The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Tag: 1933 Page 1 of 2

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

Give Us Enough Rope

By Greg Clark, October 21, 1933

“Jimmie,” I said, “a fellow named MacQuorquodale has offered me an old one-ton truck if I’ll remove it from his premises.”

“What would you want it for?” asked Jim Frise.

“I want a dog van for my hounds,” I explained. “I’ve got so many now, I can’t carry them all in my car. So I’ll got this old truck and build a kind of chicken coop on it with slats. And it will be perfect for carrying the hounds out to the country.”

“Well, what about it?” asked Jim.

“I thought maybe you would help me tow it home,” I said. “You drive me up in your car and tow me home in the truck.”

“‘It isn’t working, eh?”

“No, Mr. MacQuorquodale said it would take ten or fifteen dollars to fix it up,” I explained.

“Sure, any time,” said Jim.

So the other evening Jim picked me up and drove me to North Toronto to Mr. MacQuorquodale’s coal and wood yard for the old truck.

Mr. MacQuorquodale was sitting smoking in the little shack which is his head office when we arrived in Jimmie’s big car shortly before seven o’clock.

“There she is, boys,” he said, as we got out in the wood yard. “Not much to look at, but there is stuff in her.”

“It’s very kind of you,” I assured him.

“Don’t mention it, I’ll be glad to see the last of her,” said Mr. MacQuorquodale.

“Now,” I said, “as to tying her on to Jim’s car.”

“You brought a towing rope?” asked Mr. MacQuorquodale.

“Jimmie, I suppose you have a towing rope amongst your things in a big car like this?” I asked.

“No,” said Jim, as matter of fact, I haven’t.”

“Have you got a bit of rope around here I could borrow?” I asked Mr. MacQuorquodale. “Or some hay wire or anything?”

Mr. MacQuorquodale looked at me narrowly.

“I haven’t,” he said, “and it’s a funny thing a man coming to tow away a car wouldn’t bring a tow rope. Do you know anything about towing a car?”

“What there is to know,” I answered. “It was just an oversight. Is there a corner store nearby and I can skin down and get a clothesline.”

“You can’t tow a car with a clothesline,” objected Mr. MacQuorquodale, with growing impatience. I felt any minute he might change his mind about giving me the old truck. So often the kind of men who give things away are short tempered.

“I was thinking of doubling the clothesline,” I explained.

A Little Job of Towing

Mr. MacQuorquodale used bad language as he turned away and went into the shed behind his head office. He came back lugging an enormous armful of heavy half-inch rope in huge coils, half of it trailing on the ground.

“Now lookit,” he said, throwing down the rope. “Here’s a good rope off a block and tackle. I’ve had it for years and it cost a lot of money. It’s just the right length for a block and tackle, and I can’t give you any piece off it either. So I’ll just let you, borrow the whole rope, because I’m dead anxious to get rid of that eyesore out of my woodyard.”

“What will we do with the rest of it?” I asked.

“Just use one end,” shouted Mr. MacQuorquodale, “and fasten that old cooking pot of a truck on to your limousine, and coil what is left over of it inside the truck. Then you can return me the rope in the morning. Is that fair enough?”

“You’re very kind,” I said. “Very kind indeed.”

“All right, now,” said he, loudly. “Fasten her up and get out because I want to go to a meeting.”

Jim and I picked up the heap of rope. It weighed half a ton.

“My goodness, how much rope is there here?” I asked.

“There’s three hundred and fifty feet,” said Mr. MacQuorquodale. “Every inch of it in good shape, too.”

Jim and I worked out one end of the rope and passed it a couple of times around the axle of Jimmie’s car and then we tied a few good hitches on the front parts of the old truck. We wove it under the front axle and around a couple of shackles and then up around the radiator. We made a good strong job out of it, and then tied a knot.

We used about eighteen feet of the rope. The rest of it we picked up, still attached to the part we were using, and laid it, in a big coil, in the back of the one-ton truck.

“How’s that for length?” I asked Jimmie and Mr. MacQuorquodale. The truck was tied about seven feet back of Jim’s car.

