, of course, naturally concerned. They both leaned anxiously over the crib.

“Let him cry it out, now!” warned the father. “Don’t you pick him up!” retorted the mother.

And it must be admitted the father was leaning a little the closer.

So for forty long seconds these young parents leaned over that crib and watched their baby yell and kick and wave its little hands. Then the father cried:

“Now, see! That’s a cry of pain, or I’m a Dutchman!”

But he had not completed the sentence before the mother had taken the cue and scooped that baby up into her arms with a gesture so swiftly divine – Oh, well! –

For several nights this same drama was enacted. The spell lasted from six p.m. till midnight. And during this time father, mother and grandma took turns in walking, rocking and singing to the baby, hushing it to sleep, laying it down in its crib, only to have it waken immediately and let out a most indignant cry. They took turns in picking it up.

After about ten days the doctor’s admonition was recalled.

“To-night,” said the father, sorrowfully, “we must let him cry it out. It isn’t that I mind nursing him. But we are spoiling him. It’s for his own good.”

Mother and grandma acquiesced.

But that night, after about two minutes’ crying, all three elders detected a distinct note of pain in the baby’s cry. And in the stampede to the crib-side grandma won.

For two weeks now they have been trying to let him cry it out. The longest period so far has been twelve minutes. That evening, when laid firmly in his crib and left to himself, the baby started with a few, casual, good natured yells. The three adults, sitting breathlessly in the next room, were smiling broadly into space. The quaint little shouts from the nursery would fall off for a whole minute, and they could hear him gurgling and clucking to himself.

Then the little rascal must have discovered he was alone. For all at once there arose a most abandoned yell from the nursery.

And father and mother and grandma jammed each other in the doorway in their haste –

It’s no use. These young parents I speak of have practically given up the attempt. They are reconciled to having a spoiled baby.

“Anyway,” declared the mother. “I detest those soft little book-fed babies that haven’t any steam in them!”

And she cuddles her little fellow till his face! turns red and he cries –

“Wah!”

The only trouble about walking and rocking the baby is the songs that are inflicted on him. They are most demoralizing.

For instance, take this one, sung to the fine old tune of “There’s a Land That Is Fairer Than Day.”

The words come out something like this: (Sing it as you read it!) –

“There’s land that is fairer than day,

And by faith I think he’s going to sleep,

To-te-ta pick up the shawl off the floor

And put it on the head of the crib.

Chorus:

“In the sweet bye and bye,

This chair has an awful squeak,

In the sweet bye and bye

Turn out the light before I put him down.”

Then the father, along towards midnight, gets into a sort of comatose condition. And you can well Imagine the consternation of a church-going household, when the father, an ex-soldier, begins to vary his repertoire of cradle songs with some of the old war songs that have floated o’er Flanders fields. Picture him crooning, to the squeak-squeak of the rocking chair, the following billet favorite:

“Drunk-last-night,

Drunk-the-night-before,

Gonna get drunk to-night

If I never get drunk no more!

Chorus:

“Glor-i-ous, glor-i-ous,

One keg of beer between the four of us!

Praises be, there ain’t any more of us,

The four of us can drink it all alone!”

Following this unfortunate lapse grandma purified the little shaver’s ears by singing her favorite lullaby, which goes, to various tunes:

“Bye low, bye low!

Bye low, bye low!

Deedle dee, deedle dee!

Bye low, bye low!”


Editor’s Note: “I’m a Dutchman” is slang said after describing something that is obviously not true.

The Summer Bachelor’s Plight

By Greg Clark, July 16, 1921

Once more comes round the season when man discovers anew the absence of that rib he lost in Eden.

The season of man-made breakfasts is here. The season of unmade beds, of disorganized laundry, of great heaps of dirty dishes in countless deserted kitchen sinks! The season of holey socks, of buttonless bedeveys, of bleak and dusty homes! Lo the season of the summer bachelor is upon us.

It is in the next eight weeks that the married man discovers what liars and mockers his bachelor friends are.

Thousands of husbands, growing shabbier and seedier and more undernourished every day, are falling in love with their wives again.

