The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

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“Yes, the Boss is Out”

October 6, 1923

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.

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

Rum Brings Romance Back to the Sea

April 21, 1923

By Gregory Clark

A bright young man from Montreal landed in Halifax with $5,000 cash in his pocket.

He put up at the best hotel. He banked his money at the corner bank.

And then he walked promptly down to the waterfront.

Along the miles of docks he strolled, in and out of tiny, shabby lanes, in the shadow of tall ships, and little, fat, iron ships, and tidy old sailing ships. He talked with sailors and longshoremen, ship’s officers and the masters of schooners. He spent an hour or more in each of the dim little cafes that are to be found in Water street, talking to all who would spare the time to drink a cup of coffee or a snort of contraband Negrita rum at his invitation.

The second day in Halifax he spent in the company of the hotel clerk, of the manager of the bank where his money lay, and of a merchant from whom he purchased some collars.

The third day, four gentlemen lunched with him at his hotel. These four were strangers to him and he to them. They had come to lunch in answer to his telephoned invitation “to talk important business.”

“I have five thousand dollars,” the young man from Montreal was saying “It is all I have. It represents a bungalow which was my home, and the cash surrender value of my insurance policies.

“But I will contribute also my personal services. I have here personal references that will vouch for my honesty. You can wire Montreal for confirmation of these letters.

“The chartering of a two-masted schooner will cost us $1,500 for one trip, six weeks. The wages of captain, mate and crew, with bonuses, all set us back, roughly, another $1,000.

“Whiskey can be bought to-day at St. Pierre $23.50 a case, and sold off New York at $34.50. The profit is $11 a case.

“If each of you gentlemen will kick in ten thousand dollars, we can buy nearly two thousand cases at St. Pierre; and on the second leg the voyage, three thousand cases at Nassau.

“You can figure the profits…”

Two days later, from one of the docks off Water street, a trim schooner put to sea.

Aboard her was her master, who had just banked $1,500 to his credit before sailing. Aboard her also was the bright young man from Montreal. And in a locker in her cabin was the sum of $42,000 in cash.

The smart little schooner, of a hundred and fifty tons, fled nor’east before a fair wind out Halifax, and in three days anchored in the harbor of the island of St. Pierre, one of the two in the St. Pierre-Miquelon group, off the south coast of Newfoundland, which belongs to France.

There is no prohibition in France nor in her colonial possessions.

The warehouses on the wharves of St. Pierre are crammed with hundreds of thousands of cases of whiskey, rum, wines and liquors of every sort.

Big ocean steamers bring heavy cargoes of liquor to St. Pierre from Scotland and France.

But as fast as they bring it, small steamers and schooners take it away.

The young Montrealer was rowed ashore in the dinghy. He was directed to a building abutting on the docks of St. Pierre. There to a man at a counter he made known his request for a cargo of two thousand cases of whiskey, rum and wine, to total $42,000.

With another official, be arranged for a berth one of the docks. With the French customs officers he arranged for clearance of his cargo of booze to the port of Nassau, in the Bahamas.

And that night, his cargo of two thousand cases was loaded aboard the little schooner.

In four more days the schooner entered Halifax harbor. To excise officers who promptly demanded her clearance papers and manifest, it was shown that the schooner was merely putting in to Halifax for water and to drop a member the ship’s company.

The young Montreal man was put ashore, and after a few hours in harbor, the schooner went to sea again without him.

And he took train for New York, having made complete arrangements with the master of the schooner to meet him at certain point in the Ambrose Channel off New York seven days later.

In New York it did not take the young Montrealer seven days to find a purchaser for the two thousand cases. He dined two nights at a fashionable café, made the acquaintance of the head waiter in that time, and then asked him who in New York would like to pick up two thousand cases.

He was promptly introduced to his man.

Five days later, at dusk, a small steel tug, aboard which was the young man from Montreal and the fat gentleman who was buying the cargo, drew up alongside the schooner, which, true to its master’s word, was lying just where he said it would be lying in the Ambrose Channel.

The two thousand cases were transferred from the schooner to the tug.

And $66,000 cash was paid over to the Montrealer, who stowed it in the cabin locker, and instructed the skipper to set sail for Nassau at dawn.

Nassau is seven hundred miles below New York, off the Florida Coast. But the little schooner made the voyage, in spite of bad weather, in five days.

