Tag: 1926 Page 1 of 2
This is quite the tongue in cheek article by Mary Lowrey Ross, making fun of beauty pageants by reversing the gender roles. Jim illustrates this excellently with the men being paraded in bathing suits in front of women judges, and the spectator shouting out that “he is too cute for words,” along with the loving embrace with his father. Unfortunately, I cannot find out much about Mrs. Ross (she was married to W. W. E. Ross, a geophysicist and poet). His Wikipedia entry just says “on June 3, 1924, he married Mary Evelyn Lowrey, the well-known journalist.” She was born in 1891 in Brantford Ontario and died in 1984 in Brighton Ontario. She wrote for other publications like Maclean’s and Saturday Night. The Maclean’s article linked is also from 1926, and includes a photo of her reproduced below. A Google search will return a number of her articles.
This is one of the earliest appearances of Eli and Ruby Doolittle. There is no title on this comic as it was also during he time where it flipped between Birdseye Center and Life’s Little Comedies.
By Gregory Clark, June 5, 1926
At one o’clock the jockeys weigh in.
They are then confined to the jockey house until their engagements for the day are over.
Strictly confined. The jockey house is guarded very jealously by an official. Only the jockeys, the valets and the man charge of the colors are admitted.
The jockeys are not permitted to speak to anyone but their valets and officials of the track who have admittance. Owners’ trainers are barred. A jockey, once he has “made his weight” at one o’clock, is forbidden to speak to or be spoken to by anyone.
You see the jockeys, as they dismount after the race, met by their valets in grey uniforms. The valets take the saddles and whips. The jockeys walk in silence, by a guarded entrance, direct to the jockey house.
This is the ancient etiquette of the race track.
The jockey house is at the far end of the track, next to the paddock. You will see the brightly colored little figures watching from the sunroom windows above. You will see them trooping out, a minute before the bugle to mount is sounded, to the weigh scales where they “make their weight” for the last time just before the race. Their valets saddle up. In the guarded paddock, they mount and parade out before the grandstand. Then, jauntily or dejectedly, you see them filing back into their sanctuary.
In a very special abrogation of the rule, The Star Weekly was permitted to enter the guarded jockey house to report its mystery and its color.
In all that great arena of excitement which is a race course, you would expect the focus, the hot-point of excitement to be concentrated in the quarters of the jockeys, who are the final, ultimate and sole human factor in the actual consummation of the race. Instead, it is a little nest of peace.
The very air above the race track quivers with the eagerness and thrill of the multitude of spectators. The jockey house is so still and serene, some of the boys lie asleep in it.
The mob buses with talk, exclamation, shouts. But in the sanctum of the riders, the little men converse in quiet undertones.
At one end of the scene are the betting machines, and at the other, the jockey house. There perhaps, is the most unfriendly concrete criticism of the sport of kings. The aura of excitement in a race course is deepest in color around the automatic bookmakers. It shades away across the grandstand, becoming a polite pale color within the self-conscious members’ enclosure. It flares up again at the paddock, where the prancing horses are standing by for the race. Then it disappears almost entirely at the jockey house.
The first room within the jockey house is a cross between a Varsity gym locker room and the property of a theatre. It is strange room, like no other in the world. It walls are entirely filled with clothes lockers. Benches for the dressers take up all the floor. Aloft, on rails, completely circling the room, are the colors. Silk, every one, little jackets of red, white, blue, green, yellow, and every combination of them; stripes, part color, motley, white discs on red jackets, yellow discs on white jackets, half one color, half another -these jackets are the color of all the different racing stables of America, ready to be donned by the jockeys when they ride the horse of a particular stable. Beneath the flaming colors, silks, hang tiny riding boots, flimsy little flat racing saddles, frail girths, bridles, everything on the small side, everything on the dainty, delicate side. Here amidst the colorful gloom of the dressing room of the jockey house sit the little men who ride, some dressing, some idling and chatting, waiting for their next mount, resting from a race that made fifteen thousand throats sore. Underneath these silk garments, the boys wear nothing but cotton undersuits. They shiver in the wind. Others are sweating from a race and the silks are dark with wet.
