The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Tag: 1930 Page 1 of 3

“Dump Here!”

February 22, 1930

Father and Son

In a bay by themselves huddled down on the firestep in excited conversation were Dad and Babe Kinzie.

By Gregory Clark, October 4, 1930.

Two brothers in the same unit was bad enough. But father and son! Let me tell that story.

Whenever a lieutenant was wanted to go back to the wagon lines to fetch up a new draft, I was always willing. It meant I lost the day’s sleep. It meant giving up the comfortable surety of the front line or support for a long walk down communications and over roads that might be strange to me and might have a little shelling, especially on the trip in with new men. But the officer who went out to get the draft of recruits had the pick of the men. And I had enough love of D company to desire the pick of the recruits for her.

And I picked them a funny way. I never heard of anybody picking men by their Adam’s apples. But that’s the way I did it. A man with a prominent Adam’s apple may not always be the bravest man, or the smartest. But he nearly always has one striking characteristic. And that is, when you say to bunch of fellows, “Let’s go and push that outhouse over,” or “Who’s game to come down to the divisional dump and snitch a case of rum to-night?” the first man to jump to you is the man with the biggest Adam’s apple in the bunch. I put this theory up to Lou Marsh1 one time, and he recalled that nearly every outstanding loose puck artist, practically all the most reckless plungers and tacklers in rugby, were men with Adam’s apples, as Lou put it, that were bigger than their chins.

So when I arrived at the wagon lines, and after I had paid the proper respects to the quartermaster, paymaster and transport officer, all round, both ways, I would order the new drafts paraded in full marching order. They usually had a conducting sergeant with them who was most likely one of our old n.c.o’s returning from hospital.

“Sergeant,” I would say, “have these men stand easy and undo their tunic collars, please.”

There they would stand, clutching their rifles between their knees, undoing their tunic collars and wondering what sort of a war they had arrived at, with pint-sized lieutenants with shaved heads asking them to undo their collars.

“Open them up!”

And down the parade I would go, falling out to the left all the boys with Adam’s apples that croaked up and down nervously as I walked past staring intently at them.

That would put all the Adam’s apples at the D Company end. For after the inspection, I would number them. Say they numbered to thirty-five. That made seventy men, front and your rank.

One to eight, A company,” I would say, “nine to seventeen, B company, eighteen to twenty-six, C company, and God bless you, twenty-seven to thirty-five, D company.”

And there, front and rear, from twenty-seven to thirty-five, I had the greatest collection of knee joints in the neck you ever could see.

That was how I got the Kinzies, father and son.

The elder Kinzie must have been over forty-five if he was a day. There he stood in the rank, such a heap of kit, khaki, bulging packsack and pendulous limbs as would send a drill sergeant crazy. He had a large untrimmed moustache hiding a small, weathered face. Gentle, timid eyes peeped at me questioningly as I came abreast of him. He was not much taller than I. His shoulders were thick and oversize. His hands were knuckly and awkward. He toed in a little, even when standing with feet turned out at an angle of forty-five degrees. Even if I hadn’t seen that great corded knot of an Adam’s apple projecting out of his open collar, I think I would have picked Kinzie for D company. For if ever I saw a backwoodsman, a guide, a real old settler from up north of Kingston or Belleville, it was Kinzie. I could almost smell the bacon frying over the campfire as I stood before him with his equipment on him like so many bundles. I must have paused a long moment in front of Kinzie, for I was lost to the war as my mind looked hungrily back to memories of little lakes and reed beds and big splashing bass.

Dad Kinzie and Babe Kinzie

“Fall out to the left,” said I huskily, and old Kinzie, with an anxious look in his eyes, which I did not understand at the moment, assembled with all his junk on him, down to the left.

For young Kinzie, his son, age about twenty, was standing as rear file to his old man. And not until I had inspected all the front rank and came down to the middle of the rear rank did I come to the boy. But they need not have worried about being separated. I did another long look in front of Babe Kinzie. Dad Kinzie and Babe Kinzie is what they came to be called in the company.

Young Kinzie was taller than his old man, and had that boyish, almost childish look that twenty year olds born and raised on a remote, backwoods clearing may wear. But he had the heavy shoulders, the long arms, the innocent blue eyes and leathery face of his old man. And he also wore his equipment and pack in that way which made me think he was portaging. And Adam’s apple! I hope my memory is bad and deceiving me over the years when I say it was, despite his youth, as big as a billiard ball.

“Fall out to the left,” said I to Babe Kinzie.

I think the leap of joy that came into his face when I ordered him to the left was only equaled behind my back, by the look in his old man’s face. For I heard a gruff exclamation behind me. And I turned around to see the boy trying to push in as rear file to his father, though it was not his place.

“Here,” said I. “Fall in to the left, I said.”

But the two faces, forty-five and twenty, turned appealingly to me.

“They’re father and son,” said the sergeant.

“Heaven help us,” said I. And right there I lost all interest in the inspection. For if you are superstitious about brothers, what could you help feeling about a father and son in the same company?

Before we went up the line, towards evening, I had a chat with the transport officer and tried to wrangle the elder Kinzie into some jobs around the lines. We sent for the old man, and asked him there in the tent:

“What do you know about horses?”

He thought a full five seconds, his questioning eyes looking from transport back to me.

“I’m afraid I don’t know nothing about horses, sir.”

“No good to me,” said Transport.

“What’s your trade?” I asked desperately. Do you know anything about blacksmithing? Tailoring?

“I been lumbering,” said old Kinzie, helpfully. But farming is my line. I got a small farm up in Frontenac county.”

“Kinzie,” said I, “I would like to get you a job here at the horse lines. How old are you?”

“Forty-one,” said the old liar, looking around at nobody.

“I hate this idea of you and your boy going up the line to the same company. How would you like me to assign your boy to some other company? Or maybe I could get the colonel to put him on as a battalion runner?”

The old man’s face and figure were pathetic. He seemed to go to pieces all in a dump.

“Please, sir,” he begged, “we got to be together, because he don’t know much, and it was me brought him here. I got to keep him by me, please, sir.”

The please sir from this old bushwhacker was as incongruous as a song from a porcupine.

“All right,” said I.

But it wasn’t all right with me, and because the thing stuck out in my mind as little things did in those days with nothing much to think of, I made sure the two Kinzies came to my platoon when we got up to the company.

“Rifles Aren’t for Shooting With”

I told the n.c.o.’s about them and instructed that the Kinzies were not to be detailed to any jobs such as patrols or wiring without consulting me.

“You’ve got so many pets in this platoon now,” complained old Tommie Depper, the senior sergeant, “that I can’t get a ration party together without consulting teacher.”

“Sergeant!” said I, severely.

“Hell,” said Tommie, “excuse me, is this a parade?”

I am afraid D company was almost as bad, as far as discipline was concerned, as the colonel said it was.

So the Kinzies, along with six or seven other new men, were scattered through the platoon and did their first eerie night in the trenches, amid the stealth, the silence and the moonlight.

There was a company conference next morning in D company dugout, after breakfast, and the officers and sergeants sat chewing the fat until nearly eight o’clock. And at that late hour, with the sun up in the sky, when all good soldiers save a couple of gas sentries per platoon, should have been down underground asleep, I came up for a listen at the skylarks and maybe the sight of a rabbit or a partridge.

And to my right, nearby, I heard a shot crash out.

Now who in blazes would be firing his rifle on a peaceful morning like this? It was an outrage. Nothing could upset a company officer more than to hear a vagrant rifle shot bang out on a nice quiet sector, day or night. It was unheard of!

Around the traverses I charged, my indignation rising.

And in a bay all by themselves, huddled down on the firestep2 in excited conversation, were Dad and Babe Kinzie. And in the old man’s hands, a guilty-looking rifle.