At Nassau, the Montrealer went ashore, and within an hour had purchased three thousand cases of Scotch whiskey. The schooner drew up alongside a large tramp steamer just in from Glasgow, and the cases were shifted from the big ship to the little two-master. On the schooner’s deck, the young man paid over $65,000 cash to the agent of the owners of the whiskey.

And cleared Nassau for St. Pierre.

But the schooner didn’t go to St. Pierre. It hauled into the Ambrose Channel about eight days later, after a rough passage.

By a passing launch, the young man sent a message ashore. And that night, aboard the same steel tug, came the same fat man, and took over the three thousand cases at $35 a case – a lump sum of $105,000 cash, paid over in $1,000 bills, in the cabin of the little fishing schooner.

The next morning, the schooner set sail for Halifax, where it arrived three days later and set ashore the young man and his wad of money. But because it was cleared from Nassau to St. Pierre, the schooner could not stop, and went on to St. Pierre, where it loaded with ballast, and cleared St. Pierre in ballast for Halifax.

The young man went to his hotel and called up his four partners.

They assembled at once to hear the news.

And $105,000 was split five ways pro rata, according to the investment of each.

The last reports on this bright young man is that he and his backers have dispensed with slow schooners and have chartered a steamship of the type known as a trawler, and are making the run between St. Pierre and Nassau, with intermediate store each way of the Jersey coast.

Instead of three thousand case lots, they are carrying thirty and forty thousand case lots.

They double their money each round trip.

There will be no shortage of motor cars in their families.

They are reputed millionaires.

By the greatest of good fortune for the rum runners, there are two ports of the Atlantic coast which do not demand clearance papers.

The laws of the sea are hard and fast laws. You can’t poke your nose into every port of the world and drop anchor. There are certain little formalities to be seen to. Officers come aboard and demand your clearance papers, from your last port of call. You have to show that the cargo mentioned in those papers is intact. You have to show that you have come direct from that port. They don’t allow loitering about the high seas.

But St. Pierre and Nassau in the Bahamas, beautifully positioned, one at the north end and one at the south end of the Atlantic coast, are not strict in the matter of clearance.

If you happen to drop anchor in Nassau, cleared from St. Pierre with a cargo of whiskey, why, nobody is going to pester you with questions if that cargo of whiskey has mysteriously disappeared between the port of clearance and the port of destination.

How ideal for the rumrunners!

A veritable flood of liquor is pouring into America from Europe through these two ports.

Many Canadian ships, from little fishing schooners to yachts, are employed in the trade.

And unbelievable fortunes are being made. The only difficulty is that, like all good things, too many get wise to it, and gum it up. Too many ships are peddling their goods off the coast nowadays. With the coming of spring, their number will be increased a hundredfold, it is expected.

The result is, that instead of whiskey selling at $60 a case off New York, with a profit of nearly $40 for the rumrunner, it has dropped to a little over $30.

Too many crooks spoil the broth. There is likely to be a glut of whiskey off New York and Boston this summer. The schooners that pick it up for $20 to $25 a case at Nassau will have to sell it a little over cost. Profits will be cut. A lot of good men will be ruined and go back to fishing and those other industries of the coast.

Off Halifax and certain other smaller ports of Nova Scotia which it would be cruel to mention, I visited some of the rumrunners.

Romance has come back to the sea, and especially to canvas. For half a century canvas has been on the wane. It has been reduced to fishing and to the carriage of certain foul-smelling commodities from little islands in the sea to the mainland. Sail had fallen to a pretty low ebb. The men who could sail a ship were few in number.

Then came the rum game, and the rattiest little old schooner came into its own. You could buy a pretty decent schooner for $6,000 or $7,000 before the rumrunning came in. Now they want twice that, if you can buy at all.

Many an old retired sailor, whose wisdom was all in canvas and the handling of a ship with sails, has been dug up out of his retirement to help man a rumrunner. It has been a great comeback. I talked with one old fellow of sixty-five who had gone ashore for good because he couldn’t compete with the boys on the steamers, and there was no more call for his cunning with canvas. He lived in simple poverty in a little village outside Halifax.

Now he is the mate of a three-masted tern schooner, making regular trips over the rum route, and he is getting not only mate’s pay but double pay as a bonus every trip. He has enough money to buy a pretty cottage to go home and die ashore. He has enough, in fact, as be pointed out himself, to get married on!