But not voice is raised. Here come six of them, fresh from a race. The first to come in are the also rans. They are smiling or looking downcast, according to their natures. There is no chatting.
“Dog gone!” cries one tiny little fellow with a Kentucky drawl. “‘At horse just bucked like a wil’ horse and when the barrier comes up, none of his feet is on the groun’.”
The last to trail in are the winners, who have been held up at the judges’ stand to be weighed in again in the interminable round of declaring one’s honest weight which is part of the ritual of racing.
“Good ride, boy! More money for the old hip pocket!”
Nine out of ten jockeys appear to be about fifteen or sixteen years of age, and probably are. It is hard to tell with this class of human that is naturally built on miniature lines. About one out of ten is a man undoubtedly in his thirties, little, dark, lean men, with the slim limbs and narrow features of a hawk. But the rowdy, happy-go-lucky spirit which one expects in boys of middle teen age is utterly lacking. There is an occasional swear word spoken with an accustomed and final manner that is startling and causes you to look twice at what appeared to be a quiet boy of high school age, you become aware of a certain assurance veiled behind these reserved lads. For not a living one of them but is brave as a lion. Riding race horses in a man’s job for which mighty few boys are fit. The Arab on his steed wins instant respect as a tamer of wild nature. The little jockey up on his horse is entitled to the same flood of respect, for race horses are wild nature, pure. And the jockey has not the advantage the picturesque Arab has, who sits in a great cradle of saddle, with both legs forking his beast, his feet gripped in deep irons.
Wise Lads and Quiet
If there is one thing that strikes the attention immediately on entering the jockey house, it is the subdued manner of these boys. And the very next fact is the heart stirring assurance of the eyes, that you are looking upon a collection of courageous and fine-spirited human creatures. For courage needs so much room in the human heart, it leaves very little room for lesser gifts. One reason why lifelong followers of the racing game, in Toronto, officials of the courses, have nothing but praise for the little men who ride is that being of proven courage to begin with, there are few bad qualities left to disturb or distress the gentlemanly and sportsmanlike conduct of the finest aspect of the race track – the jockey house.
Upstairs in the house are two rooms, a work room, where the valets keep boots and saddles in spotless trim, and a sun-porch where the riders sit to watch the races and rest between rides.
On the low work-tables where the valets do their spit-and-polish, three or four little figures, in bright and gala costumes, lie carefully covered with greatcoats, sleeping – sleeping within sound of that vast hum and murmur, rising now and then to a roar, of the crowd of those who regard themselves as sportsmen because they stand or sit and look upon the exploits of sportsmen. The horror of a jockey’s life is flesh. The addition of a pound of weight is a grave piece of news in a little fellow. What a jockey knows about reducing would startle the ladies of fashion if they enquired. The reason these little figures are laid out so uncomfortably upon the bare table is no doubt that they are exhausted by their training down to make weight. In the early hours of the morning you can always see these small men on the run in the neighborhood of the tracks, like prize-fighters, loaded down with sweaters, chasing along as hard as they can go, to reduce one pound in order to make their scheduled weight.
In the sun-porch a blaze of color fills all one side, where the little riders are leaning out watching a race. Far beyond them is the background of the excited mob, the murmur rising every instant. The dark mass of them is agitated. The color-clad riders in the foreground are still and unperturbed.
“Eddie’s in the lead. I knew he would be.”
“Poor Sam has got a three-footed horse. Look at him at the turn!”
We stood right behind the watchers at the sun-room windows and these were the quiet, casual comments. It seems as if you took a boy and made a man of him too soon, you are likely to get a gentleman out of him.
“Do you ever have any fights in the jockey, house?” we asked one of the older valets who looked as if he had a good many years of jockeys back of him.
