The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Tag: 1932 Page 1 of 4

Sex War

…they are not much impressed with the new recruit.

(I am publishing out of order today, April 9th, in honour of the birthday of Greg’s daughter, Elizabeth (Clark) Wakabayashi. She is the only one of Greg’s children still with us. Please enjoy this story about her).

By Gregory Clark, October 15, 1932.

When a string of male offsprings comes to bless a home without the interruption of a little girl, that home takes on a definite masculine character.

No matter how tastefully a bride and groom may have furnished their living room, by the time their union has been blessed with a series of boys, it has assumed a clubby air. Many of the more tasteful articles and objects d’art are gone forever. The chesterfield that was born pale smoke-blue now wears a slip-cover of sturdy leather brown. The original fine Persian rug is almost forgotten even by the bride, and in its place is a stout dullish floor covering that is without character, but which serves admirably as a setting for the quarrels and the drama of a tribe of arrogant small males.

The hopeless war waged against toys, roller skates, aside-flung wind-breakers, hockey sticks propped against the fireplace, has long ago been lost. By the time the oldest boy is eleven, no clothes closet designed by twentieth-century man could hope to contain the essentials of juvenile life. So the walnut hall table, the buffet, the kitchen drain-board all share the burden, and you are just as likely to find a motor truck in the flat-silver drawer as a pair of orange and black rugby stockings in the book case.

Then comes a girl.

At first, the fact seems a little preposterous.

“Was it mother took a girl or you?” asks the eleven-year-old. “Who chooses?”

“Well, sir,” says I, “you just take what God sends you.”

“But don’t you speak to God first? What is praying for?”

“Wait till you see her,” says I. “The dearest wee little thing. With dark hair like fine spun clouds of night on her head, and a little mouth, like a mouth seen at a great distance…”

But when the boys, all done up in their Sunday blue suits and wearing that slicked look which betrays the unaccustomed hand of the father, line up and march into the glowing hospital room to see their proud mother lying with her face sideways on the pillow, they are not much impressed with the new recruit.

The seven-year-old will not look at her at all, and the eleven-year-old, after one horrified glance, retires to the foot of the hospital bed and says:

“Does it sound like a cat?”

Mother says:

“You are mighty lucky little boys to have a sister.”

A Family Show-Down

So after depositing their gifts of flowers and clumsily kissing their mother’s hand, the boys depart leaving behind them no uncertain air of reproach.

For some time, several months in fact, the disturbing presence of the young lady is not felt. Indeed, with the feeding and bathing and sleeping and washing connected with the new arrival, the boy brigade achieves further freedom and wider powers than they had ever enjoyed. They can stay out later. They often get by with washing their own faces before school.

But the first hint of tyranny comes one day when the Princess is put out in her carriage on the front lawn.

“Take those shabby bicycles off the front walk,” commands mother. “And pick up that board you’ve got there. Take them around to the back!”

And the Princess, sitting up, has a lovely tidy stage on which to shed the beauty of her presence. In about a week the boys come to me in deputation.

“Dad, we can’t play in front at all!” they complain. “We have to stay in the back all the time. Why can’t they put HER in the back sometimes?” The next step in the emasculization of the house has to do with dress and appearance. Mother can be seen at all hours of the day brushing or stroking the Princess’ hair, which is clouding out into curls. The Princess is old enough to have pretty little dresses. She wears two and sometimes three a day.

“Mother plays with her all the time just as if she was a doll,” complains the eleven-year-old. “Dressing her and undressing her. And carrying her around.”

“You boys look terrible!” mother begins saying. “I’ll have to be getting you some clothes.”

And both boys slink from the room.

“I don’t want any more blue suits!” yelps seven-year-old from the staircase, “as long as I live!”

But the fact is, mother is slowly growing feminine again, under the inspiration of her daughter. She has an ally. Her sense of the fitness of things is being restored. We had made a man of mother but it was a victory by force of numbers.

“Some ladies,” said Mother, “are coming to see Elizabeth this afternoon. I want you two boys, when you come home from school, to come in by the side door quietly, go upstairs, wash and put on your blue suits and then come down and be introduced.”