There is a sort of revival of the romance of the old privateering days in the game. The coast is filled with sailing ships as never in the last quarter century. All kinds of odd craft are making the winds work.

In the little cabin of one of the schooners I visited there were three shotguns hanging in racks upon the wall.

“What for?” I asked, “Shooting gulls?”

“Not them,” replied the skipper. “Those are for the preservation of law and order on the high seas. Those weapons are for the suppression of piracy. When we are lying in ‘rum row’ off the Jersey coast, every time a strange boat comes near, we man the bulwarks with those three guns, loaded with buckshot. There have been several cases of piracy – toughs from ashore coming aboard a helpless, honest ship and looting her cargo and her cash box.

“This trip I am exchanging those old double-barrelled guns for a set of modern pump guns that throw five charges of buckshot at a pretty good lick I’m told.”

One Halifax schooner master, by hard work all last year and the year before, had worked up a very decent business. He had amassed the overwhelming capital of $80,000. It is probable he never had a thousand dollars in the bank in the old days, though he toiled hard and dangerously at the fishing off the Banks. He risked his life and his ship in the most hazardous of callings for a very uncertain reward. Now he was rolling in wealth.

He made a trip down to Nassau and sunk the whole $80,000 in a cargo and brought it to the line-up of vessels off New York.

One of the “law-breakers” from shore came out – a big power boat – and he made his deal with a couple of foreigners.

They paid him in cash – $1,000 bills – the sum of $142,000.

And the skipper sailed tremulously for home. He took ballast at St. Pierre, and came to his home port in Nova Scotia. He was filled with dreams of founding a steamship business, of building a fine mansion, and living ashore for the rest of his life. As he sailed in the harbor he stood on deck picking a nice site for his future home.

When he plunked his fabulous fortune down In front of the teller in the bank, dazed with the thrill of it, he was the proudest sailor ever home from the sea.

The teller began to count the bills.

Then be stopped and fingered them.

A started look came into his face.

“What’s this?” he exclaimed. “Where’d you get this stuff?”

The $142,000 was all in counterfeit $1,000 bills.

The skipper was flat broke.

When two foreign gents arrived in Halifax some time later looking for a schooner to break into the game, some friends of the old skipper brought them to him.

Yes, he knew the ropes. He would willingly charter his ship and hire out as master of it.

“We’re from New York,” said the strangers. “The game is too crooked down there. It is all in the hands of one big gang. There is no profits for the little dealer. It all goes in graft. So we’ve come up here to break in from the outside.

Their plan was this: they would put supercargo of their own selection on board the schooner, and he would go with the ship to St. Pierre where a five-thousand-case cargo would be bought and delivered off New York to these men personally. A date was set. Another foreigner, of the gunman type, was introduced to the skipper, and he set sail.

The run to St. Pierre is only 400 miles from Halifax and can be made in three or four days’ fair sailing. But it was a bit rough. And the old skipper rolled that schooner through the trough all the way. The result was that the landlubber supercargo was a pretty dead specimen when they made St. Pierre.

He could hardly make the purchase, he was so upset. And when it came to getting aboard again for the long run to New York, he couldn’t be persuaded.

So the old skipper advised him to take steamer from St. Pierre to Halifax, and there the schooner would call and pick him up, so sparing him the worst part of the voyage.

The gunman, out of his element, with promises that his bosses would never find out, agreed.

But at Halifax he was as fearful of the next leg of the voyage for a storm was raging at sea and the skipper was determined to set sail.

So another arrangement was made, whereby the seasick supercargo could come aboard the schooner at New York a day before his bosses were to come aboard; and all would be well.

The skipper was such an honest old man!

He made the Ambrose Channel the evening the gunman was to meet him.

Presently, with the flashlamp signals arranged on, the unfaithful supercargo came alongside in a small launch, very sick and frightened.

“Beat It!” cried the skipper. “Your bosses came out last night and found us and took the cargo off. They are sure looking for your hide.”

Without a sound, the terrified gunman fled into the dark.

That same night, with his knowledge of the game, the old skipper found a buyer for the 5,000 cases in his hold among the small craft cruising out from shore. He got his money, $35 a case, $175,000, and he made dead certain that it was real money that time.

The following night, which was the first night agreed for the rendezvous, the two foreigners came aboard, vastly excited and delighted.

