This comic relies on the old gag of couples eloping, and the father of the bride trying to stop it.
By Greg Clark, November 28, 1931
“Where do we eat?” demanded the mighty Griffin, shoving back his typewriter.
“What’s it matter?” I asked. “Let’s eat.”
“It does matter,” declared Frederick. “I am tired unto death of eating in any old restaurant. We go to the same old places day after day, eat the same old food. Look at the same old hash slingers. See the same stupid people around us, gobbling, guzzling, snorting, slurping their food.”
“You are a little off color to-day, Frederick,” said I.
“I never felt better in my life. This rebellion has slowly been coming to the boil in me for years. I’m going to find a place to eat where I will enjoy not only the eating but the surroundings.”
“I can take you,” I said, “to the quaintest little place …”
“Arrrh!” roared the Griffin. “I know what you mean. Ye Olde Boote! Ye Little Greene Puppe! Ye Trype and Yunions! Not for me. With their wall paper peeling, their funny china and Chinese brass hung around the walls and teetering on frail furniture. I may be an Anglican, but not the tea-room breed of Anglican, thank you.”
By this time we had our coats on.
“How about a hotel?” I asked.
“Arrrr!” roared Griff. “Business men’s luncheon, one dollar! And get what’s left of the stuff they prepared for the Rotary Club, or something.”
“Let’s go up to the Athenian Room, then, at the big store.”
“Nnnnn!” moaned Griffin, in intense agony. “And have to sit in bright daylight surrounded by thousands and thousands of young executives talking big.”
“Well, where the heck do we eat, then?” I inquired.
“And some of them have their wives with them!” cried the Griffin, passionately. “The wives of promising young executives! The alert way they sit, looking around! They make their husbands, those wives. Il it weren’t for them …”
“It isn’t the restaurants, then,” said I, as we reached the pavement on King St. “It’s the people.”
“I saw a man,” said Griffin, “just yesterday, in one of the finest restaurants in Toronto, two tables from me, deliberately take his fork, like this, see, and lift the top lid of his pie and peek underneath at the filling. It was apple pie. I don’t know for sure, but I think I saw him lean down and sniff at it. Just two tables from me,” shouted Griffin, so that people on King St. paused and turned to look at us.
“But you shouldn’t look around when you are eating,” I admonished him. “Just keep your eyes cast down and devote yourself to your food.”
A Sort of Progressive Lunch
Griffin stopped me and seized me by the arm.
“Listen!” he cried harshly. “I can’t! I can’t keep my eyes down! I’ve GOT to look around. And it’s terrible. Every day it is getting worse. Even out of the corner of my eye, I can see somebody doing something unspeakable. Do you know what I saw the day before yesterday?”
“I saw a woman pick up her knife, fork and spoon and wipe them with her serviette.”
“Well?” said I. “Do you expect etiquette in a quick lunch?”
“It isn’t etiquette,” said Griffin. “Here was this woman suggesting that the spoons needed wiping, and I was half through my meal and it was too late to wipe mine.”
We proceeded along King street.
“Let’s make a game of it,” I suggested. “We will make a round of the restaurants. And whenever we see anything that offends us either in the manners of the customers, the food, the decorations or the help, we will get up and leave.”
“How much will it cost us?” asked Griffin.
“We won’t pay,” said I. “We’ll speak to the manager in each place and tell him we are couple of high-strung newspaper men and if his place offends us in any way, we are going to leave. We’ll pay for what we have eaten.”
“A sort of progressive lunch.”
“Exactly,” said I.
“And is a restaurant manager responsible for the manners of his guests?” asked Griffin.
“Well, anyway, we can play on the manager’s pride,” said I. “He likes to think the best people in town eat in his place.”
Griffin’s face lighted up.
“The search for the perfect eating place!” he cried, lengthening out his stride.
“Here,” said I. “This is the first place.”
And we turned into a fine big restaurant filled with the sounds and smells of noon.
“Sir,” said I to the manager, standing beside the cash girl. “We are a couple of high-strung, high-pressure newspaper men, and we are seeking the perfect place to eat.”
“You’re here,” said the manager, smiling proudly.
“Yes,” said I, while Griffin lowered at him, suspiciously. “But we wanted it understood, before we eat, that if anything offends us, either in the food, the waitresses, the decorations or the customers, we are not going to finish. We are going to get right up and walk out.”
