The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Tag: 1931 Page 1 of 2

Yes! This is Glenlivit

March 14, 1931

This illustration by Jim accompanied an article by Ephraim Acres (the pen name of Hugh Templin). He wrote many stories about “Glenlivit”, a fictional small town, for the Star Weekly in the late 1920s and early 1930s. “Glenlivit” was also a pseudonym for the town of Fergus Ontario, where he was the newspaper editor of the Fergus New Record.

One Keg of Rum

He hoisted one keg on his shoulder and fled by a roundabout overland route back to the horse lines where the pipers were waiting.
“It must be gas,” cried the major excitedly. “Don’t stand there, sergeant. Get four men at once and rush him back to the dressing station.”

By Gregory Clark, January 31, 1931.

In every regiment there are wheels within wheels. The colonel, the adjutant and the regimental sergeant-major are supposed to be the three paramount powers in whose hands separately and collectively the fate of thousand men lies.

But it is not so. Underneath the polished exterior of a regiment of infantry, shunting and wheeling and sloping arms so magnificently to the barked commands of one lone voice, there revolve wheels within wheels. Cliques, intrigues, parties grow and flourish. Some are founded on social distinctions, whereby men who were clerks and schoolmasters separate themselves from those of rougher hand. Others divided themselves on the substantial basis of county, so that men of Grey and Bruce held themselves in league against the men of Frontenac or the Maritimes.

But the greatest wheel of all, the mainspring of the works, was a sort of shabby Masonic brotherhood that scorned all pride of place or social position, and leaped the bounds of company or even the greater bounds of period of service, and consisted of those in the regiment who were ultra hard-boiled1. This secret society existed in every battalion of a thousand men. It was officered by a few old-timers, some of whom ranked as corporals or even as sergeants. Its membership was recruited from all companies, and even the signallers and scouts and the transport section contributed their little quota. If you were tough, you needed not to be a year or even six months with the battalion to be made welcome within the sanctuary of this old-soldiers’ lodge.

Most of the mysteries in any regiment’s history can be attributed to this ancient brotherhood. They held no meeting, they possessed no lodge room. Any estaminet2, any dugout, where two or three of them gathered together, was the holies of holies. These knights errant, who pitted their wits against highly technical fortifications of modern military organization were the heirs to the soldiers of fortune who, until a hundred years ago, roved the world in search of payment for their swords. It stands to reason that soldiers of fortune, like singers and dancers and horsemen born to a saddle, should still survive in this age.

I knew that my Corporal Jimmie Post was one of the high-ups within this secret sodality. Post was dusky, with mocking eyes and a scornful mouth, who sang courage back into his platoon with unspeakable songs, and who was to be found in time of disaster not with the little cliques of the brave, but lending his arrogant voice to comfort the weakest sister in the sector. He was aware of his gift of courage. He could throw it, a sort of blanket, around those of us who needed warmth in the cold gulf of fear. And he employed that mantle, and gloried in it.

Brotherhood’s Senior Warden

Court martials went astray, punishments were deflected, plans went amiss in that clean cold region where colonels, adjutants and regimental sergeant-majors live. And Corporal Jimmie Post knew all about it in advance. If any of my men got into serious trouble, Post would tell me, it would be all right. And it would be. Hard-looking strangers from other companies used to come into my trench and talk with Post. And he would be absent occasionally visiting abroad in the regiment in the line. Whenever I would be orderly officer, I would sometimes come on an estaminet being emptied at last post, where the gathering would adjourn with all the earmarks of a lodge meeting coming to an end; and Post was always in these companies. Post was senior warden, if not better, in some indefinable brotherhood of warriors.

Contrasted with Post, Sergeant Buster Parker had a saintly look. He was only a boy, but he had and still has, though one of his legs is gone, a mouthful of the most wholesome flashing teeth I ever saw in a human head. And, like many other men who had that flashing smile, he was gifted with power over his fellows. Despite the fact that he was a boy, Buster Parker was a sergeant and a crackerjack. And it was hard for me to believe now that if Corporal Jimmie Post was senior warden of that secret society in our regiment, Sergeant Buster Parker was worshipful master.

Captain Hal Franks, quartermaster, Lieutenant Seth Norton, transport officer and I as assistant or rear adjutant, were the officers of the horse lines who at that time were dwelling in comfort and security amidst the mud of Neuville St. Vaast while our regiment was up in the reaches beyond Vimy Ridge. Around us were uncamped the rear details, the drivers, the wagons, the orderly room and record clerks, the brass band and the pipe band, the provost sergeant and the artificers3 who are the tailors, horseshoers, carpenters and so forth; all of us the commissariat details of a regiment in the line, who take up their feed each night, and to whom the regiment comes back for rest when relieved.

We were a bomb-proof lot. Mostly old soldiers, retired to his ignominious region by reason of long service or weak backs. And we understood one another perfectly and got along like a lot of creatures in a barnyard.

There was an outbreak of impetigo4 in the regiment. Nasty skin disease that broke out all over, on the legs, body, hands and face. A few of the more valuable non-commissioned officers were sent out of the line to get themselves doctored up. But for most of the troops, it just meant salve and bandages.

