Tag: 1934 Page 1 of 2
By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, August 25, 1934.
“Look at you,” declared Jimmie Frise. “Almost at the end of the summer and you haven’t a speck of color.”
“I got a good tan in July,” I said.
“It’s all gone now,” stated Jim. “You look as pallid as a garment worker. You have no more color than a sheep. The summer is the time we Canadians should soak up the sun and warmth to carry us over the long and blood-chilling winter.”
“I don’t tan,” I said. “I burn.”
“Everybody tans,” corrected Jim. “Some of us have to take it in easy stages, but we tan. Tan is the sign that you have done your duty, as a good Canadian, in so far as storing up energy against the winter. Like bees storing up honey.”
“I guess I have it inside of me,” I suggested.
“Look at those kids now,” said Jim.
Two girls and two boys were walking along King St. ahead of us. The boys were both shock-headed blonds and the girls were sleek brunettes. The boys were bare-armed, bare-necked and they were tanned a gorgeous orange shade. The girls, their backs and shoulders bared by print dresses, were a deep chocolate.
“There,” cried Jimmie, “are true Canadians. They will survive the winter. They will be full of pep next March when the last fatal blizzards blow.”
“Jimmie,” I accused, “I believe you are a nudist at heart.”
“No, just a semi-nudist,” said Jim. “I’m going down to Sunnyside this afternoon and lie in the sun. I think you should come along.”
“It’s a pretty hot day.”
“This late-season sun doesn’t burn,” assured Jim. “It has lost its sting. The sun is already sloping far down to the south, only we don’t realize it. The weather is still hot because all the heat the sun has been baking and pouring on to the earth this last two months keeps things warm. The earth has been doing what we should do. It has been soaking up the sun. But there is no kick in the sun now.”
“I’ll come,” I said, “but I think I’ll bring a parasol.”
Jimmie looked at me with contempt.
“You don’t deserve to be a Canadian,” he snorted. “You act like a soft Californian or a Jamaican. To be a Canadian you have got to be able to take it, hot or cold.”
“We will have bathing suits?” I inquired.
“Trunks only,” said Jim. “I’m going to wear my trunks and a sweat-shirt in the car until I get there.”
After lunch Jimmie picked me up at the house. He was handsome in bright blue trunks and a yellow sweat-shirt. I wore my striped dressing gown over my regular bathing suit. I beckoned him to come into the side drive to pick me up. With my family, away. I don’t want the neighbors seeing me traipsing around in a striped bath robe. Sunnyside is all right. You are lost in the picture there. But summer bachelors have to use discretion.
Spectacle of Happiness
There were thousands spread along the Sunnyside shore. Bathing, beach bathing, sun bathing, in clots and mobs and family parties, along the bright shore and the blue water, they made a spectacle of color and health and happiness.
“Now,” said Jimmie, coasting along the highway, “it is illegal for us semi-nudists to parade in half a bathing suit, so we just have to hunt along the beach until we see an unfrequented spot. There are hundreds of our fellow sun-worshippers there on the beach, lying flat and out of sight. The only time the police pick you up is when you walk around in full view.”
“It would look fine in the papers,” I said, “in the police court news-‘journalists pinched for nudism.’ I can’t take any chances, Jim. Not with my family. Let’s drive out to the country somewhere and lie down in the middle of a ten-acre field with a hollow in it.”
“The beach is the proper place,” said Jim. “What would the cows think of seeing us in their field? And, anyway, it would be a far worse crime to be semi-nude in the middle of a ten-acre field in the country than semi-nude on a city beach. You don’t understand the rural mind.”
“I’ll only tan my legs and arms,” I said. “And if the cops see you I’ll pretend I don’t know you.”
Jim parked the car. Down even with us on Sunnyside were scattered bushes and long grass and far away to the east and well off toward the west were bright crawling hordes of sun-worshippers, but in front of us were just a few scattered couples.
“This is ideal,” said Jimmie. “You can’t see a person lying down here.”
We walked down the terraces and out across the grassy and sandy approaches. The few scattered couples paid no attention to us. I observed that several of them were exposing gleaming backs to the bright rays of the sun. The water was glassy. It was a gorgeous afternoon.
Jim chose a nice spot, well distant from any others, and we lay down on the sand. Jim skillfully peeled off his yellow sweatshirt and I removed my dressing gown and spread it for a quilt to lie on.
“Ah,” we said. And it was lovely We chatted lazily about this and that. About the ancient peoples who worshipped the sun as the giver of life. About nudism.
“The Germans started this nudism,” said Jimmie. “I think it was symbolical. They went nude to show the world how thoroughly they had been stripped by the war and the pence.”
“No,” I said, “there has always been nudism. It is a deep instinct in us. It harks back to the ages when we all went around nude. But of course in those days we wore a heavy hide of fur all over us. But whenever a race gets weak and worn out nature starts stirring in their blood old hankerings and ancient instincts. The Germans after the war were weak and defeated, and to bring them back to life old Mother Nature waked in them the idea of running about naked. That explains all this stuff about the old gods and Hitler trying to bring back the ancient German virtues. It is like a sick man trying to show how strong and active he is. He sticks out his chest and talks in big deep voice, but he doesn’t fool anybody.”
“Mmmmmm,” said Jimmie. His eyes were closed. The sun was like a flood. I looked discreetly about and as far as the eye could see was just blue water and yellow sand and couples and groups of delightful people minding their own business. And not a cop was in sight anywhere. So I slipped off the shoulder straps of my bathing suit and peeled it politely down to my waist. I lay back.
“Jimmie,” I said.
“Mmmmmm,” said Jimmie.
So I just lay there and drowsed and I fell asleep.
Jimmie waked me.
“Turn over,” said Jim. “You are done on the front. Now for your back.”
I turned over. It felt cool and dry.
“What time is it?” I asked.
“About three-thirty,” thought Jimmie. “Isn’t this swell?”
“It ought to be part of the public health laws of Ontario,” I declared, “to spend so many hours a week taking the sun.”
So we talked on our stomachs for a while about ants and desert sand and grass and so forth. We thought of this good old earth with all the vasty face of it covered by these countless, uncountable grains of sand, of all the blades of grass standing pointing at the sun in a sort of Hitler salute…
“Mmmmmm,” said Jimmie, who has been tired of Hitler for four months.
I lay watching the ants and the small bugs and the fatheaded baby grasshoppers working out their silly destiny at the end of my nose, and the great sun fired its millions of life-giving electrons or whatever it is into my back and down my legs. I could feel them tingling rather tightly.
“Jimmie,” I said quietly, “did you say the August sun had no power?”
“Mmmm,” said Jim, his head on his arms.
So I fell asleep, too, and I dreamed I was Gordon Sinclair snapping my fingers under the noses of tigers in Samarkand and climbing mountains in Asia on the southern slopes, where a sun like a furnace fried my back.
Jimmie woke me.
“Wah-ho,” l yawned. “Ouch!”
“It must be six o’clock,” said Jim.
The sun was far over Hamilton, London and points west.
I started to roll over.
“Jimmie,” I said.
“Now, now,” said he. “I’m still on my face myself. Take it easy.”
My back felt as if it was all bound up with court plaster. It had a cold feeling, As I lay there a kind of shiver ran across.it. I tried to straighten my arms to lift my upper part clear of the sand. But my elbows would not bend.
“Jimmie, my elbows won’t bend!”
“Not as bad as my knees not bending,” said Jim. “Fifft! Woe is me!”
I turned my head, but something was holding the back of my neck. I moved one leg, but the skin on the back of my knee had stiffened and I had a feeling it would not stretch, like skin, but would crack, like glass.
I could see Jim. He was a bright fiery red.
“You look boiled,” I gasped.
“I would sooner look boiled than fried,” said he, looking me over.
I found that my middle section, covered by my bathing suit, still had a joint in it. Somehow, despite terrible lacerating sand and cruel spikey grass, I got turned over and sat up, with arms, legs and neck held carefully rigid.
“Boy,” I yelled, and even my voice felt crackly, “boy, come over here!”
A little boy was passing and came over.
“Please go and get somebody,” I said, “a policeman or a fireman or a doctor. Get somebody and bring them here.”
“We’ll Pay For the Ambulance”
The little boy scampered away down the beach, and in a little while he returned with a great black-armed, black-chested, black-faced life-guard in a red bathing suit and a white hat.
“Well, gents,” said the great mahogany life-guard.
“We’re fried,” I said. “My friend there can’t turn over and I don’t bend anywhere but in the middle.”
“Where’s your car?” asked the life-guard.
“Level with us up there,” groaned Jimmie.
“I’ll carry you up,” said he. “Once you get home you can go to bed and call the doctor.”
I didn’t like the thought of the great walnut hands gripping my skin. I felt as if large slithers of skin would slip off me wherever he touched me.
“Perhaps,” I said, “if you could send for an ambulance with a stretcher it would be better. We’ll pay for the ambulance.”
“Just take it easy,” said the life-guard. walking muscularly and bow-leggedly and very chocolately away.
In a few minutes he came back with two planks and a wheel-barrow.
“Easy,” I begged. Jim and I were not speaking. In fact we hadn’t spoken at all.
The life-guard laid the planks down beside me, rolled us on to the planks, skidded us on to the wheel-barrow and tenderly trundled us across the rolling sands and through the harsh grass and over all the ants and grasshoppers, up the terrace to our car.
“This happens all the time,” he said gently. He lifted Jim in his immense black arms and I noted the contrasts between his color and Jim’s. It was different.
He laid me on the back seat.
“Now,” he said, “you’ve got a good beginning. Let this lay a couple of days and then, if you don’t blister or peel, come on down for another dose. In about two weeks you’ll have a nice color.”
“You’ve very kind,” Jimmie and I whispered.
Jim, like a jointed doll, slowly turned on the switch, stepped on the starter.
“I’m glad,” said Jim, “there aren’t many turns on the road home.”
“Think of to-morrow,” I said hollowly.
“What’s the matter with the police force in Toronto!” demanded Jimmie, angrily, not moving his neck. “Why don’t they get on the job and stop this semi-nude stuff on our beaches!”
“You’re right,” I said.