Yoho and ahoy! Regard the well-known summer bachelor whose wife is up at the cottage! See him at seven o’clock of the evening, the cafe-fed expression on his face, a large hole in the heel of his sock, a bundle of funny papers under his arm, standing on a deserted down-town corner watching the hours whizz by.

See him watering his lawn at home. Observe him deporting himself gayly on his verandah, rocking in the wicker rocker that is his wife’s favorite chair. Hear him in the early morn, rattling pans as he gets himself his breakfast. Does he sing as he shaves? Does he come home at eve with his usual spring stride?

It is time we recognized the pitiful plight of summer bachelors. The Armenians and others are getting altogether too much sympathy.

What an opportunity the churches, the Y. M. C. A., and the Rotary Club are missing by not shepherding the summer bachelor!

The churches could hold special mid-week social gatherings for them. The poor fellows could be invited to bring their socks to be darned, their garments to have buttons sewed on by the ladies of the church who are still in town. A bright program could be made up by inviting two or three of the summer bachelors to bring their wives photographs and give little ten-minute talks on “Why I Miss My Wife.” Good old sentimental songs could be sung, such as “When You and I Were Young Maggie” and “In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree.” In addition to improving tremendously the domestic spirit of the community, such gatherings would be of wonderful relief to the poor neglected fellows.

The Y. M. C. A. could put on summer bachelor evenings, to which the distracted, lonely beggars could invite several of their real bachelor friends. Then in the gymnasium, bouts could be staged between real bachelors and the summer variety, in which the latter could pound the stuffing out of the genuine article in payment for all the false blather he had indulged in about “freedom” and “independence.”

I advocate this thing in order to render unnecessary the tragedy which recently occurred in the apartment of a real bachelor friend of mine.

Being temporarily alone, I had reached the climax of summer bachelor misery. All my laundry was equally divided between the laundryman and my bedroom floor. My socks had run out. There were no more restaurants left to try. All the dishes, including the cut glass and the fancy plates of the dining-room plate-rail, were in the sink. And the house fairly shouted with emptiness. Then I remembered Henry.

Henry is, or was, my bachelor friend, who bragged so of his “freedom,” his Independence, his blessed single estate.

I decided to hunt up Henry and see how he managed, without a wife.

We met; we dined together. He took me to his apartment.

His apartment was about the size of a decent chest of drawers. It smelled of heat and stale smoke. His bed was unmade. There were heaps of clothing on the floor, garments hung on doorknobs, a boot on his dresser. There was dust and confusion on all his tables and window sills. In his bachelor kitchenette dirty dishes were in the sink, and extinct sardine cans and milk bottles were strewn about.

Henry, wholly ignorant of my emotions, sat down in his rickety leather easy chair, and said –

“Ah, this is the life! No slavery for me! Free and independent! Now, you, your poor – “

With that, I struck him with a chair over the head.

Over his remains I heaped the stray garments off the floor and a few tin cans out of the kitchenette.

I make no excuses for this deed. For the summer bachelor is subject to a sort of madness. It is caused by the uneven pressure on his vertebrae and spinal cord owing to the loss of one of his ribs.


Editor’s Note: A “summer bachelor” was a common character in Greg’s stories, even early ones like this one from 1921 illustrated by Jim. Middle class families who owned summer cottages would have the wife and children go to the cottage for the whole summer when the children were out of school. The husbands would stay behind in the city for the work week, and would go to the cottage on weekends. The joke was that the men would always be helpless at home without their wives around. This situation would come up in the future Greg-Jim stories as well, as the hijinks they would get into was always when they were on their own.

Bobbed Hair and the Sunnyside Bathers

July 9, 1921

Jimmy illustrated this 1921 article about women with bobbed hair and swimming. It is hard to tell if the unknown author was disapproving of young women with short hair (no bathing cap!) and “skimpy” swimming outfits. As the caption noted, “Looking like wet Pomeranians”.

Feathering the Nest

May 21, 1921

That Vampire Woman

January 15, 1921

Illustration from article by Stephen Leacock. The article describes a new type of woman (also shortened to “Vamp”). She appears in silent movies as a fashionable seductress of naive men, who are ready to spend their money on her. There was a movie called “The Vamp” released in 1918. Leacock seems disappointed that he can’t seem to meet a vamp in real life.

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