Tag: 1928 Page 1 of 2
By Foster Hewitt, October 13, 1928
The Lot of the Radio Man at the Big Games is No Bed of Roses
A radio announcer’s job is no bed of roses, particularly in the sporting line. To most people it gives the impression of the luck some fellows have of being able to attend so many games and then to have the best seat in the house for the occasion. It sounds easy but as a matter of fact it’s hard work.
A sporting announcer, has a life similar to an actor on the stage. No matter whether he feels under the weather or not he has to suddenly “come to life” and take part in the game Itself whether the stock market goes up or down or it rains or shines. Sports broadcasts are handed in the same way as any other kind from a technical standpoint. Remote control equipment consisting of a two-stage amplifier and telephone equipment is located at the field near the announcer; the stadium or arena is hooked up with the radio station by special telephone wires. At the station the lines run through a speech input amplifier and then direct into the transmitter where it is broadcast to all those within range of the station. A radio operator is required at either end and telephone men are ready for any emergency.
Out of town pick-ups such as rugby games from Kingston and Montreal are handled in a similar manner only long distance lines are held open and more telephone men are used to make sure there is no hitch in the broadcast.
The main point in broadcasting sport is to keep up with the play. Detail is essential and listeners-in are just as interested in knowing about the crowd and their actions as they are in the actual description of the game. An odd joke or two helps to keep the listener in a good mood, but a little of it goes a long way.
Toronto’s First Sport Broadcast
Sports broadcasts for CFCA date back to March, 1923, when the first hockey game was broadcast from the Mutual street arena. The main difficulty encountered in this respect was to keep the cheers of the crowd subdued in such a way as to make the announcer’s voice clear and above the hullaballoos of an exciting game. It was agreed that a closed-in box was the solution, but the main problem was the size. First of all the box had to be on the rail so that the players could be easily identified. Then A.B. (Andy) Taylor, the rink manager, had to be considered. He raised the point that the box couldn’t be of any height as it would interfere with the spectators’ view. Another point was that the seats were practically all sold and only the space for three seats could be spared. Out of all these conditions CFCA’s first “coup” was built. It was 3 ½ x 4 feet and 4 feet high. It had glass on three sides with a heavy wire netting to protect the glass. A stool with legs six inches in height was placed inside and the stage was all set. The first broadcast nearly ended in disaster. When I did finally get in and closed the door all the air was cut off. In a few minutes my head started to go round. The heat of my breath blurred the glass and obscured the view. The game was between Kitchener and Parkdale and went 30 minutes overtime before Kitchener finally scored the winning goal.
The spectators in the rail seats, although warned before the game to keep their seats, leaned over the sides in such a way as to cut off any view of the players in the corner of the rink. The broadcast was completed with the microphone set out on the edge of the rail where the play could be followed. The cabinet was used many times after that but several holes were cut in the box to give the announcer an even chance to breathe.
In April 1923, the final game between the Granites of Toronto and Hamilton Tigers was broadcast from the rink in Hamilton. In those early days radio equipment was very crude. Instead of the complete remote control equipment of to-day only the ordinary telephone transmitter was used with the receiver off the hook dangling by your side. I was stationed on the players’ bench along the boards of the rink. During the intermission between the second and third periods we started to give the summary. Hamilton is one of the best sporting towns in the world and nobody denies it, but there were many there that night that wanted to tell the world about how good Hamilton was and to even more strongly stress how unimportant Toronto was. The barrage increased in intensity when a few loyal Toronto supporters started to talk back. Pandemonium reigned. To get away from all this turmoil I placed the telephone underneath the benches, crawled under and completed the preliminary story. The last period was hectic. Granites started off with a lead of two goals obtained in the first two periods and were trying to nurse their hard-earned lead. The Tigers, urged on by the frantic Hamilton rooters were in a frenzy. After ten minutes of play Tigers scored their first goal. Spurred on by this success they scored another two minutes later, tying the score. Alex Romeril, one of the Granite players, who was sitting on the Granite bench beside me, in his excitement picked up the dangling receiver and smashed it on the boards. That meant that while I could still go on talking I couldn’t hear whether it was going out or not. In the last five minutes a heavy mist came off the ice and the players disappeared from view every few minutes. The game ended in a tie score but as Granites had a lead from the first game played in Toronto they won the title. It sure was a struggle.
Girls Out-Talk Announcer
During the Varsity Grads-Port Arthur Allan Cup finals at the Arena two girls were seated beside the broadcasting booth. If there ever was a talkative pair they were “it.” They yelled and screamed for Port Arthur from start to finish. In desperation I made the mistake of asking them to be a little more conservative in their words of encouragement. It was just like throwing a match into a can of gasoline. They shouted even louder than before and capped it all by draping themselves in front of the box so that it made it well nigh impossible to see all of the play. A radio fan in some remote part of Saskatchewan wrote me and repeated a number of the things he had heard the girls say. If nothing else the two girls added lots of the so-called “local color” to the broadcast.
If there ever was a battle royal it was the eastern junior hockey final between North Bay Trappers and Kingston. North Bay led going into the third period 3 to 1 and looked like easy winners. Suddenly Kingston took a new lease of life and encouraged by the tremendous bellows of encouragement from Captain James T. Sutherland, which, by the way, cut into the microphone like a knife, the Limestone City sextet tied the score. In the next thirty minutes of overtime the packed arena went mad. Many frenzied North Bay fans in their eagerness to see the play scrambled on top of the broadcasting box and nearly upset the works. As fast as I would turn them away others climbed aboard so that over the radio it sounded like a broadcast of the thundering herd in full gallop. After that broadcast the booth was nailed down.
For our broadcasts of hockey games to-day a large platform is located under the rafters on the west side of the rink in line with the penalty time-keepers. While it is a considerable distance from the players all the corners of the ice are visible and there is plenty of fresh air as the broadcast is conducted in the open. At this height the roar of the crowd serves as good background but is not loud enough to affect the announcements.
At Opening of Detroit Olympia
I had the honor of broadcasting the first professional hockey game for WGHP Detroit on the occasion of the opening of the new Olympia rink last year. The Olympia is very similar to Madison Square Garden and is just about the same size.
Ottawa and Detroit were the two teams and the rink was packed with 18,000 excited fans. A university band of 150 pieces supplied the music and the tremendous double-decked structure was covered with flags. It was a wonderful sight and thrilled one to the core.
