The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Tag: 1940 Page 1 of 3

Aristocracks

I would forbid any of my tenants to shoot my rabbits

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, January 6, 1934.

“If you had a million dollars,” said Jimmie Frise, as we sat over our cigarettes and dirty dishes in a downtown lunch place, “what would you do with it in times like these?”

“I have a great idea,” I replied. “I’ve been thinking a lot about it this last couple of years.”

“Let’s have it,” said Jim, sitting back.

“If I were a millionaire I would go down around Port Hope or maybe north of Brampton,” I said, “and I would buy 2,000 acres of farmland.”

“Old stuff,” said Jim. “Rich man buys a farm.”

“Wait a minute,” I protested. “You haven’t heard my scheme yet. I’d buy 2,000 acres of fine farmland, with various kinds of soil – clay, clay loam, sandy loam, swamps, pasture, and so forth.”

“Mixed land,” said Jim.

“Yes, and then I’d divide it up into small farms. I would have 100-acre cattle ranches and 10-acre market gardening farms, five-acre chicken ranches and 100-acre mixed farms, for grain and roots, and so forth.”

Real estate racket, eh?” asked Jim.

“On each of these farms,” I went on, “I would build a beautiful modern farm house, of brick, with good barns and buildings, with all modern conveniences like running water and septic tanks and everything. The cattle farm would have modern stables. The small farm suitable for chicken raising would be all chicken runs and houses.”

This has been done before,” said Jim.

“In the midst of this two-thousand-acre estate,” I said, “I would build my own house, the Manor, a large and beautiful house, in the old fashion, but with every convenience, with garages and stables and kennels for all my dogs. From this manor house would radiate drives to all parts of the estate.”

“Ah, you’re going to have a large family?” guessed Jimmie.

“No, sir,” I said. “When I had it all laid out, I would advertise the farms for rent on five-year leases. I would invite the sons of farmers, graduates of the agricultural college and the better class of young farmers who had no land of his own, to come and lease these specialized farms from me. In no time, I would be surrounded by young men, with their wives and little families, working ideal farms provided with every aid to modern agriculture.”

“And what would you do?” Jim inquired.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “I would then hire a professor from the agricultural college to act as manager of the estate. He would have a nice house a little way from the Manor. He would do the dividing up of the estate into proper lots of land. He would select the tenants. He would act as adviser to the tenants and to me. Instead of there being an agricultural representative for the county, I would have our own resident adviser, and it would be written right in the leases that the Professor, as we would no doubt call him, would have the right to oversee all operations.”

Lord of the Manor

“Yes, and what would you be doing all this time?” asked Jimmie. “Sleeping? Or gone fishing maybe?”

“I would be the Squire,” I said. “I would be seen in the early mornings, with the dew on the grass, riding a nice quiet little horse about the lanes and roads, amidst the hedges. I would get myself made a J.P.1, so that I could do all the marrying and so forth. I would just visit around all the tenants inspiring them, joking with them, taking a great interest in the children, acting generally as the lord of the manor.”

“And collecting the rents,” said Jim.

“Yes,” I said, “I have figured out that the rents would give me a good return on my million dollars, especially as I would have a clause in the lease that would let me break it if they didn’t come through.”

“You would certainly have a good time,” said Jim.

“Yes,” I cried. “Think of it. I could pack of beagles and I would forbid any of the tenants to shoot my rabbits. Two thousand acres would provide me a lot of rabbit hunting.”

“How about giving me a job?” asked Jimmie.

“If you really knew anything about farming,” I said, “I might make you the manager of the estate. But you were only born and raised on the farm. How about you renting one of my small farms? There’s an idea.”

“One of the five-acre chicken ranches,” said Jimmie.

“Then,” I went on, “think of the social activity around the manor house! The parties! The tenants coming and going; the people from the city, all my city friends, driving out for the week-ends.”

“You would have to turn Tory,” said Jim.

“Yes, I suppose I would have to,” I said. “I can’t imagine even a Liberal, let alone a Radical lord of the manor. One has to be firm about one’s rents, and you can’t do that if you have any funny political ideas. Yes, I’d be a Tory. And I have thought, too, that I would build a church on the estate. We would have our own church and our own minister. It would be nice to have a front family pew, perhaps raised a little, with me and all my children and grandchildren in it.”

“Ah, grandchildren?” said Jimmie.

“Yes,” I said, “I can picture myself growing pleasantly old around that large and happy community, loved and respected, and perhaps, if titles ever come back, I might have a grandson that would be Lord Clark.”

“Ah, Lord Clark!” cried Jimmie, waving his cigarette. “Lord Clark of Brampton or Port Hope!”

“Mind you,” I cried, “an old-fashioned lord. A lord of the old school. Not one of these industrial lords, in shipping or manufacturing.”

To Recover a Lost Happiness

“But you would still collect the rents,” said Jimmie.

“Yes, and I’d have a community general store on the estate,” I said. “The storekeeper would draw a salary, and he would sell everything at cost to the farmers. I might even have a co-operative marketing office, like the U.F.O.2 A fleet of trucks to carry the produce of the farms to the city.”

“Your tenants would never really have to go to town at all,” said Jimmie. “They could just sit there in the peace and quiet of your magnificent estate, and worry about nothing.”

“What would they want go to town for?” I demanded. “You miss the point of the whole scheme. It is to recover a lost happiness. To bring back a former glory. Yes, the professor would manage the co-operative marketing system. There might be even a little profit there. In time, one of my sons might get a good job right on the estate as marketing expert, at a good salary. A salary that would keep him in a condition that befits the son of the manor.”

“And maybe you could bring up one of your sons in the ministry, and he could run the community church?” said Jim.

“Self contained,” I agreed. “That’s the idea.”

“It’s a great idea,” said Jimmie. “I know of no safer way to invest your million. Your family would be fixed for generations to come. How about the sons of your tenants?”

“They could inherit the leases,” I explained.

It was time to go. The waitress was leaning over us piling the dishes on her tray.

We put on our coats and walked out to the street, and I must say, I was surrounded by a kind of pearly-colored glow. I felt benign and serene. I felt kindly toward all mankind, and if any bum had caught me right then, as we stepped out on to the street, I would have given him a shilling or maybe even half a crown, as you might call a fifty-cent piece, along with some sound advice. Yes, sir. I wished I had a walking stick, as I stepped out on to Yonge St.

We walked over to Jimmie’s car that was parked on the kerb, and there was a truck parked ahead of it, with its engine running.

“Drat the truck!” said Jimmie, surveying the way we were trapped by cars behind and in front. It was the usual street scene.

“The man will be out in a moment,” I said. “Don’t be impatient, Jimmie. No gentleman is ever indignant. Or impatient.”

We got into Jimmie’s car and sat there. Three, four, five minutes went by, and still the big truck stood right in front of us, prisoning us, with its body gently jiggling all over with the engine running.

“Look here, Jim,” I said. “There’s an opening across the road. I’ll just get out and drive the truck across to that space.”

“If you like,” said Jimmie.

Back To Reality

I got out and looked about. There was no sign of any truck driver.

I got in the cab of the truck. It was just the same as an ordinary car. I let go the brake, let in the gears, and drew carefully out from the kerb and steered for the open space across the road. But just as I got into the middle of the street, a car slid along and parked itself in the opening I was aiming for.

I drove on slowly. There were no more spaces in the block!

So I drove around the block, carefully, trusting that by the time I got back, there would either be a new opening along the kerb, or else Jimmie would see the situation, move out of his place and let me in and wait for me.

But all down the block there was no open space, and there sat Jimmie, solemnly waiting at his wheel. I drew alongside of him with the truck and stopped.

“Hey!” I cried. “I’ll go around the block once more, and you watch for me coming. And when you see me. draw out of the kerb here and let me drive in. Then wait for me a jiffy.”

“Right-o!” cried Jimmie.

So I drove around the block once more. I ran into a few delays. There was a traffic jam on a side street. And I was held up at all three corners of the block.

And then I got back on to Yonge St, and started slowly for Jim, watching ahead to see if he saw me coming. Jimmie is forgetful.

But there he was, turned in the driver’s seat and watching me approach. I slowed.

Suddenly, I saw a figure running beside me.

He was big and hairy, he had on overalls, his arms were bare and dirty, and he had the most terrible expression I have seen on a human face since the last of the great war cartoons.

“Aaarrrrnnnnnhh!” he snarled, galloping alongside the truck.

I surmised he was the truck driver.

“Just a minute, my good man!” I cried down to him, trying to handle the brakes, gears and steering wheel and also to keep an eye on traffic, though both my eyes were strongly attracted down to this man snarling below me on the pavement.

“Gearrrratttt!” roared the big brute. And while I clung helpless to the big steering wheel, he leaped on the step and laid hold of my shoulder.

“Gearrrratttt!” roared the big brute as he leaped on the running board

He chucked me out over his shoulder as if I were a pillow. As I felt myself passing over his head, I sensed him sliding as if in masterful hands, gain speed and leap down the street.

At that moment, I landed. I landed in slush and mud and cigarette butts and old chewing gum.

Independence Highly Prized

I landed right in front of Jim’s car. I slid quite a piece, gathering slush as I slid. I lay still.