Amongst those sent down to the horse-lines, I was delighted to find my old platoon corporal, Post, from whom I had been separated when I was promoted to the eminence and absurdity of assistant adjutant at the rear.

And a day or two later came down Sergeant Buster Parker, with sores like pennies all over his legs.

We spent some pleasant afternoons together in the thin March sunlight of Neuville St. Vaast and Aux Rietz Corners, talking of old-timers and how soft the war had been in my time as compared with now.

There would be, in all, counting these sick, lame and lazy and all the drivers and bandsmen, about a hundred and fifteen dwelling in the huts and tents of our rear camp.

A Memorable Saturday Night

It was a Saturday night that trouble came.

Out in the March night the wind howled and a chill rain lashed our hut. Captain Franks, Norton and I sat about our table, reading and writing and chatting in the desultory fashion known to rear headquarters. The batmen5 had retired. Our bedrooms were laid out. Captain Franks undressed and was preparing to insert himself into his blankets when, on the wild night air, there sounded a snatch of song.

Captain Franks, the senior, nodded to the door and I went and opened and listened. Through the storm and rain and across the mud I could see the lights burned in the scattered huts, and from them came the murmur of many voices.

And in a rift of the wind there came to us the loud skirl of bagpipes.

“Take a look around,” said Captain Franks. “It’s going on for eleven o’clock.”

I pulled on my rubber boots and raincoat and sloshed out into the night. The nearest hut was the guard-room where the provost sergeant lived in charge of whatever prisoners might be awaiting judgment. There were two men in confinement at that time.

A lone candle guttered in the guard hut, and it was empty. I called the sergeant. I called the guard. And no answer came, save the increasing murmur of song and bagpipes from the huts across the muddy field.

I circled round past the horse lines, where the horses drooped beneath their canvas shelters. I called for the piquet and got no answer. I walked around past the artificers’ shanties past the stores, rapping and calling, and got no reply.

And then I headed for the big huts, all glowing in the storm.

From a discreet distance I stood and looked in an open door. There was a sound of revelry. Some were playing cards. Some were lying and singing. Bagpipes skirled, and someone of the band was mournfully blowing a constantly interrupted solo on a trombone. Presently a drum came into action, and the laughter and tumult grew.

Without disturbing the scene, I returned and informed my senior officer that it was apparently somebody’s birthday. Beyond our hut lay the senior n.c.o.’s hut, where dwelt the quartermaster sergeant and transport sergeant and other nabobs in an isolation almost as grand as our own. I went to their door, and they dressed in hasty garments and went to investigate.

They returned in a few minutes, greatly disturbed.

“The whole outfit is tight6,” said they, standing across the table in the candle light. “Tight as owls. They must have got an awful lot of liquor.”

“Tight!” we cried.

“Everybody, the batmen, the clerks, the bandsmen, everybody,” said the quartermaster sergeant. “The provost sergeant is sitting in there singing with his two prisoners. The pipe band is putting on a concert. They are all jammed in there, and by the look of them it would be crazy to interfere. That Corporal Post and Sergeant Buster Parker and a bunch of others from up the line are raising hell.”

“Go and order the lights out,” said Captain Franks. “Get those men back in the guard room. Have everybody go to their quarters.”

The senior n.c.o.’s retired into the storm.

“There will hell to pay over this,” said the senior officer.

And we sat in silence waiting for the n.c.o.’s to return.

After a long wait they returned.

“The only thing you can do,” said they, “is send a riot call up to the battalion in the line and have them come back. Nothing else will stop them now. They’ve got rum. And I think they must have about ten gallons of it.”

“Are we to sit here and let it go on?” demanded the captain.

“I will crime the whole lot,” said the quarter-master sergeant, “but I think it would only aggravate matters it we tried to interfere now, with no men to back us up.”

We agreed with the n.c.o.’s, and we sat far into the night, listening to the rising and falling hubbub from the huts, in which no man came near us. And sometime in the stilly watches we retired, with maudlin snatches of music and yells faintly in our ears.

“Just a Little Party”

The first batman to rouse us was Bertrand, who supervised me. He wore a grin on his face and he looked much the worse of wear.

“I wouldn’t be in a hurry getting up if I was you,” he said to me, as he started laying out my razor kit.

“Why not?”

“The boys,” said Bertrand, “are in kind of bad shape this morning.”

“We thought we heard some noises last night,” said l. “What was up?”

“A little party,” said Bertrand. “Just a little party.”

“Were Post and Parker in it?”

Bertrand laughed, and withdrew apologetically.

We dressed and went forth to look at the wreckage. It was terrible. Many of the men were still sleeping, though buglers sounded the call to rouse and breakfast right into the hut doors. It was Sunday morning, and no parades until eleven o’clock to the church hut down on the Arras-Bethune road a few hundred yards away7.

Everyone ducked as we appeared. A few who still had a little in them brazenly appeared and it became a sort of duel whether we would approach them or they would approach us. Finally, the provost sergeant, looking extremely seedy, could stand the strain no longer, and he marched across the mud, quite unsteadily, and saluting with extreme care, said to us:

“Everything present and correct, shir.”

Saluted again and snapping about unsteadily, marched back to his guard hut.

We retired into our hut for breakfast.