The manager was unimpressed.
“You will find everything o.k. here,” said he. “Just find a table.”
As we hung up our coats, Griff said: “To begin with, I don’t like that manager.”
“What’s the matter with him?”
“He thinks this place is perfect.”
We sat down. Opposite us sat a dark, bald-headed gentleman with serious ingrown countenance and downcast eyes.
The waitress, just as we sat down, placed before this gentleman a large plate filled with a mass of dark brown meat, about a pint of gravy and pale vegetables glowing dimly within its depths,
Seeing a Man Swallow Himself
Griffin nudged me sharply.
The dark, bald-headed man reached to the middle of the table. He took a firm grasp of the catsup bottle. With a far-away look in his eyes, he slowly removed the stopper of the bottle, up-ended it and splattered about a cupful of red catsup all over the goulash on his plate.
“Come on!” rasped Griffin, seizing me by the collar. “Git!”
We stalked past the manager.
“What’s the trouble, gents?” he cried in consternation.
“I’ll tell you,” said Griffin. “You cater to the catsup soppers! That’s what you do!”
And we strode out into the ungravied atmosphere of Yonge street.
“All right,” said Frederick, grimly. “Number one. Go ahead. Where’s number two?”
I led him into a cafeteria.
We took our trays and edged along.
Griff had a piece of pie and his bread and butter selected when suddenly he froze.
“Turn around!” he hissed. “Back out. Drop your tray!”
And before I knew it, he had bundled me out to the street.
“What did you see!” I gasped.
“I saw,” said Griffin, “an old guy with a long moustache. And on his plate was one of those great big mixed-up salads of stringy cabbage and floppy tomatoes and boughs of watercress.”
“What of it?” I demanded.
“Did you ever see a man with a droopy moustache eating one of these droopy salads?” asked Griff. “Half the time he is chewing his moustache and doesn’t know it. And even if he isn’t, I imagine he is. I have a horror of seeing a man swallow himself and turn inside out.”
“Yes, but maybe he wouldn’t sit where we could see him,” I pointed out.
“Life isn’t like that,” said Frederick calmly. “He would sit at the same table with us.”
So we went on our quest.
“Try one of these stool and counter affairs?” I inquired.
“Scientific investigators like us,” said Griff, “never neglect anything.”
So we went into one of those.
We had to stand for a minute or two behind the long row of stools waiting for a vacancy. Griffin surveyed the rank of bobbing and ducking heads. But any sounds of speedy feeding were drowned by a cheery clatter of dishes interspersed with loud shouts by the cowboys acting as waiters.
We got a stool each.
The cowboy on our part of the ranch reached forward with a large loose wet rag and made a grand flourish as he wiped the marble counter.
“Hawdie, boys!” said the cowboy to us.
“Hawdie, yourself!” said Frederick fiercely, and sprang from his stool. “Come on, Greg, and let us get the heck out of this wild west show!”
Up Yonge street we walked in silence. The silence was all mine.
We were passing restaurant after restaurant, tea room after tea room, until I felt Toronto had nothing but eating places in it. But Griffin had his head up and nostrils distended in that wild horse way, so I waited until we got to Queen street.
“What do you say,” I began – because Griffin was glaring at the policeman on traffic duty and I knew he had another red rag to distract his attention. “What do you say if we try one of these Chinese restaurants. They say they’re good.”
“No,” said Griffin.
Eggs a la Haileybury Fire
We got to Shuter street.
“Did you ever try one of these lovely white restaurants where it makes you feel clean even to go inside it?”
“And the bird next to you talks in loud voice for the benefit of everybody four tables around.”
“Not always …”
“Or,” stated Frederick in an emphatic Irish voice, “you get into one of those clubby groups, where they holler to each other, and come and stand talking to one another about business.”
“I know, but …”
“I’m getting hungry,” declared Frederick.
We passed Dundas street. We passed Eaton’s new store. We got up into the motor sales region and the antique furniture belt. We passed Bloor street.
“Gosh, Griff, I’m hungry. What time is it?”
“One-thirty,” said Griff, darkly.
Past gorgeous, glowing fruit stores, past a brewery warehouse, up Yonge street we strode, and came to St. Clair.