Jimmie was out and beside me in an instant. I felt him wiping my face off with his handkerchief.

“Ah,” cried Jimmie, “as I live! If it isn’t Lord Clark of Port Hope!”

“Jimmie,” I spluttered, “get me out of this!”

He assisted me to my feet. He hastened me into his car. Only a few of the common people had gathered around to see me. “Take me somewhere,” I cried, as we drove off. “Take me to a cleaner’s and presser’s or something.”

“How about a Turkish bath, milord?” asked Jimmie.

“Did you ever see anything so brutal?” I demanded, holding my hands in the air, because I was all gooey. “That truck driver might have known by my appearance that I was not a car thief!”

“Well, if you were a truck driver,” said Jimmie, “and you came out and saw your truck vanished, and then all of a sudden saw your truck driving along the street with a stranger at the wheel, what would you do?”

“Throw him to the street!” I said hotly. “I never saw such outrageous conduct!”

“Ah, times have changed,” said Jimmie. “In the old feudal days, in the days of the manor house, for example, truck drivers knew their place and they knew the lord of the manor when they saw him. Now in the old days, that truck driver would merely have tipped his cap to you. And curtseyed!”

“Jimmie!” I said.

“But you see,” explained Jimmie, “times have so changed. There is a great independence abroad in the world. Men want that independence even more than they want comfort and security.”

“It was outrageous,” I said.

“Sure,” said Jimmie, “but no matter how honest your intentions, you can’t monkey with a truck driver’s truck nowadays. That big guy would rather drive a truck and have the right to throw a benign old squire like you in the mud, than be your flunkey and live on the fat of the land.”

“If I had a million dollars,” I said, “do you know what I would do with it?”

“What?” said Jim.

“I’d buy a fleet of trucks, and by George, I would teach those truck drivers manners!”

“Ah, well,” said Jim, “the main thing is you haven’t the million dollars.”

March 23, 1940

Editor’s Notes:

This story was repeated on March 23, 1940 as “Times Have Changed”.

  1. Justice of the Peace. ↩︎
  2. United Farmers of Ontario. This party formed the Ontario government from 1919-1923. By the time of this article, they were in decline and dissolved by 1944. ↩︎

Barter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I guess he would.”

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

“H’m,” h’med Jimmie.

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

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

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

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

“It’s supply and demand,” said I.

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

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

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

Everything We Don’t Need

“That wouldn’t last long,” said I.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It sounds good, but our wives–“

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

“We’ll buy them hockey tickets.”

“All right,” said Jim.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An old gas heater from the cellar.

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

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

If We Only Knew How

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

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

First, he handed out a baby carriage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then his wavering eyes met mine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Not cartoonists,” said I.

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

“Room for everybody.”

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

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

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

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

Interned

September 21, 1940

Under the 1940 National Registration Regulations, every citizen 16 and older had to carry proof of registration at all times.

Summer Orphans

We carried the dishes upstairs, stacked them in the bathtub and turned on the shower.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, August 11, 1934.

“Well,” said Jimmie Frise, “what’ll we do to-night?”

“Let’s wash dishes,” I suggested. “I have a sink full, besides another pile on the drain board and a few on the kitchen table.”

“Mine,” said Jimmie, “are neatly stacked in piles in the sink. All scraped. Are yours scraped?”

“No,” I admitted rather shamed. “They’re just the way I put them down.”

“You’ve been a summer bachelor often enough,” criticized Jimmie, “to know better than leave dishes unscraped. All you need to do is spread out the morning paper on the kitchen table, scrape the egg, corn flakes or tomato squitters off the plates, empty the coffee cup, and pile the dishes and roll up the newspaper and toss it in the garbage pail. It’s no trouble at all. Yet it saves that funny smell that pervades a man’s house in the summer when his family is at the cottage.”

“I know, I know,” I admitted. “I have been intending to scrape my dishes for years. But somehow, a summer bachelor feels so dreary and low in his spirits, he can’t even summon enough energy to do a little thing like that. I hate my bed, too. All muddled and wrinkled.”

“Don’t you even change your bed?” cried Jimmie.

“Oh, I sometimes do,” I assured him. “But it’s such a problem, pulling the old sheets out and then working the new sheets back under the blanket and quilt.”

“You don’t do that!” scornfully cried Jim. “You pull all the bedclothes off, throw them on a chair, spread fresh sheets, and then put the blankets…”

“But you have to have somebody on the other side of the bed,” I explained. “To tuck in the far side.”

“Ach!” snorted Jim disgustedly. “You a summer bachelor! Do you know what you are? You’re a summer orphan.”

“I get along pretty well,” I protested.

“Listen,” said Jim, “I’ll tell you what to do to-night. If you’ll help me with my dishes, I’ll help you not only with your dishes but I’ll help you change your bed.”

“Swell,” I agreed.

What to do with yourself in the evenings is one of the eternal problems of that class of men whose families go away to summer cottages. Movies are good for so long. Sunnyside is good for a couple of trips. Watering the lawn is splendid maybe for about the last two nights of the week, Thursday and Friday, when you are feeling as homesick as possible and looking forward to seeing them all on Saturday; and it gives you a strange, virtuous feeling, a sort of religious feeling, to water the grass in their honor. But watering the grass is no good Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.

“Let’s eat supper downtown,” suggested Jim, “and then we’ll go to your place first, wash your dishes, make your bed, and then, over to my place. It will fill up the evening beautifully.”

For the Big Clean-Up

“Where will we eat?” I asked rather mournfully.

Jim looked thoughtful.

We summer bachelors eat our way right around the city. It isn’t that the restaurants are not good. They are all good. But after a few tries, each one gets on your nerves. So you try something different. You are seeking something unknown, unseen, indescribable. You are seeking your own home. But you don’t know it. So you go anxiously, like a wolf in a cage, from place to place, seeking. And not finding.

Jim named one restaurant. I made a face. Then I named a restaurant. And Jim made a face. So we decided to go to my house and pick up some tomatoes, cheese and a small bottle of cream at the corner store.

The house, when we entered, had that stuffy smell, of closed doors and windows, of stale smoke, of unwashed dishes in the kitchen. Maybe two weeks’ dishes.

“Phoo!” said Jim.

So we ate our tomatoes and cheese out in the garden, on the rustic table. And then we peeled up our sleeves and entered the kitchen for the big semi-monthly clean-up. As I had told Jim, my dishes were partly in the sink, partly on the drainboard, and the rest of them were laid on the table, the kitchen cabinet and the gas stove.

“Even if you piled them up,” argued Jim, “it would give you some feeling of decency. Why do you scatter them around like this?”

I spread a newspaper and started to scrape. But the stuff on the dishes, odds and ends, had dried tight to the dishes and you needed a chisel, not a paring knife; for a scraper.

“Put them in the sink and soak them while we make the bed,” suggested Jim.

“The sink isn’t big enough,” I pointed out.

“Ah,” cried Jim. “An idea! Look here, why should we summer bachelors be slaves to woman’s way of doing things? Let us carry these dishes up to the bathroom and do them in the bathtub!”

“There’s an idea!” I shouted., “Why should we be handicaped by a silly little sink?”

“Put them in the bathtub,” said Jim, “let the water run on them, leave the plug open, and the current will wash them automatically. All we have to do is come along and dry them. Come on.”

So we got trays and we loaded up the dishes, plates, cups, bowls, saucers and all those things you never saw before but which you found in back of the china closet when you started to run short of dishes about the third week. Dishes, little pitchers, funny plates that you dimly remembered having seen when you were a boy.

We carried them up and stacked them in the bathtub. We turned on the shower both hot and cold, although there was no hot water, of course. But the spray of water splashed and roared on the dishes, and in a minute or two, we began to see the remnants of scrambled egg and toast crusts come loose and vanish down the hole.

“Marvellous!” yelled Jim, above the noise of the shower. “We have discovered something every summer bachelor should know.”

By shifting the pile of dishes now and again, the streams of water went new ways, found new channels, and every new way they went, the streams of pure water did good.

“Let’s make your bed while they wash,” said Jim proudly. “It’s automatic.”

So we went in and Jim showed me how to haul the bedclothes off with one large swipe, fling them on a chair, and then he and I laid fresh sheets, and put back the light blanket and the quilt. Jim even tucked the quilt up that way the ladies do, you know, sort of dinted in the middle with the two ends flounced out.

“Ah,” I said. “I’ll hate to disturb it to-night.”

“I’ll come and help you make it any time,” said Jim grandly.

We went back into the bath tub and there the top dishes were already shining white, and we shifted the pile loosely, exposing new surfaces to the rushing water. You could see the old stuff whirling about and vanishing down the pipe.

“Look here,” said Jim. “let’s leave them and run over to my place and put mine in the bath tub. And by the time we get back, they will be ready to dry.”

“Won’t they be kind of greasy?” I asked. “We should put soap on them.”

“Where’s your soap flakes?” asked Jim.

I ran down cellar and got a package of soap flakes, which we sprinkled liberally over the pile, and even the cold water made foamy suds. A lot of the flakes caught in various places in the pile which would melt in time.

“Come on,” said Jim.