“All right, all right.” said Mr. MacQuorquodale, walking to the gate of the wood yard to see us off.

“Does she steer pretty good?” I asked, mounting into the cab of the truck.

“Fine,” said he.

“Brakes any good?”

“They’ll need attention,” said he. “She’s been lying here two winters.”

“O.K., Jimmie,” I called.

We jerked and rolled nicely out of the wood yard and I managed a polite and grateful wave to Mr. MacQuorquodale in the gateway. Jim, looking back through the window, asked with his eyebrows if all was well, and I waved him a highball.

And we rolled pleasantly along the street toward Yonge.

The Smell Stayed With Us

Driving a towed car, you have to be wide awake all the time. You can’t take your eyes off the road for a minute to look at anything interesting in passing. The slightest check in the driver leading and you are liable to crash into his rear. I explain this, in case you ever have to drive a towed car. I would like you to realize that what happened was in no way due to my carelessness or any want of watchfulness on my part.

Jim is one of those fellows who never like to drive on the main streets. Personally, I prefer them. Perhaps you can’t skip along just as lively, but you at least don’t have that awful sensation at side streets that you experience when you are trying to take short cuts.

Once or twice, as we sailed along across Yonge St. and wended our way by all sorts of side streets I had never seen before, we came to cross streets with cars coming up or down them, and there was lots of time for Jim to get across, but my heart was in my mouth, because how did those drivers know that I was being towed? They might expect me to stop or slow down. And of course I couldn’t.

I will admit that a couple of times I tramped on the brakes almost instinctively as we came to cross streets with cars approaching. It is just a sort of habit. I realized it would do no good. But your feet get trained to act automatically.

It may have been these times when I half tramped the brakes that caused the knot in the rope to weaken. I admit that. In fact, I don’t attempt to assess the blame in any sense whatsoever. And the way Jimmie tells this story is his own affair.

Anyway, about six blocks west of Yonge St. I noticed the first smell of smoke. I tried to pretend at first that it was just some factory we were passing. But the smell stayed with us and grew more distinct. It was a very queer smell, like oil burning, and yet like cloth burning. A very nasty and suspicious odor.

As I say, I did not have much time to look around. Jim was hauling away at a merry clip, turning corners and passing parked cars on some of those narrower residential streets, and I needed all my attention on Jim’s car in front.

Suddenly I saw smoke swirling up through the floor boards of the truck and past the windows.

I know now that it was only the old and dried brake bands that were smoldering. But how was I to know it might not be the engine, the transmission or even the car itself?

I suddenly saw myself being dragged along at a high rate of speed in a flaming truck, unable to jump, unable to escape from my blazing prison, my screams unheard by Jimmie until it was too late. I could almost smell my flesh burning.

What would you do under these circumstances? What I did was to stamp on the silly, worthless brakes and to sway the car from side to side as much as I dared in an effort to attract Jimmie’s attention and slow him down until I could let go the steering wheel to signal him to stop.

Jimmie explains now that he felt the tugging and swaying but he thought it was just my mode of driving anyway.

What happened was that instead of attracting Jim’s attention, my tactics merely loosened the knot that Jimmie and I tied on the front of the truck. The knot slipped.

And the rope began paying out!

My horror, as I saw Jim drawing away from me, it is impossible to impart. Foot by foot, I beheld Jimmie pulling ahead. For a joyous instant, I thought the rope had broken. But by sitting up I could see the rope still between us. and I realized the full horror of the situation. The coiled rope in the back of my truck was paying out slowly, but still had enough purchase in the knot we had tied to keep me trolling merrily along behind him.

I tried to think. I tried to hope the rope would all pay out and then I would be free. I wondered how long it would take.

Jim drew thirty, forty, fifty feet ahead. Seventy-five, a hundred.

He turned a corner and disappeared!

Still drawn relentlessly on, I came to the corner and made the turn, practically certain that a car would meet me at the crossing with disastrous results. But in the dusk of the evening nothing was in sight except Jimmie bowling easily along, now a good hundred fifty feet ahead of me.