“A lot of swell eating places right around here,” said I, slowing down.
“School teachers,” said Griffin. “Musicians, people with long hair, childless housewives saving themselves the trouble of getting lunch, maybe some radio artists from CFCA. Artists wave their hands and upset things. They paw each other and talk with their faces right in the other fellow’s face.”
“Frederick, I’m starving.”
“All right, where do we eat, then?” roared Griffin.
“Any place,” said I, weakly.
“It’s four blocks to my house,” said Griffin. “Let’s go home.”
But the family were all out except the dog.
“I’ll cook you something,” said Griffin. “I know about eggs and things.”
We put on aprons. We started the stove. Griff broke three of the four eggs he dropped in the pan.
“Omelette,” said Frederick, stirring the eggs up.”
“Scrambled eggs,” said I.
But something was wrong. The eggs got brown instead of yellow.
We sat down in the kitchen.
“They taste funny,” said Griffin. “Just a minute.”
He produced a bottle of catsup. “Slather some of that over them,” said he.
We had bread and butter, scrambled eggs a la Haileybury fire, coffee that would make your toes open and shut, Griff upset the sugar bowl, I upset the milk bottle, we forgot to turn the stove off and the pan burned and made a terrible smell, and it was a quarter to three when we got back to the office.
Frederick threw off his coat and sat down to his typewriter with a tremendous bang.
All the editors looked up.
“Gentlemen,” said Griffin grandly, “I am about to write some sort of a masterpiece. For I have just been cured of a point of view. For one whole year, I will be able, now, to eat my lunch anywhere, with pleasure.”
So, while he writing his story, I have written this.
Editor’s Notes: This is a sort of proto Greg-Jim story from the early 1930s illustrated by Jim, but with fellow reporter Fred Griffin accompanying Greg.
The Haileybury fire was a huge news story in Toronto from 1922, which Greg was sent to cover.
By Greg Clark, May 16, 1931
The wife of one of the prominent members of the Ontario legislature brought her little girl to the opening ceremonies in Queen’s Park this spring. The little girl would be about thirteen years old.
But she did not have on a little girl dress. She wore a gown. A ball gown. Right down to her toes, which peeped out in satin slippers. And on her shoulder she wore the proper bunch of flowers.
She was not even a miniature of a lady. She was a lady full size.
And her presence at this magnificent social function created greater stir than the speech from the throne. Nothing that happened during all the past session was nearly so exciting.
It is not an isolated case. But it was a sort of declaration of a new dispensation.
In the communities round about Toronto, in Newmarket, Oshawa, Oakville and the numerous centres where social activities are concentrated enough to be grasped with the eye, the blossoming forth of fourteen and fifteen-year-old girls into gowned and slippered ladies is a phenomenon of the year. Eighteen is the age of debut. For a century, the “coming out” party has been the goal and ambition towards which girls crept slowly through the interminable teens. To this day, the discovery in Toronto of a girl who “came out” before she was eighteen is an impossibility.
Bat the younger generation of girls seem to have lost patience with stiffly organized society. They are developing an organization of their own. No more charades and musical chairs. No more blind man’s buff, which was considered a smart evening’s entertainment for the ‘teen age lassies in dimity frocks a dozen years of age.
Children’s parties now mean tuxedos and gowns. The big caterers in Toronto admit that the menu of ‘teen-age parties now differs in no respect from that of a Conservative association dance. No more ice cream and cookies. Chicken patties, cress rolls, coffee and, aye, even – hors d’oeuvres!
The situation is more acute in the smaller suburban communities than in the city itself. At one children’s dance, in a town not a million miles north of Toronto, some fifteen-year-old city girls were invited out by former misses’ school chums and they arrived with their party dresses. They were shocked and dismayed to discover that all the young ladies of the suburbs were arrayed in satin slippers, dance frocks and all the regalia of the elder generation.
“This is my first dance,” admitted one of the city girls.
But the social secretariat of Government House, Toronto, when asked what age limit is put, by this supreme social arbiter in Ontario, on girls invited to Government House balls, had to say that there is no age limit.
If eighteen years is the official age for a girl to be “out”, then seventeen-year-olds, if they can command a dance frock from their startled parents, are “out”, too. And it is not at all out of the way for sixteen-year-olds to be sharing in the joy of Government House dances.
