The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

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Birdseye Center – 02/05/27

February 5, 1927

Our Leading Winter Sport

More doctors are prescribing dancing for their patients.
“The first thing you must understand if you wish to dance is that there is grace in your body whether you have suspected it before or not.”

By Gregory Clark, December 10, 1927.

The leading winter sport in Toronto is dancing.

Not enough snow for skiing, tobogganing or sleigh bells.

The people who golf and tennis and otherwise romp the long summer through are not free to quit, suddenly, all activity. Their nerves won’t permit it.

So they dance. With all due respect to those who denounce the sport of dancing, doctors are ready to agree that modern dancing is nothing but a form of exercise – a sport.

Etiquet forbids doctors to talk for publication but a well known young Toronto specialist answered the question:

“Is dancing good?”

“You take,” replied the diagnostician, “the average young man and woman of to-day, and they are a pretty active pair from, May to November, with golf, tennis, summer resorts, motoring, boating, playing as much of their time as they can spare. It is impossible for them, from purely physical reasons, to suspend all activity from November to May. Their whole being demands action. That explains the popularity of dancing, and it also explains, if I may theorize about something I know nothing about, the extreme simplicity of the modern dance: it is a form of pleasant exercise, reduced to the minimum of artificiality.”

This theory is borne out in the history of dancing. In olden days when duelling was a very formal sport, dancing, too, was formal and ornate. The barn dance, with its vigor and bounding simplicity, was merely a translation into terms of the off season of plowing, reaping and the common activities of the farm.

Modern dancing translates into indoor terms such games as golf and tennis. Waltzes are golf; one-steps and the flat Charleston1 are tennis.

You have to learn golf and you have to learn dancing. The proof that dancing is not a welling up of original sin in a boy or girl is the fact that few people are natural dancers, just as few are natural singers. The easiest way to learn is to start as a youngster, during the unselfconscious years. The great majority of beginners, according to dancing masters in Toronto, are eldest children of a family or only children. If dancing is learned in the home, as part of the everyday fun of the home, the two simple fundamentals of dancing are unconsciously won: unselfconsciousness and natural grace. And they never have to take lessons in an academy.

We visited different dancing classes and public dance floors in Toronto to witness the process by which the sport of dancing is mastered, and to see if it were a pastime to be classed with golf, tennis, skating and so forth as a means of enjoying that period of inarticulate ecstasy called youth.

In all of them, we found a majority of young men. They were attractive as a type, almost without exception. And they were going at the business of learning to dance with a concentration that reminded us more of our early days of squad drill as recruits in the army than anything else.

“If they like this,” said Jim, “we must have liked squad drill.”

First Lesson Just Walking

For the dancing master has only one or two principles to teach and he handles them as dexterously as the drill sergeant handled his “right turn by numbers.”

Picture a large dance floor with forty or fifty boys and a lesser number of girls grouped around the edge.

It is a beginners’ class.

“Take your places out in two ranks on the floor,” says the master.

They stride out, gamely or bashfully as they are constituted, these young students, clerks, juniors in all the callings and professions. The girls are less self-conscious than the boys.

“Watch me move from here to there,” says the master. And he walks, with a slow, graceful, gliding steps, about ten paces.

“The first thing you must understand, if you wish to dance, is that there is grace in your body, whether you have ever suspected it before or not. You can carry yourself handsomely, or you can carry yourself badly. You men will have the greatest trouble in this. I ask you only this: carry yourself in a manly fashion, straightly, easily, and not slinking or heavily. And instead of placing your heels down first, point your foot and place the ball of your foot on the ground first. All right. Now we will walk the length of the floor.”

And the roomful, to the count of the master, paces slowly all together from one end of the dancing floor to the other.

Some of them are extremely comic. The self-conscious ones are suddenly terrifically self-conscious. They shrink into themselves, and stride unsteadily, awkwardly. The bold ones swagger down the floor, with elaborate mincing steps as far from the master’s demonstration as could be conceived.

“Now, then! This is the way some of you went,” and the master imitates the bashful ones. “And this is the way others of you went.” He mocks the swaying, swaggering ones. There is a burst of hearty laughter and the class is suddenly on the way to learning how to walk. For the master again shows the way: body held still and straight, easily and lightly, advancing by an almost cat-like tread on the forward part of the foot. He seems to glide. There is not the slightest up-and-down motion to him. He is a big, manly man, and there is not the faintest trace of sissiness about his actions.

“Now, let’s be graceful. Take it easily. You are all so self-conscious that none of you is looking at his neighbor, so don’t be afraid of grace. It is in you all. Merely let it out.”

For half an hour the master makes these novices walk, walk, walk. They walk around in a circle or across the floor in ranks. A piano quietly cuts in, and they find themselves, each by himself, pacing slowly to soft music. The dance has begun.

“Ladies and gentleman,” says the master, “you are now dancing.”

And these clumsy-footed boys, awkward and painfully self-conscious, these girls rather shy and most of them mincing, under the impression that they must bounce in fairy-like swerves and shoulder-swayings, have delighted expressions on all their faces as they pace thus slowly, their bodies suddenly graceful and consciously graceful because they are light, easy, and under the first control of grace.

The master then lectures them: simply and without pretense or bluff; tells them to practise walking in the privacy of their homes, turning, rounding corners, to the music of the victrola, until they can handle themselves without losing balance, until they teach long neglected muscles to function with ease and sureness.

“Practise as you walk in the streets and in your offices,” he says. “Start right now to walk gracefully. Practise grace consciously until it becomes unconscious. Here endeth the first lesson.”