The remote control equipment, which took over a day to install, took up a section the size of a box at the Toronto Arena.
The microphone was placed on a pedestal right by the boards and I had to stand in plain view of everyone and at least 500 people in the rink could hear practically everything I said as the crowd was all around me. It was like delivering an address to the multitude, both seen and unseen.
Before the game the band paraded all over the ice and the thousands stood up and cheered. Just before the game the band played the two national anthems and then they were away.
The crowd readily took to the “fastest game in the world” and entered into the hockey match with as much pep and noise as they do for a world series baseball game. Ottawa won the game 3 to 2, but it was tied with five minutes to go so that the result was always in doubt.
Rugby is another sport governed by the elements which help to “put over” a broadcast.
It was two years ago and Varsity were scheduled to play Queens at Richardson stadium in Kingston. Varsity had to beat Queens to win the Intercollegiate title. The roof at Richardson stadium was never built as a point of vantage for a broadcaster; the roof slopes towards the ground on an angle of 35 degrees. The authorities believing that no one would ever be crazy enough to go up on top, had built only an iron ladder running up the outside of one of the corner towers.
As all rugby games should be seen from a height we decided that the root was to be our location. All the equipment had to be carried up this ladder, then on to a slippery tin roof and then held in place so it wouldn’t slide off. It was a drop of over 50 feet and when looking down and juggling a heavy battery at the same time it was no wonder that the equipment was not in place before one o’clock after two and a half hours of the trickiest work imaginable. Once up we hadn’t nerve enough to come down.
Luckily one of the operators had brought a lot of extra wire, so they put it around my neck and under my arms and lowered me to the edge of the roof. I put a soap box in front of me, placed the microphone on it, braced my feet on the flagpole and the eavestroughing and tried to make myself at home.
The game was so interesting that at times I would find myself just about hanging over the edge, but a short sharp tug on the wire and warning shout from above reminded me where I was. During the last period it started to rain. The bitter cold wind from the lake then changed it to hail and by the end of the game my clothes were frozen to the roof. I went to move and I was stuck fast. A none too gentle yank at the wire from above at the most inopportune time freed most of me with the exception of a certain amount of coat and I was dragged to the top. Queens won the game 3 to 1 and brought about the first three-cornered tie in the history of the Intercollegiate series.
Describing Rugby from Snowbank
The following week we ventured to Montreal for the first of the play-offs. All night going down on the train the snow fell so that when Montreal was reached it was a typical northern scene. On visiting Molson stadium, the McGill field, in the morning, there was more than two feet of heavy snow on the ground. Things looked hopeless for rugby. The Varsity team had failed to bring their snowshoes and were plainly worried. McGill had prayed for a dry field for their fleet half-backs and this was the answer.
At 12 o’clock the sun came out and the snow stopped and the scrapers were brought on the field. For over two hours the men worked until the field was fairly well cleared. Huge snowbanks were at 30-foot intervals when the two teams took the field. The stands were jammed to overflowing and the McGill students were noisily confident.
As all the stands were open we put up our equipment along the touchline close to the 50 yard line. We had a long table with the radio equipment placed on it and I was sitting in a four-foot snowbank all set to go. Just as the game was to start a touchline official called to the referee and pointed to us. He promptly held up the game, came over where we were and ordered us off the field, claiming that some player might injure himself against the table. Things looked black. We moved back to the cinder track but that wouldn’t satisfy the officials, so we finally ended up in front of the McGill team’s bench. The sub players did everything but throw us out, but we stuck to our post and grinned and bore the abuse punctuated with snowballs from the McGill spares.
The game was wonderful. Varsity had McGill backed up on their own line three times before the Blue team was able to break the gallant red line for a touchdown; Stollery, the star U. of T. plunger, doing the trick in the last period. Up until then the game had been tied 2-2 with the battle see-sawing every few minutes. The Varsity supporters were wild with joy. The McGill team became desperate. On their own 30-yard line they attempted an onside kick. The kick was blocked and a Varsity player dribbled it over the McGill line and fell on it for a touchdown. There was no holding the Toronto supporters then. With a minute to go they rushed along the touchline in front of us, raving like a lot of maniacs.
I stood on the table, then climbed on a chair on the table to see over their heads, but it was hopeless. The whistle blew and the surge of the crowd carried both the chair and myself off the table. It was a wild stampede. But the equipment was unscathed. The next thing was to get Warren Snyder, the Toronto captain, to say a few words over CFCA. I rushed out in the centre of the field where a large mob had “chaired” Snyder. First I yelled, but it was no use. I tried to push the crowd the right way but this failed. In desperation I kicked one of the roofers on the shins and yelled “McGill” and then ran, but they didn’t chase me. l finally grabbed Coach Ronnie MacPherson and yelled “radio” in his ear. Instantly the word through the mob and I had to use what little speed I had to beat the crowd to the microphone. When I got back to the equipment I was out breath. Both Ronnie MacPherson and Warren Snyder said a few words to the radio fans and the broadcast was over. It took me over two hours after the game to take the mud off my clothes to make myself presentable to go to the hotel. On every step my feet would sink at least three inches into the ground. With all our work completed we just made the 11 o’clock train as it was pulling out of Windsor station. We got aboard while she was pulling out. This ended a hectic day in Montreal which started at 7 a.m.
Too Cold and Stiff to Stand
The final game at Toronto with Queen’s and U. of T. was another fine game with Varsity trimming the tricolor 8 to 0 for the college title. The blue supporters rushed on the field and hundreds joined in the snake dance. In all the excitement my new hat blew off and it lit in the midst of the wild-eyed throng. I’d like to gamble anything that every soul in that stadium walked all over it and knocked it further into the mud. After the crowd had gone we sent out a search party for the missing hat, but it was lost but not forgotten. My other hat had been crushed in the McGill mud the previous Saturday, but I had rescued it on its third time down.
