This is an illustration that Jim made for an article on Vincent Massey, who at the time of the article was recently appointed as the first Canadian Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States for His Majesty’s Government in Canada, making him Canada’s first ever envoy with full diplomatic credentials to a foreign capital. He would later become the first ever Canadian born Governor-General in 1952.
By Greg Clark, February 12, 1927
Batteries thud out their shots into the night. Rockets fleet up and burst in jewels against the vivid starry sky. The Fete de Nuit has begun, Quebec’s night of celebration of winter.
Up the narrow, steep streets of the ancient city flow the crowds, in colored sashes wrapped about their homely workaday clothes, in gay snowshoe costumes of blanket cloth, in ski costume, in furs. And one crowd – a snowshoe club in hooded coats – are singing as they go.
“Vive la Huronne si fiere
De ses Guerriers, de ses grands bois.”
From the old town, from the hotels, from the shops all closing hurriedly, the crowds swarm up the steep streets to the Citadel. The rockets light the snow. From across the St. Lawrence glow the great bonfires on the Levis shore where the villagers hold their lesser celebrations. On the ramparts of the old Citadel, beacon fires leap and flare. The ancient fortress is limmed in a vast gleam of colored light.
Groups of glee singers in their picturesque costumes sing the old voyageur songs. “A la Claire Fontaine,” “La Huronne,” “Alouette,” “Les Montagnards.” Bands play, the ice is massed with skaters, the bob and toboggan runs are crammed with flashing groups, the snowshoe clubs in their various costumes march past, the ski clubs lead the way to the hills where they perform their little miracles of speed and marvelous control, the entries in the coming dog team races bring their huskies to show them off to the crowds, there is a carnival of confusion and music under the beacon fires and the rockets. Then the batteries fling their tumult into the starry night, the rockets make a final frenzy and the crowd seeks out the dance floor of the city, new and old, to close the Fete de Nuit.
What a professional team of half a dozen players does in sport is news. What a whole city does in sport is too big for news. Some day, the story of what Quebec is doing with winter will be written in a book of the social history of Canada.
Quebec does not set aside a day for winter sports. Her city council does not generously donate piece of park land for the celebration. The old city has been long enough on her mighty cliffs to know when the snow comes and when it departs. And for that time of beauty Quebec writes a new calendar.
Most of the cities of Canada are looking shrewdly at winter sports as a scheme for at attracting tourists. They would like to set up a sort of winter amusement park, with a foxy eye on the investment and the probable turnover.
Quebec celebrates winter for herself. And the tourists, tens of thousands of them, come to her for that very reason.
Quebec has something to show every other city in Canada. Neither the Chateau Frontenac nor the Quebec Winter Sports Association cared to make an estimate of the number of tourists, largely American, from New York and the New England states, who come to the old city in the course of the winter to unbend themselves with winter recreation. The lowest estimate was ten thousand, excluding all commercial visitors. The largest estimate was twenty thousand, from November to March. These were people of means, who had time and money to spend in amusing themselves. They are the sort of visitors Canada wants, not merely for the cash they dispense but for the potentialities of their interest in Canada which are likely to result from their visit.
Where Winter is Holiday Time
How has Quebec done It?
For long, long years, Canada has looked upon her winter as a great handicap. From the economic point of view, a liability, a detriment.
At one time in the history of this dominion, the British government was trying to arrange a trade with the French whereby they would give Canada away for a nice, jungly little Island down in the tropics somewhere.
“Canada,” they said, “is a country covered with snow for a large part of the year.”
Most of us remember the shame and indignation that was roused when Kipling published his poem, “Our Lady of the Snows.”
Just lately, the rest of Canada has been gradually, very gradually, changing her mind about snow. Quebec changed her mind a couple of centuries ago. But, of course, Quebec has been there a long time.
A certain Canadian radio station desired to put on a night of Canadian songs. A patriotic night of native songs. They thought of “Alouette” and “A la Claire Fontaine,” And “En Roulant Ma Boule.”