So we walked the two blocks over to Jim’s house, carried his dishes up to his bathroom, piled them and turned the water on and scattered soap flakes all over them. We also went in and saw Jim’s garden for a few minutes, and chatted with a neighbor who knew all about zinnias. And then we strolled back to my place.

We went in the garden and sat down. Through the open bathroom window we could hear the shower mumbling. Occasionally we could hear a dish clink.

“Having solved the dish problem,” said Jim, leaning back in the garden seat, “let us turn our attention to the laundry of a summer bachelor. You know, all it takes is a little attention to solve any kind of problem. Women are set in their ways. They have their little dinky way of doing things. Little sinks. Little dish towels. Everything is tiny and routine and sissy. Now, if we men can improve on dish washing, why can’t we improve on laundry? In time to come, I would not be surprised if, instead of a little sink, and dishes to wash three times a day, the house of the future will have a huge sink in it, where all the dishes will be put after each meal. And then, at night, one big dish washing bee will held. How much more freedom this would give to womanhood! One dish-washing bee each day, on a large scale. It would be a lot cheaper to buy a few more dishes than to spend three-quarters of an hour three times every day, like a slave, washing a few dishes. We haven’t solved the problems of the domestic world yet. Science needs to pay attention to the home.”

“It isn’t science so much as just common sense, Jimmie,” I said. “That bath tub idea has been staring mankind in the face ever since bath tubs were invented. Yet who thought of it?”

“I did,” said Jim, “in the year 1934. Let’s remember it.”

We chatted on, philosophically.

“Perhaps I should run up and shake a few more soap flakes over the pile,” I suggested. “I don’t hear the taps.”

“Maybe Women are Right”

We listened.

There was no mumble of the taps.

“That’s funny,” said Jim, half rising.

“Jimmie!” I gasped.

We had both thought of the same thing. We leaped and ran to the back door.

We were too late.

The back entrance is a French door leading directly into the dining room. When we opened the doors we were at first confused. The dining room had disappeared. The wallpaper was drooping in large glistening festoons from the ceiling. I thrust through the clinging jungle. Water was dripping merrily, briskly. Bumping against tables and chairs. I got into the hall, where there is a painted plaster ceiling. Into the front lobby I dashed, to find a cascade of water pouring down the front stairs. There was a secret, busy air of water seeping, creeping. crawling, dripping, everywhere. I sloshed upstairs, Jim behind me.

“Oh, gosh!”

The bath tub was overflowing, and cups and bowls were floating happily in a little sea.

“It’s plugged, Jim,” I moaned. “Something plugged it.”

“Toast crusts,” cried Jim. “Bacon rind.”

I snapped the taps off. An inch of water lay all over the floor and out into the bedrooms, the rugs were soggy, the garments I had thrown on the floor of different rooms, the items of next week’s laundry that I had tossed aside on various floors, all, all were sodden. We heard strange, mysterious slithering, slickery sounds downstairs again. We hurried below, to find wallpaper slithering off walls, collapsing off ceilings. We tore it away, to discover tables, chairs, upholstery soaked and soggy. The chesterfield was like a vast pudding.

“Oh, Jimmie,” I moaned.

“You’ll have to excuse me,” said Jim, starting for the front door. “I got to get home and turn off my shower.”

“Don’t leave, Jim!” I shouted. “Not now.”

But Jim was gone.

I waded about for some minutes, baling, mopping, sloshing. What a terrible thing! Then the telephone rang. It was Jim.

“I got my taps in time,” said he. “Come on over and help me with my dishes and let that place dry overnight. You had better stay over here with me to-night.”

“All right, Jim.”

“We can see what has to be done better to-morrow at your place. Let her subside.”

“All right, Jim.”

“And incidentally, maybe women have the right idea about things. Maybe sinks are better for dishes.”

“You’re right, Jim.”

So I got my hat and went over to Jim’s.

August 10, 1940

Editor’s Notes: We’ve mentioned summer orphans before, when men used to stay in the city during the summer while their family went to a cottage or summer resort. The men would only join them on weekends and therefore were on their own during the weekdays.

“…although there was no hot water, of course”: Some people turn off their hot water heater in the summer to save money.

The dishwasher was invented before this article came out, but did not really become more common until the 1970s.

This story was repeated as “Almost Automatic” on August 10, 1940.

It also appeared in Silver Linings (1978).

Gentle Sleep

“What do you mean by dragging us all over the country?” I said, slithering out of the trailer.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, July 21, 1934.

“How,” asked Jimmie Frise, “do you sleep these hot nights?”

“Just the same,” I answered. “On top of the bed.”

“I mean, do you sleep well?”

“Say, Jimmie, I sleep like a log. All I have to do is get into a horizontal position and inside of about a hundred seconds I’m sound asleep.”

“Sleep is a great blessing,” said Jim. “I sleep like a top, too.”

“Why,” I said, “I have to fight like the dickens against sleep when I am in the dentist’s chair; and whenever I get shaved by a barber I always go to sleep. Horizontal. That’s all I need to be.”

“Boy,” said Jim, “I’ve slept in some of the funniest places. I’ve slept on the back of a mule. And the mule was moving. I’ve slept in a wheelbarrow. I’ve slept in a canoe.”

“I,” I said, “have slept in an aeroplane, in the mud, a foot deep, and me sound asleep in it. I’ve slept on the floor for two years. And I liked it. Board floors.”

“Ah,” said Jimmie, “those old war days! They showed us a few things about human nature, didn’t they? Some of us went to war with the funniest ideas of how essential comfort was to human happiness. And we learned we could be perfectly happy forever without beds, baths, chairs, roofs, walls.”

“Sometimes, Jimmie,” I said, “I often feel like getting out of bed and sleeping on the hard floor just for old times’ sake.”

“I wonder,” said Jim, “if we could stand it now or have we grown soft? Remember, we were a lot younger in those days. The young can stand a great deal.”

“Pshaw!” I cried. “Jimmie, I am tougher than I was in those days. I was just a young cub, a softie. I had never been away from my mother’s apron-strings. I bet, if we had to, we could stand twice the hardship now and feel it less.”

“Our wives are away,” said Jim, musingly. “I tell you what we might do some night. We might just drive out into the country a little way and lie down on the ground and sleep. For old times’ sake.”

“I’m on,” I said. “Any time.”

So that hot night last week Jim called for me and said if I had nothing better to do we would go out and sleep on the roadside. “The sun will wake us at reveille, as usual,” said Jim, “and we can drive back to town and have a bath and shave and change our suits before time to go to work.”

“Better go in our old clothes,” I said. So we changed into old fishing clothes and went for a drive.

Out west of the city we turned up a pleasant summer road in the night, and the summer stars glowed down and the young couples were parked along the road and as we took such turns into country byways as fancy directed us we saw cows with insomnia behind the rail fences and the toads trilled and the crickets chirped.

“Gosh,” said Jim, “I don’t feel like sleep yet. Let’s just dangle along until we get sleepy.”

“Not too far from town,” I said.

Glorious Freedom

“Lets take roads we never saw before,” said Jim. So we went hunting for roads we had never been on and it was a good game.

We passed Malton and Brampton and Georgetown. We passed Acton and Ospringe and Eramosa. We got down roads that ended in corduroy, and over high hills that seemed to touch the liquid stars, and through cool, dank cedar swamps, where we heard mysterious sounds in the depths when we stopped the car.

“It’s pretty near bedtime,” I said.

“Yeah,” yawned Jimmie. “We can turn. In any time now. Just pick a nice-looking bank of the road and we’ll go to bed.”

It was a glorious feeling. Without a care in the world. With no property like houses to surround and smother us. Just the wide and starry sky for our coverlet and the good old earth for our bed.

We came out into a level country in which dark farmhouses stood under the starlight faintly and under an elm tree we stopped the car and got out.

“O-wah,” yawned Jim, stretching. “This’ll do me.”

I found another good spot and sat down. “Well, Jimmie, sweet dreams.”

In the army I slept on the flat of my back and preferred plain boards to straw or any other so called bedding. I turned on my back under the elm tree, put my arm under my head and relaxed.

A bug jumped on to my face and off again. Something creepy jittered through the grass near my down ear. A stone began to press into my hip joint. I shifted.

“Oo-wah,” yawned Jimmie and shifted. He was about eight feet from me.

Something soft and small, like a green worm, dropped from the elm tree and hit my vest. I sat up and brushed it off.

Jim shifted.

“Isn’t this swell?” said Jim, sleepily.

I lay down and breathed deeply. Another stone was gouging my shoulder. I shifted and squirmed and burrowed with my back to find a good place on which to arrange my various touching-spots. Some extremely small thing, an ant probably, ran quickly across from my chin, past the corner of my mouth to my eyelid before I brushed it off.

“Kind of buggy around here,” I said.

“Remember the earwigs in France?” asked Jim, eagerly, propping up on one elbow.

“Say,” I said, sitting up and reaching for a cigarette, “weren’t they the limit! Worse than cockroaches.”

So Jim and I both sat up and talked about earwigs for one cigarette. Then we lay down again. I got a little better place this time and got half drowsy when a stone again wakened me and I was just in time to see Jimmie creeping on hands and knees toward the car. I watched him reach up and very softly turn the door-handle and start to get into the car, when I called him.