Editor’s Notes: It was still illegal in 1934 for men to go topless in public. That is why when you see old pictures of people in bathing suits, the men have an undershirt part to it. Also at this point in history, Adolf Hitler had only recently became Chancellor of Germany and started consolidating his power. He would be a prominent news figure, and curiosity, but not likely considered a real threat yet.
Samarkand is a city in southeastern Uzbekistan and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Central Asia. The writer Gordon Sinclair was famous during this time for his stories of travels to exotic locations.
Court plaster, is just another name for an adhesive bandage.
By Greg Clark, June 16, 1934
“What part,” asked Jimmie Frise, “are you taking in the coming elections?”
“I’m afraid,” I admitted, “I am not much at politics. Politics seem to have died out in this generation. I’ve heard how my grandfather, Willie Greig, used to sit on his horse at the crossroads near his farm at Pickering far into the winter night, shouting politics with his neighbor, also on a horse.”
“Why on a horse?” asked Jim.
“So they couldn’t fight,” I explained. “It was agreed between them never to talk politics when on foot.”
“What party was your grandfather?” asked Jim.
“I couldn’t say,” I said.
“There you are!” cried Jimmie. “You know all about the intensity of your grandfather’s political feeling. But you don’t know whether he was a Grit of a Tory.
“I think a man like you,” Jim went on, “would go well in politics. You have a soft, kind look. People would trust you.”
“I’ve often thought of entering public life,” I said, “that is, if I ever got ahead a little at the bank and had the time to spare.”
“I bet you could make a great political speech,” went on Jim.
“Ahem,” I said. “I talk easily.”
“What this country needs,” pursued Jim, “are politicians who will look out for the common man. Men without big ideas of themselves. Men who will serve with courage and devotion the interests of the mass of the people. You are such a man.”
“Nonsense, Jimmie,” I cried. “You are the man! You have described yourself to a tee. Modest, honest and always interested in the common man. You should go into politics.”
“But I can’t talk,” explained Jimmie. “I may have sound ideas, but I can’t express them. Whereas, however unsound your ideas, your expression of them is excellent.”
“We might,” I surmised, “enter public life together: you to provide the character and ideas and I to express them. We could get seats beside each other in parliament and you could mumble at me while I stood up and made fiery orations. My prompter.”
“I wonder,” asked Jim, “if it is too late to get in on this election? It seems to me you can’t run unless you are entered.”
“We could start by attending some meetings,” I suggested, and if we make a hit with the people they will insist on us running.”
Country Meetings are Best
“I wonder where there are any meetings?” mused Jim.
“Why, there are meetings all over, in schools and dance halls, everywhere,” I said.
“I have a hunch,” said Jim, “that we ought not to start at city meetings at all. Let’s go out to country meetings. We would show up better there. After all, we are more country than city, aren’t we?”
“That’s a wonderful suggestion,” I assured him. “Our sympathies are with the country people. Country folk can detect real worth in people far more quickly than city people. City people are dumb. They are so used to being bamboozled, hornswoggled and high-pressured they can’t tell the genuine article when they do see it.”
“Then we can drive out to the country after supper and attend a meeting in one of the little towns near Toronto,” decided Jim. “Country meetings are quieter and not so well organized as city meetings. You will be able to find a spot to get to your feet easier in a nice, slow-going country meeting than at one of these cut-and-dried city meetings. Have you some good, high-sounding words to pull? Do you need to rehearse your speech? What will you talk on?”
“I always trust to the inspiration of the moment,” I stated.
“Oh, by the way,” asked Jim, “which party are we supporting?”
“We can decide that when we attend the meeting,” I explained. “There is no use us deciding which side we are on until we can tell, from the tone of the meeting, which side the meeting is on. Then we horn in on the right side. It’s to get elected we are doing this, isn’t it?”
“Quite right,” agreed Jim. “Well, you had better read the papers to-day and get a line on the main arguments on both sides.”
“I’ll prepare two sets of notes,” I suggested. “One for either side.”
“Good,” said Jim. “Work in a lot of phrases like ‘This is a time of great change, of transmutation of all our former values into modern terms,’ or ‘Fellow citizens, at such a time as this, dare we, dare we tamper with those institutions which the generations of our fathers have, by their life and their death, proven to be sound?’ You know the stuff.”
“I get it,” I said, anxious to be off to read the newspapers and get organized.
“Get some facts and figures, too,” said Jim. “Some large millions, and look up a lot of words that mean embezzlement and fraud, without actually saying it.”
“How’s this: derelict in their sacred duty?” I tried.
“That’s it!” cried Jimmie. “Derelict. Swell.”
I spent part of the day reading the papers, and it was easy, by putting some of them on the table and the others on the bureau, to separate the political situation very simply and work up a collection of notes on both sides. I got some beautiful words. Machine. Chaotic. Quack medicines. Invasion of public rights. And so forth.
The Spirit of Battle
Jimmie called for me right after supper. “James,” I said, because if we went on the one side, we might have to favor titles, and Sir “Jimmie” is obviously out of the question, “James, which direction should we go?”
“Any direction,” said Jim, “until we come to a public meeting in the country. And the country is full of them.”
It looked like a thunderstorm as we left the city in a northwesterly direction. And we were scarcely in the country before one of those real old thunderstorms was in progress, in which every bolt of lightning seems to be directed, if not directly at you, at least to the lone elm tree which you are just passing.
“I hope we don’t have too far to go,” I said.
“Just nicely in the country,” said Jim.
We passed through a couple of little villages, semi-suburban, where a few people loitered in the shelter of gas stations and gloom prevailed all otherwise.
We passed farmhouses in connection with which it was impossible to imagine politics.
“What do you suppose the political complexion of this neighborhood would be?” I asked.
“You never can tell in the country,” explained Jimmie. “In the city, it does not matter to you what politics your neighbors entertain, or the people across the road. But out in the country, there are so many factors to decide your politics. For example, in the country, a man usually follows his father’s politics. But if you don’t like your neighbor, you hold the opposite political views from him. It is one of the ways of expressing your dislike for your neighbors.”
“Perhaps it is not going to be easy,” I suggested, “if we do succeed in finding a meeting to discover which is the stronger side for us to be on.”
“I’ll advise you,” said Jim.
Ahead we saw a village. And as we neared the village, Jim seemed to sense there was a political meeting here.
Just this side of the village was a big building all lighted up. And cars were parked densely around.
“Here we are!” cried Jim.
It was a handsome sort of building one of these modern-looking community halls the country is starting to erect, and by the well-to-do look of the motor cars packed around it, this was a meeting of successful farmers, country gentlemen of the first rank.
“Boy,” I breathed, “this would be the place to get our start in the world of politics! Look! Sport roadsters and everything!”
“Perhaps,” said Jim, as we got out of the car in the rain, “there might be some of these big retired business men farmers at this meeting.”
We hurried to the door, and as we entered, we sensed the tension, the spirit of battle, which filled the meeting. There were no loiterers in the lobby, and no young men smoking cigarettes in the corridor. Everybody was in the packed hall, and even the door was jammed with the backs of men straining forward to listen, while a voice boomed angrily amidst little gusts of clapping and occasional cheers.
Jim could see over the heads of the men jammed in the door, and he relayed the news to me.
“It’s crowded,” whispered Jim. “Jammed to the walls. I don’t recognize the chairman. But there is certainly something doing here. Listen.”
Loud cheers and boos and stamping of feet ended the remarks of the booming voice.
I could hear the chairman making some remarks, and then a new voice began. A strong, nasal, penetrating voice.
“Those of us who have been charged with the government of this …”
“BOOOOO! Minaaoooww! Boo, boo!” came roars from the meeting, amidst hisses and feet stampings.
Jim caught my arm and led me to the outer door.
“You can see the meeting is against the government,” exclaimed Jim excitedly. “There can be no doubt about those boos and hisses. Let’s get in somehow, perhaps we can get in by a door or a window. And at the first opportunity, you jump up and start lambasting the government or something. At the top of your lungs. And don’t forget to stick your clenched fist forward at arms length. A fighting posture. You know!”
“All right, all right,” I agreed breathlessly. “Why can’t we just push in past those fellows at the door?”
“The aisle is crowded, too,” said Jim. “We’ll have to get in somewhere that you can be seen. Let’s scout.”
We went outside in the rain and walked around the building. There were two side doors, both locked. There was a back door, also locked, with a man inside who gestured us through the window to go away.
But up about ten feet was a small window, with the downpipe from the eavetrough running beside it. The water gurgled in the downpipe and from the open window above us streamed light and tumult and cigar smoke.
“Could we get in through there?” I asked.
“I imagine,” said Jim. “that window is right at the back of the platform. We wouldn’t want to land with a thump on the platform, would we?”
So we went all around again without finding any other windows or doors, and we went inside the hall again and tried to wiggle through the jam at the door; but it was no use. And the meeting was getting hotter all the time.
“Jimmie,” I said, “we’ll simply have to climb through that window, platform or no platform? It will be dramatic entry! It will certainly focus attention on us. And anyway, there are a lot of people on the platform, and they may screen our actual arrival.”
So Jim hunted about and got an old table, a large lawn roller and an empty tar barrel, and with these we built a sort of ladder to reach the window. I got up first, and Jim came close behind, so as to help boost me through the window.
I peeped in. I saw, through a fog of smoke, a packed sea of faces, like pebbles on the shore. All eager. All excited and hot. In the near foreground, almost where I could touch them, were two rows of heads, mostly bald, with their backs to me. These were the gentlemen on the platform.
“How’s she look?” hissed Jim.
“It’s about a six-foot drop inside. If I can get through the window quickly, they will hardly notice me at all. I’ll just drop in and sit on a chair until you get in. Then you come and sit calmly beside me, as if this was the way we always come to meetings. There are several empty chairs at the back of the platform, right under me here. Can you manage to get through all right?”
“I’ll be right after you,” said Jim.
It was raining more heavily.
“What I think,” shouted the speaker with the nasal voice, amidst an uproar of feet and yells and boos, “of a lot of people like you, no gratitude, not a spark of gratitude for all the years we have faithfully served you …”
“Psst!” said Jim, just as I raised one leg to enter. “If I were you. I would rush to the front of the platform and start your speech the instant you touch the floor.”