Could I dare leave the wheel and cut the rope? Did I even have my pen knife with me? Should jump and let everything go hang, and perhaps endanger lives as that truck dangled helplessly and wildly after Jimmie? Anyway, it was going too fast for me to jump.

Jim turned around another corner and vanished.

Suddenly I felt the truck slow down. The rope slackened and I saw it drop to the ground.

“Hurray, Jimmie had stopped! ! !

I was about to leap from the truck and rush ahead around the corner to meet Jimmie when I saw the rope tighten with jerk, and at a breakneck speed I was yanked down the street and around the corner, just in time to see Jimmie’s car vanish around another corner to the right.

What happened was this. Jim turned the corner and looked back to see if I was still with him.

I had disappeared. He instantly stopped. He thought the rope had broken. But he recalled feeling the jerking and yanking I had been giving him, so he presumed I was just up the street a way, so rather than make a turn in a narrow street, he decided to run around the block and come on me from behind and perhaps push me out of traffic’s way until we could tie a new hold.

He could, of course, see no rope when he looked back. It was lying on the ground, slack.

So there he was speeding around the block in search of me, and I coming after him, smoking like a Viking funeral ship, and steering around corners at a pace I shall remember in my nightmares all the rest of my life.

Fortunately, at a little before seven o’clock in a quiet residential neighborhood, there is not much traffic and few children are out on a dampish October evening.

I think I recall a half dozen pedestrians standing open mouthed as the strange procession went three times around those two blocks while Jimmie hunted for me. He knew I could not be far off. He had seen me and felt me not two minutes before he lost me.

One motorist came up the street and saw the rope in time to slow down, and there he parked as I came bouncing by in the old truck, a great cloud of smoke billowing after me, drawn by some unseen power.

I was not, as Jimmie now claims, unconscious. I was just resigned to my fate. I was fully conscious. If I had been unconscious, I am sure I would have thought nothing of steering the truck into a tree or something to end the farce.

Jimmie made the rounds of one more block, in great mystification, before he decided to drive back the route he had come from Mr. MacQuorquodale’s. He felt he would surely meet up with me somewhere along that route, although by this time he was beginning to fear I had gone straight up in the air, truck and all.

So he ceased circling blocks, and steered a straightaway course which at last pulled me into full view, three hundred feet behind him. Because when the rope came to its end, there was a knot on it which effectively tightened the knot Jimmie and I had tied. In fact, it took Mr. MacQuorquodale himself to untie it. That is, if did untie it. Because we left the truck rope back in Mr. MacQuorquodale’s for him to find in the morning.

Jim, as he drove straightaway along the way we had come, kept watching down all side streets for me, because he felt I was somewhere around.

And out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of something coming behind him, something erratic, and belching smoke, and generally acting in a most untrafficky manner.

He slowed. Took a long, keen look.

And then backed up to me.

I was on a lawn, lying down resting.

“Goodness,” he said.

“Jimmie,” I said weakly, from the ground, “don’t try to explain!”

He got a pail of water from one of the houses and poured it on the brake bands. We coiled the rope back into the truck, and this time Jim pushed me in the truck ahead of him.

We went back and left it in Mr. MacQuorquodale’s wood yard.

“Because,” I pointed out, “it is hardly the type of thing I wanted for a dog van anyway.”

Plymouth Ad – 8/26/33

August 26, 1933

It was not too common for Jim to use his characters in advertising, but this example from 1933 is even made to look like a “Birdseye Center” comic, with “Advertisement” labelled in the small print. Jim also identifies his association with the Toronto Star Weekly, presumably since this advertisement could be used in other publications, and possibly for copyright purposes.

Caps All

By Greg Clark, July 22, 1933

“What irritates me,” I said to Jim Frise, as we bowled along the Lake Shore boulevard, “are these birds that drive in the middle of the road when they want to go at half speed.”

“Yeah,” said Jim, swerving around one of them. And the guys that want to make a right-hand turn and swing away out to the left, the way you used to turn a buggy around a corner.”