“Jimmie.”

“Yes! I was just going to see if the key was turned off.”

I got up. The stars were still where they were. The night was still filled with the trill of toads and the chirp of crickets.

“Let’s go and find a barn or something,” I said. “I was never much good at sleeping on the ground. It was more on hard boards, as I said. Hard boards, that’s what I was good at.”

A Ghostly Awakening

So we started the car. It must have been midnight. And we coasted along to somewhere near Fergus, when, rounding a bend, we came in sight of a regular little village of tourist cabins.

“The very thing!” cried Jimmie and I together.

“Why didn’t we think of it before?” exclaimed Jimmie. “A tourist cabin. With no bedding. Just right on the floor. It’s perfect.”

We drove into the yard of the tourist camp. All was still and dark. We parked the car and walked around looking for the head-office. At the gas pump was a small shack, but nobody was in it.

We rapped delicately at one of the cabins.

“Hello,” said a sleepy voice.

“Can we get a cabin for the night,” asked Jim.

“Sure. Help yourself. The man has gone home, but help yourself. Down the far end,” said the voice.

We walked down the row of cabins. Some were single and some were double. There were new ones and last year’s ones. At the far end we tried two or three doors, but they were locked and sleepy sounds indicated they were occupied.

And at the very end we came to the dearest little cabin of all. It was low and not too wide. It stood a little apart and we feared it must be occupied, too. But when we tried the door it opened, to reveal a perfectly empty little cabin, without beds even, without any furniture at all. Just a little bare cabin without windows, but ventilated by slits along the eaves.

“Swell,” said Jimmie, lighting a match.

So we just slid in, closed the doors and, lying down in perfect comfort on the painted board floor, it was no time until we were asleep. I heard a snore from Jim. Then I heard a snore from myself. And I knew all was well. I just let go.

The next thing I knew Jimmie was shaking me excitedly.

“Hey, hey!” he cried hoarsely.

I woke up in terrible confusion. It was unreal and ghostly and frightening. It was pitch-dark.

And our cabin was travelling, humming, racing through space!

“Jimmie!” I yelled.

“We’re moving,” shouted Jimmie, attempting to stand up in the lurching cabin. We could hardly hear ourselves speak.

“Hey, hey, HEY, HALLLOOOOO!” we roared, hammering on the walls, the front, the back of the swaying, lurching cabin.

“Jimmie,” I cried, “what has happened?”

“I just half heard a sort of grating sound,” shouted Jim, “in my sleep. I tried to wake up, but I couldn’t. And the next thing I knew I felt the cabin starting to move.”

“Jimmie,” I wailed, “it isn’t a cabin. It’s a trailer. Hey, hey, stop, STOP!”

“Hey, hallooo, stop, stop!” yelled Jimmie, banging at the walls.

But we just went rolling along.

“Jimmie,” I said, “heaven knows where we are heading.”

“Take it easy,” said Jim, sitting down again on the floor. “This guy will have to stop sooner or later. At a crossing. Or for gas. And when he stops we can get out. There is no use making any fuss now. He can’t hear us.”

“Couldn’t you see it was a trailer?” I demanded indignantly.

“I was so sleepy,” said Jim.

“Could we try to jump out the door if he slows down?”

“I tried the latch,” said Jimmie. “It doesn’t open from the inside.”

“We may end up in Montreal,” I declared bitterly, “or North Bay.”

“He’ll stop sooner or later,” said Jim. “Just save your wind.”

So we sat there, wide awake, on the floor of that rushing, gravel-flinging, lurching trailer, while the driver, with never a slackening, with never a slow-down for crossroads or towns, bore through the night. We felt pavement under us several times, then gravel again, then pavement for a long time. It was quieter, and we shouted and banged, but it was no use, as the trailer had a clatter all its own that made conversation difficult. And the absence of windows gave us no chance to do any practical yelling.

“It’s getting daylight,” said Jim. And through cracks along the pent roof I could see faint streaks of gray.

Mile after mile we ticked along, but neither Jim nor I could close an eye.

“Hist!” cried Jim.

We heard a train whistling.

“Wooo, woo-woo!”

“A train!”

Again it whistled, faint but nearer. “Jimmie, I hope he sees it!”

The train whistled again, nearer. A moment later, as we sat clutched in our own muscles, it whistled, nearer, nearer, and we felt the speed of the trailer increase.

“Jimmie,” I hissed, “the fool is racing!” This time the engine whistle sounded very, very near and the speed of the car never slackened.

“Good-by, Jimmie,” I said.

Then the brakes went on, the trailer wobbled and lurched and we heard the train roar and whistle fiercely past us only a few feet away.

“Get ready,” said Jim. “Keep time with me when I yell and hammer.”

We heard the train’s end whizz by. The trailer jerked.

“Hoy!” we roared, banging in unison on the walls of our prison. “Hoy, hoy, hoy!”

The trailer, which had started to move, slowed, bumped over the railway tracks and came to a dead stop.

“Hello, there! Hoy, thump, thump!”

“What the heck!” said a voice muffled from without.

“Let us out!” we shouted.

The door of the trailer opened.

“What are you doing in there?” demanded a figure in the dawn, stepping back in alarm.

“What do you mean by dragging us all over the country?” I shouted, slithering out of the trailer.

So we explained it to one another. We told about calling at the tourist camp and being told to take the end cabin.

“But couldn’t you see this was a trailer?” asked the motorist.

“It was standing there, just like a cabin,” we insisted. “Where are we?”

“We’re about ten miles north of Huntsville,” said our host.

“What are you going to do about getting us back?” I asked.

“Sorry,” said he. “I am delayed now. I am taking this trailer up to Lake Nipissing and promised to be there by morning. I had parked it where you found it while I ran into Fergus for provisions.”

“But I have no money,” I exclaimed.

Jim had eighty-five cents.

“I tell you what I’ll do,” said the stranger, shutting the trailer door, “I’ll compromise with you. I’ll leave you here instead of taking you on to Nipissing.”

And before you could say Jim Frise he had walked up to his car, got in and drove off.

“Jimmie,” I said, “he can’t do that!”

“He’s done it,” said Jim, walking over to the side of the highway to sit down and wait daylight, which was just breaking.

So we sat there until a poor, lonesome commercial traveller came south from Sudbury and picked us up and talked us both to sleep.

Which we did until he waked us at St. Clair avenue.

“What are you doing in there?” demanded the man in alarm. “What do you mean dragging us all over the country?” I shouted, slithering out of the trailer.

Editor’s Note: This story was repeated on July 27, 1940 as “Sleep Riders”.

Pep Golf

As we started from the fifth bunker box, we had quite a following

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, May 27, 1933.

“How is it,” asked Jimmie Frise, “that you and me have never taken up golf?”

“Pah,” I replied contemptuously, “the most fruitless pastime in the world!”

“Even so,” said Jim, “there must be something in it, so many thousands of men play it. Men of our type.”

“I know of no sight more depressing,” I quoted some unknown philosopher, “than that of a golfer plodding hopelessly from shot to shot.”

“Do you think,” asked Jim, “there is something psychological in it? Is it possible these fellows, after failure at the office, disagreements at home and general despair with life, go out and defeat themselves at golf just to make the rest of their all-round licking seem less painful?”

“Listen, Jimmie,” I said, “don’t go into any of those complicated psychological theories of yours!”

“No, but look at history,” said Jim. “For ages, when none of us had turned easy-going, whenever we were filled with troubles, what did we do? We put on a hair shirt and turned hermit. That is like golf. A man goes out and suffers the torments of golf so as to make seem easier the troubles of business and home.”

“It might be,” I admitted admiringly. “But I would just as soon play postman as play golf. It’s the same sort of thing. Walking along, stopping and starting, going over familiar ground all the time. Give me fishing, where a fellow can visit new country every time he goes forth.”

I’m afraid you don’t know the rudiments of golf,” said Jim.

“I am thankful I don’t,” said I. “All I know is, I never heard of a golfer who won. If they don’t lose to their partner, they lose, anyway, by not doing as well as they did once before, about 1928. It is a gloomy game. A game of perpetual defeat.”

“Do you even know how they play it?” asked Jim.

“Sure,” said I. “They have a small hard rubber ball which they hit with different kinds of sticks with iron blades and knobs on the ends. They have half a dozen or more of these sticks, all different, so that no matter which one they use, they can believe it was the wrong one. If they used their birdie, they can always say, in a bitter voice, that they should have used their bunker or their giblet, I think they call it. It is a game with a bagful of alibis.”

“What is the object of the game?” asked Jim, slightly sneeringly.

“To play from hole to hole with as few shots as possible,” I replied. “Sometimes they play nine holes, and sometimes eighteen. The more holes they play, the greater is their defeat. I knew a fellow who once played twenty-seven holes on a Saturday and was so filled with grief he entirely forgot the depression.”

“My friends are always inviting me out to play golf,” said Jim. “I think some day we might try it, just to know what we are not missing.”