A dance class consists usually of six lessons. It starts in this simple fashion. The next meeting, the class is taught the first rudiments of steps. Instead of merely walking in a straight line, they walk two steps and turn. One turn is the two-step, another turn is the waltz. Again, the class is suddenly awkward, because new rhythm is demanded from unaccustomed muscles – muscles just left, for years past, to work as they felt like working. Now they must work with grace.

And Doctors Prescribe It

In six lessons, the average dance master can teach his pupils enough to put them at their ease on the ballroom floor.

Cecil Da Costa, one of the leading masters in Toronto, has no belief in much of the pretension and bunkum about dancing.

“The majority of people, wish to dance because it is one of the ways of being happy,” he says. “They are deterred from dancing because they feel they are awkward. Therefore, we simply have to prove to them that they are not awkward. And with the usual exceptions, it does not take more than three or four lessons to make them understand the simple principle of grace – which is nothing but control.

“All sports are graceful in the hands of proficient players – awkward in the hands of beginners. A great golfer is one of the finest exhibitions of grace there is. A great tennis player is not far removed – in his or her perfect control and rhythm – from a perfect ballet dancer. It is nothing more or less than that.

“The fashionable steps which come and go are simply decorations upon an institution fundamentally simple. Not ten per cent. of the people. who are dancing in Toronto to-night know what step they are dancing, or care! They are simply dancing to the music. What the music demands, they give. As in all other pastimes, there are the refinements. In dancing, these are the flat Charleston which the Prince of Wales2 dances, or the Varsity drag3. We give those who want them these refinements. And they must be learned, as Bobby Jones4‘ style of grasping the club must be learned. But we are busiest teaching the two principles and the few basic facts – grace, unconscious grace, and control of the body.”

Always there are the impossible ones. There are certain people who seem to be mentally incapable of conceiving rhythm or the beat of time. Not tone-deaf but time-deaf. And they try so hard. The careful, exaggerated beat of the master’s specially trained pianist is unheard. They stamp and stagger and hesitate all over the floor, trying to put their foot down when the others do, not when the music asks for it. These are hopeless, and are about as luckless as color-blind people in matching silks.

A certain number of elderly people are in every class. They move with an awkwardness born of years. The little finenesses of control in muscles is far behind them. In nearly every case, when investigated, these elderly people are studying dancing on physicians’ orders.

“More and more,” says the instructor, “we are getting what you might call patients – people who must have some gentle exercise or some new interest in life. A doctor called me and told me he was sending a man whose trouble was solely nervous, a man past his youth, who must be got interested in something stimulating to his mind as well as easy exercise.

“Then we have the reducing work: no end of women are taking private lessons for the sole purpose of reducing. They tell me the same story: that after settling down to the routine of married life, they missed the gay activity of their earlier years, and began to put on flesh. And of course, it is nothing new that dancing is the finest kind of reducing exercise. Now the doctors are beginning to prescribe it, most particularly to young married women who have suddenly surrendered their youth and settled down to matronly, habits – which, after years of activity, are bad habits.”

Which all goes to show that dancing may be many things, but really is one thing: a form of sport or pastime which, like many other pastimes, calls for mastery of the body, grace, and a stimulating activity.


Editor’s Notes:

  1. The Flat Charleston is a dance step. Here is a how-to video, also from 1927. ↩︎
  2. The Prince of Wales (future Edward VII) was considered quite the playboy at the time, and followed breathlessly in the press. ↩︎
  3. The Varsity Drag was a song as well as a dance step. ↩︎
  4. Bobby Jones was a champion golfer. ↩︎

The Big “Hold-Up”

November 12, 1927

Where’s Birdseye Center?

“Pig Skin” has never left Birdseye Centre from that day to this. Except–

By Gregory Clark, October 15, 1927.

“Where,” we asked Jim Frise, the cartoonist, “is Birdseye Centre?”

Jim snatched his pipe from his mouth, politely.

“You go down to the seventh line,” says he: “turn right and go four concessions and you’ll come to the old mill. Turn left at the mill, up over a hill, and there, right ahead of you, you’ll see the church spire. That’s Birdseye Centre.”

Jim acts as if he is eager to come with you. If you can’t find the way to Birdseye Centre, he’ll come along on the running board and show you the way. Ah, that mysterious seventh line! Ah, those mythical four concessions, that old mill, that hill, that spire, down amid the elms and maples! It is like Peter Pan’s prescription for finding the Never-Never Land. “Second to the right,” said Peter, “and then straight on till morning.”

For Birdseye Centre is known to all men, and all men may find it, even without the help of Jimmie and his careful directions, unless they happen to be city born and bred, which few are. Yet even they, if they have some affection for their fathers and mothers, can seek their way back to the place their fathers and mothers came from.

“Were you born and raised in Birdseye Centre?” we asked Jim.

“No, sir,” said Jim. “I was born and raised three-quarters of a mile from Birdseye Centre, on the second line.”

“How do you come to know it so intimately?”

“Well,” said Jimmie, leaning back from his big drawing board, “I came up to it every day for the mail. After I was seven, I did the messages to the store, carrying eggs up and bringing soap or oatmeal back. It was a short three-quarter mile up with the heavy basket of eggs, and a long three-quarter back with the little package of soap, for Birdseye Centre was a metropolis in those days and its civilization filled me with wonder.”

“Has the town failed, then?”

“No. Birdseye Centre has not changed. It is time that changes. And boys. But Birdseye Centre was a metropolis once upon a time, and still is, always will be, I guess, so long as there are boys living three-quarters of a mile away on the second line.”