A very guilty looking rifle. I may say I never saw, even in Buckingham Palace yard, a Lee Enfield that looked as smart, as oilily gleaming, as babied and cared for as the rifle that was clutched in Dad Kinzie’s hand.

“Who the devil fired that shot?” I demanded.

“I did,” said Kinzie, standing up very surprised.

“Well, hang it all, Kinzie, you ought to know better than go shooting off around here like a boy scout! Rifles aren’t for shooting with,” I said, “they’re a drill weapon. Any shooting around here will be done by the snipers, and they’re pets of the colonel. No common company bum is allowed to play with his rifle except at the ranges back in rest. What were you shooting at? Rabbit or partridge?”

“A German,” said old Kinzie.

“And got him,” said Babe Kinzie proudly. “Right on the nose.”

“Do you mean to say you two rookies had your heads sticking up over that parapet!” I yelled.

And anxiously, the two showed me the parapet, all decorated up with rubbish, through which was gouged a narrow tunnel or ditch which gave a view of the further German support trenches but screened from the German front line.

“It won’t do,” said I firmly. “You will get a Mauser bullet right through your bean if you start monkeying with things like this. A nice, bronze Spitzer bullet from some Heinie sniper’s rifle with telescope sights on it.”

They were abashed.

“I rigged up this hole before dawn,” said the old man, ruefully, “just so’s I could see that spot about a hundred and sixty yards back. The boys told me they was some kind of a shovel dump or something there and they often seen Germans’ heads at that place.”

A Little Sniping on Our Own

“How do you know you got him?” I asked the younger Kinzie.

“You got to prove you ain’t got him when Dad shoots,” said the boy.

“Is that so?” said I. “Well, until you men are appointed to the select company of snipers on battalion headquarters, you’ve got to curb your shooting. Now get off to the dugout and get your sleep.”

And very meekly the Kinzies trailed their long arms around the traverse and off to bed underground.

Before the tour was over, I got used to the Kinzies. They even did a wiring party out in front one night. This test of fate I watched with nervous breath. And nothing happened. They did as smart a job as any of the older men on the party. They seemed to be able to see in the dark.

“Good men, those Kinzies,” said Tommie Depper. “I bet they come from somewhere near Windsor.”

Depper came from Windsor.

Out of the line, resting, we did some musketry practice, and I said to Dad Kinzie:

“Now let’s see what you can do with your pretty rifle?”

He made a string of ten bulls at the rickety hundred-yard target.

“That’s shooting,” said I, really impressed (I suppose you know what army shooting was like?)

“Pah,” said the old man.

We had no longer ranges. But with my permission, old Kinzie was allowed to fire one shot at the white-washed mud wall of a broken cow stable against a hill all of six hundred yards away. Old Kinzie said it was a little over four hundred yards. I thought it would have been good shooting to hit the wall. Dad Kinzie asked me if I could see a narrow plank bordering one edge of the wall. I couldn’t.

He knelt. He aimed snugly. He fired. With Depper and the Kinzie boy, we walked across the fields to the ruined stable. There in a six inch plank bordering the white wall was a neat round hole.

“How often can you do that?” I asked.

In reply, he fired four more shots from back in the same place, and the five holes in the plank, when we walked forward, were easily covered by my cap.

I told the colonel about it. But the sniping section was full. We went back up the line, in by Merincourt. One afternoon, I saw some sort of small hawk soaring low above the field where most of the larks sprang from. I sent for Dad Kinzie. Dad allowed it was a tough shot. We edged along on to C company’s front. The hawk poised an instant as it made a turn. It was perhaps eighty yards off. Dad Kinzie’s pointed bullet flipped the hawk, a wrecked bunch of feathers four feet in the air.

“A little low on the side,” said he.

That was about the time Dad Kinzie and I began to chum around.

“Why can’t the boy shoot?” I asked the old man one day.

“He can shoot good as I could at his age. But,” said Dad Kinzie, “it takes about twenty years to get real good. Your rifle kind of grows out of you in that time like your finger or your eyesight. It’s like part of you.”

I could well believe it.

We did a little sniping on our own. Especially when the company was in close support trenches. We would lie out in the turnips or hide in old ruins. The boy was always along with us, because he could see movement where certainly I couldn’t, and often the old man couldn’t.

We got meat too. From the support trench north of the electric power station at Avion, we could look down into Lens. We saw a party of what were likely officers moving discreetly in amongst the ruins all of six hundred yards away. Really six hundred, estimated by old Kinzie. When he fired, one of the four Germans lay on the ground. Old Kinzie waited. One of the others ran out from behind a wall and knelt by the down one. Kinzie hit him, though he staggered out of sight.

In one afternoon, in one place, just east of Avion, where the railway embankment passed through our lines, we got three, about half an hour apart. It must have been one of those places men like to stand and gaze on, like mountain sheep.

Another day, Babe Kinzie spotted a German chopping. You could see the axe head rise and fall. Now and again you could catch a glimpse of the German.

“I wish I had my binoculars,” I said. Old Kinzie would not let me bring glasses. He said the flash of field glasses would scare deer and they would scare Germans, too.

So Kinzie got the chopper too.

Late one afternoon, with the sun behind us streaming down on the German lines, Babe Kinzie saw something that he took to be a pump handle sticking up in the German support trench. He finally made his Dad see it, and the old man laid his rifle on the mark, very delicately aiming it and then securing it in position with sticks, stones and string.

A Gorgeous Outburst of Pyrotechnics

About eleven o’clock that night, we went out in the turnips and without the aid of any light, Dad Kinzie fired. It was not a pump handle but some kind of a rack or store of German skyrockets and signal flares. Whether Dad’s bullet hit a friction lighter or exploded something else in the store, there was the most gorgeous outburst of pyrotechnics back there in the German supports that I ever saw that side of the Toronto exhibition. It lasted all of ten minutes and the riot caused the German artillery to open up. Ours replied. And as we lay in the turnips, we snorted with guilty laughter until our diaphragms hurt us.

But all wars come to an end. And all those days spent in fun around sun-bathed trenches with not a thing in the world to worry about come to an end too. For about every six months, the higher command thinks up a battle. It is like being at Varsity and then exams come along.

So came Amiens. After the winter of licking Passchendaele’s scars, and a happy spring and summer spent around Vimy listening to the ominous thunder to the south and the north, or out in distant rear areas training for open warfare, the lucky Canadian corps prepared in stealth and rather breathlessly for the great Hundred Days.

The Kinzies withdrew from my immediate life and became two chessmen in the backdrop of the company against which we officers, as in the days of our earliest training, began to strut once again in the guise of officers and gentlemen rather than as section foremen in the trenches. I felt easy about the Kinzies. Fate was kind to them. My superstitions were lulled. Father and son could team together, even in that unearthly sphere where Fate seemed more a humorist at heart than a vengeful fury.

They had no chums. They chummed together. Always together on the line of march. Always eating out of the same mess-tin, sharing their blankets, their heads peering side by side whenever you paid a night visit to the billets. I was sorry our days and nights together were ended. It had been like a touch of the Rideaus again.

At Amiens we did not go over the first day. Close on the heels of our division, we advanced three incredible miles up the Roy road, the sounds of triumph just over every rise. What a gay, reckless day that August 8 was!

We slept under our tarpaulins that night, like Napoleon’s soldiers or Caesar’s. I thought of Waterloo, as I walked about the misty field, amongst the bivvies3, at dusk, asking them how they liked open warfare. The Kinzies were as usual under the same bivvy, all dry and comfortable, as woodsmen and trappers should be. I planned, the next rest, to have the Kinzies demonstrate to the company just how to make a comfortable shelter out of a bit of canvas.

“There’ll be moving targets to-morrow, Kinzie,” I said to them. “Like deer across the open.”

