The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

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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.

Six Bottles

“And there on the bed, in a row, lay six gleaming amber bottles.”

By Gregory Clark, March 11, 1922. Illustration by E. G. Dinsmore.

This is the story of six bottles of whiskey.

Harry, the hero, was one of those upright, fearless young men who never have liquor in their possession but who find a manly pride in letting all their office acquaintances and not-too-Intimate friends assume that they had salted down a fifty year stock in 1920.

He was the kind of fellow who never took a drink except when among strangers. His friends knew he didn’t like it and that he was no gay dog. But Harry loved to toss off a drink whenever it created on strangers the impression of a man-about-town.

And on those rare occasions when he did take drink, Harry would hasten around a sort of circuit of people he wanted to impress before the smell wore off. When they, scenting the breath that Harry was careful not to conceal from them, jocularly said –

“Aha! Where do you get it?”

Harry would blush deprecatingly and say – “Oh, just a little business drink – you know.”

As if he had been dickering with those princes of finance who are popularly supposed to keep decanters on their desks.

Well, Harry got himself into a jam.

The reputation he had accumulated as a devil of a fellow with a cellar could not but work him ill.

A bunch of the executives of the sister company in the States came up on a visit to the big Canadian plant in Toronto. And Harry’s boss called him in and said:

“Now, Harry, these boys will want a little fun. But you know my house – strictly prohibition. So I was wondering if you could stage a little party up at that well-oiled bachelor apartment of yours, eh?”

And the boss winked jovially.

Now Harry should have sidestepped right there. He could have said his stock had run out; that he had been hitting it too hard; or some similar excuse that would have been quite sufficiently man-about-townish.

But to have the boss approach him thus intimately – the president! – and wink and chuckle.

It was too much for Harry.

“Certainly, sir! De-lighted! How many will there be?”

“Well,” said the boss. “There’s five of them from the other side, and a couple more of the boys from the office, and us; that’s eight. Tonight. Can you handle us?”

“Oh, sure!” said Harry. “Tickled to death, sir.”

“That’s the boy! Have dinner at the hotel with us, then, and we’ll all drive up to your flat after.”

“Right,” said Harry, man-about-town.

And he went to his own desk outside and sat down with a buzzing head to figure out how he’d get the means for the boss’s “party.”

After about ten minutes’ thought, he felt he should go out into the fresh air. He walked up one side of Yonge street and down the other, and finally decided to telephone all the people he had got a drink from the past month or two, and try them for a half-dozen bottles.

Dropping into a soda fountain, he sat down and commenced a list.

Two names he got at once. And then no more! Two! Surely there were more. He racked his brains, but all he could recall were numerous discussions of booze, but no material evidences of it.

In the pay ‘phone booth, Harry called up the two who had actually given him drinks in the near past. Both replied in the negative.

Harry then decided he would have to disclose himself to others as a man who had no cellar. It was a sore trial. He hated to abandon his pose. But he called up eight in a row, eight bright young men-about-town – and drew blanks with all.

Harry began to wonder if they were all bluffers like himself.

Then he remembered a pimply-faced lad in the shipping department who boasted a wide acquaintance with bootleggers. Hurrying to the office, Harry went back and sought this worthy out and said –

“Say, give me the address of a good bootlegger, on the q.t., will you?”

“Say, by golly, this is too bad!” said the pimply-faced one, disgustedly. “But all my friends have been pinched. This is too bad. It’s just at the moment – perhaps some other time -“

Harry looked at his watch. Three p.m. He hastened out to the street again.

It was about 5 p.m. that it began to dawn on Harry that Toronto was perhaps, after all, a prohibition city. At noon that day, Toronto had been billowing in booze, if you could believe everybody. At 5 p.m. it was as dry as a pine cone!

So he ‘phoned the boss to say that a sudden emergency would prevent him from dining with the party, but that he would be up at his apartment ready to welcome them at eight o’clock.

“Right,” said the boss.

Then Harry hurried home to the fashionable three-roomed bachelor apartment in a select apartment house to telephone to doctors.

Doctors could only produce one bottle. But one was better than none.

First he called a doctor who was also a brother-in-law. Over his limit! Next a doctor who was a member of Harry’s canoe club. Sold out! Then three doctors in a row who had attended him at various stages from infancy up. All sold out.

