The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Tag: 1941 Page 1 of 2

Fishing is so Easy to Give Up

“I was just thinking,” said Jim, “that it would be no sacrifice to give up fishing after all.”

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, May 3, 1941.

“Do you suppose,” inquired Jimmie Frise, “there is anybody fishing in Germany?”

“If there is not,” I replied, “I bet there are plenty who wish they were.”

“Maybe so,” said Jimmie, “but for every man that isn’t fishing in Germany, there ought to be a man not fishing amongst us. Sooner or later, we are going to have to get it through our cheerful skulls that war is a game like any other game, and you have to have the same number of players on our team, as well trained as the other team and equipped with as serviceable equipment, if we expect to win.”

“I’ve seen rough country teams… ” I began.

“The greatest heroes in the world,” interrupted Jimmie, “can be beaten by the biggest cowards on earth, if the cowards have Tommy guns and the heroes have baseball bats.”

“The justice of our cause…” I started.

“Justice is a funny thing,” cut in Jim. “High as my opinion of our system of justice in this country may be, I still wouldn’t like to be a poor man, with the most just cause on earth, up against a billion-dollar corporation. Two poor men can get justice between them. Two billion-dollar corporations can get justice between them. But so long as justice costs money, those with money are going to be able to carry on from court to court and leave the poor man behind. What were you saying about the justice of our cause?”

“I forget,” I admitted. “It was something about the war.”

“Ah, yes,” said Jim. “Now let’s suppose this war is a hockey championship. Whichever team wins each member of the team is going to get a million dollars, plus ten thousand for each goal scored.”

“That’s a game I’d like to watch,” I exclaimed.

“You are watching it,” said Jim. “Now suppose our opponents are the Chicago Black Hawks and they have been in training all winter. They have been playing games right along. Winning them all. And we know our game against them is due on a certain date.”

“Where’s our team?” I inquired.

“We haven’t got one,” explained Jim. “We don’t believe in hockey that much. So we plan, the night of the game, to pick a team from the audience.”

“Don’t be silly.” I scoffed. “With $1,000,000 to each player?”

“Oh, we’ve got plenty of courage,” said Jim. “We feel hockey is a Canadian game. Everybody just naturally plays hockey in Canada, whereas the Chicago Black Hawks are foreigners. Besides, they’re professionals. We’ll pick a team from the audience, and by sheer sportsmanship and by sheer natural merit we’ll win…”

“That’s an absurd analogy to the war, Jim,” I protested.

“Okay,” said Jim, “you give me an analogy. To what extent is the average Canadian household in this war? The average Canadian man, woman and child thinks the war is a radio program.”

“Jim,” I said, scandalized.


“Well, we’re planning to go trout fishing tomorrow,” stated Jim. “All over the country, from Nova Scotia to Vancouver Island, men are planning tonight to go trout fishing tomorrow.”

“What could we do if we stayed home?” I demanded. “Could we make one shell? Could we help assemble one tank? Is there a single thing we could do tomorrow, by staying home, that would have the slightest effect on the course of the war?”

“Yes,” said Jim, “there is. A mighty and powerful effect on the war. We would be sacrificing something we really care about. We would be sacrificing, actually, for the first time.”

“Tens of thousands of Canadian homes have given up sons and husbands,” I asserted.

“The average home,” retorted Jim firmly, “is undisturbed. All the baloney about our individual war effort in soaking money away in war bonds and savings is just so much taffy to a lot of people who are kidding themselves that they are in the war. They are not losing. They are gaining.”

“Any number of modest, decent people,” I declared, “are depriving themselves of luxuries and even necessaries in order to save for the war.”

“Being thrifty,” stated Jim, “whether by instinct or as the result of exhortation, is not sacrifice. Sacrifice means losing something. For keeps.”

“Like a season’s fishing,” I submitted. “If I live to be 60, I have only 11 fishing seasons left.”

A Real Sacrifice

“Your private life and the even tenor of your way,” declared Jim, “must be upset before you start to function on a war basis. Everybody else in Canada has to give up something they love as much as you love fishing. And then watch Canada go to war.”

“Well,” I sighed, “I had everything packed. My rods and packsack are stacked in the vestibule, waiting. I’ve got my fishing clothes all hung ready in my closet. My fishing boots are greased. I put a red bandanna in the hip pocket of my old fishing pants. I put a handful of matches in the right-hand pocket. I spent the whole of last night getting everything ready…”

“I’m glad,” said Jim. “Now you will feel the loss more keenly. It would be no good if you gave up fishing without a pang. Whatever we give up, we should give up with bitterness. Then we’ll function.”

“As a matter of psychology, Jim,” I proposed, “don’t you think it would be even a greater sacrifice if we gave up fishing after the first trip of the year? So that our suffering will be all the keener?”

Jim reflected.

“You’ve got something there,” he mused. Which explains the fact that you might have seen us driving heartily northward over the week-end along with all the rest of the angling fraternity for the opening of the trout season.

Jim and I agreed not to mention the war from start to finish of the trip. We would pretend it was just the same glorious old opening as ever. But deep in our hearts we would know that this was the end. That every jewel of an hour spent on the streamside was one hour nearer the end of our sport for a long time to come. Anyone seeing us wading the stream and casting our flies would little dream that we were participating in a psychological ceremony the purpose of which was to make us bigger and better citizens.

The opening of the trout season is to an angler what Christmas is to a saint or the last day of school is to a schoolboy. It has religious elements in it as well as a sort of elemental joy that cannot be reasoned out. A man is at best a poor captive to civilization. It was fear that drove men into communities in the long, long ago; but sparks of courage still linger in the ashes of men’s hearts, and when those sparks fly a man feels an almost desperate desire to escape into the open to do primitive things.

It was a lovely day when we left the city. There was what the Scottish anglers call an “airt.” That means the atmosphere is so soft and humid, you can almost feel it between your thumb and finger. It was a day for birds to sing, for flies to fly, for bees to fall on the stream and for fish to rise up from the wintry bottom of their home and take a slash at the sky.

But when we crossed over the Caledon ridge a few miles north of the city, there came a change. The trees were not so advanced in bud. The fields had a sad and wintry look. And there was no airt.

And far ahead the horizon had a solid bank of gray cloud, as though April had not yet given up.

And when we reached the trout country itself, we had come under that gray bank and you might have thought we had driven two weeks back into time.

“Should we try to set up the tent?” I asked Jim, “or should we go right in to the farm and get Roy to put us up in the spare room?”

“I hate suddenly descending on a farm,” said Jim. “It isn’t merely that they have to get the room ready for us. They are upset in all ways. They feel they have to get to work and cook up special menus. Visitors on a farm are a matter of ceremony.”

“Maybe we could sleep in Roy’s barn,” I suggested. “The hay would be comfortable.”

“Let’s put up the tent,” urged Jim. “This is good-by, to trout fishing. Let us do it up in the traditional fashion.”

“It will be mighty chilly when night falls,” I pointed out.

“And it might even rain,” admitted Jim.

Might even rain! Ten miles this side of the river the rain began in a fine drizzle. By the time we reached the sideroad into Roy’s it had started in earnest. The clouds sagged down as they only can in May, as though to wake the earth with their kiss. The rain pelted. The road, rutted and filled with big holes, became a little river itself. And when we reached the creek we hardly recognized it. It had overflowed its banks and was running the color of church social coffee.

“How about, Roy’s?” I demanded.

“Let’s sit and enjoy the rain,” countered Jim. “After all, this is one of nature’s moods. We love them all.”

So there we sat in the car, with the windows up, while the rain pelted in slanting streaks and the whole earth became flooded and the stream steadily rose until the fences in the fields were waving in its current and the road had tides, across it.

For an hour the rain pelted. Then a patch of blue appeared and we put on our rubber boots and ventured forth.

“There isn’t a dry spot big enough for the tent within miles,” I declared.

“The tent has a waterproof floor,” reminded Jim. “Come on. Let’s do this up like men, not like sissies.”

He dragged out the tent in its bag and we walked up the road a few paces to study a little hillock of sand.

“Dry as a chip,” cried Jim. “Once we get the tent over it, she’ll be as cosy as a fox’s den.”

“It looks like an all-night rain to me,” I professed.

“Come on, grab hold,” said Jim.

So we spread out the tent on the soaking herbage and started to look about for a couple of poles. And suddenly the blue patch above vanished in a thick brown cloud and down came the deluge again. We rolled the tent up hastily and ran back to the car.

Now the rain really came down.

“To Roy’s,” I voted firmly.