“I’m all oiled up and ready,” said the old man. “But this is my first battle.”

“It’s my first, this kind,” said I. “I hope I get stage fright out here in these open fields.”

“I suppose I can keep the boy by me?”

“Nothing to prevent it,” said I.

“If anything happens to me,” said Dad Kinzie “I don’t suppose the boy could come with me?”

“Oh, no. But nothing will happen, Kinzie.”

“Yes, but something might, and I was wondering if I got wounded maybe the boy could be a stretcher bearer and come down with me.”

“Nobody is allowed to fall out to help a wounded comrade, and that’s so of even father and son,  I’m afraid.”

“Well,” said Kinzie, “I’d hate to go out wounded and leave this boy here alone. I’d rather him get wounded and me stay, though that would be bad enough.”

“Greatest Shot I Ever Knew”

“I guess the boy knows enough to look after himself, Dad,” said I. “But you don’t plan things so far ahead.”

“I plan everything ahead,” said Kinzie, with a worried air.

Well, turn in boys, and ready for dawn.”

And dawn saw us on the march, like olden wars, up roads in column of fours, and the sun came up and found us marching steadily eastward, while ahead of us the sounds of victory grew louder, and we passed field guns in the open meadows firing like in the picture books. An incredible sight. Few of us had ever seen a cannon. All we knew, in three years, was the sound of their shells.

And thus, before noon, on that brilliant August day, across fields of waving grain, we suddenly found ourselves in front and the attack to carry on, like a tide.

As we emerged out of Quesnel, where, the Six Bits4 had made their glorious dash, a storm of shellfire met us. But across the green fields, we saw the little gray buglike figures retreating before us.

More shells howled amongst us and kicked up their fountains.

“Old Kinzie’s got it!” suddenly shouted my batman5.

And there, limp on the ground, a few yards lay old Kinzie, while the shell dust settled on him.

“Where’s the boy?” I cried.

“Ahead there! He hasn’t noticed the old man,” said the batman.

And Babe Kinzie, along with the rest of the section, was doubling forward waist deep in the grain, all eyes to the front, wild with the excitement of his first show: and what a show!

I let them go. I walked across to Old Kinzie. He flopped over on his back as I approached, and I hurried to kneel by him.

“My leg, my leg,” he murmured, as I got his head up.

The shell had flung a heavy splinter into the thick of his calf and torn it badly.

He blinked at me. The stunning concussion of the shell was leaving him.

“The boy!” he gasped, as he realized he was missing. “Where’s the kid?”

“He’s gone on,” said I. “He’ll be all right now. I’ll take good care of him.”

“Where is he?” cried Dad Kinzie, struggling to kneel up on that bloody leg.

“There here he goes, just to the left of that shed,” said I. “Now lie down and I’ll send one of the stretcher bearers.”

He was still sitting when I ran ahead.

A few yards out, I met Courtney, one of the stretcher men, working on a chap in the wheat.

“As soon as you can, look after old Kinzie back there by the brick wall.”

“Yes sir.”

I had not taken more than six steps when I heard a rifle shot behind me. Turning, I beheld old Kinzie just lowering his rifle from his shoulder. He was kneeling.

“What the devil!” I shouted. “Can’t you quit even with a leg-off?”

“Got him!” shouted old Kinzie, and dropped out of my sight.

Then I overtook the boys, weaving through the grain. And just beyond the little shed, I found two or three of the boys bending over young Kinzie who was sitting on the ground among wry faces.

“Where’s he hit?”

“In the leg, sir. He was just lifting his leg over this picket, here, when he got this. But,” said the lance corporal, “by gosh, he got it from behind. I swear he did. Look.”

“Nonsense,” said I, but the wound unquestionably entered from the side of his leg that would have been to the rear as he got over the picket.

“Get him back there to Courtney, near the brick wall,” said I. “One of you lend him your shoulder that far and then get right back here.”

And we got young Kinzie to his feet, arm around the other’s shoulder, I looked back and there knelt old Dad Kinzie, beckoning excitedly to his boy.

“Good-by, Babe,” said I. “And tell your Dad for me that he is the greatest shot I ever knew. He didn’t even touch the bone.”

That was the afternoon he had tea in the rear at Folies.


Editor’s Notes:

  1. Lou Marsh was an athlete, and later sports reporter and editor at the Toronto Star. ↩︎
  2. A firestep is a step dug into the front side of a trench allowing soldiers to stand on it in order to fire over the parapet. ↩︎
  3. Bivvies is short for Bivouac, which can describe any improvised shelter that is usually of a temporary nature. ↩︎
  4. “Six Bits” was the nickname of the 75th Battalion (Mississauga), CEF. ↩︎
  5. A batman was a soldier assigned to a commissioned officer as a personal servant. This practice diminished greatly by World War 2, and was later phased out. ↩︎

Judge Not -!

He waved the red bandana to and fro.

By Gregory Clark, September 13, 1930.

“Stick to Yonge St.,” said Merrill.

“It’s all right,” I said. “I know a road over here east of Yonge and we’ll avoid this traffic.”

“Every time we leave the main track,” said Merrill gloomily, “we get into trouble.”

And as a matter of fact, we did.

We were heading for an appointment at the Summit Golf Club – not a golf appointment, I may say. It was for 2.30 p.m. And when two o’clock showed on Merrill’s wrist watch out somewhere northeast of Toronto, driving on a second class road, but it wasn’t taking us near the Summit.

“Stop and ask this farmer,” advised Merrill.

We told the farmer which turn we took for the Summit Golf Club.

“Never heard of it,” said the farmer.

“Well, then, which way to Yonge St.?” I asked.

“The road to your left. But there’s a fairly good road about eight miles on.”

“There you are,” said Merrill as we drove ahead. Always leaving the beaten track and where does it get you? One good rule of life is always stick to the beaten path.”

And at that moment we passed a rise in the road and there before us lay a small town, on the hither side of which was a fall fair in full bloom.

The road was filled with cars and buggies. In the fields to the right were erected a dozen or more large marquees. The fields were filled with crowds. It was a pretty sight.

“Jove,” said Merrill, “a fall fair!”

“Isn’t it pretty? What place is this?”

“What does it matter?” said Merrill. “Let’s go to this fall fair. We’re too late now for Summit.

“I’ve always wanted to visit a fall fair,” I said.

As we drove smartly down the road, wiggled our way amongst the easy-going traffic that was tangled about the entrance gate to the field, and honked importantly at the gatekeepers.

They looked at us and immediately shouted something back into the crowd.

There was a stir of excitement.

And suddenly there emerged on the run three elderly gentlemen wearing large blue badges with the word in gold on the badges, “Official”.

They headed dead for us, wearing beaming smiles and their hands were already out-stretched.

The foremost of them leaped on the running board.

“How do you do, colonel,” he cried to Merrill, and seized Merrill’s hand.

“How do you do!” said Merrill, obviously flustered.

“We thought you would never get here,” said the official. The other two were now on the running board and were waving the gatekeepers aside as I drove slowly into the fair grounds.

“Ah, we got here,” said Merrill, who loves the feeling of being mistaken for a colonel, if only for a few minutes.

“Is this the major?” asked the chief official, smiling genially at me.

“This is the major,” said Merrill.

“Well, sir,” said the official, “it was good of you to bring a judge of hogs with you, colonel. We need some new blood in this judging business, especially in the hog line.”

“Ah,” said Merrill. “And what about me?”

Deciding to Carry On

“Oh, well,” said the official, “your reputation as a judge of cattle don’t need any discussion in these parts. I may say, colonel, this is the best turnout for our fair we’ve had in ten years, and it is largely to see you judge cattle that they’ve come out so good.”

I nudged Merrill.