They saw a strange lady being admitted at the front door, which reminded them of the side door and the fateful instruction about being introduced. So the two of them hid behind the garage until nearly six o’clock. That night we had a family show-down.

“We are going to have a little system around here,” says mother. “You boys have had this house all to yourselves for more than ten years. Now we are going to divide it. The downstairs living room, dining room, front lawn are Elizabeth’s and mine. The den, your bedrooms and the back yard are for you men. No more playthings, hockey sticks, wagons, funny-papers downstairs here. If I find any of those things around, outside of the den and your bedrooms or the back yard, I’ll take them and give them to the gardener for his little boy.”

Over the Favor of a Lady

We men hang our heads, realizing that mother is a lady again.

It takes nearly a month for the full realization of the division in our house to sink in. But it works. Eleven-year-old has his bike locked up in the fruit cellar for three days for leaving it in front when Elizabeth was sunning in her carriage. Seven-year-old missed entirely The Star Weekly colored comics of the date of Sunday, May 29th.

And every week Elizabeth has a new dress, and her curls cloud more richly, and her very presence seems to work miracles in her surroundings, so that battered chairs glow and shine and the dining room has flowers on the table, new draw-curtains appear as if by magic, a spickness and spanness seems to blossom wherever Elizabeth goes.

Then, a month ago, she learned to walk.

“I taught her!” shouted eleven-year-old. “It was to me she first walked when Mother let go of her!”

“It was me taught her,” snarled seven-year-old. “I’ve been walking in front of her every day, showing her how. I said ‘lookit,’ and then she did it!”

“Let’s take her for a walk out on the street,” cried Eleven.

“Go and put your blue suits on, then,” said Mother.

And they raced upstairs.

Winks went round the living room.

From walking to riding piggie-back, from going on a long hike to the foot of the garden to pick the last ragged asters to exploring all the low-down cupboards and pantry closets has been a swift ascent, in which two ill-assorted boys have fought, even to drawing blood, over the favor of a lady.

And she had to have creeping overalls.

“She can have those old sailor pants of mine,” said seven-year-old, “when she’s big enough. And my old wind-breaker.”

Mother had a funny look on her face. Then Elizabeth learned to climb the stairs.

The turn of the tide came last Sunday. “Where is Elizabeth?” cried Mother suddenly, conscious of the silence.

“Upstairs,” said Eleven, in passing, “having some fun!”

And great thumps above proved it.


Editor’s Note: This story also appeared in So What? (1937).

Dollars are Cheaper

You could see by the slow way he walked over to the cashier that he was doing arithmetic

By Gregory Clark, February 20, 1932.

The city of Buffalo wishes the Canadian dollar were back at par.1

I stepped up to the news-stand in Buffalo’s finest hotel and picked up a newspaper.

I held out to the clerk a Canadian nickel. “I’m sorry,” said he, hastily, for they are very quick in Buffalo at feeling a coin, “I can’t take this.”

Take three cents out of it, instead of two,” I suggested. “Wouldn’t that look after the exchange?”

“You can’t compute exchange on a nickel,” said he.

So I produced a Canadian dollar. He took it.

First he deducted 17 cents exchange. That was at the rate at the moment. Then he. took two cents for the Times.

And he handed me back 81 cents, U. S.

Which, as change from a dollar in a deal involving a 2-cent newspaper, brings home the exchange problem nice and clearly.

My expression, however, as I stared down at those very high class coins in my palm was not any more pained than the news-stand clerk’s.

“Gees, it’s tough!” said he.

And like everybody else in Buffalo, he meant it. They really are pained by the situation. It is a nuisance every way you or they look at it. Buffalo has plenty of factories and therefore she can feel bad, the way hundreds of manufacturing cities and towns in the States feel bad, over the loss of millions of dollars worth of juicy orders for spring goods from Canada. But as $1,000 Canadian worth only about $800, Canadians can’t see that a $4 hat is worth $5. So while Canadians are patiently waiting for their dollar to rise – and doing a lot of buying at home meanwhile – the Americans are wishing the Canadian dollar would stand up and come walking across the border in millions again in the good old-fashioned way.