“Only enough to prove the rule,” he said. “Now and again a fellow goes sour under the strain. His nerve wasn’t of the lasting sort. When you get a rough rider, sooner or later he tries his stuff on one of the bigger boys and then there is bound to be a punch or two. Remember, jockeys as a class are sportsmen of the finest type, and it is little enough recognized. There is little rough stuff amongst them for two reasons – one, that it isn’t in them, and two, that they are afraid of nobody and will stand no dirty work from their inferiors.”
Why Jockey House is Guarded
“Do you recall any incidents?”
“Yes, but no names. I remember the time one of the foremost riders in America threw his horse against another jockey, who has since become the greatest rider in Germany, in a deliberate effort to drive him through the fence. He was set down for the offense and fined $200 by the stewards. In the jockey house after the race there was a good deal of silence when the two came in. It was an unforgivable offense, and something was bound to happen.
“‘Well,’ said the offender. ‘you nearly got me last year in California and I said I’d get you some day.’
“This showing that the attempt to drive the other through the fence was really deliberate and planned, the other stepped up and whacked him on the jaw, knocked him into a pail of water and into complete and eternal disgrace in the jockey house.”
Like the theatrical profession, jockeys are always on tour. They are far from home and mother, despite their tender years in most cases. They are under contract to certain stables, travel with the personnel and horses and live with the trainers. But as you see them in the jockey house there are plenty evidences of a mother’s care. One wears a home-made dressing gown. Another has his initials painstakingly worked in silk on his cap.
As they turned away from the sunroom window after a race, without a single trace of excitement, we asked them if they got no kick out of seeing a race.
“When you ride a couple of races a day, just seeing one,” said a slim-legged sportsman, “doesn’t create much kick.”
“I don’t see anybody nervous before the race. Are you ever nervous?”
“Before a big race, with big stakes, or with a lot of good horses over which there is jealousy, we get a bit jumpy. Then there are the two-year-olds and a certain proportion of bad horses that no amount of riding can handle. Going out on them always causes a little nervousness. But, of course, riding year after year, day in and day out, soon hardens a fellow.”
He motioned secretly for us to look at one of the boys in green. This was one of the season’s star riders. He was sitting on a chair staring out the window. His hands were drumming on the sill. He was whistling. Then he jumped up and walked a couple of turns around the sunroom, stopped and stared absently out of the window, his fingers plucking nervously at his waist band.
“He’s got a big bad horse in the last race that he wants very much to ride to a win,” whispered the other boy. “He’s riding him right now, in anticipation and worry.”
The rider in green continued his restless prowl around the sunroom, in his eyes the look of an anxious boy waiting in the principal’s office for an interview. Half an hour later, be rode his big, bad horse to victory and came back to the jockey house all ease and smiles and his nervous hands quiet and controlled.
Jockeys taste some of the most romantic joys of earth – of the circus trouper, of the stage, not to mention the elements that belong exclusively to racing. But on top of all these is sportsmanship, in an old tradition, which the trouper and the actor never experience.
The jockey house, if we get the right perspective on a race track, from the betting machines to the paddock, is guarded for still another reason. It houses the gentlemen in the game.
Editor’s Note: Jim illustrated this early collaboration on a news story with Greg. Based on what we know about them later, Jim was likely much more interested in this story than Greg.
By Gregory Clark, January 9, 1926
“What is a snake for?” asked the heir to my millions.
There are some things a child of four cannot solve by reasoning. A snake is one of them.
“What a question!” I parried. “What a question!”
And I attempted to change the subject by introducing a little wrestling bout. But it was no use.
“Now tell me what a snake is for?” he asked, after wrestling had been carried to its furthest usefulness.
“Well, sir, snake is a very useful little creature. It eats mice and wicked insects.”
“Are mice wicked?”
“Well, you know what they did to your little mattress up at the summer cottage.”
“Did God make snakes?”
“To eat mice and insecks?”
“And did He make mice and insecks too?”