“What?” exclaimed the old skipper. “Here again!”

In moment pandemonium was loose on that schooner.

“Why,” said the skipper, “your supercargo went ashore to get you last night and came off about midnight with you, in a steel tug. Wasn’t it you? You don’t mean to say it wasn’t you?”

“Did they take the booze?” screamed the owners.

“You certainly did! Now don’t try pulling any tricks on me,” cried the old skipper.

And he bundled them off his ship.

They are probably still looking for that double crossing supercargo. And he is as faithfully avoiding them.

And the old skipper has his money back.

“Anyway,” he is reported to have said, “landlubbers haven’t any business in this sea-going trade.”

There are risks in the game. For one thing, no insurance can be got on either cargo or ship. Losses, when they occur, are heavy losses.

One man I talked to is a shipowner. Rumor has it that he is not missing the opportunity to invest circumspectly in the game.

He recently chartered a small two-hundred-ton steamer for one trip of about one month’s duration for $7,000. He further obtained from the man who chartered it (an American) a bond for $40,000, the value of the little vessel, to guarantee that it would break no laws or otherwise get into trouble.

That is a good rent, eh?

The Nova Scotia people generally, who have all the liquor they want despite their prohibition law, feel that Canada is missing a great opportunity to pay off the national debt in not going heartily into the rum-running game in large way.

But the rum-runners themselves complain that too many people are in the game already.

They are talking of the “good old days”. That’s a bad sign – for them.

By the good old days they mean a year ago, when a case off New York sold for $60.

And their hearts are further steeped in gloom with the news that the United States government is making an effort to have the British and French governments put the lid on St. Pierre and Nassau by requiring strict clearance papers in and out of all ports of call.

This will mean that rum-running will become a pure smuggling game, and cargoes from Europe will have to be transferred from big ships to little ships on the high seas.

And that’s a game only mariners can play.

And only the mariners are glad.


Editor’s Notes: There are a lot of prices listed here but $1 in 1923 equals about $15.80 in 2022. So, for example:

$60 = $950

$5,000 = $79,000

$42,000 = $663,000

$142,000 = $2,243,000

The Dog’s Hotel – “Pets Parked Here”

August 4, 1923

Jim illustrated this story about a “hotel” kennel for dogs for the summer while the family is on vacation.

Principal Figures in Big Daylight Robbery of the General Store, Bird’s Eye Centre

August 4, 1923

This comic was one of the earliest references to Birdseye Center. It was also very hard to clean, as it was an example where the paper pressed too hard on the engraving plate, resulting in a lot of black smudges.

When You Get a Wrong Number, Whose Fault is It?

A glimpse of the switchboards in one of the Toronto exchanges.
Girl messengers on roller skates carry memos in the long distance room.
The tired business man who roars, snarls, swears, growls, groans, and yells.

By Gregory Clark, February 17, 1923

Training 3,000 Really Human Girls Not To Talk Back When They Are Barked at – a Triumph of Feminine Psychology.

What is your favorite telephone hate?

Wrong number? Line busy? Cut off? Delay in getting central?

All old stuff. We’ve heard a good deal about YOUR hates.

What about the girl at the other end of the wire? What is central’s favorite hate?

Without exception, the hello girl gives it to the tired business man who roars, snarls, swears, growls, groans and yells.

It all the assorted sounds that are sent in over the wires in one day to a downtown central office of the telephone company were saved and set loose at once, it would sound very much like Ringling’s Circus at feeding time in the big tent.

Men are the worst offenders in rattling the nerves of the swift fingered girls who handle the delicate nerve-system of the telephone exchange. But there are women offenders, too. There is a sweet, meowing kind of lady who can say the cattiest things–

How few wrong numbers you get, how astoundingly few errors you are served with in your daily use of your telephone you will never know, you can’t know, until you have seen the system, have a faint, superficial idea of this miracle of wire and buttons which, in the city of Toronto alone, handles from one million and a quarter to one million and a half telephone calls every twenty-four hours.

Errors occur – in which it has been fairly estimated that YOU are in perhaps half the cases partly to blame.

Delays occur – many of which are caused by YOU taking the time to express your opinion of the girl at central.

And in at least half the errors that do occur the central girl on whom you pour out the vials of your wrath has no more to do with the error than the lady in the moon.

Let’s take a case in point.

Suppose you are phoning from your home in a Parkdale number to another Parkdale number.