Jim started the engine and went into low gear. The car shifted violently down on one corner.

“Now we’re done for,” I informed him.

The shoulder of the road had given way under our weight and the grab of, the car wheel. The more Jim tried the deeper we sank into thick mud.

“We’ll have to get Roy after all,” I submitted.

We walked along the flowing side road in the whirling rain and up to Roy’s farm, where there was nobody home but a little girl who said her father wasn’t expected until supper-time.

The next nearest farm,” I reminded Jim, “is that bird we had the row with last year about fishing on his part of the stream.”

“Tell your Daddy,” said Jim to the little girl, “that Mr. Frise is expecting him down at the stream.”

“Let’s wait here,” I suggested, looking out from the warmth of the house to the sweeping rain.

“This is a fishing trip,” replied Jim, “and I’m going to at least wet a line.”

Back to the car we trudged. From beneath the wet and bedraggled tent, which we had not restored to its bag, we fished out our rods and fly hooks. With heads bowed, we fastened on our reels and threaded up our lines; hitched on the leaders and tied on a couple of big, gaudy flies that we thought might catch the eye of a trout in that soup-colored stream roaring by.

Jim fished up and I fished down. It was ridiculous to cast a line at all. Great sticks and roots sailed along in the flood. It was impossible even to remember the shape of the stream or where its banks and familiar holes were.

It was growing dusk and with the rain came a new chill in the air. I quit and fought wet brush out to the road and came back to the car, where I found Jimmie on the running-board emptying his boots and taking down his rod.

“I think I heard Roy drive in,” he said wetly.

“Jim,” I declared, getting into the car, “what is there about fishing that attracts intelligent people like us? It’s always the same. It always turns out like this. What is the delusion we are under about the joy of fishing?”

“I was just thinking,” said Jim, “that it would be no sacrifice to give up fishing, after all.”

“You’re quite right,” I agreed. “We’ll have to study up some other sacrifice.”

So when Roy arrived over the fields with a team of horses to haul us out, we declined his ardent invitation to spend the night and said that as the stream would not be down to normal for a couple of days at least we might just as well go on back home to the city.

Which we did.

“Fools We Mortals~”

With groans and squeaks Jimmie’s chair collapsed.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, March 28, 1936.

“This ice going out,” said Jimmie Frise, all over Canada, all over Siberia, all over the world, this vast, plunging, crushing volume of power and force going to waste…”

“These gutters,” I added, “these rain pipes, these ditches along the roads, everywhere.”

“Waste, waste,” said Jim. “If humanity only knew how to harness all the forces of Nature, nobody would have to work.”

“In this little rushing rivulet along the curb,” I contributed, “is enough power to light all the electric light fixtures in my house.”

“We talk of horsepower,” scoffed Jimmie, grandly. “Why, there is mountain power going to waste these days in a million rivers of the world. Mountain power, in these freshets.”

“But on account of the hunks of ice,” I pointed out, “it might be a little awkward trying to hook it up to a dynamo or whatever you call it.”

“Awkward,” cried Jimmie. “Just because a thing looks difficult, we shy at it. That’s the reason mankind hasn’t conquered the forces of this world ages ago. That’s why we are still slaves.”

“Do you suppose we could get enough power out of anything to write our articles and draw our pictures for us?” I asked. “It is all very well to talk about machines freeing men. That may help out the mechanics and farmers. But us poor writers and artists will still be in the same old boat.”

“You have the habit,” said Jim, “of sort of picking at an argument, sort of scratching at it with the fingernails of your mind. Why don’t you join in with me in a conversation like this and let us get somewhere. I was saying, why don’t we start to use the power that is going to waste on all sides of us?”

“Personally,” I said, “I think we are doing very nicely.”

“By a little use of our brains,” said Jim, “we might think of some way of harnessing some force of nature, now going to waste, that would set us free forever of doing anything.”

“We can’t compete with trained engineers,” I pointed out.

“Trained engineers,” Jim stated, “are trained to believe in what can’t be done, rather than what can be done. Was Stephenson an engineer? – the man who invented steam engines?”

“That’s so,” I confessed.

“Was Newton an engineer?” demanded Jim. “The man who invented gravity? Was Harvey an engineer? the man who invented the circulation of the blood.”

“He didn’t invent it,” I disagreed. “It had been circulating all the time. He only discovered it.”

“That’s my point exactly,” cried Jim. “These tremendous forces of nature are going on all around us, wastefully, uselessly. All we have to do is see how they can be used. And we don’t need to be engineers either.”

“I wish I could think up something,” I assured him. “I have often thought we ought to have some kind of a little machine attached to our knees, a sort of generator so that, as we walked, we could charge a battery in our pocket. If everybody in the world wore a gadget like that, we could certainly store up an awful lot of electricity.”

“That’s an idea,” encouraged Jim.

To Patent the Invention

“Each day, at five o’clock,” I warmed up, “everybody would turn their battery in at the local electric station, sort of like cigar stores located all over the place. And on receiving the charged battery, the service station would hand us out a new empty battery for tomorrow.”

Perfect,” said Jim. “You’ve got something.”

“Say we each charged one volt into that battery,” I explained, “on the average. Although policemen and postmen would charge much more. We could give them bigger batteries to charge. Well, anyway, in a city like Toronto, that would be nearly 700,000 volts of electricity stored up every day, and immediately contributed to the power, lighting and heating of the city.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised,” said Jim, “that you are another Stephenson or a Farragut.”

“Just a simple little device,” I explained. “A small metal rod attached at the knee by a sort of garter to each leg, the two rods meeting in the middle in a small generator about the size of a walnut or an apple. It might be at little awkward at first to walk with these things on. Sort of bow-legged, or waddling maybe. But we would soon get used to it. At each step, these rods would drive the small generator, like the drive shaft, in miniature, of a locomotive.”

“Let’s patent it,” said Jim.

“I hardly think,” I surmised, “it is ready for patenting.”

“Don’t be crazy,” cried Jim. “That’s the way fortunes are lost. When you get an idea, seize it. Patent it. The real thinkers of this world are all poor men just because they didn’t protect their ideas. They let human weasels steal their stuff.”

“We have to have a working model,” I said.

“Any electrician could make it,” said Jim. “Don’t explain what it is for. Just give him the specifications. Make a drawing. He’ll never guess what it is. And there you are.”

“I’m not just sure,” I confessed, “how many steps or movements of the leg it will take to charge one volt. I was just making a supposition there, when I said one volt.”

“Now, now,” admonished Jim. “Don’t start backing and filling. The idea is what counts. I see mountainous force going to waste in spring freshets all over the world, but I can’t think up any practical scheme for harnessing it. You see vast sources of power going to a waste in the motion of the human leg. But… but, my dear boy, you see at a glance the solution of it. It is vision that counts in this world. Not the poor mechanics of it.”

“Very well,” I said. “I’ll sketch it out. Let’s see: how does a car charge its battery?”

“The motion of the engine operates the generator.”

“Then,” I said, incisively, “the motion of the leg will operate the generator, which will be supported between the knees by two rods attached to the knee joint.”

“Correct,” said Jim.

And after supper, we walked over to the corner and saw our local electrician, but when he studied my drawings, simple as they were he said they were a little out of his line. He sticks to installing fixtures and mending door bells. He thought maybe a radio man might tackle it.

“What’s it for?” he inquired.

“It’s an invention,” I explained. “A little idea of mine.”

“Little idea, huh,” said Jim darkly.

A Very Wonderful Room

“If it’s an invention,” said the electrician, “there is a man upstairs, he rents my attic, and he’s an inventor. He makes all kinds of things. I bet he’d be the very man for you.”

“Steer clear of other inventors,” said Jim, quietly. “They’d steal your idea.”

“Oh, no,” said the electrician. “This man is the gentlest little fellow. He wouldn’t steal anything. He doesn’t even want anything. Why, he has invented thousands of things, and never sold a single one yet.”

“How does he live?” I asked.

“His relatives give him so much money a month to live somewhere else,” said the electrician. “I don’t mind him. Even if he does make some awful smashes and things.”

“Smashes?” asked Jim, always interested in action.

“He invented a thing last year,” said the electrician, “for catching your dog when it runs away from you and won’t come back when it’s called. You know? He says he has so often seen old ladies frantically trying to call their little dogs back to them and the dog won’t come. So he invented a thing for catching dogs that won’t come back.”

“Mmmm, mmmm,” said Jim, interestedly.

“Yes, siree,” said the electrician. “It was a great thing. He was going to give me one of the first ones manufactured, for a month’s rent. But my goodness.”