How about some Canadian songs in English? “O Canada,” there was, of course! But no, it too was French, translated. The project had to be abandoned because there were not enough native songs in English. And there were too many in French to suit the somewhat shrewd taste of the management.
It takes time to develop songs. It also takes time to develop something so essentially native and national as Quebec city’s three month long celebration of winter. Quebec has lived with Its winter long enough to know it and love it. And probably because it is something the rest of the world has not got, because it is distinctive, there gradually grew a desire to celebrate it. It was a time for gay clothes. It was a time for fun. Many of the industries were halted by it. The villages had nothing much else to do in winter but amuse themselves. Over two centuries, there emerged the thing they have to-day – a calendar of sports, with something for everybody to do or see for almost every day of the winter.
It is pretty evident, Quebec does not lay out her winter with an eye on the tourists. But the tourists come. Quebec is now, in the opinion of those whose business it is to tell people where to go for recreation, the greatest winter sport centre in America. It is on the grow. The Chateau Frontenac was filed to capacity Christmas and New Years week. One single party came from Boston consisting of three hundred and fifty – a train load. This was not a convention. It was a party of pleasure seekers which has grown from small beginnings, a few Bostoners meeting at the Chateau, deciding to come again, and so on, until after half a dozen years it makes a gay trainload of families, decked out in the garments not of Boston, but the quaint costumes, of Quebec. Dozens of such cumulative parties now come to the Chateau every winter.
“Way I’m looking at it now,” said a New Yorker who had not only his children but his grandchildren with him – you should have seen the old boy with four grandchildren skyhooting around the steep streets of Quebec in a dog sled behind eight huskies… “the average man in this country should have two weeks holiday in summer and one week in winter.”
But then, he was president of a bank.
Months of Carnival
The Fete de Nuit, with its carnival spirit of assembling in the snow night, is not what it might be in Montreal or Toronto. The weeks and months are laid out in a sort of festive calendar. Certain nights are given over to hockey matches, professional and amateur. Then other nights are given to ski competitions, skating races, snow-shoe hikes under the leadership of the various Quebec snowshoe clubs – despite the way the snowshoe is looked upon in this moment of popularity of skiing, it is by far the more picturesque sport, and lends itself to fun and frolic. Other nights are given to bob sled races. The Quebec dog derby is becoming a classic. And towards the end of the season there to a great masquerade of winter which says goodby to winter with the same regret Ontario bids summer farewell.
Quebec has an incomparable lead on the rest of Canada not because she has more or a better winter, but because the recognition of the spirit of winter is rooted right in the people. Not just a few of the people but all the people make definite obeisance to winter. The ice sculpture in front of al the stores is only an indication. The gay red and green sleighs of the merchants and the corporation, the sashes worn by the men over their coate-quaint, woolen sashes of bright color, some of which are old and worth as much as two hundred dollars. Of course you couldn’t live in Quebec without having a spirited and humorous respect for winter. Quebec’s streets run up and down more than north and south or east and west. You have to equipped with humor to walk either up or down one of those streets. For at any moment you are likely to go on your ear.
Can other Canadian cities welcome winter in the same highly profitable fashion Quebec does?
Can Toronto, with her queer scabby, dirty, slushy winter do anything better than scowl at winter?
The Great Lakes cities are rather unfortunate. They are placed against warm bowls which melt winter away. Those old boys who talk of winter not being what it used to be are men born and brought up in towns and cities set in a few miles from the lakes, and who remember their winters of old. The winters in Newmarket, Stratford, Peterborough are just as good as they ever were. Toronto’s winter is pretty much as it always was. Go back a few miles from the lake and you find winter.
Toronto can have winter in all its glory little way up the Metropolitan railway. Hundreds, thousands of people who have summer cottages on Lake Simcoe are already taking annual parties of winter sports enthusiasts up to Lake Simcoe in the winter. The solution of the winter recreation problem for Toronto will undoubtedly be a series of resorts set back from forty to a hundred miles, where there are the trees, hills and snow.