I pulled myself together. I quickly slipped one leg over the window sill and swung the other one after, bounced to the floor, leaped across the platform, and thrusting through the row of men sitting on chairs, stuck my clenched fist out at the audience, who stared with open mouths and glaring eyes.
“Down,” I roared, “with the government or something! How about the returned soldiers! Who kept the…”
“BOOOOOOOOO!” bellowed the crowd, rising to their feet.
It was all over in a minute. The chairman and several bald-headed men took me, while others surged on to the platform from the audience, and amidst an immense confusion I was carried across the platform to the window, hoisted up and dropped out.
Jimmie caught me.
The chairman stuck his head out of the window.
“Scat,” he said. “Beat it, you Bolshevik.”
“Yes, sir,” said Jimmie.
We went around the building, where hall a dozen younger men were waiting for us having come out the front door. They looked at us curiously in the light from the porch.
“Which party is this meeting for?” asked Jim.
“Party?” asked the young men.
“Yes, which side are they on? Did the government call the meeting, or the opposition?” asked Jim.
“You’ve got the wrong place,” said the young men. This is the Twitchgrass Golf and Country Club, and they are holding their annual meeting.”
“Oh, pardon,” said Jim, “we thought it was a political meeting.”
“No, there’s a political meeting of some kind down in the county hall at the far end of the village,” said they.
Jim and I got in the car.
“How about it?” asked Jim. “Will we go on down?”
“It’s such a nasty night for politics,” I said.
So we drove back home.
Editor’s Notes: “Grits” was slang for the Liberal Party, and “Tories” is slang for the Conservative Party.
When they speak of the upcoming election, they probably mean the Ontario Election of 1934, which was to be held in 3 days on June 19th. This election was won by Mitchell Hepburn, the first Liberal victory in very Conservative Ontario since 1902. His victory was mainly an anti-incumbent sentiment that generally occurred in the early years of the Great Depression.
Greg mentions the “returned soldiers” as an issue. Great War veterans were not always reintegrated into society on their return and the problem was highlighted during the Depression with unemployed veterans. It was seen as shameful that these men volunteered for their country and then those who needed help on return were treated poorly. It was this experience that ensured that veterans benefits and support were promised when World War Two began.
This story appeared in Silver Linings (1978).
By Greg Clark, April 28, 1934
“What’s up?” asked Jimmie Frise. “You look a little down to-day?”
“Oh, it’s the house cleaning,” I replied. “They’ve started at my house.”
“Dear me,” said Jim. “I had forgotten about house cleaning. I suppose they will be at it at my house any day. Isn’t it funny how you forget it from year to year? Yet every year it bobs up again, in the spring, to rob this most lovely season of all its joy.”
“I honestly believe,” I said, “that women don’t realize how terrible house cleaning is for a man. The coming home from a hard day’s work to a house as comfortless as a barn. With everything topsy turvy. The floors bare. The pictures gone off the walls. Furniture stacked in halls. Rugs rolled up along the wainscot. Ladders and pails and mops leaning up. Supper in the kitchen. Everything smelling soapy and queer.”
“I suppose house cleaning,” said Jim, “is one of those things we have to allow women, the way women allow us to go hunting. It’s a sort of deep instinct with them, dating back a million years.”
“I don’t see the use of it,” I confessed. “They have all day, every day of the year, to do their little chore of sweeping and dusting and washing. I see them at it all the time. What do they want to hit a man’s home like a cyclone for?”
“And can you ever find anything you really want, after house cleaning?” demanded Jim.
“Listen,” I said, “it takes me until June every year to get my books rearranged properly on their shelves. Women have no instinct for arranging books.”
“And I lose valuable things,” said Jim. “Last year, the horns off the deer I got last season had simply vanished. I admit they smelt a little. But nobody had even seen them go. Now you can’t lose the antlers off a big buck just by accident.”
“Take collar studs,” I said. “What man ever could find the little dish with his collar studs on after house cleaning?”
“A man ought to be allowed to go downtown and live at a hotel for a week during house cleaning,” said Jim.
“If he did, he might just as well surrender all his rights to his home,” I retorted. “When house cleaning is on at my house, I make it my business to pop in at lunch and come home early for dinner. Otherwise, they might throw out all my clothes and perhaps even my bed!”
This conversation with Jimmie gave me courage, and that night a certain discussion at my home resulted in my walking over to Jimmie’s after supper and asking for a private interview.
A Man Takes a Dare
“Jimmie,” I said, when he closed his studio door. “Now I’m in for it!”
“Well, you recollect how we were talking about house cleaning this morning?”
“Well, I repeated some of it at home tonight, and I got in hot water.”
“Yes, so my family have announced they are going to drive out to visit Aunt Agnes to-morrow – that’s at Georgetown – and I am to do the living room!”
“Do the what?” cried Jim.
“Sshh,” I said. “The living room!”
“Good heavens!” gasped Jimmie.
“House clean it,” I said. “I said I would I took the dare. I said I could do the whole house in one day. So they said they had heard enough of this for the past twenty years. And they would just go for a drive out to visit Aunt Agnes for the day. And I could do the living room.”
“I’m sorry, old boy,” said Jim.
“You’re more than sorry,” I assured him. “You’ve got to help me. It was you that egged me on.”
“I did nothing–!”
“Oh, yes you did!” I cried. “You egged me on. You sympathized. You agreed with me. Now the least you can do is help me out.”
Right after breakfast the following morning my family piled in the car and drove off. And a little after 9 a.m. Jimmie arrived. I had two aprons and mob caps laid out. Since my family would not even go so far as to explain how much or how little I had to do, and as I had not told them I was getting any help, I had to try to recall what the tools of house cleaning are. I knew that mob caps should be worn over the head. And pails, mops, brooms and numerous rags called dusters were essential. Also, soap, floor polish and, it seemed to me, I dimly recalled tea leaves. Yes, far back in my childhood, I recall tea leaves being strewn over the carpet before sweeping.
Jimmie got into an apron in lively fashion.
“Now,” said he, “who’s to be boss? Shall you direct me or shall I direct you?”
“We will work in harmony,” I said.
First we removed most of the living room furniture into the halls. The chesterfields, chairs, lamps, radio, tables. Then we rolled up the rug and Jim carried it into the yard.
“Where’s your carpet beater?” he said.
“I haven’t seen or even heard of a carpet beater since before the war!” I said, astonished.
I took down all the pictures and ornaments and dusted them. Then Jim and I got a pail of hot water and scrubbed the floor.
“Personally,” said Jim, “I don’t believe you scrub waxed floors.”
“Then where does the smell of soap come from in house cleaning time?” I asked.
“Look how funny it looks,” pointed out Jim.
The living room floor did indeed look pale and blotchy where we had scrubbed.
“I’ll do the windows while you do the floor and rails,” said Jim.
So Jim toiled back and forward from the scrubbing pail to the windows, and made a lot of splashes on the floor and all over the window sills. But he certainly made the windows gleam. Meanwhile, I scrubbed the floor, the floor rails and the plate rail along the ceiling. I am sorry to admit that I was half done with the plate rail before I saw that the scrubbing brush made a lot of awkward stains on the wallpaper. The more you rub them with a cloth, the worse they get.
“Take a look at this,” I said to Jim, pointing out the nasty daubs along the wallpaper.
“Oh, they’ll dry,” said Jim. “But look here. We are doing this wrong. We should first have cleaned the furniture before we did the floors. The dust and dirt from the furniture will only mess up the floor after we are done!”
So we started in on the furniture. We washed the tables and the wooden parts of the chairs. We bent and thumped the chesterfield and upholstery. We shook out the curtains. The tables and woodwork of the chairs turned a funny color from the washing, but Jim said a lick of floor wax would soon put back the pretty shiny finish.
Meanwhile the stains along the wallpaper got worse the more they dried.
And the windows got cloudy.
And the walnut table started to turn gray.
“Jim,” I said, “it is nearly noon and I don’t like the look of all this!”
So we sat down and looked at it for while. Our backs ached, the backs of our necks ached and our arms ached.
“Well, it smells right,” said Jim. “Even if it looks funny.”
The room did look funny.
“Especially the floor,” said Jim.
At that moment the door bell rang.
“You answer, Jim,” I said, “and tell whoever it is the lady of the house is not home.”
I could hear a quick-talking lady chatting to Jimmie. He came back in excitedly.
“Saved!” he whispered. “It’s a lady demonstrating a wonderful new kind of a vacuum cleaner. It both blows and sucks. It inhales dirt, blows down behind radiators, has long arms for reaching up high, and polishes waxed floors, and scrubs, and –“
“Bring her in,” I hissed.
A Magic-Maker Arrives
A very nice lady, a kind of a young forty, came in, carrying a large suitcase. She stared in astonishment at the room, at Jimmie and at me.
“Mercy,” she said.
“Madam,” I said producing the telephone chair.
She sat down.
“Now, madam,” I said, “what have you?”
So she launched into a speech, full of ups and downs of voice with gestures. And at the right place she got up from her chair, opened her suitcase and laid forth the most wonderful nickel-plated collection of tubes, bags, brushes, mops and so forth.
Without interruption, she joined up the machinery and started to work. She dipped the mop in the pail and in a minute, she had made that contraption spin around on the floor until she had a space about a yard square as white as the day the floor was laid. Then she turned on a kind of blower and dried it. Then she spread wax on it and polished it with a revolving brush. A beautiful, glowy, rich tan spot appeared under her magic touch.
“Marvellous,” breathed Jimmie and I.
Then she went around with a long-handled tube and felt high up along the plate rail and into corners and behind the radiators. In about two minutes, she spread out on a piece of white cloth a pound of dust.
“Mercy,” said I. “Don’t tell the neighbors!”
“That really isn’t from your house,” explained the lady. “That is some I carry around in the bag. It is more for surprising the ladies. I wouldn’t fool a man.”
“How about that wet spot around the plate rail?” I asked. “Could it help that any?”
“Certainly,” said the lady, and she blew the hot air on to the wet spots, brushed them with a long-handled revolving brush, and in a minute you could see no stains at all.