“What’s the population of Birdseye Centre?”

Jim hesitated. He seemed reluctant to answer this question.

“The railroad station….” he began.

“About what is the population?” we insisted. “Three hundred or so?”

“Well, sir,” said Jim, “things are changing so much, coming and going. It would hardly be possible to give a fair estimate of the population. The railroad station is located about half a mile east of the town.”

How Pig-Skin Blew In

Jim gave this piece of information as if it contained a good deal of significance.

“Tell us about Pig-Skin Peters?” we asked. “The public would like to know more about him, since he brought a good deal of publicity to Birdseye Centre in connection with his fine effort in the big Exhibition marathon swim.”

“What would you like to know about him?”

“Is he a native of Birdseye Centre, born and raised?”

“No. Pig-skin blew into town about fourteen years ago. You can tell by his dress, by his hat, that he is a stranger. Anyway, it seems, so far as we can find out, that Pig-Skin was out west on a harvesters’ excursion and went broke, and was riding a freight on his way back home – nobody knows where his home was – when they cut out the car he was riding on and sided it at Birdseye Centre.

“Pig-Skin came up into the village and the very first house he called at was Mrs. Stradivarious Stubbs! How’s that for coincidence?”

“The Mrs. Stubbs who was his chef during his training for the big swim?”

“The very same! And it so happened that Mrs. Stubbs had just baked some mince pies when Pig-Skin, looking very seedy and hungry from his journey, called at the door.”

“The back door?”

“Certainly. The regular door. The door that’s used. Mrs. Stubbs is so accustomed to having her pie praised, she always gives some to anybody that calls. So she hands out a whole pie to Pig-Skin.

“Pig-Skin has never left Birdseye Centre from that day to this. Except for overseas.”

“Ah, he was to the war?”

“Yes. Pig-Skin was one of the four boys Birdseye Centre contributed to the Canadian Corps, and the only one that came back. As a matter of fact, he got the M.M.1

“And you don’t know where he came from? Doesn’t he write back home or anything?”

Jim seemed embarrassed for Pig-Skin.

“Well,” he said slowly, “maybe Pig-Skin may have some kind of a past. We used to wonder about him, but we don’t do it any more, since the war. Pig-Skin’s past is forgiven, whatever it was.”

“He conducts the ice business, locally, doesn’t he?”

“Yes, that’s his chief business, but when he first landed into town, he tried his hand, at everything and now we can always get Pig-Skin to give a lift, from shoveling nip and tuck out of the snow drifts to washing dishes at the annual Harvest Home.”

“He seemed to get a pretty cool reception on his return from the big marathon swim2.”

“No,” said Jimmie, “that was only from the new-fangled element in town. The regular folks gave Pig-Skin a real welcome. In fact, Pig-Skin’s home-coming made a pretty clear division in Birdseye Centre between the solid element and the new-fangled crowd. The chicken dinner at Mrs. Stubbs’ to welcome Pig-skin home was a social event that will mean a lot of social excitement all this winter. Because she never invited a single one of the disturbers.”

Wes Clipper Wants Progress

“How do you mean, disturbers?”

“Well, the people, for instance, that want the strip of cement down the middle of the village.”

“Road?”

“Yes. There’s the same crowd that wanted electric light in the school and that wanted a chemical fire apparatus and now they are trying to get the council to put six hundred yards of cement down the middle of the town. Wes Clipper, the barber, is the leader of this element. Wes is all for putting Birdseye Centre on the map. He’s the one that started that tourist camp that only three tents have been in in two years. Wes wasn’t invited to the reception for Pig-skin. But just the same, it was Wes Clipper that said Pig-Skin had got more publicity for Birdseye Centre than all the rest put together. Him and Pig-skin are good friends.”

“Who opposes the road?”

“All the older folks. Taxes are high enough, as it is, without providing a piece of road that speeders would scoot past at fifty miles an hour on. The most active opponent of the scheme is ‘Gas’ Waters, who owns the garage. ‘Gas’ has made more money out of that bit of bad road north of the village in the past five years than he has out of all the gas, oil and service put together. John J. McGlone, the general store keeper, is also opposed. He asks what would be the effect of that piece of cement pavement? It would simply cause everybody to hurry through the town. He’s sick and tired, Mr. McGlone says, of seeing people whizzing through Birdseye Centre at thirty-five miles an hour.”

“I guess the older people have their way?”

“Yes. Chief Pinchall is against it too. A speedway down the main street! The next thing he’d be having to operate one of those durn stop-and-go thingamajigs at the Four Corners Saturday afternoons, and Sundays, in all kinds of weather. As if he hadn’t enough to worry about, as it is! What with ringing the town hall bell three times a day, winter and summer, inspecting liquor permits, impounding cows grazing within the town limits and meeting all the trains down to the Junction.”

“All the trains, Jimmie?”

“Well, Nip and Tuck as we call her, goes through twice a day. That is, up and down. Nine-fifty-three and four-eleven, weather permitting.”

“What’s Chief Pinchall meet the trains for?”

“Watching out for suspicious characters. And besides, Old Cap, who is in charge of the gates across the railway tracks, is Chief Pinchall’s cousin, and the Chief is always waiting to catch Cap with the gates down longer than the law allows.”

There’s always one boy wanting to carry home the rabbits.
A Majorgraph of Frise. Note the far-off Birdseye Centre expression

“How is this Wes Clipper so modern?”