But Buffalo has a lot of private grief ever the Canadian dollar that is not shared by the rest of the U. S.

First of all, that all year round parade of amateur Canadian smugglers, of whom there are only about 9,000,000 in the Dominion, has sadly dwindled in the past few months. Every day in the week, including Sunday, there was a procession across all the bridges from Canada of people who think that goods are cheaper and more stylish in Buffalo. Or maybe it is just that they want to buy something in a foreign country to show the gals back home. Or possibly they think they can smuggle a pair of stockings in the hip pocket.

Buffalo has practically lost all that amateur smuggler trade.

“We made a special study of this exchange thing,” said Mr. A. T. Gerstner of the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce, introducing me to Mr. Percy Fahnstock, the financial editor of the Buffalo Times, with whom he was sadly communing when I called at the chamber. “And we couldn’t make head or tail of it. We had a special committee of selected intellects follow the exchange question as far as they could go. But when it ended in a swamp they came back to us with their tails dragging. In the meantime American industries are suffering for the want of Canadian orders. Every storekeeper and taxi driver in the city has to check up every morning on to-day’s exchange rate. There is bad feeling. We feel very sorry about it, because we like Canadian dollars just as much as you like American dollars. It’s too bad.”

And in the meantime, while the incoming traffic over the Peace bridge has fallen to a trickle, the outgoing traffic of Buffalonians in quest of Canadian goods at the Fort Erie liquor store shows no signs whatever of diminishing.

Buffalo Learns Arithmetic

“The funny part of it is,” said the financial editor, “that those Canadian liquor stores don’t know anything about this exchange thing. A bottle costs $3.75, Canadian. So we put down $3.10, American, which is the equivalent of $3.75, Canadian; but the clerks say they haven’t heard about that.

“‘Over on the American side, maybe,’ says the vendor, ‘but over here $3.75, anybody’s money.’ And there you are.”

“But you could change your money into Canadian before you get there,” I suggested.

“Yes,” said the financial editor, “but nobody thinks of it in time. And, anyway, it’s a nuisance changing it.”

“You should know something about a nuisance!” I exclaimed. “I bought a pair of silk stockings to-day for my wife in one of your big stores. They cost $1.65. When I handed the girl a Canadian $5 bill she asked me if I wanted exchange on the whole $5 bill or just on the sale. I said just on the sale.

“So she gave me back, with my parcel, three Canadian $1 bills and three cents. I asked her how she figured that.

“‘Well’, says she, ‘exchange to-day is 16 cents, isn’t it? On $2 that makes the exchange 32 cents. So $1.65 for the stockings, plus 32 cents exchange, is $1.97. Isn’t that right?’

“‘Yes,’ says I, ‘but all I am buying is the stockings. You should take,’ says I (working it out with a pencil on the paper the stockings were wrapped in), ’16 per cent. of $1.65, which is only 26 point 4 cents. Say 26. And that makes $1.91 and gives me back 9 cents instead of 3.’

“By this time three other sales girls and a department manager were hovering around. The girl was mixed up, but she raised her eyes to the ceiling, bit my pencil with her teeth and figured it out. They are well trained in arithmetic by now in Buffalo.

She raised her eyes to the ceiling bit her pencil with her teeth, and figured it out

“Suddenly she saw it! ‘Yes,’ she cried,’ but I would have to give you back your 9 cents change in Canadian money.’

“‘Then,’ said I, ‘do you mean to say that 3 cents American is as good as 9 cents Canadian?’

“And at that the manager stepped forward and said, ‘Excuse me, mister, but if you will come up to the office we will get the accountant to go over this with you.’ But I beat it. I took the 3 cents American, be- cause I wanted to buy another newspaper and I didn’t want to spend 19 cents out of my Canadian dollar to get one.”

The Chamber of Commerce man listened to my story.

“‘Well,’ said one, “there were five Americans in that mix-up and only one Canadian. You see how it adds up.”

Yes, Buffalo is very distressed, but very patient.

The hotel I stayed at is so good-natured about the exchange question that they take our Canadian money at par.