“Windows?” I asked.
She took another gadget, fastened it on to the hose, and one by one she made the window panes glitter with a vibrating polisher.
“Chesterfield?” I asked.
She went over the chesterfield and found, besides what dust there might be, five marbles, four bobbie pins, a toothbrush, two dolls, five cigarettes and a pair of scissors.
“Thank goodness,” I cried. “I have blamed everybody over those scissors. They are my favorites on Sunday morning.”
“Now,” said the lady, “let me show you how easy it would be for you to use this machine. This afternoon, you could do the whole floor like that bit I did. You could make this room nicer than if you were married.”
“I am married,” I said.
“Ah,” she said, “I thought I was speaking to a bachelor.”
She handed me the long hose and longest nickel tube.
“Now,” she said, “this is the basis of it all. With this button, you switch the tube to suck if you want a vacuum cleaner, of to blow if you want to operate any of the polishing or scrubbing devices.”
I took the machine. I turned the switch. It blew. And it so tragically or, should I say, happily happened, that the end of the tube was right over the pile of sooty dust which the lady had brought in her bag to astonish my ladyfolks.
And as I turned on the switch, Jimmie, the lady and I all disappeared in a black and suffocating cloud.
“Hiyah!” I shouted, switching the tube to one side. I felt it touch something metallic, and then I knew it was the pail full of soapsuds, because there was a bubbling, burbling sound, and the air was filled with spray.
“Turn it off!” screeched the lady demonstrator from somewhere in the fog. I turned the switch, but I felt it sucking, and it was sucking out of that infernal pail. I returned the switch and it blew again, and blew what it had gathered, like a bathing elephant, all over us three, the room, the windows, the walls.
When the lady finally got it under control, we were all shaking from head to foot. The room was beyond recognition.
“Well?” I said.
The lady started to cry.
“I have a husband to support,” she wept.
“This is pretty terrible,” I said, surveying the disaster.
“I will get some friends to come and help me,” she wept.
“Not at all,” I said. “My friend and I will gladly help you.”
Jim said it was touching to see how magnanimously I placed the blame on the poor little lady.
“Legally,” said the lady, as we sat at lunch in the kitchen, because we decided first to have lunch before starting in, “I am to blame for anything that happens during a demonstration of my machine.”
“Morally,” I countered, “it was all my fault.”
I then revealed the secret of Jimmie and me being shamefully engaged in house cleaning. I said it was as the result of squawking too much and I was being taught a lesson.
“Then I hope,” said the lady, “that if I come back some time when your family is home, you will throw the weight of your influence in favor of this machine.”
I assured her I would
Never Again Such Triumph
After lunch we got busy. Jimmie and A simply did the rough lifting. This lady dried, brushed, polished, vacuumed, blew, until all traces of water and dust had vanished, and by a clever rearrangement of the pictures, the three or four places where soapsuds and demonstrating dust had made too bad a spot, nothing of the tragedy remained.
“I’ll get them off with art gum the night I come to demonstrate for your wife,” said she.
She got away about ten to five.
I persuaded Jim to go home so as to leave me in my glory.
And the family arrived about five-thirty.
Never shall I have such a triumph. I was seated in the chesterfield chair. About me shone glory, in glass, in floor, in wood and fabric.
The family all came in the smiles vanishing from their faces as they climbed on chairs and ran fingers along the plate rail, as they felt the electric light fixtures, slanted pictures to see the glass, looked under the chesterfield and examined in mute amazement the glorious glow on the radio.
“Well,” I said, “it’s the best I could do, but I suppose you’ll have to do it over again.”
“My dear boy,” said the head of the family, with all her supporters gathered around her, “we expected to find you in tears.”
“Ha, ha,” said I.
“You can stay home the rest of the week and help us,” said she.
“No, no,” I cried. “I have simply shown you that even a mere man can do these things smoothly and painlessly, without a lot of fuss. And with no experience.”
The head of the house walked over and looked at the scissors.
“Ha!” she said.
“Yes,” I assured her, “I have already made up my mind to write to your mother and apologize for accusing her of having run off with my Sunday morning scissors.”
Behind the Chinese vase with the lamp on it she picked something up.
“Ah,” she said.
It was a handkerchief. A small handkerchief with the initial M on it. There are no M’s in our family.
It smelt faintly of floor wax.
“M’mmm?” said the head of the house.
So I had to tell the whole story.
And I have agreed not to be silly about house cleaning from now on.
Editor’s Notes: Collar studs can be used now for holding down the collar wings, but can still be used for attaching or fastening a detachable collar. These types of collars were used as one could have multiple collars, but fewer shirts. The same reasoning applied to detachable cuffs. It was during the 1920s and 1930s that separate collars lost their appeal, as it was felt that it made you look “stiff”.
Mobcaps were still worn at this time for maids and those who cleaned.
By Greg Clark, March 3, 1934
“Can you dance?” asked Jimmie Frise.
“In a kind of a way,” I admitted. “I do a sort of jig in the summer, when I walk out the French windows into the garden. And in the morning, while I am lathering. I sometimes amuse my daughter …”
“No, no,” cried Jimmie. “I mean dance. Dance! One step. Waltz. Ballroom style!”
“Aw, you don’t call that dancing!” I laughed heartily. “That stuff! Clutching a girl and waddling around with stiff legs! Haw!”
“Well,” inquired Jim, nicely, “what is dancing then?”
“It isn’t that silly walking around!” I stated loudly. “Dancing is one of the oldest forms of human expression. Before men could talk, they could dance. Before mankind had any voice, except a howl of pain and a loud yawp of joy, the only way they could express their feelings was by dancing. Good heavens, didn’t you know that?”
“I not only didn’t know it,” said Jimmie. “It didn’t even occur to me.”
“Certainly,” I went on. “For the first few million years, while we were just developing our voices so that we could growl, groan, gurgle and whine, ages before we even thought of the idea of using words, much less had agreed on what words would mean which, we men were talking with our bodies. We danced everything. We danced about going hunting, about war, about love, fear, hunger, joy.”
“I believe you’re right,” said Jim. “Still, fox trotting, and this modern dancing is something.”
“Wait Till You See It”
“It’s just pathetic,” I said. “It is pathetic as a worn-out radio from which come faint, far sounds. Modern ballroom dancing merely proves that the human instincts of those who participate in that kind of dancing are just about dead.”
“It’s a fact!” I repeated. “Modern people are just pale shadows of their noble and primitive ancestors. They feel faint cravings for something, they know not what. The cravings are not very strong. They are muddled and indistinct. But these, the millionth great-grandchildren of men and women who once danced around the fallen mammoth or icthyosaurus, take timid hold of one another and go teetering around the ballroom to tinkling music. They have nothing to celebrate. Nothing to express.”
“A lot you know about it,” declared Jim. “How long is it since you were at a dance?”
“Well,” I said, hesitantly, “you see I belong to that generation that missed dancing. I was at the war when I should have been learning the social graces.”
“Some night soon,” went on Jimmie, “I’ll take you to one of these five-cents-a-dance palaces and show you something.”
“I’d like to very much,” I agreed.
“And if you think these modem young people need any pointers from their blue-painted ancestors,” said Jim, “I’ll eat your shirt.”
And the following night, under the pretext of attending a meeting of the Anglers’ Association, Jimmie and I got out for the evening, and Jim drove me down to a five-cents-a-dance hall.
It was softly glowing with light and surrounded by hundreds of cars. As we entered its colorful and shaded interior, a muted band was playing low, seductive music, and several hundred young people, some in party clothes, some in business clothes, like Jim and me, were swish-swishing about the large dance floor in a dense, swaying, rhythmic mass.
“H’m,” said I.
We leaned against the wall and watched. The girls were mostly pretty and many of them flushed. Eyes were bright and veiled.
A young chap whose father once saved my life with his water bottle in France came gaily up to us.
“Hullo!” he cried. “Is it a dance you’re after or just a story?”
“A story,” I explained, introducing Jimmie. “Mr. Frise here says there is plenty of what you may call it, plenty of I can’t say, plenty of n’yah, if you gather me, in this modern ballroom dancing.”
“So there is,” said the boy. “Any amount of n’yah, and I do get you.”
“I, on the other hand,” said I “think you have to go back to the square dances, the barn dances, the old-fashioned high-jinks of our forefathers to get any n’yah!”
The young chap looked at me in amazement.
“Pious old hoofing like that!” he cried. “Listen. Don’t go away. The next number is a one-step. But after that comes the carioca.”
“Carioca,” said the boy. “Latest thing from Rio. You may have seen it in the movies. Wait till you see that. Square dance! Huh!”
“Are you with a party?” I inquired
“Oh, sure, this is all a party,” said the boy. “I mean, we know everybody. Do you want a partner?”
“Mr. Frise might like to twirl around a bit,” I suggested.
The boy vanished in the slowly padding mob. The music went boompa, doompa. Swish. Swish went the hundreds of feet.
“I don’t want to dance,” protested Jimmie. “I really can’t dance.”
But the lad returned almost Immediately with two young ladies. The most visible one of the two was a large, blazing Brazilian type of girl, tall, Mae Westish in a kind of Latinized form, and sort of snorty, if you understand me. A new, modern, snorty sort of girl you see more and more of as you pass through your forties. But Jimmie, to my astonishment, passed this large, dark girl in favor of a small, demure little damsel.
“I don’t want anybody leading me,” whispered Jim, “when I’m trying to dance.”
The large Brazilian girl, whose name was Maud, leaned up against the wall beside me and I felt the wall tremble.
The boy made a few wisecracks and then left us.
Just Leaving It to Maud
“Let’s dance this next one,” said Maud.
The band had ceased and everybody was filing off the floor.
“I can do the Paul Jones,” I said, “but not these here slither-foot dances. I stamp when I dance. I jump up and down.”
“Let’s dance this next one,” repeated Maud. She had a far-away expression. I don’t believe she had heard word I said, even about Nelson.
“I never danced before,” I said.
“I’ll lead,” said Maud. “You won’t need to do anything.”
“I prefer not to,” I said, clearly.
“All right,” said Maud, eagerly. “We’ll get ready now, you go in front with the tickets!”