“What,” we both said.

“The day he perfected his working model,” said the electrician, “he got me up to witness the first operation of it. My, my. I was standing in the room, by the door, see? And he sprung the trigger. And the thing caught him instead of the imitation dog he had made out of a pillow. And it threw him right out the attic window and held him suspended in space until I could go around to the hardware store and borrow two ladders.”

“Indeed,” said I.

“I like the sound of this man,” said Jim. “I think we should see him. I think he could easily make a model of your machine.”

“I’ll think it over,” I said.

But Jim was impatient. He said no progress was ever made in this world if people hummed and hawed all the time. He said if Diogenes had only gone on with his barrel idea, they would have had motor cars in ancient Greece two thousand years ago. And look how far ahead we would be now?

So the electrician ushered us upstairs two flights to the attic.

“Be careful,” he warned us. “He has an automatic door opener that works when you push the bell, but unfortunately, the door opens out. You have to reach away out, push the bell and then jump quickly back.”

Jim did so, reaching far. The attic door burst open violently.

“Come in?” said a mild voice.

And we stepped cautiously into a very curious room. The inventor sat at a desk at the far end, a small elderly little man with thin wispy whiskers, glasses resting right on the end of his nose, and a look about him as if Santa Claus had had an older brother who never had the meals Santa Claus had, nor the opportunities in life.

The room was too wonderful and fearful to take in, even in many long steady glances. Things new and old, like cow bells old and green and bright new squares of oil cloth suspended like banners from the wall, and all colors of the rainbow. There were chairs built in curious sections, like easy chairs, only they looked dreadfully uneasy, as if they might, at a sharp word, either collapse entirely or close up like a book.

“Come in, gentlemen, come in,” said the old inventor, kindly. “What can I do for you?”

There were test tubes dusty and filled with forgotten liquids; baskets of empty bottles, a weird-looking machine like a gum slot, with a pair of rubber lips, shaped like human lips, and over the slot a sign reading: “Lipstick your lips, any shade, 1c.”

There were baby carriages with engines on them and a human figure made of the stuff store window dummies are made of, and it was covered with a sort of fuzz, light blue.

“Be seated, gentlemen,” said the inventor, indicating the chairs. Jim cautiously eased himself into one of the curiously jointed chairs. Nothing happened. So I got into another, and immediately a phonograph began playing “I’ll See You in My Dreams.”

I sat up, but the old gentleman, delighted beyond measure, assured me:

“Aha, you’re astonished, sir. That is my slumber chair. Adjustable to any angle. And will play any record.”

“And my friend’s chair?” said I.

“Ah, that is a masterpiece,” said the old fellow, “a masterpiece. Now, sir, just to demonstrate, will you be so good as to lift your feet and place them on the edge of my table. Please. I will not mind. Just put your heels on my desk, there.”

Jim obliged.

The instant his feet touched the edge of the table, the chair slowly began to collapse, not suddenly, but, with creaks and squeaks, gently began lowering itself flat on the ground, with the painful but certain slowness of those freight elevators you sometimes meet up with in warehouses.

Jim leaped out of the chair in time to save being dropped to the floor, where the chair subsided in complete exhaustion.

“That,” said the old gentleman, “is my solution of one of the nastiest problems of modern business. The person who comes into your office and sets his feet on your desk.”

“Wonderful,” said Jim, sitting down on the edge of a box.

“What is that human figure in blue fuzz?” I inquired.

“The time has come,” said the old gentleman, “in fact it had come some thirty years ago when I invented that thing, when we humans need no longer be bothered with all the fuss and fatigue of dressing. Do you realize, sir, that the average man has to put on thirty-nine different articles of clothing before he can go out?”

“You see before you,” said the old gentleman, “the perfect solution of a modern problem. It is the Asbestos Dip. Perfectly insulating. Warm in winter, cool in summer. You can set up a small tank in your boudoir. Asbestos Dip may be purchased in any fashionable color, brown, blue, tweed, and so forth. And all you do, whenever you feel like it, is dip yourself in the tank, and there you are, newly clothed for a week, or a month, whichever you require.”

“But, er, ah,” said Jim.

“I know, I know,” hastened the old gentleman. “You are thinking of the bath. But you forget that, being perfectly insulated, you neither perspire nor get goose pimples. We require baths, why? Only because our clothes cause us to exude moisture, and because our clothes being porous, with gaps, openings, slits and apertures in them, permit dust and dirt to come in contact with our bodies. Asbestos Dip being perfectly impenetrable, even by the finest dust, keeps the human body as clean and pure as the hide of a bear keeps the body of the bear.”

He explained the baby carriage, the bells, the roller skates under a curling stone for curling in the summer, the real dog which could be trained to serve as an iron dog on the lawns of old-fashioned homes, the door bell that could be so adjusted, on going out for the day, to squirt ink on all callers so that you could later know who had been to visit you in your absence: the lipstick vendor, a magnificent device which would enable young ladies, anywhere, to dress their lips simply by briefly kissing a pair of rubber lips on the slot machine.

“There would be six sizes of lips on the machine,” explained the dear old man, “representing all the standard sizes and shapes of mouths. On putting one cent in the slot and pressing the button of the size and color you want, the lips protrude from the machine, you kiss the rubber lips and presto, as simply as a rubber stamp, you have your lips perfectly rouged. Isn’t that a caution?”

And it sure was. So we got down to work, and I showed him my drawings. He studied them intently. I told him, as far as I dared, just how the little generator was to have the two small rods working, attached to garters.

Suddenly the old chap’s face lighted up.

“My dear sir,” he cried. “Of all the coincidences! Why, this is the very core of my famous invention of 1903, called the “1903 leg-action generator.’ I had the most wonderful scheme for putting Niagara Falls back where it belongs as a beauty spot. Wait till I get my model.”

He came back, carrying a little jigger with two rods and two gentleman’s garters.

“See,” he said, strapping the garters on, and suspending the generator between his knees so that the two rods were fastened to his knee joints.

“Did it work?” I asked, numbly.

“We made the dreadful discovery,” said the little man, “that the entire human race is either bow-legged or knock-kneed. The bow-legged ones had a lateral action that wouldn’t work the rods at all. And the knock-kneed ones couldn’t get the generator between their knees. Strong men, who were backing me in that invention, broke down and wept like children when we made that discovery. Still, so it goes. Nothing is ever lost. One discovery leads to another.”

We said good-day.

“Well,” I said, when we got outside, “now we can turn our minds to the ice going out.”

“Aw,” said Jim, “the heck with it. Let it go to waste. We’ve got too much power in the world as it is.”

So we went down a few stores to where they have this year’s seed catalogues spread out in the window, all the different pages showing, zinnias, nasturtiums, beets, mammoth oats, everything.

February 1, 1941.

Editor’s Notes: This story has a lot of the early 20th century notion that nature needs to be exploited and harnessed to do humanity’s bidding. It was also before it was realized that asbestos was toxic.

The various “inventors” mentioned included George Stephenson, Isaac Newton, William Harvey, and Diogenes. When “Farragut” was mentioned, I think they meant Michael Faraday. David Farragut was a United States Admiral during the U.S. Civil War.

The story was repeated on February 1, 1941. It was unusual in that they even repeated the same drawing and title.

One More Sock

February 8, 1941

Masters in Steel

83 TONS OF ENGINES and 70 tons of boilers produce the power to spin the three-bladed propellers of Canada’s new-born corvettes. Many of these power plants are made in the John Inglis plant, home of Canadian-made Bren guns. Large enough to dwarf two pretty young Canadian girls is one of these propellers in the Inglis plant.

By Gregory Clark, January 4, 1941.

Two years ago, when all right-thinking but wrongly informed people were sure there would be no war, the name of the John Inglis plant was in all the newspapers across the country in connection with a parliamentary investigation of the Bren gun contract.

An awful lot of water and a more awful flood of bullets has flowed under and over that small bridge of two years in our lives. The same Bren guns that were the subject of hot discussion are now scattered all over the ramparts of empire, their little Toronto-made barrels, hot with an ever-swelling fire. The same John Inglis plant is now one full year ahead of its promised schedule gun production; new, enormous branches of gun-making plant have sprung up; it is almost fantastic to stand amidst the John Inglis plant today and try to recall the shape and tone of that investigation of a few months ago.