“The only reason I would ever visit a golf course,” I retorted, “would be to give it some new ideas, to introduce something to the game. For instance, I have often heard these old boys telling how they went around in eighty-four. But when I asked them how long it took them, they just stared. Do you know, Jimmie, they let them take all the time they like? Yes, sir, these old badgers go prowling around the golf course, pausing and thinking before every shot, taking all kinds of practice swings and figuring out every shot, every move, like chess players. Imagine hockey, in which every player was allowed to have the puck until he had figured out what to do with it? That’s what’s the matter with golf. It needs action. It needs some manly indecision about it. If these old guys could say, I went around in eighty-four in thirty-eight minutes, there would be something in it. But just to say they went around in eighty-four over the week-end is simply comical. That’s what it is, comical.”

Borrowing a Bag of Alibis

“Suppose I could get an invitation,” asked Jim, “would you come out and we would try a whirl at putting some speed into golf?”

“I imagine I would,” said I.

So Jim got in touch with a few friends and got an invitation for us to go out to a golf links on Thursday. The first few friends were overjoyed, and thought Jimmie meant he would come out with them. It is pathetic the way these golfers like to initiate a fresh sufferer. But Jim had to explain that he had an important friend up from New York, who was not only deaf and dumb, but was deformed and he hated mankind, and would only play with Jimmie. So one friend very gladly gave Jim a letter of introduction to his club. Jim borrowed a fellow artist’s outfit and I got a bag of alibis from my brother. There were nine balls and fourteen sticks in the bag, not to mention spare socks, small sponges, a raincoat that folded up about the size of a hankie and a whole lot of little things such as scoring gadgets and so forth, the meaning of which only amused me.

We arrived out at the club about two ‘clock, by which time there were several hundred people dotted all over the fields, all having that bowed, hopeless look that prisoners have on prison farms, as they go about their tasks.

We dressed up in the locker room in our ordinary fishing and shooting outfits and dragged our golf bags out to the starting place.

“You have to follow a certain course,” explained Jim in a low voice, as we waited for six men to start off. “These holes are numbered, and you must take them in proper order.”

“But we don’t even know that order,” I protested.

“We can ask as we go along,” said Jim.

“Nonsense,” I said. “How could we make any speed if we had to slow up all the time and say where do we go from here?”

“What do you suggest?” asked Jim.

“We play from one of these bunkers with the box on it, don’t we?” I demanded. “And we shoot for one of those little flags?”

“That’s it.”

“All right, starting here, we shoot for the nearest flag, and from there, we go to the nearest box, and in that way, work straight out, taking them as they come.”

“How will we know we haven’t done one hole before?” asked Jim.

“We simply won’t put the flag up,” I explained. “We will be working fast. The idea will be to see how small a score we can make in the shortest possible time. So after we do each hole, we’ll just leave the flag down and beat it for the next one.”

“What will all these gentlemen think of that?”

“They may be a little disturbed, if they notice it,” said I. “But they’re so engrossed in their game, they’ll never notice a little thing like a flag being up. Anyway, suppose they do get a little sore? When they realize what we are doing for the royal and ancient game of golf, when it comes out that we have revived, resuscitated, modernized a dying game, they will tell their grandchildren that they were actually on the links the very time Frise and Clark conducted their first experiment. Don’t worry about these people.”

Jim and I waited patiently while the six of them, two by two, leisurely gazed off into the distance, watched their slow-footed predecessors get out of range, and I think they all flattered themselves at that. Then we scratched our heads and repressed our feelings as they each one stood forth, leisurely laid their ball, waggled their sticks, waggled their nether anatomies, paused, thought, gazed, thought again, made a few cautionary swings, all in perfect style, and then, with no style at all, socked the ball off to one side.

Jim and I didn’t even nudge each other.

At last we stepped forth, by which time there were four other players ready behind us.

“Wait for those birds ahead to get out of range,” said Jim as I set the ball down.

“Nothing doing,” said I. “I have just taken the time as I set the ball down. The game is on. We’ll shoot for that flag right near there.”

I aimed at a flag down in a valley, only about 75 yards from us and off at an angle from which the others had played. I hit the ball high in the air and about half way to the flag, without any waggling whatsoever. Jim leaped up and laid the ball down without delay, socked it and we seized our bags and raced off on the first hole.

“Hey,” shouted one of the men who were coming next after us.

But there was no time to waste in explanations. We ran nimbly down the valley. I had the stick ready by the time I reached my ball, threw down the bag, socked it, picked up the bag and ran after it before Jim had even reached his ball.

Jim hit his beautifully and put it near the flag. I took three quick, short bats at mine before I laid it on the green, as they call it, although it was a kind of brown. holed in nine, Jim in fourteen, in exactly two minutes, fourteen seconds.

Just a little way to the side was one of those boxes on a bunker which is the starting place for each new hole, and we raced over to it. No silly dawdling. This was a contest not only of skill with the stick, but speed, endurance, strength, fortitude. We socked the balls away and dashed after them just as four men walked over a hillock and stood staring at us with some astonishment. But we rushed up to the balls, batted them a little way, and I found that if you did not lay the bag down but just hit the ball with a polo action, in your stride, you would hit it just as far and just as straight as some of those fellows who took five minutes to get at it. So Jim followed my style, and we dashed off the next hole in ten and sixteen, despite the fact that two men were near the hole and coming from the opposite direction.

“Are you ahead of us?” called one of these men, not at all snootily, but just sort of surprised to see us.

“We’re so far ahead you can’t imagine it,” I replied, as Jim and I dashed for the next box bunker.

“The flag?” shouted this man.

“Never mind the flag,” I called to Jim, “It’s this conversation and palavering that makes golf so slow.”

We made the next hole in nineteen and forty-one, Jim developing a bounding style, which did not send the ball far but at least did not delay us ten minutes looking for a lost ball. We passed through two parties of golfers, one going one way and one another, who stopped and held a discussion, probably about us, as it turned out. But we did this hole in three minutes flat, the whole score being on the first three holes, Jim 71, self, 38, with a time of only eight minutes and seventeen seconds.

Others Get the Idea

The nearest flag we could see on the fourth hole was quite a distance away, all of a hundred yards. We dashed up to the box, banged off the balls and were just getting into our stride, I with six strokes, Jim with eleven, when two elderly gentlemen in gray sweaters came over a rise and started running after us. Each held one golf club in his hand.

“It’s taking on!” I yelled to Jim. “Here’s two others have caught the idea.”

It developed into a race. We had the advantage of age, because both the old boys were staggering behind large, swaying stomachs. We finished the hole in a net score of Jim, 91, self, 50, time, eleven minutes, one second, when we saw, joining the elderly men, six or eight more, some of them younger and faster, and as far as I could see, they were not playing fair, because I could see no balls at all. I suspected them of kicking the ball ahead. Which was not a bad idea, and I tried it. You can get better distance kicking it, but not the direction.

Anyway, as we started from the fifth bunker box, the followers numbered twelve, and four of them were gaining rapidly on us.

“Experienced golfers,” I puffed to Jim. “We’d be better, too, if we spent half our lives on the golf links.”

We succeeded in getting away from the fifth start before the leaders caught us, but I had only got thirty yards before two of them, both twice my weight, caught up to me, and to my consternation, tackled me as if it were rugby we were playing and slammed me down.

“Foul, foul!” I yelled, and with some justice, as I was really the inventor of the game.

As they picked me up, I saw the other two catch up to Jim and grab him. By this time everybody had caught up, even the stout old men, who had gray moustaches and purple faces, and they were speechless. They just made gestures. Six men each carried Jim and me across the fields and down a little gully, where, I am sorry to admit, they threw us into a small muddy creek, without a single word. Not a word. They just carried us down, perspiring, and never a word out of them, and said one, two, three, and heaved us in.

“Now get out!” shouted one of the old men, who had a husky voice.

“Our clothes at the club house!” I called from the creek.

“Our golf bags, they’re borrowed,” called Jimmie, from the same place.

“Get out!” repeated the old gent. It was all he could think of to say.

They stood on the bank and watched us so we just waded out and up the bank and climbed a fence and signaled, as they say, a passing motorist who happened to be driving a truck, and for fifty cents he drove us home.

They carried Jim and me down a little gully and threw us into a muddy creek…. They stood on the bank and watched us, so we just waded out and up the bank and signaled a passing motorist

I explained to my brother about his clubs and my good clothes, and he just laughed and said a friend would pick up his bags.

I asked him what he thought of our idea, and he said it was an excellent one, but suggested we try it out some time when there were not many people on the links.

“When would that be?” I asked my brother.

“Well, say, the First of July; it’s a public holiday, and everybody will be away fishing.”

“But so will I,” I explained to him.

“Oh, well, then some other time,” he suggested.

May 25, 1940

Editor’s Notes: palavering means to talk unproductively and at length.

This story was repeated on May 25, 1940 as “Fruitless Pastime“.

The Giant Jack

January 20, 1940.

Pageant of Mystery As Canadian Troops Cross to Old Land

January 13, 1940.

Two stories on the same day and subject…

Second Half of Dominion’s First Division of Fighting Men Convoyed by French and British Warships Over Black Atlantic Ocean Arrives in England Without Mishap, in Fine Spirits

Gregory Clark is now in England with the first Canadian division. He crossed in a troopship. The text of his New Year’s broadcast, prepared before he sailed with the second contingent, is on page two.