“Now, son, theology is no subject for little boys.”
We have a private understanding that when I put on certain grave and solemn air and screw my face up horribly, he does not ask the obvious and next question, which, in this case, as you can see, would have been – “What is theology?” It is a cowardly device, but I can’t help it.
“Well,” said he, “why didn’t God make snakes pretty?”
“I think,” I said, “that he made them pretty to begin with, but after they had been eating mice and wicked insects for a long time, they turned into the sort of looking things they are now.”
The boy’s grandmother, who has already commenced teaching him a few Bible stories, went –
“Ahem!” She signalled me, sternly, for this tale of mine would be sure to conflict with the Adam and Eve story, to which she would be coming one of these days. She finds it hard enough, as it is.
“Did God make everything pretty?”
“I am sure He did.”
The boy sat studying the problem earnestly.
“What,” he asked, “does Mrs. Tootum eat?”
Mrs. Tootum is an elderly friend of his grandmother’s, who has the misfortune to be somewhat unprepossessing in her later years because of an absence of teeth.
In the silence that followed the question, Grandmother got up and left the room. We could bear her crying as she walked up stairs. At least, we thought it was crying. Her face was very red.
The boy came over to me with a rather horrified air.
“What does Mrs. Tootum eat, Daddie?” he whispered, confidentially. “Does she…. does she eat……?”
And be nodded his head suggestively.
“My boy,” said I, “what might be true of snakes is not true of men and women. Some of the nicest people in the world God made – well, not pretty.”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, God made birds pretty, because they sing. He made chocolate eclairs pretty because they taste nice, He made Mamma pretty because she is my Mamma, and He made snakes ugly because they eat mice and insecks, and toads ugly because they hop, and motor trucks ugly because they run over. That’s what God does.”
“It doesn’t always work,” I said, profoundly.
Pondering the question, he went upstairs, and I heard him say to his grandmother very sweetly.
“When is Mrs. Tootum coming to dinner again?”
By Greg Clark, August 21, 1926
“Be sure,” ran the memorandum, “to wear your old clothes for a rough time will be had by all.”
Chess is only one more of the innumerable games which has a big following in Toronto. And a chess tournament is a memorable sight. The tournament we witnessed was between forty members of the Toronto Chess Club and a single international expert and former world champion. To come to this scene in the Central Y.M.C.A. fresh from a baseball game touched the gamut of sport in one of the liveliest sport cities in the world.
The tables were laid in a hollow square. At each table sat a player with a friend at each elbow with whom he might consult. Around the inner side of the ring of tables walked the international expert, stopping a brief moment at each player to make his move and then on to the next. He played forty games against every other player’s one.
The large Y.M.C.A. room was crowded. Densely packed in back of the players were several hundred people, almost exclusively men, with eyes glued on to the nearest board. A complete silence reigned.
The players were of all ages. There was one old gentleman from Hamilton in his seventies. There was a boy of thirteen! There were university professors and mechanics, men run all to head and men all run to body, florid beef-eating men and pallid, biscuit eating men. But one thing they all had in common from the little boy and the very young men right through to the greyest head of all, and that was a peculiar air of contemplation which was fortified by a common mannerism-head rested on the hand and eyes glued to the board.
There is a stance in chess as there is in golf, tennis, bowling or anything else. Slightly sunk in the chair, each player sits forward enough to rest one elbow on the table, so that he can support his head on his hand.
As the great international expert arrives at his table the chess player does not look up. He wears a conscious, secretive expression, perhaps gently rubbing his head. The great expert looks at the board, glances shrewdly at the player’s downcast face, and then with a sudden, almost contemptuous gesture, makes his move. The player, his face unmoved except rarely by a faint smile that might reveal chagrin, never lifts his eyes from the board, but broods on and on, preparing for his next move.
Chess is a brooding, contemplative game. There appears to be hypnotism in it. The intensity of the attention which is directed down on that board for motionless minutes at time appears to be an effort to read some immense riddle, as if from some slight psychic gesture of the chessmen some hint could be got.