“We can’t crime the whole camp,” said the captain. “We can only seek out the ringleaders. In any event, it is a scandal, and we are going to look very badly, however we handle it.”

The church parade was terrible. It was a travesty. But with a hundred sullen men still bleary from too much rum, it more than useless, it was unfair to attempt to goad them into resistance which would get them and us into deeper trouble.

After the church parade we held an investigation. My share was to sound out Sergeant Parker and Corporal Post, while the others dealt with the transport and quarters personnel.

“We got a little rum,” admitted Sergeant Parker. Post corroborated this statement.

“Where did get it?”

“Nobody knows where it came from,” they said, with deep interest in the subject. “It just appeared, and then everybody was singing.”

And then suddenly I realized I was up against that secret society within the regiment, as far these two were concerned, and I passed it up. At the hut, I found the captain and Norton. They had got nowhere. They had demanded, wheedled, threatened. But it appeared that the rum just came from nowhere, and nobody could remember who had had it first.

But Captain Franks that afternoon ordered Sergeant Parker and Corporal Post to return to the line for duty with their companies.

And he was right.

The Rum Story Spills Over

The story came in the door with Buster Parker the other day, as he tried to sell me a new car. He is a one-legged, two fisted salesman of Fords now, with his flashing smile undimmed.

Something recalled to mind that far-off March night, and in a minute the story was spilling over us with laughter.

“That episode,” said Buster Parker, sitting here fourteen years after in The Star Weekly office, “is remembered by you as one time you really felt the loss of authority. Some day I must write a book about all the times the officers thought they were in command and weren’t. But now I’ll tell you how we got the rum.”

Parker, with his infected legs, arrived out at the horse lines Saturday afternoon and immediately looked up Corporal Jimmie Post re the matter of the most comfortable flop. Post was living with the pipe band, a little group of ten Scotties, some of could not speak English at all; a distinct and isolated little band of superior beings, a sort of Scottish rite within that brotherhood I speak of, who were very particular who so much as sat down in their midst.

So Parker joined Post as a partner in the pipers’ hospitality.

“Now how about a little drink?” asked Parker, after his kit was settled away.

“None to be had,” said Post.

“How about Clarkie?” asked Buster.

“He’s gone mean since he joined the orderly room,” said Post. “I haven’t had a bottle from him for months.”

Then up spoke Brother Fluellen, who was a bugler by rights, but who had achieved by some devious route a position on the staff of the rear headquarters cook kitchen.

“You know this big ration dump down here below Aux Rietz Corners?” asked Fluellen.

“Yes,” said Sergeant Parker, sharply.

“It’s guarded,” said Cook Fluellen, “by a regular guard of crocks. They march sentry on it, one to each side of the dump. It’s about three hundred yards to a side. Well, the last time I was strolling along I had a look into the dump. It has sort of lanes running all through it. In one the lanes I seen some little six-gallon kegs.”

“Yes,” whispered Sergeant Parker, Corporal Post and all the ten pipers.

“So I says to the sentry, I says, what is in them little kegs back there, brother? And he says you would be surprised. I says, is it vinegar? And he says you would be surprised. And by the way he kept halting on his beat and looking back at me, boys, I know there is rum in them six gallon kegs.”

A great silence fell on the pipers’ hut.

Everybody knew the one-gallon rum jars in which the rum came up to the infantry. But a six-gallon keg!

Sergeant Parker rose to his feet. He looked out the door of the hut. Evening was falling and the March wind and rain made all the world a desolation.

“Corporal Post,” said the sergeant, “and Fluellen, you will parade in proper guard mounting order at eight o’clock to-night. You, corporal, will borrow from somebody a great coat with no stripes on it. Have your buttons shined to the nines, your pouches clean, and wear your tin hats.”

A New Guard for the Dump

Thus, at eight o’clock, after all the world of the horse lines had settled down for the night, there formed up discreetly out of the way of officers, a small parade consisting of a sergeant, corporal and a cook. Post and Fluellen, the pictures of soldiery smartness, stood side by side with rifles at the slope and bayonets fixed. Behind them stood Sergeant Buster Parker, dressed for guard mounting.

Down the deserted La Targette road they marched, in the wind and rain, the sergeant’s voice picking them up, hup, hup, until, half way down the road along the dump they overtook the sentry on duty on that side, who and turned outwards.

“Party, halt,” commanded Sergeant Parker, level with the sentry.

“Right turn,” said the sergeant in the business-like tone of the guard.

“What’s this?” asked the surprised sentry on the dump.

“Relief,” said Parker, surily. “All right, Smith,” to Post, “take post. Fall in, sentry.”

And with alacrity, the honest sentry stepped smartly out and fell in beside Fluellen. What a swell night to get relieved!

And without the slightest hesitation, Parker commanded the party to turn, quick march, and down the road in the rain and the darkness they proceeded.

After marching about hundred yards, and nearing the end of the dump, where another sentry might be standing, Parker halted his party.

He reached over and firmly took the rifle from the sentry.

“Boy,” he said, though the man could have been his father, “you are in bad trouble. You can take your choice, but I think you ought to submit to a beating up, because you will never be to tell your officer that you were relieved.”

“What’s this?” stammered the C3 sentry, suddenly filled with an awful fear that all was not well.