He nudged me sharply, which from long experience I know to mean – “Leave this to me!”

Standing on our running-board the three forced our way through the crowd to a central spot in the midst of the fair grounds. The crowd fell back, turning respectful faces to us. Merrill sat back like a duke.

“Here we are, gents,” said the head official. We got out of the car, and the head man with great ceremony pinned large blue ribbons on Merrill and me, inscribed with the word “Judge”.

They pinned blue badges on us bearing the word “Judge”.

“Now, colonel,” said the head man, “the first one is waiting for you, if you are ready.”

“Quite,” said Merrill. “But could the major and I just wash up somewhere first? We are dusty from our travels.”

“Sure, this way,” said the head man, leading us into the marquee marked “Office,” and into a little partitioned washroom.

And there Merrill and I held a whispered and fierce discussion.

“Let’s,” said I, “crawl under the edge of this and beat it.”

“Listen,” said Merrill, “you got us into this. You took the turn off Yonge St. Now see it through.”

“But what do you know of cattle? And what the dickens do I know of hogs?”

“The ruling of a judge is final,” said Merrill in a low voice. “I know a good cow when I see one. Fat, smooth, shiny and with kind eyes. That’s how I’ll award the prizes, and I bet you Premier Ferguson could do no better.”

“And what about hogs?” said I grimly as we washed.

“Use your head,” said Merrill. “What are hogs for? They’re for bacon. So the fattest hogs get the prizes. It’s simple, after all.”

Outside the canvas wall we could hear the loud murmur and rustle of the crowd. To me it was a terrifying sound.

“Merrill, once more: will you crawl under the flap here and make a run for it with me? I’ll get behind you and help you run.”

“I was invited to be a judge,” retorted Merrill, “Far be it from me to turn down a friendly request from nice people like these.”

He put aside the flap of the washroom and I followed.

“Ready?” called the head official eagerly.

And through the respectful throng we were led to a roped off circle, where about fifteen cows were standing solemnly, with a nervous attendant standing at the head of each. To me the cows were not terrifying. But the thick-packed crowd around the roped space was.

Merrill stepped forward into the midst of the cows with confidence. I stayed at his heels.

“Class No. 27,” announced the head official in a loud voice. “Dairy cows.”

“Ah,” said Merrill, and silence fell on the crowd to hear the eminent colonel’s words.

“Dairy cows. What a splendid showing you have here!”

He surveyed the circle or solemn blinking cows and nervous handlers. He started at one cow and walked around it, examining its large bones, its horns, poking with his finger in the ribs, stroking the gleaming coat.

“Dairy cows, eh?” he said easily. “H’m. Have you chaps got your milk pails with you? Let’s see what they can do.”

The nearest cow attendants giggled and snickered.

Judging Hogs is Different

Merrill immediately smiled in the manner of one of those strong silent men who make their little jokes.

“Mmmm! Dairy cows.”

He went from cow to cow. Even I could notice a rustle in the surrounding crowd when he came to a particularly fat cow that was so low-slung she nearly touched the ground.

“Well, well!” said Merrill as he paused in front of this beast. “Step her out there, please.”

“Ahhhhh,” said the crowd. They were a big help to us. I hoped there would be as helpful a crowd around the pigs.

Merrill went completely around the circle again, listening intently for the rustle of the crowd and the “ahhhhh.” And he picked two more.

“There you are,” said he to the attending officials.

“A beautiful selection, colonel,” said the head man. “A beautiful selection. Now will you wait for the next class, or shall we walk over to the hogs and do a class there while the bulls are being brought in?”

“Why, yes,” said Merrill, turning to me. “Major, let’s judge a hog or two.”

And a lane parted amidst the admiring throng as we strolled a short distance to where another roped-off space contained about thirty hogs.

“Class 17,” shouted the head man. “Bacon hogs.”

Really, I never had a good look at a pig before. I always thought they were dirty, muddy, smelly creatures with a kind of menacing upwards glare in their pale blue eyes.

But here, with scarcely a squeal or a grunt, stood and sat thirty pigs as clean as babies. They reminded me of large babies. They were a beautiful pink color and they had hair! I never saw a pig in a butcher shop that had hair on it. I thought pigs were smooth. But here they were glowing pinkly underneath a lot of coarse blonde hair, which was parted down the middle of their backs.

“Do your stuff.” whispered Merrill, standing close behind me.

The attendants kicked those pigs that were sitting down so that they stood up in the presence of the judge.

There was a squealing and grunting. I never saw such huge pigs in my life. There was not one of the thirty that didn’t weigh more than I.

“Rather hairy, aren’t they?” I asked the head official.

He laughed heartily.

“It’s this north country air,” said he. He repeated my witticism to the other officials. Even the crowd laughed merrily, though they couldn’t hear my joke for the squealing and grunting.

“Bacon hogs, eh?” said I. I walked up to the nearest and took a handful of his bacon. The pig squealed angrily and tried to jerk away from his holder.

“A bit soft,” said I. “I like a bacon hog that has got lots of good firm bacon.”

“A bit soft,” said I. “I like good firm bacon.”

I tried a good handful of another pig, and it squealed indignantly. The crowd was not helping me the way it did Merrill. In fact, the crowd seemed to be squealing a little the way the pig did.

“Let’s see,” said l, stepping back into the middle of the judging ring, “put them through their paces.”

The officials seemed a little dazed. All the hog-handlers stood undecided.

“Put them through their paces,” I said loudly. “I can judge hogs better when I see them moving.”

Testing the Spirit of the Bulls

Merrill says the trouble started right then. I think it was later. But at any rate there was rather a scene. The handlers all started hauling on their pigs, and the pigs backed up and screamed, some lay down, others bolted, and two got away from their handlers and dashed through the legs of the surrounding crowd.

It wasn’t a panic, really. But I was glad when the officials said they would judge the hogs a little later, after they had got them sorted out and quieted down.

As we walked back to the cattle ring I said to the head official:

“I always do that when judging hogs. I like to stir them up. I like to know something about a hog besides its looks. You can’t tell good bacon just by looking at it.”

“I believe you’re right,” said the head man, a little bewildered. But he was getting nervous.

When we got back to the cattle ring there stood six bulls. I don’t know what sort they were, but they were huge and brown, with thick ugly horns; the fat, thick sort of bulls who look at you with a bloated sort of expression, yet they were upholstered with muscle like car cushions. Each had a nose ring in his nose, and each rolled his eyes terribly.

“Class 11,” called the head official. “Mrrrshhllrr bulls!”

I didn’t catch the name of the bulls. Merrill said afterwards that they were Spanish bulls.

Merrill stepped boldly into the ring, but I hung near the edge.

He walked up to the left hand one and looked it in the eye. The man holding it had a large club attached to the ring in its nose.

The bull snorted at Merrill and its eyes fairly burned. If I were a bull, Merrill is just the sort of person I would like to toss.

Merrill examined bull, prodded one or two gingerly, slapped couple courageously.

Then he stepped back into the ring, obviously puzzled.

“Well, gentlemen,” said he, “there’s a very interesting collection of bulls. You may not see, at first glance, the merits of one or two of them, but to the trained eye, there are qualities in all these bulls that are of paramount importance from the point of view of the experienced judge.”

Everybody was impressed. But Merrill’s voice has something in it that seemed to irritate the bulls. They were all tossing their heads, rolling their eyes, blowing their breath outward and pawing the ground. The handlers were all dancing anxiously about on the end of the nose ring ropes.

“One factor,” continued Merrill, “I always introduce in a case like this is the question of the spirit of bulls. Given six bulls of equal though essentially dissimilar values, I ask myself, what is their spirit? For without spirit, what is a bull after all?”

“That’s a fact,” said the officials.

“Major,” called Merrill, “lend your handkerchief.”