All the faces, after a little while, take on a blank expression as if the spirit had retreated to some far inner secret place. Hours and hours pass. The tournament started at 8 o’clock at night and the last of the games was not played until between 2 and 3 the next morning.
They say there is a peculiar type of mentality required for success in chess. In checkers, which is an infant’s game, there is life, movement, triumph, humor, action. It is a skirmish. Chess is a battle on a grand scale. The players try to read the riddle of enemy’s moves. Time does not enter into it. You could not dream of one of these players saying to another, “Come on, hurry up!” The players, for a fact, do not seem to be aware of each other at all. There is no human element visible. Abstraction settles down like winter night.
You can still see ping-pong played at the Y.M.C.A. There is still a lively trade in croquet sets at the big stores. Badminton – batting feathered shuttlecock across a net – takes up large space at the Armories. Every known form of card game has its devotees in Toronto, down to the queer fan-tan with buttons counted out from under an inverted saucer in the Chinese kitchens on Elizabeth street.
But for the remote extreme from those games of which huge grand stands and uproarious yelling is perhaps the most essential factor you must go to the brooding, contemplative, timeless abstraction of the ancient game of chess.
Editor’s Note: Fan-Tan is a form of a gambling game long played in China. It is a game of pure chance which has similarities to roulette.
An illustration by Jim for a story about what lifeguards do.
By Greg Clark, March 13, 1926
“How would Simson do?” asked the company sergeant major.
“Nothing doing,” replied Lieutenant Cinders.
Promotions caused more trouble in the army than you would think. The selection of cabinet ministers is small business compared with the selection of a sergeant for a platoon. Cinders’ platoon had lost its senior sergeant, Irwin, through measles; the Junior sergeant Attick became platoon sergeant, and which of the corporals would step up to three stripes was the mighty question confronting the allied armies, the cause of Britain and Number Sixteen platoon in particular.
“Simson a good man,” said the sergeant major.
“He’s too good,” said Cinders, reaching up and scratching match on his tin hat. That’s his trouble. He don’t take his rum issue, he don’t swear.” Cinders paused in thought. As matter of fact,” continued Cinders, rather awed by the thought, “he can’t swear. I don’t believe he knows the words. The point is, the platoon doesn’t respect him. He is too soft, too friendly, too wishy washy.”
“He’s the best corporal in the company.”
“On guard mounting, you mean. Or as corporal of the escort at a court martial. But as a trench man, major, now think of it, as a trench man, he’s a pipsqueak. I don’t want Simson.”
The sergeant-major spat over the paradox.
“I don’t know what the hell you want, Mr. Cinders.”
“I want a rough guy, a noisy guy, a man with crime sheet far back in his past. This platoon has been too darn lucky in guard mounting contests to suit me. Too frequently complimented by the colonel, too often mentioned in orders for its beautiful billets. I feel as if something is going to happen.”
Lieutenant Cinders stabbed the chalk wall of the trench with an impatient stick.
“Well, then,” said the sergeant major, “let’s ask the captain to hold the vacancy open to the end of this tour before you promote your sergeant. Perhaps something will happen to make the decision for us.”
“I feel it in my bones,” said Cinders, gloomily.
In the late evening dusk, he walked up the trench and, after looking at his wrist watch, shouted down the dugout mouth –
“Stand to, sixteen platoon.”
And obediently the men of his platoon began filing out of the dugouts, silent, cheerful, clean, fresh. They fixed their bayonets and leaned their rifles nicely against the parapet. The section leaders went smartly to the bomb stores and carried the little black boxes to their proper places along the fire-step. There was no bunching, no crowding. Each man went to his proper stand, watching the sergeant for the sign to climb up on to the fire step.
His Platoon Was Too Good
“Had a nice sleepy-bye?” asked Lieut. Cinders of the three lads nearest him.
“Yes, sir,” they replied, smiling.