Parker chucked the rifle away in the dark and swung on the sentry. There was a moment’s scuffle while the sergeant and Fluellen mussed and muddied up a figure that struggled frantically on the road.

“There,” said the sergeant, “you look as if you had been assaulted. Now run and call your guard.”

And like rabbits, Parker and Fluellen dashed into the hedges, doubled back and forward, and in a moment were lost in the stormy March night. Meanwhile a bedraggled sentry was on the dead tear to his guard room, desperately trying to make up his mind what to tell the sergeant of the guard as to being relieved or assaulted. And whichever way, it would need a lot of explaining.

Post was like a cat in the dark, anyway. When the sentry party left him standing smartly in the rain, he waited until they got out of earshot and then he quietly walked into the dump, found the kegs exactly where Fluellen had described them, hoisted one to his shoulder, retrieved his rifle and fled by a roundabout overland route back to the horse lines, where the pipers were waiting.

Some New, Terrible Epidemic

The question was: Did the keg really contain rum. It did. They first of all poured the rum into two of Fluellen’s big cooking dixies8, then burned the barrel and inside of a few minutes, the free invitation party to all ranks at the regimental horse lines was under way.

“I,” said Parker, “as chief steward of the party, decanted off two full waterbottles of rum before the party started, and these I buried in the earth in a secret place. So that when Captain Franks ordered me to return to my company up the line, as I thought might happen, I was quite content. I went up that night with the ration wagon. I dug up my two bottles, and then clinging to the back of D company limber I fortified myself from time to time during the journey up, so that by the time I met the D company ration party, I needed help, which was gladly given, for a consideration.

“Among those to whom I confided a share of my rum were my fellow sergeants of D company. And only one of them took too much. Because he is probably by now an elder in the kirk9, I will not mention his true name. We will call him Tram. Anyway, Tram by morning was in bad shape. Rum cannot be trifled with like whiskey or brandy. And he trifled with it. So we lay Tram out on the firestep in the sunlight to boil out.

“He was still there, breathing heavily and noisily, when word came that Major Victor Sifton was on his way round the trenches, making his morning inspection. He would be in D company lines any minute.

“And there was Tram lying, unconscious on the fire step. We tried to lift him to hide him in a dugout, but he fought us fiercely and started to shout.

“‘Get a stretcher,’ said I to Tram’s boys. We laid Tram softly on a stretcher. Then I opened my first aid bandage, broke the iodine ampoule and poured the iodine all over the bandage.

“With this swab, I delicately painted Tram all over his face, neck, hands and wrists, so that he was the most terrible pale yellow-brown color you ever saw. It was the most awful case of jaundice imaginable.

“And I just had the job neatly finished and the swab pitched over the parapet, when around the traverse walked Major Sifton.

“”What’s this!’ cried Major Sifton. ‘It’s poor Tram.’ He was rather fond of Tram.

“I told him Tram had just been suddenly took this way.

“‘It must be gas,’ cried the major, excitedly. ‘Don’t stand there, sergeant. Get four men at once and rush him back to the dressing station.’

“So very smartly,” says Buster Parker, “I rustled out four men, and away went Sergeant Tram, breathing noisily and turned a terrible color.

“At the dressing station they just took one look at him and rushed him for the ambulance. I suppose there they just took one look and rushed him back to the clearing station. And there, if he had not recovered consciousness, they probably put a red ticket on him and made a special flying trip to the base with him.

“Anyway, it was three months before Tram came back to D company. Nobody ever found out about the run and iodine. Tram woke up and wondered where the dickens he was. He felt awful bad, and he was able to wash off some of the iodine. His pulse was bad, his heart and lungs were bad. The doctors were sorry he had lost his bad color, but they put him under special observation for a few days, for fear of some new and terrible epidemic.

“Then he was returned, but Tram was so good a soldier, all the divisional schools and reinforcement depots held him for a few weeks as instructor. So that it was nearly three months before Tram got back to us and heard the full story of his holiday.

“So that,” says Buster Parker, “is the story of one keg of rum, and I tell it to you just to show there was a lot of going on all around us in the war that we knew nothing about.”


Editor’s Notes:

  1. Some one who is hard-boiled is tough and does not show much emotion ↩︎
  2. An estaminet is French for a small café, bar, or bistro, especially a shabby one. ↩︎
  3. An artificer is an appointment held by a member of an armed forces service who is skilled at working on electronic, electrical, electro-mechanical and/or mechanical devices. ↩︎
  4. Impetigo is a common and highly contagious skin infection. ↩︎
  5. A batman in the military is a servant to an officer. This was phased out between the wars. ↩︎
  6. Slang for drunk. ↩︎
  7. A church parade in the military is a parade by service personnel for the purposes of attending religious services. This was mandatory at the time. ↩︎
  8. A dixie comes from the Hindi word ‘degchi’ meaning a small pot. It consists of two parts, a large lower pan and a top lid that could be used as a frying pan or a serving platter. ↩︎
  9. This would be an elder in the Scottish (Presbyterian) Church. ↩︎

Exit!

October 10, 1931

A stock salesman would not be too popular 2 years after the start of the Great Depression.

Where the Hazards Are Not All Mental

June 20, 1931

Cock-a-doodle-doo!