Would Toronto Wear a Sash?
Some of the small towns sleeping away over that ridge that rises a few miles back of Toronto could make a fortune if they undertook to amuse Toronto people with snow. Toronto is no less a sport and recreation city than the average city in America. When winter comes, golf, motoring, tennis, all the familiar sports are ended. There is a leisure class which then goes into sort of steamy hibernation, dancing, playing bridge, going to shows, yet unhappy and restless because the exercise in which they are accustomed in winter id left out of their scheme of things.
They go to Quebec now. They even go to Lake Placid, which is down south. A few are discovering the one or two resorts in Muskoka which have everything Lake Placid has, except the loud voice.
But Toronto is so convinced that winter – in her world, anyway – is a matter of slush, alternating with furious grips of zero weather which hardens the slush for a day or two and then collapses into another flu week, that it will be slow work waking Toronto to the fact that there is beauty only fifty miles away.
If Toronto people were to put on a blanket coat or sash, to which they are as fully entitled as the people of Quebec, there would at once be rumors of a circus in town. The most Toronto will do in the way of releasing the spirit in dress is to wear a small bit of colored feather sticking up in the back of the hat band.
“That’s a beautiful sash,” We remarked to a young man beside us watching the bob sleds racing at tremendous pace down the old Quebec wall.
“Yes,” he said. “Ceinture fleche: my grandmother wove this when she was a girl. It is mine now.”
He has winter-burned the color of leather. He had a hard, lean look, and his eyes were aflame with interest in the fleeting sleds.
“Do you bob?”
“No. Skis,” he said. “After banking hours, skis.”
“Do you jump?”
“Yes. I can do ninety, a hundred. But it’s the ski running that is sport. We picked up fox back six or seven miles in the Laureation the other day. New stuff. A grand sport.”
“More fun even than the summer, eh?”
“Summer! Man, I spend the summer just yearning for winter to come again!”
Ho told us of the fox hunt on skis, the hours working along the ridges, sliding and pawing along the sides of those purple Laurentian hills that rise back of the old city and at last, towards evening, the picking up of a fox on the high ridge, the shouting and view hallo, and the party sweeping and racing over ridge and valley in pursuit of the astounded tox.
“Did you kill him?”
“Kill him! Not he; we drove him to his hole in a rock slide, and left him for another day. We have sent for English hunting horns for the chase, to sound the view hallo.”
This is something Toronto could do. Quebec does a hundred things Ontario could do.
But perhaps the sash would be beyond Toronto.
And in the sash may be the whole appeal.
Skyhoot, also means “scoot”, or to go quickly.
“View Halloo” is the term given to the shout when a hunter spots his target.
By Greg Clark, September 10, 1927
The Star Weekly has a sporting offer to make the educational authorities of the province.
If they will standardize home-work – that is arrange matters so that the same grades get the same home-work each night in all parts of the province – the junior third in all schools in Toronto getting exactly the same home-work as the junior third in Clinton, Ont., Pickering, Ont. and Omemee. Ont., then The Star Weekly, over the radio CFCA, will do the homework for the province.
Now, how’s that for an offer, boys and gals?
We would hire a retired schoolmaster to do the job.
Starting with the junior first about 5 p.m. we would go right through the home-work of each grade in succession, right up to the senior matriculation years, the answers to the home-work for the upper fourth collegiate grade being given about midnight or one o’clock in the morning, so as to induce the young people of that age to get home in good time.
This sporting offer is not made so much for the benefit of the children as for the parents. The Star Weekly always aims to do the popular thing as well as the decent thing.
We desire to attack public abuses. And one of the great abuses of this present generation is the duty imposed upon parents of having to continue going to school long after they have reached the age of liberty.
In former days, home-work was strictly the duty of the children.