“Wes is a barber, and it seems all barbers are out to modernize things. Wes introduced the first female bob into Birdseye Centre by bribing Ned Balsam’s daughter to let him give her the first boy haircut in the county.”

“I bet that made trouble.”

“No. Old Ned Balsam has the rural mail route, and when he got home that night, he naturally was kind of peeved. But Ned never lets anything worry him long, not even these threats from disgruntled folks along his route who are continually complaining about their mail being left in somebody else’s box. There are those who claim that Old Ned has political pull, or he’d never get away with it. Yes, Carrie Balsam was the first to be bobbed, but now everybody in the district is bobbed except Eli Doolittle’s wife.”

Trailing With Old Archie

“Eli Doolittle, eh? What’s he?”

“Eli is the orneriest man in the whole county. He does absolutely nothing. His wife takes washing and all Eli does is sit on the porch of the Grand Central Hotel, with his chair tilted back and his hat tilted forward, watching the world go by. Nobody ever heard of him doing anything. He is a good fisherman, but nobody ever saw him row a boat.”

“Doesn’t his wife kick?”

“No, that’s funny. She never was known to protest. Some of the ladies in the town have ventured to criticize Eli to Mrs. Doolittle, when she calls to do the washing, but Mrs. Doolittle, is one of those timid little women, and she fills all up and they can’t go on with the conversation. She thinks Eli is wonderful, and at every opportunity she quotes his opinions on politics, local improvements, life in general. But Eli has got all beat. He plays the cornet, and accompanies some of the greatest vocal artists of America on the radio. We tried to form a band two winters ago, but Wes would not come to rehearsals at the town hall; it was too far, and his house is too small for rehearsals, so the scheme fell through. Pig-Skin, learned to play the bugle overseas, but that wouldn’t do. We had to have a cornet, so the band fell through. Then Pig-Skin took up the saxophone, but there were so many complaints, the town council passed a by-law prohibiting the playing of musical instruments before sunrise and after sundown.

“Who is your favorite character in Birdseye Centre, Jimmie?”

“My best friend? Well, they’re all friends of mine. But perhaps Archie is the oldest and best friend I have.”

“Archie who?”

“Just Archie. Old Archie. He was an old man when I first remember him, as a boy. He is the crack shot of the whole country. He catches fish where there aren’t any. My friendship with Archie began when I was about six years old and he let me carry home the rabbits he shot down in Duncan Campbell’s bush. And I’ve been trailing around with him ever since, fishing, rabbit shooting, and many a time we have gone fishing with our guns, or shooting with our fishing rods, it doesn’t matter. It’s just to get out, somewhere, down by Dunc Campbell’s bush.”

“Must be a popular old boy?”

“Well, there’s always one boy wanting to carry home the rabbits, you know.”

We asked Jimmie how often he re-visited Birdseye Centre, now that he is an artist on a big metropolitan newspaper.

“Oh, pretty often,” said Jimmie, diffidently.

“Couple of times a year?”

“Oftener than that.”

“Once a month?”

“Better than that.”

Shifting a Whole City

“How do you manage? Isn’t work like yours pretty insistent in its demands on your time?”

“Well,” said Jimmie, “let’s skip that point. It’s not important to your story, is it?”

“Oh, you bet! The people like to know about this sort of thing. You know, most of our cartoonists and comic artists come from the States. We get their stuff over by mail. Here you are right in Ontario, working right in Toronto, and telling about regular folks, our cousins and uncles and parents. We want to know how it’s done and all that.”

“Oh, I don’t know.”

“Well, it’s so, Jimmie. How often do you go back to Birdseye Centre?”

“Well, I’m there pretty often. I’m there a good deal.”

“Yes?”

Jimmie, like all artists, has an elfin way of suddenly going away from where he is, just as if the man sitting there before you had suddenly disappeared. It might be called temperament. But it’s queerer than that. Jimmie, when we had him cornered about this matter of how much time he spent in Birdseye Centre, did that strange disappearance act. He was sitting there. Yet he had gone.

“Jimmie!”

“Yes?”

“Come back to earth. Where were you, then?”

“Birdseye Centre,” said Jimmie, quietly.

And you know – by the shy and hidden look that is in a man’s eye, when he is telling you the truth – for only liars have that beautiful frank eye – that Jimmie was revealing a secret. He lives all the time in Birdseye Centre. In the phone book you will see he has a house in Baby Point. He has four daughters who have the unutterable misfortune to have been born in Toronto. But doubtless Jimmie can easily transport the whole lot of them and their mamma to Birdseye Centre any time they want fun. For if Jimmie can shift a whole city, holus bolus, away off into the country once a week, he could easily handle a few womenfolks, two and up. But that’s not his real home. His real home is within a three-minute walk of Old Archie’s frame house. And that house is twenty minutes easy walk of Dunc Campbell’s bush. And how red and gold that bush is to-day!

“It’s a year or more since you gave us any news about Miss Beatrice Chickadee3, the new schoolma’am at Birdseye Centre.”

“Yes.”

Jimmie apparently didn’t want to talk about Miss Chickadee.

“How’s she doing? Who’s her beau?”

“She’s a fine young lady,” said Jimmie, rather doggedly. “We’ve got a new school.”

“Yes, but about Miss Chickadee. Is she popular?”

“You bet she is. She can take care of herself. Our new school….”

“But what about her? Come on!”

“It’s All the Four Corners”

“Well. I’d rather not discuss Miss Chickadee. You see, I got in Dutch with her last winter. I made a mistake somehow and got her dress too short and didn’t do her justice in drawing her face, and she asked me to please not draw her any more.”

“Ah, a peppery young lady!”