“Nursey dress you all up pitty?” said the officer.
“We got one swell little dugout,” said the nearest man earnestly. “Driest I have been in for months.”
“Huh!” said Cinders, walking on. The sight of these smart, obedient, well-trained boys of his filled the lieutenant with a great restlessness. To him, there was something uncanny about it. He had a firm belief that soldiers in good health should be dissatisfied, grousing, growling he-bears, not any smarter than they had to be. For over a month his platoon had been suffering from this epidemic of smartness. It had been difficult for him to find anything to say on inspection. Not a dull razor in the outfit. Not a man held the toe of the butt too far forward or too far back of his toe. Every man had spare pair of shoelaces in his pack. Not a single top to a mess tin was missing.
At the far end of his trench, the lieutenant found Corporal Simson, whom Cinders believed to be largely responsible for the condition of his platoon. The tall, bashful corporal snapped to attention when he saw his lieutenant.
“Evening, corporal! No need for saluting in the front line, you know.”
“Yes, sir.” The luminous eyed corporal had deep, bass voice, reverent with respect.
“Cut your chin again, corporal? Why in hell to you shave to often in the line? I’d a darn sight rather see a few whiskers on my men in the line than have their faces all cut to pieces. You’re liable to get blood poisoning, if you aren’t careful.”
“Very good sir,” said the dark, eager man in his vibrant voice.
“Aw, what the…” growled Cinders as he turned away.
Sergeant Attick, full of his responsibility as senior sergeant, bustled along the trench giving the signal for the men to mount the fire-step for the evening stand-to-arms. Twilight had fallen.
“Smart as a drum, sir.”
“Tonight I want a working party to scrub these here bathmats”
“Very good, sir! Five men, ten men?”
“Oh, sergeant,” groaned Cinders, suddenly feeling very lonely, “go and chase yourself.”
“Yessir!” replied the sergeant soberly.
Cinders rushed down the trench, past his own flank, past Thirteen platoon which was holding next to him, down to Fourteen platoon where, in the dusk, he found his big fat friend, Lieutenant Thooms. Thooms was standing wide-legged in the trench, wailing: –
“Come on here, come on! I gave the order twenty minutes ago, and half the platoon is still in the dugouts! Sergeant! Corporal! Hey!”
Weary, disgruntled shadows were dragging about the trench. Cinders feasted his eyes on them. An untidy sergeant hurried by, cursing.
“Thooms, I’ll trade you platoons.”
“I’ll take you, doggone it!” cried Thooms, leaning wearily and heavily against the trench wall. “I never saw such a collection of half-witted, half-dead, lousy, weary, half-baked…”
“That’s the stuff!” cried Cinders, swaggering his shoulders with pleasure.
He watched with childish interest and delight the long-drawn-out, wrangling, grumbling process of getting Number Fourteen on to the fire-step.
“Now, if I had this bunch,” he said to Thooms.
“The captain wouldn’t hear of it,” said Cinders. “He wants me to bring up the rear of the company for my soul’s sake.”
He returned slowly to his own trench.
It was dark. From the right came the message, passed from man to man…
“From O. C. Don company, stand down.”
The shadowy figures stepped down into the trench.
“Who’s in Lulu Sap?” asked Cinders
“Corporal Simson and two men, sir,” replied Sergeant Attick.
“Let’s go and see them.”
They came to the narrow little trench leading forward into No Man’s Land. It twisted intricately and ran out about forty yards to a little hillock on which had once stood a small out-house of stone. From this little eminence a watchful listening post could keep track of the ground for many yards to right and left, the whole of the platoon section, in fact. Cinders had hardly set foot in the crowded little cockpit amidst the ruined stones of the sap-end before there came a shuffling, snuffling. whuffling sound which caused him and the four other men in the place to crouch down with closed eyes and open mouth.
With an unbelievable crash, a trench-mortar shell hit the ground half way between the sap-end and the main trench.