Now Merrill knew that being a fisherman, my handkerchief is a bandanna.

“No, no!” I cried, in low voice. Being a fisherman I also know my bulls.

“Your handkerchief, major,” called Merrill in the best colonel manner. The officials turned and looked at me expectantly.

I walked up to Merrill and very cautiously handed him my red bandanna all squeezed into a tight ball.

“Now then,” said Merrill, “gentlemen, let’s see the spirit of these bulls.”

And he shook out the large red bandanna and waved it to and fro.

“Don’t Talk – Watch Behind”

All I recollect is great whirl and blur consisting mostly of dust, human legs and loud roars that seemed more like motor horns than bulls. But my devotion to Merrill has already outlived many a storm, so I managed to grasp him by some of the slack of his clothing and I clung grimly to him and dug my heels into the earth and backed. Out of that whirling mass of mankind and bullkind, we managed to struggle.

When we got out behind the official tent only two of the officials were to be found. The head man was gone. The crowd was scattered into small groups either hiding behind tents or running for the fences. And there were bulls with attendants clinging to their noses all over the place.

“The test didn’t work,” said Merrill heart-brokenly. “All six of those bulls have spirit. I don’t know what basis I can judge them on. Really, I can’t.”

The two officials said nothing, but there was a curious old-fashioned market day glint in their eyes.

At that moment another man we had not seen before, who alto was wearing an “official” badge, came running up to us.

“There’s a man out here,” said he, “who says he is Colonel Deacon, and that he’s to judge the cattle.”

“Eh!” snorted the two officials with us. They, too, sounded like bulls.

“He’s got another big fellow with him who says he’s to judge hogs.” said the newcomer. “They won’t listen to me. I tell them the judges is here.”

I may take wrong turnings. But I also know how to take a right turning. I took one right now.

“Let us see this Colonel Deacon,” said I in the commanding voice bull-fighters must use. And, giving Merrill’s arm a sharp tweak, I strode towards the gate. The crowd still made way for us. Even a bull got out of our way.

Merrill followed me close, with a belligerent air about him.

As we passed my car, I paused.

“Colonel,” I said to Merrill, “get in here.”

Merrill got in.

The officials stood irresolute, as if they had something on their mind.

I started the car. I put my elbow on the horn and kept it there. I drove for the gate.

As we passed a limousine in the gateway, Merrill lifted his hat. Inside were two large gentlemen looking the way we had looked only a little while before when we had been welcomed at the gate.

But we only caught a fleeting glimpse of them. We were already hitting thirty.

“Judge not,” said Merrill, as we flew up the gravel road and put the hill between us and the fair, “that ye be not judged.”

“Don’t talk,” said I. “Watch behind. We may be pursued.”

“They won’t pursue us,” said Merrill. “They’re tired of us by now.”

“I’m going to turn off the first side road to put them off the scent,” said l.

“Listen.” said Merrill, “get back to Yonge St. just soon as you can.”


Editor’s Notes: This is another proto-Greg-Jim story, this time with our old friend Merrill Denison.

Howard Ferguson was Premier of Ontario from 1923 to 1930.

The Return from Mecca

June 14, 1930

This comic references the Shriners convention held in Toronto in 1930, as mentioned in the previous story with Merrill Denison.

Toronto Has No Patience

“‘Ere!” said the uniformed doorman.
The policeman leaned down and whispered something to Merrill.

By Gregory Clark, May 17, 1930.

“I am worried,” said Merrill, “about these Shriners.”

“What way?” I asked.

“Well, how is Toronto going to receive them – a hundred thousand of them?” said Merrill. “Toronto is a pretty stick-in-the-mud sort of city. She hasn’t had her propriety jarred since the Mackenzie Rebellion. I tell you am really worried about what going to happen when into this staid and conservative town barges a horde of good-natured people making whoopee.”

“Oh, it’s just a convention,” said I.

“Convention nothing!” exploded Merrill. “I have heard about these Shriner conventions. Why, they take possession of the city. Traffic is demoralized. They just walk in anywhere and have band concerts. They’ve got a bombing squad that comes in the night before the convention opens and it goes raging up and down the streets of the city setting off bombs and machine guns. They hold shirt-tail parades. If they like you they either kiss you or add you to their party whether you want to go or not.”

“Not me!”

“What could you do against hundred thousand?” asked Merrill, now really excited about the matter. “They put little stars and crescent stickers on your face. They come in and inspect your premises. Just imagine Toronto bowing the knee to that sort of thing!”

“Well,” said I, “the convention is coming. It will be here in a week or two. There is nothing we can do about it.”

And that was where Merrill introduced the scheme that got us in so much trouble. If any of you saw us  being hustled by the police or wearing pink straw hats or playing mouth-organs in public you will understand now that we were not that way, but were simply out doing our duty as journalists.

“I tell you what we can do,” said Merrill. “We can make an investigation. We can make a test of Toronto’s resistance to disturbance. We can do great service both to Toronto and to the Shriners by going around in advance of the convention and finding out just how Toronto reacts to whoopee.”

“For instance?” I asked.

“For instance,” said Merrill, “we could play musical instruments in public places and see what the people do. Our fellow-citizens.”

“Suppose some of our friends saw us?”

“Would you cramp the sacred function of journalism just because of what your friends might think of you?”

“I draw the line at shirt-tail parades,” I said. “And as for kissing girls and putting stickers on their faces to mark the spot …”

“I, too, am in my late thirties,” retorted Merrill.

So we made our plan and did it.

Neither Merrill nor I is a Shriner. Merrill is a holy roller and I am a continuing Methodist. We wear no buttons other than what the tailors sew on. But we feel our test was a perfectly fair and sound one none the less.

Our first experiment was with traffic. The authorities have recently closed the foot of Yonge St. so as to make an experiment themselves, and any of you who drive into town via the Lakeshore and Bay St. will understand some of the problems that are going to exist in a couple of weeks. It was because of the tie-up on lower Bay St. that Merrill and I selected that region for our experiment.

“One car will be no good,” said Merrill. “We will use both our cars so it will be a procession. I will lead in my roadster you follow in yours.”

“Should we not wear funny hats?” I asked. “That would lend atmosphere. It would explain to those we encounter that we are not just ordinary people doing wrong. If you wear a funny hat it sort of advertises the fact that this is a special occasion.”

“I will wear my hat crossways on my head if you like,” said Merrill.

Like the First Armistice Day

What we planned to do was to go contrary to regulations, create a real scene in the middle of the city and then see what the public did. So we started on King St., opposite The Star building, went east to Bay St., Merrill leading and I following right behind him in my small car.

And we turned down Bay St. on the LEFT side of the road!

It was about 9.15 a.m. Up Bay St. streamed the late-comers. They were all in fidgets. Big Ben stared reproachfully down Bay St. at them. And without the slightest hesitation Merrill, like Admiral Drake at the Armada, led our little flotilla of two cars straight bang into the upcoming procession on their side of the road.

At first the leaders thought we were just making an early turn to go east on Melinda St. But when we calmly proceeded down the wrong side of the street there was a sudden uproar of horns.

A street car started up from Wellington. Merrill with his Christie hat crossways on his head, and looking very absurd from behind, doggedly took the inside of the street car. It stopped, while the motorman, who had a drooping yellow mustache and wore his cap on the back of his head, opened the doors and leaned out with wide blue eyes popping. Bay St. fairly roared with indignant horns and reporters came charging out of the Telegram office to see if Al Smith had arrived in town.

By the time Merrill and I were stopped solidly facing a mass of traffic all the way down to Front St. And all howling. A crowd assembled by magic. There was a clatter of hoofs and a mounted policeman dashed up beside us. He leaned down off his horse and said something softly to Merrill.