By Gregory Clark, LONDON

The Canadian first division’s second volley landed unerringly on its target – England. Men you saw in Canada a few days ago are now in historic old barracks where a century’s history has been made.

In gray ocean days they have been transfigured from the Canadians you knew, modest humdrum lads in hasty khaki, into figures of this vast dynamic pattern of Britain. Now your boys march with kings – now your sons march with the Black Prince and Marlborough and Wellington.

They are here, and how the old kind bones of Britain must quiver to feel their young step.

Transfiguration by convoy across the bleak Atlantic is as beautiful a ceremony as most mysteries. You take a man, the grandson or the great-grandson of a pioneer from Britain who went this lonely way to an unknown destiny in a far new land a hundred years ago, and you put him all rollicking with his comrades in a batch aboard a ship.

He and his comrades are still Canadians as realistic as you yourself. Then on a gray noon they feel the ship move. They rush on deck to find themselves only part of a string of ships slowly stumbling out of a strange harbor. On shore thin crowds cheer faintly. On their own deck their own band plays thinly.

It is not much of moment. They do not feel that they are looking their last upon their native land for long, perhaps forever. The gray air is sharp with strangeness and delight. They are moving at snail’s pace into the unknown. They do not sense the mystery.

Men on every ship are cheering as schoolboys cheer on their way to root at a game against a rival school.

Into a kind of stillness they go swiftly. Far more swiftly than they realize the harbor sweeps by and out the string of humble ships plod. Humble ships because outside await the gentry and the nobility of ships – the warships of convoy.

First Taste of War

Low lurching for all their gentility, the sea gray warships lie turrets deep sunk, their sinister turrets seeming to rise out of the sea itself. It is here your boy feels a lump in his throat, swallows it and hears the first far chanting of the mystery, for the gray trim gentry of the sea swing smoothly like trained players of some gigantic game out into the grand arc into which the humble ships shuffle and take their places, like clumsy dancers in an old and stately quadrille.

Just to see those warships, French and British, filled with incomparable power and speed, like javelins around the stodgy passenger liners, gives the first hint of beauty and of pageant.

Out to sea they swing, and oh, the envy of it. Not an eye is for the fading hills of Canada, but only for the leaping ships and the wide, lonely sea. I would not care to say where the moment of transfiguration comes in man, whether it be the first hour or the last hour of the journey of endless marching, wheeling, obliquing, angling as we thrust day and night in our weird convoy dance across the ocean.

Warships “Out There”

It might be at the very start, just out of the joy a horse lover feels at the grace and power of a horse. It might be in ghostly night, when all the ships are black as death, and not a cigarette winks on any deck, nor any tiny ray of light, and the stodgy ships in the middle of the ring see one another like shadowy islands, and half suspected, half seen, the lean low thoroughbreds plunging farther out.

That would be a good moment for transfiguration to come. To me it seemed as if I were on Georgian Bay in late fall and the shadows out yonder were islands passing, but to any young Canadian to stand on the dark deck and feel under him the great lift of the sea and to hear the deep and ancient sound of it and to see, like shadows, strange and ghostly yet dear and companionable, the bodies of other ships. soundlessly marching together in this grave dance of the convoy, must have been a moment of great beauty.

Strange Christmas

And in such moments of beauty all transfiguration comes.

Yet in the ships we played our familiar parts. Christmas came and went. Our ship was a Polish ship and its captain prepared us Christmas trees on all the decks and in the dining saloons.

On our ship Captain Mert Plunkett, warbound in search of a new Dumbells – a quarter of a century younger than his old ones. And he and other war service men made us programs and taught us to harmonize the carols, dividing us into tenors and bass. We gave one another silly gifts and each one sneaked away to some quiet place to re-read letters already worn, or to draw out and hold close snapshots or remembrances less manly.

But somewhere between the new and the old, somewhere on that queerest of all Christmas eves, or the loneliest of Christmas days, though we fell over one another in our ships, the transfiguration came. For the men who looked today upon England were not the boys who left you a few days ago. My authority for saying this is the fact that a man who is married is not the same man he was an instant before. The father of a son is not the same man from the moment he first looks with startled, anguished eyes on his first born. And a man who meets with at deep and moving experience is no longer what he was.

Big Moment in Life

These of the second volley of Canadians to strike England have passed through a deep and profound experience. No mishap marked it. No tragedy of any sort interrupted for one moment the stately quadrille of the ships wheeling and curving their way in a curious shifting form like a country dance across the wide ocean. Nothing odd or shaking touched any single life of us all, yet we are all changed. Because in these days we have in silence, patience, repose and thoughtfulness, realized all at once, in a grip like love at first sight our dedication.

We are for a fact off to war. All ties are cut. All roads home are lost. The one way is straight ahead.

Out of the sea in our plodding, stodgy ships ringed by war horses of ships, we came to a place in the sea where misty shapes rose dimly to meet us.

At incredible speed they streaked toward us, destroyers to fanfare us in.

Warplanes Salute

Out of the sky warplanes came flying to rock their wings in salute to us. And so with companions on the sea and in the sky we came with ever increasing numbers to a country of mist. And on one of our ships the pipers from Toronto played their regimental airs and all the ships cheered us and the destroyers who had brought us safe home raced past us to swing and stand to man ship and cheer us. And on the shores people heard the pipes and saw the wheeling destroyers and knew it was us. And they thronged out and cheered us too.

Our arrival was on a morning so bright and free for this land that it was a miracle and a portent. Then tenders to shore and trains and a fast race in the little rocketing coaches, and now as the Duke of Wellington said to Sam Small, “Let the battle commence.”

Star Weekly Writer To Chronicle Exploits Of Canada’s Soldiers

Gregory Clark Goes Overseas With Contingent and is Now in Motherland – Describes Scenes of Embarkation in Coast-to-Coast Broadcast

Gregory Clark, staff feature writer for The Star Weekly, has gone overseas with troops of the Canadian Active Service Force to chronicle the exploits of the men of the Maple Leaf on the battle front of Europe in articles which will appear in these columns and in The Daily Star. Through the medium of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Mr. Clark’s annual New Year’s talk was heard on a coast-to-coast network of forty stations. He dealt chiefly with incidents connected with the embarkation at a Canadian port of the contingent he accompanied in a transport, and his remarks were of compelling interest to the families and friends of Canada’s fighting men and to the general public. Following is the full text of Mr. Clark’s address:

“I am speaking to you from the Land of Somewhere into which lately some tens of thousands of Canadians have vanished. A few years ago there was a popular song about the ‘Beautiful Land of Somewhere’ – but this somewhere is not exactly beautiful. It is fascinating, it is filled with meaning and power, and to men that is more than beauty.

“Already in our country tens of thousands of families are concerned about those of us who have vanished, and I think a pleasant New Year’s message would be to tell you some of the characteristics and incidents of this curious Land of Somewhere insofar as I have seen it. I might say at the start that all’s well. In all the thousands upon thousands of faces I have seen. I have marked no unhappy face. No face of a young man that yearns for the wide bed you gave him in place of the narrow bed of duty he now lies in.

Contrast Beyond Belief

“Men love duty. The natural man loves to be part of an enterprise, with good men on his right and his left. May I say that of all the thousands I have seen in camps, on trains and in ships, your sons have good men on their right and on their left.

“I am an old soldier myself – a little too gone in the legs to be of use in this war, unless as a camp follower and teller of tales, but to me the contrast between this Canadian expedition and the old one is beyond belief. Where we went with banners and bands, these boys go like foxes in the night. I sometimes wonder if, in the old war, a lot of us were not borne upon a great wave of sound and bunting to the very edge of battle, and many of us not a little dismayed by the chilly silence of No Man’s Land.

Straight Aboard Ship

“In this war no artificial stimulus has been used. These magnificent young Canadians have not been drummed into war, no bugles have sirened them, no vaunting flags have dazzled them. They are here in the Land of Somewhere for reasons that would have been unbelievable to our leaders only 20 years ago. They are here by their will, and I do not believe I have ever seen a more inspiring gathering of men.

“Like foxes in the night… let me describe an embarkation. It is at one of the nameless ports where Canadians embark across the Atlantic. At 7 a.m., a train from somewhere in the wide Dominion comes 100 or 3,000 miles, backs silently into the dockyard. The people of the port are trained to take no part in the business. Not one woman, one child, awaits on the platform. No welcoming band is there – just three small officers and a dozen soldiers with white armbands, the guides.

“The train slows at the pierside. It is packed with men. They have travelled from prairie and forest, from city and town and farm, hundreds, thousands of miles. Now they smell the sea. Great ships loom beside them. In the offing wait the mighty battle wagons of Britain’s sea. Yet in silence the train slides to a halt.

“A voice in a loudspeaker calls. “Detrain all troops!” Out of the coaches the soldiers spill and form in their platoons on the guides who act as markers. The rolls are called by the sergeants. In their battle rompers, their packs and haversacks neat and new, the lines respond in the darkness of morning. A command rings. The regiments turn in file and with a sharp beat of feet march straight aboard ship. Before the sun rises they are aboard and away.