She was pushing from behind. I didn’t like to make a scene, and anyway, I don’t like being jostled. I walked ahead. Got two tickets. Ten cents.
The band, which I saw from across the vacant floor, dressed in Brazilian costumes, burst into another slow, boompa, boompa tune. I think it was “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.” Amidst a flood of dancing couples, Maud and I were swept on to the floor. I felt Maud take hold of me. She rested one strong, cupped hand on my shoulder blade, lifted my off arm into the air, and in a moment I was being wafted skillfully, slowly, delicately through space.
“M’mmm!” I said.
“Like it?” asked Maud, who was some distance above me.
“M’mmm,” I repeated.
Softly, deftly, smoothly, with a queer tingly feeling creeping up from the soles of my feet, Maud wafted me about the crowded room.
“M’mmm–MMMMM!” said I.
“Don’t talk,” said Maud.
And we finished out the dance, feeling entirely alone in that room of several hundred people. When the music stopped, it was like the lights coming on at the theatre.
We went out and stood against the wall with Jimmie and several young people who had joined us.
“The next bit,” said Jim, “is the carioca. How about it?”
“I’ve got him for the carioca,” stated Maud, loudly.
Several of the young people with us laughed.
“It’s Maud’s specialty,” said one young chap, more Maud’s size, and a little jealous, if I am any judge, although, as I say, I am getting a little dull with age, now. “Maud is one of those genuine South Americans whose ancestors hail from Lancashire. She’s got Rio, if you understand me?”
The band suddenly started. Everybody raced for the floor. Maud pulled me after her. The band was no longer playing boompa music. It was barking, thudding, and somebody was tapping a lot of over the racket a saxophone squealed some sort of tune. The hall seemed suddenly to be filled with waves.
Ancestors Were Never Like This
Maud took my two hands and began heel and toeing, just like a barn dance, facing me. An unholy light glowed down from her face. I heeled and toed too.
Bang went the band, and Maud grabbed me and whirled me madly round and round.
“Hey!” I cried.
“Don’t talk,” commanded Maud between her teeth.
Again the tick-tock blocks, and Maud began dancing around me as if I were a fly and she a large spider, like a tarantula.
Having nothing better to do, I danced around her, feeling like a fly.
Bang went the band again and Maud seized me. She did an awful thing. She cracked her forehead down against mine, grabbed me by the back of the neck and held her head against mine while she twirled me round and round.
“Just a minute,” I said.
Maud cut off my wind.
She held me tight by the neck and while twisting me in a complete circle, turned herself in a complete circle, with her head rolling once right around mine.
But she cut my wind off again, and while the band raved and rocked, she whirled me round and round, miraculously saving me from being dashed to pieces against other dancers. As far as I could see, the whole room was full of people whirling, and cracking their heads together. I caught one glimpse of Jim, and he was, I fear, doing the can can. I tried to shout to him to remember he belonged to a bygone age. But Maud shut off my wind.
She just stood in front of me and glared at me, hypnotically, while she made quite small little motions with her feet, a sort of miniature dance I stood perfectly still. Hypnotized.
Bang, BẢNG! went the band.
It was over.
“Ah,” said Maud. “Isn’t that swell?”
“M’mmmm,” I said, but it hadn’t her meaning. My collar band was ripped. My neck was swollen. I had palpitations. My eyes felt bunged.
We got to the wall.
“Well,” said Jim, flushed and mussed, “how about your bone-gnashing ancestors now?”
I winked at him. I signalled toward the door.
We walked out. We got our coats. We ran dodging behind cars until we found Jim’s.
“Ha, ha,” said Jim. “Seared she’s after you!”
“I don’t like that carioca,” I said, as we got into the car. There’s a dance our ancestors never did. It isn’t natural. It’s a dance for wild women to fling around tame men. Such a dance would only be invented in a nation that was in the last stages.”
“The last stages of what?” asked Jim.
“The last stages of not being like our ancestors,” I said.
“But stick to the point,” persisted Jim. “What do you think of our modern dances? Are they pathetic? Are they feeble?”
“M’mmm,” I said, which is a dandy political answer.
Editor’s Notes: This is the first Greg-Jim story that included a colour illustration. Previously, they were always black-and-white. They would occasionally be black-and-white in the future, but would mostly be in colour going forward. Because many of the scans are based off of microfilm which did not transfer colour well, more editing is required to get the feel of the artwork.
The Carioca song was written in 1933 (a year before this story), and was popularized in the 1933 film Flying Down to Rio, which was the first first film that included Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It would become a jazz standard that would later be recorded by Artie Shaw, and the Andrews Sisters.
Mae West was a popular actress of the 1930s, known for her sensual style that would get her in trouble with censors.
Paul Jones dances were popular in the early 20th century, which was very similar to square dancing. The fact the Greg mentioned this would indicate that he was old-fashioned.
“Five-cents-a-dance palaces” sound a lot like taxi dance halls, but this does not seem to be the type of establishment Greg and Jim went to, as it sounded like everyone had to pay to dance, even if you had a partner. Taxi dancers were women who would dance with men for 5 cents (later 10 cents) per song. The men had to buy a ticket for each dance, and the women would get a cut based on the number of tickets they turned in at the end of the evening. Taxi dance halls were most popular in the 1920s and 1930s.
Jim created this advertisement to show new comic strips coming to the Toronto Star in 1934. They are:
- Moon Mullins by Frank Willard
- Felix the Cat by Otto Messmer
- Secret Agent X-9 by Dashiell Hammett and Alex Raymond (a famous duo who only worked on the strip for it’s first year)
- Shop Acts by Henry Rouson (a very short lived comic)
- Joe Jinks by Pete Llanuza (who had recently taken over from creator Vic Forsythe)
- Etta Kett by Paul Robinson
- Doc Wright by Rube Goldberg (a unexpectedly serious strip from a long time gag author that only lasted for 10 months until he switch back to humour)
By Greg Clark, September 8, 1934
“Now for the fall fairs,” said Jimmie Frise.
“Ah,” I said, “champion punkins, country sausage by the yard, cider just the least bit stiffened, the biggest horse in the world – only ten cents to see it!”
“Trottin’ races,” said Jimmie.
“Games of chance,” I said. “Radio salesmen. Prize quilts.”
“Things carved out of roots, like dogs, snakes and moose,” said Jimmie. “The product of a retired farmer’s idle hours.”
“If country folk do us the honor of coming to our Toronto Exhibition,” I stated, “city people, ought to return the compliment by attending at least one country fair.”
“They don’t know what they are missing if they don’t,” agreed Jim. “There is more human interest in a country fair than in the whole of a great city.”
“Slow motion,” I remembered. “The feeling of a country fair is like seeing a slow motion picture of King and Yonge streets. There are the tents and, in the bright September sunlight, the country people lazily strolling and sitting about.”
“Mostly sitting,” confirmed Jimmie. “Rather large ladies sitting with red faces on anything that is sittable and fanning themselves with their hankies.”
“Nobody in a hurry,” I said, “Even the radio salesmen from the city have caught the tempo and they stand, with faraway looks, not even trying to highjack any customers.”
“I often think,” said Jimmie, “that the people in the country are a distinct race of creatures from city folk. For several centuries there has been going on a sort of breeding process. All the eager, crafty, up-and-at-’em sort of people have left the country for the city and only the simple-easy-going, honest people stay in the country.”
“That’s a clever idea, Jim,” I said.
“And in time,” said Jimmie, “we will breed two races as distinct as, say, a Clydesdale is from a pony. The cities will be filled with crooked, scheming, pale, slit-eyed, villainous-looking creatures. And out in the country you will find only the big, strong, open-eyed, rosy-faced race, honest as the day, happy as larks, simple as children.”
“Gosh, Jimmie, I like country people.”
“When those two races are evolved,” went on Jim, who loves to get hold of a theory by the tail and see where it drags him, “the city race will try to prey on the country race and the country race will be entrenched, as you might say, against the city race. Skinny, sly city men will try to worm their way into the country to marry the beautiful, buxom country gals and there will be dramas in which great six-foot, three-hundred-pound farmers will discover their daughters carrying on with hundred-and-ten-pound city foxes, and there will be shotguns firing down lanes, and beautiful two-hundred-pound gals being turned from their three-hundred-pound parents’ doors out into the blizzard, where weazened, little city villains, with waxed moustaches, will go ha-ha-ha in the storm.”
Our System of Avoiding
“You really think that is coming?” I asked.
“The gulf between city and country people is widening every year,” said Jim. “Just visit a country fair and see. Here we are streamlining in the city. And what are they doing in the country? Just the reverse. They are tublining. Look at the shorthorn cattle. Square at both ends. While we in the cities are shaping everything for speed the country people are shaping everything for comfort.”
“You can’t imagine a streamline hen or a streamline sheep,” I agreed.
“Our philosophies,” said Jim, “the city philosophy and the country philosophy, point in opposite directions. One is for honesty, the other for guile. One is for honest production, the other is for trick production. In the city we are developing a vast system of avoiding. We are re-shaping everything to avoid friction, to avoid effort, to avoid use, to avoid work, to avoid men. In the country they still get eggs the same old way. Beef is built as usual. Wheat and hay can’t be streamlined up out of the earth. In the country everything is based on honesty. In the city everything is based on evasion.”
“I love the country,” I submitted.
“Let’s go to a fall fair and see and feel that great, homely country honesty for our souls’ sake!” cried Jimmie. “I am suffocating. My soul is all puckered. Let me sit in the steep grandstand and watch honest races. Let me throw darts at bullseyes, let me guess the number of beans in a jam jar.”
There are not many fall fairs so early in the season, as they don’t dare to compete with the big Toronto show. But Maryvale was holding its fair on the time-honored date, a date selected back in the days of William Lyon Mackenzie, and no upstart city fair could come along a half-century later and try to steal the show from Maryvale.
Maryvale has no fair buildings now. It had fine fair grounds buildings sixty years ago, but fire and time removed them, by which time it was found easier to rent big tents from the people who rent big tents to fall fairs.
Jimmie and I drove in about three p.m. and parked our car for 25 cents along with a hundred other cars, buggies, wagons and trucks in the field next the fair grounds of Maryvale.
