The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

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Oh, To Be Poor or Safe in Jail Now That the Income Tax is Due!

April 19, 1924

By Gregory Clark, April 19, 1924.

Residential Streets Deserted These Evenings, While the Children Are Put to Bed and Dad Struggles With His Tax Forms – If You’re Puzzled Lots of Your Clever Friends Can Help You.

O to be in jail, now that April’s here! O, to be a bachelor, earning about eight hundred dollars a year!

Blessed are the poor, for they don’t know what income tax forms are.

Do you know why the dominion government set the last day of April as the date income tax forms have to be in?

To save population. If the tax forms had to be made out in the dismal month of November or in the heat of the summer, hundreds would be jumping out of upstairs windows or running amok in the streets screaming: “Four per cent, less allowance for normal tax, on dividends, plus amount of surtax forward from No. 35 (ii). OO-wah!”

The next few evenings you will notice the streets deserted. The little children will be banished to bed. There will be no ratepayers out gardening. No voters ring gladly underneath their cars in the side drive. Save for the song of the robins, the gorgeous April evenings will be desolate.

Papa is indoors struggling with his income tax forms.

It’s a pity the ratepayers’ associations haven’t Instituted evening classes in the public schools during April to have chartered accountants give a course in “Mathematics for Taxpayers.”

“For once set out on paper, the whole thing is very simple,” says Hugh D. Patterson, dominion inspector of taxation for Toronto district. “Like any rules, the tax regulations have a formidable look. Tell the public that we have a special staff of men put on for the sole purpose of explaining the regulations to them, and if they strike difficulties, to bring them to the tax office and we will make their forms out for them.”

Mr. Patterson, who is not an, aged, grizzled and fearsome official like a Roman governor, but a young man with black hair and black eyes and an awful understanding of the most obscure things, and who can calculate fractions of fractions with an ordinary pencil, has made out two samples for the guidance of the poor rich.

Here’s the Way to Do It

People with moderate incomes have no trouble. It is the people with incomes over five thousand who need sympathy.

“So here are two examples, worked out step by step. If everyone follows these diagrams, step by step, they will come out all right.”

And, gentlemen, get your scissors. these in your hats. Here they are:

“Remember this,” added the inspector.

“The surtax is figured on your total income, if it is over $5,000, regardless of the other tax, regardless of your family, or dependents. Marital status has nothing to do with the surtax. The trouble is, to keep these two taxes separate, in your mind. Work out the normal tax, as shown. Then work out the surtax as an entirely different proposition. Follow the diagram.”

Much of the trouble people have is in not knowing their exemptions. Single men, as a rule, don’t know that they are exempt the two thousand if they have a dependent parent, grandparent, sister or, if over twenty-one, a brother mentally or physically incapacitated and totally dependent.

A single man who has one child dependent on him is exempt only the $300. A widower with one child, is exempt as a married man, as well as for the child.

All speculation is exempt. If you lose five thousand dollars on a speculation in oil stocks, your regular business being a clerk in an office, you are not exempt for the loss. If you win five thousand, you don’t have to include that in your earnings for the year.

But if you win a million dollars selling the government some bonds – that isn’t speculation – that’s business. And you have to include it under the head of commissions earned.

The main thing is, don’t guess. Call up the income tax office or go in and see them.

One Toronto man, in clearing up his wife’s estate after her death, made the discovery that she had never rendered an income tax return. He could not get an order to distribute the estate until he had satisfied the tax department. He had then to make out tax returns for every year since 1917, pay penalties for each year she had failed to make a return, and from 1920 on had to pay ten per cent. tax on the estate, interest accruing, for her failure to declare.

That estate, a good one, paid a handsome sum into the government.

No earthly excuse will be accepted for failing to render your tax return on or before April. 30. If you go on May the first and tell them that yesterday you were knocked down by a street car and were unconscious the whole of April 30, they will take the greatest sympathetic interest in your story, but it won’t save you the five per cent. of the tax penalty which the law calls for.

No Excuse For Anyone

One Toronto man, wealthy, was in Florida and was having such a good time he forgot all about taxes. He paid a penalty that equalled the cost of his trip to Florida. Another man was at sea, on his way home, on April 30. He had to pay the penalty.