The central to whom you give your number reaches with the plug from your phone direct to the hole under the number you have asked for.

Now suppose the lady you are calling is upstairs and is slow answering her phone. You get impatient. You can hear it ringing all right, but you begin to think something is wrong. So you start rapidly clicking your receiver hook up and down.

This causes something strange to happen on central’s board in front of her. When you first took your receiver down, a light lit in front of central. When she plugged in to answer you that little light went out. As soon as you hang up your receiver, that light comes on again, as a sign that you are through. Central promptly switches the cord out of your number and you are disconnected.

Now, when you begin jiggling your hook up and down, that light comes off and on, off and on, but so rapidly that it appears to be on. That is central’s sign to disconnect. She does so. It is your fault.

If you want central, move that hook slowly up and down, to the beat of a grandfather’s clock.

Have you ever been called out of bed to answer the phone, only to find when you get there that there is nobody on the line, and central asks politely: “Number?”

Say your phone is in the Hillcrest exchange. Somebody in the North exchange has decided to call you up. The North person gives his central your number. That central does not, cannot give him the number direct. She presses a button on her board which automatically connects her with the Hillcrest exchange, and a girl in the Hillcrest building, miles away, takes the number, gives the North girl the number of a “trunk line” to put your friend through, and then your phone starts ringing.

In the meantime the North girl and the Hillcrest “trunk line” girl go on with their automatic labor of answering other little lights and switching thirty-four plugs and cords about their board.

Your friend listens to your phone ringing. He wonders at the delay. He looks at his watch and discover it is much later than he had thought. He doesn’t want to get you out of bed. So he hangs up the receiver.

On come the lights in his central’s office. His central promptly pulls out the plug. The light comes on in the Hillcrest “trunk line” girl’s board, and out comes her plug.

By this time you are at the phone and are prayerfully yelling “hello, hello,” and variations thereof.

Suddenly you hear central’s quiet voice say “number,” just as if nothing was amiss.

You roar. You rave.

“I’m sorry,” says central, “there is no one on your line now.”

“Well, what do you mean dragging me out of bed?”

And the fact is, of course, this little girl yon are speaking to doesn’t know any more about your mysterious call than you do. The call had been handled by two switchboards that she didn’t see, one miles away, the other in a different part of the building. In fact, until your friend’s plugs were pulled out after he had hung up, and until you lifted the receiver off, no light came on the board of this central of yours.

She is no more to blame than the lady in the moon. And if she cuts you off in the middle of your abuse you have a hemorrhage.

When you are cut off in the middle of a conversation, be sure of several things before you raise your voice. If you are talking from an office where there is a private switchboard, the cutting may have been done by the fair lady who presides at this board, for in most offices she is not only switchboard operator, but office boy, stenographer, private secretary to the head clerk and several other things. Then if you are speaking to someone outside your own exchange, as from Main to Junction, it may not be the central you can speak to at all, but the girl away out in West Toronto.

So don’t blame the only girl you can speak to.

The telephone company is listening in all the time for the purpose of checking their staff, a whole platoon of supervisors and instructors being employed in every exchange for this purpose every hour of the day. These experts declare that at least half the wrong numbers are due to the indistinct speaking of the person asking for the number, or to the defective memory of the customer, who asks for Main 6017 when the number he wants to Main 6107 – and when he gets what he asks for, Main 6017, says to the party at the other end:

“Oh. I’m sorry, central gave me the wrong number.”

Only the rules of the company prevent the supervisors who overhear such conversations as that from taking their revenge and yelling over the phone a triumphant –

“Yah!”

The telephone is a miraculous development of a thousand frail things into a substantial and ever-ready service to mankind. Back of that box on your wall is a mechanism so intricate as to stun a layman.

It is also a triumph of psychology. To take three thousand girls, feminine to their fingertips every one, and train them not to talk back – what more profound reform of feminine nature than that? Yet despite the blame and the bullying they are subjected to (a thing which is decreasing every year in marked degree), they must not talk back, however innocent they are, however in the wrong the bully is. Speed is the watchword! Service! And to every irate subscriber they must be polite, lest they prolong the argument, and delay the service with its million and a half calls a day!