He called up the canoe club. Perhaps some of the boys would be hanging around. There were three, two of whom had no end of liquor ordinarily, if you could judge by the conversation, but were just out, and didn’t know where their next crock was coming from, at the moment.

Six thirty!

Harry felt himself losing weight.

Now we must pause to introduce the villain.

Harry’s telephone was on the wall in his apartment hallway.

Six feet along the hall was the dumb-waiter.

The dumb-waiter door was open.

In the bachelor flat above a lonely gentleman was getting himself a lonely supper.

He opened his door to the dumb-waiter shaft to see if the grocer had sent the sardines. And then he overheard Harry in his pathetic quest of hooch.

The lonely gentleman listened with interest. He kept on listening, as he ate a quiet repast of sardines and a bottle of milk.

Harry’s telephone bell rang.

He leaped from the chair where he sat in anguish, and answered.

It was the pimply-faced lad in the shipping room.

“Say,” he said, “I can get you some of that goods you was asking about –“

“Can you?” Harry shouted. “Good!”

“How much did you want?”

“Oh, six bottles,” said Harry.

“All right. A fellow will bring them up to you to-night.”

“Look,” said Harry. “I must have them before eight o’clock. Before eight, sure!”

“All right,” said the pimply one.

Upstairs, the lonely gentleman withdrew his head out of the dark dumb-waiter, softly closed the door, and went over to his telephone.

At eight o’clock the boss, accompanied by the five gentlemen from over the border and two of the senior men of the local office, arrived gladly and well-fed at Harry’s apartment.

And Harry was modestly beaming.

He helped them dispose of their coats, accepted their amiable, brotherly jests – even the boss’s – and then drew aside the green curtain that hid the alcove which was his bachelor bedroom.

And there on the bed in a row lay six gleaming amber bottles.

The excitement and whooping had barely died down, and the first cork had scarcely opened the musical program of the evening, when there came a loud, peremptory knock on the door.

The bottle was instantly recorked and hid in the waste basket. The curtain of the alcove was re-drawn. And Harry opened the door.

Two large, stern men were standing without.

“Excuse me!” said the foremost, stepping solemnly into the hushed, crowded little room. His companion followed.

They sniffed the air.

“Excuse me,” said the leader again. In a sepulchral voice. And he walked past the eight frozen gentlemen, pulled aside the curtain of the alcove, and stood in a dramatic posture, gazing at the five bottles on the bed.

“Bill,” he said, “take those.”

“Gentlemen,” he said, turning mournfully to the company, “there is one more bottle. Produce it!”

“But,” cried the boss, who was first to regain his voice, “what do you mean? This is a private house! Can’t a man give his friends a drink?”

“Gentlemen,” said the stranger sadly, “this Is bootleg liquor.”

“Go on!” cried several together, the boss loudly, Harry tremulously.

“Gents,” continued the severe big stranger, “this liquor was delivered to this apartment not ten minutes ago.”

All turned to Harry for denial; and there he stood, his head down, the picture of guilt and dejection.

“Come, gents,” said the stranger. “The other bottle.”

And the boss himself fished it out of the waste basket.

As the big man stood at the door, he said to Harry:

“I won’t take you along. I have your name and address. I can get you if I need you.”

And he closed the door.

The party lasted about ten minutes longer. The boss’s nerves were shaken.

“What did you want to get bootleg stuff for?” he demanded angrily of Harry. “I thought you had a supply of your own. You can’t tell where this thing’ll end now –“

He and his seven friends departed in an air of strained joviality about 8.30 p.m., and left Harry all alone, to lie on his bachelor bed and cuss.

Later in the evening, through the fog of remorse and vain regrets, Harry found time to wonder what all the racket was about on the floor above.

But the lonely gentleman in the flat above was no longer lonely. He had six friends in with him. And six bottles of amber hue stood upon his bachelor table.

Two of his guests were big men.

One of these was saying, as he gripped a glass with one hand and dabbed a handkerchief to his tearful eyes —

“But the fun of it was, we never mentioned the word ‘police’ once; did we, Bill? We just walked in and glared around. And there they stood – nine of ’em – and took it for granted!

“‘An, gents.’, I says, ‘If you please, the sixth bottle!'”


Editor’s Note: A “gay dog” is slang for a man given to self-indulgence.

Camaracum

By Gregory Clark, January 7, 1922.

“What has happened to your friends, the French?” asked my editor the other morning.