“No excuses are provided for in the act. Therefore no excuses exist, as far as the department is concerned,” said Mr. Patterson.

A man was in hospital for several weeks before and after April 30. He was undergoing operations and was near death’s door. Nobody thought about income tax returns. But he paid the penalty just the same as the careless man. Nobody gets away. Professional entertainers, the great musicians and artists who only come to Toronto for a visit of twenty-four hours pay taxes on the income of an hour’s singing. Massey Hall makes its return of money taken in and paid out. The government writes to the artist’s agent in New York – and to make future visits possible the artist comes across with her tax.

People who are leaving the country for good are usually Interviewed before their departure and taxes are collected. There are various ways the department gets word of their intended departure – often a letter from a neighbor.

The government has actually collected taxes from bootleggers, as such. That is, the department reads in the newspaper of a conviction of someone as a bootlegger. Looking up records, they note no income recorded. So they pay a visit to the convicted party and demand to see his bank books. They examine back records of the bank account. They demand a proper income return. And the bootlegger, alarmed at the possibilities of prosecution, renders returns on his ill-gotten gains.

“The policy of the department,” said Mr. Patterson, “is to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, as far as prosecution in the courts is concerned, until the act has been in force long enough for everyone to thoroughly understand it. We do come across many cases where returns have not properly been filed. All we do is secure the return and collect the money, with full penalties exacted., We do not often prosecute. But instructions are likely to be promulgated at any time for a tightening up of the regulations, and prosecutions will be in order.”

A final instruction is this: no one knows better how to make an income tax form than people who don’t have to make them out. If you have one of these amongst your friends, get him to make yours out.

The Flivvers That Bloom in the Springtime, Tra La.

April 5, 1924

Flivver is slang for an automobile.

Toronto’s Good Old Days of Real Spark Plugs Gone Forever

March 29, 1924

This article by Fred Griffin described the days of horse trading in Toronto. “Spark Plug” was a reference to the wildly popular horse in the comic strip Barney Google.

Radio Interference at Birdseye Center

November 29, 1924

Enter Foreigners – Exit Johnny Canucks

May 24, 1924

This illustration went with an article by Fred Griffin on immigrants who obtained citizenship. “Johnny Canuck” was a slang term for Canadians.

Specials from Birdseye Center

April 26, 1924

What About the Big War in China? “What Wah?” Ask Toronto Chinese

By Gregory Clark, October 18, 1924.

Struggle in the East Leaves Elizabeth Street Cold – On Front Page of Our Newspapers, But On Inside Page of Toronto’s Chinese Paper

There is war in China.

But there is peace in Chinatown.

Elizabeth street, the three lower blocks of which are Toronto’s Chinatown, goes without flags, processions or special editions.

The Shing Wah, Toronto’s Chinese dally, comes out each afternoon with an editorial on the front page, and the war despatches – by special cable from Shanghai to Toronto, via San Francisco – from Chinese into English, across the Pacific, across the continent, and back into Chinese again – the war despatches on the inside of the paper!

The groups leaning up against the front windows of the stores are without animation.

When there was war in Serbia, the Serbian colony down by the Don was so excited the packing houses couldn’t get their men out to work; the cafes rattled and ring with martial songs and dances. When Italy was at war, Centre street was flame of red, white and green, and men uncorked wild flights of oratory with dark red bottles, and stood on doorsteps to deliver themselves of speeches. If there were a British war, the British colony in Shanghai would be aroar – it did not disappear out to sea, westward, overnight.

But the Chinese are a philosophic race.

Sunday is the big day in Chinatown. Their laundries closed, the crews of Toronto’s washtubs put on their best clothes and foregather in Chinatown for a day of conversation and feasting.

There are four thousand Chinese in Toronto, according to the estimate of the circulation manager of the Shing Wah – who ought to know.

On Sunday, there were perhaps two thousand gathered in the restaurants, shops and community houses of Chinatown. In front of the general stores – every Chinese store is a general store carrying everything from dry goods to drugs, from footwear to dried meats – were groups doing nothing. In the back rooms of the store, larger groups, smoking the large bamboo pipes which are hospitably scattered around for general use, and with chop sticks, dipping crisp noodles out of the big pot that is simmering on every Chinese stove on Sunday for the guests of the day.