“Or worse,” said I, “the guy that wants to make left hand turn and comes up on your right.”

We overtook another of those centre-of-the-road drivers, and as we swerved away to pass him, I leaned out the window and snarled:

“Get over to the side if you don’t want to travel!”

“Aw, hire a hall!” yelled the offender.

“There’s no use trying to correct them,” said Jim.

“It’s a pity the police don’t devote some of their time to correcting the manners of drivers,” I said, instead of always testing brakes and watching speeders.”

“You mean police school of deportment?” asked Jim. “If you are caught committing any of these small breaches of driving etiquette, you get an invitation, on blue paper, to attend a course of lectures on manners at the police station.”

“That would be swell,” I said. “It would be more sensible than a fine. It seems to me the worst manners belong to those who can best afford to pay a fine. But you threaten people with a series of ten lectures by a policeman on hour a night, and by golly, they would watch their step.”

We overtook another driver who was so busy staring sideways at the bathing beauties along Sunnyside, that he was driving all over the road.

“Hey,” I shouted, as we passed him, “watch what you’re doing!”

“Thoop!” he retorted, which is one way of spelling a raspberry.

“You see?” commented Jim. “It’s no use trying to talk to them. You’ve got to have a uniform on. A police helmet, and you would be a great teacher.

“That gives me an idea,” I said, “Let’s get a couple of bank messenger caps, or chauffeur’s caps, and put them on and see what difference it makes when we check up some of these birds.”

“No chance,” said Jimmie. “That is what they call impersonating a police officer.”

“We won’t impersonate police,” I said. “We’ll organize a new association. We’ll call it the Society for the Improvement of Motoring Manners. Then we’ll appoint you and me as field workers. We will wear blue caps.”

“I don’t like those caps,” said Jim.

“Aw, why not? Bank messengers, Salvation Army, chauffeurs, anybody can wear a blue cap with a patent leather peak on it. We won’t wear uniforms. We’ll just wear the caps with these clothes we have on now. And let’s see what difference it makes when we check people up while wearing an official-looking cap.”

“I don’t mind other people’s manners nearly as much as you do,” said Jim, slamming on his brakes, swerving to the right to miss a lady who had suddenly decided to go back downtown. Jim turned and smiled sweet forgiveness to her, as she sat in her car flustered and red in the face. “We all make mistakes some time.”

They All Fall For a Cap

However, when I called around after supper at Jim’s with two handsome blue caps which I borrowed from a friend who is in the St. John Ambulance Corps, Jimmie weakened. They did not quite fit, but they certainly gave us a very official look from the neck up.

We went into Jim’s garden and sat down and held a meeting. We organized the Society for the Improvement of Motoring Manners. We elected Mayor Stewart as president, Charlie Conacher as vice-president, and then we, too, in full assembly met, appointed each other as field workers of the association, without pay.

And then we put on our caps and went out for the first demonstration.

Along Bloor St., we found several cars double parked. If you don’t know what double-parked means, it simply means that instead of going and finding a parking place and walking back to the store you wish to visit, you just stop in front of the store you want to visit, even when there is a complete line of cars parked there already. It is a swell idea. It just jams everything. It simply restores the old dirt road to Toronto.

We adjusted our caps to a severe angle and pulled alongside the offender. That is, we triple parked.

“Do you park like this often?” I asked with a cold glitter in my eye.

The handy little house husband at the wheel of the double parked car turned a sickly color.

“Sorry,” he said, grabbing for the starter with his foot.

“Make it snappy and don’t do it again,” I said quietly and coldly.

“Yes, sir,” said the obedient man.

We hope his wife was in a temper when they found each other.

As we coasted along Bloor, in the evening, a car suddenly leaped out from the kerb, and we had to take a wild swerve on to the car track to avoid colliding.

We backed up to it. A sulky looking youth was at the wheel.

“Do you do that often?” I asked, leaning out of the car window.

“Sorry,” he said. “I forgot to look.”

“Drive ahead of us,” I commanded. “Let’s see how you drive a car.”