But it is not about Bren guns we visit the John Inglis plant now. And, though the lesson of this story is a hearty one, it is not about the comic – or is it the pathetic? – turns in the affairs of men; not even about the fore-handed men. radio manufacturers if you please, who turned gunmakers and shouldered their way against investigation and world opinion and indifference and even hostility into the position they occupy today as vital factors of our very safety.

This is about ships’ engines. It is about the John Inglis plant, one year ahead on its Bren guns, who are also busy making boilers and engines for Canada’s corvettes. They got contracts for fifteen of these 83-ton engines, each complete with two 70-ton boilers. They undertook to deliver five of them this launching season that has just closed. They have delivered nine.

Our Canadian corvettes are sub-chasers. They are, you might say, little destroyers. Some of them are being made complete in Canadian shipyards that both build the hulls and manufacture the engines. Others are being built by hull builders who install engines made outside. The John Inglis plant has fifteen of those, with their thirty boilers. The balance of the order will be ready before the coming launching season.

Had to Raise Bridges

There are really two races of men who stream into the Inglis plant each shift. The alert, keen servants of machines. And the homely, inarticulate. speechless masters of metal.

The servants of the machines are the most modern. They are younger, smarter, better clothed. They are keen and lively and vivacious. They draw good money. They live zestfully. They are you and me. They don’t know they are servants. But you should see them eagerly attending the little furious machines, each of which contains, within its own glittering self, all the skill the job requires. In fact, the skill of the machine is locked in it. The human hand is not capable of intruding on the machine’s imprisoned brain. In the Bren plant, I saw these machines whittling out tiny steel parts so delicate, so immeasurably measured, they weighed only a fraction of an ounce. Bren gun firing pins, bolts, sears, pawls.

Only a few yards away, in adjoining plants, the masters of metal, in their rough clothes, their faces soiled, their hands rasped and smeared, were proving that in some branches of industry the machine is still the servant of the man. These are the boiler makers, the machinists, the engineers and their helpers. Every tool they use is merely the implement of their skill, their hands and their minds. In this section of the Inglis plant they are making many things besides corvette engines. Boilers for factories, pulp washers for the paper industry, transformers for electric plants. But it is these 83-ton engines for the corvettes and the two 70-ton boilers that accompany each engine which are the most spectacular job in hand.

During the past few months, if you live in the country, you may have seen a most extraordinary spectacle on the railway line. It was a boiler on its way to a corvette from the Inglis plant. To ship these huge iron lungs of a war vessel, the Canadian railroads had to heighten bridges, widen cuts, remove switch apparatus that would have been smashed by the sides of the boilers bulging off the special flat cars. Railroad men had to travel every foot of the right-of-way between Toronto and the point of delivery of these corvette boilers and measure each cut, each siding, each bridge and culvert to make certain the special train could get by. The boilers were shipped by special train consisting of an engine, two flat cars and a caboose. These specials went at special times, on Sundays or other off days, so as to be interfered with as little as possible in their travels.

Corvette Engines

Each boiler weighs 70 tons. Each engine weighs 83 tons. They come into the Inglis plant from the steel mills of the Niagara peninsula, and from the brass foundries of Owen Sound and various other cities in the east as masses of rough metal. Castings of 10 tons such as the bed plate of the engine. Castings of a ton down to a couple of hundred pounds, just great gobs of steel bearing an unsculptured resemblance to the engine part it is to become.

With machine tools the masters of metal set to work to convert the massive gobbets of steel into the parts which in a matter of days or weeks will conform, to the thousandth part of an inch, to the blue prints which lie on their banquet size steel work tables. And so will go together, when assembly starts, into an 83-ton mechanism no less matchlessly perfect than the little Bren guns next door; but monstrous in its power and weight; and all made by the human hand.

It is hard to see where the machine begins, and the human hand leaves off, in industry. But to see these middle-aged metal-masters shaving a 10-ton steel plate with a steel plane is one thing. And to see a crew of them heating the same giant plate over open coke fires, like gipsy bonfires, and then patiently beating it to the scientifically exact curve with tools as antique as the bronze ages, gives you a queer sense of pride that all the little jewelled mills of the Bren gun plant cannot inspire. In the boiler plant, they have pneumatic drills and rivetters; electric welders, torches, things to cut and scorch and bite. The planes they use are 50 feet long, great sliding beds on which the giant steel plates are laid as helpless as butter while the tool steel blades – also made in Canada – slice off the metal as you would whittle cedar, into long, sweet shavings.

But even these immense tools are only tools, and the grimey masters of metal use them in their hands, as men have used tools from time immemorial. The bed plate of the engine, the walls of boiler and condenser, are drilled, the plates shaped, the parts rivetted and secured all by human skill multiplied only as to the power of its blow. The blow is still aimed, gauged, directed and laid by the human hand. Part by part, the engine is machined out of the steel castings. The crankshaft alone, which consists of scores of pieces assembled, sweated and pinned with steel, weighs eight tons when it is lifted into its little place beneath the great cylinders. To start with just massive blocks of steel, vaguely shaped. To end with, a glorious gleaming engine, balanced like a fighter, ready to be dropped into a corvette to drive it bravely to sea.

The Inglis company makes the power plant of the corvette complete, from boiler and condenser to engine and shaft. The three-ton bronze propeller, over ten feet across, is sent to them from the brass foundry in Owen Sound to be fitted to the shaft. That enormous propeller is a magnificent combination of intricate mathematics and mass metal; and it, too, is the work of men’s hands guiding tools, cutting something as artistically perfect as a flower out of an ingot of bronze as big as the room you are sitting in.

It is not possible to go into the detail of the engine, how many revolutions per minute, number of horsepower, speed at which it will drive its ship. From such figures an enemy could calculate what he wants to know in case he meets a corvette at sea. But at every step of its construction, it fulfils the blue prints of the Canadian navy. The plans were supplied the Inglis company by the government. Canadian government men are present, away off at the distant steel mills, at every pouring of steel, to see what goes into it. Those same inspectors see it cooled, take samples of it to test with their chemicals and their instruments. They weigh it, bore it for bubbles, texture. Then they stamp the casting with their mark, and it comes to Toronto. At every stage of its progress, every piece of that engine is inspected and stamped by other Canadian government inspectors. If you look at an engine, you will see on all its pieces, stamped into the metal, a small square bearing the imprint of the technical experts employed by the Canadian navy and by the merchant marine of Canada. As the engine is assembled, each stage is further inspected, so that when the engine is finally given its last test before going to its ship, it bears an ultimate imprint that was tougher to get than any university degree in the world.

Of course what the Inglis plant is doing is only a flicker in the moving picture of Canada’s present war industry, but it is dramatic perhaps because of the element of resurrection. A great many of the men working on these engines have been Inglis men for a quarter century. The firm has been making engines for 80 years. In 1859, John Inglis of Guelph, Ontario, bought from a man in Dundas, Ontario, the right and title to a machine shop for making flour milling equipment. He moved it to Guelph and in 1860 started the manufacture of milling machinery and expanded it with the increasing use of steam engines into a big enterprise that moved, in 1885, to Toronto, on its present site. Engines and boilers were its output. Back in those days there was no electric power in industry, and steam engines provided all the power of factories. The Hamonic and Huronic are two of the ships that bear witness to the fact that ship’s engines were among the things the Inglis firm was master of before the turn of the century. But industrial machinery, power plants, steam plants for electric power, water works pumping machinery and stationary steam plants of all types were its contribution to Toronto’s thriving. From 1903 to 1913, as a steel plate works and milling machinery plant it was capitalized at only $100,000. In 1914 it was recapitalized at a million dollars and went into a wider field of engines. Between 1914 and 1925 the firm did $25,000,000 worth of business. 1935, Mr. William Inglis, who was sole owner, died and the company went into receivership as the family did not desire to continue its operation.

Engineering Enterprise

In due time the present directorate took hold of it as the basis of a program of engineering enterprise, one item of which was the Bren gun. Those who could not see around corners two years ago were stymied by the thought of making Bren guns in a boiler factory and machine shop. But the boiler factory fabricates the plate with which the machine shop busies itself to make the basic machines without which the little machines that make the Bren gun can do nothing. All the old Ross rifle machinery that lay in Canada’s arsenals and much of which today serves perfectly for certain primary steps in the Bren was rehabilitated and made modern in this machine shop. And you will see any amount of the new machinery for the new and ever-newer plants, being created right in the machine shop next door to the boiler plant. Major James Hahn, who served in the same division with me in the last war, only he was an intelligence officer who did the around-the-corner looking for the rest of us, also went to Varsity when I did, only he went to the School of Science while the rest of us took Arts. There were a great many of us who felt very distressed for our old friend the Major two years ago when the Bren subject was up – some of us fresh-water sailors, for the Major loves boats; some of us pistol shooters because the Major is nuts about precision shooting, and 20 years ago, after the old war, had the most incredible collection of hand guns in this part of the world; some of us just contacts who knew him, and knew full well he had learned, as an engineer and a soldier, to look at right angles around corners. We knew he was a manufacturer of radio, one of the early birds in the radio field. And there he was, in that musical merry world of two, three years ago, loaded up with a gun making contract. And everybody on his heels…

ARDENT FRESH-WATER SAILOR and expert on precision shooting, Major James Hahn, president of the John Inglis plant, takes great pride in his extraordinary collection of hand guns.