The Battle Rompers

“How different from the old wars, where a man had to take a hundred farewells and stifle his tears, if any, in songs and cheers and the waving and the bands and the old pomp. This war is not emotional. It is cold, cold as the heart of a man – or a million men – with a deadly purpose.

“As plain as their purpose, as plain as their leave taking, is this curious uniform, the battle rompers, the teddy bear suits, as they call them. It is a little hard for an old soldier to get used to the sight of these ski suits the boys wear, but the old soldiers who wear them, and there are plenty, say there is nothing like them for comfort and freedom.

“I have one comic story about a captain on the embarkation staff. He of course still wore the old war cap, the old war greatcoat with its flowing skirt, the breeches and the field boots. Maybe he even had spurs on at a dock. At any rate he was the standard captain, fraught with an important office. His eyes glued to his manifest, he was striding along the pier jammed with the serried ranks of Canadian regiments newly arrived, when he sensed a figure beside him requesting his attention. Out of the corner of his eye the captain saw battle rompers.

Figure Persistent

“‘Not now. Not now,’ said the captain. ‘I’m busy.’ But the figure stayed beside him and repeated his address. ‘Please go ‘way,’ said the captain sharply. ‘I’m busy. Can’t you see?’

“The man beside him in the homespun rompers took two lithe strides and placed himself in the path of the engrossed captain. The captain looked up fair in the face of one of Canada’s greatest heroes, a V.C., a man on whose new battle romper sleeve already gleam six gold bars for wounds and on the homely shoulders of whose blouse appeared the rank badges of a brigadier-general… and on whose face, I may say, for the captain himself told me, appeared a whimsical smile.

“The most enthralling of all the things I have been privileged to see in this Land of Somewhere was a captains’ meeting. We have heard all our lives of the sea might of Britain, but until I sat in at this captains’ meeting of the masters of merchant ships about to depart in convoy I did not understand what exactly is meant by that well known phrase.

“It was in an old room of an old building, the walls decorated with steel engravings of Nelson, and of ships aslant in battle or in breeze. At a long walnut table sat a number of middle-aged men in civilian clothes. They were curiously alike – alike in middle age, alike in all having faces and hands dark-tanned with wind and salt, alike in being heavy built, solid, with short stubby noses on which their spectacles sat half way down. There was not a lean man among them.

Aristocratic, Keen

“Scattered amidst them down the great shining table were officers of the British navy. These were lean men, younger by 10 years or more than the merchant captains. In their navy blue, close fitting uniforms, their smooth brushed black hair, their faces mostly dark and aquiline, their manners aristocratic and keen, they made an extraordinary contrast to these quiet, heavy-set grizzled men in gray and brown and black, with pipes in their teeth and spectacles out on their stubby noses.

“Then the meeting began. The chairman, a naval officer, rose and started to read the agenda. It was a typewritten sheet containing the orders for the convoy that would leave in a few hours. It detailed the position of every one of the merchant vessels, tankers, freighters composing the convoy. All the spectacled masters followed him on their typewritten copies. It detailed the signals, the rules

Air of Deference

“And suddenly the realization dawned upon those of us not of this meeting but only in it that there was an extraordinary air of deference in the manner of the naval officer reciting the items on the agenda. I thought of soldiers instructing civilians, but how different was this. With the most respectful air, this slim, trim naval officer of high rank deferred to every interruption from the company of masters -interruptions in speech of the Clyde and Tyne and the South Country and many a foreign accent – and then, as the meeting progressed and the spectacles went farther out on the stubby noses and the pipes blew smoke and the questions multiplied, we began to get a faint far sense of what the sea might of Britain is.

“At last up stands the commander of the fighting escort that is to cut figures round about the merchant convoy, and in the same, trim, polished naval manner he explains what he will do in the two or three eventualities, and in the respectful, level gaze over the tops of the spectacles this time from all the merchant captains, and in the deeply respectful air and tone the naval officer used to them, we see the story whole.

“‘Why,’ said one of the navy officers after the meeting, when we all adjourned to stand about another large room of the old house and meet and chat, ‘they are the sea might of Britain. All we do is guarantee the freedom of the sea to them.

“And he meant it. From his deep blue heart he meant it. And those, ladies and gentlemen, those middle-aged, ruggedly built, grizzled, tanned and bespectacled men in plain business suits, familiar with every sea and every channel and bight and bay of this old round earth, are the men to whom we Canadians are so deeply indebted this day. They make possible our brotherhood in the great empire. They are among the more honored in this fascinating Land of Somewhere.

“Land of Somewhere”

“One so splendid thing about this Land of Somewhere is – a man is never alone. In platoons, in battalions, in trainloads, shiploads, in camps, they are men in company.

“Already their brotherhood is sealed by the seals of contact and friendship around fires, around tables. Soon their brotherhood will submit to the greater seal. Think of them in these companies, these throngs. Think of them as having found, for their right hand and their left, a friend.

“So good-by, and instead of a happy New Year, may we wish one another today a happy new world.”

The broadcast was arranged by the talks department of the CBC’s national program office, the address being recorded just before Mr. Clark sailed.


Editor’s Notes: I decided to include these two stories together as they cover the same event, the first being Greg’s article on the first movement of Canadian troops to Britain, and the second being the same but a transcript of a radio address. Greg was restless by the start of the war and was even considering leaving the Star Weekly. It seems to me that him becoming a war correspondent was a sort of compromise. The troops would make it in time to witness the fall of France a few months later, with very few participating in that action. As a result of that disaster, and all of the lost equipment, the Canadians became the only fully armed contingent in Britain.

It’s a Date!

September 28, 1940.

Locked Out!

Jim … without the slightest preamble or compunction lifted his rock and slammed it through the window …

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, September 14, 1940.

“Well, sir,” said Jimmie Frise, pushing back his chair, “that was a swell meal.”

We sat back and gazed around the little restaurant, observing with benevolent eye the young men of the village who were noisily gathered here, half of them in uniform, all ruddy and raw-boned and full of food.

“These little village and small town cafes,” I said, “have a quality to them that city restaurants can’t catch.”

“It’s the food,” explained Jim. “In these restaurants they have no big bathtub cookers to do the potatoes in and no half-acre steam tables. In the city restaurants they start making today’s lunch last night. They cook lashings of stuff and keep it hot on a steam table. Here the food is cooked to order.”

“Those stewed tomatoes,” I said. “They tasted like tomatoes. Usually stewed tomatoes just taste of onions.”

“Ah,” said Jim, waving his toothpick, “and remember, they get the tomatoes here right off the vine. Those tomatoes we ate were probably picked this morning and popped into the kettle with the dew on them.”

“And that liver and bacon,” I exclaimed.

“Out here in the country,” elucidated Jimmie, “they know calves’ liver when they see it. You don’t get any bull liver or hog liver out here. In the city, the cafe orders 100 pounds of liver from the packing house. The packing house has a bin full of seven tons of liver. The guy there takes a shovel and shovels out 100 pounds. Down it comes to the cafe and the cook just grabs it and flops hunks of liver on to the griddle. There is no personal touch about liver and bacon, the way there is in these little country cafes.”

“Boy, it lies good inside,” I breathed, patting myself.

“I bet they used only one liver for today’s lunch,” said Jim. “I bet the proprietor of this place went down to the store and selected the liver, personal. Took it up and looked at it. Turned it over and inspected it. A liver. One liver. And then brought it home and sliced it and cooked it.”

“He knew how to cook it, too,” I submitted. “Not frizzled to death. You often can’t tell the difference between liver and fried bedroom slipper in the city.”

“Now You’ve Done It”

“Did you note the bacon?” asked Jim.

“Do you get bacon like that in the city?”

“It probably came from the same packing house as the bacon we get at home,” I offered,

“Yes, but you couldn’t sell a small cafe a punk side of bacon,” stated Jim. “The salesman who brings the bacon out here is talking to people who raise hogs. I bet the proprietor didn’t buy that side of bacon with the wrapping paper on it. I bet he unwrapped five or six sides before he chose this one. And I bet he tasted it for cure and smelt it for smoke and sliced a bit off to see how streaky it was.”

“Yet we city slickers think we get the choice stuff,” I said.

“For one particular person in cities,” said Jim, “there are nine people who buy things by label. All wrapped up. They never see what they’ve got until they pour it out at home. In the country everybody is particular. That is why you see all those cars angle parked for hours out in front of the village stores.”

“In the city,” I contributed, “a woman likes to see how quick she can shop. In the small towns a woman likes to see how long she can occupy the merchant. She examines everything. I have seen a woman in a village store take five minutes to buy a piece of cheese.”

“Well, in the country they enjoy living,” explained Jim. “But in the city we enjoy life.”

With which kindly thoughts, we labored to our feet and walked up to the front and paid our check for 40 cents each, including pie. And strolled out into the quiet village street to board the car and proceed on our pleasant September journey.

In villages, in September, you never hurry. September is a time for lingering. All nature lingers. The leaves are obviously lingering on the trees. The sun seems to linger in the near sky. It is, of course, the hour of good-by to summer and we, with all nature, try to pretend that there is no hurry. We try, by lingering ourselves, to persuade the sweet summer to linger too.