Again the town constable of Coport fell in behind us and trailed us past the hotel.

By Gregory Clark, April 18, 1931.

It being almost the trout season, I usually have about me such things as feathers, eyed hooks and tinsel to tie the odd trout fly during lunch hour. It keeps you from thinking May first will never come.

Chatting with Griffin the other day, I happened to pull a brassy cock’s hackle out of my match pocket.

“What the deuce is that?” demanded Frederick.

“That,” says I, “is a honey dun glassy hackle from a game cock.”

“Is it a charm?” asked Frederick, with Irish respect for all charms, tokens and other things pertaining to the little people.

“No, sir,” I replied. “It is the main ingredient of a fine trout fly I am going to tie some day soon. A fine honey dun hackle, glassy and long, and it will be wound round a tiny hook, with a bit of raffia for a body, and the biggest trout I ever hope to see will rise to it, smoothly, savagely…”

“Ho, hum,” yawned Griffin. He has no use for fishing.

“Feathers like this,” said I, holding it up to the light so it shone like spun antique gold, “are mighty rare. They come from the neck of a rare kind of game cock.”

“I’ve seen thousands of game cocks in Mexico,” said Griffin. “Why didn’t you tell me, and I’d have brought you home a potato bag full of feathers.”

Some people have all the luck. It is Grif- fin, who does not know how to cast a fly, who gets all the assignments up to northern Ontario and Quebec for stories, where trout are to be had right off the little station platforms!

“Now there,” said Frederick, sitting back in his chair, “is a sport! Cock fighting. If I were a man of means, I would have a beautiful big country place filled with game cocks.”

“Would you give me hackle feathers off them?” I asked wistfully.

“Get your own country place!” retorted Griffin, indignantly. “Do you think I want people coming round plucking feathers off my beautiful birds?”

“Did you see cock fights in Mexico?” I asked, apologetically.

“In order to see anything in Mexico,” said Frederick, “you have to look through a kind of haze of cock fights. There are cock fights on all the front lawns of the best residential districts. Throughout the poorer quarters, traffic has difficulty in moving at all owing to the number of cock fights being staged on the streets. On all the roofs of the houses, more cock fights are being held. And it is beautiful sight to see all the public parks and squares crowded with thousands of merry cock-fighters, young and old, in brilliant costumes, only outshone by the brilliance of the plumage of the fine birds.”

There is a slight strain of Mr. Dooley in Griffin. He speaks in symbols and allegories. If it is cock fighting you would like to know about, he will oblige, eloquently.

“But it’s a cruel sport,” said I.

“It is,” said Frederick. “Although I can’t think of anything a game cock would rather do than fight.”

“Cock fighting is prohibited in Ontario,” said I.

“So is speeding,” said Griffin. “But a little of it goes on.”

“By George,” said I,” I’d like to attend a cock fight, and maybe I could pick up some of the dead birds cheap, and get some wonderful hackle feathers! They fight to a finish, don’t they?”

“To the bitter end,” said Griff. “And sometimes both birds conk out in one fight. Anyway, a man whose bird loses a fight is generally so mad, he would give you the carcass for nothing.”

It’s All Very Secret

“Do you think we could attend a cock fight?” I asked.

“Nothing easier,” said Frederick. “All You have to do is ask Lou Marsh. He knows where everything like that goes on.”

So we went in and asked Lou.

“Cock fights?” said Lou. “Sure. There are plenty of mains down in Oshawa or Peterboro. Some of the finest game birds in America are bred down in those towns.”

“We could go down there and see one,” said I. “I suppose they are easy to get into?”

“Oh, sure,” said Lou. “Just as easy as attending a murder.”

“Would there be any in Toronto?” I asked.

“Just a minute and I’ll see,” said Lou. And he reached for the phone and rang up a gentleman whose name would bring the gape of astonishment to your face if I gave it away. He might just as well have rung up the lord bishop of Toronto.

“Any mains in town the next couple of weeks?” asked Lou. The answer appeared to be in the negative. Lou asked where the next good main was likely to be, and he got the name of a certain town not a thousand miles east of Toronto. Let us call it Coport, just to fool you.

“There is a big main,” said Lou, hanging up the phone, “at Coport next Friday. If you would like to go, I will get you an introduction that will let you in.”

“How about it, Griff?” I asked.

“Suits me,” said Griffin.

So Lou, in his headlong manner, promptly telephoned long-distance to a barber in Coport who seems to be secretary of the game chicken association of that town, and he told him that Griffin and Clark of The Star Weekly would be down Friday night to see the main, and would report personally to the barber.

“Tell them,” said the barber to Lou, “not to say they are newspapermen, or they might have trouble getting in. Just tell them to come and see me as soon as they arrive in town and I will fix it for them. They can pretend they are just a couple of sports.”

“Should we dress up tough?” I asked.

“Half the millionaires in Ontario will be there.” said Lou. “But if you want to disguise yourselves a little, it won’t hurt, because that mug of yours might be recognized.”

“Is there anything we ought to know be forehand?” asked Griffin.