“We are two journalists,” said Merrill, “making an experiment to determine Toronto’s resistance to disturbance in preparation for the Shriners’ convention.”

This was the little speech we had prepared so as to explain to anyone who might need to know what we were doing.

The policeman leaned down and whispered something else to Merrill. Merrill shook his head and his hat fell off. The policeman, I noticed, got very red in the face and started to get down off his horse. It was by this time like the first armistice day, with all the horns blowing and figures running from all directions. I saw six policemen pushing through. And at that moment the street car started. Merrill slipped over to the right side of the road and I followed. He hoicked around on Front St. and we pulled up to the curb near the Royal York.

“Phew!” said Merrill. “What did I tell you?”

“What did the policeman say?” I asked.

“I wouldn’t repeat it,” said Merrill. “It referred to me personally.”

“Do you think the experiment was a success?” ‘I inquired.

“Certainly it was,” said Merrill. “It demonstrates conclusively that Toronto has no patience. How did those people know we might not just be a couple of chaps out for a little fun? Yet within thirty seconds of turning down Bay St. you would think the end of the world had come. Toronto has no patience.”

“Point number one,” said I.

So we went around another way and put our cars away.

Our second experiment was not quite so public. Again wearing our hats sideways, we took our stand in the lobby of a well-known trust company and started a small musical entertainment. It was only a modest little concert. Merrill had a kettledrum and I played the mouthorgan.

“Happy Days Are Here Again” was the tune we selected, because it is so merry and bright. There was nothing wrong with the piece.

City Not Impulsively Friendly

For a moment nothing happened. At the first beat of the drum, which Merrill plays really well, all the customers and clerks looked up and stared as if frozen. The uniformed doorman took two or three steps towards us and then stopped suddenly and swayed. I feared he was going to be seized with an attack of some sort. I got a little off the tune, but quickly picked it up again. Merrill beat more loudly to cover my lapse.

“‘Ere!” said the uniformed doorman. He was not very sure of himself, because Merrill and I, save for our hats, were quite as well dressed as the president of the trust company himself.

“Throw them out!” came a voice from back somewhere behind all the office cages and grills. Office help came crowding from the back rooms.

“‘Ere!” repeated the doorman. But Merrill, his face set grimly as experimenters’ should be in the face of difficulties, pounded on.

Someone tapped me on the shoulder from behind. A large hand took me by the collar and another by the seat of the trousers and without knowing who my assailant was I was propelled violently through the handsome doors of the trust company and ended up against a lamppost on the street.

Merrill followed shortly. The drum was around his neck.

We scrambled to our feet and hurried up a side street and into a broker’s office, where we sat down in disgust.

“What did I tell you!” demanded Merrill, breathlessly. He is built more for intellectual experiments than for those involving the physical being.

“Experiment number two,” said I. “What does it teach?”

“Toronto is intolerant, even of sweet music,” said Merrill. “If only two men get such scant courtesy with a mouthorgan and a drum, what on earth will happen in Toronto when a hundred thousand people come here playing trombones?”

“Haven’t we proved our case?” I asked. “We don’t need to go any further, do we?”

Merrill turned a scornful gaze at me.

“Do you not carry accident insurance?” said he.

“Yes, but would this be considered an accident?”

Our next experiment was to stand out on Yonge St. in front of Ellis’ jewelry store and greet everybody. We both wore straw hats that we had dyed a pretty cerise pink. We did not wish to go under false colors and wear fezes, although Merrill said that by the time we published these results of our experiments the Shriners would probably want to make us honorary life members.

We stood back to back with our hats on our heads, Merrill facing north and I facing south, and we offered to shake hands with everybody, lady or gent, old or young, as they passed.

“Welcome,” we said. “Hail! Greetings to our Toronto brothers.”

The first three to pass me were ladies and they curved away like frightened colts. When I held my hand out to the first man he looked away and shook his head:

“Haven’t got any,” he said.

Quite a crowd gathered. Most of them smiled and looked amused, but I heard one man say distinctly:

“And they say the O. T. A. is a success!”

I heard Merrill behind me talking to someone. He was saying:

“We are a couple of journalists conducting experiments to determine Toronto’s … “

And then his voice was cut short. I turned. A policeman was just reaching for my collar.

“If you’re not reds you’re pinks anyway,” said the cop.

We said we would go quietly. With quite a following we walked over and soon set the matter right with the sergeant at the station, who goes fishing with me and knows me to be a sincere if somewhat misguided scholar. Merrill keeps two Irish terriers, so that was soon fixed.

“If they will pinch you for just offering to shake hands,” stated Merrill, in discussing this third experiment, “what will they do if you kiss a girl in public?”

“What lesson shall we draw from this experiment?” I asked.

“Toronto,” said Merrill, “is not impulsively friendly.”

“Check,” said I.

“N.S.F.,” parried Merrill. And we proceeded with our final and most painful experiment.

Evening as drawing nigh. At an uptown toy and stationery shop we got the merchant to go down cellar and bring up some of the fireworks he had left over from last Twenty-fourth and which he was getting ready for this year. We bought a good supply of cannon crackers of the largest size. We then went over to Merrill’s to discuss our experiments and to wait until a later hour of the night.

No Tolerant Sense of Humor

A little before midnight we started forth well supplied with punk and matches. We had selected a route and I was to drive about the residential streets selected while Merrill would set off the cannon crackers as fast as he could throw them and for as long as they lasted.

North of St. Clair, on a street lined with noble residences, we started our bombing experiment. Four giant crackers were exploded in the block, and we stopped at the corner to look back and observe the results. Lights sprang up in many windows and heads appeared and men came running out of front doors. Two youngish men ran out to a parked roadster and jumped in.

“Go ahead,” said Merrill. “We are being followed.”

Down the next street we raced, banging crackers as fast as possible. The sport roadster gained on us. Along and up another handsome street we making a terrific racket.

“Three cars after us now,” said Merrill. “Keep her going.”

We must have done about ten blocks and the crackers were still holding out when Merrill shouted that there were about fifteen cars after us and the leader was a big limousine.

Some of the crackers were duds and others had delayed action fuses and one which Merrill threw did not go off until the big limousine which was leading the procession alter us was right on top of it. The big car slewed dangerously and then picked up speed.

It raced alongside of us.

“Stop!” hissed Merrill in my ear.

“Stop!” hissed Merrill in my ear.

I stopped. The big car drew alongside and out poured a quantity of very large policemen.

“What’s the idea?” asked their leader.

“We are two journalists,” began Merrill with dignity.

But the policeman did not want to hear what Merrill had to say anyway. We were both lifted into the limousine and two of the policemen got into my little car and drove it along behind us, all sagging down.

“It’s quite all right,” said we at station to all the policemen. “We are making social experiments. Just call the sergeant down at Number One. He knows about us.”

But the sergeant at Number One apparently said he never heard of us.

“AII right then; call our editor.”

Our editor does rot often get a chance to get even with us.

“I have nobody by those names on my paper,” he told the police.

“Let me speak to him,” I begged.

“He says he does not want to speak to you under any circumstances,” said the policeman.

“He says if it really is a story you are getting he wants it to be a good one.”

So this is it.

Merrill told the policemen about his Irish terriers and all their cute tricks. I talked about fishing and offered to play any two of the cops dominoes with only one hand.

But it was nearly morning before the policemen, several of whom were members of different lodges and felt some sympathy for the Shriners, got interested in our experiments and agreed to let us go if we did not carry out any more of them.

“There is just one more experiment we ought to do,” said Merrill, when we got outside and around a couple of blocks from the police station. “We ought to try and get into a house and pretend it is a Shriner who has lost the address of his billet.”

“No,” said I.