Along about seven o’clock – there was no day-light saving time then – Pa would step out on the veranda and give a shrill whistle. The children would detach themselves reluctantly from the game of hide-and-go-seek, run-sheep-run, or injun, and drag their feet homewards.
The dining room table was generally the place set aside for homework.
Pa would shut the sliding doors between the dining room and the living room where he read the evening paper and enjoyed his smoke.
No questions were allowed. If there was any chatter in the dining room, likely to disturb Pa and his paper he would growl:
No child, in those days, had the temerity to bring his school problems in to Pa. The Pa of those good old days was no softie. He paid his school rates, and he knew the proper place of children. Between these two facts, the need for him remembering how many acres there are in a square mile did not exist.
From the dining room came soft murmurs – the kind of murmurs children make when adding or memorizing the kings of England – until about eight o’clock, Pa, having knocked out his pipe, would open the door into the dining room, look sternly in upon the toilers, solemnly produce his watch from his vest pocket and say:
“Home-work all done? Very well; to bed, every one of you!”
There has been no change in homework. But there has been a vast change in the relation between Pa and his children. Everybody knows about the emancipation of women. But we have ignored the much more important social fact of the emancipation of children.
Emancipation of Children
The emancipation of women has merely meant that men have had to hire a little more domestic help.
The emancipation of children has meant that Pa has to remember what the quotient of 489) 3443388.81 is.
Because Mother is free to vote, Pa may have to purchase a vacuum cleaner instead of a forty-cent broom.
But because children, all unaided, have reached a state of independence unparalleled in the history of human freedom, Pa has to discover the G.C.M. of 408 and 544!
This is the state of affairs that the Star Weekly would like to relieve over CFCA by announcing the solutions of all home-work through out the province, so that Pa may recover some of his lost status, his lost dignity. Nowadays It would be impossible to order the children in to do their home-work. But all children love to listen to something of their own over the radio. This CFCA scheme is crafty. Pa could tell the children about it, plead with them to be in at the proper time to tune in, and there is a good chance that the thing would succeed. We don’t guarantee it.
“The only fault I find with the plan,” said an eminent educationalist, “Is that by CFCA doing the work, much of the virtue of home-work is lost, since the child does not do the actual work.”
“The child does not do it nowadays, anyway.” we replied. “This a plan for the relief of parents.”
Premier G. H. Ferguson has announced more than once during election campaigns that he designs in time to abolish home-work. Some people think that it was Premier Ferguson’s liquor policy that carried him and his party to victory last year. It was not that, it was his announced intentions towards homework that caused tens of thousands of parents to vote him into power. It may be that his promise was only an election promise. But a vast number of waiting parents are living in expectation of the day when they will be dismissed from school.
Premier Ferguson has announced no abolition. We thought he might have made some such announcement – burning a symbolic pyre of school-books at the time – during the great concourse of school children on the lawns of the parliament buildings last May, on Decoration Day. But he didn’t.
Mr. D.D. Moshier, the new chief Inspector of schools in Toronto, however, makes an announcement of the greatest importance.
“By the action of the Toronto board of education taken last December,” he says, “home-work is to be discouraged as much as is compatible with the existing system.
“In no home is a child to be required to do home-work against the wishes of the parents.
“No child is to be penalized for not doing home-work.
“In the upper classes, working towards entrance, a certain amount of home study is to be expected of the pupils. But study, not class exercises, is what will be expected of the pupils.”
Expected! Mark that word.
How changed is childhood in so short a space of years.
We remember a stern schoolmaster, sitting on his platform, reading slowly and with acid distinctness, the problems in arithmetic we would have to bring back the next morning, done.
We remember the whistles on all the front porches up and down the street, the whistles that broke up the gang and sent us to our home-work.
Putting It Up to Dad
The best part of the day had been taken from us. From 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. we had been in the factory, sitting like a lot of little slaves, learning to be tame, and to read and write.
From 4 p.m. until 7 we had been free, except for the interruption of supper and messages and chores.