“Take your cash roll right in your pants,” said Lou. “There will be people from Buffalo, Montreal and all over, big bettors. Each owner of a game bird and his friends bet against the other owner and his friends, and all betting is on the finger. You just stick up your finger and say, ‘Fifty on the Graham bird.’ and your bet is up.”

“Where are the mains held?”

“Oh, in a disused foundry or some old building on the outskirts of the town,” said Lou. “It’s all very secret and quiet. The lights are dim, except the light over the ring. It is a prize fight in tiny miniature. You will get a great kick out of it. It’s stealthy, quiet; betting in hoarse whispers, door guards calling shush to you, and the dark shadows of the big barn or factory flickering as a background for the brilliant, fierce birds fighting.”

Griffin put on his eagle look. It sounded like a story!

So Friday afternoon, in the locker room, Griffin and I changed into sweaters, caps and army breeches which he had brought down to the office, and we set out in the roadster for Coport.

After a lively drive, we arrived at supper time, and located the barber just as he was closing up for the day. He was a rosy little man, with his hair parted in the middle and slicked up in two spit curls on either side. And he had on blue sleeve garters.

“I hoped you’d come,” said he. “Now, it would be better if you just go to the hotel for supper and hang around. Walk about and see the town. And about eight o’clock I will telephone you there at the hotel and advise you where to go.”

“Won’t you tell us now where it will be held?” asked Griffin, who likes to see places in daylight, the better to manoeuvre in case of trouble in the dark.

“Nobody knows where the main is to be held yet,” said the rosy and gentle little barber. “It’s very secret. I will telephone you at the hotel at eight o’clock sharp.”

“He Thinks We’re Bandits”

So we parked the roadster up near the hotel and went in to supper.

The hotel was quite full. There were a number of distinguished looking men amongst them, some of them elderly, and a large number of them had their hair parted thinly in the middle, with the two spit curls brushed up on either side, like the barber.

“All those with their hair done that way are cock fighters, I bet,” said Frederick, as we sat down.

There was an air of interest and excitement around the hotel dining room. Everybody seemed to know everybody else. There were cautious greetings and nods. Even the waitresses seemed excited.

“By jove,” whispered Griff. “This begins to look good. The gathering of the clan from far and near. See that short fat man there; I bet he’s from Buffalo. And those two dark men are Montrealers. They look like game roosters themselves. And look at their hair!”

They had spit curls, too.

We dawdled over our supper in the crowded room, enjoying the sight of all these queerly mixed men, all of whom spoke so guardedly that strain our trained newspaper ears as we might, we could not hear any of their conversations.

So about seven o’clock we walked out to see the town. Griffin had on a peaked cap, high rolled sweater and a coarse Irish tweed jacket, with breeches. I had a cap and pullover and a sporty looking old white trench coat and shooting boots. I admit now that we did look a little tough. But it was too late to fix our hair like cock fighters.

We stepped out the hotel door and the town constable who had been sitting on a veranda chair rose as we came out and stood watching us.

“Nix on the cop,” I whispered to Frederick.

Griffin gave the constable a slow stare.

We sauntered down the town street, past the stores that were closed, watching the townspeople out for the evening walk.

The town constable followed.

At the corner, we paused, undecided which way to walk next.

On the corner where we paused was a bank.

The constable had stopped up two or three doors away and was watching us intently by reflection in a store window.

“That cop is watching us,” I whispered to Griffin.

“Let him,” said Griff.

“That’s a bank here,” I said in a low voice. “Maybe he thinks we are a couple of bandits.”

And Griffin turned and stood staring at the small red brick bank building. He walked to one side and surveyed the bank from the side street.

I glanced along and saw the town constable fairly trembling with excitement.

“That’s what he thinks,” I hissed to Frederick. “Don’t rag the poor fellow.”

So Frederick and I walked back up the street. The constable stood still until we passed, and then he fell in behind us and slowly dogged us up the street. As we passed the hotel, there were a large bunch of the spit curled guests gathered on the veranda. They, too, stared at us with interest, as the constable followed. And in their midst, I saw our old friend the barber. He winked at me, and I waved a salute at him.

Up the main street to the next corner Griff and I walked. And as we paused on that corner, I saw, to my horror, that there was another bank on it. Another red brick, one storey bank.

“Come on,” I said to Frederick, seeing the constable out of the corner of my eye. But Griff, with great deliberation, stood and stared carefully and long at the bank. And he even walked a step or two down the side street to take a look at it from that angle.

“Nix,” I called, anxiously. “The cop is following us. He is suspicious.”

“Can’t I look at a bank if I want to?” demanded Griff. He has always had a natural Irish antipathy for police, and you might as well try to cure him of teasing a constable as to teach him to say “heavens.”

Conspicuous Objects of Suspicion

Finally, I persuaded him to come along, only making the cop more suspicious by my efforts. Again we walked back down the main street, and again the town constable of Coport fell in behind us and trailed us past the hotel.

By now there were forty or fifty gentlemen, standing on the hotel veranda. And, to my horror. I realized that they were all, everyone of them, looking very pointedly at Griffin and me and the cop. Most of them looked very solemn, with toothpicks and cigars. But I thought, as I gave them a sharp once-over, that some of them had a curious smirk on their faces.

“That cop is making a fool of us.” I declared to Griffin. “Every one of those cock fighters on that veranda will recognize us to-night. We will be objects of suspicion.”