“There will be a hundred thousand Shriners,” argued Merrill, “about one per cent of whom, that is to say, one thousand, will mislay their proper addresses or mistake the house and try to get into somebody’s house just about this time of the morning.”

Dawn was painting the eastern sky.

“No,” I said loudly.

“Very well, then,” said Merrill. “Come back to my place for breakfast. It’s only a few blocks.”

Merrill being rather stout, he cannot get very close to a keyhole to put the key in. He was just fumbling with the key at his front door when the window above opened and at least a pailful of water was dumped on our heads.

As we shook the water off our heads and shoulders in the vestibule Merrill said:

“The experiment works! If two scientific investigators like us can get into trouble even within the sacred precincts of our homes what is going to happen when a hundred thousand strangers come to town in the spirit of revelry?”

“Toronto,” said I, “has no patience, no appreciation of extempore music, no impulsive friendliness, no tolerant sense of humor.”

“And the wives of Toronto,” said Merrill, who, being larger, had got more of the water I, “believe the worst of their husbands.”

“What general conclusion do you draw from our experiments then?” I inquired.

“That am going to have a front row seat for the whole show for the full three days the Shriners are in this good old highty-tighty town!” said Merrill.

“I think I’ll go fishing,” said I.


Editor’s Notes: This is one of the “proto-Greg-Jim” stories, this time with Greg and Merrill Denison.

Shiners were known to be very rowdy with their conventions. Shirt-tail parades were parades formed by men grabbing the shirt of the man in front of them and forming a conga line that marched up and down the street.

Merrill’s Christy hat was his bowler hat, implying it was from the famous store Christy’s in London.

The Toronto Telegram was a rival paper to the Star. He implied the reporters ran out into the street as if Al Smith was in town. Al Smith was the former governor of New York and the 1928 Democratic candidate in the U.S. Presidential Election (he lost).

Happy Days Are Here Again” was written in 1929.

Toronto police were notorious at this time with being extra violent to communists, or “reds”.

The 24th referred to Victoria Day, previously the only legal day to set off fireworks in Ontario.

The Old Car Does

A series of loud musical snorts interrupted. And there, coasting to a quiet stop was the big green roadster with Ella and her husband in it.

By Gregory Clark, April 26, 1930.

Madge and Bill decided last November to make the old car do another year.

There was a lot of deciding done last November, if you recollect. Last November was a time when, if you did not decide yourself, matters were decided for you – by your broker.

Anyway, on one of those evenings, when we all sat about consoling each other, I recall Madge saying:

“It takes a thing like this stock crash to bring people like us to our senses. Take cars, for example. Our car is perfectly good. Yet we’ve got into the habit of buying a new car almost every year. The minute we pay the last payment on the old one, we dash down and buy a new one. It’s absurd.”

“For fifty dollars,” said Bill, “or maybe seventy-five, I can put the old car into better shape than she’s ever been in.”

“Fifty dollars,” said Madge, “is a lot of money, even if you haven’t got it.”

“She’s only gone thirteen thousand miles,” said Bill. “The tires are in good shape. We’ll just have the engine overhauled, the body bolts tightened up, and you won’t know her. She’s good for another year.”

“And I’ll save the sixty or seventy a month we would be paying on a new one,” said Madge.

That was last November. The long winter has rolled by. As far as I know, the old car was not overhauled. The fifty or seventy-five was not spent on her. And whether Madge has been saving the sixty or seventy a month that they would have been paying on a new car I do not know. For they had the usual lavish and expensive Christmas up at Madge and Bill’s, and Madge’s Easter finery was just as fine as ever.

All washed up and gleaming, the old car rolled up to my house Sunday for our Easter drive. They always take me with them on their Easter drive because I say handsome things about Madge’s clothes. And Bill gets a real kick out of having a back-seat driver he can actually frighten into silence.

“The old car certainly looks great,” said I, stepping into the back seat. “You’d never know she is sixteen months old.”

Perhaps right there all the trouble started. Because I mentioned the car before noticing Madge’s clothes. I tried rectify matters by exclaiming, staring, throwing myself back in amusement as I beheld the vision sitting beside Bill. But I knew by the little hard look in her eyes that Madge would have no car coming before her.

“Listen to that second gear,” said Bill, as we slid away. “Isn’t she sweet?”

“Like a new car,” said I.

“Sounds like Bill putting out the ashes to me,” said Madge.

“Wonderful the way you have preserved the looks of her,” I said to Bill. “And yet you are not one of those finicky birds, always sheltering your car.”

“It costs us two dollars and a half a week,” said Madge, “a hundred and thirty dollars a year, the income from two thousand dollars, to keep the old crate looking the way she does. And if it weren’t for me, it would never be washed or polished.”

“Well,” said I, “I think you’ve got a wonderful car for well into its second year.”

“I feel kind of funny sitting here all dolled up like this in an antiquated car.”

“Madge, nobody will even see the car so long as you are sitting in it,” said I.

Just Nicely Broken In

“One thing,” said Madge, “we won’t be conspicuous. Everybody is in the same fix. Everybody is making the old car do. Not one of my friends is getting a new car. That makes it easier.”

We went bowling merrily along Bloor St. in an endless procession heading westward to the Lake Shore and the Dundas highway, for the wide open spaces where you are lucky if you can go eighteen miles an hour. The car ahead of us was enough to make all our hearts beat with pride. It was a ramshackle old schooner with wobbling wheels, and an engine like a brick truck’s. The one behind us was one of those plain family cars. A couple that passed us in a pathetic effort to speed things up were no better. Madge reeled the window down her and leaned back happily.

“I can’t understand,” said she, “how we enslaved ourselves to the new car habit for ten years.”

“You just get a car nicely broken in,” said Bill, “and then you trade her in for a new set of problems. Why, this car is just like part of me. I can make her do everything but take off the ground.”

We went across the Humber bridge and ahead of us streamed the endless flow of cars. As we approached the slight grade by the cemetery there was a check, and everybody had to go into second gear. It sounded like a great industrial centre, machine shops, planing mills, rivet hammers.

“Just listen to them,” said Bill. “If we don’t need a new car, there are them as does.”

The man ahead of us stalled. Before he got started he had coughed and banged and blown smoke all over us. Madge shut her window.

“Poor chap,” said Madge. “He, too, is making the old car do.”

“Do what?” asked Bill.

Out to Islington we crawled. Bill, with usual disregard for public rights, gaining a couple of lengths whenever traffic permitted. The old car did not jump to the job with quite the zest either Bill or I expected, so that we got into line again only after causing a general squeaking of brakes and an air of bad temper all about us.

“I wouldn’t do that, Bill,” said I. “Just find a nice place in the line and keep it.”

“Right,” said Bill, promptly stepping on the gas and attempting another cut-in. But luck was against us. There was no place open for us. We blocked the other-way traffic. It had to halt, and with loud braying of horns all about us we had to creep shame-facedly into a hole some kind-hearted lady driver left for us in our own line.

Past Islington and out on the Dundas highway, we drove along, amidst fumes and nerve strain, slowing down and speeding up in that irritating way familiar to the wide open spaces of our beautiful countryside. The car was warm. And presently it began to exude a smell as of frying rubber.

“Is that us? Or the car ahead?” asked Bill, anxiously.

“Look at the meter.”

“It isn’t working. I bet it is us. We are heating up.”

“Go a little faster,” said Madge, “and the fan will cool her off.”

“People are Awful Liars”

Bill just stepped on the gas to do another cut-in when a loud hoot from behind warned him to keep in line, and a green and gleaming craft zoomed soundlessly past us.

“Good heavens!” cried Madge. “Did you see who that was?”

“Who?”

“It was Ella!” cried Madge. “And only last week she said they were going to make the old car do.”