And then for another hour we had to go back to the grind, so that our little heads were filled, in farewell to another day, with the darkness of learning. We took to our small beds dreams of our serfdom.
But we have been very clever. Somehow, in the great breakdown of former things – the war, the emancipation of women, the clatter and bang of this age and moment – the children have been very, very clever. They too have worked out their liberation.
The stern parent disappeared some time in the past ten years. Was it when most young parents were away to the wars? Was it when the movies arrived on every main corner of the city? Was it when the motor car suddenly made of the evening something new and spacious!
Since 1900, more new social factors have entered human life than in a thousand years before.
Home-work could not be expected to stand against these new forces.
Take a man whose only job is selling motor cars or neckties: his life consists of a very few simple motions. He dresses particularly well. He cultivates a winning personality. He devotes his day to pleasant persuasion. There are no Intellectual tricks to it. It is easy. He simply lets himself function.
Now this man, on his return home, is faced by a squad of indignant children:
“Look here, Dad!” says the oldest boy. “I gotta get my homework done. The teacher is going to pluck me if I don’t get my homework done. I’m gonna be left behind by all the gang.
The other fellows’ dads do it. Why shouldn’t you?”
And the justice of the demand causes the father to attempt the task.
Here are a few of the problems he has to do:
“How many pints in 5-16 of a bushel?”
“What fraction of the number 12 is the quotient?”
“What percentage of 1 bu. 2 pk. is 3 qt.?”
“A cubic foot of water weighs 10 Ibs. If cast iron is 7.2 times as heavy as water, how many cubic feet of cast iron will weigh as much as 3,060 cu. ft. of water?”
“The area of a curved face of a cylinder is 396 sq. ft. The altitude is 12 ft. Find the diameter.”
Now what would the average automobile salesman do in the face of such problems, and with his son expecting the whole thing to be done by the time he gets back from the ball practise?
He might start with the last one. The word cylinder would look familiar, though who ever heard of a cylinder being 12 feet high? Some sort of a ship’s engine, probably.
He would most likely phone the office, ask for the superintendent of the garage, and put that cylinder problem up to him. But it is the insides of cylinders, not their perimeter, diameter or quotient of anything else that auto salesmen are Interested in.
When homework was first invented, life was simple. There were only five or six kinds of work in the world – farming, store-keeping, shoemaking, blacksmithing, teaching, preaching and law. And one of the principal amusements of the community was doing problems in arithmetic or philosophy in the evenings down to the shoemakers, or in the blacksmith shop, where the fathers of the village foregathered.
Every father knew about perimeter and the length of an acre and the number of grains in an ounce and so forth, because there was little else to know.
Life has suddenly become very complex and very simple. There are thousands of kinds of jobs. Men do not have to be shoemakers or farmers against their will. There are so many kinds of jobs, man just naturally flows into the one that fits him. It is not work at alt in the sense that life was work fifty years ago. A man farms because he functions, easiest as a farmer. A man keeps books or sells shirts or stocks because he can do it with the minimum of effort.
And why this happy world should be clouded, during one of the happiest periods of life – young parenthood – by the necessity for remembering or rediscovering a lot of faint, far, forgotten misery is the thing the Hon. Mr. Ferguson asks on the eve of elections and the thing Mr. Moshier, on behalf of the Toronto board of education, answers.
Back in the old days the village schoolmaster would enunciate a problem to his class.
The problem would go home. The children would struggle over it. Parents might get hold of it, if they were interested. The Pas would take it down to the shoemaker’s or the blacksmith shop and it would be wrangled over. The village wisemen could consult. But nobody knew the answer save the village schoolmaster. And he would stroll by, filled with silence and smiles.
The Ontario Public School Arithmetic costs ten cents. It contains a million problems, asks a million questions, propounds a million mysteries.
But the answers are all in the back.
For ten cents you get all the answers, all the solutions.
This book is a monument to the newer education, to the education that consists of asking questions and answering them in the same breath.