Jimmie likes seed stores and I like hardware stores. We strolled along from the restaurant towards the barber shop, where our car was parked, and Jim took 10 minutes to read all the auction sale and horse ads in the seed store window and I took five minutes studying the pails, axes and minor implements in the hardware window, not to mention the single-barrel shotguns and hunting knives.

“Well,” sighed Jimmie, “let’s be on our way.”

And he tugged at the car door handle.

“She’s locked,” he said. “Who locked her?”

“I did,” I said. “I don’t like to leave a car…

“You don’t have to lock a car in a village like this,” said Jim, indignantly.

“Force of habit,” I said.

“The key,” exclaimed Jim, feeling sharply in his pockets.

We both looked in the window. And there, in the ignition lock, inside, was the key.

“Now you’ve done it,” cried Jim, trying the rear door of the car. “The key is locked inside and all the windows up.”

“You shouldn’t have left the key in the car,” I retorted.

“You shouldn’t have locked the doors,” accused Jim.

“I just pushed down those little buttons,” I declared. “It’s a habit I have when I get out to leave a car. But it’s criminal to leave a car with the key in it. In some cities you can be fined for that.”

“Well, what do we do?” demanded Jim. “Do we stand here all day and argue about it? Where’s the garage?”

We walked to the far end of the village and found the garage man was away at a fall fair in a neighboring town. Only a boy of about 14 was on duty to sell gas. He said he couldn’t leave the job and, anyway, he didn’t know how to get a car open that was locked with the key inside. He said he didn’t think anybody did.

So we borrowed a long piece of stiff wire from him and went back to the car. With a knife-blade we pried the window nearest the steering wheel and got it down about an inch. Then we bent a short hook on the wire and snaked it carefully through and tried to set the hook through the hole in the key.

“As an artist, skilled in the delicate control of the hands,” I submitted, “you ought to be able to hook that wire into the key.”

“I’ve got it,” said Jim. “Now to pull it out.”

“Easy, easy,” I cautioned, joining Jim with my nose pressed against the glass.

Jim tugged and pulled. But it was a straight up pull and the key has to come out horizontally.

“Get a thin stick,” ordered Jim, “and insert it in and push down on the wire while I pull.”

I located along thin stick and slid it in the crack of the window and then lowered it, by holding it gingerly in my finger tip and thumb, and after a lot of manipulating got it pressed against the wire Jim had hooked into the key.

“Now press down,” said Jim. And he gave a good steady pull and the key snapped smartly out of the lock and fell off the hook on the wire and lay on the car seat, perilously near the crack in the upholstery between the seat and the back.

“You pressed too hard,” said Jim sharply.

“You yanked it,” I protested.

Tricky Business

So Jim drew the wire out and put a different sort of hook in the end and then slid it through again and started fishing cautiously to slip it under the key and get the hook through the hole. First try, the key slid towards the crack. Second try, Jim got the hook under the key, but when he tried to lift it the key slid right on to the crack.

“People who lock cars,” said Jim, “ought to have their head read.”

But by the most careful manipulation Jim got the hook under the key this time and raised it slowly against the back of the seat and by a tiny and clever twitch put the hook right through the hole.

“Steady nerves,” I said. “That’s what does it.”

Slowly Jim drew the wire up and bent it through the crack in the window. The key vibrated and danced on the wire.

“Slide it towards you, down the wire,” I warned.

Jim continued to draw the wire through the crack, bringing the key nearer and nearer on the jiggling hook. Just as he got it near enough to reach with his fingers stuck through the window, the wire gave a special vibration and the key leaped off the hook, touched the window and fell down alongside the seat between the door and the cushion.

“That’s done it,” muttered Jim.

“Why didn’t you slide it down the wire towards your hand?” I cried. “It couldn’t have got off then.”

“Well, we’re stuck,” said Jim. “Have you any other good suggestions?”

“There ought to be some way of solving this,” I offered. “Any number of people must lock their key in the car.”

“No,” said Jim, “I don’t think there are more than one in a million who would be such a fool.”

“I’m sorry, Jim,” I said quite humbly. “We were having such a good time. That swell meal. All ruined. Our trip shot.”

“We’ll have to bust a window,” said Jim.

“It seems a pity.” I protested. “But it probably doesn’t cost more than a couple of dollars. I’ll pay the shot.”

We walked over to a line beside the hardware store and without trouble found a couple of rocks about the size of bricks.

“One will do it,” said Jim, still cool.

“If I’m going to pay for it,” I said, “I ought to have the fun of heaving one brick.”

Jim led back to the car and without the slightest preamble or compunction lifted his rock and slammed it through the window of the car. As the glass crashed into splinters, out from the barber shop leaped an elderly gent in a sailor’s cap, who proved to be the constable.

“Hold it,” he roared hoarsely. “I been watching you two. What’s going on here? Lower that rock, mister.”

I dropped my brick.

“We locked the car and left the key inside,” said Jim.

“It don’t look natural to me,” said the constable, who was now joined by the barber and several other citizens, including the young men from the cafe, “to see a man heaving a rock through the window of his own car.”

“It’s my car all right,” said Jim.

“Show me your car license,” said the constable.

“Certainly,” said Jim; but I knew by the way he started to fumble that he didn’t have it. “I’ve got my old fishing clothes on. I must have left it in my city clothes.”

“Oh, yeah,” said the constable. “Going fishing. But I don’t see no fishing tackle in the car.”

“We were looking over the country for some duck shooting ponds,” I put in.

“Duck shooting?” said the constable and the crowd all began to look tough. “There’s no duck shooting within 40 miles of here.”

He walked around the car and studied the license plate. He tried the door handles on the far side. And, to our horror, the door opened.

“Well, well, well,” said the constable grimly. “So you locked the car, hey?”

“Well, I’ll be jiggered,” gasped Jim.

“And you heave a rock through the window of your own car, hey?” said the constable, returning around the front and taking his stick firmly in hand.

“We didn’t try the far doors,” I explained.

“No,” said the constable. “You just try the one door, and when it won’t open you heave rock through a seven-dollar window.”

“Seven dollars!” I protested.

“Maybe more,” said one of the boys in the crowd.

“I guess you gents will walk up street to the town clerk’s house,” said the constable, “while I do a little telephoning.”

“Look,” said Jim, “there ought to be some way of proving this is my car. I admit it looks very stupid and phony. But these things are likely to happen to anybody.”

“Not around here they don’t happen,” said the constable. “Make way, folks. Now you two birds just walk ahead of me up street here.”

“We can telephone,” I contributed, “We’ll give you names to phone and they will identify us by our voices.”

“The town clerk will advise the course of law,” stated the constable firmly. “Even if it is your car, you can’t go smashing glass on the public highway I know my by-laws.”

The crowd stood aside and Jim and I marched up the street with the old gent behind us. I tried to engage him in more dignified conversation and get him to walk with us. But he would have none of that He walked officially in rear of us. We passed the garage and, three houses up, turned into a white painted cottage, where the town clerk was sitting on the veranda asleep.

The constable woke him and explained the situation in a few dramatic sentences. He is sitting in the barber shop. Sees two characters walk up and try to pry windows of car open. Came back with wire. Try to fish key out. All the time keep looking around in a very suspicious manner.

“We weren’t suspicious at all,” I cut in.

“Order,” said the town clerk.

“Finally, to my amazement,” said the constable, “and I have witnesses out there on the street to bear me out, they come back armed with a big rock each. And before I could move a finger, they heave the rock through the car window.”

“We knew no other way of opening locked car,” said Jim.

Interesting Places

“They worked on the far side of the car,” stated the constable. “Not once did they try the doors on my side, on the street or public side of the car. Yet when I went out a moment later and tried the other doors of the car, they opened without the least difficulty.”

“It’s a case,” said the town clerk. “Abe. it’s a case. I think you are justified in calling the county police. These may be the car thieves they have been on the lookout for.”

“Before we go any further,” said Jimmie “can we put in a long-distance call and identify ourselves to you? As the owner of that car?”

“At your expense?” said the town clerk.

“Just a minute,” said the constable. “How do we know they won’t put in a call to confederates in the city. How do we know who identifies them? On the face of it, this case don’t make sense.”

“Would our bank manager do?” asked Jim.

So we let them put in the call at our expense, to the branch bank where Jim keeps his account, and the bank manager described Jimmie in detail. Then he talked to Jimmie on the telephone and the town clerk and the constable both followed and accepted the bank manager’s assurance that it was indeed Jimmie. And, he added, if there was a short, fat little man with Jim that clinched it.

He shook hands all round and congratulated the constable on having the public interest so close to heart. Out on the sidewalk, the crowd stood and listened to the play-by-play detail of the case, and they all accompanied us back to the car and even helped pick up the fragments of glass off the road.

We shook hands with everybody that wanted to shake hands and when we drove off they all waved good-by very friendly.

These little towns and villages,” said Jim, resting his elbow out the vacant window very comfortably, “are interesting and pleasant little places.”


Editor’s Note: 40 cents in 1940 would be $7.75 in 2022. $7 would be $135.

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