In every mothering, a quiet, sing-song conversation was passing, like a juggled ball, from one to another.

All’s Peace in Chinatown

But there was no war in it.

“Wah?” exclaimed our interpreter. “Wah! Wah? What wah?”

“Why, the big war in China. The war on the front page of the Toronto papers,” we replied.

“It is on inside of our paper,” replied the interpreter, slyly.

“Are they not excited about it?”

“Don’t even think about it,” answered the interpreter. “For thirteen years, wah every day in China. For thousand years, China has peace. Then comes reform along western lines. So we have wah. For thirteen years.”

“Let’s ask these men what they are talking about?” we suggested.

Fifteen Chinese were draped about the front of a shop which displayed two pair of straw shoes and six bottles of assorted devil fish for sale, and conversation was passing, in a low monolog, from left to right.

“They are talking about a garden,” said the guide.

“A garden?”

“Lem, here, the old man, is going to set up his three nephews in a truck garden out near Islington.”

“And is that what they are all talking about?”

“Yes. They are all remembering gardens they knew in China, and they are telling Lem and his nephews the things they ought to grow.”

“Ask them what they think of the war.”

There was a brief explosion of Chinese words. Two or three of the younger men made laughing replies. Then the old man Lem broke out into a torrent of language which lasted fully a minute.

“Lem says war is foolish. Only vagrants join armies. Only politicians lead armies. Good men buy and sell. Good men buy land and grow vegetables and duck eggs. Like Islington.”

“Ask them if they know how the armies stand at present.”

Another volley of words. Again the old man answered.

“The silly war is a thousand miles from my home. It is ten thousand miles from me. Islington is only six miles.”

As the guide translated, the old man interjected another burst of words.

“And he says,” added the guide, that we should go away, to let them talk about gardens.

More Interested in Goose Eggs

We continued up Elizabeth Street. In a shop, a large gathering was met. The conversation was so animated, there must be some lively subject involved.

But it wasn’t war.

“A man,” said the guide, “has borrowed a hundred dollars from his friend and not paid it back yet.”

“But what’s the excitement?”

“The friends of the friend have cornered the borrower, and are telling him he is no good.”

We looked in. Sitting in a chair was a frozen-faced gentleman staring coldly at space. Around him stood fifteen men, all talking at once.

“Why doesn’t he get up and go? Why doesn’t he call for help?”

“Because he knows he is no good,” replied the guide.

The Chinese are a philosophic race.

We met George Lee, one of the leaders of the Chinese colony.

“War,” said he, makes no difference to the Chinese. It is only the governors that are not lag. The people go ahead with their business. Politics is for the governors. Business is for the people. If there is war in my street, it makes no difference, I will go ahead with business. If there is war in my house, I go ahead. Who can understand these governors? It is only taxes, anyway, they want. Money. I want money. I get it with business. They want money – they fight for it. It’s all the same. It makes no difference. It doesn’t interest me.”

Mr. Sing, editor of the Shing Wah, a graduate in arts and now going up for his Ph.D. at the University of Toronto, says:

“A few local Chinese are interested in the war, because of its political significance. But the vast majority, here and at home, are totally indifferent to the war. Since the coming of republic in 1911, there has been a succession of civil wars in China, between the governors of the twenty-two provinces. The people are totally indifferent to the whole matter.”

On the street we met a procession of three Chinese, one behind the other, each carrying a large tray on which there were a couple of dozen huge goose eggs.

“What’s this?”

A question or two was asked.

A big celebration. Chung Chung T’si is just home from China with a new way of cooking geese eggs in oil.”

Following the three egg-bearers came a laughing, eager crowd of Chinese.

“Wah?” asked our guide. “What wah?”

The Chinese are a philosophic race, and content themselves with matters that are close in and relevant.

Editor’s Notes: There were only a few references in this story that needed to be cleansed of racist language. The Chinese attitude in the article makes perfect sense, as China was in it’s Warlord Era and there was no end in sight.