The Ottawa-Varsity Dominion final was cruel. It was played at Varsity stadium on one of the coldest days of the year. A terrific gale blew from the north cutting right through everything. Expecting to be cold I wore an aviator’s helmet, two sweaters, a heavy coat and a pair of over shoes. I would have been just as warm with a pair of pyjamas. There was no holding that wind. It went through me in the first five minutes so that my jaw wouldn’t function. Some kind soul had set up two oil stoves right beside us, but the wind was so strong that it carried the heat right away. All it did for me was to burn my hand when I got excited when both teams were rushing after one of the many loose balls during the game. At the conclusion of the game I was positively frozen. I felt like Vierkoetter looked when he was taken out of the water this year in the Wrigley swim, and he looked terrible. I couldn’t move. I was as still as a poker. One of the operators who must have run over ten miles on the roof during the game to keep the blood circulating, punched me, rolled me over like a bag of potatoes and generally knocked me about for ten minutes before I could stand on my feet. I sat in the ticket office for over an hour beside a hot fire before I had thawed out sufficiently to go home. For the past ten weeks of the rugby season I had taken turns at getting soaked one Saturday and frozen the next, but had no ill effects afterwards. The following Saturday I went to a theatre and got a cold that kept me in bed for three days. Such is life!
Leadley’s Mustache Grew Rapidly
Last year’s Dominion final between Hamilton Tigers and Balmy Beach was another thriller.
As is the custom, all our equipment was set and ready by 1.30 p.m. At 1.45 the heavens cut loose with enough rain to drown us. As there is no shelter on the roof of the Varsity stadium we had to lie down and take it and try to imagine it was Saturday night. When everyone was really soaked the sun had the nerve to come out for few moments. The field was nothing but mud when the ball was kicked off. Balmy Beach stepped right into Tigers and before the much touted yellow and black clan had settled down the Beachers had gained a winning lead. During the game I moved from one puddle to another but each and every one was the same. I was the human sponge that day. I never realized before that I could “take in” so much water.
As all rugby fans know, the tricky “Pep” Leadfey has a Charlie Chaplin moustache. Oa catching one of Foster’s high punts he set sail for the Beaches line. Two of the purple and gold’s outsides hit Leadley coming and going and all three disappeared from view in the mud. When Leadley came up for air his moustache had grown one hundred per cent. He had a cake of mud under his nose that must have weighed two pounds. Exhausted as were the battling players several of them were seen to have a real laugh at Leadley’s expense. “Red” Moore, and all that the same implies, had his hair a purple shade after being doused in the slimy mud. Several of the players, after being tackled, did the breast stroke or Australian crawl before they realized they were playing rugby and not a contestant in one of the Wrigley swims.
At Maple Leaf Stadium
For baseball we are located on the roof back of the home plate where the play can be watched very closely. The main worry from the announcer’s standpoint is ducking fly balls. During the course of a game two or three fouls generally come too close to be comfortable. On one occasion a foul tip came up so fast that I didn’t have time to duck it. I stuck my hand out to protect the microphone and it hit me square on the wrist. As a result I couldn’t move my hand for two or three days after.
Of the boxing bouts handled by CFCA the Rocco-Gold flyweight battle was a standout. The two mighty atoms banged away at each other for the entire ten rounds. We were located close to Rocco’s corner at the side of the ring and in the intermission between rounds we would get some of the water meant for the battlers.
One of the chief difficulties of an announcer is to get a location from which to describe the event. For the Joe Wright reception the event was handled from on top of a ten-foot ladder at the back of the stage at Sunnyside. For the. Prince of Wales reception we were located on the alcove above the steps of the city hall. For the Granites Olympic hockey champions of 1924 welcome we were right in the throng on the platform at the city hall.
CFCA, as in hockey and rugby, was the first station to broadcast horse races direct from the track during the last four years of the Ontario Jockey Club’s meetings at Woodbine Park. These broadcasts have been graphically given by W. A. Hewitt, sporting editor of The Star. The microphone has been located in the back of the main stand directly in line with the finishing point. Race broadcasts due to the ever changing of positions and the bunching of horses is exceedingly difficult to handle. Even with powerful glasses the horses are hard to identity as they speed around the big mile track and must be “called” by an expert.
The second and third Wrigley marathon swims in Lake Ontario off the Toronto Exhibition grounds were the longest continuous broadcasts in Canada and probably in the world.
Last year for the second Wrigley swim we were located on top of the captain’s cabin of the S.S. Macassa, which was recently lost in Georgian bay with twenty lives. We cruised from 8 in the morning until 8.45 at night until the German swimmer, Ernst Vierkoetter, crossed the finishing line victor after the 21-mile grind. The day was long and tedious. The boat was too large to be handled and the two hundred press representatives aboard had a hard time making “copy” as the boat “parked” in one spot for hours at a time despite the repeated requests of those aboard to move on.
During the course of the day our boat took on over 30 swimmers that were forced out of the race owing to the cold water.
At 8.30 after Vierkoetter crossed the finishing line every whistle available was blown, the thousands on the shore cheered and the tremendous volume of sound stopped the short wave transmitter on the boat from oscillating. At the time I didn’t know that the transmitter was off and I must have talked for over 15 minutes to myself without my voice going out on the air. I got the actual finish on the air, however, and I suppose that was the big thing.
This year’s Wrigley and consolation swims were handled perfectly by the engineering staffs of all the Toronto stations. It was the wonderful co-operation of the local radio stations that made the swim broadcasts the success they were.
A low power short wave transmitter was placed in one of the cabins of Herbert Hatch’s yacht, the Toddy. Batteries were used in place of a generator and the transmission from the boat was clean-cut. At the Press building a short wave receiver picked up the broadcast from the boat and sent the announcements to the loudspeakers on the shore and over land lines to all the Toronto stations. There was not a hitch in the transmission at any time.
I think the worst experience on the boat was to hear your own voice come back at you from the loudspeakers on shore. No matter where we went out in the lake the voice would simply haunt you. During the dark hours that we fol. lowed Georges Michel, the French swimmer, out on the outer course, the voice could be heard coming back to me about four seconds after I had spoken into the microphone, and we were at least a mile out in the lake.
During that long night vigil in the pitch dark, with a cold wind blowing right through us, only snatches of the swimmer could be seen. It was like a dream. The multi-colored fireworks at the Exhibition made a weird sight out in the lake. A flash would show two or three power boats almost touching one another. Another flash and the tricolor of France would show up at the bow of Michel’s boat. The next minute our boat would scrape alongside an unknown craft. To add to the creepy feeling shouts would pass from one boat to another and on the still waters would echo and re-echo. Above all the noise on the lake, the screams and shouts of happy persons could be heard coming from the Midway. Without any warning somebody out in the darkness started to sing the “Marseillaise”; it was picked up from boat to boat until half a hundred were singing at the top of their voices in a different time and an unknown key. It was a case of every man for himself.