So it is nice now to see him, as mild-mannered as ever, with his hat over one eye as ever, the easier to scratch the back of your head when thinking, sitting all quiet in the midst of that pandemonium in his great plants in Toronto, and years and months ahead of his promises with guns and engines.

“You see,” he said amiably, “you don’t have to be a gunsmith to make guns. It is perhaps possible you don’t even have to be an engineer to operate an engineering plant. You just have to have common sense. The John Inglis plant has the Canadian rights to certain established engineering works in other parts of the world, a famous British boiler works, an outstanding American pump manufacturer, other American plate and machinery enterprises. Their specifications, experience, even their technical supervision in the person of their experts brought over here, are at the company’s disposal. Here we have the plant. the materials, the technical skill and the labor. Beyond that, what is there? Ordinary business enterprise and plain common-sense.”

And if we may say so, Major, a little foresight – as regards war, for instance.

But the lesson of the story is merely that, as each new week brings the clearer voice of Ottawa warning of the tightening belt of economy, the increasing hours of labor, the wider authority of government over the activity of all and sundry in industry, it is reassuring to be able to see, in this Inglis plant, a demonstration of the speed with which great enterprises can be brought into shape, and the almost limitless variety of ways human energy can be employed, from those furious small machines with all the brains locked up tight in their own insides down to 10-ton steel plates which, over gipsy fires, are beaten into faultless shape by the aimed blows of rugged men. Room, in a word, for everybody to take a grip on the war.

Editor’s Note: John Inglis and Company, as indicated in the article, was purchased by Major J. E. Hahn in 1937. After the war, Inglis entered the consumer products business, including home appliances such as washing machines, dryers, and dishwashers. Whirlpool Corporation acquired a majority interest of Inglis in 1987 and changed the company’s name to Whirlpool Canada in 2001.

Toronto Star Ad – 06/28/41

June 18, 1941

Case of Mistaken Identity

The farmer just stared. “A lot of queer ducks in this neighborhood,” I remarked.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, June 21, 1941.

“Here comes a guy,” muttered Jimmie Frise, “that might tell us where the fish are.”

“Maybe he’s the owner,” I muttered back, “going to kick us off.”

We went on fishing with that extra-innocent air that is used when what appears to be the landlord comes through the bushes.

“Hyah,” said Jimmie agreeably to the stranger.

“Good-day, gentlemen,” said the sinister-looking stranger. “I thought you might be cows.”

“Cows?” I said indignantly.

“I’ve lost four cows,” said the stranger. “They’re around here somewhere. You haven’t seen any cows lurking about, have you?”

He was certainly a strange looking man. His clothing was ragged and coarsely patched. He had a week’s growth of scattered tan stubble on his jaws. His eyes were close-set and he narrowed them curiously when he looked at you. It did not seem likely to me that such a man would own any cows.

“No, sir,” I said shortly, “we haven’t seen any cows lurking.”

“Two brown ones,” he said, and his voice was soft and his speech almost scholarly. “Two brown ones, one Jersey and one white and brown. Heifers.”

“This is a tough country to lose cows,” said Jimmie. “Why don’t you bell one of them?”

“I should, I should,” said the stranger thoughtfully. “Are you having any luck?”

“Not a rise,” said Jimmie, who is always ready to talk to the most unprofitable kind of people. “We’d heard this was a good trout stream.”

“It is good,” said the stranger softly, “but at this time of June, they gather in the pools that have springs in them. The larger stretches of the stream are getting too warm for trout. So they foregather in the spring pools.”

“Foregather,” I said, because the word seemed so funny coming from such a tramp.

“Yes,” he replied gently. “I could show you the spring pools, if you like.”

“We’d be very grateful,” said Jimmie.

“Go ahead, Jim,” I announced. “I’ll just fish along.”

“In one of the spring pools,” said the stranger in his quiet, prim voice, “I imagine I could show you a two-pound trout.”

“In this creek?” I scoffed.

“Unless someone has caught it since last Sunday,” said the stranger, “it ought to be still there.”

“Couldn’t you catch it?” I inquired.

“I do not try to catch them,” smiled the sinister man, veiling his eyes and looking me up and down. “I love things to be free.”

“Like cows,” I suggested.

“I do not bell them,” said the shabby man.

“Let’s go,” cut in Jim, “and see these spring holes.”

The Glorious Big Trout

And though I did not care for the stranger, I reeled up my line and followed, because a two-pound trout is a two-pound trout.

The stranger took the lead and with the bent legs of a man who knows how to stumble skilfully and loosely through the bush, as an Indian does, he wove in and out of the trodden path along the stream made by the feet of generations of anglers. He showed us two or three smallish spring pools, and sure enough there were trout to be seen.

“Don’t fish now for them,” said the stranger. “There will be clouds in about an hour. Come back and fish these pools when the clouds come over.”

“You won’t fish,” I smiled, “but you will show others how to fish.”

“I like everybody to be happy,” returned the stranger with a sinister smile. “I like the trout to be free. But I also like anglers to catch fish. I am not partisan. I love trout. But I do not therefore hate fishermen.”

He turned on his heel before I could think up any dig back at him. A most unpleasant, smooth, ragged man, I thought.

Through alder and cedar thickets he led us with almost animal-like craft, showed us pool after pool. including some large ones, dark and motionless, where he assured us there would be as many as a dozen trout of a pound or over.

“Trout,” he said, “like human beings or wrens or seagulls, or anything else for that matter, live according to a natural economic law. Where food is most plentiful, where the living conditions are best and where there is the most security, they are most plentiful. This pool is the biggest town on this river.”

“Is this where the two-pounder is?” I asked, getting my rod ready.

“No,” replied the stranger, when he got big enough to be the object of too much attention, he retreated into a suburban area, handy enough to the big town so that he can run in and gobble a smaller trout when the mood strikes him, yet secluded enough to be safer than in this busy traffic.”

“You’re quite a philosopher,” admired Jimmie.

“There is little else to be,” said the stranger, gliding again into the brush.

And 100 yards further down, he showed us the big trout. In a small deep ice-cold pool deep amidst cedar roots, where it was impossible to dunk a worm much less place a trout fly, the glorious trout lay. You had to lie down and peer amidst the stout cedar roots to see him. Flecks of sunlight dappled the four-foot depths of the pool, and to one side, on a golden patch of sand washed clean by some bubbling spring beneath the lordly trout lay fanning.

“Sir,” I said to the stranger. “I beg your pardon. This is one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.”

“Don’t mention it,” said the sinister one with a twisted smile. “But if you see my lost cows, you might let me know. I live in a rather tumble-down place just a hundred yards or so to the north of the end of this road out here.”

“If we see them,” said Jim, kneeling up from worshipping the great trout down below, “we’ll bring them home to you.”

“Don’t trouble yourselves,” said the stranger, “just drop by and tell me where they are. I think they’re out along this road somewhere.”

“Good-by,” we called, as he vanished again into the silent brush.

“What a queer bird,” I submitted.

“Some kind of a hermit,” said Jim.

“A poet,” I corrected. “Jim, there’s a man with a true touch of genius.”

“A little cracked, I think,” said Jim.

“This is Uncanny”

So we knelt and studied the great trout for half an hour. We went out to a clearing and caught grasshoppers and dropped them in. He ignored them. We stuck sticks down, and with great and noble laziness, he turned out of the way, to return to his golden sand throne the moment we left him alone.

“Some hill-billy,” I declared, “will bomb him out of here with stumping powder.”

“Well, anyway, there is no way we can catch him,” said Jim.

So we left him and, clouds coming along as the sinister stranger had foretold, we sought out the spring pools we had been shown and cast our flies and caught two fine baskets of trout. In the “main town” pool, Jim took three and I took two of the one-pound trout he had predicted.