“Then,” said Griff, “we will give this cop a little exercise.”

So at the far end of the main street, we turned off and followed a side street a couple of blocks. Behind us, at a crafty distance, followed the town constable. We paused and examined buildings, barns and the odd little frame factory. Darkness came, and we walked fast along and around all these side streets of the town, but the town constable stayed like a bloodhound on our trail.

At eight o’clock we were in the hotel, in time for the phone call from our friend the barber. And the hotel was deserted.

Not one of the ruddy faced, split curl gentlemen was to be seen!

At eight sharp the phone in the booth rang. It was for Mr. Clark.

“Is that you?” said the barber, in hushed voice as from a great distance. “Now listen carefully. Wait right there in the hotel until eight-thirty. Do you hear?”

“Eight thirty,” said I. “Yes.”

Then walk down one block east of the hotel, up three blocks north, where you come to a path leading across some fields. Do you get that?”

“Yes,” said I, making notes on a pad.

“At the far end of that path you come to a dirt road. Follow it past a chicken farm and you will see a large building out in the middle of a field. Come to the south door and rap three times quickly. I’ll be there to let you in.”

“Right,” said I.

“Have you got it clearly?” asked the barber faintly.

“O.K.,” said I.

I came out of the booth, and as I did so, I saw the town constable looking in the door and beside him was another policeman in a blue uniform.

I walked over and sat down beside Griff in the lobby. The place was deserted. Even the commercial travellers had gone. The aged clerk at the desk was watching us sourly.

“Now there are two cops watching us,” said Frederick.

In a quiet voice, I explained the situation to Griffin.

“Down here one block, out three blocks, across a field by a path until we come to a road follow it past a chicken farm until we come to a big building out in the fields.

“Let’s go,” said Griff.

“We have to wait here until eight-thirty,” said I.

And there, at the door, looking in from the night, were two uniformed policemen.

“Now you’ve done it!” I said. “With your monkey tricks with the police. We’ve got to shake those two birds before we get to where the cock fight is.”

“That won’t be hard in the dark,” said Griff.

So we sat in the lobby, while the long minutes ticked past on the yellow wall clock. And when it rang half past eight, we rose quietly and walked to the door.

As we stepped forth into the night, the two constables were standing a little to one side and we walked past them jauntily. They followed.

Landing in a Mess

At the proper corner, we paused. They paused. We turned north up the quiet side street. The constables followed. Three blocks up, we saw a path turning off at an angle across a dark field.

“Don’t turn!” hissed Griff. “Let’s walk straight on, and then make a break suddenly in the dark and get into the field and regain the path further on.”

“Right!” I hissed back. It is rather hard to hiss that word. But I managed.

Up the street about forty yards we came to a dark spot and without a glance backward the two of us took a short quick run and then leaped off to the right into the weedy pasture lot, stumbled a dozen jumps and then crouched and hid.

We heard pounding feet. The two constables passed up the street. And then Griffin and I walked across the field to the path, which we found easily, and followed it about two hundred yards until we came to a lonely dirt road. On our left we saw a house and the scattered small buildings of a chicken ranch. This we passed and presently saw, looming out of the darkness ahead, a large building like a factory, set back from the road.

Stealthily, we approached it. We found the door easily. Stepping up to it, I rapped loudly and quickly three times.

And with one bound, out of the darkness came two constables and before we knew what had happened, Griff and I were backed up against the wall, pinioned.

Ah, ye murdherers!” cried one of the two constables.

“What’s the idea!” demanded Frederick, angrily. “How dare you jump on top of a couple of respectable citizens like this!”

“What’s the idea of you two birds prowling around this factory in the middle of the night?” retorted the constable, prodding us with something dark and menacing looking.

“We – we – we came here to meet a friend,” said Frederick, suddenly realizing that we two were in a mess.

At that moment, the door we had rapped on opened, and we turned eagerly to greet the barber. But a perfect stranger with a lantern in his hand appeared instead.

“Goodnight, watchman,” said the constable we knew best. “We just nabbed these two bandits in time, or if you had answered the door, they were going to slug you – or worse – and blow up your safe.”

“Ug!” said the watchman, starting to shake all over.

“What place is this?” I asked indignantly.

“This is the Bugle Plate Factory,” said the watchman.

“Is the barber in there?” I asked.

“The barber?” said the watchman. “No, there ain’t no barber or anybody else in here. But I’ll have two of my sons up here as soon as I kin telephone.”

“Come on,” said the constable, who had me by the slack of my shoulder.

“Just a minute,” said Griff, struggling. “What are you going to do?”

“We are going to lock you up,” said the cop.

“On what charge?” demanded Griff.

“Vagrancy, acting in a suspicious manner, prowling around a factory where it is known they keep large sums of money in the safe!”

“We can explain,” I said. “We came up here to Coport to see some friends on a private matter. The barber – you know the barber – well, the barber is our friend, and he will identify us as a couple of Toronto newspapermen…”

“The barber can identify you all right, me lad,” said the constable, pushing me off down towards the road. “It was the barber that gave us the telegram warning us to be on the lookout for two desperate characters and describing you two exactly.”

“What!” roared Griff.