Fan Letters Greatly Appreciated
At 10.15 when Michel reached the last outside buoy someone shouted “he is out.” The twenty or more boats that had drifted practically as one suddenly put on a burst of speed to get a real view of the gallant swimmer coming out of the water. It was like a traffic light turning green. Our boat due to its quick pick-up and ably pushed by two or three others trying to beat us to it, was right beside the scene in no time. Suddenly the flares went up for the “movie” men and it was as bright as day. Every one blinked and it was hard to see anything after being used to the dark. Michel was all in when taken out of the water by four sturdy lifesavers, and was rushed to the hospital. With the race completed the boats threw caution to the winds and raced each other to the shore.
One of the most interesting sights during the swim was when the various swimmers were taken out of the water. In every case a heavy rope was put over the swimmer’s neck and under his arms and he was held by one of the lifesavers until help arrived. In Vierkoetter’s case it took five men five minutes to haul him over the side of the life-saving launch. Each time they got him at the edge of the boat he would slip back into the water, due to the heavy coating of grease and the dead weight. He was as stiff as a poker and had a glassy stare in his eyes as if he was dead. Most of the other cases were the same, but Vierkoetter was the hardest man to haul into the boat.
In the consolation swim broadcast we took George Young aboard to say a few words over the radio. In helping him on the boat Mr. A. P. Howells was covered with grease from head to foot and looked like a marathon swimmer. George seemed to enjoy getting grease on us as when he spoke into the mike he kept bumping into me until I looked like another contender in the swim.
In CFCA’s sports broadcasts for over five years we have received a great many letters from fans all over America. All the letters are greatly appreciated, but the biggest “kick” of all is to hear from places such as Christie Street Hospital, Hamilton, Gravenhurst and Weston Sanatoriums, patients in hospitals and from persons who are bedridden or have lost their sight. Radio has been a godsend to them and for the announcer to hear that he has brought a little ray of sunshine into these homes and institutions it gives a thrill that cannot be described in print.
There’s a big gang down at “Mike’s” place at Oshawa that attend the various sports via CFCA.
In Little Current a party of ten men close up shop every time a baseball game is put on the air. The fans up north crave hockey and around St. Catharines the boxing fans hold sway.
It is a wonderful listening public and all are good sports.
To be able to “see” the games for good Canadian sports on the radio is not work but a pleasure.
Editor’s Notes: Foster Hewitt is famous as an early sports reporter in Canada. I’ve included this full article by him, which is illustrated by Jim Frise. He worked for CFCA, one of the first radio stations in Toronto, and owned by the Toronto Star. some of the teams and locations mentioned in this story include the Toronto Granites, Hamilton Tigers, Toronto Varsity Blues, the Toronto Balmy Beach Beachers, the Allan Cup, Detroit Olympia, Richardson Stadium, and Molson Stadium. More about the “Wrigley” Marathon Swims held at the CNE can be found here.
By Gregory Clark, September 29, 1928
“What have you this week?” asked the editor.
“Nothing,” I said. “I can’t seem to get going since that article by Charles.”
“That was only meant in fun,” said the editor
“It may be, but I’ve had to shave off my moustache, borrow $500 to pay a lot of debts, answer a lot of letters and generally clean up. I haven’t had time to do any work.”
“Why,” asked the editor, “not take your revenge?”
“Charles is bigger than me.”
“I mean,” said the editor, “take your revenge by writing one about Charles. Revenge is sweet.”
“He wouldn’t stand for it,” said I. “He’s funny that way.”
The editor and I leaned out and looked through the door at Charles. He was sitting at his desk, close up to it, his back very straight. Charles looks at everything with the same expression. You can’t tell whether the thing he is reading is a cheque from his brokers or vice versa. He even reads his own stories with perfect emotional control. In all the time he has been with us he has never been known to stop the rest of the office working while he read aloud a few choice sentences.
“Not a very promising looking prospect,” said I.
“Every man is vain,” the editor mused. “Charles is probably no different. Go at him by stealth. Don’t let on you are going to interview him. But if he suspects anything his vanity may overcome his suspicions.”
“Yeah, but,” said I, “what will I interview him on? He hasn’t got any weaknesses, therefore you can’t describe his character.”
“Eh?’ said the editor.
“And he hasn’t got any hobbies, so you can’t make fun of him.”
“Don’t be bitter,” the editor said.
“He’s one of those cold-minded men that nobody could interview but himself. You know the kind of people Charles interviews? I’d sooner go out and interview Scarborough Bluffs.”
“You are afraid of Charles,”
“Say, listen …”
I got up and walked out to Charles. He was reading something. It looked like the annual report of a bank or something.
“Good morning, Greg,” he replied, looking up politely.
“Say, Charles, you ought to have some kind of sport. You ought to fish or shoot or something.”
“Why? Don’t I look well?”
“Yes, you look all right. But I don’t like to see a man who hasn’t any hobby.”
“I have. I play golf.”
No Angle of Approach
“Gosh. It’s the first I ever heard of it. I never heard you even speak of golf.”
“Why should I?”
“Well, what I mean to say … a fellow might … what I mean to say, you hear me mention fishing now and then.”
“Your fishing wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t hear about it,” said Charles.
The trouble with interviews is you are liable to get into arguments.
“We’ll let that pass,” I said. “How about your golf? What’s your handicap?”
“It’s a delicate subject,” replied Charles.
“Sure, but I’m interested, Charles. Just as a friend, you understand? This is very interesting about you. Suddenly coming across a thing like that. Tell me something about it.”
“What shall I tell you?”
“Well, for instance, about golf. Which is your favorite golf stick?”
Charles has an inscrutable way of gazing at you. He began to tap the paper he was reading ever so gently on his desk. Then a smile slowly spread all over his face. And he just looked at me and said nothing. Not a word.
“I’ve been decent with you,” I said. “I’ve told you all about fishing. You might tell me about golf. I’d like to hear about golf. Maybe I’d like to play it if it was a good game.”
