The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Tag: 1925

The Light of Other Days Shines on The Dumbells

By Greg Clark, June 6, 1925

It was a full house.

The curtain was up. The theatre was filled with the music of a clever orchestra. It was a performance of the “Dumbells,” in their sixty-second week in Toronto.

A smartly-dressed chorus came out and then Marjorie appeared, long, lissome, with the old

remembered stride, so queenly, so graceful. And all of a sudden the scene faded. The solid walls of the Royal Alexandra melted away. The strains to orchestra grew fainter, fainter.

And by all that is queer we were all at once in a dirty old grey marquee, its side walls drooping sadly, and tall poles staggering into the gloom above, and a stage before us lighted with oil lamps shaded with home-made tin reflectors.

We were in the midst of a strange audience. It smelt strongly of wool and sweat and tobacco. It was bent forward tensely on its benches. It made not a sound.

Yet on this little ill-lighted stage before us, as on that Royal Alex stage which had so mysteriously disappeared a moment ago, on this narrow, shallow stage, there stood Marjorie!

In the shadows of one corner of the stage was a piano, and the pianist’s back was to us. A candle in a whiskey bottle gave light to his fingers.

What was he playing? “Hello, My Dearie!”

And there was Marjorie, swaying and leaning towards us, singing,

“… I’m lonesome for you;

I want you near me –

 Yes, honest, I do…”

Not as gorgeous a Marjorie as we had a moment before on the stage that faded. Not such stylish clothes. Not so lighted up with footlights to show the delicate blossom on her cheeks and the lovely red bow of her lips. A big picture hat, a pink dress to set off her blonde beauty. And a parasol.

But a lovelier Marjorie than the one that the Royal Alexandra had been showing. Look how this audience cats her up, drinks her in! Did ever an artist have such an audience? Pipes and cigarets are held suspended. Heads are hunched forward. Eyes stare hungrily at this vision in the half light. She sings to the end in a clear soprano with a delicious break in it. She backs bowing to the burlap wings. The grey old tent trembles and bellies to the tumult of applause that crashes out. The khaki audience yells and claps and whistles and stands up.

Beauty They Craved For

The soldier at the piano strikes a chord. Strikes it again for silence. And from the wings steps jaunty Al Plunkett, wearing an opera hat and a stylish mackintosh. He is the picture of civil elegance. Ah, how sweet to the byes of men doomed forever, it seems to sweating brown wool! Al is smiling his ineffable smile. He twirls his cane at us. He raises his voice in an odd, laughing, suggestive tone and commences his song, “The Wild, Wild Women.”

The audience in lilting and chuckling with him on their benches of hard, narrow wood. The chuckle in Al’s voice increases. The words of the song have the boys leaning forward and nudging their neighbors.

” … ferocious women,

Are making a wild man of me!”

The troops shout and laugh. “Encore! Encore!” Al obliges. Ho sing the last verse and the chorus. He is more elegant and urbane than ever. He is the spirit of all that is free and Independent, and never a bugle nor voice can make a difference in his life, this dark, opera-coated swell.

A brass band hunched down under the front of the tiny little creaky stage plays an entr’acte and the audience lights up and smokes and chatters. Out in the night, far, far away, sounds the bumble and mutter of the distant guns. But in this marquee, the “Dumbells” are making pretense, for a regiment down from the line for a few days, that there is no war, that there is a world of reality, full of beautiful, attractive women and dark, alluring men in high hats, somewhere only around the corner. And the audience talks loud and laughs for fear they might not believe that that far rumble is only the traffic of the streets.

Marjorie comes on again. Amid a riotous cheer. Who could believe that the hard integuments of Ross Hamilton are concealed under those fair garments? Marjorie is not a female impersonator in this old marquee. She is a very real and very great artist. An artist depends so much on his environment, on his locale. Well, this Marjorie, I assure you, this Marjorie, posing and swaying before the starved eyes of a thousand soldiers who have seen nothing beautiful, but only mud and destruction and death for months on end – this tall, beautiful girl parading before them in the lamplight, is a very true artist indeed. For she is touching those nerves in the spirits of men which only artists can touch. She is making them live outside themselves. They are not amused by a female impersonator. They are looking at a beautiful girl with eyes that have seen no beauty in many day.

“Songs My Mother Sang”

Marjorie departs amidst a tumult. A singer whose name we have forgotten, which is a deep shame, comes forth clad in a quaint old-fashioned costume, with a tall wand, and sings for us “The Cornish Floral Dance.” A delicate, fine, artistic song, but the brown, tangled audience drinks it in. It is beautifully rendered. And the hard-boiled audience knows it. They demand an encore. With greater fervor, the fine baritone pictures again the little street and the dancing figures that kiss as they dance along.

Lay figures come out from the drab wings of the stage and set up a sentry box and a brazier. It is not a fake brazier, a stage effect. It is a real brazier, And the coke in it stinks through the marquee. And Al Plunkett, not in his stage clothes, but in his real, everyday clothes, his khaki uniform, comes out in the gloom, with only the brazier fire glowing on his downcast face, and he brings that big marquee full of soldiers to tears. For he sings a sad song: “The Songs My Mother Sang To Me.”

You may have heard sad songs in your life and shed furtive tears. But Al Plunkett, in his homely uniform, bent lonely over that brazier in so familiar an attitude, with his mobile voice breaking pathetically as he hums such old sweet songs as all our mothers sang – the songs of the southland, Alice Ben Bolt, the lullabies, the baby songs – oh, soldiers in the gloom, so still, so still, what Mills bombs are these stuck in your throats, what unmanly wet is this smearing your cheeks, while Al Plunkett wrings your heart to shreds with his tender and crooning voice?

These were mighty artists, I tell you, who could fill a night with such tears and such laughter. For there is a black face comedian, and Mert Plunkett, Captain Plunkett, the stout manager of all this fun in a dirty old tent out in some turnip field of Flanders, Captain Plunkett is the interlocutor of the black men. Then there is an orderly room scene in which ridiculous officers strut and comic lead-swingers cringe in cartoon of the real thing this audience will be facing on the morrow. The pianist with the candle in the bottle shows what he can do besides accompany. He plays a bit of Chopin and the latest hit from London. The fine baritone sings “Roses Are Shining in Picardy,” and here we are in Picardy, and such roses as shine are red, red.

The grand finale: Marjorie and Al, a chorus of girls and men, and that was the “Dumbells” as they were in the beginning, away back in grey, dirty old villages of northern France, before they had the money or the artists of other concert parties to make up the show of today. A night full of tears and laughter, of dim lights and such incense as a soldier can send up to his high gods.

They were all great artists those days. They will have to toil hard ever to be a great again.


Editor’s Notes: The “Dumbells” were a vaudeville group formed by soldiers during the first World War. Since it was made up of soldiers, all female roles had to be played by men in drag. They were extremely popular, and launched a Canadian show-business phenomenon that was to last through 12 cross-Canada tours until 1932. As indicated in the article, they engaged in standard vaudeville acts of skits, comedy, singing, and dancing, which also included minstrel black-face acts since those were still acceptable in the early 20th century. Their popularity could also be the result of nostalgia on the part of old soldiers, such as Greg. Their act fizzled out as people grew tired of old war acts, the advent of “talkies” (movies with sound), and the Depression.

The Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto was built in 1907, and still exists today.

From Our Special Representative at Birdseye Center

April 4, 1925

This is one of the earliest appearances of “Pig-Skin” Peters, and during the transition from “Life’s Little Comedies” to “Birdseye Center”. The next week’s comic would be the first time the title would change.

Why Do Golfers Hold Post Mortems?

April 4, 1925

Jim illustrated this article by George Roden. A “Mashie” was a type of golf club still in use at the time, similar to a modern 5 Iron. The Thompson Brothers were five brothers from a family of golfers who all came from the Toronto Golf Club. They all would have been playing at the time of this article.

Hurrying Up

By Greg Clark, December 12, 1925

How many years make a man?

The climb from four years to twenty is long. To a very little boy, when he first thinks of it, it wears the incomprehensibility of infinity.

He goes to bed at night four years, two months and two days old. He wakes the next morning, twelve hours older. It’s tedious.

“When do I get to be a man, dad?” he asks me.

“Well, it is quite a process. First you are a little boy, then you are a little bigger boy, then you are a little bigger, and so on. Presently you go to school…”

“But if I wear my cowboy hat,” he interrupts, “am I a man.”

“No. It is a matter of time, of days, months and years.”

“If I take my medicine, am I a man?”

“Oh, I see? Yes, son, there is more to being a man than years. I see your point.”

“Well, if I have my cowboy hat on and take my medicine, then I’m a man.”

“You’re getting hotter.”

“Anyway,” he says, pressing in earnestly, “if I fall and don’t cry, and I have my cowboy hat on and took my medicine before that, then I am a man?”

“You want to be a man? Don’t you?”

“Yes. Then I can be with you.”

It is statements like this that so often cause daddies to pick up their papers, inexplicably, and retreat to their dens. It seems as if you can’t show daddies your love.

I retreated. Still stinging from that little barb of love. I pretended to myself to be reading. Suddenly the silence downstairs was burst by a crash and a thump. I stepped to the stair-head. The boy, somewhat bent, was staring up with a rueful expression, his cowboy hat cocked over one eye.

“I fell off my bicycle,” he said in a small voice, “and I didn’t cry.”

“Good man!” I said, and returned to my paper.

A moment later, there was another crash and thud downstairs, followed by silence, then the voice, more confident, floated up:

“Dad, I fell off again and I didn’t cry!”

“Be careful, young fellow.”

Hardly had I found my place when there came up another crash, more terrifying than the last. I went to the stairs. He was coming up to me, hurriedly, and holding one knee.

“I fell off again,” he said, climbing, “and I hurt myself and I didn’t cry.”

“But what’s the idea?” I demanded.

“Daddie, you didn’t say ‘good man’.”

“Good man! But you mustn’t tumble about like that.”

He took my hand and followed me to the den, where he climbed aboard me in my chair.

There was almost a swagger in his manner now, his cowboy hat awry.

“If I fall and don’t cry,” he said. “I am a good man, aren’t I?”

“Indeed you are.”

“If I fall all the time and don’t cry, then I will hurry up, won’t I?”

“Hurry up?”

“Hurry up to get to be a man,” he said. “So I will fall a lot of times and soon I’ll be a man?”

We stared long at each other’s colored eyes, shiny eyes.

“Dad,” he whispered presently, “rub my poor knee.”


Canada’s Reds Come Out in the Open

By Greg Clark, October 3, 1925

Their Headquarters Are in a Nice, Busy Toronto Office Right Next to Toronto’s Super-Loyal Albany Club – 4,200 Communists and Every One a Missionary for Revolution

The Communist or Red headquarters of Canada are next door to the Albany Club on King street east, Toronto, just where the shadows of big business fall about four o’clock in the afternoon.

Three stops up on a nice shiny brass elevator, in modern offices, sit the four men who direct what you might call the present destinies of Lenin’s bolshevik world campaign in Canada.

Only a thin wall separates them from the Albany Club, the stronghold of the established order of things.

At noon, before lunch, the Albany Club stands up and sings “God Save the King.” The lusty voices of elderly gentlemen float out of windows and through walls.

It is the customary ceremony in the bolshevik headquarters of Canada for the comrades who happen to be present at this moment all to sit down, except one, who, nearest the window, rises to his feet and emphatically shuts the window.

And on the wall hangs a large bronze medallion, at least a foot across, of the late Comrade Lenin.

Did you imagine, as I did, that Communists had headquarters, if any, down in some dark and moldy cellar?

Did you picture the Communists as underfed, undershaven cartoons of humanity who came out in the dark and emitted half-intelligible sounds from soap boxes to small handfuls of drifters in out-of-the-way corners of the downtown district?

The fact is, the offices of the Communists on King street, not a whole block from King and Yonge, is a busy, up-to-date office, typewriters clicking, girls filing and taking dictation, telephone ringing.

The Communists in these offices have no whiskers. None of the four national leaders has even a mustache.

And in the last street meeting they held, on James street, last Sunday night, between the city hall and Eaton’s, over nine hundred men jammed together in the mysterious gloom of the downtown night to listen to Reds preaching the Red doctrine.

We like to be up-to-date. In view of mysterious going on in England, it seems worthwhile to find out just who, what and where the Communists are in Canada.

Morris Spector is chairman and titular head of the Communist Party of Canada. The Communist party is openly and avowedly allied with the Communists of Russia. Their platform is the platform of Lenin, holus bolus: the dictatorship of the proletariat.

What Four Leaders Say

Jack MacDonald, for long years well-known in Labor circles in Toronto, is secretary of the party. Tim Buck, editor of the party’s propaganda, and William Moriarty are the other two big figures in the national headquarters.

And every one of them has been to Russia.

Moriarty is just home from attending the annual Red congress in Moscow. Tim Buck was there last year. Jack Macdonald and Spector were there the year before.

They are in regular official and unofficial correspondence with Moscow. They report and get reports.

These four men, all well known in Toronto Labor circles, sat down with all frankness to give any information we wanted.

“How many Communists are there in Canada right now?” we asked.

“The Communist party has about 4,200 members, active, paid up,” replied Tim Buck.

“And how many sympathizers has the party in the whole dominion?”

“It would be hard to say. We prefer to deal in realities. We have 4,200 members in good standing. That’s a fact we know. We might have 30,000 sympathizers. There are indications that we have a great many more.”

“What indications?”

“At the trades congress of Canada held in London, Ontario, last year, which is the annual official gathering of the delegates of all the labor unions of the dominion, I,” said Tim Buck, “ran for the office of president. I have been a Communist for years. I stood up and made my address to these representatives of Labor as a Red. I received forty-four votes out of two hundred from these accredited delegates of organized labor in Canada.”

“Where is your party’s greatest strength?” we asked.

“Amongst the miners of Nova Scotia and the miners of Alberta.”

“Are the miners Canadians or foreigners?”

“In Nova Scotia they are wholly Canadian born. In Alberta they are very largely foreign born.”

“Where else is your strength?”

“Wherever there is discontent,” replied Jack Macdonald. “In every city we have a few. Amongst the farmers of the west we not only have had members for two or three years, but now we have organized locals of our party. The Communist faith is spreading. But please note that we make no vast claims of membership. It is not easy to be a member of the Communist party of Canada. It is hard unless a man will undertake to work actively for the party we will not accept him. By working for the party we mean he must be a Communist at his work bench, in his shop, in his union, submit to the discipline of the party, act and speak at all times in favor of the communist cause. We have no parlor Reds in our party.”

Strong For Revolution

So there are the facts. A small party, widely scattered, strongest where there is discontent, including miners, farmers and factory workers. They publish a weekly paper, “The Worker,” which has 14,000 circulation. They have members in every union in the Dominion.

“And what is the nationality of the majority of your membership?”

“British, by very large majority,” says Morris Spector, president of the Reds.

In a nut-shell what is the Red program for Canada? They say dictatorship of the proletariat. That phrase has a dull thudding sound. It has no flash of meaning. What it means is the absolute control of industry by the worker in that industry. No more profits, interest, rents. No more investment. Nothing but work, and all rewards in proportion to work.

“How about revolution?” we asked, somewhat derisively, looking at a German poster on the wall, showing the Red worker carrying a red torch and driving fat capitalists before him.

“Revolution, absolutely,” said Tim Buck and Jack Macdonald, with genial smiles.

“You don’t mean to say,” we exclaimed, “that there could be actual revolution in Canada, this country!”

“The Communist Party will never succeed,” they replied simply, “without revolution.”

“It’s unthinkable,” we said.

“Yes, and it is unthinkable that the government of Canada called out its regular forces to squelch the miners in Nova Scotia,” they retorted. “The miners of Nova Scotia said to themselves. ‘Why, it is inconceivable that the government of this country would bring out its army against free citizens of Canada.’ But they did.”

“Yes, but revolution….!”

“The whole present system is based on force. Quite frankly, if the workers of Canada tried to take away the means of production from those who possess them now, they would unquestionably use armed forces to defend their property. Well, wouldn’t that mean revolution, in the simplest, oldest meaning of the term.”

It is rather ghastly to sit talking to four good, plain fellows who sincerely believe in and are devoting their lives to a political theory that has at the end of it – blood.

They have no faith in evolution. They swear the evolution of the last half dozen years in human affairs is only the reflex of direct revolution in Russia.

“What Britain gets, we get in Canada,” says Spector. “If Britain has a revolution, we shall be the first to follow it.”

What would happen in Canada if the Reds won their way with their revolution?

The country would be governed exactly as Russia is governed by soviets. Each industry would be run by committees of its workers. Only workers would be permitted to sit on councils to govern cities, provinces or the dominion as a whole. Parliamentary government would be cast overboard, lock, stock and barrel.

“But would not absolute dictatorship by the workers be as unfair as absolute dictatorship by any other class?” we asked.

“Think it over,” replied Morris Spector.

Not Making Any Bombs

Right now, the Communist party is asserting certain policies with considerable success right in the strongholds of organized labor.

They want the railways all nationalized and merged. They insist that armed forces be not used against unarmed people.

And here is the most spectacular item: the Reds, whose fundamental belief is revolution, are against war. At the Trades Congress held two years ago at Vancouver, the Communists in the ranks of Labor brought forward a resolution that in the event of war being declared the congress would immediately call a general strike in every Industry throughout the dominion.

Canadian organized labor did not adopt this resolution. But they did adopt an amendment:

That in the event of war being declared, a special session of the Canadian Trades and Labor Congress would be called automatically, for the purpose of considering a general strike!

Forty-two hundred avowed Communists, mostly miners in remote sections of Canada, are after all only a trifle in the weight of political power in this country. But they are agitators. To be a member of the party, you have to undertake to be in agitator. Not every Liberal or Conservative is a worker for his party. The 4,200 Communists have to be.

In addition to keeping close personal touch with Russia the Canadian Communists are sending, this winter, Stewart Smith, a young man in his teens who is editor of their Young Communist League propaganda, to Moscow to attend the University there for a year and a half. He will receive an all round education in Communism.

“Do you receive any funds from Russia?”

The red quartet grinned.

“We only wish we did. We hope we do some day. One of the disadvantages of being a worker is that one has little money.”

Dangerous or not, Canada’s Reds are out in the open. Their meetings are street meetings. They apparently have nothing to hide. The Idea that they meet in damp cellars and manufacture bombs while spouting grim and desperate gospels is erroneous. They aren’t making any bombs. They expect to take over the stores of bombs already in existence when their time comes.

A “fascist” movement has begun to develop against them in Toronto. Semi-organized bands of hecklers and disturbers are in evidence at their street meetings. They meet with vigorous opposition from the “right” wing of organized labor, the strongest wing. At the last congress, 1925, Tim Buck again ran for president of the congress and received only 29 votes, against 44 the year before.

A year ago, you had to walk up two flights of rickety stairs to get at the Communists, when they had their quarters on Queen street.

Now you go up in an elevator.

What the significance of this is might be debated.


Editor’s Notes: This article was written during the first “Red Scare” after the Russian Bolshevik Revolution. The expansion of Communist parties across the world saw the Russian Revolution as a sign of things to come in other countries. Organized labour was treated suspiciously. This article also was written a year after the death of Lenin.

The Albany Club still exists. So does the Communist Party of Canada. Maurice Spector, Jack MacDonald, and William Moriarty were all prominent communists of their day. The most famous was Tim Buck, who became leader in 1929 until 1962. He was arrested several times and imprisoned. He was exiled from Canada for supporting the Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939, but was allowed to return to Canada after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, after Communists around the world did an about-face and then strongly supported the Allies in World War Two.

Canada – Up in the Air

By Greg Clark, September 19, 1925

Quietly, Canada Is Developing Commercial Flying On a Big Basis – Some of These Days Spectacular Things Will Be Done in The Dominion Air – Already Much Work Is Done of Which The Public Knows Nothing – The Intricate Building of Air Machines

One officer of the Royal Canadian Air Force perched out on the nose of a flying boat behind a big aero camera surveyed in six weeks 15,000 square miles of unexplored Canada.

A single survey party would have taken twenty years to complete the same map.

The past two years, Canada’s permanent air force, working with the Dominion Topographical Survey, have mapped in the neighborhood of a hundred thousand square miles of Canada’s last wilderness. Next year plans are laid to map another hundred thousand.

Hitting a hundred miles an hour pilots of the R. C. A. F. patrol the fisheries of the Pacific coast, guarding hundreds of miles of closed ground against poachers, checking fishery licenses and marking smugglers.

It would take ten patrol boats, fifteen-mile-an-hour craft, with crews, to cover the same ground. And at that more than half the offenders would escape.

The dominion government still retains possession of vast forests in British Columbia, Alberta, northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Hundreds of miles remote from railways, these untouched treasures are patrolled by officers of Canada’s active air force. Armies of rangers could not do it.

Because the cities do not see aeroplanes except as entertainment during fairs and exhibitions, the larger part of Canada is unaware of the fact that the dominion, which contributed so large a proportion of British fliers in the war and which possesses in Bishop the champion air duelist of all the armies in the war, is still one of the leading nations in the world in the matter of active aviation.

“Canada,” states an Englishman now visiting the country for the purpose of investigating aircraft possibilities, “has every qualification to be the foremost flying nation on earth in the course of time. She has long distances between her major centres of population. She has, I find, a continuous water-course for flying boats from the Atlantic to the Pacific, which is of enormous importance. The United States lacks this feature. And Canada has uncounted resources in timber, minerals and fisheries that will require to be guarded, explored and made available by aircraft.

“Fortunately, Canada has thousands of ex-airmen amongst her population who, as they grow older and into positions of greater weight in the business world, will accelerate the general recognition that aircraft is the economical and logical solution of a number of Canada’s problems.”

Had flying boats made their extraordinary photographic maps forty years ago literally hundreds of millions of dollars would have been saved the nation in the building of railroads alone, for the selection of routes in those days depended upon survey parties on foot ranging the vast wildernesses like needles thrust through haystacks.

Possibilities of Near Future

One of Canada’s great banks has been investigating the matter of employing aeroplanes for carrying its officials and inspectors between principal cities, such as Toronto and Montreal, Winnipeg and the western fan of cities.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police has been in correspondence with the Royal Canadian Air Force with regard to co-operation, so that some of the vast patrols of the north country may be handled by air, in return for which the police would mush gasoline into remote bases in the winter.

The Hudson’s Bay Company has investigated the matter of flying boats for its inspecting officers in almost inaccessible regions of the north.

A half dozen of Canada’s wealthiest men have made enquiries of the cost of flying boats for their personal use. The cheapest small two-passenger flying boat costs $10,000 made in Canada. In Toronto alone are hundreds of motor cars which cost over $6,000.

These are indications that Canada is on the edge of great expansion in the use of aircraft. And the development of a flying boat specially adapted to Canadian needs is now under way.

There is only one firm manufacturing aircraft in Canada to-day, and that is the Canadian Vickers Company at Montreal. This is the Canadian branch of the famous British firm of shipbuilders, gunmakers, steel manufacturers and aircraft builders. Their huge plant in Montreal is also devoted to all these branches of manufacture. It is significant that their aircraft branch is one of the most active of their departments and is exceeded only by their structural steel works.

In the past two years Vickers have turned out twenty-four flying machines for the Royal Canadian Air Force. The most interesting of these twenty-four machines are the Vedette and the new Varuna, which are the new type of flying boat especially designed for Canada’s needs.

The Royal Canadian Air Force experts cooperated with Mr. W. T. Reid, an engineer whose specialty is aircraft design, formerly with the famous Bristol aircraft works, who was sent out by Vickers in England to meet the problem of Canada’s special needs.

The Vedette is a three-passenger flying boat with a five hour range of flight built to serve as a forest patrol or survey machine.

The new thing about it, the feature that makes it Canadian, is its power of swift and steep climb. The countless lakes which make simple the question of flying over Canada are usually timbered to the shore. To get into them is easy. To get out of them is the problem the Vedette was designed to solve. The Vedette, a tough, sturdy boat, whose long, elegant hull might have been actually modeled on the lines of a speckled trout, can hoick up into the wind in an astonishingly short run.

The Varuna is simply a larger Vedette. It will carry seven passengers, or, with three passengers, will support a large cargo of fire fighting equipment, including engine and hose, picks and shovels, or, with a cargo of fuel, has a flying range of five hours.

The Varuna is Canada’s design for combating forest fire. Her hull, made not of mahogany as aircraft are by tradition, but of Canadian cedar, copper-fastened like a Canadian canoe, is 35 feet long, and her top wing has a spread of 53 feet. She, too, is built on tight and sturdy lines, with a pair of powerful pusher engines, to shoot her steeply into the air.

“In her design,” said Mr. Reid, her designer, “we have of course included all the best principles of past experience, but we have added some features that are distinctly new. The design has proved a distinct success.”

Canada’s Will Be Water Force

Thus, while the United States goes forward with the development of fast mail planes of the land type, Canada’s air force is likely to be distinguished as a naval air force.

You have seen a small boy whittling sticks to make a kite. They make an aeroplane the same way: a lot of sticks, some glue and cloth, and there you are – an aeroplane.

The solid appearance of an aeroplane is most deceiving. In the Vickers works in Montreal you get an idea of the extreme delicacy and frailty of these engines that must ride on air.

The making of an aeroplane is probably the most delicate piece of scientific manufacture in the whole world. Watch-making and fine jewelry is not to be compared with it.

“An aeroplane,” says an engineer in the Vickers plant, “is ninety-eight parts figuring on paper, one part engine and one part wood, wire and canvas.”

The designing engineers, men experienced in one of the least known sciences, get to work with pencil and paper and make the design of the shape of the machine, all the delicate curves, stresses, pressures and so forth, which are in the realm of the remotest mathematics. Then they translate this design into terms of materials, to stand these tremendous pressures and weights. To the last delicate stitch in the fabric these written plans are complete.

Then they make a model of the machine. These models would delight the heart and soul of boydom. They are made with infinite care, to be a perfect boy size replica of the finished machine, in weights and proportions exact. The model is then submitted to tests in water channels, to test its exact resistance and buoyancy in water. Then it is tested in the wind tunnel at the University of Toronto, to see that Its curves offer the very minimum of resistance to air. Back of these engineers playing with the toy, of course, is all the experience of all the nations in the manufacture of thousands upon thousands of life-and-death aeroplanes in the great war.

We saw the Varuna being built at Montreal. She will weigh with her engines nearly three tons, and she will carry more than a ton besides. Yet she was being laid together as delicately as a watch, and as frailly as a kite.

Her hull, to hold those engines and that cargo over the skies, is made of three-sixteenth inch cedar laid on elm ribs. One layer of fabric – a sort of very high grade light canvas – is glued over this hull that is lighter in build than a little canoe.

The wings – those wide, spreading, substantial-looking pinions – are nothing but kites. A couple of light spruce beams, scooped out to the shape of a steel I-beam, are the main supports of the wing. Two hollow steel tubes act as the short cross beams. The rest of the wing consists of an infinite number of sticks. Little spruce sticks of the sort a child’s toy is made of.

This is the wing that has to stand the strain of a weight of four tons borne through the air at a speed of a hundred miles an hour.

Amongst the workmen of the Vickers aircraft plant walked an officer of the R. C. A. F. He is an inspector. Every stick, every brad that goes into the machine is first inspected by him. Every small rib of spruce is weighed – actually weighed – in the presence of this officer. Each assembled section bears his stamp. Each wire – its breaking point 2,000 pounds, though it is no wider than a lead pencil and no thicker than a table knife – each joint, is fitted under this officer’s eye and marked by him. Here you begin to see the infinite care and pains taken in the building of an aeroplane so that, be it built of sticks and cloth, it will stand the tremendous buffeting of air, land or water.

Stern Test for Machines

And the finished Vedette without its engine costs $15,000. The engine runs all the way from $2,000 to $7,000 more, in the finished machine, there is probably not a hundred dollars’ worth of raw material, wood, wire and cloth. The huge expense is in the designing and the making.

Over the trail framework of the wing is sewn one thickness of fabric. It then receives a number of coats of a celluloid compound or “dope.” This stiffens and reinforces the fabric.

R. C. A. F. officers come and test each machine when it is assembled. They give it a stern test. It has to take them into perilous and remote wildernesses. Every part of the machine, except the engine, is made in Vickers. The propellers, the metal parts, the wooden trifles lighter than lend pencils, are all manufactured under inspection, in rooms kept at strict temperatures and stricter moisture content.

The Pacific stations of the Royal Canadian Air Force and the forestry stations at High River, Alberta, have got most of the new machines so far. Camp Borden has mostly training machines for cadets of the RCAF.

On the permanent air force Canada has sixty officers and three hundred and seventy men. This number includes not only fliers but all the headquarters and base details, riggers and mechanics employed at the air stations of the dominion, Vancouver, High River, Winnipeg, Camp Borden, Ottawa and Dartmouth, N. S.

The number of flying machines in the service cannot be announced by the ministry because it is secret and confidential, but besides the machines in actual use on patrols for the different departments of the government, there are a large number of war machines in storage that have never been flown.

Last year, the force did over 2,000 hours of flying, the largest single item of that being 750 hours in forestry protection, the next, 681 in cadet training and 268 hours in survey and photography,

Naturally, the survey work is the one that is showing most promisingly. For photographic survey from the air is the greatest advance in engineering in recent times. The machine simply flies in a series of straight parallel lines, shooting vertical downward pictures at a known height as it goes. These photos are then taken by experts, who join them together to scale. And there is a perfect map, showing everything in detail, every watercourse, every lake, every forest and outcrop of rock-everything but ground levels. These are obtained roughly by the fliers landing on lakes at different points and taking levels. By this method, regions that are practically inaccessible are easily mapped at a rate that has advanced the knowledge of Canada’s wilderness twenty years. The experts, of course, can read these photographic maps so skillfully that they can tell the type of trees in the forests shown.

The R. C. A. F. proposes to photograph a hundred thousand square miles of northern Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan the coming season. The winter will be spent getting gasoline bases established on lakes scattered through the country they are going to map.

This activity in the air is quite aside from Ontario’s own forestry protection and survey air force that has flown an equal sum of hours exclusively in Ontario. Quebec is doing a little in forestry aviation, but has not yet taken it up on a serious scale.

Canada has its factory. Its permanent military air force, at least a thousand men engaged in the flying enterprise, and perhaps ten thousand young men qualified fliers – who still fly in their dreams.

Flying is on a practical going basis in the dominion, with a bright outlook.


Editor’s Notes: When he mentions Bishop, he means, Billy Bishop, Canada’s most famous flier from the First World War. No first name would be needed as everyone would know who he is writing about.

Canadian Vickers existed from 1911 to 1944 when the airpalne business was taken over by Canadair. Different ownership over the years has culminated in Bombardier today.

More information on the Vedette and Varuna are available through the links.

Wilfrid T. Reid was a famous airplane designer and engineer.

The Big Show

September 5, 1925

It was a regular occurrence for subjects to be about the Canadian National Exhibition as it is held around this time of year.

For Expectant Fathers

By Greg Clark, May 9, 1925

The Toronto General Hospital is supposed to be up-to-date.

But it isn’t. It has not got a cinder track for expectant fathers.

Except for a sort of sitting room on the extreme north or polar extremity of the fourth floor (Baby Department) of the private pavilion, it has no accommodation whatever for the party of the second part during that mysterious and heart-searching adventure into the past and the future in quest of a baby.

“Where shall I – where could – might I – er – ahh!” gasps a scared young man who wanders in a lost and forsaken manner in the busy corridor of the fourth floor.

“Go sit in that sitting room down there,” says a bright and vivid nurse, whisking by.

It seems miles away from the centre of activities, which is a room with a stern door through which, a moment before, he saw wheeled nine tenths of the known world (who probably, waved a hasty hand to him!).

But with the determination Napoleon must have felt when he marched them up the hill and marched them down again, our young man starts out on the journey to that sitting room at the far and lonely end of the fourth floor. The color of the curtains, tables, rugs, in that little sitting room must be graven on the memories of countless hundreds of Toronto papas.

If he is extremely lucky, he will find nobody else sitting there. If he is unlucky, he will discover one or even two other expectant fathers already trying to sit still in the roomy wicker chairs. All will be doing their best to appear calm. One will try to pretend he is a doctor, just merely taking a well-earned rest. Another will have a sad look on his face, as if he were grieving for his great-grandmother who is at this moment undergoing a serious operation. He doesn’t know what everybody else knows that any gentleman sitting around the fourth floor doing nothing with the best air he can summon up, is nothing more nor less than the party of the second part feeling like thirty cents in Ukrainian money.

They haven’t even a few magazines lying about that sitting room to give a fellow a chance to hide his face. No: you have to sit there in an upright position and face the world. And the world seems to be staring you bung in the eye and saying: “Well, you big, fat, pampered, unworthy, helpless son of a gun!”

Scheme For Cinder Track

You can always tell whether it is the first experience or the second. Only the first and second experiences bring the men out. From then on, father just telephones from the office to hear how things are going.

If it is a first experience, he keeps jumping up and walking with an air of purpose up the hall, stopping all the nurses – who don’t know him from Adam nor his troubles – or descending hurriedly into the courtyard of the hospital to smoke an agitated cigaret. There are more millionaire-size cigaret butts scattered around the courtyard of the General Hospital than anywhere else in the city. The expectant fathers are responsible.

Some days there are as many as three, four and five of the poor fellows milling about the sitting room, corridor and courtyard all at the same time. This has caused the nurses to work out a scheme for a cinder track to be laid all around the hospital for the use of expectant fathers. A locker room, fitting up with free sets of running shorts and jerseys, in which the papas could dress for the chase is one requisite. They could then be sent out to run round and round the hospital, to give them something to do. The head nurse of the floor could call out the window, reporting progress, and call the winners in to receive their prizes in due course.

Another improvement that is really needed Is a peep hole — with sanitary precautions of course, — into the nursery. On the door of the sanctum where the babies dwell is a sign which reads: “Babies must not ever be shown between feeding times.”