“Come quietly,” warned the constable.

And in silence, we were led back into town and by side lanes into the back door of the lock-up, where the two constables set us down in chairs, having already found we were unarmed.

The Fateful Telegram

“Here are my credentials,” said Griffin, reaching into his pocket for his police pass case or wallet. But he had left them in his business suit at the office.

I had nothing to identify me. But we told them our names and occupations.

“You say,” said Frederick, impressively, “that the barber gave you a telegram he got describing us and saying we were desperate characters.”

“Here it is,” said the senior constable. It read:

“Tip off local police two well-known holdup men visiting your town to-night, short one and tall one, clean shaven, caps, sweaters, breeches, look like racing touts. Signed: Friend of Coport.”

‘What time,” asked Griff, “did the barber give you this telegram?”

“About six-thirty,” said the constable happily.

After he had seen us first,” said Frederick to me.

“How do you mean?” I asked.

“How long have you been on the police force here?” said Frederick.

“Only about six weeks,” said the town constable grimly. “That’s what makes this capture worth while.”

“Do you see it?” roared Frederick to me. “Do you see it? A new constable on the job. The boys aren’t very sure of him. So to keep him busy, this barber fellow gives the police a tip that we are a couple of yeggs.”

“Oh, no!” I gasped.

“Oh, yes,” shouted Griff. “Don’t you remember all the boys on the hotel veranda giving us the eye as we walked along with this egg trailing us!”

“The barber is a friend of Lou’s,” I said.

“What do cock fighters care for the likes of us!” roared Griff. “Then he telephones. us and gives us a steer to the wrong place where he knows these cops will nab us.”

“And in the meantime….” said I.

“In the meantime, all undisturbed by the new and zealous town constable,” declared Griff, “they go ahead with their cockfight.”

“What are you two birds trying to figure out?” asked the cop.

“Should we explain to him?” I asked.

“No,” said Griff, fiercely. “If we squeal, we are poor sports. Let’s sit here and I bet, about midnight, our barber friend will come and bail us out.”

“We have to lock you up now,” said the constable.

So we went into the grill and sat down and talked about this and that from about nine-thirty to about a quarter to twelve.

I explained the whole art of fly casting to Griff. With imaginary fly rod and imaginary stream, I demonstrated casting. The junior policeman sat outside the bars and watched with great interest. Griffin yawned and groaned and strode up and down. Then about eleven o’clock, he started to laugh. And he laughs just as violently as he rages.

Griffin laughs just as violently as he rages.

And he was still working on his laugh. which is like whooping cough with him and has to be got over with, when there came into the lock-up our little rosy friend the barber.

He was excited and gay and looked as if he had had a wonderful night of it.

“My, my, boys. I’m sorry,” he cried, on seeing us.

We looked at him stonily.

“Yes you are,” said Frederick between his teeth.

“It was all a big mix-up,” said he. “I will have you out of here in a minute. The senior constable will be here any minute. I explained to him that you are friends of mine and o.k.”

“We were very useful to you,” said Griff.

“Gentlemen,” said the little barber, “I see you have figured it out. Well, much as I regretted inconveniencing you, it appeared this afternoon that- er – ah – we might have certain difficulties. Our police force was only recently appointed, and they are a very zealous and conscientious body, if I may say so.”

The junior policeman walked away in pleased embarrassment and looked out the window.

“So I knew if you were friends of Lou, you would not mind, in the interests of sport, if we employed you in a rather selfish way.”

“Where did you hold the main?” asked Griff, grimly.

“In the Plate Works, where I told you to come,” said the little barber.

“In the plate works! Then you were there when we were grabbed?”

“Yes, indeed. You interrupted the main event of the evening.”

“And the old watchman?”

“The old watchman,” said the barber, “is one of the greatest living umpires of cock fights in North America.”

The door opened and the senior constable came in.

“Here,” said Griff, sticking his hand through the bars to the little barber:

“Shake!”


Editor’s Notes: I would consider this one of the pre-Greg-Jim stories, when Greg would write a story like this, with another person working at the Star as the sidekick, in this case Fred Griffin. A few of these stories were printed before the regular Greg-Jim feature began in 1932.

“Coport” is likely a mash-up of Cobourg and Port Hope.

Mr. Dooley is a fictional Irish immigrant bartender created by American journalist Finley Peter Dunne, and whose essays contain the bartender’s commentary on various topics.

Lou Marsh was a pioneering sports reporter for the Toronto Star.

“Pinioned” means to tie or hold the arms or legs of someone. “Yeggs” is slang for burglars.

Another Hit an’ Run Case!

January 24, 1931.

S-SS-SSSh!

December 5, 1931.

The Cap Has His Own Troubles

July 18, 1931

Angels Defend Us

October 24, 1931

These illustrations came with an article on militias and civil unrest in Canada during the Great Depression. The article specifically touched on the role of the militia in those situation, given the riot that occurred in Estevan Saskatchewan the previous month. It emphasized the poor state of the militia due to funding, and how the members of militia were “angels”, willing to do so much and provided so little. The pretty woman in the photo holding the gun had nothing to do with it, she was just added to draw attention to the story.

October 24, 1931

You’ve Got to “Go Out” After Business These Days!

August 15, 1931

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