“Wow!” said Cinders, breathlessly. swallowing to remove the concussion from his ears. “If they are going to shell this sap, you come out Simson!”
“Very good, sir,” said Simson, straightening up and listening. “Here comes another!”
A Little Private Battle
A tiny, intermittent spark was arching high in the sky over the German lines. It curved up, up, paused and disappeared. All five pairs of eyes in the sap were turned upwards. Then to their chumping ears came the faint whuff-whuff-whuff of the shell. It came very slowly. Its swushing sound grew to a rush. The five men were cringed down to the very ground. They felt the ground shake with the fall of the huge shell. They gritted their teeth. Then the most awful blast of sound stunned them. Dirt pattered on their bent backs. The shell had fallen ten yards to the right of the sap.
“Get out of here!” gasped Cinders. “Attick, lead on and you two men follow.”
“Another one coming, sir,” said Simson, in his deep quiet voice.
“Run!” cried Cinders. The sergeant and two men plunged into the narrow sap towards the main trench. Cinders and Simson bowed themselves into the bottom of the sap end. They heard the rush and thud of the great shell. The gigantic, rending crash followed. The patter of earth and fragments passed. Cinders popped up and stared back. The shell had fallen clear of the narrow sap.
“We’re all right,” called Sergeant Attick from the darkness.
As he turned, Cinders was aware for a fleeting instant of a couple of rushing figures in the gloom ahead. Then he felt a numbing blow from behind. A throbbing darkness engulfed him.
But complete unconsciousness does not fall easily on a man of Cinders’ vital and thick-skinned nature. As in nightmare, he felt himself being clutched and grasped and hauled out of the listening post. He discovered himself being carried by his arm-pits and heels. He heard heavy breathing close to his ear. Even though it was like a fearful dream, and with a shocking ache on the back of his neck, Cinders knew he was captured. The most ignominious fate that can overtake a proud soldier had befallen him. He groaned and tried to shout for help. The sound he made emerged as a scream. He felt himself suddenly laid down.
Consciousness returned to him, and the fearful buzzing pain in his head was unbearable. His eyes, opened in the night, saw stars and rings swimming before him. Then be made out five kneeling figures. Two were crouched over him. And just a little forward, towards the German lines, he saw three other figures kneeling on top of what probably was Corporal Simson. And Simson was struggling on his face, his heels kicking impotently in the air.
A Lewis gun opened from behind them. All figures dropped prone on the ground. The man at his head shouted something in a hoarse muffled voice.
Cinders, groaning, moved, and passed his hand in a stealthy gesture, over his holster to find it empty, as he feared. A big rough band grasped his wrist and held it.
His cheek crushed against the damp earth. He stared in pain and hopeless abandonment at the group a few feet away. The Germans were lying across Simson. Simson, groaning, gave convulsive heave and collapsed very still. From the group came a short, gruff comment.
“Dead,” whispered Cinders.
The Lewis gun opened again. He heard the bullets hissing very close. Another gun opened from further down. It cracked high overhead and then swished past them, low.
“Thirteen platoon,” said Cinders to himself.
Mr. Cinders’ Problem Solved
The man at his head spoke gruffly. He was lifted and felt them lurching and swaying as they ran a few yards. Then dropped him, heavily, clumsily, falling on him, pinning him. He lay limp.
Behind came the other party, still carrying the sagging great frame of Corporal Simson. They too ran and dropped beside them, but they did not fall on top of their burden. The two Lewis guns continued to chugger and sweep, hissing and dying away as their stream of fire passed, and repassed.
The German at his head had his arm around Cinders’ neck, haft stiffling him. He head was pressed close to Cinders’ head. He spoke again, gruffly, commanding. Cinders had one eye clear of the great grey arm covering his mouth. He saw two figures kneel up, two at Simson’s feet and one at his head. A swish of Lewis fire swept close. The figure at Simpson’s head jerked to its feet, staggered backwards and fell, without a sound. He saw Simson’s two huge feet rear up and strike savagely, one at the head and the other at the small of the back of the bowed figures. In a flash, Simson was crouched over them. The man at Cinders head cried out, let go of Cinders, and after a fumble, fired with a pistol. But the figure that was looming towards him the night was not Simson but the rear end of one of the two Germans, whom Simson was holding up limply as a shield. The pistol bullet whacked into him with the sound of carpet beater.