Charles continued to smile.
“Ask some of the other boys,” said he. “Bill Orr or Deacon Johnson know far more about it than I do.”
“Oh, well,” said I.
I went back into what is generally called the editor’s sanctum.
“No luck,” I said. “Revenge may be sweet, but this is sour.”
“Well, you don’t expect to get an interview in three minutes, do you?”
“No,” I said. “But there isn’t any angle of approach. I tried to get him going on sport. He plays golf.”
“Certainly,” said the editor. “The way to Interview him is to go and play a game of golf with him.”
“I’d drop dead before I’d ever take a golf stick in my hand.”
“Take him to lunch then. That’s the way he interviews the big fellows. Lunch or a golf game.”
“Who? Henry Ford and Al Smith and all those fellows?”
“That’s the way he gets them,” said the editor. “They’re all human, after all.”
“Charles isn’t,” said I.
“Well, then, work him this way. Tell him you are going to interview somebody and ask him how he goes about it. It would make an interesting story. The public like to know how you go about interviewing these big men.”
“But,” said I, “I don’t want to play him up. I want to get my revenge on him. I want to describe his character.”
“Won’t that show when you tell how he gets the facts out of men like Hoover and Big Bill Thompson of Chicago?”
A Psychological Gunman
“I suppose I could make him out a sort of a gunman.”
“Sure,” said the editor. “A dandy heading, ‘Psychological Gunman.'”
“You would spoil it!”
“Don’t give up. Revenge is sweet,” the editor egged me on. “Get after him. You can pry him open.”
“With a brad awl. Like an oyster,” said I.
I walked out to Charles again. He had a pink slip in his hand. It looked like the second notice from the electric light company. But Charles was viewing it with the same composure with which he would regard a complimentary memo from the chief.
“Good morning again,” said he.
“I’ve got a big interview I’ve got to do. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind giving me some ideas about interviewing big men.”
“Are you kidding?” asked Charles.
“Certainly not. You’re the interview man. I never do interviews.”
“Then why not let me interview this fellow? Who is he?” asked Charles.
“No, the editor has asked me to get this interview and I couldn’t very well pass it up, could I? But tell me, what’s your method of approaching these big fellows?”
“Usually on foot,” Charles replied.
“But seriously, Charles. There is surely some technique about it. Do you write them first? Do you make appointments and so forth, and arrive in some ceremony?”
“Yes, I hire the town band and get a bunch of the boys to make a torchlight procession.”
“I wish you’d help me, Charles. I’ve often helped you. Remember the time I introduced you to the police sergeant?”
“Well, then, what do you want?”
“I want to know how you go about interviewing these nabobs, these moguls of finance and industry and politics.”
“All right,” said Charles. “You walk into the room. They ask you to sit down. They offer you a cigar. You don’t take it. You talk to them. They talk to you. You look at your watch. In twenty-five minutes your train is leaving. You apologize, rise, shake, hands and depart. That is an interview.”
“But what about technique?”
“It is all bunk.”
“How do you analyze them? How do you arrive at an estimate of their character?”
“No man reaches a high place in any work whose character has not been made manifest.”
“Then interviews are easy?”
“Easy as rolling off a log,” said Charles.
“I disagree with you.” I retorted, and walked back into the editor’s room.
“Well?” asked the editor.
“Bad,” said I. “Think of all the years Charles and I have been friends, working on the same jobs, sharing our toothbrushes and so forth, and now he turns to me the frozen face.”
“Maybe he is on to you. If Charles is nothing else he is shrewd.”
“I have been very guarded.”
The Art of Interviewing
“Well, do what he did to you, then,” said the editor. “Ask him all about his views on Canada as a nation and whether we should have a governor-general.”
“We couldn’t possibly print Charles’ views on that sort of thing.”
“That’s right. But didn’t you get anything out of him on the art of interviewing?”
“He said it was nothing.”
“We know better.”
“Yeah, but how can you describe the character of a man who says to you that the art of interviewing is all bunk?”
“Well,” said the editor quietly, “that’s kind of a character sketch in itself.”
“I don’t want to leave a good impression like that,” I said. “He’s got to get his.”
“Well,” said the editor, “he’s a worker. You know that. Make him out a regular steam engine for work. The public likes to think of other people working like the dickens. It explains the general failure.”
“Then I’ll make out that Charles is nothing but a toiler. A kind of robot. A mechanical man. That’s the stuff.”
“All right,” said the editor, “get him to tell you how he got on top of that stuff about the St. Lawrence waterways. There was a job.”
Once again I crossed the room to Charles
“Ah,” said he. “Welcome. You seem a little restless this morning.”
“Say, Charles, a fellow was asking me the other day how you got around all that material about the St. Lawrence waterways, how you went about it, and so forth. By golly, I couldn’t tell him. I wish you’d tell me some time the story of how you go about getting a grasp on subjects like that – technical and involved and complex.”
“It is work,” said Charles. “You wouldn’t understand that.”
“Charles, you are being nasty?”
“No, I am being careful.”
“Look here, Charles, you don’t suspect me of anything, do you?”
“Well, I mean to say, we’ve been friends long time. We’ve slept in the snow together and ridden in aeroplanes together and been summer bachelors together and all that sort of thing.”
“Granted,” said Charles.
“We’ve banged around all these years together in the unhappy business of amusing and entertaining the public, getting frozen in Elk Lake and attending functions that made us both sick, risking our lives and going hungry together …”
“You got the big half of that porcupine,” interrupted Charles. “But what are you driving at?”
“Well, then, Charles, why don’t you help me? I want you to tell me some things about you?”
“You asked me my object in life and I told you.”
“So you did.”
“Then will you tell me your object in life?”
“Yes. My object in life is to have a large bathroom with a fireplace in it.”
Well, what I mean to say, what can you do with a man like that!
Editor’s Notes: This is a story about Charles Vining, a fellow reporter at the Star Weekly. He was only at the Star Weekly for three years, with this year, 1928, as his last.
This image by Jim accompanied an article by Fred Griffin about the proliferation of gas stations cropping up in Toronto. It is a statement not just on the number of gas stations, but on the number of cars in the city. He states that 25 stations were built in 1927, and 38 were built in the first 6 months of 1928. The article indicated that Toronto only had 15 gas stations in 1915, the first year they were built, with 72 built between 1915 and July 1926, followed by 12 in the last half of 1926.