“No, but she explained to me a country schoolma’am has to look out for herself and see nothing is put over her. The way she handled old Eph Grousebeak….”

Jimmie chuckled and lowered his voice.

“Eph is the chairman of the school board. He’s been chairman ever since there was a school board. He’s a wonder. I tell you the inspectors are scared stiff of him when they come to visit the school. He puts them through an inspection. Well, Eph, you know, was against Miss Chickadee getting the job – she was too young and pretty and too much of a flapper. He I called her Miss Flapper for weeks after she came. Eph defeated, single-handed, the scheme to put electric lights in the school. Electric lights, he said, in a school, for a few hours a year? Twenty or thirty dollars on the taxes for a bit of sheer nonsense. Lamps, were good enough for him as a boy and he still has his sight. Anyway, Miss Chickadee had Eph eating out of her hand inside two months, and this year, she is moving from Mrs. Henry’s and is going to board at Eph Grousebeak’s. Can you beat that?”

“Quite a victory.”

“The electric lights were installed in the school this summer.”

“Do you ever get in wrong, Jimmie, with any of the other folks in Birdseye Centre, for writing them up?”

“No, because they don’t know about me. Miss Chickadee found out about me being the artist but I promised not to refer to her any more in my cartoons if she wouldn’t give me away.”

“They don’t know about you, Jimmie?”

“No. You see Birdseye Centre isn’t its real name, and their names aren’t really Doolittle, and Grousebeak and Clipper and so forth. And their characters are not exactly like the characters I give them, and they don’t do the things I say they do. So they don’t know it is them. All they know about me is that I am some kind of an artist, which is the next thing to acting in the theatre.”

“But the Four Corners, Jimmie! The Grand Central and John J. McGlone’s general store! That Four Corners you can draw with your eyes shut. Isn’t it real?”

“It’s real, but it’s not just one Four Corners. It is all the Four Corners I have ever seen.”

“Then all these folks, these houses, these wagons and pumps and fair-grounds are only a dream?”

“Even Dunc Campbell’s bush is only a dream,” said Jimmie. “But you can’t have a dream without having seen the reality.”

“That’s a bit metaphysical.”

“So is life.”

“In Birdseye Centre?”

“Yes, and in Toronto.”


Editor’s Notes:

  1. This is the Military Medal in World War One. ↩︎
  2. See the comic “Pig-Skin” Peters Leaves for his New Training Camp. ↩︎
  3. See the comic The New School Ma’m Arrives. ↩︎

A Majorgraph is a term for a caricature created by the cartoonist Henry Mayer.

War Made Gamblers of Us All

Amidst a continuous uproar in which the onlooker wonders how any business at all can be done, the Standard Stock Exchange is in the thick of the most tremendous business in buying and selling mining stocks in the history of this great mining country

By Gregory Clark, September 24, 1927.

Four years ago, a seat on the Toronto Stock Exchange cost about $7,500.

To-day, when some member dies, and you have a lot of drag, you might get a seat for $35,000.

In 1924, a seat on the Standard Exchange – the mining stock exchange in Toronto – cost about $3,000.

$25,000 is the price you would have to pay to-day.

Just four years ago, The Toronto Daily Star ran a page of financial news. To-day it runs two full pages, plus features.

Four years ago, the clearings of the Toronto stock exchanges amounted to seventy-three million dollars. This year they will run up to five hundred million.

These few facts indicate the enormous increase in the art of investment and speculation that has occurred, suddenly, in Toronto.

There is no way of arriving at a definite idea of the increase in the number of Toronto people who have, in the past four years, started to dabble in stocks. But brokers, figuring on the increase in business and the number of sales, estimate that between three and four times the number of people are in the stock market as compared with Toronto in 1924.

Toronto has always been noted for its canniness. It has been the city in which an unusually large number of people owned their homes. Previous to the war, from the financial point of view, Toronto was conservative even amongst Canadian cities. For its well-to-do population, that might have played the stock market freely, preferred to buy bonds. The stock market was played by a limited number of the wealthy and by the usual motion-picture stock gambler. The mass of the Toronto people looked askance upon the stock market as being mysterious and somehow wicked: like champagne, for the rich who could afford it, and for the worldly who could ill afford it.

All is changed. Toronto’s two stock exchanges are flourishing as never in all their history. It is the longest “bull” market in history.

The change has been, so the financial men say, an extremely good thing for Canadian industry. It has thrown unheard of millions of dollars into industry. It has allowed Canadian financiers to get control of many Canadian industries that formerly were owned in the States, and by re-financing them, on a stock basis, have allowed Canadians to share in the success of Canadian industries. It has created a spirit of optimism which has allowed new industries to launch forth and old industries to expand.

War Bonds Started It

With everybody kicking in their little bit, a great deal of money has been made available to the promoters of industry and wealth production in Canada.

For four years there has been a decidedly advancing market. Which simply means, things have been booming. Things have been on the make. Stocks have been going up. Fortunately for Toronto’s – and Canada’s – thousands of new stock investors, there has not been much speculation.

It is a good thing for industry and finance. Is it a good thing for the people?

The answer, so far, is yes.

Who gets the credit?

The war, and the government.

It was the war that caused the government to issue bonds, and it was the government that used every means, fair and foul, to persuade the public to invest in bonds.

Bonds were issued in small denominations, fifties and hundreds. They were as ready as cash. Everybody was egged on to own a bond. The magic of investment was pointed out. Even the industrial and business men, who later were going to bewail all the money being tied up in bonds, got after their workers, down to the janitor, to invest in these beautiful, comfortable bonds, with coupons attached which you snip off with scissors every so often.