There was a great throng of over 300 people, many of them sitting in the aged grandstand and others leaning on the fence around the trotting track. The horses and their little sulkies were as usual getting ready to start, pacing sweatily and anxiously back and forth on the track. I have been to dozens of fairs with Jimmie and I never saw a race really run yet. Jim says you have to get up on the grandstand and sit there, resolutely, and sooner or later you will see a race. But I am too impatient to move about and see the exhibits and mingle with the people to waste hours hunched up on a grandstand.
There were government moving picture shows, there were booths for radios, washing machines, agricultural implements; one tent housed a mammoth show of sixteen performers, mostly gaunt looking ladies in red lustre dancing costumes, an East Indian in a frock coat who did magic, and two comedians of the kind you never see in cities any more.
And then there were games of chance. Rolling balls, throwing rings, flinging darts.
“City types,” muttered Jim to me as we paused at the games. “Slit-eyed, look at them.”
“Let’s look at the prize vegetables and the cattle,” I suggested. So we spent some time in the tents where the fruit and vegetables were shown, the cakes, bread, pies, preserved fruit and jellies. We chatted with the patient, smooth-faced old ladies who sat, with large laps, amidst the fruits of their labors. We visited the cattle, hogs, sheep and horses. Jim went and sat in the grandstand for an hour or two while I, with my hat on the back of my head and my front hair pulled forward to show under my hat brim, wandered happily amidst the slow motion.
Crown and Anchor Boys
I ate home-made ham sandwiches and fried onion sandwiches of homemade bread. I drank wondrous lemonades and fruit punches, all with the same taste. I got into a dozen political discussions with emphatic strangers. A man showed me how to milk a cow with a machine. Another man offered me a genuine Highland sheep dog. regularly worth $50 to $75, for only $2.50.
I joined Jimmie and found him down behind the grandstand talking with three country gentlemen.
“Come here,” said Jim. “Let me introduce you to these gentlemen. This is my friend. These are three of the head men of the fair.”
“He don’t look big enough,” said one of the country gentlemen.
“He has a big voice,” said Jimmie.
“What is it?” I asked, scenting trouble.
“Listen,” said Jim. “Down behind that shed there at the foot of the field two crooks have got a crown and anchor board and they are fleecing the country boys out of plenty of money.”
“City toughs, I suppose?” I said.
“That’s it,” said the committee.
“Now the constable,” said Jim, “is acting as starter for the races, and anyway, the committee don’t want to make any trouble. All they want to do is to chase those crown and anchor boys off the grounds, see?”
“It would give the fair a bad name,” exclaimed the committee, “if it got into court that we had arrested gamblers on the grounds.”
“So what?” I asked.
“We wondered if you two gents would come along. One of you is tall enough to look like a policeman, and the other, that’s you, mister, can yell, ‘Make way for the provincials,’ or something. And in the scare, these guys will make a getaway. And stay away.”
“That is easy.” I said, clearing my throat and getting my lungs ready. “But isn’t it against the law to impersonate police?”
“You won’t be impersonating,” said the committee. “All that will happen will be you yell in a big deep voice, ‘make way for the provincials,’ and then your tall friend, with his hat over his eyes, will come charging into the crowd.”
“Are there many down there?”
“There’s quite a mob, and we three will go down, too, and be ready to help stampede them.”
“Let’s go,” said I.
“Just a minute,” said the committee. “We will go down, and you two follow and wait just out of sight by the end of the sheds. Then when I give you the signal, you come on the run.”
“Right,” said I.
“And be sure and don’t come until you get the signal,” insisted the committee.
“Correct,” said Jimmie and I.
The committee hurried off down the field towards the shed and Jim and I followed slowly.
We arrived at the shed and took up a waiting position at the corner. We peeped around and saw about twenty or thirty men surrounding something, and we could hear a voice either making a speech or exhorting the crowd to some sort of iniquity.
“City voices,” I said to Jim. “Hear how harsh and unmusical they are.”
“Clear your voice,” warned Jim.
We waited and waited. As we stood there, half a dozen newcomers came along and passed us, to join the group behind the shed, and they cast curious, not to say, suspicious glances at us.
Breaking Up the Game
After about twenty minutes, we saw one of the committee emerge hastily from the throng and come gesticulating towards us.
“Let her go,” he hissed.
Jim charged. I bounded beside him.
“Make way for the provincials!” I roared, in the deepest bellow. “Make way, there!”
And like a battering ram, Jim, with his hat jammed fiercely over his eyes, crashed into the ring where the two other committee men were making a spot for him. They beckoned him through and it made it easier than crashing strangers.
The effect was astounding. Men flew in every direction. I had time only to let loose the one bellow when thirty men were racing in all directions and the three committeemen were kneeling on the ground around a small square of oilcloth, and scooping money, silver, bills, everything, into their pockets while Jimmie stood above them glaring fiercely at the fleeing men.
Quickly the committee raked in the money and snatched the oilcloth square and then they too leaped up and raced around the end of the shed.
“Well?” I said to Jim.
“I guess we had better go, too,” suggested Jim, starting to run. So we ran down the field to the marquee tents again and mingled with the throng.
“That was a funny one,” I said.
“Very funny.” agreed Jim. “Did you see those two gamblers go? They took the fence like a hurdle and kept on down the road like greyhounds. They must have a car parked down there.”
“That’s what happens to city men when they come to the country.” I declared. “Your theory is working out. These honest country folk won’t put up with gamblers.”
Down by the cattle ring, we met the committee.
“Come down back of the grandstand,” they said. “Follow us at a little distance.”
Behind the grandstand we formed a little ring, and the tallest committeeman reached into his pocket and pulled out two small rolls of bills bound with elastic.
“There was $47.30 on the board,” said he. “Split five ways, that gives you two boys $9 something. We made it $9 even. How about it?”
Jim cleared his threat. “How about what?” I asked.
“Nine bucks,” said the tall one, genially. “Even split.”
“What is this?” I asked.
“The money off the board,” said the tall one.
“Huh?” said Jimmie.
“It’s just a little country lark,” said the committeeman. “We three gentlemen worked up a big game and got the two gamblers to set up a lot of money, and then you came at the right time…”
“Jimmie,” I cried, “this is dishonest! I thought you were committee men!”
“We’re a committee we appointed to keep the morals clean at this here fair,” said the tall committeeman.
“Who appointed you?”
“Divide our share amongst yourselves,” I said, sadly. “We are city men. We have old-fashioned ideas.”
“It’s O.K. with us,” said the tall committeemen, breaking our rolls open and dividing all the dirty ones and twos amongst his friends. “You city fellows are funny. If you aren’t crooks, you’re pious.”
“I guess it’s the same in the country,” Jimmie said.
So we went up in the grandstand, and I saw my first trotting race, and Jim lost three dollars on it.
Editor’s Notes: William Lyon Mackenzie was the leader of a rebellion in Ontario in 1837.
Maryvale is a real place, currently a neighbourhood in the Scarborough area of Toronto.
Crown and Anchor is a popular gambling game.
By Greg Clark, July 14, 1934
“How humdrum,” breathed Jimmie Frise, “our lives are!”
“Ho, hum,” I yawned.
“The world fairly pulsing with adventure, danger, thrill,” said Jimmie, tilting back his chair, “and we dozing our lives away, year in, year out, with never an adventure, never a cold chill of fear.”
“Billions of men,” I said, “have sacrificed their lives, Jimmie, to make the world safe and humdrum for us.”
“They might have spared their pains,” said Jim. “Life without thrills is no life at all. Thank goodness there are a few places left in the world where a man can really live. Africa, for instance. Gordon Sinclair says that the dark continent is still an absolutely closed book to all white men, that any white man who says he knows the inside of Africa is a liar. Filled with unearthly and devilish rites, its vast jungles vibrating with poisonous and menacing life, with black mambas, orange leopards, tawny Lions, fiendish natives.”
“Not for me,” said I.
“India,” went on Jimmie, “teeming with bewildered, strange, superstitious millions. South America with white men lost twenty years in utterly unexplored fastnesses. The arctic. The south sea islands.”
“Ah,” said I. “The south sea islands. Soft and languorous seas, beauteous maidens in grass pinnies, breadfruit filling off the trees …”
“Tibet,” cried Jim, “rockbound, bitter, mountainous, guarded, secret, where poisoned arrows fly from precipice to precipice.”
“Spain,” I added, “where you can either be a bull fighter or sit and watch bull fights. I like a country with a little choice of thrills.”
“Afghanistan,” said Jim, “where they will cut off your head just to get your rifle.”
“Switzerland,” I countered, “where you can either go ski-ing down Mont Blanc or sit on the veranda of a chalet and watch somebody else ski down Mont Blanc.”
“Personally,” said Jim. “I think the essence of adventure is wild animals. Where there are man-caters, there is adventure. There are tigers in Tibet and Burma, lions in Africa, jaguars in South America. Conquer the wild beasts and you have conquered adventure.”
“I once saw a bear when we were out picking blueberries,” I admitted.
“Pah, a black bear,” scoffed Jim, “a little scared fat dog.”
“It was scared,” I agreed. “We saw it first. It was sitting down, like a baby, eating blueberries, with its back to us. Then it got a whiff of us. You should have seen it skedaddle.”
“There you are,” cried Jim. “Canada.”
Longing for Danger
“As for me,” I stated, “I rather imagine I would be a big game hunter, if I had been born in a different land under other circumstances. I do not like animals. And I imagine I would make a good hunter of tigers or lions. I am cautious and careful and cold. I would stalk a tiger and it would never know what hit it. I’m that way.”
Jim studied me curiously.
“I can imagine you,” said he, “pushing through the tall jungle grass of India stalking a tiger.”
“With a little practice,” I said, “I think I would be pretty clever at tigers. Lions. too. I have read a good deal about lion hunting, and it always strikes me, as I read the accounts, that the hunters do exactly what I would have done under the same circumstances.”
“Indeed,” said Jim. “Do animals like you?”
“As a matter of fact,” I said, “they don’t. Horses don’t care for me. I found that out in the army when my rank got so high I had to ride a horse. I could have been a general if horses had been fonder of me. And as for dogs, well, it is mutual.”