When I paid my room bill they took $4 Canadian. I got a $4 room for $3.32. At dinner, when I offered Canadian money to the waiter, he said:

“If you sign the cheque and charge it to your room you will get the meal at par, but if I go and get it changed at the desk they will take exchange out of it.”

So I charged it.

But I had my experience with a waiter all the same.

I am one of those plain country fellows that is friendly with waiters. This one I made great friends with. By the time lunch was over he figured I was just as nice as any waiter even. We talked about the meal, Germany, German food, German beer, how long he had been with this hotel and canaries.

But with a craftiness this good Dutchman of a waiter would never dream me capable of, I carefully schemed my lunch to cost exactly 80 cents!

Exchange that day was 17 cents.

When the table was cleared and the finger-bowl dibbled, my good fat friend laid down the cheque – 80 cents.

He figured, happy man, that a nice friendly customer could not do less than lay down a dollar bill and leave him the change.

But I laid down a Canadian one-dollar bill!

And then, in the mirror on the wall beside me, I watched the waiter’s face.

Computing is the New Sport

Slowly he reached out a dazed hand and picked up the cheque and the dollar. Slowly he turned and walked away. He walked with bent head. You could see by the slow way he walked over to the cashier that he was doing arithmetics.

My dollar was worth 83 cents over at that desk.

With a shamed look he walked slowly back to me, with bowed head, looking with distended eyes at a spectacle he had perhaps never before seen in all his years in that handsome and noble dining room.

It was 3 cents.

On a silver tray.

Speechless, he laid the offensive objects before me.

I looked at them.

Then I looked up at him.

Slowly he shrugged his shoulder, up, out.

So I dipped down and laid beside the three U. S. coppers a Canadian nickel and a Canadian dime.

And when I looked back from the dining room door at him he was standing with a pencil and a piece of paper translating his tip into terms he could understand.

Computing is the great Buffalo sport these days. It is like cross word puzzles.

I spent the evening at a movie. Admission was 65 cents and on the glass of the ticket booth was a card reading, “Canadian exchange to-day 17.”

I handed the girl a Canadian $1. She handed me promptly back 18 cents.

She was a pretty girl and I supposed therefore dumb.

“Just a minute,” said I, spreading out my change on my palm. “But how do you figure 17 per cent. of 65 cents?”

As quick as a flash she replied:

“I changed your dollar into American money, 83 cents, and then deducted the price of admission, 65 cents. Change, 18 cents.”

I was shoved from behind in the line-up or I might have attempted a feeble argument. But even the pretty girls in Buffalo can do arithmetic. I guess it is the practice they get.

The next adventure was in a taxicab.

I drove forty cents worth and then handed the driver two Canadian quarters.

“Hey,” he said; “that’s Canadian money!”

“It certainly is,” said I. “Note the King’s head on it. His name is George.”

“That’s only 40 cents, just the same,” said the driver, with a pleasant smile. “We count 20 cents for two bits, just to make it handy.”

“Well,” I retorted, “how much do I owe you?”

“That’s right,” said the driver, “forty cents.”

He didn’t want to let me get away with the idea that I was tipping him.

And I didn’t. This is why.

Outside the hotel, after nightfall, where the wind howls and whoops off Lake Erie around corners that must surely be the windiest in a windy land, I was held up by a panhandler.

“How about a cuppa coffee?” mumbled this member of a free and equal nation where even the panhandlers don’t know how to be beggarly.

“Aren’t you participating in the President’s Relief Fund2?” I asked, rejoicing in this chance to take a dig at the people who think my nickels aren’t worth taking.

“Huh?” said the startled bum.

“It’s presidential year,” I assured him. “Things ought to be booming now.”

“Well, they ain’t,” said the bum. “I was over to the American Legion for a suit of underwear and they was fresh out of them.”

I went over to a lighted window and drew forth my change. I selected the brightest Canadian quarter I could find.

“Here,” said I.

He looked down at it eagerly. Then a look of disappointment. And he half-handed it back to me. But I was looking as dignified as possible, with my stomach out and a kind of three rousing British cheers and a tiger sort of look. At least that’s what it felt like from the inside. You never know what these things look like from the outside.

“Well?” I demanded.

“You haven’t a – you wouldn’t happen to have a -” he said, holding the quarter out, but gripping its edge firmly.

“No,” said I, “they’re too expensive.”

“Well,” said he, taking another half-warm, half-cold look at the shining King’s head, “thanks very much anyway.”

And while I stood resenting that “anyway” right down to my boot heels the bum faded into the night.

I suppose he was at the Ar-gawn!3

Embarrassing a Customs Man

The only person I really gypped in Buffalo, outside of the telephone company, whose telephone booths take Canadian dimes as readily as American, was the little cigarette girl at the hotel, who walks around the dining rooms and corridors carrying a tray of cigarettes. I can’t smoke those American cigarettes. They taste to me as if the cigarette industry was trying to help out the American farmer.

But I beckoned the girl and took a package of those well-known cigarettes that are basted, sunburned and fricasseed.

And I handed her a Canadian quarter. Her highly burnished fingers at once detected the fraud.

“I can’t take this!” said she. “It’s on’y worth tway-unty say-unts!”

“Well,” said I, “here’s a Canadian nickel. That makes it even, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, sir; thank you, sir,” said she and went innocently on her way.

But I had done her wrong.

“I can’t take this!” said she. “It’s only twa-unty say-unts!”

The exchange rate that day, broadcast by the banks throughout the city of Buffalo, was 17 per cent., and 17 per cent. of 30 cents is 5 point 1 cents. So I had really only given. her 24 point 9 cents for a 25-cent package of cigarettes.

I felt bad for a little while. But later I gave the smokes away to a bellboy who had a very bad cough, so I figured I was even with my conscience.

It remained for Canada, however, to do the job to a royal and ancient finish.

I had a pair of stockings, $1.65, and a little baby girl’s padded pink kimono, $2.95, with me when I drove back over to the Canadian side.

The customs man asked if I had anything to declare, so out of my hip pocket where I had so carefully hidden them I drew the stockings and out of the inner lining of the car cushion I drew the kimono.

“Yes, sir,” said I to the shocked and embarrassed customs man.

And what do you think that arithmetician did?

First he added the two bills together, to $4.60.

Then he added the exchange, 17 per cent., to bring the amount I had spent to Canadian money, total $5.38.

And then he proceeded to figure the duty on that amount.

“Don’t you birds allow a man to bring home a couple of little gifts like this?” I demanded in a hurt tone. “That pink thing is for a dear little girl that would be just heart broken if I didn’t bring her home something. And anyway, after being gypped all over Buffalo, now you go adding what I was gypped on to what you are going to collect. Gee, you birds are trying to run yourselves out of a job. Pretty soon there won’t be any Canadians crossing over the border and then you will have to go back to the gas station.”

I think my act of pulling those two items of contraband out of their hiding places really softened this hard guy’s heart.

“Are they gifts?” he asked, with tears in his voice.

“Are they gifts?” asked the customs officer with tears in his voice

“One for my wife and the other for my dear little daughter, who would just -“

“Away you go!” commanded the customs man. Anyway, it was a pretty cold day to do figuring with a little stump of pencil with numb fingers.

Maybe you thought when I started this story that I was going to explain in some sort of Queen and Yonge street way the mystery of exchange. But that isn’t the idea. It is just a day in Buffalo, with the little things that happen to a Canadian’s pride and an American’s patience.

And while the lords of finance stir their mystic witches’ cauldron – out of which the lords of finance doubtless take something nice and juicy – the Yanks and the Canucks break about even.

Anyway, next summer when the little American shinplasters start rolling into these parts once more, let’s be good sports.

Let’s accept them at par.


Editor’s Notes:

  1. Economics was complicated during the Great Depression, as politicians tried all sorts of solutions. A History of the Canadian Dollar, indicates some of the challenges. The Canada-U.S. exchange rate was basically at par for years (except for briefly after World War 1), so having to deal with exchange rates was something new. ↩︎
  2. This was one of President Herbert Hoover’s attempts at relief in 1931. ↩︎
  3. This is a slang term for Argonne, a reference to the Meuse–Argonne offensive at the end of World War 1. Unemployed former soldiers were a symbol of the times, so Greg is implying that he was a veteran. ↩︎

The Pants Burglar is in Town Again!

January 23, 1932

This is a semi-recurring gag that I just don’t get.

Crossed Shovels Rampant

January 16, 1932

This illustration went with a humourous story by Caesar Smith, a regular contributor to the Star Weekly in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

The Song Barrage

December 31, 1932

These illustration were with an article by Paul Frederick about the overwhelming of Canadian made songs by American song writers. Until the 1920s, the music business was dominated not by major record labels, but by song publishers and big vaudeville and theater concerns. In those days, sheet music consistently outsold records of the same hit songs, proving that most of the music heard in homes and in public back then was played by people, not record players. A hit song’s sheet music often sold in the millions between 1910 and 1920. Recorded versions of these songs were at first just seen as a way to promote the sheet music, and were usually released only after sheet music sales began falling.1 With the decline of vaudeville and the rise of radio and records, big American hits could be produced more cheaply, and therefore became more popular than Canadian songs.

Gordon V. Thompson, Toronto song writer and publisher, keeps a piano back of his desk. He sings his chair around, strikes a few bars and bursts into song when the mood hits him
  1. History of the Record Industry, 1920— 1950s ↩︎

Barter

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, December 3, 1932.

“Barter,” I said to Jimmie Frise, “barter, what is barter?”

“Well,” said Jim, “in the country, for instance, instead of a farmer selling his eggs to the general storekeeper he trades his eggs for a pair of boots.”

“I notice,” said I, “that all the editors are writing about barter and over the radio all the world problem solvers are talking about barter. The dollar is no good any more. Neither are quarters, dimes and nickels. Even fifty dollars isn’t any good any more, according to them. The world, they say, is going to fall back on barter.”

“Don’t pay any attention to them,” said Jimmie. “They’re just earning their living. I bet they take dollars for talking and writing. I bet they don’t take it out in barter. Imagine a radio expert taking a bunch of air in payment. Or a big newspaper editor going around with a truck from house to house collecting bread, potatoes, old boots, cast-off shirts and phonograph records from his readers.”

“Personally,” I remarked, “I don’t see how barter would work. How would it take care of you and me, Jimmie, for example?”

“Well, as for me,” said Jim, “I could draw a lot of little cartoons on small cards and then I could call around at the grocery store and trade a laugh for a pound of butter. Then I’d go into the dairy and get a bottle of milk for a chuckle.”

“Wait a minute, Jim,” said I. “Cartoons are very perishable things. You go into the grocery store and offer an original and new cartoon for a pound of butter. The grocer would want to see it first, wouldn’t he?”

“I guess he would.”

“Well, then, he’d look at the cartoon, have a grin at it and hand it back and say he was full up with jokes for the present.”

“H’m,” h’med Jimmie.

“And it would take a lot of cartoons to buy a pair of boots,” said I. “What shoemaker would want twenty cartoons? One cartoon at a time is plenty.”

“How about you?” asked Jimmie. “You could type out a story, but how far would it get you?”

“I’d do little stories for the grocer and the butcher,” said I, “and big full-page stories for the shoemaker; and I’d write a serial novel for the milkman, a chapter a day, in exchange for the milk.”

“You’d be a lot busier writing than you are now,” said Jim. “I wonder if part of the trouble with the dollar isn’t the fact that cartoonists and jazz singers and brokers and lawyers get too many dollars for what they do in comparison with the people who grow food and make clothes and things?”

“It’s supply and demand,” said I.

“The farmer up north of Orangeville doesn’t demand Greta Garbo1 or Eddie Cantor2,” said Jimmie. “As far as the fellow who grows our potatoes and turnips is concerned there is no demand for these big shot lawyers that live in those half-acre houses north of St. Clair avenue.”

“I hope barter doesn’t come in,” I said. “If it does I’m going to learn some useful trade. About the only thing I can do, outside of this writing, is hunt and fish. Maybe I could work up a nice business in rabbits and pheasants; and in the summer fresh bass and trout.”

“You’d work out some pleasant sort of job, anyway,” said Jim. “But if the worst came to the worst, we’ve all got a lot of things we could dispose of and never miss. The average home is filled with extras that aren’t needed, goods lying idle that other people need badly, and we could trade them for the things other people have that we need.”

Everything We Don’t Need

“That wouldn’t last long,” said I.

“The farmers,” said Jim, “with wagon loads of meat and vegetables would come driving through the city streets calling their wares and the city people would come out and trade hats, coats, blankets, radio sets and all kinds of things. I know lots of houses that have eleven cast-off wrist watches lying about in drawers, fountain pens, umbrellas, all manner of things, valuable and idle.”

“I can see a farmer,” said I, “trading a roast of beef for an old umbrella or six worn-out fountain pens. The more I think of this barter business, Jimmie, the more it looks to me as if the farmers were going to have all us city people working for them as hired men and hired girls before very long.”

“I must have about a thousand dollars worth of stuff in my house that isn’t working,” mused Jim. “Counting your fishing rods and books, I bet you have two thousand dollars worth of stuff that isn’t earning its keep.”

“I could trade you a good fly rod for one of your guns,” I suggested. “How about it?”

“I haven’t any use for a fishing rod just now, Jim replied, “and this is the shooting season. What else besides a fishing rod would you give me?”

“There you are!” I exclaimed. “That’s barter for you. The old racket. Getting more than you give.”

“I tell you what to do,” cried Jim. “Let’s send our wives out some night to the movies or a hockey game and you and I have a night of barter. A grand spree of barter. I’ll get together everything that we don’t need any longer and bring it over to your house. You collect everything you can dispose of in one room, and we will see what this barter business goes like. What do you say?”

“It sounds good, but our wives–“

“Listen,” said Jim. “These are hard times. Us men have got to assert ourselves. The old-fashioned man wins nowadays.”

“We’ll buy them hockey tickets.”

“All right,” said Jim.

So it was arranged. Jim, as the proposer of the big barter market, was to bring the stuff from his house in clothes baskets. We were about evenly matched. We had been married the same length of time; a couple of war brides. We had worked up fairly large families. We had houses about the same number of rooms and we both had attics, storerooms and mothers-in-law.

Our wives were safely shipped to the hockey game and then we went to work. Jim was to arrive at nine p.m.

I had done some preliminary scouting for several evenings and I was certainly amazed at the quantity of goods and chattels which had succeeded in finding permanent resting places in all sorts of holes and corners, drawers, boxes, closets and shelves in my house.

First, a baby carriage. Blue, wicker, a little gone in the tires, three hub caps gone and a slight sag in one spring.

I wheeled it down to the living room, which was cleared for auction.

Out of bureau and desk drawers I got five wrist watches, seven assorted fountain pens, a lovely white satin book for Baby, with pages in which to enter all the details of baby’s birth, christening, growth, first tooth, first word, etc.

I found a large round cardboard box, white and shiny, of a style I had quite forgotten, in which were four of my mother-in- law’s ancient hats. Boy! Purple ostrich plumes, beads, bird’s feet, glass eyes!

A clock! A great big gift clock that struck the hours. It had black marble slabs on it.

In another box I found a pair of my black dancing pumps that I had not seen for years, and beside them, done up in old tissue paper, a pair of white satin pumps that my wife wore long, long ago.

Three umbrellas, one black, one gray and one mauve. They were worn and ragged, but I do not remember ever having seen them before.

An old gas heater from the cellar.

An old lawn mower that only needed a good mechanic to make it work.

A magic lantern and seven glass slides. I nearly cried when I found this. It was given to me on my twelfth birthday. One slide was of gold fish. Another was Little Red Riding Hood. One was Bible stories. How on earth had it followed me all through the twisted path of life, from twelve to forty!

If We Only Knew How

By nine o’clock I had all these articles placed against the far wall of the living room and I cleared the opposite wall for Jimmie to stack his barter.

And at nine p.m. he arrived and backed his car into the side drive.