This was high-pressure, intensive education in investment. It was universal. By this means, though nobody saw the turn things would take, the governments of the world turned their people into speculators.

For, in due time, the bonds matured. Five, ten years, the public held its nice bonds and clipped the coupons at five, five and a half and even six per cent.

The bonds came due, are coming due. The dominion government has to redeem about a hundred million dollars worth of them this year. But in the meantime, interest has fallen away down.

The war bond buyer who has been getting five and a half and six per cent. now has his capital handed back to him, and he looks around for another bond. But there aren’t any – at that rate of interest.

He is offered 4 per cent.

So what does he do? He has tasted the joy of clipping five and six percent. He is not content to slip back to mere bank interest. He sees a rising market in stocks. Right there we have born a stock investor.

That is the explanation of the phenomenal increase in the stock market.

Before the war, the Canadian investor in industrials, even the wealthy, preferred industrial bonds to industrial stocks. In other words, he preferred to be a creditor on industry rather than a profit-sharer in industry. Canadians preferred industrial bonds, and let the stocks go over the border.

How Stocks Have Risen

That is changed now. With the great increase in war-made investors, there has arisen a mighty contingent – a great proportion of whom must be small investors – who wish to share in the profits of industry rather than be mere creditors. A constantly rising market has encouraged them in their wish.

The more experience they get, the more daring a certain number of them get. Many of the less assured industrial stocks have no end of speculators, and the mining exchange, in which there is a range of speculation greater than in industrials, with a consequent greater chance of rich rewards, has got clients to a number beyond the dreams of the most hectic days of old gold booms.

To show what encouragement those who have entered the field of stock investment have got in the past three or four years, let us take a look at the bank stocks, which probably reflect the trend in the most substantial of all stock investments.

The left hand column shows the highest point reached by the various bank stocks in the year 1924. The right hand column shows the market price of them about the present moment.

1924 Highest      1927

Bank of Nova Scotia…… $266                     $395

Dominion Bank…..           185                        270

Bank of Commerce……   205                        290

Imperial Bank……              180                        250

Montreal………                   250                        350

Royal Bank…….                  240                        339

That is the increase in value of these stocks in three years, besides paying handsome dividends.

The war bond buyer got his five and a half per cent. for ten years, but when he cashed in his bond, all he got was the $100 he put into it ten years before.

The war-bred investor discovers about these stocks that besides their interest, they have – so far – a most extraordinary gift of increasing their capital value at the same time.

A few of the more famous industrial stocks will illustrate this over the same period.

1924.                    1927.

Brazilian Traction…           55 ¼                       185

Consol. Smelters…            49 ½                       265 ½ (high)

City Dairy…..                       135                        660 (equivalent)

Int. Nickel….                        24 ½                       74 (high)

A man who cashed in a $1,000 war bond in 1924 and bought four shares of Bank of Montreal at 250 with it takes his interest for three years and then sells, and gets not his $1,000 but $1,400!

These are the things, multiplied a hundred fold, and in many cases, particularly in mines, with more Aladdin-like results, which are causing thousands of people who never invested before the war at all to think that the world is not such a dusty old place after all.

The mining stocks have, so far, been the most spectacular. These are the figures for the past three years of actual sales, in dollars, on the Standard Exchange:

1924 ………. $30,000,000

1925 ………. 43,000,000

1926 ………. 125,000,000

So the activity in the stock market is not a matter of the past few weeks or months. And the vast leap in trading in 1926 will in all probability be far exceeded by the figures for 1927.

But it must always be borne in mind that the two extraordinary circumstances have combined – the war-induced habit of investment, the falling due of bonds, the decline in interest rate and a great advance in the stock market – and a steady advance.

It may keep up for years. Or it may all end, like a bubble, overnight. The financial optimists say Canada is on the eve of an unparalleled expansion that will last for years and years. There seem to be certain moments in industry which, if a man start up at that time, his future is assured. The optimists say such a period is at hand.

But the history of the world is so filled with examples of slump and panic that the moralist has plenty of good material with which to warn the small man against the lure of easy money.

Certainly, in getting the material for this article, we listened intently amongst the brokers and financial men, for words or signs of caution, or some phrase that would be a text for a paragraph on caution, but none was heard. The brokers and financial men themselves are faced with so many new and strange factors in their own world, the great increase in trading, the steady, and constant advance in the market, that they do not feel at all inclined to make forecasts of any sort. Stock brokers are increasing in number. The bond companies are branching into stocks. The banks are taking a much larger share in the bond business. There is a sort of transvaluation of all values in the financial world going on, and in the shifting process everybody is excited and happy and money is rolling free.

For there is an undeniable pleasure, a sport, in the stock market, arising out of the gamble. And then there is the lure of money.

The stock exchanges themselves are exciting places. A race track is a sort of country show compared to the floor of the stock exchange at opening hour.

There is no tumult like it. The dog show at the Exhibition is the nearest thing to the sound of it. An old time Varsity inter-faculty brawl is the nearest thing to the look of it. The galleries are public, and some time it would do you good to go and watch the pandemonium that reigns most of all at the opening at ten o’clock and which is sustained, unbroken, all through the hours until closing time at three o’clock in the afternoon.

There is a sort of dance floor entirely surrounded by telephone booths.

On this floor stand a crowd of men, mostly young and all endowed with tremendous, strident, army voices.