He tossed across to me the newspapers containing the dispatches of France’s demands in respect to submarines. France was “rattling the sabre,” they said; the new “mailed fist in Europe.”


Let’s see…

The last place I saw action was at Cambrai, the end of September, 1918.

We were lying in the Marcoing Line. Through the mist of dawn the towers and spires of Cambrai stood up before us a mile away – our goal, our proud objective.

It was as if we were in High Park, advancing on Toronto. A meadow valley lay between. A few advance troops were plodding across, like workers bent cityward at break of day. But over our heads swept an endless succession of wheezy shells which thumped and crashed on to the edge of the misty city ahead of us. And far and near the air pulsed and jiggled and hissed with machine gun fire, ours and his.

In the sky the first aeroplanes were greeting the sun. They circled and slowly swooped earthward, peering, seeking, bursting off their machine-guns occasionally, or dropping bombs on to stealthy Germans scuttling through the streets of Cambrai. As I lay, belly tight to earth, I watched these airy ships; for in one of them, I knew, was a small brother of mine, wearing a white and scarlet helmet that I would recognize if ….


And while I lay there, aching my eyes against the misty dawn, I beheld a strange vision.

The towers and roots of Cambrai faded, and I saw instead a queer, walled town the name of which was Camaracum, and it was one of the cities of a people named the Norvil.

It seemed to be a scene from the very long ago, for the walls were heavy and crude, and the people moving about them were clad in rough and primitive garments.

A procession approached the city of Camaracum: soldiers in short kilts and sandals, armed with spears and shields, and after a great advance of these soldiers into the walled city came men on horses, one of whom was the emperor of Rome, visiting the outposts of his empire.

That scene fades: and now I see groups of rough, savage men swarming at the walls of Camaracum. These are the Franks, barbarians from the north. The time is 445 Anno Domini. And after a brief struggle the Roman garrison is driven from Camaracum: and Clodion, chieftain of the Franks, makes it his city.

Along time passes, for I see Camaracum greatly changed. A spire rises from within its walls. And into it rides a cavalcade of men in armor with banners, at the head of whom rides Charlemagne, Charles the Great, emperor of Rome. The thing is about the year 800 A.D., and Charlemagne makes the city or Camaracum one of his bulwarks against the heathen Magyars and marauders from the north and east.

Then down the Scheldt and the rivers from the seas come ghostly craft, the long ships of the Norsemen, fierce pirates who slay and destroy wherever their long ships will carry them. And they come, in the year 870 A.D., to this same walled city of Camaracum and burn it, sack it and destroy it.

But it rises again, its castles and spires and strong walls. And the vision shows it, all through the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, being stormed and captured, burned and sacked by the factions of various bishops. For Camaracum, since the fifth century of our Lord, has been a bishop’s see.

The vision moves swiftly. It is the year 1595 A.D., and the Spaniards are besieging’ the castled city of Camaracum. Charles the Fifth fortifies it with a great citadel.

The years fly. in 1793 It is the Austrians laying vain siege to this ancient city. And in 1793 the revolution comes: the mob, in the name of liberty, equality and fraternity, destroys the old cathedral, burns castles and palaces, and ruin descends still again upon Camaracum.

At last it is the years 1815 to 1818, Napoleon has just fled, and Camaracum, the city of the Nervil, the city of the Caesars, the outpost of Charlemagne’s empire, is headquarters for three years of the British army of occupation under Wellington in France!


Indeed, you have guessed it, reader.

Camaracum is Cambrai. Cambrai, as it lay before us in the hands of the Germans, is the Camaracum of old, that ancient and embattled city.

As we crouched there in the dawn the destroying shells were simply renewing a destruction already as old as history. The long ships of the Norsemen and the strange ships in the sky which I so tenderly watched were of one purpose.

My men, tense beside me in the trench, were plying an ancient trade: Roman, Frank, Viking, Goth, Magyar, Spaniard, Austrian – all had, through the thousands of years, lay thus with grim faces turned upon Camaracum.


And Cambrai is one of the lesser historical cities in France.

So I said to my editor:

“It is a thousand years since William of Normandy brought an invading army against our forefathers.

“But in France they have known war and the sack and pillage through unbroken centuries.

“If I do not agree with their militaristic policy, I can at least wholly sympathize with their caution.”