And when, with heavy baskets and rods taken down we walked out to the road to our car, there, grouped around the car, cropping the luscious grass of the country backroad, were four heifers.

“Two brown,” cried Jimmie excitedly, “a Jersey and a white and brown.”

“Jim,” I agreed, “this is uncanny. We will have the pleasure of returning his cows to the man who gave us one of the best fishing days of our lives.”

So Jim cut a couple of gads and I drove the car. And as Jim herded the cattle ahead, I held the road and low-geared along to keep the four strays from turning back, as they constantly tried to do.

“A little wild, all right,” said Jim. “They won’t stray after another winter in the barn.”

As we moved slowly along, we encountered a gentleman driving a buggy, who drew to the side of the road to let us by. He surveyed us with a look of extreme astonishment. In fact, when we both greeted him with a cheery good evening, he did not even answer us. He just stared and then clucked to his horse and went off at a trot.

“A lot of queer ducks in this neighborhood,” I remarked.

“As a matter of fact,” said Jim. “I’ve often noticed: the better the trout fishing, the queerer the ducks.”

At the cross roads. we looked north and sure enough, there amidst the abandoned looking back country farmland, with its brush and sketchy fences, we saw the old roof of a house.

“Soooo bossy,” said Jim, slapping the cows lightly with his gad. “Gee, haw.”

And we turned them up the road and in a moment had them started down the lane. It was as sinister an old house as the man who owned it. Its windows were blank and deserted. Its gates and doors hung awry. There were weeds thick in its barnyard and no sign of any habitation.

Right Under Their Noses

We drove the cows into the yard and Jim lifted the gate which had not been moved for years, by the look of it. I tooted the horn loudly, and when the stranger did not appear, I got out and rapped cautiously on the door. There was no reply.

“A kind of run-down place.” I recalled. “Just north of the cross roads.”

“This is it all right,” said Jim. “Halllooo!”

We heard a car coming. We heard two cars. Two cars came tearing up the road and in the lane in clouds of dust. And seven men boiled out of them.

“I’m the county constable,” said the first of the seven to reach us. “What are you doing with these cows?”

“They are strays,” I explained, “and the man who owns them asked us to let him know …”

Them’s my cows,” cut in an elderly and agitated man, “and everybody here knows it.”

“We were fishing down yonder,” stated Jim, firmly, “and met a man hunting for stray cattle, two browns, a Jersey and a brown and white. When we came out on the road, there they were…”

“You took ’em right off my property,” cried the elderly man.

“They were on the roadside,” I informed him.

“Yes, right beside my own fields,” accused the owner.

The county constable and the others were standing in a circle around us, eyeing us with hard, alert gaze.

“What kind of a man did you meet down there fishing?” inquired the county constable.

“Why,” I said, “he was a most interesting man, knew the stream like a book, showed us all the best holes …”

“That would be him,” said all the others.

“What did he look like?” demanded the constable.

“Well, he was very shabby,” I replied, “and he was brindled and kind of odd looking, and he spoke in a soft, gentle voice …”

“That’s him,” they all cried.

“That’s who?” demanded Jimmie.

“The man that used to live here, in this farm,” said the constable. “He is the biggest cattle thief in history. Been to prison four times for cattle stealing. Can’t quit it, no matter what they do to him.”

“Does he live here?” I asked in dismay, looking at the abandoned house.

“Nobody has lived here since he went to prison 18 years ago, the first time,” said the constable. “But he comes back every now and then and steals cattle right under the noses of his old neighbors.”

Feeling Very Mystified

“How do we know,” demanded a rather pious-looking little farmer with a raspy voice, “that these men aren’t in cahoots with him? How do we know …”

“No, no,” laughed the county constable, “this is the perfect job. He’s probably hiding in the bush watching us right now and laughing. If Mr. Potts had not met these gentlemen driving your cattle off, they would have by now been pleasantly hidden back in the bush there: and tonight, a truckload of his prison friends would have arrived and carted them off.”

“Why, the scoundrel,” I exclaimed.

“He does it for the mischief of it,” said the constable.

“Mischief nothing,” I said hotly. “Why, we would have been accessories to a crime, and driven off and never even known. Look here: pinch him the next time you see him and we’ll come back and give evidence.”

“Pinch him!” said the constable. “Nobody ever sees him. He hasn’t been seen by anybody that knows him around here for 10 years. He creeps in and creeps out, usually with a bunch of cattle. We know who does it. But we can’t prove it. He’s like a mink in the bush.”

“What a strange life,” said Jim.

“He was a wrong one, even as a youngster,” said the constable. There was never enough to keep him amused around here, so he took to tricks.”

So we all shook hands and said good-by and we drove off, keeping anxious eyes on the shrubbery along the back roads until we got safely out to the highway.

“I knew he was a crook,” I stated. “The minute I saw him, I had a hunch he was a bad ‘un.”

“He sure knew his trout,” said Jim.

“Crook was written all over him,” I maintained.

“Yet he was as gentle as a child,” said Jim.

“I wouldn’t trust him with my back turned,” I insisted.

“He showed us more about a trout stream in 20 minutes,” said Jim, “than anybody has shown us in years.”

“Yet the whole business,” I cried, “was a frame-up to get us to help him steal some cattle. I bet he drove those cows around our car.”

“And him hiding in the thickets, watching us,” said Jim.

“It’s eerie,” I mused, “to think of lives so twisted up as that.”

“I don’t know,” said Jim very mystified. “I kind of liked him, I imagine he is a more natural man than all us human clothes pegs.”

Upon which it was dark enough to have to turn on the car lights and pay attention to the driving, and the conversation languished.

There’s One in Every Cellar

She shoved back the hood and lifted the table cover. And looked with horror on the face of the clock.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, April 5, 1941.

“Are you busy?” inquired Jimmie Frise over the telephone.

“I’m just studying the seed catalogues,” I replied.

“I wonder would you drive down for a minute,” said Jim, “and take me over to the watch repair man’s?”

“Jim, my car’s in the repair shop,” I informed him rather comfortably, because it was a rotten day out. April showers. Cold sleet, in other words. In this country it is May showers bring June flowers.

“The kids have my car out,” grumbled Jim, “and they won’t be home till late.”

“Sorry, Jim,” I said. “I left my car in this morning for that spring overhaul. You know. The one they describe in the circular they send around. Your car needs spring cleaning.'”

“You’re falling for everything,” laughed Jim. “Circulars about your car. Seed catalogues.”

“It’s in the air, Jim,” I assured him. “Everybody’s restless at this time of year. What are you falling for? What do you want to drive to the watch repair man’s for? Why can’t you walk?”

“It’s our clock,” explained Jim. “I’m sick and tired of sitting here looking at a clock that not only isn’t running; it hasn’t run for six years. And I just suddenly decided to have it fixed.”

“Aha,” I crowed. “So you’ve got the spring bug, too.”

“That fool clock,” said Jim, “has been sitting on the mantel now ever since 1935 and it hasn’t uttered a tick. There in its place of honor, on the mantel, presiding over my household, it sits at two minutes to two. I’ve looked at it thousands of times. My family has done the same. It is always two to two.”

“I hate to see your high purpose come to nothing, Jim,” I urged. “Couldn’t you carry it over to the watch repair man? It’s only three or four blocks.”

“It’s too measly a day,” said Jim. “It’s raining. And while it’s not a heavy clock, it would be an awkward package to carry on a day like this.”

“Jim,” I egged him on, “maybe this impulse to have that clock fixed may never come again for another six years. I know this feeling. It passes very quickly.”

“I’ve had it dozens of times before,” confessed Jim. “But it never was strong enough to make me take the blame clock over. And now, when I haven’t a car and your car is in the repair shop, I’ve got the urge stronger than it’s ever been.”

“But not strong enough to make you carry it over,” I submitted.

“Maybe if you came with me I’d carry it,” wheedled Jimmie.

“It’s pouring rain,” I retorted. “And I’m just at the zinnias.”

“April showers,” pleaded Jim.

“Ice water,” I corrected.

Restlessness of Spring

And we hung up. But it only takes a little while to come to the end of a seed catalogue. Even if you take your pencil and mark with an X the ones you are going to get plants of and a V for the ones you are going to get seeds for, in about 15 minutes you come to the vegetables at the back. Then you get up and go to the back dining-room window and look out at the winter-killed garden, all full of mud and patches of ice in the lee and broken hockey sticks and half-buried rusty snow shovels. And what is more natural than that you should realize that it is a long time yet to the 24th of May and the planting of the garden?

Besides, the rain looks as if it were slackening.