At two, six, ten and two, around the clock, there is a sudden scurrying and scattering on the fourth floor, as the nurses raid the nursery and carry the babies about to their respective mothers. The air is filled with babies. That is the time to be on the fourth floor. But unless you are there, you don’t see a baby, not even your own. A father may demand to see his firstborn son and heir. But a pretty little nurse, about five feet high, will simply smile at the towering and majestic male, father of a son, and shake her head until her frail cap works loose. Feeding time only.

Now, if they only had a nice little peep hole in the wall like that hole in the theatre curtain through which the actors count up the house, the fathers could take turns peeping in.

It is a pretty suggestion. It is respectfully called to the notice of the directorate.


Editor’s Notes: This is from a time when men were expected to sit in waiting rooms while their wives gave birth.

A race tracks used to be composed of cinders. Synthetic tracks emerged in the late 1960s. The 1964 Olympics were the last to use a cinder track.

Cigarettes were still sometimes spelled “cigarets” in the early 20th century.

The illustrations for this little side story were drawn by Jim.

The Birdseye Center Bulletin

February 28, 1925

The child is probably spreading ashes, a common way to reduce icy conditions back then. Everyone had ashes since coal or wood was used in furnaces.

Crossword puzzles were a huge fad in 1924-25.

Ontario had reformed it’s prohibition laws in a 1924 referendum, which allowed for increased alcohol content. The proprietor wants to get rid of the old 2.5% alcohol beer first.

The United Church of Canada was created in 1924-25 as a union of the Methodists, Presbyterian and Congregational churches. These church goers seem uncertain about going to a new church.

Also note that while this is still called “Life’s Little Comedies”, the “Birdseye Center” name appears.

Why Not Skirts for Men?

By Greg Clark, February 14, 1925

How soon will men adopt skirts?

The wearing of breeches by girls and women has now become so general that the companion phenomenon may be expected at any moment.

High Park on a Saturday afternoon discloses twenty-five girls in breeks to one in skirts. The fashion so far is restricted to outdoor sports. You do not see the breeks on the daily tea hour parade on Yonge street. But they have come downtown. Toboggan parties, at the end of the night’s sport, are beginning to motor down to the cafes for a break-up luncheon.

Now, who is to be the pioneer in the matter of adapting the skirt to the male costume?

Two half-way measures have been attempted in the past two years. Last year, the very long-tailed coat was worn by some of the younger follows who have no other claim to distinction but their clothes. This coat tail was a sort of curtailed skirt. Then this year the extremely wide-flared trousers has made a move in the direction of a skirt. If you half close your eyes and take into consideration the long, slick hair of the gentleman, you can almost imagine that he is a lady, with his feet nearly obscured by the wealth of dress goods around them.

Still, these are only half measures. A skirt is a skirt, and to checkmate the ladies, who have stepped right into breeks, the men will have to step right into skirts. Stout ladies have no difficulty with breeks, but slim ones are known to have even adopted police suspenders.

A skirt anyway is a noble garment. It has a much longer history than trousers. Up until quite recent times, we all wore skirts. The Scotsman wears them still, and the Serb. The evolution from skirts to pants was via the socks. Under his long cassock skirt a man wore a little pair of tight pants called doublet, so that when he got into a fight, as he usually did at every cross roads, he could skin the cat out of his skirt and prance ready in his doublet and hose.

Then men got so really warlike that they carried the cassocks as a cloak and went about regularly in the little tights and long, thick stockings. It was only a short step into trousers.

But it is no longer necessary for a man to fight his way down to the grocer’s. Men have even come to leaving their clubs and walking sticks at home. A new era of peace has dawned. There is nothing to prevent men going back to the skirt or cassock.

And how much more comfortable that is than trousers any man who spends his Sunday in his dressing gown can tell. It is really very doubtful if the girls will adopt breeches as a regular mode of dress. They have little to recommend them. Breeches are hot, tight and unhandy. They expose the various deficiencies and enormities of construction, such as bow legs and knock knees. There are hundreds of girls who dare not wear breeks. There are thousands of men who really ought to wear skirts.

How warm in winter to wrap a heavy mackinaw blanket skirt around your legs, boys! And how sweet in summer to stride along in a filmy creation of dimity!

No pressing and creasing, no bursting through the knees.

And, with all concealed beneath the ample flow of a toga, a dignity for those whom nature copied off a forked radish.


Editor’s Notes: This article is obviously tongue-in-cheek. Though women had worn pants or trousers for certain activities for decades, it would still be uncommon in 1925 to women on the street wearing them for everyday wear. Breeks are a type of britches that go just below the knee and worn with high socks.

This story is listed in the newspaper as being by “G.C.” This was not uncommon for some  articles at the time. I’m not sure the reason, as it hardly saves space. In Greg’s biography, it is indicated that sometimes James Hindemarsh, the Star Weekly Editor, would leave bylines off of stories when he  was angry, but I don’t think that is the case here (I have seen articles with no bylines in my research).

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