“Maybe they went out motoring last Sunday,” said Bill, starting another attempt to cut ahead. But again a loud snort behind us kept us in line while a gorgeous tomato roadster swept grandly past us.

The smell of fricasseed rubber increased. Madge leaned down and smelt around.

“It’s us,” she said. “Turn into the first service station.”

We did. The fan belt was gone, frayed to a rag. A new one adjusted and we took our place in the Easter queue again.

At Cooksville we turned north for a spin up to the high country, Brampton, Caledon. Traffic promptly thinned.

“Ah!” breathed Bill, settling back and letting her have her head.

Except for a tappet click and a slight shimmy that suggested the wheels had got out of line during the winter ruts, the car did very nicely indeed. In the first two hundred yards four new cars, two of them little roadsters of a well-known brand, overtook and passed us smoothly, effortlessly, the occupants deep in conversation as if it were nothing to pass us at forty-five.

As the fifth one slid by, Madge stifled a scream.

“Did you! Did you see that? It’s Harry! Harry! And not ten days ago he was sitting at our table bragging about how good his old car was. Honk him!”

“Too far ahead,” said Bill. He stepped the gas deeper. We increased our pace, but the glittering bit of gray blue ahead faded into the distance.

“What’s our speedometer say?” asked Madge, bending down. “Fifty – it’s likely broken, too.”

Before we got to Brampton we were quite hardened to being passed. Bill wouldn’t let an old car pass us, but the new ones, the shiny ones, the silent, leaping kind, just acted as they pleased.

“It’s great to have new Easter outfit to show the cows and chickens,” said Madge, as we bowled along.

“You chose this road,” said Bill.

“I think people are awful liars,” said Madge.

“Me?”

“No, people who talk about hard times. We are getting the same salary as usual. Other expenses have dropped down, entertaining, for one thing, and because everybody’s doing it, we’ve cut down housekeeping expenses and so on. I can’t get over Ella. Just plain lying. I bet she had that car all picked out for Easter. How much do you bet they don’t turn up our place to-night for tea? In the new car.”

“It will be an old car in a month,” said Bill.

Those Practically New Tires

At that moment a curious dragging sensation was apparent in the car, and Bill slowed and slewed her to the side of the highway.

“Tires practically new,” muttered Madge. It was indeed flat. Flat as only balloon tires can be with a complete and utter flabbiness.

“Gosh!” exclaimed Bill. “The spare!”

“What about the spare?” demanded Madge, grimly.

“At the garage,” said Bill.

We found a good grassy place for Madge to sit on the rug. We dug out of the bowels of the old car a sixteen-month-old tube repair set. We took off the wheel, demounted the rim, a terrible job, requiring hammers, wrenches, strained grunts and really the assistance of a good mechanic. But we managed. We got it off. We gummed up the tube. We battled the tire back on to the rim and tried to beat the rim back into a circle.

All the while Madge watched the Easter traffic soaring by.

“Six out of ten cars are new cars,” said Madge. “People are awful liars. I bet that whole stock crash and all that talk about tight times was a put-up job by people just wanting to make a dash at Easter.”

“Rrrrmph! Ummph!” said we, from the ditch.

“Anyway, why should people be hard up when all the profits they had were paper profits?” asked Madge, cuddled on the rug. “They lost a lot of imagination, that’s all. But losing your imagination doesn’t prevent you from buying a new car when your old one starts falling to pieces all over the road.”

“Immph!” said Bill.

“There ought to be a law against old cars endangering the public on the highways,” she went on. “Some people hang on to their cars year after year until they are actually a greater public menace than murderers.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“Just look at the people in the old cars that are going by! Just look at them! Mean, crabbed, bent-over people, with starved-looking children and brow-beaten-looking wives.”

We hadn’t got the rim snapped back into shape yet.

“They look as if they thought they were saving money,” laughed Madge. “But they aren’t. They are spending more money on new tires, patching, mending, overhauling than the monthly payments on a new car. A car is only meant to last so long, anyway…”

Bill winked at me, in the ditch. In whisper he said:

“You don’t have to be married as long as I have to learn how to get new car. Just listen to this.”

“…little by little,” Madge was going on, as her eyes followed the various models by, “little by little, they disintegrate like old people, like old servants, they just go to pieces gradually. But to have the gift of renewing youth, beauty, power, just by turning in the old model!”

Seeing It in His Face

A series of loud, musical snorts interrupted Madge. And there, coasting to a quiet stop, was the big green roadster with Ella and her husband in it.

“Need any help?” squealed Ella.

“Do come over here and sit down for few minutes,” called Madge.

“Listen to her get out of this,” murmured Bill to me.

“Can you imagine,” cried Madge, as Ella ran across to us, “just look us! Look at Bill’s face! And we came out here just to see the new models.”

“How do you like ours?” asked Ella.

“So you beat us out after all, you fibber,” said Madge. “Here we have been burning our tires out going from motor dealer to motor dealer trying to decide on a new car. And you said last week you were going to make the old one do.”

“So did you,” cried Ella. “But I knew you were only fooling. Something told me.”

“And because Bill and I couldn’t agree, we came out here where we could really see the new cars and get a real idea of them.”

“How about ours”‘ asked Ella.

“Very nice,” said Madge. “But…”

“But what?”

“Well,” said Madge, gently, “we wanted something a little better next time. This one went to pieces so fast. Think of it, sixteen months and it’s ready for the dump.”

Click went the rim. Bill and slammed the tire back on the car while the girls chattered. They toodle-ooed and parted.

“What a line that was,” said Bill to Madge, as we got into the car. “How are you going to get out of that now?”

“Hadn’t you decided we should have a new car?” she retorted.

“What’s, that!”

“With the fan belt going phut!” cried Madge. “And the tires blowing out! And heating up! And no pep to her! Everybody that likes walking past you! Why, Bill, I could tell your face back there near Cooksville that we were going to have a new car!”

“Can you beat it?” begged Bill.

“You dear old boy!” Madge laughed. “You can’t hide a thing. That dear old face just shows every thought in your head. Why, of course I knew all about the new car. Hours ago.”

“Can you beat it?” doggedly repeated Bill, while he eyed my long-drawn wink in the rear-view mirror.

“And it’s going to be Christopher Eighty,” said Madge. “Maroon, with wire wheels on the side.”

“Did you see that in my face, too?” asked Bill.

“I certainly did,” said Madge. “When that Christopher Eighty went by us there just before the tire went flat, I could see absolute determination written all over your face. ‘That’s the car,’ your face said, just as plain as if you had spoken.”

Madge slipped her arm along the back of the seat, where Bill could feel it. Her hand petted his shoulder.

“Car,” said Bill, “car, take a good look around you. Gaze on these greening fields and spring-bathed hills. Rub your old feet into the warm pavement and breathe your lungs full of fresh air.

“For this your last trip in the country, car.”

Madge dropped her hand from the cushion at Bill’s back and gave me a sharp and victorious pinch.


Editor’s Notes: This is another proto-Greg-Jim story from a few years earlier than the time they started. It seems to me it is an exaggeration that cars were so poorly made that they had to be replaced every year.

A tappet is a part of the engine above the cam shaft.

Christopher Eighty is just a made up car model.

Hallowe’en at Glenlivit

November 1, 1930

These illustrations accompanied a story by Ephraim Acres, who wrote several stories around this time of the fictional town of Glenlivit.

November 1, 1930
November 1, 1930

Harvest Time on the Old Homestead

August 23, 1930

Friday was Fish Day

March 29, 1930

The joke here is that a lot of fish were washed up in a flood and had to be buried. Why they would do it at the crossroads makes no sense. Friday was also considered “fish day” for Catholics, who were instructed fast on Fridays, and since fish were cold-blooded, they were not considered “meat”.

All’s Quiet

September 20, 1930

Page 1 of 3

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén