The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Tag: 1933 Page 1 of 2

You Said a Mouthful!

They were magnificent. The various colored bands met in a kind of herring bone design.
There will be the greatest boom you ever saw. False teeth factories will spring up all over the earth
The dentist’s girl fainted as Jim favored us with a terrific grin

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, May 6, 1933

“What the world needs,” said Jim Frise,”is a new plaything.”

“Mmmm,” said I.

“Prosperity,” went on Jim, “is based on fresh inventions. First, we had the sewing machine. Everybody bought a sewing machine. Just about the time the world was full up with sewing machines, along came the motor car.”

“Haven’t I heard this before?” I asked.

“Not this way,” said Jim. “Well, everybody was so busy making motor ears, and all the things that go with motor cars, such as highways and garages, that everybody had money to buy a motor car, and there we had the good old virtuous circle—“

“I thought circles were vicious,” said I.

“Circles are virtuous,” said Jim, “when they create work and so enable people to buy the thing they are making.”

“Go ahead,” said I.

“Then along came radio,” orated Jim. “So everybody started making radios to make the money to buy a radio. See?”

“And now what?”

“And now,” concluded Jim, “we haven’t a new idea to work on. That’s all that is the matter with the world. It isn’t economics or tariffs or breakdown of finance. It is just that we haven’t got something new to work on so that we can afford to buy it.”

“What do you suggest?”

“Well,” said Jim, “I’ll tell you one thing. I was up at my dentist’s the other day, and he said that in ten years’ time it will be the rule for everybody, at the age of about thirty, to come and have all their teeth out.”

“Ouch!” I said, being forty.

“After a certain age,” said Jim, “our teeth not only are no more use to us, they are an actual menace to us. Teeth were all very well a thousand years ago, when we used to gnaw bones. And then we got rid of our teeth naturally. We either broke them out gnawing bones, or we had them knocked out in battle. To-day we eat soft food, so that we never lose a tooth. And we have long-range warfare, in which nobody loses his teeth unless they go with his head as well. Why, with the old bar room gone, and law and order prevailing the way it does, we keep our teeth until they poison us.”

“Do they really?” I asked.

“Say,” said Jim, “the dentist took an X-ray of one of my teeth and he found an abscess as big as a marble. You know those pains I had in my back? Well, sir, one week after I had that tooth out, the pains in my back vanished. That darn tooth was simply poisoning me to death. That’s teeth for you. They are sneaky.”

“How does this affect the world situation?” I inquired.

The Next Big Prosperity

“Why,” cried Jim, “can’t you see that the next big prosperity in the world will be the false-teeth prosperity. If we can only persuade everybody that they are feeling that way because of their teeth, and that all they need is to have the treacherous teeth taken out and false teeth substituted, there will be the greatest boom you ever saw. False teeth factories will spring up all over the earth. Dentists’ offices will occupy all the empty skyscrapers. Long queues of people lined up in the streets outside the dentist’s offices, and fleets of trucks bearing tons of false teeth to the cities. Boy, what a spectacle!”

“How long will it last?” I asked.

“The world,” cried Jim, “is not yet false tooth conscious. When false tooth production gets going in a big way the world will become false tooth conscious, and the advertising world will be called into action. There will be breakfast teeth, luncheon teeth and dinner teeth. There will be informal teeth and teeth for formal wear. There will be teeth to wear golfing, and teeth to wear at the office, small, hard, business teeth.”

“Aw, Jim,” I complained.

“You don’t realize how big business is built,” said Jim. “Just as sure as fate, once we can convince people that their natural teeth are slowly killing them, and start them wearing false teeth as naturally as we have persuaded ourselves to have our hair cut, boy, there is no limit to the way it will build up into a colossal industry.”

“I have always thought that if I had false teeth,” I said, “I would use some imagination in the matter. I think I would fancy black and white teeth, alternately set, so that your smile looked like an old-fashioned tile fireplace.”

“The girls,” said Jim, “are coloring their finger nails to match their gowns. Think of being able to have red, pink, blue teeth, to match your finger nails and gowns! Or your car, a maroon car and a lovely ravishing mauve smile!”

“Maybe you think,” went on Jim, “that it would be a short-lived prosperity. But look at all the other things the motor industry started, the tire factories, the garages, big and small, all over the land, employing tens of thousands, the highways, the hot dog stands, the gas pumps, every one of them an industry in itself. Think of the boost the packing houses got when the motor car created the hot dog stand. Think of all the gadgets you can get for your car, the road maps, the trick carburetors, the paint, every littlest thing employing somebody and making money for somebody. It would be the same with the false teeth industry.”

“I think,” I said, “I’ll invest a little money in a patent rubber bag for carrying your spare teeth with you. For example, you start out from the house in your breakfast teeth. At the office, you change into your sharp-pointed, steel-gray teeth for business. At noon you get into your luncheon teeth, bright golden yellow, to match the noon sunlight. Then in the afternoon, your conference teeth, big, buck teeth, with hard, dominating look to them. A nice sanitary rubber pocket bag will be a universal necessity.”

“I’m going to patent a tasteless enamel, in handy packages,” said Jim, “so that you can paint your teeth any color on short notice. You can start out gloomy in the morning with black teeth, but by mid-day you can be cheered all up and have bright pink teeth, or the uppers pink and the lowers paddy green.”

“By George,” I said, “you’re not so nutty as I thought you were!”

“What’s more,” said Jim. “I have the courage of my convictions. I am prepared to have my teeth all out, and start the fashion of wearing fancy teeth.”

“It’s the kind of thing that appeals to me,” I admitted.

“Would you care to go into this with me?” asked Jim, earnestly. “We could start the ball rolling. We could start the world back on the road to prosperity. Twenty years from now, we would have our pictures in the rotogravure section. Mr. Frise and Mr. Clark, the two founders of the universal false teeth era, acting as judges at a dental beauty show at Palm Beach.”

“Ahhhh,” said I.

“How about it?” asked Jim. “Let’s have our teeth out for our health’s sake, and then get some fancy teeth to start the new fashion and start biting our way as pioneers of prosperity.”

“I owe my dentist about $17 at the moment.” I said.

“Listen,” cried Jim, “when we explain this idea to some wide-awake dentist, he’s going to see his chance to benefit the whole profession, and he will pull our teeth for nothing. He’ll make us up a half a dozen sets of fancy teeth. Don’t let the expense worry you.”

“Teeth pulling hurts,” I ventured.

“Aw, you wouldn’t mind suffering a little bit for the benefit of mankind,” exclaimed Jim. “Don’t be a piker. All great leaders have suffered.”

“I’ve been feeling little low lately,” I admitted. “Maybe it would benefit me to have some of them out.”

“All of them out!” said Jim. “All or nothing!”

So Jim made the arrangements. We went and saw a dentist that Jim used to go to school with up at Birdseye Center, and, like all dentists who have come up from the country, he has a sense of humor. He took off his white coat when we called and spread himself and us around on his big chair and a couch, and we quit for the day so as to devote ourselves to the scheme.

“I’m willing,” said the doctor, “to take as my share the extraction, treatment and manufacture of fancy teeth, on condition that you chaps will wear the teeth I make you. If you do not wear the teeth I make, then I shall make you ordinary plates and charge you the usual rates, plus the cost of extraction and treatment.”

“Oh, we’ll wear them,” said Jim. “We’re used to looking queer.”

Introducing a New Era

We tossed up to see who went first into the extraction chair, and Jim won. I have a coin I got in the war with two heads on it.

The doctor called in a pretty girl in a white smock and between the two of them they did Jim up in large bib and wheeled in a gas tank and then they asked me to sit outside. I heard various groans and grunts from inside the door, and low talking. I heard things clattering on the floor, which I supposed were the teeth flying in all directions. In few minutes, the girl beckoned me in and there was old Jimmie with a grin from ear to ear and thumb marks on his eyeballs and check bones, and looking just the least little bit battered.

“These will be healed in a few days,” said the doctor, “and in the meantime, I will get busy on the plates.”

“What thoo I eath for the firth few dayth?” asked Jimmie,

“Soft foods like soup, milk, orange juice,” said the doctor. “Now, Mr. Clark?”

“Aren’t you tired?” I asked. “Surely you don’t want to tackle me right away.”

“Sure, it’s nothing,” said the doctor. “I can pull ’em all day.”

“I think I am a little unnerved by the sight of Jim,” I said. “I wonder if it would do to-morrow, when I feel a little better. Anyway, I’ve got very brittle teeth. They always break off at the roots.”

“Lithen,” cried Jim, juicily, “get intho that kthchair!”

“One of us had got to be able to speak plainly,” I protested. “To-morrow will do, won’t it doctor?”

“Make it to-morrow if you feel a little squeamish. You are a little pale.”

So I escorted Jim back to the office, where he sat speechless and sunken jawed. Then I went in and arranged with the editor to be sent out of town to London and Strathroy on urgent business.

I was away four days, and when I got home, Jim was waiting for me to come up and try on his first set of new-era teeth.

“He said he made them very simple in design,” said Jim. “Just a modest patten, but it will do for a start and give some idea of what can be done by the emancipated dental profession.”

The doctor was eagerly awaiting us, and from pad of cotton wool he produced an upper and lower set of false teeth.

They were magnificent.

The uppers were red, white and blue, slanting obliquely from right to left. The lowers were green, black and yellow, slanting obliquely from left to right, so that when the teeth were set, the various colored bands met, in a kind of herring bone design, the black meeting a red, the yellow meeting a blue, and so on, with a most arresting, glittering, prismatic effect.

First Things Always Sensational

Jim inserted them tenderly into his still sore mouth.

Then he turned and favored us with terrific grin.

The dentist’s girl fainted and we put her on the couch.

“Magnificent!” I gasped.

“Wear those,” said the dentist, “and the job hasn’t cost you a cent.”

“They taste funny,” said Jim, speaking thickly.

“Take them along,” said the dentist, “and try them in from time to time until your mouth gets used to them.”

Jim studied himself in the mirror, grinning fiendishly, and I thought his hair turned a little whiter.

“All right, me boy,” he said to me: “how about getting into the chair now while we are here?”

“Jim,” I said, “I have been thinking about this. It seems to me a pretty scurvy trick to horn in on your idea. When this thing transforms the world, when it brings back prosperity, when the factories of the world are belching forth false teeth by the train load, what a shabby little man I will appear in the eyes of posterity when it is known that I stole your idea and tried to pose as co-emancipator of mankind.”

“I thought so,” said Jim.

“How do you mean?” I asked. “I feel that you should be allowed to take the full credit for this marvellous plan of yours. Let me come along in a few weeks, when the fashion gets going. I’ll be one of your first converts. But not until you have established full claim to the revolutionary idea.”

“I thought so,” repeated Jim, looking at me with his teeth bared. I bowed my head.

We got in the elevator.

The elevator girl caught a glimpse of Jim in the mirror and she dropped the steering wheel and the car stopped in mid-flight. The girl screamed and whirled the wheel.

“Here,” said Jim, taking the wheel and bringing the elevator to the ground floor.

We went out the lobby and Jim cast smiles in all directions at the people resting on the big sofas. Several of them passed out and others covered their eyes. Out on the street we stopped to wait for traffic to let us across and a man driving a truck looked at him. Jim opened his mouth and grinned. The man, never taking his eyes off Jim, stepped savagely on the gas and ran into another car. There was a traffic mix-up and Jim, stepping forward to assist the tangled drivers, smiled upon them, and two drivers got out of their seats by the far door and ran.

“Keep your mouth shut,” I rasped at Jim.

A policeman walked over to the melee and Jim grinned at him across the hoods of cars. The cop lifted his arm and shielded his eyes, staggering back out of the confusion.

“Let’s get away.” I said, seizing Jim’s arm.

We got into my car and headed for the office.

“The first motor car,” said Jim, “created a sensation. They had to have a man with red flag walking in front of all motor cars. The first radio, I can remember the excitement, the crowds of people gathered to listen to the squawks and squeaks. Everything new causes a sensation.”

“He made those teeth too loud,” I said. “If they only weren’t set on the bias. It is that herring bone pattern that causes the fright.”

“They will get used to it,” said Jim.

But I notice this morning that Jimmie is wearing an ordinary set of ivory colored teeth.

“Where are the fancy teeth?” I asked.

“I’m saving those for formal occasions,” replied Jim.


Editor’s Notes: The rotogravure section references the special sections of newspapers where photographs were printed. Rotogravure was the printing technique for photographs, and some newspapers (including the Star Weekly), produced them. They were primarily used to highlight photos of interest that did not have to be accompanied by a story, instead just a line or two would be used.

The elevator girl running the “steering wheel”, was the manual control, looking more like a crank to move the elevator up or down. Most elevators were run this way before World War Two, as the operator had to manually line up the floors and operate the doors.

When Abie’s “Irish” Rose

April 29, 1933

This illustration by Jim accompanied a story by Happy Meyers Bonnell, whom I have no information on. The story is of how she, her sister, and a friend tried to train the polo horse “Abie” to pull a cart. It plays on the stereotype that Irish people are “hot-blooded”. It is also a play on words of a popular play and movie, Abie’s Irish Rose.

Cannibal City

All big cities are cannibalistic, absorbing what were once independent settlements. Toronto, for instance, includes within its boundaries such almost forgotten places as Chester, Macaulay Town and Leslieville.

By Gregory Clark, April 8, 1933

A big city grows by eating villages.

What gives Toronto that fine big corporation is the fact that in its time It has been cannibal and has engulfed no fewer than fifteen villages.

Not suburbs, mind you. But distinct and separate villages, an hour’s drive away (by buggy) from the city, with their own post-offices, often with their own town halls like Parkdale and Yorkville. And always with their pride.

There is no doubt that Seaton Village in its time had as fine a contempt for Toronto as Hamilton has now, or Newmarket. There may have been people in Seaton Village who thought the day might come when the thriving settlement of Seaton Village might Annex the struggling town of Toronto.

But Seaton Village was swallowed by Toronto. Seaton Village has become the exact population centre of the city of Toronto. Seaton Village is the corner of Bloor and Bathurst.

You do not need a battered old history book or a Baedecker’s Guide to Toronto to find these old villages that have been consumed but not yet digested by the big city. There are streets in Toronto that are village streets. To the very life, there they stand, as they stood almost century ago, and you do not need to half-shut your eyes to feel the illusion. In Yorkville, which is near the corner of Bay and Davenport road; in Dover Court, which is at Bloor and Dovercourt; in Chester, which is the more modern name of a village called Doncaster which stood at the junction of Bloor and Danforth, you will find whole sections of modern streets with quaint small houses of frame and of plaster and some of them of ancient brick, which are for fact village streets. And though they be old they are pretty.

We even found, in our search for the villages Toronto has swallowed, a village pump.

A common pump and a well within the city limits of Toronto. True, it is in Moore Park and down ravine and up a hill. And true, also, that owing to the curious location of this house within the city limits of the proud city of Toronto, they cannot avail themselves of the city’s water supply and must use the old-fashioned well. But there it is, a pump within the city limits, make of it what you like. O Hamilton and O Newmarket.

It is said that two-thirds of the population of Toronto is made up of people born either in the country or in small villages and towns. And they say that every once in a while these people get homesick for the sight of a village. They grow tired of splendor. They yearn for the sights and the sounds of their youth. For the benefit of these, so that they may go on a Sunday for a walk in a village without ever leaving the city limits, we are writing down the location of these country places that even the clang and clatter of cities cannot make to vanish away.

Our Forgotten Villages

Macaulay Town was not an incorporated village. But it was separate and distinct from the village of York, and if it had stood out for its rights it might have bequeathed its name to Toronto. This might have been the noble city of Macaulay Town, twelfth largest city in America. For Macauley Town was out in the suburbs. It was the corner of King and Yonge streets.

When one night stands of actors came to Toronto, if they ever did, they made jokes about Macaulay Town and got a big hand from the Toronto audience sitting there beneath the shadowy candle-lit stage. But you will see no vestige of Macaulay Town at King and Yonge streets to-day. Heigh-ho! The last assessment on the northeast corner WAS $12,500 foot. A thousand dollars an inch, ladies and gents, for Macaulay Town. Which side of our faces shall we laugh on now?

Yorkville was a thriving village, as independent of Toronto as Woodbridge is today. It grew up around the Red Lion Inn, run by Daniel Tiers for the refreshment of farmers coming to Toronto (away down by the lake) with their wagons, after the long hills. Hog’s Holla Hill was bad enough. But the Blue Hill with its terrible clay – but of course the Blue Hill is no more. Toronto looked after that. It filled the valley up with Yonge street. The Blue Hill is gone. Only the memory of it remains in that pretty ravine below Roxborough street as you sail smoothly down Yonge.

Anyway, around the Red Lion grew up the village of Yorkville and you will see authentic village sections on Bellair, Cumberland, Berryman and Scollard streets. The town hall of Yorkville is the barracks of the York Rangers, right on Yonge street. Even on Yonge street itself, at No. 877, you will see a few remnants of the village that refused to come into Toronto’s maw even when Toronto crept up and surrounded it. But a typhoid epidemic broke out in Yorkville, so Yorkville surrendered.

Parkdale is not merely a district. It was a town. It had its town hall and its separate life. So had West Toronto. In their time these towns were as far away from Toronto as Newmarket and Pickering are to-day.

But it is the little villages that are entirely forgotten that we want to remember. Brockton, out at Dundas and Lansdowne; Leslieville, far out east, and Leslie street now remains; Chester, the new-fangled name for Doncaster, standing far, off from the city at Danforth and Broadview. There were no bridges in those days, and to live in Chester was the same as living in Brampton now.

Bracondale has so utterly vanished that it is almost a Forest Hill Village in the style of its residences to-day. But once upon a time Bracondale was a village on the Albion Road, and it had a race track to which sporty Toronto used to drive in buggies, tally-hos and democrats. It was on Davenport road west of Bathurst.

Deer Park, Davisville and Eglinton had their post offices, and it took a day for a letter to get there from the Toronto post-office. Seaton Village at Bathurst and Bloor, Dover Court at Dovercourt and Bloor, and if you want to see some sweet old houses drive along Northumberland street, Shanley and Salem and Delaware. The village of Dover Court was far out the heavy, sandy highway that a century later bears the name of Mr. Jos. Bloor, brewer, of Yorkville. He supplied the Red Lion.

Carlton was a village at St. Clair and the Weston road. And Davenport lay south of it a mile or two, on the road that wandered westward after it had done its original job of bringing Col. Wells, who fought at Waterloo, from Yonge street westward to his lovely estate on the hill, called Davenport. And long after they called the hill Wells, after him.

These are the villages that were born and lived and died, far out from the little city of Toronto. They had their founders, their first families, their good men and their bad men. Two and three generations of men and women called these villages their home before the slow spreading city brought strangers to swamp and destroy their littleness and their peace.

All they have left behind them are names, names of the villages and names of their worthy people. And a few little houses, gabled and plastered, with the look of old violins about them.

For you understand, Toronto was not intended to be a city. It was just to be a fort and a military supply depot.

Governor Simcoe intended London on the Thames to be the big city of the far west of Canada. Toronto was just to be a fork in the military highways; the main one from Montreal to Detroit, and a branch one from Toronto to Penetang.

But gentry like forts. Around forts gather not merely the officers and men of the fort, but the retired officers of the Duke of Wellington and the Napoleonic wars. And being gentry they like land. Not just a house and lot. But a thousand acres of land. They like to write home to England:

“I have acquired by grants from the Crown one thousand acres of land lying on a beautiful country northward of the fort at York. I have already found, amidst the bush, a hill which will some day make a delightful site for a mansion.”

And mansions started to sprout all over the wide and unexplored country that is now Bloor street and Spadina and Lansdowne and St. Clair. You can have no idea how astonished and indignant the old gentlemen of these fine country mansions would have been if they had been informed that within the time of their grandchildren all these handsome acres would be cut into twenty and thirty foot lots and houses packed on them like cells in a bee-hive, with commerce clattering through streets as hard as a ball room floor.

The Denisons were amongst the noblest of the gentry and their great house was called Dover Court. Far out in the country. A great plantation. Around them grew the village of Dover Court. Today the name remains.

Sherrif Jarvis, after smacking down the rebels, got a large piece of country far to the north and cut off from all possible contamination from the south by a great ravine. He called his fine house Rosedale. No village grew there. But his descendants decided, half a century ago, seeing the swelling city to the south, to subdivide the crown grant into exclusive country Villas for the better-class watchmakers and flour and feed dealers who amassed a little something. So they cut crooked streets and winding lanes and they came to call that suburban retreat Rosedale.

Every Old Family Wanted One

The lieutenant-governor had a summer home far out in the country. He called it Castle Frank.

The Baldwins were great property holders in the olden days and they had a house far north of the fort called Spadina, a pretty Indian word they got from the Indians who used to come and sit around the mansion’s door yard, smoking and thinking. The Baldwins were great people and they dreamed of a broad Avenue some day coming straight up from the lake and from the fort, an avenue lined with splendid trees, up which the military could come in their carriages.

The broad avenue came, but the mansion called Spadina is vanished. No military ride up to it in carriages from the fort. Elizabeth and Phoebe and Maria, Russell, Warren, Bedford are all Baldwin names.

Colonel Wells, who was bursar of King’s College, by Jove, had to have a road cut through the woods to his fine house on the ridge, the fine house called Davenport. The people of Yorkville built houses along that road and they called it Davenport road out of respect to the residence to which it led. Then it went on, as roads do, past Davenport, that big house on the hilltop. And after it went on, out into the country, they called it the Albion road, as it led in time to Albion township, where some fine farmers lived. But the village of Carlton grew up on the Albion road, far to the west (the stockyards are the odor of the sanctity of Carlton) and some people began calling the Albion road Carlton street, while those nearer Yorkville continued to call it the Davenport road. Names take time to digest, in cannibalism.

Colonel Walter O’Hara, one of the squires, served under Wellington and he gave the names Sorauren and Roncesvalles to roads around his country estate after battles in the Peninsular War.

To understand the building of the jig-saw puzzle which is the evolution of a city we must remember that, only a century ago, hundreds of cross roads in this part of Ontario had taverns on them. To-day these cross roads that you pass without a glance are merely four fence corners. Not a stone, not an old plank, remains of a once busy cross roads hamlet, consisting of a tavern, stables and a house or two. For in those days, with no railroads, the settlers had to haul their grain and their cattle or hogs down incredible gumbo roads to the markets along the lake shore. They needed many a resting place, many a place of refreshment for man and beast.

For the fifteen villages that have been the jig-saws out of which the puzzlers have constructed the city of Toronto, in the province of Ontario as a whole, a thousand hamlets have either vanished entirely or are almost nameless cross-road communities of twenty or thirty souls.

Those who were gentry already when they came here, a century ago, or those who had the wit and brains to hope to be gentry some day obtained very large land grants, not of hundred acres, but of a thousand or more acres. They employed men. These workers settled nearby. Immediately other humbler settlers in the neighborhood became in some degree dependent on these gentry who built large mansions, cleared large acreages and built roads out to the highways leading to York. They had visions of a civilization like the Old Country, in which great estates, with splendid houses, would grace the land from end to end. Probably not one of the pioneer landed gentry ever hoped that Toronto would be more than a small, thriving country town.

The railroads came and promptly dealt the death blow to thousands of cross road villages. The farmers no longer had to haul their produce two and three day journeys past a score of wayside taverns and resting places. The day the railroads started the great cleft or abyss between city and country was created.

Summerhill, Woodlawn, Oaklands, Rathnally, Deer Park were the names of big houses set amidst broad plantations in the new colony that was to have for its centre and heart the fort down by the lake; and the little town of Toronto to feed it supplies. It would have been a long journey in a stage conch to the big city of London, where Canada’s parliament buildings were to be. But these gentry of York preferred the sweet country life to raging cities. They preferred a thousand acres, with a lovely old house in the midst, and little villages of workers for their broad farms, conveniently hidden in some gully, out of sight of the big house. From the big houses the beautiful daughters could go walking through the country lanes and pay kindly visits to the farm laborers’ villages nearby. Each family wanted a village.

Fifteen of them got villages.

And the grandchildren of the happy villagers are lords and justices, princes of money and of land.

Out in the country, far from the madding crowd, these grandchildren of the villagers are buying spacious farms and building handsome houses, where they can enjoy the sweet country life.

And their lovely daughters can spin down in scarlet roadsters to the villages, their villages, Pickering, Newmarket, Oakville, to buy cigarettes and a new vanity dab.

And the great city, like water spreading, like oil dripping, slowly spreads and crawls outward, outward, grasping, encircling, engulfing.

Cannibal city.


Editor’s Notes: These sorts of articles are interesting to me, since we can now read an 88 year-old article that describes the previous 100 years. It shows what may have still existed at the time, and can make us reflect on all that existed then which is no more. And he is describing the pre-1998 Toronto too. The whole history of Toronto Amalgamation over the years can be found here. Jim provided the creepy illustration.

An Emergency Case

March 4, 1933

Spinach

We are capitalizing on the piety of the people. They associate whiskers with saints

For lunch we had an eggnog through a straw

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, January 14, 1933

“I see by the papers,” said Jim Frise, “that whiskers are coming in again.”

“It’s about time,” said I. “Nothing but whiskers will save the world.”

“What are you giving us?” snorted Jim.

“I’m telling you,” I repeated, “nothing but whiskers can save the world. Whiskers went out of style about forty years ago. And since then what have we had? Just a series of mistakes, disasters, wars and calamities. A lot of women have been running the world. The razor is Satan’s cleverest invention.”

“How could whiskers help us?” asked Jim.

“Whiskers,” I said, “are the symbols of masculine authority. The trouble with the world these days is that there is no authority. Nobody is boss. All faces are bared to the light of day and each of us can see what poor, weak faces all the rest of us have. Now, God provided us with whiskers to disguise our true character. A man hidden behind a bush of imposing red whiskers can get away with anything. You can’t see his expression. It is the same as a masked bandit. You are impressed by him. You can’t see his lips trembling with anxiety or nervousness. He seems to be a rock of purpose and courage.”

“Maybe you’re not so far wrong,” admitted Jimmie.

“Just look at the past ten years,” I went on. “Just a series of bare-faced disasters. International conferences where a lot of woman-faced politicians revealed their true intentions to one another, and each world conference more useless than the last. Whereas, if nobody but men with whiskers had been allowed to attend those conferences, all entrenched behind their barricades of fur, with nothing but their sharp and clever eyes peering out at one another, I bet you the world’s problems would have been solved by 1925.”

“By gosh,” said Jim, “when you come to think of it I am a lot more impressed by Dr. Chase’s remedies on account of the late Dr. Chase’s whiskers than I am by President Hoover’s problem solving, just because I look at Hoover’s face and say to myself, nobody with an expression like that could think of anything new.”

“You’ve got it,” said I.

“The past half a century,” said Jim, “has been a period of revelation. Revealing everything, even our faces. No secret of nature or science too sacred to be yanked out into the full view. What we need is a return to concealment. I tell you what! I’ll start growing whiskers if you will.”

“M’m,” said I. “It takes time to grow whiskers.”

“What of it?” demanded Jim.

“The worst part of whiskers is what you might call the period of incubation. One time I grew whiskers for a month on a camping trip. I know about whiskers. They don’t grow the same length at the same time. Here and there they are thicker than elsewhere. It makes you look as if you had leprosy or the mange.”

“What do you care for appearances?” cried Jim.

“Well,” said I, “to tell you the truth, my wife …”

“Ah, there you go!” accused Jim. “There’s the secret! It was the women who robbed us of our whiskers, like Delilah did to Samson. And they will die fighting before they will ever let us get back our old glory and power.”

Feeling a Sense of Power

“I tell you what we might do, Jimmie,” I suggested. “We might, experiment a little. We can get very good false whiskers at these masquerade costume places. I’ve seen them. They put them on so cleverly nowadays that they would fool even a detective.”

“You mean,” said Jim, “we could go around and see what effect whiskers would have in increasing our authority?”

“Precisely.”

“I’m on,” shouted Jim. “Black whiskers for me and red whiskers for you!”

And that was how it came about that you could have seen walking along King street the other morning two gentlemen who might have stepped right out of the eighteen-seventies. Jimmie’s whiskers were a sort of blue-black, suiting his lean and oriental cast of countenance. They were wide and full, concealing not only all his features but his eyes and nose but also his necktie and scarf. They entirely transformed that genial gentleman, whom all bums instinctively salute for a dime, into a sinister and menacing Riff chieftain.

My whiskers unfortunately were governed by the fact that I have hardly any neck, and they were therefore reddish, short and bushy, and no matter how the masquerade costume man tried to make me look romantic or imposing all he could make out of me was a sort of bad-tempered man peering spitefully out of a fox-colored hedge.

“We ought to have different overcoats,” I said to Jim. “Our friends will know us by our clothes.”

“I wouldn’t know you,” said Jim. “In fact, I don’t believe it is you now.”

So we went out on to King street and started walking bravely toward the business district.

The effects of our whiskers were instantaneous. Instead of the casual glances of passing strangers, every person we passed looked at us with a most respectful and even a slightly shocked expression.

“By gosh,” said Jim, as two girls went by with scared averted eyes after one swift, wide-eyed survey of us, “I feel a sense of power.”

“Maybe,” said I, “it is one of those instinctive feelings of respect our whiskers inspire. When all these people were little they were brought up on pictures of the twelve apostles, and they all had whiskers. We are capitalizing on the early piety of the public. They associate whiskers with saints.”

As we got into the business section dozens, scores, hundreds of people passed and every one of them gave us a definite, respectful and awakened glance. I know how Professor de Champ feels now.

“Look who’s coming!” hissed Jimmie.

It was our editor. He is a wide-eyed and observant man. He saw us forty feet away and fastened his eyes on us. We stared back at him. He did not remove his eyes from us until we passed, and never before nor ever again shall we achieve such a respectful expression in our editor’s gaze.

“Boy!” breathed Jim, as the ordeal was over. “Let’s do all our conferences with him in these whiskers.”

In the next block, which was near the office, we passed six different men and two girls who are known to us and who know us. They stared at us and drew delicately aside as we passed.

Our friend, Horses Ayers, runs a tobacco shop in between writing times as a horse authority. He knows us better than a brother. He knows us as only a man can know those who borrow money. We walked into his store.

“Cigarettes,” I commanded, in my ordinary voice, naming my usual brand. I handed him a two-dollar bill.

“Yes, sir,” said Horses, in soft and polite voice. He gave me the cigarettes and change, $1.75.

“That was a five-dollar bill I gave you,” I said sternly, making my red whiskers bristle.

“I BEG your pardon!” cried Horses, diving into the till and giving me three dollars more. “I BEG your pardon.”

“I beg your pardon,” said “Horses,” diving into the till and giving me three dollars more

“Granted!” said I, splendidly.

Jim and I stalked out of the store and got out of sight and had our first practise at laughing in whiskers. It is rather a terrible experience. There you are looking at your friend yelling haw, haw, haw, and it is like a corpse laughing.

“Listen,” groaned Jim, “anybody that can take three dollars off Horses Ayers..!”

“We could make a good living out of short-changing in whiskers,” said I.

“It just goes to show you,” said Jim. “Whiskers give you power.”

Symbols of Authority

“What now?” said I.

“Let’s go up to the city hall and complain about the tax rate,” said Jim.

There is no need to give you the details of our journey all over town. We were received with remarkable politeness by the mayor’s office. They were extremely sorry his worship was out, but they took down carefully all we had to say about the tax rate. We went up to see Premier Henry, but he was out of town. Anyway, they were most cordial. Our complaint to Premier Henry was about the color of this year’s automobile licenses. Yellow again! Could they not think of any colors but yellow and white? Had they, no imagination at all? In sad times like these did they not realize the psychological importance of brightness? Why did they not make the 1933 markers a bright cherry red?

They took it all down and said the matter would receive the attention of the minister.

“Of the cabinet council!” said Jimmie, sternly.

“Yes, sir, of the cabinet council,” replied the official, his hand trembling with the pencil.

We asked a policeman where there was a good speakeasy in the neighborhood. He was sorry he did not know. A real estate agent drove us all over Forest Hill village and showed us through the fifty-thousand-dollar houses.

“Haven’t I seen your picture?” asked the realtor of Jim. “Your face is very familiar.”

“Doubtless, doubtless,” said Jimmie.

When he asked us our names we informed him that our names did not matter. We had seen his goods and if we wanted any of them we would let him know. Hidden behind those whiskers, with the tell-tale mouth and the expressive lines of the face all concealed, it is astonishing how rude and bold you can be.

“How about lunch?” Jim asked about one thirty.

“Nothing doing,” said I. “It takes a lifetime to learn to eat through whiskers, and then very few of them ever learn to do it well.”

“But I don’t want to take these oft yet,” said Jim, thinking of the painful operation of removing the gum that attached the hair to us.

“Let’s have an eggnog through a straw,” said I. Which we did.

“Now,” said Jim, as the afternoon wore on and we could think of no further ways of proving the power of whiskers. “Let’s go home and see what happens.”

So we went home. I do not know the true facts about Jimmie’s case. He says they just laughed. His wife is supported by four daughters, which is, of course, an unfair disposition of the troops in any case.

“Oh, they just laughed,” said Jim.

When I let myself in the front door the maid screamed and ran into the kitchen.

My wife came into the hall and stood staring at me.

“Are you hurt?” she gasped.

“How do you like me in whiskers?” I asked.

“What on earth are you up to?” said my wife. “I thought that was some kind of a fancy bandage you have on your neck.”

“Whiskers,” said I. “How do I look in them?”

“You look as if you had the eczema,” laughed my Delilah.

“Aw, go easy,” I begged. “Don’t they sort of give me a look of importance?”

“Boys,” called my lady, “come and take a look at your daddy!”

My various boys trooped in and all at once the whole scene became a rowdy pandemonium, with everybody dancing around me and dragging me into the light.

“He looks like Duke!” shrieked my mother-in-law. Duke is an Airedale dog of our acquaintance.

“Wait! Wait!” roared the oldest boy. “I know who it is! It’s Paddy Lone!”

Paddy being a feeble-minded gentleman who sits on the side roads up in our part of Muskoka.

I strode upstairs and removed the whiskers.

All of which goes to prove that whiskers do give a man a power, an authority he does not enjoy in his bare-faced condition.

Everywhere except at home.


Editor’s Notes: Spinach” is slang for a beard. It seems to have been most in use in the intra-war years. Since the 1870s and 1880s were the high point of extravagant beards and moustaches, it would be older men who still sported them in 1933.

The “late Dr. Chase” is Dr. A.W. Chase, a 19th century “patent medicine” seller who sold home remedy recipes, under the title Dr. Chase’s Recipes; or, Information for Everybody. He would also sponsor popular almanacs that would still be sold by his company long after his death, and would be known in 1933. He had a very long beard.

Referring to Jim as a “Riff chieftain”, is in refence to the Rif War, a 1920s colonial war between the Spanish and French on one side, and Berber tribes of the Rif mountainous region of Morocco on the other.

Greg indicated that “I know how Professor de Champ feels”. He is referring to Charles Saint-Elme de Champ, founder of the Alliance Française de Toronto. He also had a magnificent beard.

George Stewart Henry was Premier of Ontario from 1930-1934.

Though 1933 Ontario licence plates were yellow, they did go with red in 1937.

Blank!

With one accusatory stare that swung around the three of us who remained, he fastened his dark and furious gaze on me

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, November 11, 1933

“One of my country friends,” said Jimmie Frise, “has invited us to go jack rabbit hunting.”

“They are getting very plentiful,” I said.

“And big!” cried Jimmie. “I’ve seen them myself over twelve pounds, and I hear they go up to eighteen pounds.”

“It is almost big game hunting,” I admitted. “But as time goes on, I suppose they will get them bigger and bigger. We may expect any day to hear of a thirty-pound jack rabbit.”

“Or fifty or even a hundred,” said Jim, “because you know the way nature goes kind of nutty over these transplanted creatures.”

“Look at the starlings,” I agreed.

“Yes,” said Jim, “and they took English trout down and put them in the streams of New Zealand, so that a little fish that might go as big as five pounds in its natural home develops in those New Zealand waters to twenty-five and thirty pounds.”

“Well, these jack rabbits are the European hare, transplanted to Canada,” I said.

“In time, we might look for hundred-pound jack rabbits,” said Jim.

“I would rather shoot a hundred-pound jack rabbit,” I announced, “than capture Quebec.”

“When can we go?” said Jim. “It’s only a few miles west of the city.”

“What are we doing this afternoon?” I asked.

So Jim lent me his spare shotgun and we went out twenty miles and down the third line and got to the farm of Jimmie’s friends just in time for noon dinner.

The farmer had invited a few friends in for dinner to go jack hunting after, so that, counting Jimmie and me, fifteen of us sat down to table.

The way we city sports go jack hunting, rushing out, poor lean hungry mortals, from the nerve-racked city to chase nerve-racked animals across the country fields, is not hunting at all.

Hunting in the time of King Henry the Eighth had some pomp and beauty about it. And there are still vestiges of the old art of hunting to be found in the country, even as near as twenty miles from Toronto.

Fifteen of us at table, with roast lamb and mint sauce, all the kinds of vegetables there are, including parsnips, and one kind of pie, but it was pumpkin. And they cut a pumpkin pie in four. And as fast as one pie plate was bared, the ladies rushed a new one from the kitchen.

And there was chocolate cake and mocha cake, and home-made pickles in large chunks with that lovely briney flavor, and we finished off with crab apples and thick cream and large quantities of dark brown tea with an aroma city tea never has.

Then we all leaned back in our chairs and put our feet up on the rungs of the chair next to us and looked at one another.

But after the table had been cleared and the ladies stood around looking comfortably at us all sagging back from the table with our eyelids heavy, and nobody even trying to be the life of the party, our host, with a sudden burst of determination, shoved back his chair and said:

“Well, how about a little jack rabbit hunting?”

And heavily, all fifteen of us rose to our feet, patted the collie dog and the two cats, thanked the ladies personally for such a meal, dawdled with our hats and coats, let everybody go ahead of us out the door, and finally, with a sense of great accomplishment, got out into the open air.

Mark you, this was noon dinner, BEFORE we went jack rabbit hunting.

Getting Bigger Every Year

I felt like Henry the Eighth when I waddled out with the rest of the gang into the barnyard where the cars were parked.

With our shotguns, we squeezed ourselves into cars and away we went down a couple of side roads to a vista of plowed fields interspersed with areas glimmering green with fall wheat.

“Ideal country,” explained the farmer neighbor in whose car I was riding. “These big jacks have no burrows. They just spend the winter out in the open, cuddling down in furrows of a plowed field, handy to a fall wheat field.”

“They grow big,” I remarked huskily.

“Huge,” said the farmer. “They are getting bigger every year, too. I saw my first jack about ten years ago. He was about six pounds. Nowadays, I see lots of twelve and fourteen pounders, and they are getting even bigger.”

“Soon be classed as dangerous game,” I remarked, sleepily.

“You have to be careful even now,” said the farmer. “If you shoot a big one, don’t just rush in and grab it as if it was a bunny. It can give you a nasty kick. And I suspect they bite too.”

“My, my,” said I, waking a little.

All too soon we reached our starting point. The cars all pulled on to the side of the country road, and we piled out. Ahead of us spread a lovely misty prospect of fenced fields, pastures, plowed areas with wood lots scattered away in the distance.

The farmer who was our host scattered us in a long line down the road, with about three of us to a field. And at a signal, we started to advance. Jimmie was in the next field to me.

The fences were nearly all wire, and each fence had a strand of barbed wire along the top. Long-legged men can step up to the middle strand of wire and swing their leg over the barbed with grace and ease. But a short-legged man finds it not only difficult but entirely outside the realm of grace. He has to climb to the top strand, balancing carefully, and then, by a series of uncertain and waggling movements, shift himself over the top barbed strand, and leaning far out, lower himself to the ground. With an eight-pound shotgun, it is quite a feat.

We had gone only three fences when I heard a sudden shot and, looking to the west, beheld Jimmie crouched forward, blazing ahead of him. Bounding away was a large fawn-colored animal about the size of a collie dog. On the third shot it rolled over. And the line of us halted while Jimmie picked it up, tied a strong cord to its four legs and hoisted it heavily over his shoulders.

There was much applause and congratulatory shouting.

“Fifteen pounds,” shouted Jimmie.

Slowing Up the Line

On we went. Far to the east and west, the long skirmish line extended, and in about every second field, we would jump a hare and away it would streak, amidst a bombardment of guns.

The fences were getting more numerous and my dinner continued to embarrass me, so that the line of march had to slow up to my speed. But the rabbits continued to fall. Jimmie got another and bigger one, and I was glad to see, that with the animals’ huge forms slung over his shoulders, it was Jimmie who was now slowing up the line. By the time we had gone a mile, and climbed about twenty fences, four others had jacks slung over their shoulders, and I was carrying my hunting coat over my arm.

It was this fact which caused me to miss a very large jack that leaped up not fifteen feet in front of me in a plowed field. It was heavy going. A plowed field is not meant for amateurs.

There was a splutter of dust, something huge and buff-colored slithered out almost under my feet. I had my gun over one shoulder and my coat hung over the other arm. Before I could come to any decision as to what to do, the jack rabbit had bounded ahead across the furrows and had vanished in the shrubbery along a fence.

And there I was standing, with gun over one shoulder and coat over my arm.

“What’s the idea!” they all shouted. “How about coming hunting with us some time? Did you expect it to hobble away?”

“It was about twenty pounds!” I shouted back. “I was observing it, that’s what I was doing.”

Two fields farther on, another got up ahead of me. I threw my coat down and swung my gun into action, but it appears the rabbit had turned to the left after it had gone a few yards, so that my shots, fired straight to the front, appeared particularly ineffective to my comrades.

Jimmie climbed a couple of fences and came over to me.

“Here,” he said, “let me carry your coat.”

“You’ve got two jacks to carry,” I said, but he took the coat anyway.

“Now,” said Jim, “get busy and knock the next one down.”

It was one of those misty autumn days. The sky was overcast. We came, after a couple of fields, to a wood lot, around the margins of which were scattered patches of small brush.

“Watch yourself along here,” said Jimmie, as he left me to take through the middle of the wood lot. “There’s like to be a twenty-pounder around here. If you see one, it will be a big one.”

Unencumbered by any coat, with my gun carried at the charge, I walked carefully up the side of the woodlot. In the distance were spread away my companions, most of them watching me, I felt sure. I lost that Henry the Eighth feeling.

Halfway along the edge of the wood lot, while I had almost given up my fear that there might be a jack rabbit hereabouts, there was suddenly a terrific crash in the bushes beside me.

There, plunging through the underbrush was a huge tawny shape, the biggest jack rabbit ever seen or imagined.

It would not be twenty pounds, or fifty pounds, or even a hundred pounds. It would be hundreds of pounds!

With terrific leaps and plunges, half hidden in the brush, this monstrous rabbit was fast vanishing, while from all sides, as I raised my gun, came wild shouts and cries.

“Bang!” I let go. “Bang!”

Both barrels, dead on.

And amidst a ghastly silence, the monster jack rabbit lay still. And from all across the fields came running my companions.

“Boys,” I cried triumphantly, rooted to the spot, the gun shaking in my hands, so great was the thrill of it all, “I have got the biggest dang-busted jack rabbit ever seen!”

As they arrived, they all plunged past me into the brush to view the world record monster I had slain.

I could hear mumbling and excited chatter.

I strode into the brush to stand over my kill.

There on the ground lay a year-old Jersey calf.

The farmers were all bent down over it. More of them came charging into our midst.

I began to feel like King Charles the First.

The calf was breathing heavily, its sleek fawn sides heaving. It rolled its eye back at me.

“Look out for Bill Bowser,” said somebody. And about ten of the boys got up hastily and vanished into the surrounding brush.

A large stranger in overalls appeared from nowhere and stood looking at the calf, and with one accusatory state that swung around the three of us who remained, he fastened his dark and furious gaze on me.

“That,” he said, “is my prize Jersey.”

“I thought,” I squeaked, “it was an extra large jack!”

At that moment, the little Jersey got up, hind end first and stood blinking its eyes.

“She ain’t hurt, Bill,” said one of my friends.

Bill Bowser stepped up and felt the calf all over very carefully.

“He missed her,” said my friend, as Jimmie came into view through the brush. “The sound of the gun scared her so bad she just fell down.”

Bill continued to feel carefully along the calf’s flanks and down her legs.

“From where I was,” said Bill Bowser darkly, “up near my barn there, it looked as if he was less than ten feet from her when he let fly both barrels.”

“Even so, he wouldn’t have hurt her,” said Jimmie. “He is shooting blanks.”

“Blanks!” we all said.

“Yes,” said Jim. “I lent him the gun and I had a box of blanks left over from a regatta we had this summer. I figured no man should have live shells on his first jack rabbit hunt.”

Bill Bowser turned his back and led the Jersey away.

“You fellows keep off my property from now on,” he yelled back at us. “Wasting time shooting jack rabbits, instead of earning your daily bread.”

And pie and cake and crab apples with cream, I thought.

Gradually the others came out of hiding in the brush and we formed line again after carefully skipping Bill Bowser’s fields.

“Jimmie,” I said, as we started skirmishing again, that blank cartridge business was pretty low.”

“The joke of it is,” said Jim, “they weren’t blank. I just said that to disarm the guy. You missed, that’s all!”

“I couldn’t have missed at that range!” I cried.

“Wait and see,” said Jim, moving away from me.

We jumped two more jacks out on the flanks. Then we jumped another between Jim and me.

“Take it!” shouted Jimmie.

As I swung the gun up, I thought of the long two-mile hike back to the cars. I thought of that great big fifteen or twenty-pound buff streak hung like a millstone around my neck. I thought how sad it would be to deprive this harmless fleeing creature of its life. And anyway the barrels were waving all over in front of my eyes.

“Bang!” went Jim’s gun.

Down went the jack.

So I don’t know whether I was shooting blanks or not.

Nobody Home!

June 3, 1933

This is another comic showing how city people can be inconsiderate of their country relatives. The complaint would be that they would show up unannounced expecting a “vacation”.

Off to Sea!

By Greg Clark, May 20, 1933

“Jimmie,” I said, “let’s just run away from it all!”

“All what?” asked Jim.

“All this trouble and work and being in debt,” said I. “Just let’s disappear.”

“How about our wives and children?” inquired Jim.

“They’d be all right,” I said. “In fact, they might be better off without us for a few years.”

“A few years?” cried Jim.

“Well, life is passing us by,” I explained. “Here we are, Jim, you and me, and except for a little war now and again, we have never been no place and we ain’t seen nothing. Look at Gordon Sinclair. Where is he now? In some incredible, land around the other side of the earth. In Zanzibar or the Heebie Jeebie Islands. He sees life. He’s living. But we will get old and die, and it will be Just the same as if we had never lived at all.”

“Life is pretty quiet for most people,” said Jim.

“Listen,” I cried. “Don’t let us be saps! We’ve done pretty well by everybody so far. We’ve been faithful husbands and model fathers. We’ll be forgiven if we just suddenly vanish.”

“Well,” admitted Jim, “they knew we were a little bit goofy all along.”

“They would say the strain told on us,” I said. “They’d be all right. Somebody would look after them.”

“Who?”

“Well, better people than us are on relief,” I said. “And while we are suffering on some tropical coral reef, like Sinclair is, our families will be going through a valuable and character-building experience here. What I am afraid of is, Jim, that not only are we missing life, but our families are being brought up soft.”

“H’m,” said Jim. “You should be selling stocks and bonds. You have a pious line.”

“Jimmie,” I demanded, rising, “do you plan to go on drawing Birdseye Centers till you die? Do you plan to keep adding Birdseye Centers to Birdseye Center until, added end to end, they will stretch from here to Indo-China? Why not go to Indo-China yourself?”

Jim turned pale. I had hit him where he lives. The only way he can get one Birdseye Center done is by pretending it is the last he will ever do.

Jim shoved back his chair and stood up. From his window in the tower of The Star building you can look right down on Toronto bay, and see all the docks, with the steamers and big tramp ships like toys lined up below you. The bay was shimmering blue. The ships were bright with red and white and black. I came and stood looking down on them with Jim.

Far beyond, to the blue and beckoning horizon, stretched the great lake.

Jim stood staring. As we watched in silence this gateway from the prison of life, a steamer backed slowly out from one of the wharves and turning its slim bow seaward, gathered speed and slowly, emotionally, sped away under our very noses.

“Jim,” I cried, huskily, “there she goes!”

“Day after day,” said Jim in a low voice, “the same old round. Down to the office. Sit at the desk. Wiggle the fingers. Push back the chair. Go back home. Steal a little joy with your family and kids. Then up in the morning. Back to the office. Wiggle the fingers.”

He whirled around and glared at me.

“Let’s go!” he rasped. “Let’s go, let’s start, and if we go we go! And if we don’t go, it will be a sign.”

“Wait a minute,” I cautioned him. “We ought to just straighten up our desks and settle a few –“

“No,” declared Jim, harshly, shoving his pens and paper and stuff aside and reaching for his hat. “We go right now!”

“Come on,” commanded Jim. “When we go, we go. We’ll go down there to the bay, and we’ll find the biggest tramp ship with steam up and we’ll grab jobs on her – deck hands, stewards, stokers, anything, and where she goes, we’ll go. No use dilly-dallying. When you decide to go nuts, go nuts. Come on.”

I followed him as he strode down the hall, into the elevators. My skin was prickling. You don’t just walk out of the dear old Star office just like that! There were hands I wanted to shake. Farewells to say. Grudges to forgive with a warm handclasp. Bygones to be let go by.

But Jim stood in front of me as the elevator plunged to the ground. He took my arm in the lobby and hustled me on to the street.

“Wo ought to have old clothes,” I protested as he scampered me along beside him.

“What for?” demanded Jim. “What do we want these clothes for any more?”

“I should have telephoned my house,” I said. “I’d like to hear my wife’s voice just once more. Or maybe my little girl’s. She plays in the room where the telephone is.”

That would kill it,” said Jim. “One sound and you’d change your mind. Listen, don’t even think about such things until we are outside the Gulf of St. Lawrence!”

“It’s pretty sudden,” I said weakly.

We hustled down Bay St. Along the waterfront we hastened, past all kinds of ships, passenger ships, small freighters, big freighters.

“Out here beyond the Terminal Warehouse,” said Jim, “there are some big freighters. I saw one with steam up from my window.”

We saw ahead a big black funnel sticking up above the wharf houses, and from it rose a thin stream of black smoke.

“Here we are,” said Jim tensely, “the ship of Fate.”

As we came even and started down her immense and rusty side, no one was visible. Not a living soul was to be seen. My spirits rose a little.

“Ship ahoy!” shouted Jim.

A man appeared on her deck. A huge, unshaven man in a black sweater, smoking a cigar.

“Hello,” he said.

“Are you taking any hands aboard?” asked Jim, in a strong, hearty, seafaring manner.

“What kind of hands?” asked the big man, spitting overside.

“Well, we’re a couple of landlubbers,” said Jim, “who are tired of being ashore and we want to go to sea. I’m asking you, man to man, have you got any place for a couple of men who don’t care how little money they make as long as they go to sea.”

“I might,” said the big fellow in crafty voice, “need a couple of stokers.”

A Stirring Moment

“Where are you bound?” asked Jim.

“All over the world,” said the unshaven one.

“South America?” asked Jim. “Valparaiso, Rio?”

“All over,” said the big fellow, distantly, “Suez, Port Said.”

“When do we sail?” asked Jim, advancing to the gang plank.

“Almost any time,” said the big fellow.

“Are we hired?”

“As stokers,” said the big fellow. “Git below.”

So Jim led and I followed up the gang plank, along a dusty and dirty deck and back to the rear end of the ship where there was a sort of cabin with ladder leading far down into stoke-hole in which a dim fire glowed.

“Leave your coats up here,” said the big fellow.

“Are you the captain?” I asked.

“Sure,” said the big man, tipping his soiled cap back.

As we removed our coats, a man in greasy overalls appeared out of another door.

“Whose these?” he demanded gruffly of the captain.

“A couple of new stokers,” said the captain. “Just signed on for the run to Venezuela and Valparaiso.”

The greasy man stared grimly at us and vanished.

“The chief engineer,” explained the captain.

He led us down the ladder. The place was full of soft coal, and on one side, in one of the four furnace doors, fire was glowing.

“Now,” said the captain, “I’m going to leave you birds in here all day. I’m going to close down the hatch so as not to have too much draft on that fire. But you two have got to keep that gauge there up to one hundred pounds, no more, no less.”

“Are we going to be alone at this?” asked Jim.

“The night watch is just gone off duty,” said the captain. “They will come on about six o’clock.”

“Where will we be by then?” asked Jim.

“Somewhere in the St. Lawrence,” said the captain.

“How about lunch?”

“I’ll bring it down to you myself,” said the captain.

He climbed the ladder.

“Git going,” he said to us, as he reached the top and slammed the iron doors shut.

It was romantic down in that black hold. The black coal. The red glow of fire. We took big shovels and heaved couple of scoops of coal on to the fire.

“Well,” said Jim, resting on his shovel, “we’re away.”

And at that instant we felt the throb of engines starting and the ship trembled all over.

It was stirring moment. Jim and I leaped to our shovel and heaved coal. The gauge had risen to 110.

“Easy there,” cried Jim in his new nautical manner. “Vast heaving. Hold her at a hundred, the captain said.”

So we sat down on hunks of coal and looked at each other as we felt the ship moving out from her berth. We could feel her slowly turning as she backed into Toronto Bay and swung her nose to the open world.

The engines slowly thumped and thudded, sometimes going fast, sometimes slow, and once they stopped altogether.