“[Gasoline’s] earliest distribution was in sealed five gallon cans. You bought it and filled your own, after the fashion of filling your own lamps. After that came distribution in steel barrels equipped at first with spigots and later with pumps. Then was evolved the self-measuring automatic pump. And from that grew the modern service station.”
As for how many more gas stations Toronto could support:
“He arrived at Toronto’s need of 300 stations, or twice the present number, in the following way.
Toronto has some 90,000 cars of all sorts. Each uses an average of 300 gallons of gas per year. Toronto’s total gallonage would be there fore 27,000,000 gallons. A selling capacity of 100,000 gallons per service station per year should satisfy. This would call for 270 service stations.
Since this calculation took no recount of visitors and tourists, he thought that 300 service stations was very modest estimate Indeed of Toronto’s ultimate needs.”
The photo included with the illustration shows one of the oldest stations from 1915 at the corner of Queen and Davies Street. A gas station is no longer at the site, but you can see where is stood based on the street view today. Even the light post is in the same spot.
By Greg Clark, May 19, 1928
American Tourists Have Quaint Notions About Canada
The lanky, well-dressed stranger strolled up to the bell captain of the King Edward.
“I’m from the States,” he said. “I want to take a run around your city and see the points of interest – the state house and that sort of thing. Whereabouts is the residence of the Prince of Whales?”
The bell captain informed him that the Prince of Whales did not live in Toronto.
“Ah, he’s in Montreal, eh? Or is it Que-bec?”
No, the Prince of Whales, the bell boy regretted to inform the American visitor, lived in London, England, and only visited Canada on rare occasions, spending most of his visit aboard Pullman cars.
“But he’s got a ranch here somewhere,” said the American.
He doubted the bell captain’s knowledge and inquired elsewhere, with the result that a most curious and interesting conversation developed.
“I had it firmly fixed in my mind,” confessed the American during this discussion, that the Prince of Whales lived in Canada the way the King lives in England. I thought you had princes instead of governors, you know, state governors.
“But tell me, it’s a fact, is it not, that you have British regiments quartered here in Canada?”
“No. We have one permanent infantry regiment in Canada – but it’s Canadian.”
“But you pay taxes to the King of England don’t you?” asked the American, shrewdly.
“No. We pay no taxes and we put a duty on nearly everything that comes from Britain.”
“No!” said the American, entirely out of his depth. “Well, I declare. Still, all your officials in your government at Quee-bec are sent out from England, aren’t they?”
“No, the only official sent out to this country from Britain to the governor general, and even at that we choose the one we want out of a number suggested by the King’s advisers. A matter of fact, there is a discussion under way just now regarding the appointment of a Canadian as governor general in future.”
“Then you’re turning?’ suggested the American.
“Turning away from England,” added the American.
“England has nothing to do with it,” explained his Canadian Baedecker. “Canada is more British, in the sense of empire, than England. Canada is peopled by English, Scotch and Irish who have done something for the British Empire besides stay at home. The King, as far as we are concerned, is a Canadian. It may hurt a Californian to know that your president is a New Englander. But it doesn’t bother us Canadians to know that our King is an Englishman. We still think he would be better if he were a Canadian, just as your Californian thinks the President would be better if he were a Native Son.”
It’s Hard to Beat the Movies
“Well, sir, yesterday,” said the American, “I saw lot of cavalry riding out near your Sunnyside park and I thought you were a hundred and fifty years behind the rest of America.”
“We are a little backward,” said his Canadian adviser, “in some respects; for instance, it worries us Canadians that we can’t seem to put on quite as much of a celebration for the Prince of Wales whenever he comes to America as New York can.”
All of which is a quaint and comic but by no means rare instance of the extraordinary point of view entertained by countless numbers of our American visitors.
At the Niagara Falls office of the Toronto Convention and Tourist Association, a party of ladies and gentlemen drew up in a costly car and came in to get information about crossing the border.
They stood in the office, glancing about. Then one of the ladies said under her breath to her husband:
“Why, they’ve got everything printed in English.”
They made no move to ask for anything. 50 the young lady who is manager of the office step ped forward.
“Is there anything I can do for you?”
“I knew you were an American!” cried the lady enthusiastically.
“I’m proud to tell you I’m a Canadian,” said the girl.
“But you’ve been educated in the States?”
“No, I was educated in Toronto, Canada.”
“Well, what in the world language do they speak over there anyway?” cried the American.
It takes a lot of propaganda to defeat the movies, for example. And what little of Canada has ever been in the movies has been mounted police, French-Canadians coureur de bois, Eskimos and dogs. When Canada gets into the news in a big way in the States, it is when trans-atlantic fliers pass over the Labrador wastes or land on our coasts so that it takes weeks to get them off even by flying machines. Or when balloonists land in Canada, they nearly die of it. The news reels that show glimpses of Canada are not views of our tall cities but shots of the arrival of the governor-general surrounded by protective soldiering or perhaps a bit from the Calgary stampede which is a circus mostly made up of troupers and trick performers from over the border.
Since 1926 the Toronto Convention and Tourist Association has been striving to defeat the movies and the sensational reports as part of its propaganda.
“But Toronto still remains,” states E. R. Powell, managing director of the association, “the poorest-known big city on the North American continent.”
“They Speak the Same Language”
There are three restaurants in Toronto that belong to a well-known chain of American restaurants and these are eagerly seized upon by the American tourists as a little bit of home.
“Why!” declare those who have motored right through from the border, as they pay for their meal at the cash desk, “your money looks exactly like ours! Yes, one dollar bills, sure as you live. And dimes and nickels!”
The manager tells of countless curious angles.
“You eat practically the same as we do in the States,” said one shrewd visitor. “Why, when I was in France, I could hardly get a single bit of what you might call civilized cooking.”
“I’m glad your restaurants are over in this country. I’ve read a good deal of Canadian literature in the magazines, and the one thing I was scared about coming over here was the things I’d have to eat -pemmican and bannock and pea soup and those things, and I’ve delicate stomach.”
Ex-Mayor Webb of Winnipeg describes a trip he made last winter to Florida. At one stop they overheard the children, in disappointed voices, saying: “They wear the same kind of clothes we do!” “They speak the same language we do.”