The sulky youth, flushed and angry, having met, apparently for the first time, somebody he could not snarl at like his parents, pulled ahead of us and we followed him two blocks, while he drove at about fifteen miles an hour and with the utmost care. The back of his head fairly glowed with bad temper as he publicly shamed himself. Probably he never had driven so slow in all his life.

“Jim,” I said, “isn’t this great!”

“They sure fall for cap,” he said. “Now I know why bank messengers wear these caps. No wonder we pay the draft when they call with it.”

“Let’s get down to Sunnyside or out on a highway somewhere,” I said. “Let’s get some action.”

We went down for half an hour along the board walk. We checked up people for going slow, for cutting in, for trying to park in too small an opening

“Get along there,” I commanded to the pokey drivers. “If you want to see the sights, park and get out of the traffic. This is a highway.”

“Yes, sir,” the flustered drivers would exclaim. And their wives would all sit up and glare indignantly.

“Do You Do That Often?”

Over the Humber and out the highway we drove. Fat men seem to be the worst offenders. It appears that being fat, they enjoy the sense of speed and easy movement that can be obtained out of a car. Deprived by nature of enjoying easy and graceful movement, they take a great kick out of floating gracefully about in a car. With a line of cars coming toward us, and barely three car lengths to spare, a fast car shot in around us, and we could see a fat neck surmounted by head the size of a three for a quarter grapefruit.

“After him!” I hissed.

We overtook him, ran alongside and I motioned him to the side of the road.

Do you do that often?” I asked, sweetly and coldly.

“Sorry,” said the fat man breathlessly. “I have a very important engagement. My old mother … in fact, my wife, she’s you know… very urgent, officer, and I never did it before …”

“Don’t let that happen again,” I said levelly.

We drove on. And the fat man in the graceful ear followed us at respectful distance. We turned up a side road, and as far as we could see him, he held to twenty miles an hour.

“I wish some of these young sizzle sisters would come by in a sport roadster, with about nine in it. We’d make them empty half of them out, go home and call back for them.”

“Don’t let’s get into trouble,” said Jim. “This is my car.”

It was growing dusk. Ahead of us up the side road a car was parked. As we approached, we slowed down. The parked car suddenly leaped to life and ran ahead of us, with two young heads showing through the rear window, sitting very far apart and very prim.

All the way up that side road we approached cars, and every car started to move the minute our caps were visible in the dusk.

We swung home via the Dundas highway, correcting a few cutters-in, admonishing a few fast boys, and all you need to do to slow them down, when you are wearing a bank messenger’s cap, is to stare blankly at them.

Just near the cemetery at the Humber, a large car cut in past us, had to slow down suddenly, and there was a great squealing of brakes.

“Run alongside,” I ordered.

Jim ran us alongside, and as we drew level, with my eyes more on our running board than on the occupants of the car, I shouted, “Pull over to the side, there!”

The car pulled over to the side.

“What the devil do you mean,” I shouted, getting out of the car and walking back toward the other car, “by cutting in like that?

The mistake I made was getting out of the car. Sitting down with just my head showing, with that cap on, I may have looked official. But I lack an official body.

“Tell the Sergeant About It”

“Who are you?” asked the driver of the car. I looked sharply at him. And I beheld the tanned face, the cold blue eyes and the heavy shoulders of a gentleman of undoubted Irish extraction who was undoubtedly, by the cold look in his eye, a policeman in plain clothes.

“I,” I said, removing my cap to wipe my perspiring brow, and not putting it on again, “am the field officer of the Society for the Improvement of Motoring Manners.”

“The what?” said the large man.

“The S.I.M.M.,” I said. “Er- a new society. Maybe you haven’t heard of it?”

“I never have,” said the big fellow. His companion was also a six-footer, and also very cold about the eye.

Jim honked his horn for me to come on.

“Well,” I said, “it was just that cutting in.”

“Just minute,” said the big fellow “What are you supposed to be doing? Going around checking people up?”

“The purpose of our society is to correct certain bad manners in driving,” I said. “Of course cutting in is not one of the worst ones.”