The Roaring Stock Exchange

Having seen the financial page and thought the matter over during the night, you telephone your broker to buy you five thousand shares of Thisnthat. His man on the exchange has made a note of it amongst all the other things he has to buy and sell for clients who have also been thinking over-night, and there he stands, at two minutes to ten in the morning, waiting for the bell to ring that will cut the wildcats loose.

They bunch together, eagerly, waiting. The bell goes. And you never heard such an uproar in all your life. Every one of those strong-lunged young men yelling something unintelligible at the top of his voice. They jam and shove each other, trying to hand each other little slips of paper on which the trades are recorded with each other.

Your broker, with his order to buy 5,000 Thisnthat at say 65 – the price you stipulated – hears – heaven knows how – somebody else roaring Thisnthat, and he roars back “sixty-five.” The other fellow, not knowing whether your man wants to buy or sell, may raise or may lower that bid. If he yells back “sixty-four and a half” your man knows he is trying to buy too. So he gets as far away from the other as possible and keeps on roaring Thisnthat until somebody with 5,000 to sell at 65 is found and they exchange little scraps of paper, the thing is recorded on the ticker, transmitted to all the brokers’ offices, put up on all the brokers’ slates in town, and entered in the newspaper financial page that Thisnthat sold for 65.

Picture seventy-five men all yelling at the tops of their lungs and making transactions of this sort in a dense mob on a floor about half the size of a Sunnyside dancing floor, and you understand why they call it a market. The market at Baghdad, in Haroun al Raschid’s day, must have been like that. They took selling seriously in those days. They take it seriously on the stock markets to-day. Seventy-five auctioneers all going at once!

How they complete the deals, how your block of 5,000 is transferred from whoever, sold it through the trust companies acting as clearing houses to you; how you buy on margin instead of paying whole cash; how you can buy and sell without ever putting up the cash; these are mysteries – the old, impressive mysteries – which brokers can explain briefly with smile and the wave of a cigar.

But it is an exciting game; for some time past, a profitable game; and thousands of small folks who never played it before were taught to play it during the darkest and direst days of modern times.

“The most reassuring fact about the present boom,” said one Toronto broker, “is the attitude of the Canadian manufacturer.

“True, he is not going so far as to admit that things are improving. But at least he has ceased to threaten that he is about to quit.

“That, I think, is the most impressive assurance we could possibly have that Canada is on the first leg of one of the mightiest booms in her history.”


Editor’s Notes: Uh, oh, we know how this is going to end.

Harun al-Rashid was an early Caliph. His reign is traditionally regarded to be the beginning of the Islamic Golden Age.

Those banks still exist, though the Bank of Commerce and the Imperial Bank merged, and the Dominion Bank merged with the Toronto Bank. Brazilian Traction became Brascan, which became Brookfield Asset Management. Consol. Smelters became Cominco which merged with Teck Corporation, and is now know as Teck Resources. City Dairy was sold to Borden. Int. Nickel became Inco, which was purchased by Vale.

Ain’t Nature Grand!

June 25, 1927

By Gregory Clark, June 25, 1927.

Paris announces knee pants for men.

When Paris speaks to the ladies, ladies listen.

And from the appearance of the downtown streets the last week or so it begins to look as if men are going to listen, too.

By knee pants Paris means something more than plus fours. But plus fours were the first step. Knee pants are the next step.

“France.” says a despatch from one of the most reliable news sources, “ever in the vanguard of human progress, has begun sponsoring a reform in masculine dress which threatens to do away with the conventional trouser and substitute in its place the ancient knee-breech. Maurice de Waleffe, a mere journalist, launched the campaign and stimulated a group of artists to open a Salon de la Mode Masculine, which has been liberally attended. M. de Waleffe points out that the trousers we wear to-day are not only social parvenus, but that they are inconvenient, ugly and deceptive. They are an offense to the esthetic eye, and an outrage in the sight of Mother Nature, for they ‘dissemble the harmonious line of the leg’. Yet they remain. There is no denying that trousers as we know them and wear them to-day have conquered the world. Under these circumstances M. de Waleffe is only too well aware of the magnitude of his task.

“His artists, however, are not to be discouraged. Not only have they shorn men of their pants, but their designs call for radical changes elsewhere. The prophetic pictures they have submitted represent the men of the new generation wearing broad-brimmed hats of a decidedly cowboy cut. The coats for almost all occasions are long – one artist prefers a rakish Prince Albert model, another suggests something halfway between a cutaway and a dress coat. They all go in at the waist, and all are long in the rear. Several designs frankly imitate eighteenth-century styles; others run to Spanish and Argentine motifs. They are all full of curves and contrast, and, as one critic says, ‘they liberate the natural line of the body, not without encouraging, by refinements of cutting and details of lingerie, a certain air of femininity.’

“At the salon several actors from the Paris stage appeared wearing the new styles, and they evoked great enthusiasm from the ladies, who composed most of the audience. But a male observer of the show remarked that the average man might not look quite so well as these well-shaped models. ‘There will be little esthetic profit,’ he announced, if the new styles display knock-knees, skinny calves and fat ankles -women’s experience with short skirts has given us food for thought along these lines. But the movement goes forward none the less, encouraged by the example of the MM. Briand and Doumergue, who have both ordered short pants in preparation for a visit to the Court of St. James.”

Plus Fours Getting Smaller

When you see a girl in a long skirt nowadays you do not give her the benefit of the virtue of modesty. You wonder, instinctively, what is the matter with her. Unsymmetrical, you say to yourself, or words to that effect.