So I put my coat on and an old hat and walked down to Jimmie’s.

“I’ve been sitting here expecting you,” he grinned.

“The heck you have,” I retorted. “I hadn’t the faintest intention of coming.”

“But you’re here,” cried Jim. “It’s the spring.”

“I don’t like people to be able to read my mind,” I informed him. “Or my character either.”

“I knew you’d come,” stated Jim, “because you are restless and impulsive like everybody and everything else at this time of year. Nature makes us all impulsive and restless in April. How else would all the June marriages take place if everybody didn’t go suddenly impulsive about the first of April?”

“I’d hate to understand everything the way you do,” I assured him. “Is this the clock?”

“And a lot heavier than I suspected,” said Jim.

I lifted the clock off the mantel. It weighed about 12 or 15 pounds.

“What a brute,” I exclaimed. “You couldn’t carry that.”

“We could carry it between us,” submitted Jim, “but it would be awkward walking half-sideways for four blocks with that thing between us. But I’ve thought up an idea while I was waiting for you. There’s an old baby carriage down cellar.”

“Then you don’t need me,” I said hastily. “You can wheel it over yourself.”

“You’ll help me carry the baby carriage up from the cellar?” inquired Jim.

“Certainly,” I agreed. “But you don’t catch me perambulating through the streets with a clock in a baby carriage. Not at my age. I mean, after all, there is a little dignity …”

“Now, look here,” protested Jimmie. “What’s wrong with pushing a baby carriage through the streets with a clock in it? What’s the difference what you’ve got in the baby carriage?”

“Jim,” I declared firmly, “a baby carriage is a baby carriage. It is dedicated to a high and sacred purpose. I gave up pushing baby carriages many years ago. I don’t expect to start again until my grandchildren begin to arrive. And then I’ll not only do it gladly; I’ll do it proudly. But in the meantime I don’t propose to go through the streets of my own neighborhood like a peddler shoving a barrow.”

“Just walk beside me,” insisted Jimmie.

“No, Jim, no,” I said emphatically. It wouldn’t look dignified, the two of us using a baby carriage for a wheelbarrow. No, sir.”

“You’re a snob,” accused Jim.

“Okay,” I said. “I’m a snob.”

“Thousands of people use baby carriages for carrying parcels,” pleaded Jim. “Every Saturday afternoon you’ll see hundreds of young couples out shopping with their baby and the carriage filled with parcels.”

“Ah, that’s different,” I said. “I don’t know why it is different. But the very idea of us using a baby carriage as a parcel carrier seems to me infra dig.”

“Well,” said Jim with finality, “I fail to see it. There is an old baby carriage in almost every cellar in the world. Put down there to keep in case some other member of the family might want it. But when it is wanted, no new parent would even look at a second-hand pram. There always has to be a new one. So all over the world are these little and highly useful vehicles lying in cobwebs and coal dust.”

“It can’t be helped,” I insisted.

“Well, there’s a war on,” stated Jim. “And we’re going to see a lot of funny things before it’s over. We are going to see people casting silly pride aside. We’re going to see old clothes worn with pride and baby carriages used for wheelbarrows. For I’m going to take my clock over to the watch repair shop in the pram. And there is no reason on earth, intelligent or otherwise, why I shouldn’t use a baby carriage to carry bundles. It has wheels. Okay. I wheel it.”

So I took off my coat and went down cellar with Jim and found the old baby carriage in behind stacks of stored garden furniture and curtain stretchers and retired iron beds and things. And we worked it out and dusted it off and carried it upstairs.

Jim lifted the clock and set it in the pram.

“Look,” said Jim. “What better vehicle could be imagined than this pram for carrying so delicate an instrument as a clock? See this little mattress? See those big soft springs? Why, it’s ideal for transporting clocks. Even a $2,000 car would jolt the stuffing out of a clock, as compared with the soft ride it’ll get in here.”

“Quite so,” I said drily, putting on my coat.

Jim went and got a couple of small tablecloths and a bridge table cover and tucked them over the clock.

“Ha,” I scoffed. “Weakening, eh? Trying to pretend it is a baby?”

“Certainly not,” said Jim. “I am just protecting the clock from the rain.”

I looked out. It had begun its weary April drizzle again.

“Turn that hood up well over it,” I suggested. “You don’t want a good clock all stained and wet.”

So while Jim was getting his coat on, I undid the little screws that hold the hood and turned it up so as to protect thoroughly the contents of the carriage. I altered the covers a little, tucking them down around the foot of the carriage and creating a lifelike illusion of a baby stowed within.

“There,” I said. “That’s realistic enough.”

“Help me down the steps with it,” said Jim.

So I took the front end and helped him lower the carriage down the front steps.

Then, since I was going his way as far as my house, I could not do other than walk with him as he pushed the pram along. After all, there was no way of telling, from appearances, that there was a clock in the carriage. The only thing that occurred to me was that if any of the neighbors saw Jimmie pushing a pram it might inspire some lively curiosity. I caught Jimmie casting a few slantwise glances at the windows of his immediate neighbors.

But half way up the block we encountered an elderly couple, a man and wife, walking under the one umbrella. And the way they stood aside for us, and the warm, friendly smiles they bestowed on us, trying to get a glimpse of the little one within as we went by, was quite gratifying. There is, after all nothing so flattering to people of 50 as to have people of 70 mistake them for youngsters.

Protests and Explanations

“I’ll stick with you, Jim,” I assured him as we went on.

“You don’t have to,” replied Jim. “I can get along very nicely.”

“You’d do as much for me,” I insisted.

As a matter of fact, despite the drizzle of rain, we got quite a kick pushing that pram. At the street crossings I got hold of it myself, and when Jim lighted a cigarette I had it all to myself and shoved it at least three or four doors along. It was years and years since I had felt a pram jouncing and smoothly rolling before me. Nice feeling.

When we turned on to the shopping street it began to rain a little heavier.

“Only a block more,” said Jim.

But an elderly lady barred our way.

“Tssk, tssk,” she said, smiling benignly. “You’ll soak the child. Don’t you men know how to tuck …”

She had shoved back the hood and lifted the table cover. And was looking with horror into the face of the clock.

Then she stared, with incredible suspicion on her face for so elderly and kindly a lady, at us.

Like a traffic cop, she signalled the doorman of the movie theatre to come to her aid: had sent a boy on a bicycle down the street for a policeman; and had 40 people in a tight ring around us so that we could neither escape nor make our protests and explanations heard above the loud murmur.

“Imagine,” said the elderly lady. “Making off with a clock! I’ve heard of them making off with a pound of butter. Or a can of peas. But a clock!”

“Slickest scheme I ever saw,” said the movie doorman. And others gave similar summaries, while Jimmie and I tried vainly to locate one neighborly face to whom we could explain that we were on the way to the watch repair shop.

At first the policeman was inclined to look upon us as guilty until proven innocent. But we produced our registration cards, drivers permits, letters, bills, receipts; and then the girl in the movie ticket window, who couldn’t resist the excitement any longer, came out and identified us as a couple of regular customers for years past, though she didn’t know our names. Finally a grocery messenger boy wheeled in and positively identified us. The policeman accompanied us down to the watch repair shop. And the man there knew us well.

So all was well except for one thing.

“You can push it home alone, Jim,” I assured him. “After all, snobbery is just another name for the respect for a certain type of law or convention. A baby carriage is for babies.”

However, the movie got out just then and in the crowd we saw two little neighbor girls from only a couple of doors away from Jimmie’s. And we hailed them and asked them if they would like to wheel the baby carriage back home for us.

Which they were vastly delighted to do.

With the little girls walking ahead, in the most ladylike, the most motherly air you ever saw, we followed slowly.

And so back home and down again into the cellar, behind the iron bed and the curtain stretchers and the garden furniture, went the baby carriage once more.

Editor’s Notes: “In the lee” means next to something. “Infra dig” means demeaning.


March 22, 1941

I don’t quite get the joke, but I gather that Wes was hoping that he would make a lot more charging the hermit for a haircut rather than selling him just a plug of chewing tobacco.

Clothes Make the Man

“Can you do my windows starting tomorrow at 8 a.m.?” she inquired crisply.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, January 25, 1941.

“The funniest thing,” said Jimmie Frise, “is the effect the uniform has on men.”

“I’d be as proud as a rooster,” I informed him, “if they’d let me back into it.”

“I don’t mean that,” explained Jimmie. “What I mean is, some of the finest looking men, the minute they put on uniform, look like tramps. And some of the dowdiest looking men of my acquaintance, as soon as they don uniform, turn out to be Adonises.”