Maybe education is not what it means. Ex duco – to lead out. Education means to lead out, either to lead the child out of ignorance or to lead it out of itself.
One of the oldest puzzles in the world is to discover just what this leading means. If we are in darkness we can only lead the children into darkness. If we are stupid – and each decade looks back upon a decade of stupidity – we can only lead the children to stupidity.
The abolition of homework takes away the last responsibility of parents to share in the education of their children.
But it saves tens of thousands of parents the humiliation of being showed up before their children.
It leaves a lot more time for golf, movies, loafing in the garden, reading the comics.
But it lifts a little of the absurd burden of scholarship off mankind.
A boy recently failed quite flatly in most of his exams. He had made the hockey and rugby teams. He had gained ten pounds. He had grown big and sensible and good-looking. But he made a beautiful smash of his exams.
The boy’s father and an elder brother were talking it over.
“Will we send him back to school or shoot him into a job?”
“Well,” said the elder brother, “I don’t think education consists of scholarship any more. The biggest thing a boy can possibly get out of his education – his school days – is the experience of dominance.
“If he can dominate in scholarship, all right. That’s the good experience. If he can dominate at sport, or socially amongst his fellows, just as good, maybe better. Because, amongst all our acquaintances, Dad, in business, in society, in life altogether, do you or I number a single scholar amongst our friends?”
And they could find but one!
Yet amongst the liveliest spirits of their acquaintance they numbered men who had dominated somehow at school – in sport, in mischief, in social activity – somehow they had dominated, and experienced the sensation of dominating.
“The terrible thing,” they agreed, “the great danger that lurks in what we call education, nowadays, is the possibility that the boy will experience the other thing – the looking up to others, the failure to excel in anything. They learn nothing but to look up.”
The cancellation of homework is a black eye for scholarship. Scholarship used to be all of education. The importance of scholarship used to be impressed on the home every night.
The first faint official skid under scholarship is the dictum:
“No child is required to do homework against the wishes of the parents.”
In one way it is taking the responsibility away from parents.
But for those who are shrewd enough to see it, it is putting a new and unheard of responsibility back upon parents.
For now there are strange, unknown ways of education. Being number one of the class is no more the criterion. The monthly report means nothing.
A parent cannot look at his child and judge him by linear measurement.
Education means leading out, and at 3.30 p.m. or 4 if he’s naughty, the school leads the child right back, without a book in his hand, to the home.
But now, with no more school books to be carried home, how is a fellow going to court his girl?
That, perhaps, is the most important aspect of the whole question of homework.
Editor’s Notes: The Elementary grade levels at the time:
|Junior First||Grade 1|
|Senior First||Grade 2|
|Junior Second||Grade 3|
|Senior Second||Grade 4|
|Junior Third||Grade 5|
|Senior Third||Grade 6|
|Junior Fourth||Grade 7|
|Senior Fourth||Grade 8|
CFCA was a radio station owned by the Toronto Star. In the early days of radio, stations were often owned by other businesses.
Howard Ferguson was Premier of Ontario at the time of this article, a position he held from 1923 to 1930.
Decoration Day was a holiday used to recognize veterans before the formal establishment of Remembrance Day in 1931. It was first commemorated on June 2, 1890 by veterans of the Battle of Ridgeway. It was held on the weekend closest to June 2, and later would remember veterans of battles such as the North-West Rebellion, the Boer War, and the First World War.
One Bushel = 32 quarts = 4 pecks
By 1927, people were attempting to swim across Lake Ontario, and Pigskin Peters was going to attempt it too. He returned in the September 3 strip a failure. It would not be accomplished until Marilyn Bell did it in 1954.
This illustration by Jim was attached to a story by Frank Mann Harris (also known as “Six-bit” Harris), who was a regular contributor to the Star Weekly in the late 1920s and early 1930s. He wrote often of small town life. “Little Epsom” refers to Epsom Downs, a race track in Surrey, UK.