In the vogue for plus fours, which has very slowly been growing in Toronto and is just this

season beginning to invade the business hours and business life, it must be granted that the majority are not bold men, but well-shaped men. The same held true of the short skirt five years ago. Those who could best afford the short skirt did so. Two factors entered into any delay – symmetry and modesty.

The same will probably be true of plus fours. The men with substantial underpinnings are already the first to blossom forth. Then the younger men will follow and break the ice for the odd sizes. Because there is a glorious quality to youth. If youth has comic legs youth is not aware of the fact.

And when the lads have accustomed us to thin legs and fat legs, bowed legs and knock- kneed legs, as we got used to the short skirt, then plus fours will begin to be general, and the older men will step forth with only themselves at all conscious of their new trousers.

Paris of course does not mean plus fours. She means knee breeches of the sort our great-grandfathers wore at funerals and weddings, or when the squire, in good humor, gave an old pair away.

They fitted close to the leg and had silver buckles at the knee, and were in color, black, plum, gray, blue or brown. Instead of the heavy golf stocking which fortunately for the thin man and unfortunately for the fat man are to-day worn with plus fours, silk hose that revealed the beauty of the calf were worn.

It is the Windsor costume of to-day which is worn on state occasions by statesmen, a fact which has prevented many a politician from aspiring to the highest ranks in his profession. His legs would not let him.

Already the plus four is moving perceptibly in the direction of the knee breeches decreed by Paris.

Last summer, did you notice the American tourists in their linen plus fours?

Plus fours are getting not baggier but smaller. The plain knicker has started to come back and oust the potato bags. This is only another step in what has been, in the case of the short skirt, a logical progression. Short skirts at first were roomy and full. Now they are skimpy. Once the shock is over compromise is past.

Plus fours in their full size were easy on the bandy-legged gallant because he could drape them low. And the fuller and lower they were draped the more the wearer was concealed.

The Age of Revealment

One of the mighty effects of the war was the revelation of the manly figure which puttees and spare fitting clothes insisted upon. No end of well-known dudes around Toronto were woefully showed up and exposed as frauds by puttees. In well-tailored suits with smartly-cut trousers that were kept well pressed, some of these lads who were supported in an upright position more by grace than by works, masqueraded as quite athletic and manly figures. Once they got into breeches and puttees their true aspect was revealed. No doubt some of them failed to enlist for that very reason. Rather than confess to skinny legs they confessed to a weak heart.

And the reverse effect was noticeable on certain heavy, stocky men, who, in the roomy trousers of the pre-war period, had no grace at all, and they seemed to be walking bears on heavy wooden structures. But, in revealing puttees you could see the strong, hard legs that held up the barrel of chest and mountain of chest, and they walked more like gods than their slim brothers.

We know one man who wore two pairs of puttees always. But it was a queer thing, nevertheless, that men with exceptionally skinny legs nearly always won the military cross at least.

This is a revealing age. Art is being given short shrift in the second quarter of the twentieth century. The painters are playing hob with the art that used to take pains to record a beautiful world. The musicians are bursting the eardrums that art had soothed. The art that used to enable a lady, with pads and hoops and panniers, high heels and a thousand other devices to make herself appear beautiful and whatever degree she or her advisers could conceive is lost. A minimum of material, and no art can conceal nature. We have got used to nature lately in the ladies, and nature is not half what the artists and poets of the past have, by careful selection and full use of their arts, led us to believe.

Some of the more rugged works of nature are still concealed, as Paris points out, by camouflaging trousers. Nature does not merely build the elm; she builds the gnarled oak. Nature is not bound to produce birches, slim and lovely. She turns out the odd weeping willow, with a trunk like a gas company tank and branches that no end of foliage can quite conceal.

Plus fours are showing us what we needed to know about many men. One of those English journalists of the shrewd, merciless type says that Lloyd George looks like a statesman at all times except when he walks, and then his short legs give him away as middle clawss. He doesn’t go well in Windsor breeches.

There are a number of men we would like to see in plus fours. Tommy Church is the first. Of maybe the last.

Lindbergh’s best pictures are in knickers.


Editor’s Notes: There were a lot of articles in the 1920s about changes in fashion and culture, and this is another, this time regarding short pants for men. Plus-fours were one thing, but you can see the anxiety about where it could be heading, being less baggy and more like 18th century breeches. But that did not happen.

Tommy Church was the Mayor of Toronto from 1915 to 1921, and at the time of this article, was a Conservative member or parliament for the riding of Toronto Northwest.

“There’s Trout in the Old Crick Yet!”

May 28, 1927

That Perennial Badminton Match

March 26, 1927.

This image went with an article by Merrill Denison that covered the regular argument of whether the Americans showing up at the end caused the allies to win the First World War.

Everybody Received Their Almanack on Schedule Except Mr. Eph. Growler

January 8, 1927.

Toronto the Motorists’ Paradise

In this traffic someone has to have atrocious manners – either the police or the motorist.
The average pedestrian neither asks nor expects protection. All he wants is a fair getaway.

This article by Merrill Denison from November 19, 1927, described how terrible Toronto drivers were, but how polite the police were, all in juxtaposition to New York City where he recently returned from. . It also references a 1927 campaign by the “Highway Safety Committee” of Ontario to encourage safe driving.

There is a kind of free abandon about local driving that reminds one of a herd of buffalo roaming the plains

An advertisement (in French) of the safety campaign from the October 12, 1927 edition of Le Droit (an Ottawa newspaper) is below. It says “Will he get over the top?”, and indicates the sign “I’m for Care and Courtesy, Are You?” can be obtained at gas stations.

October 12, 1927 (Le Droit)

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