“Going through the eastern gap,” said Jim with a catch in his voice. “Taking it slow.”

Just a Little Homesick

Once more the engines started their steady thumping. Jim and I stood up in the dark and glowing coal hold and shook hands solemnly. We were at sea!

The gauge stood steady at 100.

Mile by mile the engines throbbed steadily. We could hear feet pounding along the decks above.

“Who says stoking coal is hard job?” Jim demanded. “Why, it’s just a lot of sailor’s bunk!”

An hour went by and all we had to shovel was about four scoops of coal each. In fact, we had to argue as to whose turn it was to shovel – we both wanted to do it.

It grew a little warm.

“I wish we could go up and get a breath of air,” said Jim.

He climbed the ladder and hammered on the iron doors with his shovel handle. The captain opened the door an inch or two and demanded what we wanted.

“There’s nothing much to do down here,” said Jim, “why can’t we go on deck turn about?”

“You’re at sea,” roared the captain. “Git below, there, you scum! You do your trick in the stoke-hole and then you’re off duty. But when you’re on, don’t come hollering out here!”

He clanged the doors. But we had caught a glimpse of the heavenly blue sky and moving clouds, and we could visualize that lovely lake slipping by, the ship with a bone in her teeth, as we sailors say, and a spanking wind on our stern.

Anyway, it was a long day. I had imagined toiling in the stoke-hole was a job for giants. But Jim and I, two softies from city jobs, held down that engine boiler at 100 pounds with the greatest ease. In fact, we had it over the 100 several times and never under.

At noon, the captain came to the door and handed down two hot dogs wrapped in paper.

“Your lunch,” he bellowed, and dropped them into our waiting hands.

Hot dogs! A funny food for sailors.

During our lunch, the engines slowed and stopped.

“Entering the Lachine Canal!” announced Jim.

“Not already?”

“Sure,” said Jim. “This is a fast ship we are on. I can tell by the smooth, even way she has.”

“Boy, I wish we were upstairs where we could see the sights. All that lovely Quebec shore, and the locks.”

“We’ll be off at six,” said Jim. “Six bells. And then we can watch the St. Lawrence shores slipping by in the twilight.”

All afternoon, as we passed through the Lachine Canal, the engines stopped and started, and our gauge stood steady at 100 pounds without any trouble at all to us. Jim had a little sleep about 3 p.m., and I stood to the fires alone. We heard thumpings and scrapings, and feet tramping on deck, as we worked our way slowly through the canals. And then we started about five o’clock on another long, even run of engines, while I visualized the broad St. Lawrence marching by.

Jim woke.

“We’ll soon be off duty,” said he. “Well, son, how do you feel about it all now?”

“Well, while you were asleep,” I said, “I got a little homesick, to tell you the truth. I got thinking.”

“Cut out thinking.”

It Gets Everybody

 “What will our wives do to-night when we don’t come home as usual?” I asked. “They will wait and wait and about nine o’clock to-night they will start telephoning the editors.

“Wait till the editor starts worrying about next week’s Birdseye Center,” said Jim gleefully.

“And then,” I said, perhaps a little plaintively, “they will notify the police. They will sit up until morning. I can just see my wife walking from room to room.”

“Aw, lay off,” said Jim.

“Yes,” I continued. “Walking from room to room, looking at each of my little children sleeping there so serenely, and she will be wondering what is to become of them. And as the weeks go by, and the months. And perhaps the years!”

I broke down slightly.

Jim slammed shovel of coal into the fire.

“Jimmie,” I said, “let’s telephone long distance from the first place we stop!”

“Don’t be a softy!” said Jim. “You started this. Now you are all for quitting. If you are hard boiled, you can go through with it. There are some things too sacred to fool with, and human liberty is one of them.”

“All right,” I said.

“We can telephone from Quebec City, maybe,” said Jim, suddenly sitting down.

So I sat down on another hunk of coal and we were sitting with our elbows on our knees and our chins on our hands when the doors above opened and the captain shouted down:

“All hands on deck!”

We scrambled up the ladder.

To the right was the Terminal Warehouse building.

Before us spread the homely, lovely, happy, panorama of the city of Toronto. Behind us shimmered Toronto Bay in the evening light.

Men were trooping off the gangplank ashore.

Jim and I stood speechless.

“All right, boys, beat it,” said the captain.

We moved in a daze toward the cabin door where our coats hung clean on nails.

“We didn’t sail?” Jim gasped.

“We’re just overhauling engines,” said the captain.

“Oh!”

“And I’m not the captain,” said he. “I’m the stoker. I want to thank you boys for a nice day sitting here in the sun. I got a good coat of tan. I’ll need it in another month or so when we sail.”

“Oh, mister,” I said, “thank you so much!”

“Don’t mention it,” said the stoker, who all of a sudden appeared a kind and gentle sort of man for all his unshaven chin and his black and dirty sweater.

“We really didn’t want to go to sea,” Jim explained. “We were just a little… sort of …”

“I know,” said the stoker. “Wanderlust. It gets everybody about this time of year. I usually get dozen or so like you each spring when we are overhauling engines. It gives me a nice rest and it helps the boys get over their troubles.”

We shook hands warmly and the stoker introduced us to the engineer, who thanked us and said we had kept him up a nice pressure all day while he was repairing engines.

We hustled down the gang plank and started back for the office to wash up before going home.

“We can tell our wives we were sent out on a story and we couldn’t get at a telephone,” I said as we headed for Bay St.

“Perhaps we’d better telephone from the office,” said Jim. “They don’t like to have dinner kept waiting.”


Editor’s Notes: In this early story, there is mention of Gordon Sinclair, a Toronto Star reporter who was very well known for his travels around the world in the 1930s and reporting from exotic locations.

The Lachine Canal runs through Montreal to bypass the Lachine rapids for access to the Great Lakes from the St. Lawrence River.

A Couple of Picks

By Greg Clark, February 18, 1933

“I,” said Jim Frise, “am a Technocrat.”

“A who?” said I.

 “From now on,” pursued Jimmie, “I am a Technocrat. After the Presbyterians went Union, I was a continuing Methodist. But now I am a Technocrat.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well,” said Jim, “a Technocrat is one who does not believe in efficiency. A Technocrat says, Aw, what’s the use of trying to be efficient! Let the machines do it!”

“Hear, hear,” I applauded.

“The trouble with the world to-day,” said Jim, rather grandly, “is that they have let a few efficiency tyrants in manufacturing and finance set a pace that the rest of us can’t follow. A man with a new idea in business is just as dangerous as a man with a bigger and better battle-axe used to be in the olden days.”

“Surely,” said I.

“Because, mind you,” went on Jim, “it isn’t the nature of man to be efficient. Biologically, he is just an easy-going man, lazy, wasteful, happy-go-lucky. And you might just as well try to grow wings on him as to make him efficient, the way the poor old world was trying to do the last thirty years. That’s the cause of things to-day. Not the war, not capitalism. Just the Pollyanna notion, on the part of few smart fellows that all of us could be stepped up to their speed.”

“Still,” said I, “the world is a much more efficient and comfortable place to-day than it was even thirty years ago.”

“Is that so?” scoffed Jimmie. “What would you say was the most efficient thing around us at the moment?”

“The water works system,” said I. “You turn a tap and water comes. Pure, safe, lovely water.”

Jim sat lost in thought. A smile played around his mouth. He slapped his leg.

“We could do it!” he cried.

“No, we couldn’t!” I retorted anxiously. “What?”

“It would be great test of efficiency,” said Jim. “It would show up the whole farce. It would make a laughing stock of everybody. We’ll show them how efficient they are!”

“Easy, now,” said I. “The last time the police said they wouldn’t stand any more of our nonsense.”

“Listen,” said Jim. “We will dress up in overalls. We will get a pick and shovel each. I know a fellow in the contracting business and I can borrow everything from him. We will get a couple of those red wooden barricades they use to protect workmen on the street.”

“Wait a minute,” I begged.

“Then we will go downtown, early in the morning, set up our barricades right on a busy street, and start to tear up the pavement.”

“Damage to public property,” I denounced it.

Showing Up Modern Efficiency

“There we’ll be,” said Jim, “a couple of efficiency experts, slowly and solemnly picking away, while traffic is held up and has to go around us, and everybody stopping to watch us, and cops coming along and standing looking at us, and then, after we’ve got a nice hole in the ground, we will pack up our tools and our barricades and walk oft and leave it!

“We wouldn’t dare,” said I.

“What a joke on modern efficiency!” cried Jim. “I’ve wanted to do that trick for years. Every time I see a gang of men working on the street, I wonder if it isn’t somebody who has thought of the joke ahead of me. Let’s do it.”

“I’m no good at hard manual labor,” I protested. “I get all trembly. My heart isn’t very good.”

“Hard labor!” snorted Jim. “Do you think we are going to work hard? No, sir, we’ll just stand inside our barriers and tap away and dig a nice little hole. Part of the joke will be that we will be true to nature and just barely work at all!”

“There isn’t a story in it,” said I.

“I’ll make the arrangements,” said Jim.