And I can still see the pillar of black smoke that rose vastly out of Camaracum as the Huns of 1918 fled before us into the north.


Editor’s Note: The Washington Naval Conference was held between November 1921 and February 1922., which resulted in the Washington Naval Treaty. The goal was to prevent an arms race by limiting naval construction. The British wanted the abolition of the submarine, but the French opposed. The conference ended without an agreement to restrict submarines.

Swish, Thud, SMACK-!

By Gregory Clark, (Illustrated by James Frise), November 25, 1922.

“Come,” says Pontius Pilate, “let us go down to the amphitheatre and see a couple of men pound each other into a purple pulp.”

“Right-o,” responds his friend, J. Cassius Brutus, “maybe they’ll poke a few teeth out of each other, or an eye.”

And the two citizens hasten down into the city.

Roman citizens? Nit! Citizens of Toronto, ratepayers, voters on prohibition, radials, supporters of a sporting city council. I changed their names just to make it hard. Their real names are William D. (“Bill”) Skillett, and P. Christopher Munch.


Swish, swish, thud, thud!

Swish, swish, thud, thud, SMACK!

This is music.

Danse music. Man music. This is the music of prize ring, the soft, barbaric music of the box-fight.

Swish, swish, is the sound of crafty feet sliding over the resin on the floor. Thud, thud, is the sound of heels as the two game cocks dance their weird dance about each other, circling, panting, lunging, skilfully poised as Pavlova, pretty, guileful, light as feathers, heavy as down.

SMACK is the sound of a fist, padded with ounces of leather and hair, as it crashes like forked lightning on to the bared teeth of a hurling boxer.

Swish, swish, thud, thud, SMACK!

Music in the foetid caves of our fathers, how many thousand years ago. Music still in the smoke haze of the Gayety Theatre, under the white dazzle of nitrogen bulbs.


The theatre is dark, save for this one blaze of white light on the stage. The audience is not a theatre audience, not even a Gayety theatre audience. It has a quality all its own. It smokes, belches smoke. The air is bitter with smoke. The eyes sting with it. It swirls in the dazzling spot of light on the stage.

There is a continual heavy murmur and mutter of sound filling the house. A fight crowd is a noisy crowd. The murmur is broken by load shouts of praise or blame, scattered shouts of encouragement, long wails of disgust.

Under the blazing lights, the ring is squared in with three heights of white-washed rope. And huddling in close to these ropes, as many as the stage will hold, are the ringside seats with a hunched, intent mass of men, ducking and moving their heads as they watch every move. Every step, every punch of the contestants in the ring.

Three figures in the ring – the two fighters, naked save for light silk running trunks, shining with sweat, lithe, smooth, clean, dancing and swaying elusively even in that glare. The third figure is the referee in a white shirt, who glances closely about the fighters, breaking them apart, bending to watch their hands in batches, barking and bellowing at them.


The first round is nearly always pretty.

It is like some barbaric dance. The noise of the crowd dies down. The fighters jut and poke and jab. You can hear the hissed breaths drawn in by a thousand watchers as some blow fails to go home. You hear the out-blown sniffle of the fighters – a peculiar venomous sound. Swish, swish thud, thud.


Somewhere in the second or the third or the fourth round, it loses its prettiness.

The dance goes out of it. The measure falls slower. The smoke-shrouded crowd out there in the dark becomes louder, there is a buzz of blood in their cries, some madman keeps bellowing an indistinguishable word over and over.

The fighters are losing their grace. They prance not at all. They cling heavily to each other. They are mussed up. Their hair hangs over their eyes. They have blood on their faces. They wipe their bleeding noses on each other’s shoulders in the clinches.

The referee’s white shirt has a stain on it.

The bell —

Tong!


The last round – if there is a last round – is no dance. It is only a fight. A terrible, weary, heavy fight between two broken men. They have been evenly matched, these two. But one is more weary than the other.

He can’t guard his face so smartly. He takes a terrible wipe on the eye. Another on the nose. His eye sockets are both green in this vicious light of the nitrogen bulbs. Blood Is falling from his chin.

His tired adversary will have no mercy though. He makes a desperate effort to prance. It is pitiful. A blow takes him on the chin.

He falls, clumsily, helplessly, piteously. He reclines on one arm, his breath coming in sobs, spitting blood heedlessly before him, while the referee counts loudly to eight ….

He heaves himself to his feet like a stricken thing.