At the Niagara Falls office one elderly woman asked if she could see the boat that sails for Europe If she walked across the bridge. Three young men were in this office getting information and they argued the question whether to have lunch in Niagara Falls or wait until they got to Montreal.
Montreal and Toronto are not merely close together in the minds of a large proportion of the tourists, but they are readily interchangeable. Montreal is where Toronto is and Toronto is somewhere else. Canada to them is a little colony on the northern border, back of which is the arctic circle.
Even when they see Toronto they cannot realize that their previous conception is shot. A party came into The Star office last summer to ask if we knew of a man named Billings, an American living somewhere in Ontario.
“In Toronto? We’ll look him up in the directory.”
“No, he don’t live in Toronto, but somewhere here in Ontario. He’s an American. We thought probably you’d know of him. An American, named Billings.”
And they meant it.
It is generally believed by Toronto people that our fine big policemen are a source of wonder and admiration to the American visitors. We print stories about what the tourists any regarding the force.
But there are other angles. We asked an American what he thought of our police, as compared with the general type of stick-swinging, lamp-post leaning cop.
“I guess you’ve got to have good big police men over here, with all those outlaws and lumberjacks riding into town every once in a while,” said the American seriously.
But Let’s Not Be Snooty
School book history was doubtless responsible for another remark about the Toronto police.
“Mostly old soldiers, aren’t they?” asked the American.
“A good many are.”
“The police are kept up by the English, I suppose.”
Won’t somebody please write the Great Canadian Novel – all about Canada us it really is today – with enough eternal triangle and it in it to make it a best seller in the States? We’ve got to do something soon to counteract Sir Gilbert Parker and James Oliver Curwood, not to mention school histories that cease to refer to Canada after the War of 1812.
Of course, the best possible educational work is being done now, regardless of any effort. The Americans are coming to Canada as a playground in annual tidal waves that seem to double in volume every year. The tourist traffic is now one of the greatest commercial assets of the province of Ontario and within a very few years may be the greatest asset, regardless of mines, agriculture and everything else. Because there is no credit in the tourist business. It is all cash.
A flood of cash business bursting on Ontario’s shore every summer. And the more the Americans are astonished and enlightened the more they will talk when they get home. And the more they talk about Canada the bigger will be the tidal wave next summer. They are coming from far and near. And no other kind of propaganda could do what word-of-mouth is doing to enlighten the huge population to the south with regard to the facts about Canada.
There is a certain kind of Canadian who is snooty with all Americans. There are various reasons for this attitude. Part of it originates in the natural jealousy of a small country for a powerful neighbor. Part of it is the same ignorance that makes the American imagine “England” rules Canada as a colony, a sentimental hang-over from a century and a half ago.
But there is one ready-to-wear attitude that Canadians can wear in their relations with Americans. One thing every American speaks about in Canadians is the “manners” of Canadians. We are supposed to be a graceful and well-bred race.
If we are well-bred, good-mannered and courteous to our visitors, and if we use our humor and imagination in promoting the disillusionment that is progressing rapidly every moment that they are in the country, we will build up a tradition that will be even more valuable than the legend of the mounties and the whiskered Pierre and the canoe sliding down a mighty torrent.
Because that movie legend has not been without value.
It has advertised Canada as a land of vast natural resources, water power, minerals, unlimited forests.
And that is what the tourists are coming over to see.
Editor’s Notes: At the time of writing, the Governor-General of Canada was still British, though as indicated, there had been public discussion of the post being given to a Canadian.
Baedeker was a publisher of travel guides.
I don’t understand what is trying to be said with the line that mentions “eternal triangle”. Eternal Triangle was a term that meant “love triangle”, so maybe it was a disdain against the kind of books that were popular?
In the early days of automobiles, it was common for cars to get stuck on muddy roads, and paying as farmer to haul it out with horses was the solution.
By Greg Clark, November 3, 1928
A soldier gets the same kick out of marching to the music of a band that the average person gets out of dancing.
“The definition I like best,” says Cecil Da Costa, one of Toronto’s dancing masters, “is this: dancing is moving to music. You can elaborate that definition all you like. But the small child leaping about to the victrola and the highly accomplished steppers performing the latest measures come under that definition. And there is all the room in the world within the same definition for the great mass of dancers who do not bother to learn the newest steps and who one-step or waltz their pleasant way through everyday social life.
“The dancing masters naturally keep abreast of the times in learning and teaching the season’s specialty, just the same as the surgeon keeps abreast of the last word in practice. But the everyday pills and tonics that we hand out are the simple prescriptions for being graceful and sell confident in the performance of the old standard dance steps.”
Each year, along about this time, when the social evenings begin, a new and dazzling dance step bursts upon the scene. Amid a great bally hoo of publicity and outraged discussion in the press, the Charleston, the Black Bottom and the Varsity Drag have come and gone.
What will it be this year?
What new writhing or wriggling of the various cuts of the human carcass are being schemed and planned to convince the elders of the generation that the younger set are simply gone limp?
It was while canvassing the Toronto dancing masters that a rather startling fact was discovered.
The dancing masters do not make the dances.
The professional stage and concert dancers do not create them.
The public does not design them.
Who does then?
The makers of music.
Music is the mother of the dance.
Whatever song or dance number is most popular this winter – outstandingly popular and demanded by public favor – will determine what dance will be popular.
Recent history proves it. Out of jazz which began during the war and rose to a permanent fever that has not yet abated, there developed at last a sort of ecstasy in which rhythm was broken and interrupted and shattered into super-jazz so that even the jazziest dancers had to be more than merely hot-footed. They had to perform some special high-jinks to meet the demand of that interrupted and riotous music. Came the Charleston!
When Valencia Ousted Charleston
The black man has always been an ecstatic dancer. Away back in simple old minstrel days a black man loved to interrupt even the dignity of a cake walk with sudden and uncalled for outbursts of enthusiasm – which he managed to still keep within the pattern of rhythm.
So when jazz music went mad – around about 1924 – and actually demanded interludes with arms and legs aside from mere clever foot work, it was a simple matter to ask the black man to show us a few well known high jinks.
Into the midst of this cheerfully wiggling and arm gesturing world of the Charleston there suddenly broke, almost overnight, a song, a tune – Valencia.