“I tell you what you do,” said the big fellow. “You drive right down now to Number Nine police station. Know where it is? Well, you drive down there. We’ll follow in a few minutes. You tell the sergeant there about your new society, will you?”

I saw him look at Jim’s license number, making a mental note.

“Yes, sir,” said I, returning to Jim’s car and throwing my cap in on the back seat.

We drove to Number Nine station.

We sat there on a bench for about twenty minutes.

“What is it you want?” the desk man asked us, after ignoring us for all that time.

“Two detectives told us to report here,” I explained.

“What for?”

“I don’t know. He just said to report here.”

“What were you doing?”

“Just driving along,” I said. “Just driving. Out on the highway.”

“Who were the detectives?” they asked.

“Two detectives,” I said. “In a large brown car.”

“Yes, sir. Large brown car.”

“We have no detectives in brown car,” said the sergeant. “I guess somebody was pulling your leg.”

“Can we go?” I asked.

“There is nothing to stop you,” said the sergeant.

We went.

We went around by my friend, the St John Ambulance Corps man, and restored him his caps.

“After all,” said Jimmie, swinging wide around a corner and nearly colliding with car coming toward us on its own side of the pavement, “I’d rather belong to a Society for the Prevention of Societies.”

“Apparently,” said I, “those two big birds do. The dirty, impersonators!”


Editor’s Notes: Driver’s licences were only required in Ontario in 1927, six years before this story was written. Though there are always people who drive poorly, it must have been worse at a time when there was little instruction or requirements, and cars were only widespread for about 20 years. Even Jim comments on how some people turn corners like they were driving a horse and buggy.

William James Stewart was the mayor of Toronto at the time, and Charlie Conacher was a professional hockey player with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Where Goes the Bride?

By Greg Clark, May 20, 1933

So we telegraphed our correspondent in Niagara Falls and asked him:

“When Niagara Falls’ people get married, where do they go on their honeymoon?”

And he replied:

“Toronto.”

Which is a slick answer.

But what we were finding out was, where do people go on honeymoons? June brides have all, by this time, made up the minds where they are going for the Big Event. All over the north half of the world, in China and Norway, the Eskimo gals in Baffin Land and the southern belles in N’Yawlins, wherever the sweet scented month of June breathes upon a young and beautiful, the girls are choosing their love trysts. They are selecting their dream places. Privileged, pampered as they never have been before and never will be again, they are planning their love flights.

What places do they choose?

Where are the dream cities of youth?

So we made a methodical search of the Dominion of Canada and by wire, inquired of society editresses, shipping houses, and prominent authorities in all sections of the country to discover in what direction the doves fly in June.

When a Halifax or St. John bride plans her honeymoon, she has Boston in her eye. If they have a car, and what bride would marry a young man without car, they drive through the Annapolis Valley, while the scent and memory of apple blossoms lingers in the air, and down through the New England states to Boston. It is the dream of all Bluenose and Herring Choker brides to see Boston.

The Montreal bride has no such simple choice as the Toronto or Ontario bride. There is no Niagara Falls tradition in Quebec. The Quebec province and Montreal bride has three choices. If she is French-Canadian, she visits Quebec City. Marriage to the French-Canadian girl is even a more religious affair than her funeral. To see the great cathedrals, to sanctify the great event by participating, ever so humbly, in the gorgeous service of some great church is the French-Canadian bride’s notion of a honeymoon.

The English in Quebec prefer in June to take their honeymoon at some sequestered lodge in the Laurentians, or else go to New York. But the English of Quebec are a more sporting people than most Canadians. They like their mountains, their snow, skis, fishing rods, birch bark canoes.

New York city is just a short run from Montreal. And thousands of Montreal couples start their married life, either by motoring or training to New York city, and enshrine their earliest memories of married life amidst the topless towers and pagan splendors of the big, cold, excited, chiselling city.

As for Toronto brides and grooms, hundreds of them motor in June to New York, stopping by the way at delectable resorts in the Adirondacks. Hundreds of others motor to Montreal.

And, of course, there is Niagara Falls.