The tired adversary is not too tired to be there, however, and to smash him another on the face.

His arms fumble vainly to guard.

SMACK.

All agleam, white and red, under the shrieking lights, he lies in a huddle on the resined floor.

The white shirt referee reaches out and holds on high the bloody gloved hand of the swaying victor.


“Aaaahhhhhh” breathes the mob out in the gloom, cheers, claps its hands as ladies at a matinee, shouts, swaps money on bets made.


Is this the end?

No. It’s the end of one fight.

There are five fights on the bill to-night. A great big generous bill.


So much for the fighters – marvelous, clean, brilliant boys, brave to the last merciful smash.

But what of the mob out there in the smoky gloom?

Sizing up the fighters, backing their opinions with cash money, turning in their seats, between rounds, to argue heatedly over the merits of fighters.

A queer crowd – dudes and toughs, refined and in the rough, regular fellows and irregular fellows, plain men and fancy men, your neighbor and strange strangers, normal profiles and odd, unbalanced profiles, and stunted faces of men you wouldn’t want to deliver the groceries at home…..

A church crowd has a certain look, a theatre crowd us a quality of its own, a spiritualist seance has a something different from the rest. A fight crowd has that same distinction of quality. You will see these men all assembled no place else.

Among them are some fighters. But the vast majority of them are not fighters. They are fighters by proxy.

What I am going to get at can very easily be expressed in the language of science, of the psycho-analyst. But that murky, fuddly language.

In all men is the instinct to fight. But with the passing of civilized generations, the will to fight has become weakened.

The most Christian and law-abiding of gentlemen knows at least a half dozen men he would like to kick the living daylights out of. But he lacks the will to do it, either because he is successfully civilized or because he has not been handed down the necessary nerve by thoughtless ancestors.

But he can do it, by proxy, as far as the satisfying of his own soul is concerned.

He can sit at this prize fight and get in some terrible smashes at his enemies – by proxy.

BIFF! There’s a stinger for that blankety blanky street car conductor!

SMACK! Aha, what smash that is for that blinkety blank foreman, eh!

He projects himself into one or the other of the fighters before him. You can sense that in the uncertainty at the beginning of a fight. The onlookers are trying to decide which of the two battlers they will be!

Just as in reading a story, you project yourself into the part of the hero or heroine, and thrill to all the adventures and love scenes depicted, the average fight fan – you can see it In his eyes – secretly or even sub-consciously, projects himself into the part of his favorite in the ring.

It is easy to take punishment by proxy.

It is glorious to be a victor by proxy. Such is the talent of the human imagination.

All the pent-up fury of a hundred encounters with overbearing men that you could not lick, can be released in three hours at a box-fight…


Civilization has forbidden us to fight, except under the direction of the king and his councillors, in which case it is one of the highest virtues.

Civilization has left us also the institution of prize fighting by which a lot of dangerous, pent-up steam may be blown off harmlessly, via the imagination.


And all being sons of Adam, and therefore in direct line from Cain and other bloody-minded men, we can still feel the poetry, the music, the charm of this weird dance, swish, swish, thud, thud, this measure beaded with blood, tinctured with pain, which ends so gracelessly –

SMACK!


Editor’s Note: Boxing was one of the most popular sports in the first half of the Twentieth Century.

Autumn on the Avenue

November 18, 1922

Wheeling in that Load of Garden Loam

April 29, 1922

Loam is the ideal type of gardening soil.

Have You Listened to the Wireless Phone?

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

By Greg Clark, March 4, 1922

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

Music Travels 1,000 Miles Instantaneously

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

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

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

And lo, the shout was heard!

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

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

The boy turns from the instrument board:

“Chicago!” says he.

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

You don’t believe it?

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

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

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

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

The boy listens:

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

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

“Chicago again?” you ask.

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

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

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

What is all this?

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

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

And what is the music?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Chivalry and the Glint of Gold

February 25, 1922

An illustration from a story by Fred Griffin about passers-by helping a lady recover the beads from her necklace that broke.

“Ain’t We Got Fun!”

February 18, 1922

The title for this comic comes from the song “Ain’t We Got Fun“, which was first published in 1921, so it would still be a recent and popular song.

Betting Machines at Race Tacks Keep 150 Men Busy All Summer

December 9, 1922

This illustration by Jim came with an article on how race tracks are run.

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