But it is not merely mechanical after all. The girls are human. Many of them are strained and unnerved by the grumblers and barkers. The girls get to know the plug holes or “jacks” of the chronic grouses. They come to detest that man – unseen, but visualized as a fat, mottled-faced crank – oh, they are human enough to fancy the faces behind those little plugs, behind those voices kind or rough, quiet or petulant, smiling or snarling.

Human! You ought to see the long distance office. Girls on roller skates! Yes, sir! Young girl messengers whizzing about that big room from board to board, carrying the memos of calls from one town to another by means of one roller skate, propelling themselves with one foot and scooting like streaks on the ether, from Toronto to North Bay or Belleville, that is to say, the boards representing those towns. It looks like great fun. But it’s work – for you, that you might be served with speed. Some time when you are in Eaton’s, drop into the Grill Room at 10.30 a.m. or 3 p.m. and see the demonstration the telephone company is putting on there in connection with the Made-in-Canada exhibit all the month of February. They have the switchboards up, and girls demonstrating the entire process, with all the points referred to in this article graphically explained by means of little dramatic skits.


Editor’s Note: The early days of phones usually required the need to talk to an operator and give the number, which could include the name of the exchange you were calling. Toronto had a 2-letter, 4-number system until 1957 when it switched to a 2-letter, 5-number system to meet new North American standards. The letters could be converted to numbers seen on the dial, which could also accommodate direct dialing without the need of an operator. The letter system was dropped from directories in 1966 when the conversion to 7 numbers was completed.

Toronto is Biggest Betting Place in North America

December 29, 1923

Jim provided this illustration to a story on horse racing by Ernest Hemingway. The famous author worked as a freelance journalist for the Toronto Star and Star Weekly in the early 1920s as he was starting out. Because he was fond of the outdoors (hunting and fishing), he became good friends with Greg and Jim. During his time in Paris, Hemingway still filed stories with the Toronto Star. When his third son was born in 1931, he named him Gregory after Greg Clark.

This is What Makes the Wild Woods Wilder

November 3, 1923

Where are the Bartenders of Yesterday?

“The expression on their faces of some of the old boys, as they sipped pink pop, was more than I could stand.”

By Gregory Clark, September 15, 1923

Into the private office of the manager of a large wholesale establishment on Wellington street was admitted a middle-aged gentleman of refined appearance who told the information girl guarding the sanctum that he was an old friend of the manager.

The manager looked up as the visitor entered, stared at him with a look of puzzlement on his face, and smiled.

The visitor was smiling broadly.

“I have called,” he said, “to see if I could write you up for some insurance under a new plan my company offers men of your age.”

“Now, I’m pretty busy,” said the manager. Then, halting, he asked:

“Look here: I know your face well, but hanged if I can place you.”

Still smiling broadly, the visitor came closer to the manager’s desk. Laying his hat down, he snatched a newspaper off the desk, flicked it open, and, with a sudden movement, tucked it like an apron into his vest. Then, leaning both hands on the manager’s desk he leaned forward and said:

“What’s yours, sir?”

The effect was remarkable on the manager. He leaped to his feet and cried:

“Tim, you old scoundrel! Where have you been all these years?”

And the two set about shaking hands as if they were long-lost brothers.

But they were simply two old friends, a bartender and one of his pet customers, meeting for the first time after seven years of drought.

Tim was head bartender in the downtown bar regularly patronized by this business man for years. An intimacy had grown up between them such as few not habituated to drinking in bars can imagine. A formal intimacy like that between golfers and their old pro, or between a lady and her housekeeper of twenty years.

Making him seated and comfortable, the manager asked his old friend:

“What have you been doing?”

“Well,” said Tim, pulling on the cigar. “I have had some rough times. When the old establishment closed, in 1916, I had no plans, like all bartenders, and couldn’t believe it when the doors were really closed. The old boss offered me a job around the hotel as a sort of watchman. But I was deeply insulted. A soft drink bar was opened in the old bar, and I served exactly four days there, for some of the old boys came in, and to see the look on their faces as they drank a glass of pink pop was really more than I could bear. I felt fallen in the world. I felt unclassed. Without warning, for my kids were all grown up, I packed a valise and went over to the States. Not belonging to their union, I had a bad two years there. I was in several New York towns in succession, but getting further and further down in the mouth.

“When the States went dry, I hadn’t enough money to take me to Montreal, the last oasis. So I worked at odd jobs and darn near starved–“

“Poor old Tim,” stuck in the manager, with real sympathy.