And he did. A couple of nights later, I was in Jim’s back yard where he had three red barriers two picks, two shovels and a crow bar stacked in a heap, and he presented me with a pair of well-worn overalls.

“Early in the morning, about six-thirty,” said Jim, “I’ll pick you up. Wear old boots and a sweater and these overalls. We can get set up downtown before the city wakes.”

“Oh, Jimmie,” I quavered.

But before dawn, on a cold and wintry morning, Jim honked before my house, and I, in an ill-fitting suit of overalls under my overcoat, sneaked out of the house and joined him. It is needless and unwise to say exactly where we set down our barricades and picks and shovels a little before 7 a.m., but you might have seen us, as you went about your affairs. Perhaps we caused you to halt your car in the nine o’clock traffic as you came to our barriers and had to go around us, toiling there. Maybe you were one of the hundreds who stopped and stood looking at us, with that far away, unseeing expression that you all use when you pause to watch men wielding tools.

Anyway, sharp at 8 a.m., just like regular, efficient toilers, Jim and I walked out of a lane on to an awakening city street, spit on our hands, tipped our old fishing caps back on our heads and started to work inside the barriers. I would like the authorities to know that I hit the pavement very lightly and tenderly. I admit that anything I did to damage public property was done with only half a will.

Jim took his pick and shovel and with small chops, outlined a hole in the frosty asphalt about two feet wide and six feet long. And then, with me holding the short crow bar, he pounded and swung, and presently we began peeling off the asphalt and revealing the concrete beneath.

“Put Some Beef Into It”

Traffic was swelling. More street cars dinged at us. More motor cars slowed up and halted and went around us. Scores of men and boys stopped and stood looking with vacant intensity at our rhythmic motions. A cop went strolling by and give us a fatherly glare.

Nine o’clock came with its dense traffic and its noise and booming, downtown bells, kind of ecstasy of the business day.

And, while my shoulders already ached, and Jimmie toiled easily and picturesquely, along came a big man in a derby hat, walked boldly inside our barriers, and tipping his hat back, which is the sure sign of worker with tools, he said:

“Good morning boys!”

“Good morning,” said we, pausing in our work.

“Sorry I wasn’t here earlier,” said the big man. “But I was held up at the time office. The superintendent wanted to see me.”

“Who are you?” asked Jimmie.

“I’m your boss,” said the big man. “My name is Hogan.”

And then we noticed that he had a very strange, wild expression in his eyes and that he had bare fists, each of which weighed about eight pounds.

“Er-uh!” said Jimmie, although I expected better of him.

“Get on with it,” said Mr. Hogan.

And such was the tone of his voice that we instantly got on with it, Jim with the pick and me with the shovel. Mr. Hogan stood back, leaning on the barriers, and watching traffic with a casual air, while I worked up close to Jimmie.

“What the heck?” I whispered to him.

“I guess,” said Jim in a low voice, “he is a works department boss. He’ll be going on to see some other job in a minute, and then we’ll scram. This is bad.”

“Efficiency,” I murmured, between grunts.

So we shoveled and picked, and the hole got about eight and a half inches deep into the flinty concrete, while Mr. Hogan stood back, observing us and smoking his pipe.

“Step into it,” said Mr. Hogan. “You’re slow, boys.”

So we stepped into it, hoping that by a demonstration of great efficiency we would inspire faith in Mr. Hogan and he would leave us to go and look at less trustworthy workmen.

My neck, shoulders, back and legs all ached. Jim had perspiration pouring off him. Somehow, as I looked at him, I thought of him being a Technocrat and I wanted to laugh. But out of the corner of my eye, I could feel Mr. Hogan watching us intently.

“What’s the matter with you birds?” asked Mr. Hogan. “Put some beef into it. How long do you think it’s going to take us to get down ten feet?”

Jim paused to spit on his hands, and resting his pick on his lap, he said, “What kind of job is this, Mr. Hogan? Are we going down to the water mains or the sewers or the gas pipes?”

“Shut your face,” said Mr. Hogan.

He took his hands out of his pockets and glared at us.

“I’ll Dust the Road With You”

So, though it was nearly nine-thirty, and we had already done twice as much work as we had intended to, we bowed to the job and tried to think of some excuse for escaping. I had just invented the idea that I would be suddenly stricken ill, and I would tell Mr. Hogan that I had not had many jobs lately and hadn’t been eating regularly and had suddenly taken a faint spell, when Mr. Hogan stepped forward and thrust me aside.

“Listen,” he said fiercely, “if you two birds can’t get this job done any quicker, I’m going to dust the road with you.”

He unbuttoned his coat.

“If you don’t like the way I work, I’ll quit,” I said, boldly.

“You quit to-night, not on the job,” retorted Mr. Hogan, giving me a shove.

“I feel sick,” I said.

“You’ll feel sicker,” shouted Mr. Hogan, and as a crowd was collecting, and Jim kept nudging me with his elbow, I grabbed my shovel and dug harder than ever. The hole was now ten inches deep. I caught Jim’s eye and gave him a look. Technocrat! Efficiency!

Ten o’clock boomed out on Big Ben. My whole body ached. My feet, my finger tips and forehead were swollen with blood.

“Get me out of this,” I rasped at Jim.

“Noon, gasped Jim back at me.

And then a large motor car scraped and squealed to stop beside us and out jumped a chauffeur, a man in uniform, two young men in sporty tweeds and a pretty girl.

“Father!” screamed the girl.

I whirled around and Mr. Hogan was trying to escape out of the barriers, but the chauffeur and the young men in tweeds headed him off and grabbed him by the arms. Mr. Hogan fought desperately, but when the pretty girl got around to him, he suddenly wilted and started to cry.

“Daddy,” cried the girl, “be good boy, now, and get in the car!”

“Jim,” I snarled in the excitement, “let’s beat it now!”

“Wait a minute,” said Jim, standing fast. “We’ll fill up this hole.”

“Let’s scram,” I begged.

“I’ve been doing some thinking while I was chopping there,” said Jim. “Hold a minute.”

Mr. Hogan was led around to the car by rough but loving hands, and bundled in. Then one of the young men turned back to Jim and me and held out a five-dollar bill.

“Sorry, boys,” he said, “but did he bother you much?”

“No, no,” we cried.

“You see,” explained the young man, “when father was young, he used to be a gang boss on this kind of work, and now and again, ever since the depression, he has bad spells, and he goes around and takes charge of all kinds of jobs.”

He thrust the five-dollar bill into my hand, got into the car and vanished.

“Jim,” I said, “let’s get out of here the we can.”

Jim Sees a Great Light

Jim was hastily shoveling sand and broken concrete back into the hole.

“Help me fill this in,” said Jim.

When we had it nice and full, too full, in fact, Jim started to remove the barriers.

“Take hold there, help me carry these into the lane. And we put the trestles where we could get them later with the car.

“Grab your tools,” said Jim. And we hoisted our picks and shovels and departed smartly for the parking lot where Jim’s car was left.

“Well,” said I, adjusting my pain-racked body on the soft cushions of the car, “some joke on efficiency!”

“I saw the light,” said Jim. “Just about a half hour after Mr. Hogan arrived, I saw a great light!”

“I saw some stars swimming before me,” I admitted. “But that was from bending. I haven’t bent for years.”

“A little hard work,” said Jim, “and you forget all your grouches. After half an hour, I couldn’t even remember what efficiency was. After an hour of it, I couldn’t recollect what a Technocrat was. An hour and quarter, and I was a continuing Methodist again. The secret of happiness,” said Jim, stepping on the starter, “is hard work. It even takes away your sense of humor. I don’t see anything funny in digging a hole in the street any more!”

“Technocracy says machines will relieve mankind of toil and give them leisure,” said I.

“Leisure to stand around and belly-ache,” said Jim. “I’m going to suggest to the city that they throw out all those automatic machines for digging up pavements.”

“They save money,” said I, shifting the position of my aching limbs.

“Save money,” said Jim, “that has to be paid out in relief.”

“Anyway,” said I, with anguish reaching into my overalls pocket, and pulling forth the five-dollar bill, “I make money out of your jokes on efficiency.”

“You make it!”

“He gave it to me. Good wages. Five bucks for two and a half hours’ work.”

“I split that,” said Jim, starting to drive out of the parking lot.

“No, the nearer the ground you are, the more efficient you are at reaching five-dollar bills,” I said. “You got the fun out of this adventure. I get the cash.”

But as he ran out of gas on the Lake Shore Road on the way home, a trick Jimmie has, I bought him gas with his half of the five.

He had to walk back the half mile to the nearest gas station and carry it, though, which goes to show that brains and personality have something to do with life besides efficiency.


Editor’s Notes: When Jim said that the Presbyterians went Union, he was referring to the creation of the United Church of Canada in 1925.

The Efficiency movement was very popular in early 20th century business and industry. It was discredited during the Great Depression (when this was written), as a way to hire less workers, at a time jobs were needed. The Technocracy movement was briefly popular during this time, which advocated replacing politicians and businesspeople with scientists and engineers who had the technical expertise to manage the economy.

When Greg mentions “Big Ben”, he is referring to the clock tower on the Toronto City Hall of the time.

The Plowing Match?

October 21, 1933

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