Cinders felt a warm flood of wetness gush all over his face and head. The Lewises had stopped instantly. All he could hear was furious grunting and heaving while a great heavy weight collapsed on top of him. His ankles were tramped on. Suddenly he heard a clear, punctuated, low, vibrant series of the most famous oaths, cusswords and imprecations known to the English language. Cinders gave a great shove. The weight rolled from him. Above him, he beheld a shadow as two huge figures twisted and fought, body to body, in the sort of wrestling that comes under no known rules and regulations of the sport. Cinders, sick and dizzy, staggered up. The struggling shadow fell to earth. Cinders panting and whimpering, bent over the heaving forms and felt the top body. His hand encountered a strange leather strap, a strap unknown to him as part of Canadian equipment. Cinders drew back and with his heavy issue boot kicked into the soft side of that upper figure with all his weight, with every ounce of strength he had in him, the punting kick, the leaping kick that he had used at college. He felt something snap against his toe.
He swayed and felt himself caught once again in huge arms. But these arms didn’t stifle him. He was slightly sick. He coughed nosily.
“Hold my shoulder, sir!” whispered Corporal Simson, breathlessly.
He found himself being haft dragged. The world was rocking and rolling. He felt himself fall into a hole. It was the sap end. Sergeant Attick was there, seized him, dragged him down the narrow trench. Thooms was there, the captain was there, the sergeant-major was there, lifting him, carrying him. He was laid out blissfully on the fire-step.
“Where’s Sergeant Simson,” he heard himself asking, thinly.
“Where’s Sergeant Simson?” called the captain, sharply.
There was confused noise. The sound of German machine guns broke into the excitement and shuffling.
Sergeant Attick spoke breathlessly, “Corporal Simson bas just returned into the sap with two prisoners!”
“Sergeant Simson, if you please!” snapped Cinders from the fire-step.
“Yes sir!” said the senior sergeant.
“That’s the easiest promotion I have ever had to make,” said Cinders reaching out and pinching the sergeant-major’s leg.
Editor’s Notes: A Fire-step was built into each trench in World War One, cut into the wall some two or three feet from the trench floor. During the pre-dawn and dusk procedure of “Stand-To” each occupant of the trench would be expected to man the fire-step with rifle loaded and bayonet fixed. The floor of the trench was lower than the fire-step in order that men could pass along the trench without exposing their heads to enemy fire.
Bathmats was the term used for small trench floor coverings.
A Sap was a trench dug at a 90 degree angle of the main trench that would jut out into no-man’s-land for the purpose of monitoring enemy movement.
A Lewis Gun was a generic term used in World War One for machine guns, as it was the most common type used by Britain.
By Greg Clark, October 9, 1926
Editor’s Note: Normally I would reproduce an article by Greg for this, but this time it is just a synopsis. At the time of this article, jazz was taking over popular music, and there was a lot of hand-wringing by older people about it’s influence on society.The news article starts off well enough, explaining that new dance forms like the Charleston were to difficult for older people, and that the decline of traditional dancing would affect dance popularity. This was also a period in time when dancing followed “rules”. You have to learn the various dance steps, and how “good” you were was defined by how well you performed them. This was true up until the rock and roll era of the 1950s and 1960s. The article then went on to declare that the various “dance masters” (i.e. influencers of the time period) we predicting a return to more traditional dances in the coming season.
The article has not been reproduced, because Greg interviews a “dance master” whose views are racist to modern readers. To put it mildly, the person interviewed did not have a high opinion of jazz, and “negro dance”. The nice illustration by Jim is still worth reproducing.