By Greg Clark, April 2, 1927
Mr. Jim Frise, of The Star Weekly staff, cartoonist of Birdseye Corners, attended the banquet of cartoonists and comic strip artists from all over America that was held in New York last week.
It was Jim’s first visit to New York, and that explains the weird and unhallowed adventure which befell him. The banquet was a great success. George McManus, Bud Fisher, Briggs, all the humorists known to The Star Weekly were there, including hundreds of others. But it was what befell Jimmie before he got to the banquet that makes this story.
The banquet was in the Astor Hotel, but Jim reserved his room at the Pennsylvania. The first thing that went wrong was when he arrived at the Pennsylvania station, and took a taxi and drove sixty feet across the street to the Pennsylvania Hotel.
“An expensive way,” says Jimmie, “of crossing the street, even in New York.”
He got into the huge hotel, with its umpteen storeys, and found an awful mob of people milling about the rotunda, and a line-up nearly a block long at the room clerk’s wicket. So Jim decided he would check his handbag at the check-room and not spend half the day in a line-up. He had reserved his room. He would get it later, after seeing New York. He checked the bag and got a small brass check with the initials “P.H., 197.”
So he went forth into the great city.
Of the topless towers of Ilium, of those vast, cream-colored temples that lean backward into the infinite sky, of the storms and tempests of traffic hurling by, of the ant-armies of inhuman humanity crawling, colliding, hurrying by, Jimmie can tell with the inimitable feeling of Birdseye Corners.
It was a fine day. He rode buses for miles one way; he rode the elevated for miles the other, averting his face, embarrassed, as the elevated tore amidst domestic scenes upstairs; he rode on the underground and guessed where he would come out — wrong each time. He deliberately lost himself and found himself again by some lofty landmark reaching like a mountain top into the sky.
He walked down by-streets, through great stores, looked in the strange windows of little hidden shops, ate in a restaurant where nobody smiled, stood and watched traffic cops, old ladies lost in the maelstrom, little boys dancing amid the fury.
He does not know where he wandered, but he didn’t see anybody from Birdseye Corners all that day, although he saw a million and fifty-six people.
The shadows began to lengthen and then Jimmie thought of the banquet at the Astor, and he decided to go back to his hotel and dress.
The Hotel That Vanished
So he began to pick a friendly face to ask directions. The mob flowed ceaselessly by, their strange averted gaze, their hard, aloof faces, set straight ahead. Jimmie looked at thousand and one faces before he saw one that had a little humanity in it. In his nicest manner Jimmie said:
“Could you direct me to the Philadelphia Hotel?”
“Philadelphia Hotel?” said the New Yorker. “Never heard of it.”
And passed on.
Jimmie was rather astonished. The Philadelphia Hotel, he said to himself, is umpty-three storeys tall, there were thousands of people milling about in it only this morning; it seemed to be in a central location. But Now York, he reflected, is a big place, and even a great hotel might easily be overlooked in all this marching army of temples and obelisks in the sky.
So he hailed a taxicab, remembering his discomfiture of the morning, and saying to himself, probably the Philadelphia Hotel is only around the corner.
“Philadelphia Hotel,” said Jimmie, stepping into the taxi.
“Where it at?” asked the gunman at the wheel.
“Well, I don’t just know. Somewhere hereabouts,” said Jimmie. The Philadelphia Hotel.”
“Don’t know it,” said the taxi man. “Better look it up.”
And he slammed the door against Jimmie and drove hurriedly on.
So Jimmie walked on down this great street he was in, the hall-past-five crowds jamming and jumbling up and down it, and he decided to look up the phone books in United Cigar store.
There were three ‘phone books in the pay-station, a red one, a gray one and a blue one. Jimmie searched all through all of them, and he found the Philadelphia Fruit Store, the Philadelphia Boot and Shoe Emporium, the Philadelphia Public Ledger New York Office, but no Philadelphia Hotel.