Young Ladies at Fifteen
Both the big hotels confess that, in the past couple of years, they know for a fact that fifteen and sixteen-year-old girls have appeared in considerable numbers at the numerous dances and balls of the season and have carried themselves as gracefully and maturely as any young woman could do.
The big stores, the makers of formal frocks, announce with some glee that they are making the finest garments for younger girls than they ever had to fit before.
Col. William Michell, senior and directing high school principal of Toronto, a bachelor, and therefore a dispassionate and life-long observer of the fair sex in its ‘teens, unhesitatingly allowed that the girls of Toronto are stepping far past the ‘teenage boys.
“A fifteen-year-old boy is still a boy,” said this shrewd educationist. “But a fifteen-year-old girl is a lady, and not only expects to be treated as such, but really is a young lady. I believe there is something in what you say – that in recent years, girls have advanced in spirit and in mental poise far beyond their years.”
Fathers no longer take their fifteen-year-old daughters to the parties and call for them at a quarter to eleven. Because one of the characteristics of the case is that the fourteen and fifteen-year-old girls are pairing with the seventeen and eighteen-year-old boys. The first form girls find their dancing partners in the fourth form boys. Their young Lochinvars, resplendent in tuxedo, call with a car. And after midnight, the car comes roaring to a stop in front of the house, where papa and mamma are waiting behind the front curtains.
The first form boys, alas, are only boys. They are ordered to bed at ten. And if you mention the word girl to them, they blush and say, “Aw, heck!”
But the case is not without its embarrassments.
At one children’s party last month, one young lady of fifteen, carried away by the glorious consciousness of her gown and her high heels, and recollecting her big sisters, somehow got a cigarette, and in the innocence and show-off of that delightful age of fifteen, proceeded to be the queen of the castle at the party by dancing by with cigarette in fingers.
An adult present reached forth indignantly and snatched it from her. He then reported to the host, who was hiding himself in a bewildered way in front of the fireplace in the living room. And the host congratulated the crusader for his courage.
However, at another youthful party, when the host himself commandeered a cigarette from one of the young swains, half the party good-naturedly and cheerfully retired to an upper room where they locked the door; and all enjoyed a smoke!
The psychology of that, of course, is obvious. The next day, the younger members of the family would be apologizing left and right for the behavior of their elders. Old-fashioned parents, after all, are acts of God.
We may evade the issue by saying to ourselves that these manifestations are superficial, that there always were a percentage of children more advanced, that grandmother was married at eighteen, and that thank goodness the great multitude of children are just plain children and wear middy blouses and accordion pleated skirts still.
Look about you. Look at the girls passing each morning on their way to high school.
Middy blouses, like plus fours, are sport costumes, kept in the school lockers!
Dr. Munthe’s Mystical Theorizing
There are other explanations, vague theories, it is true, standing afar like mountain peaks in that dim country of Nature and Human Nature of which we know so little after all these centuries of ignoring the humanness of Nature.
In his wonderful and most entertaining book, “The Story of San Michele”, Axel Munthe, a great European nerve specialist and doctor of the mind and spirit, quotes such psychologists As Kraft-Ebing and Freiborg to the effect that after exhaustive wars, all through human history, there followed, in Greece, in Rome, in Europe of the middle ages, a startling reaction, in which men became effeminate and the women grew dominant.
Dr. Munthe was amazed both at the Messina earthquake and the terrible epidemic of cholera in Naples, at both of which he labored as a doctor, over the astounding manifestation of love-making that broke out in the very midst of these destroying holocausts. While the human race seemed to be in the throes of destruction in the cholera outbreak, he beheld young men making desperate love to young ladies, though the spectre of death stalked in their midst. At Messina, where with an anger and violence beyond belief, Nature shook a whole countryside to dust and ashes, he beheld the most elaborate serenading, the most desperate wooing.
“It was as if Nature,” says this mystical nerve specialist, “in the moments that she destroyed the race, inspired in hectic fashion, the spirit of preservation of the race.”
He believes that the race of men is no different from the race of pigeons or rabbits, and that Nature moves unconscious in them, causing them to do things on a vast, racial scale, in automatic response to certain causes.
So he comes to this aftermath of war. We had a war. It involved some millions of men of the western world. It killed and maimed some millions of them. It drove stark fear into the souls of millions of women. It sopped the tears from millions more.