It was utterly apart from the frenzy and ecstasy of the bucket loads of music that was being poured out to appease the Charlestoning multitude. It was a stately, romantic staccato tune simply reeking of Spanish onions. No breaks in it, but a swift, dagger-swinging, shawl waving tune.
Now, if the dance made the music, the world would simply have ignored Valencia. But the music makes the dance. Valencia was one of those earfuls of which there is not more than one per annum. The public listened, sat up, hummed and got bright of eye. The orchestra leaders saw this and played it over and over.
And of course, the world danced.
And suddenly instead of Charleston, everybody was tangoing, trying to remember the graceful twists and bull-fight swagger of the tango. All the sheiks started growing side-burns. And the dancing masters began feverishly to re-introduce into a world shot to pieces by the Charleston some of the upstanding swank, the flashing eye, the stiletto-footedness that they imagined belongs to Spanish dancing.
You remember that phase. It did not last. A multitude of poor little saxophones were wailing out in the storm. Jazzed cornets cried shrilly in the night. And as the result of Charleston being ousted by Valencia, along came the Black Bottom which gives you all the abandon of Charleston with some of the foot-stamping and staccato of the Spanish aroma.
The Varsity Drag was the last – born and bred not out of preceding dances but in answer to the arbitrary tune that tickled not the foot but the ear. Between one dance and its successor there is enough resemblance at least to show that they are both being performed by the same mammal. There are a few bones and bits of meat of the Charleston still left in the Varsity Drag.
Listening for a New Tune
But what the ballyhooers of the dance are waiting for now, all with their ears to the ground, is the arrival of the most popular air for the winter – the one that will endure a winter.
For a little while, they thought it might be Old Man River. There was a haunting quality to that tune that might almost make it the key tune for the season, in which case the curious cadence of Old Man River, with its hesitant little extra beat at the end of each line, would have given us this winter a hesitation one-step, not a hesitation waltz which some of the gray-heads will recall. And being all about the Mississippi, naturally, any dancing to Old Man River would have a lot of Ethiopian Jungle stuff in it too..
Titchener Smith agrees with Cecil Da Costa that the music creates the dance of the season.
“Dancing is divided into two distinct forms,” says Mr. Smith. “Popular ball room dancing, which after all is a social convention in which we can teach merely the routine of simple steps but with great emphasis on the necessity of grace and self-assurance out on the floor. The other kind of dancing includes the ballet and all forms of classical and professional expressionist dancing. That of course is an art and there must be teachers of it as there are teachers of music. Included in that division of dancing are also these popular forms such as the Charleston and Varsity Drag. For you would be surprised how many people, young people mostly, who find dancing a great hobby and who insist on being taught the most advanced forms of these popular and ever-passing dances of the moment.
“What this winter’s genuinely sensational dance will be we cannot yet for certain say. The dancing masters of America meet in a convention every autumn and do their best to determine the trend of popular fancy in dancing, check up on the errors and mistakes of last season from the point of view of art, and attempt to forestall any such similar errors entering the scene for the coming season. We agree on certain modifications and developments of popularly accepted steps and dance figures. We are more concerned with beauty in dancing than popularity, for as most of us have been trained in the classic school, we know how many of the modern dances trespass on the sacred ground of beauty. Yet nine out of ten of our pupils are in search of just a little grace and assurance on the ball room floor. By insisting on the essential quality of grace in dancing, I think the dancing master does a great deal towards controlling that ecstatic expression which modern jazz has carried to the verge of the ludicrous in some cases.”
Cecil Da Costa imagines back in the cave man days some warrior chipping flints with rhythmic strokes and causing the children or women to commence the almost instinctive movement of arms or torso which any rhythm excites in human beings. Just home from a victorious fight, he starts excitedly chipping fresh flints and out of that is born a war dance. From flints to sticks, from sticks to tom-toms is a short more, even for a cave man. And the dance must have been one of the first modes of human expression.
“Maybe we danced,” says Da Costa, “before we talked.”
Editor’s Notes: This seems almost like a follow-up to an article written two years earlier and referenced here.
The Victrola is a generic term for a record player.
As mentioned in the previous note, this was 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.
The chief is using a horse-drawn, steam powered fire engine, which draws water from the local river.
By Greg Clark, June 16, 1928
He wears a Christie, horn-rimmed spectacles, a fawn coat. He is perhaps forty. His jaw, while not large, is wide and tight. And he is sitting in the forward part of the street car with his newspaper.
A girl with stockings enters. Sits down across from him. Arranges herself and assumes that unafraid air that the modern girl wears.
The gennlemn, in turning the pages of his paper, happens to see the stockings, the long, shining stockings.
And there commences that humorous business that is to be seen almost any time – a gennlemn pretending he is not looking.
First, he glances casually to right and left, to see who his immediate neighbors are and what sort of people they may be, observant or otherwise; lost in their papers or staring about.
Having reassured himself that there are none of his acquaintances at hand and nobody noticing, the gennlemn arranges his paper before him in such a way that nobody could tell whether he is reading the upper part of the folded paper or peering over the top of it.
The gennlemn peeps at the stockings.
Alarmed for fear his ruse is too obvious, he glances again to right and left, with the air of one looking to see what part of the city he is in now, and he folds his paper lengthwise, thus being able to hold it up and see, with one eye, past the side of it.
This works for a moment, but again some alarm is felt that this method is too conspicuous, so he turns a few pages of the paper studiously, absently, and tries the over-the-top method again.
But just as he achieves the proper expression of interest in the paper he is not reading, and has quieted all his suspicions about his neighbors catching on, the young lady with the shiny stockings gets up and walks back to the other part of the car where people sit two by two.
And the gennlemn in the Christie and horn-rimmed spectacles – after a long moment of staring intently at the type on his paper – raises guilty eyes to those around him to see if they witnessed what had happened. For the gennlemn believes the young lady caught him.
But she didn’t.
She had merely noticed a good looking oarsman sitting in the rear part of the car.
And there was a seat across from him.
So she moved.
It’s all very simple, when you understand it.
Editor’s Notes: “Gennlemn” is just a mumbling of “gentleman”.
A Christie is a brand of hat.
This type of article would be one of Greg’s observational ones, where he just describes what he sees.
Many men were flustered by the shortening of skirt lengths during the 1920s.