It was about this time that a sense that something was seriously wrong began to creep over Jim. A feeling of mild horror, like the reading of one of Dunsany’s stories inspires. Here was a huge hotel — and a hand-bag — suddenly dissipated into air, thin air. He had heard of flim-flam in New York, of gold bricks and of selling the City Hall and the Woolworth Building. But that a hotel, the name of which was as familiar as Madison Square Garden, should all of a sudden elude him, disappear, vanish.
He spoke of the matter to the clerks in the cigar store. They listened suspiciously, in between waiting on silent, hasting customers. They offered him no help. Shook their heads and made sympathetic faces, silently.
Then Jimmie went forth into the street again.
It must have been six o’clock. The banquet was for eight. In the canyon of that street, in that valley amidst the cream-colored mountain ranges, the light was fading. The crowds had dwindled. But those who remained were hurrying more than ever, with small steps and that straight, averted gaze.
Jim went on. He tried to recall if he had been in this neighborhood before. But not a thing was familiar. Not a thing near, not thing afar, nor one remote topmost temple.
A sense of being lost, forsaken, not only in a strange city but in a strange world smote Jimmie.
Finding a Human New Yorker
Standing with his hands behind him, gazing with large leisure at nothing whatever, stood an elderly gentleman who appeared to Jimmie to have stopped right out of the pages of Birdseye Corners.
“Excuse me, sir,” said Jimmie, “but I’ve got a strange story to tell you, and I wonder if you’d listen.”
“Sure thing,” said the stranger, affably.
So Jimmie outlined the beginnings of the story, telling how he had checked his bag at the Philadelphia Hotel, describing the hotel faithfully, and going into detail on this day spent wandering, emphasizing the fact that not a week and not a year had elapsed, but that it was only the one day. And then he told of the hotel simply disappearing and leaving not trace behind.
“What hotel did you say It was?” asked the stranger.
“Well, sir,” said the stranger. “I was born and raised in Noo York. I have lived here, man and boy, sixty-five years. I know it and I know all its tricks. I never even heard of the Philadelphia Hotel. But stranger things have happened than this thing that’s happened to you.”
“All for hand-bag,” said Jimmie. “Just a hand-bag. They faked a great big hotel just to swipe my hand-bag.”
“Lemme see that bag check you got,” sad the stranger.
Jimmie produced the little brass check, with the “P.H., 197,” on it. The stranger studied it.
“Why,” says he, “it isn’t the Philadelphia Hotel, it’s the Pennsylvania.”
“Pennsylvania!” shouted Jimmie. “Pennsylvania!”
And wringing the stranger’s hand, he leaped to the curb, hailed a taxi and shouted “Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania” at the amazed driver.
He kept repeating Pennsylvania all the way to the hotel, all the time he was dressing, he wrote it on his shirt front and made memos on all the pieces of paper an artist carries about his person. He kept repeating it as he washed and tied his dress tie, rapping on the solid walls of the hotel, leaning firmly and substantially on the elevator walls as he went down to the rotunda, and it took him all of a minute to remember the name of the Astor as he got into the taxi to go to the banquet.
This is the kind of adventure that befalls artists. You see, despite the fact that Jimmie knows his London and his Paris, where he knocked around his leaves in artillery spurs and britches, Jim really lives in Birdseye Corners.
That’s why Birdseye Corners is so good.
Editor’s Notes: This story was published during the brief period of time that Birdseye Center was referred to as Birdseye Corners. It also played up the notion that Jim Frise was still just a country boy.
The caricature was created by Ken Browne. He was not that far off with Jim and his pipe as this photo illustrates.
This is one of the comics where it was transitioning titles. Here it is referred to as Birdseye Corners instead of Birdseye Center.
This war story by E.G. Black was illustrated by Jim. The initials “S.R.D.” appeared on the kegs of rum that was issued to British and Canadian soldiers during World War One, and stood for “spirits of rum diluted”.The story is a humorous account of how an inebriated Jake Pond of the Artillery captured two Germans (who had to help Jake in the capturing of themselves).