To think that such a squeezing and yearlong straining of the hearts of humankind would not have some effect on those hearts is unthinkable.
Are the little girls of fifteen who wear dance frocks and high heels in Toronto today unconsciously answering some far, faint call of the great Mother? Are the parents who stand bewildered by the development of their children rendered numb and helpless by some mysterious spiritual drug blown on the breezes of the world by Nature?
Dr. Munthe, in his thought-releasing book, says that through all history, great wars have been followed by periods of effeminacy amongst the rising generation of men. It may be a reaction due merely to boredom with the war stories of their daddies. Or it may be, as Dr. Munthe says, one of those cyclic efforts of Nature to restore a balance. The men of the race, having exhausted themselves with war and wasted their time in hard, unprofitable things, are turned automatically to the softer aspects of life, to creative things, to dreaming again, and thinking: to art, to law, to philosophy, and those essential parts of life which have been sadly neglected during the time of strife.
And by the same token, the girls of the race are made strong, made lively and adventurous. You might upset Dr. Munthe’s mystical theorizing about Nature by saying that the girls merely seem more lively in comparison with the boys, who are reacting to the boredom of war as expressed in the bayonets, tin hats, pictures and souvenirs that clutter up the mantel piece, and eternally inspire their daddies to reminiscences of a bloody kind.
An Invasion of Nature
But Nature having lost its boldest and bravest in war may, argues the psychologist, speed up the future mothers of the race, to be bold, active, courageous and selective. In times of peace, the girls sit demurely at home and are sought out and wooed by the young men. In times of recuperation after a mighty waste, the girls wake up and come out of their Victorian swoon and do a little active selecting themselves. When good men are few and dreamers are many is no time to sit and wait for a reasonably suitable young man.
The other day there was a tag day. At six o’clock in the morning, into King street Childs there swooped a troop, a platoon, a raiding party of some thirty or forty young girl taggers for an early morning breakfast. It was apparently a rendezvous of one group of taggers for the start of the day’s assault.
Half of them were under eighteen. Some of them were not much over 16. But you could not tell their age by their clothes, because they were all smartly arrayed in the very smartest of early summer costumes, suits, ensembles.
Now, if this mystical theory of the unconscious invasion of Nature were right, I might have expected to hear deep, sonorous voices from these militant taggers. But what filled the restaurant to the deafening point was the high, squealing pandemonium that always accompanies any number of girls from four in number up.
How natural they were! But how keen and competent, the way they got their breakfast, the way they sat about the tables chattering and planning. If your wife is thirty or forty, you know how diffidently and shyly she comes into a restaurant. Or into church.
But these wee girls, radiant, with no sleep in their eyes though it was just the break of day, were alive, vital; and I felt myself wishing, in a kind of hopeless way, that these had been our bond salesmen, our executives, our young go-getters, so that the world could feel the force, the lance, the drive of their vibrant spirits.
There are two things we can do. We can rouse ourselves from our drowsiness and DO something about the younger generation. We can obstruct, rant, hinder, deprive. We can lay down the LAW. We can assume our responsibilities, as one mother of sixteen year-olds said to me in connection with this story. She assumes her responsibilities by making pals of her daughters. What a pal! And she is wearing herself to frazzle trying to do it, and though she is an old friend of mine, I must confess there is a sort of what we used to call “baby talk” creeping into her everyday conversation and making it rather terrible to deal with her.
She spends a lot of time keeping young, taking exercises and treatments. She has responded splendidly to those face cream advertisements. For her children’s sake, she is keeping young.
Yes, and at the same time, having not a bad time.
But I wonder if the two gals do not secretly talk to each other and wonder how much longer they will have to keep it up before they wear mamma out.
But if, as Axel Munthe says, it is the mighty Mother Nature who is back of it all, performing one of her vast, invisible movements, as invisible as the moving of the hands of your watch, or the unfolding of these little leaves of spring – then, dear relics of the past, there is nothing we can do.
Save wait to marvel at our grandchildren.
Editor’s Notes: When speaking of “coming out” in this era, it meant “coming out to society“. It was considered a rite of passage for upper class girls to transition to women.
“To make love” also is different from current usage. It means to make amorous approaches to; to romance.
Jim provided the illustrations to this news article.