“No, no. It was good for me,” said Tim. “While serving in a bar in Syracuse I made the acquaintance of an insurance man. Two years ago I met him on the street one day, and he gave me a job selling insurance.

“‘If a man who has listened to as many sad life stories as you can’t sell insurance,’ he said to me. ‘nobody can.'”

“So here I am looking up, one by one, all my old friends across the mahogany. Do you remember that sad story you told me one night–“

“Easy, Tim, easy!” implored the manager, a changed man after seven years.

“–about your fears for your poor family, and you feeling that your heart was in a delicate condition?”

“Tut, Tim I have a golf handicap of eight.”

At any rate, Tim drew forth, in the approved manner, his booklets and folders outlining in graphic style the proposition his company had to make to business men of fifty and over. And It was a good proposition, in spite of the sentimental appendages to the deal.

For Tim wrote his old friend policy for ten thousand.

Where are the four hundred and fifty bartenders who, up to seven years ago, were quenching Toronto’s thirst with beers, wines and liquors? Where are the skilful jugglers amongst them whom men traveled far to see, as they tossed a cocktail from glass to glass, a gleaming rainbow four feet long? Where are these repositories of the sad life stories of thousands of male citizens of this now happy city?

Their union is broken up. Thorough enquiries at the Toronto Labor Temple failed to discover Arthur O’Leary, former business agent of the Bartenders’ Union, in his heyday one of the most popular figures in the labor world.

Strange to relate, a good many of Toronto’s bartenders have stuck to bartending, even though the quality of the goods they sell is different.

In remnant of what used to be one of the longest bars in Toronto, now remodeled down to a mere fragment of its old glory, a bartender of twenty years’ experience admitted that he was too old to change his calling just because the law changed.

“Is there much difference between selling liquor and soft drinks?” he was asked.

“I feel,” he replied, “like a banker who has failed and has had to take up the grocery business for a livelihood. As a bartender, I was the friend and confidante of members of the business world, half the city hall staff knew me by name, city fathers took council with me, mayors have wept on my shoulder. In the old days, my customers were regular customers. But of that bunch–“

And he waved a contemptuous hand at a dozen people, mostly idle young men, lounging against the soda bar.

“–of that bunch I don’t know one. Never saw them before in my life.”

“What effect has prohibition had on your income?”

“I don’t get one-third the wages I used to make and I get no tips. My income is about a quarter what it was.”

“Prohibition has hit you hard?”

“Yes it has. But I still think the going of the bar is the best thing ever happened. I do, really. For one good bar, where men had a drink, there were three crooked bars where men got drunk. I never let a man get drunk off my bar in my life. Some bartenders considered their job was to rake over the coin. Some of us, however, figured our job was to serve refreshment to men. But we all got hit just the same.”

Most of the bartenders who are still serving drinks are serving them over the former bars of old hotels. Only a couple are in soda parlors.

A few of the bartenders have gone up in the world. One owns a good hotel near the centre of the city. Others have retail businesses, grocery, hardware and boot and shoe.

One very gifted bartender is now in charge of a gasoline station, and is serving up gas and oil without a hint, in the way he serves up a pint of “medium,” that he was in his day one of the most skilful drink slingers in the city.

But others, the older ones, have had a very poor time the last seven years. Some are jobless, some are janitors and handy men around old hostelries.

“It took prohibition,” said one old bartender, who has been out of a job four of the seven years since his profession quit him, “to show up how shallow was bar-room friendship. I had lived in it so long that I had begun to imagine it was genuine.”

“Men who called me affectionately by name when they ordered a drink, sports who got me to do favors for them, men I’ve cashed checks for, all turned me down when I called on them.”

“I wanted a job, recommendation. But a month after the bars were closed, most of them had forgotten who I was. Not three out of fifty of them held out the helping hand when I was in need.”

Perhaps the hardest part of prohibition to the bartender was not the loss of his calling, but the discovery of the fact that the bar-room affection that shed a glamor over his trade was as thin and unsubstantial as the beer fumes that induced it.


Editor’s Note: Prohibition went through all sorts of referendums and polls between 1916 and 1927 in Ontario when it was repealed. Greg was likely not in favour of prohibition, but his newspaper was. At the time of the article in 1923, Howard Ferguson had been elected Premier, and would move slowly and cautiously on limiting the restrictions.

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