“Yet you own a lot of dogs,” said Jim.
“Hunting dogs,” I said. “Rabbit dogs. You don’t have to feel affection for hunting dogs.”
“I wish,” said Jim, “that there were some dangerous animals to hunt in this part of the world. Rabbits. Deer. Big stupid moose. You might as well go out and shoot sheep and horses in the pastures.”
“There are one ton Kodiak grizzlies in Alaska,” I suggested.
“If we had the money or the time,” muttered Jim. “I get so weary of this dull business of living.”
“You should be grateful to all the billions of your forebears who have died to make the world safe for you,” I concluded.
“I wish I had been one of my forebears,” growled Jimmie, “about 1000 B.C.”
“Take your turn,” I counselled. “Think of the sensation of going out of the Star Building, and hundred yards away, a sabre-toothed tiger leaping with a snarl like a freight engine on your back.”
“Swell,” said Jim.
“Brrr, I shudder to think,” I said, “of what the animal kingdom would have done to me three thousand years ago. They just hate me. I am an escaped meal, that’s all I am. Gordon Sinclair says that an African black-maned lion will creep up on a herd of two thousand zebras, and out of that whole vast herd the lion will elect one particular zebra and stalk him, and chase him and pursue him furiously through the entire herd of two thousand stampeding zebras, and take no one but that very one he has singled out. I believe that I am one of those that was intended to be eaten by a dinosaur but got away by some fluke. I feel I was intended to be consumed.”
“Let’s run out to the zoo some afternoon,” cut in Jim. “I’d like to see the effect you have on animals. I’ve heard of that sort of thing. I’d like to see it.”
“Any time,” I agreed. “It will give us a mild thrill just to have the tigers and lions snarling at us, even if iron bars are between us.”
Raspberrying the Lions
We went out to the zoo Thursday. It was a hot, heavy day. That pungent odor of wild animals that causes all my ancestors, for several thousand years, to roll over in their graves every time I smell it, and to clutch, with ghostly fingers at my garments, was floating in invisible clouds across Riverdale Park.
“Phew,” I said, “think, Jimmie, that once upon a time, before man learned to stand upright and throw rocks, the whole world smelt like this!”
“You knew where you were at,” argued Jimmie. “A man could tell when danger threatened. Nowadays, danger has no smell.”
We walked down along past the cages, saw the polar bears, the brown bears, the monkeys.
“Polar bears don’t seem to mind you.” suggested Jim.
“They eat fish,” I pointed out.
“Well?” said Jim.
When we came up past the outside cages of the tigers, lions and leopards, they were all inside. The tropic heat of Toronto was too much for their tender hides accustomed to the cool damp of the jungles.
“Wait till we get inside,” I warned Jim. “You’ll hear an uproar within one minute. They smell me and they start roaring.”
Inside, the jungle odor was richer, but the only sound, as we entered, was the idle yelling, shouting and squawking of a cage full of parrots. It was cool and dim.
We walked past a little animal called the Tasmanian devil, and all it did was run back and forth anxiously, and even when we stopped and bent down to it, it seemed utterly unaware of us.
Back and forth it ran, anxious, weary.
“Whoa,” said Jimmie, tenderly, “whoa, little feller, just stop a minute and speak to us. Where are you going? What do you want? Is it off to Tasmania you would like to be?”
But tenderness was nothing. And the little Tasmanian devil kept right on its eternal, frightened trot, back, forth, back.
Large chimpanzees and orang-outangs rolled over and thumped with their paws, caught their heads in their arms in gestures of utter despair and boredom.
We went farther, into the lion house.
“Now,” I said, “in a minute, listen to the uproar. Animals hate me. Excuse me if I leave shortly.”
The tiger was asleep.
“Boo,” I said.
The tiger continued to sleep.
Not even the end of its tail twitched.
Jim was chewing a burnt match. He threw the little stick in and it fell on the tiger’s cheek. The cheek twitched, but the tiger did not wake.
Two cages farther down were three lions, a black-maned beauty and two lionesses.
The lion looked right through us with huge yellow luminous eyes as big as a hen’s egg. The two lionesses were turned aside, and they did not move their heads as I came by.
“Psst!” hissed Jim at them. “Sick ’em! Here, boy, here’s your meat!”
But the lion was staring right through us and past us.
“Well, that’s funny,” I said. “I certainly don’t understand this.”
“They see so many,” surmised Jim. “Step close to him.”
I leaned forward. I stretched over the bars and put my head as close as I could. I raspberried him. But the lion did not budge. Jim caught me from behind and shoved me closer, much to my concern.
But the lion merely blinked, as if he had been thinking of something else, and turned his head disdainfully away.
“Tigers,” I said, “are meaner. Let’s wake the tiger.”
We scratched on his bars. We raspberried, hooted, hissed. The tiger might have been dead.
Several scattered people were in the lion house watching us curiously. One was an elderly lady with spectacles and a lot of frills on her dress. And in her arms she held a little fuzzy dog, one of those Pekingese with bug eyes looking out in two different directions.
“Here, you,” said the old lady, “it says on the sign, ‘Do not annoy or feed the Animals’.”
“It also says,” I retorted, coldly polite, “no dogs allowed in this area.”
The old lady glared at me and the little dog barked a nasty little bark at me.
“Fifft!” said I to the doglet.
The little beast wriggled and the old lady made a flying catch and missed and before you could say “fffft” the little beast was down on the floor and snapping at my trouser cuffs.
“Here,” yelled, stepping back.
But the little beast, a regular machine gun of nasty small barks, was yipping and snapping at my ankles and I was backing away, all three lions were up and backing to the rear of their cages, spitting and growling in a frightened way: the tiger scrambled clumsily to its feet and leaped to a ledge in its cage, where it flattened itself against the wall with an expression of wide terror in its eyes.
“Baby, Baby!” shouted the old lady in a strong voice.
But Baby was backing me up and backing me up, and everything was in confusion, especially as Jimmie was laughing and doubling up and slapping his leg loudly.
“Aw,” I said, and turned and ran from the lion house. And out came Jimmie staggering and bellowing, with six or seven other people all having a fit, and I walked quickly away down a little used path where there were bushes. Jim followed.
“Oh, ho, ho!” he roared. “Ah, ha, ha!”
Finally he got quiet and we stood among the bushes, recovering ourselves.
“It was the kind of dog you can’t kick,” I explained.
“Animals,” said Jim. “sure hate you. Especially small animals.”
“Lions.” I said, “are dumb. Anybody could creep up on a lion and kill it, while it stared solemnly into space. As for tigers, they’re sleepy. If I were tiger hunter. I wouldn’t ride an elephant. I’d wear my bedroom slippers and sneak up on it and it would never wake up. Big game? Wild beasts? Pooh!”
“Pooh,” echoed Jimmy. “Shoo!”
A large, lazy bumble bee had wandered down the bushy aisle of the walk where we were resting. It bumbled and buzzed around. I never knew Jimmie was queer about bumble bees.
“Scat,” said Jim, anxiously, batting with his hat.
“Nznznznznzn,” said the bumble bee, coming back to investigate, with a very haughty manner.
Jim backed away.
“Whoosh!” he exclaimed excitedly, waving his hat.
The bee went right at his face.
Jim turned and galloped. The bee was after him. I followed. We chased out the bushy walk and few yards ahead was the side gate of Riverdale Park. Jim streaked through the gate and across the road for the cemetery.
“Ho, ho, ho,” I bellowed.
“I can’t help it,” gasped Jimmie, still ducking and staring about for the bee, which had left. “Once when I was a small child on the farm, I was stung by several bees…”
“Ho, ho, ho!” said I.
Which means that you don’t have to go to Tibet.
Editor’s Notes: Gordon Sinclair was a Canadian reporter, who, at the time of this article, was an international reporter for the Toronto Star. Greg and Jim would have known him. He was famous for travelling to remote and exotic locations and reporting back.
In the 1930s, there was still a sense of mystery about the world, and people in the Western world craved stories about unknown or little known locations. The newspapers of the time were filled with these features, and this period was the height of the “adventure” comic strip. Unfortunately, as indicated in this story, there was a tendency for the narratives to portray white society as “civilized” and non-white society as “savage” or “uncivilized.”
By Greg Clark, February 24, 1934
“Is that you?” asked Jimmie Frise over the telephone.
“Who were you expecting?” I retorted.
“Say, can you come over to my place now?” asked Jim.
“Well,” I said, “I’m in the middle of waxing the floors. And, anyway, it’s after eight o’clock.”
“I need you,” said Jim. “My family are all out and the neighbors, that young couple I was telling you about, asked me to mind their baby. They got an unexpected invitation to go to a . . .”
“I’ll be right over,” I said, banging up the telephone. Because if there, is anything that makes me nervous it is the thought of Jimmie being left to mind a baby.
I walked the two blocks to Jimmie’s house in jig time and found Jimmie in the living room downstairs, walking up and down the floor with a baby of about ten months in his arms.
“Here,” I said, “put it down. You don’t walk babies any more. Put it down.”
“It cries,” said Jimmie. “You would think it was never going to breathe again.”
“Aw, here,” I said, reaching out. “Give it here.”
“I’ve got him,” said Jimmie. “He’s all right.”
I looked down and there was the usual dear little round head and peaceful face, its eyes softly closed in sleep. Its little mouth pouted.
“The room’s too hot,” I said. “Run down and check the furnace while I hold him.”
“No, you don’t!” said Jim, holding his arms up out of reach so that I could neither see nor reach the baby.
“Aw, you’ve had him for an hour; let me have him just a few minutes.”
“I’ve got him quiet now,” said Jimmie. “Don’t disturb him.”
And he started walking up and down, humming a tune.
I sat down and watched him. He didn’t do it right. You have to tilt a little bit when you walk a baby. You know. Sort of rise and fall as you walk, with a gentle, floating motion. It’s like a dance. In fact, it is a dance. One of the oldest and loveliest dances in the world
“Jim,” I said, “you don’t handle that child right. Let me show you something.”
“Sit down,” said Jimmie. “I’ll get tired of it presently and then you can have it. By O baby, go to sleepie!”