First, he handed out a baby carriage.

It was blue, wicker, three of its hub caps were gone and it was weak on one spring. He pushed it into the living room and stacked it up facing mine.

I assisted him to hoist in a couple of clothes baskets. And then he shoved ahead of him a lawn mower. It was a 1910 model, in need of a mechanic.

Out of the clothes baskets, as I sat on the far side watching him, he dished out a large black onyx clock with gilt slabs on it, four fountain pens, seven assorted watches, including wrist and ladies’ bosom watches worn with a pin; three hats with plumes, five pairs of satin slippers, assorted colors, all a little up in the toe; two umbrellas and a hand-carved walking-stick with a horse’s head for a handle; one old gas heater; one magic lantern; and last of all, a white satin book.

“Hold up that book, Jim,” I said, a little weakly. “Let’s see the title.”

On it in gold paint was printed “Baby’s Own Book.”

Jim arranged all his goods along the wall, dusted off his hands and then strolled across the room to look at mine.

He looked at the baby carriage! The lawnmower, the rusty gas heater! He stared intently at the hats, the satin slippers, the Baby book. His hand went up to his mouth when he looked at the umbrellas, the fountain pen and the decayed wrist watches.

Then his wavering eyes met mine.

“This is funny,” he said, uncertainly. “

“No, it isn’t,” I replied. “I’ve been thinking about it. Everybody has about the same amount of no use for the same things. You would likely find these same things in every house in Canada.”

“Let’s trade something,” said Jim, “just for luck. I’ll trade you this pair of green satin slippers with the ostrich feather trimmings for those white satin ones you got there.”

“No,” said I. “I just remember what these are. I just recollect these black pumps of mine were the ones I was wearing the night I met my wife, when she was wearing the white ones.”

“Trade baby carriages,” said Jim. “They are about the same model.”

“It just occurs to me why our wives keep those old things,” said I.

“I better pack up,” said Jimmie, rather lamely.

“Barter,” said I. “Barter means only things you make or grow. It doesn’t mean things you own. And we city people only know how to make parts of things. We don’t know how to make anything whole. Storekeepers, clerks, doers of small services, handers-over-the-counter, adders up of other people’s figures, each of us a jig in the jigsaw puzzle of life. It looks bad for us, Jimmie.”

“No,” replied Jim, his arms full of property. “It’ll work out all right. In the old days the story-tellers went from village to village, singing songs and telling stories, and everybody was glad to see them. The artists travelled all over the world, building cathedrals, palaces, painting frescoes that have lived forever.”

“Not cartoonists,” said I.

“Yes, sir, cartoonists!” cried Jim. “They put gargoyles on the cathedrals!”

“Room for everybody.”

“For everybody,” said Jim, shoving his lawnmower across my hardwood floor. “If we only knew how.”

“I could draw a lot of cartoons and trade a laugh for a pound of butter or a bottle of milk…” “I’d write a serial novel for the milkman,” ” I said, “A chapter a day, in exchange for the household milk supply.”

Editor’s Notes: This story was reprinted on January 20, 1940, as “Fair Exchange”.

  1. Greta Garbo was an actress and huge star in 1932. Here name was retained in the 1940 reprint. ↩︎
  2. Eddie Cantor was a comedian who was best known for film and a variety radio program at the time. In the 1940 reprint, he was replaced with Bing Crosby. ↩︎

All Aboard!

August 20, 1932

Last week’s comic had the same title. This was popular. Go back and search and this is the 6th comic published on this site so far with this title.

Beagles and Snowshoes

February 6, 1932.

These drawings accompanied a story by Robert Reade about rabbit hunting.

February 6, 1932.
February 6, 1932.

Human Again!

September 17, 1932

This illustrations went with a story by Fred Sloman, an writer who I know nothing about. Based on the story, he seems like a country person who works in the bush and came to Toronto for the Exhibition with his friend and their families, and their impressions of the big city, and how it has changed in three years since they last visited.

The “Live” Caller

September 17, 1932

A live duck would be tied down with a weight to attract other ducks to hunt. Here he shot his “bait”.

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