The Shing Wah Daily News was at one time the largest Chinese newspaper in North America, and published in Toronto between 1922 and 1990.

War — And No Mama!

By Gregory Clark, October 11, 1924.

A boy of three is spared the Great War, even though the house which is his kingdom be filled with martial photographs, volumes in sets relating to every last detail of the mighty conflict, and mantel shelves littered with shell cases, grenades and fragments of Teutonic pomp.

Like the telephone, radio set, electric light and other marvels of this age of which we elders are proud, the little boy accepts the relics of war as accomplished facts, with equanimity. They are of less real and dramatic importance than a small chair turned upside down, or the furnace chains leading down into remote and reverberating regions below, or the chesterfield which under certain intellectual conditions is a ship at sea.

One evening, however, we were left for a time alone in the house. Whenever this occurs, we stick close together, for with the strong protective females absent from the den, they who feed us and bed us down and stand guard over us day and night, a small boy is justified in feeling that the cave is practically defenseless, and his daddy in need of support and counsel.

On the wall stands a vain photograph, taken one fine day by monsieur le photographe in the narrow town of Houdain, of daddy in his trench helmet, trench coat, gas mask at the alert, sheathed pistol to the fore, and gloved hand grasping a great stick.

“Is that Daddy?” asked the boy.

“Aye, aye, sir,” said I.

“Did I sit on your hat agin?”

“No. That’s the sort of hat Daddy wore in those days. Daddy was a soldier.”

“Where is your horn?”

“Oh, Daddy wasn’t that sort of a soldier.”

“Then where is your drum?”

“I had no drum either.”

He knelt on my lap and studied me with pity.

“Only a few soldiers,” I said anxiously, “are privileged to play horns and drums. Most soldiers have to carry guns and big bags and walk forever and forever.”

He examined the photograph on the wall.

“Where is your gun?”

“Well, that little thing there in front, on my belt, is a gun, a little gun. Daddy didn’t have a big gun, like most soldiers.”

Again the boy examined me narrowly. What sort of tale was this? No drum, no horn and only a little gun!

“Are you a soldier?”

“I was; but not now. The army is all broken up.”

“What is the army?”

“The army was all the soldiers and horses and guns and wagons, walking along forever and ever, and standing in the rain and shooting and thunder and snow and walking and walking and standing still.”

“And broken up?”

“Yes. The army was all broken up.”

“The soldiers broken up?” he asked with horror.

“Oh, yes. That too.”

“Was Daddy broken up?”

“Well, no. Daddy got away safely.”

“Did Grandma put Daddy on the shelf?”

“I beg your pardon!” I demanded in astonishment.

“Did Grandma put Daddy up on the shelf so he wouldn’t get broken? With the white soldier and the rooster?”

Ah, I understood. His grandma had rescued, amongst other things, a lead soldier from a great massacre one day and had hidden it upon the plate rail of the dining room.

“No, siree, Grandma was nowhere near. Daddy had to look out for himself. There are no ladies at a war.”

“What is a war?”

“Well-er-war is what soldiers do – fighting and walking and standing still and shooting and thunder and snow and rain….”

“Did Daddy shoot?”

“Well, yes, sometimes.”

“Did you shoot the bell?” (Once, I showed off at Sunnyside for him.)

“No. We shot Germans.”

“What is a German?”

“Well, let me see; It’s a sort of – sort of a thing!”

“Has it horns on?”


“Does it say booooo?”

“Not exactly.”

“Then, why did you shoot it?”

“Well, it was trying to shoot Daddy.”

“Mamma would get after it!”

“But Mother wasn’t there.”

“Did you call for Mama? Wouldn’t she come?”


“And poor Daddy had only a little gun?”

“Yes, but …”

“And no horn”

“I had a …”

“And no dwum?”

“Daddy was a …”

He climbed hurriedly down to the floor.

“Come on!” he exclaimed with concern, “let we sit at the winnow and watch for Mama!”

Which we did. And the subject of the great war was dropped by mutual consent.

Some of the Horses a Farmer’s Wife Has Met in 17 Years

August 9, 1924

This illustration went with a story by Nina Moore Jamieson.

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

May 31, 1924

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