“You shouldn’t breathe down on a baby like that,” I admonished.
“I’m just looking at him,” said Jim. “I’m breathing in when I sing.”
“But We’re Minding a Baby”
He continued to walk up and down the living room.
“How long will this young couple be out?” I asked.
“They went to a rassling match or something,” said Jimmie. “About eleven-thirty, I guess.”
“I’ll take him at nine-thirty then.” I said, “and keep him until they come in; how’s that?”
“We’ll see,” said Jimmie. “On the tree top. When the wind blows the cradle will rock.”
Jim walked interminably up and down the room, sometimes holding the baby close up under his chin, with his head sideways. You know. And sometimes swinging it softly from side to side as he paced.
The telephone rang.
“Here, I’ll hold him while you answer,” I cried.
“You answer,” said Jim. “Let’s not disturb him with changing.”
It was Billie Cain on the line and he wanted Jimmie and me both to come over to his place to meet a man just home from Baker Lake or somewhere up in the Arctic. He had had some marvelous duck shooting and wild geese and he had the most wonderful collection of snapshots of wild game and catches of lake trout up to fifty pounds per fish!
“Sorry, Bill,” I said, “but we are minding a baby.”
“Put it in the clothes basket and bring it over,” said Bill. “It’s only three blocks and a lovely mild night.”
I went back and told Jimmie. His eyes glistened.
“I suppose it would be all right. For an hour or so,” said Jim. “I’ve always wanted to hear about the shooting up in that Great Bear Lake country. What do you say?”
“We could put him in a clothes-basket.”
“Tell him we’ll come,” said Jim.
I got the clothes-basket from the laundry down cellar and we rigged up some cushions off the chesterfield and we folded up an eiderdown from upstairs for a cover and packed the baby cozily, without him even smacking his lips, let alone opening his eyes in that sudden wide still way they do.
“Let’s not go in the car,” said Jim. “The racket of stating and so on would disturb him.”
So I took one handle of the clothes-basket and Jim the other and through the lovely night we walked over to Bill Cain’s place. It was wonderful, with that little fellow between us, swinging alone through the darkness, sound asleep and all unaware of the wonderful world he was ushered into, the mystery, the greatness, and him so small and helpless with two perfect strangers bearing him in a cradle through the night. There was three or four fellows at Bill’s, and we all had a look at the baby, especially the fellow from Baker Lake, who hadn’t seen a baby for five years or something. But after admiring him for a few minutes Jimmie carried him upstairs to Bill’s wife bedroom (she was at the movies, too) and parked him in the basket on the bed.
Forgetting Their Charge
The man from Baker Lake had some wonderful tales to tell. Of the myriad flocks of wildfowl and geese. Of making a hide from rushes and hunks of the tundra and decoys out of a few dead ducks he had pot shot, and then having flights of a thousand ducks come into the decoys, with eleven ducks to five shots of his pump gun.
And geese! He made flying shots at eighty and ninety yards, and they packed the wild geese in barrels with salt for the winter. And lake trout. Forty and fifty pounders were commonplace. All they had part of the time was a small raft made out of little poles, and they trolled from this raft, with a piece of chalk line and a hunk of pork, and hauled up forty pounders. And maybe it wasn’t some fight, handling these slithery monsters on a little bit of raft half-submerged.
It was a wonderful story this Baker Lake chap had to tell. Mrs. Bill came in from the movies about eleven and we forgot to mention the baby upstairs on her bed. She made coffee and sandwiches and while we men were eating them she went upstairs and found the baby.
“What’s this?” she cried, all flushed and beautiful, coming halfway down the stairs to beckon and whisper at us.
So if course we had to explain and all go upstairs while Mrs. Bill, who has no children, had a grand time. She picked the baby up and it waked, and smacked its little mouth and stared with its large gray eyes, while Mrs. Bill pretended it was hers. She sat on the edge of the bed and cuddled it. Stood looking at herself in the mirror holding it against her cheek. And she disappeared with it for a few minutes. And it was with a sudden sense of shock that I looked at my watch and saw it was ten minutes to twelve.
“Jimmie,” I cried. “It’s midnight!”
“We’ll have to run,” said Jimmie.
But with putting the baby back in the basket and making a few farewell remarks to the man from Baker Lake and so on, it was ten or fifteen minutes after midnight before Jimmie and I got out on the street with the basket.
“Jimmie,” I exclaimed, “this kid’s parents will be nearly crazy!”
“Aw, they know me-they’ll trust me,” said Jim.
“Yes, but you don’t know youthful parents. This is their first baby. They come home sometime about eleven-thirty, and find you out. Your family didn’t know you were minding the baby, did they?”
“No, they didn’t ask me to mind the kid until after my folks had gone out,” said Jim.
“Well,” I said, as we walked along with the basket between us, “they come home from the rassling and call at your home and your family don’t know what they are talking about. Jimmie isn’t home. I tell you, they are likely to be pretty frightened or even mad when you get back.”
“What do they want to ask me to mind their kid for,” asked Jim, “if they can’t trust me? They ought to know it would be all right.”
“I’ll leave you at your front door,” I said.
“Kill the Kidnapper”
Jimmie suddenly halted.
“Just a minute,” he said. “I forgot my cigarette case. You carry the basket a minute while I run back to Bill’s for it.”
It was only half a block.
I picked the basket up and walked on while Jim hurried back the street. I got to the corner and turned down, when a street light roused the baby and, after a few preliminary tries, he suddenly started to squall.
“Husssssshh!” said I.
The baby let out half a dozen of those inimitable wows that small babies can emit.
As I passed a house, the door opened suddenly and a woman appeared on the veranda. I heard her let out a slight scream as she dashed back into the house.
A car passing suddenly jammed on the brakes and four men, all strangers to me, leaped out and surrounded me before I knew what was happening.
One of them wrenched the basket from me.
Good heavens, in my wildest dreams I never expected to be faced with such a horrible situation.
But even rabbits will fight if cornered. I felt the other three taking strong, clinch holds on me while the other one ran for the car with the basket. I fought like a wildcat, trying to shout for help, but one man’s arm was around my neck and face, shutting off my wind. I kicked, jabbed, clawed, bit and heaved.
In less than thirty seconds, half a dozen more cars had gathered, and I was the core of a fighting, shouting, heaving mob of people, none of whom I could see, but I was sincerely hoping, as I writhed and clawed and kicked, that they would sense the situation and save the child from the kidnappers.
“Kill the dirty kidnapper!” I heard a woman scream, and I was in the midst of a sag of relief when I felt myself kicked viciously from behind.
I heard a woman crying.
“I’ve got him,” said a voice close to me, “Let’s have a look at him.”
“Are you sure it isn’t Frise?” asked another voice.
“No, it’s a little runty guy, with a very touch look about him.”
I felt myself being cleared of clinging forms, and in the street lights, all in a bundle, I was revealed to the gaze of about thirty people, both men and women.
“That certainly isn’t Mr. Frise,” said the young lily who was, I saw, cuddling the baby in her arms.
There was a growl from the little mob, “What has he done with Frise’s body?” asked a voice.
“What are you talking about?” I snarled.
“Take him to the police station,” shouted a voice.
“Kill him and throw him in the Humber,” shouted another voice.
Just a Way Men Have
They were crowding close, and the man holding me was gripping my arms so tight they were starting to go to sleep, when I heard feet pounding and then Jimmie’s welcome voice asking what was all the trouble.
“Oh, poor Mr. Frise!” cried the young lady hugging the baby. And she ran up to him, with a gesture of tenderness.
“Poor Mister my neck,” I snarled. “Let go of me.”
“Did they hurt you, Mr. Frise?” cried the young mother. “Oh, how you must have fought to defend my baby!”
“Here,” said Jimmie, seeing me gripped and helpless. “Let him go. What did he do?”
“The kidnapper!” cried the mother, “It was him had the baby in a clothes basket!”
I saw Jimmie stand irresolute for one awful minute as he pondered whether to let it go at that and get out of the mess or to make a clean breast. But Jimmie always comes through.
“This,” said Jimmie, indicating me, “is Mr. Clark, my old friend, who was helping me mind the baby.”
“But where have you been?” demanded a young man, who, I suppose, was the father of the infant.
“I had to go over to a friend’s for a minute,” said Jim, “so Mr. Clark was helping me mind the child and we carried him along with us, not wishing to leave him unguarded in my house.”
“But we came home from the rassling at ten o’clock,” cried the father. “And there was no one in your house. We waited. Then my wife got nervous. And as time went by and no sign of you, we got excited. We called at all the neighbors, not knowing what to do . . .”
“Then your family came in, about eleven,” went on the young mother. “It was past feeding time, and they said it wasn’t like you to go out when left in charge . . .”
“So we started hunting . . .”
“Down in your cellar . . .”
“And in all the vacant lots nearby . . .”
“And the more we did, the more unbearable it became . . .”
“And then,” said I, trying to smooth down my clothes, “they see me walking along alone with the baby while Jimmie ran back to his friend’s house to get his cigarette case.”
“I think, Mr. Frise,” said the young father, as we stood with all the neighbors listening. “it was very inconsiderate of you to go out for so long when you undertake to care for our baby.”
“I think,” said Jim, “that when you have trust enough in a man to leave your baby with him, you might trust him enough to turn up, no matter how mysterious the circumstances.”
“It’ll be the last time.” said the young mother starting away.
“Indeed it will,” said Jimmie.
He took my arm and we crossed the lawns over to the uninhabited side of the street.
“They almost killed me, Jim,” I said. “They were going to lynch me.”
“Well, you wanted to have the baby to yourself, didn’t you?”
“That was earlier in the evening.” I said. “Men are queer about babies. They love them, of course. They get a great kick out of minding them. But it is only for a little while. It is an impulsive emotion, but it doesn’t last long.”
“I guess men shouldn’t be asked to mind infants,” said Jim.
Which is the moral of this story.
Editor’s Note: The people were probably jumpy about kidnapping in this story as it had only been two years since the famous kidnapping of aviator Charles Lindbergh’s baby. The arrest of a suspect did not occur until September 1934, after this story was written.
“In jig time” means to move very quickly.
“A very touch look about him” means he looks a little crazy.