The epic part Niagara Falls plays and has played in the love story of Ontario goes back a full century.

In an old book, “The Backwoods of Canada,” by Mrs. Traill, published in 1832, 100 years ago, there is a passing reference to the sight of young brides and grooms, all dressed up in their Sunday best, proceeding to Niagara Falls on their honeymoon.

It is not too much to say that the number of honeymooners who have visited Niagara Falls in the past century would reach the millions. And still they go. And from long distances they came.

Our correspondent in Winnipeg made a careful search of a large number of weddings for the past year, and to his own astonishment, he found that Niagara Falls, Victoria and Minneapolis led the field in the choice of those brides who could afford to travel. Winnipeg has few short-haul honeymoon trips, except in summer, and then it is the Lake of the Woods, which is to Winnipeg what Timagami is to Toronto.

“They take tents,” said the Winnipeg correspondent. “and drive in their cars to the wilderness. One well-known Winnipeg couple became stranded in an Icelandic boarding house and had to sleep on the living room floor on hard cured bearskin rug. The girl was gray-haired by morning and the bridegroom wanted to fight all the 30-odd Icelanders in the place, with the womenfolk enjoying the situation enormously.”

But, like Montreal, the Winnipeg brides do not turn their thoughts to effete cities but to the pleasant forest. If honeymoon environment has anything to do with the race, then Ontario may become a race of counter jumpers but good old Montreal and Winnipeg will still give us a nation of warriors who can live happy in tented camps.

The Calgary and Edmonton brides are mountain climbers, whether they will or no. Because Banff and Jasper Park stand right there, a little flight away, looming dimly beyond the foothills, and brides who would go farther than these two celestial mountain paradises are thought to be unnatural.

The Vancouver bride dreams of California. What Now York is to the Toronto, North Bay or Ottawa bride, Los Angeles is to the British Columbia girl. She can drive to California in June, down rosy highways through beautiful country, thousand miles, which after all is no farther than a honeymoon trip by car to Quebec City and the Gaspe coast. And if they cannot afford to go to California, then the Pacific brides have Puget Sound, voyages by ship to Seattle amidst the grandeur of mountainous fjords.

While rich brides of Montreal go to Europe, rich brides of Vancouver go for a honeymoon trip to Japan. A dozen or more make that ocean trip every June.

Wherever they go, it is a dream place, for the nature of a girl is to dream of her marriage as translating her to not only a new and fabulous world, but to a new and fabulous life.

We know of brides who are won by the lover who can talk most eloquently about the places they will go on their honeymoon. And we know of one bride who was won by that method, and when the time came for the honeymoon, the groom was in uniform and was ordered away to the war. And when he came home from the war, they were three years married, and their honeymoon was spent on the front veranda, just sitting and holding hands, and wondering what they would do for a living.

About 50 per cent of all weddings are followed by no honeymoon at all.

“We spent our honeymoon,” said business girl who precariously married a young man whose job might drop from under him any time,” by attending the 9 o’clock show at the Tivoli!”

In the days of whalebone stays and celluloid collars, when the railways were in their glory, the honeymoon was an institution that was for rich and poor alike.

The country couples came to the city for a few days. The city couples went to Niagara Falls or to another city. One week for the poor and two weeks for the rich was the size of a honeymoon.

To-day the motor car has taken all ceremony out of life. And there is a growing suspicion that a great many bridegrooms combine a business trip with their honeymoon. When you read that the young couple have gone on a motor trip to the Gaspe coast, the chances are that there have been a lot of stops along the way, with one of those brief-cases mixed up with the honeymoon baggage.

And as likely as not, the bride, rather than sit alone in the car, has gone along with the salesman. And a bride is as good as a lot of sales talk in most business.

That is what womenkind has paid for emancipation. She has traded her dower right to a honeymoon for the right to help her husband drive the car on a business trip.


Editor’s Note: Jim illustrated this news story. When Greg references the bride and groom who spent their honeymoon three years after being married on the veranda after he returned from war, he is writing about himself and his wife Helen.

Wotta Fish!

April 29, 1933

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