“It’s perfectly simple,” I explained. “The uniform is standardized. Thus, the guy who could cover up his physical imperfections as to shoulders or legs by choosing artfully tailored clothes is shown up in his true light when he puts on uniform. And many a man who is physically perfection has never had the taste or the money to buy the clothes that would show him off.”

“Besides, in uniform,” said Jim, “you can’t slouch around. I think good appearance is mostly a matter of tidiness anyway. It isn’t the quality of the clothes. It’s the way you keep them.”

“The reason I wear such loud clothes,” I confided, “is because I am really so shy. I want people to look at my clothes, rather than at me, see?”

“Who ever would have thought of that?” cried Jim. “I bet you were a funny looking soldier.”

“Before I got to France.” I admitted, “my size kind of caused a snicker. I was only five foot two and seven-eighths. And I only weighed 106 pounds and 11 ounces.”

“You have the fractions,” said Jim.

“A man my size always has to use the fractions,” I pointed out. “But once I got to France there were no more snickers. I am told that plenty of big 200-pound comrades of mine used to say their prayers at night in the trenches and ask God to make them little like me.”

“I guess small men are handiest in war,” agreed Jim. “But suppose you had been a private soldier. How would you have got a uniform to fit you?”

“I was a private soldier,” I informed him. “For six weeks. By that time they couldn’t find a uniform small enough, so they made me a lieutenant and told me to go and buy my own uniform.”

“So that’s why so many famous generals are small men,” exclaimed Jimmie.

“Listen,” I said, “do you realize why I have worked so hard all my life? Do you know what boiled me full of ambition to make money? Just the fact that in Toronto street cars my feet do not touch the floor when I am sitting on the seats. So I just had to have a motor car. You have no idea what a spur it is to be a runt.”

“You don’t wear high heels,” remarked Jim, studying my boots.

“No, sir,” I assured him. “When you are a shorty, the trick is to pretend you don’t care. The smartest thing to do is to wear clothes that accentuate your shortness.”

We’re All Self-Conscious

“What the heck,” scoffed Jimmie. “Who cares how big you are? Anyway, who looks at you?”

“Oh, we’re all self-conscious about something,” I declared. “Big men are often more self-conscious than little men. I once had a big man six feet four and 300 pounds of muscle tell me almost in tears about how self-conscious he was. He said every time there was a dog-fight or whenever a drunk made a scene on a street car, everybody looked at him in expectation. He is scared of dogs and hates drunks. He is just a big, shy man. Yet whenever there is any trouble, the whole world looks to him to make a hero of himself.”

“By George, I never thought of that,” said Jim.

“He said he got so he was scared to go out, scared to walk the street, scared to go anywhere,” I described, “for fear of some trouble arising that everybody would expect him to deal with because of his size. That’s being self-conscious.”

“Nobody would ever expect you to jump in and stop a fight,” agreed Jim.

“And that’s why, if I do jump in, I’m a heck of a hero,” I explained. “You don’t know what an awful temptation it is to a little man to jump in and be a hero. That’s what makes us self-conscious. Self-consciousness, after all, is just fear. What we are scared of makes us self-conscious. If I am scared of being poor, I try to look rich. And if I am scared people will find out I am rich, I try to look poor. Life is very complicated.”

“It sure is,” admitted Jimmie. “But the good old uniform makes life a lot simpler for a great many of us. Personally, I wasn’t a bad looking soldier.”

“You’re one of those men, Jim,” I confessed, “who looks the same whether he is in a business suit, a pair of overalls or a nightshirt.”

“I wore overalls,” said Jimmie, “the first 16 years of my life, around the farm. And I’m proud of it.”

“So you should be,” I stated. “In fact, one of my Christmas presents this year was a suit of overalls. $2.95. I bought them myself and sent them up to the house anonymously.”

“What the dickens do you want overalls for?” demanded Jim.

“They are the greatest things in the world,” I informed him, “for fishing, rabbit shooting, gardening and pattering around the car. They are warm. They keep rain off you. They keep you clean. But, most of all, they have a curious psychic effect on people like me. My ancestors all wore overalls. And the minute I put mine on, I suddenly feel capable. All my city-bred helplessness vanishes. This past month I have learned more about the engine in my car than I ever learned before. Why? Because I had overalls on. And my mind seemed to work.”

“Such stuff,” said Jim.

“It’s a fact, Jim,” I assured him. “Clothes make the man. Dress up in a tuxedo with a white stiff shirt and light evening pumps on and you suddenly are infused with a feeling of elegance. You walk with conscious pride. You are witty. Your tongue grows nimble. Your whole being has a swing and a lilt to it.”

“It’s a fact,” admitted Jimmie.

“Put on your oldest clothes,” I continued, “a little ragged, a little skimpy and bulged at the knees, and you feel lazy and dopey and listless. When I put on my overalls I suddenly feel mechanical. I go all artizany. I seem to feel strong muscles in my forearms and my hands get rough.”

“Hold on, hold on,” begged Jimmie.

“I am filled with a sense of capability,” I insisted, “of knowledge of hammers and saws. I can pick up a hammer in my ordinary business clothes and I go all kind of helpless. With overalls on, I can pick up a hammer and feel as if I had been born with a hammer in my hand.”

“You’re a Jekyll and Hyde,” said Jim.

“We can all be Jekyll and Hydes,” I declared, “with a few changes of clothes.”

A Man in Overalls

“How would you like to give me a demonstration of this miracle in your overalls?” demanded Jim.

“Any time,” I assured him.

“Well, it’s like this,” said Jim. “Last November I put the storm windows on without washing them. The family was at me every day and I kept putting it off on account of the deer hunting and one thing and another.”

“One of the things I don’t feel like,” I interrupted, “is putting on storm windows in my overalls. It only applies to the mechanical arts, like engines, carpentering and so on.”

“Wait till I explain,” said Jim. “So one Saturday, when the folks were all out, I got the urge and put the storm windows all on. But it seems I should have had them washed first. The family, which wanted me to put them up so badly, hadn’t washed the windows. They were going to do that whenever I got in the mood to put them up. So there was an awful row.”

“If it’s done, it’s done,” I assured him.

“No,” said Jim; “they were pretty bad when I put them up, but they’re worse now. They’ve got to come down.”

“If you put them up without help,” I inquired, “why do you need a man in overalls to help you take them down?”

“Okay,” said Jim, “okay, if you don’t want to lend a hand to a friend. And this is wartime, too.”

“Storm windows are silly, Jim,” I said. “You should have your house insulated.”

“Okay,” said Jim, “okay. Never mind.”

“It would only be to put my overalls on,” I said, “if I did lend you a hand.”

“Like a fool,” said Jim, “I broadcast all over the house that I would take the windows down and wash them myself. If it was just to take them down I wouldn’t ask any help. But when they came home and found I had put them up right out of the cellar, all dusty and grimey, I announced that I would take them down and wash them.”

“Aw, they won’t hold you to that,” I protested.

“Oh, yes, they will,” replied Jim. “You can’t brag around my house.”

“Well,” I said.

So we quit at 3 in the afternoon and I went home and put my overalls on. I keep them in the attic closet, where I can go and try them on now and then when none of my children are around. I have also worn them quite a bit working on the car, shovelling the snow, putting up some new bird feeding houses in the yard, and anything I can think of. They are my most exciting Christmas present, even if I did send them up anonymously.

They give you a nice, broadlegged feeling when you get them on.

“You look better than I’ve ever seen you look,” declared Jim when I walked down his sidedrive in them. “You look kind of … natural.”

“Thanks, Jim,” I said. “I knew you wouldn’t kid me.”

Jim got a pail of hot water, a chamois, some rags and a scrub brush. We carried out the stepladder and started on the front living-room windows. Jim would climb up and unbutton the window and pry it out of the frame. Then I would draw the bottom out and take hold and lower it down. In overalls, you grab hold of things with your arms and chest, in a most businesslike fashion, because the more dirt you get on your overalls, the better they are.

On that same principle, I took the lead in the washing of them, because a little soapy water splashed on my overalls would only increase their beauty.

“Well,” said Jim, “you’re right. I never saw such a change in anybody in my life.”

“Here y’are,” I said, with a rowdy, window cleaner air. And I handed him up the beautifully polished window and he slipped it into the frame and I banged it home with a good strong, rough hand.

The Magic Garment

We had got pretty well along with the front windows when the elderly lady who lives right opposite Jim came across the road and up the walk.

“I suppose,” she said, “you’ll be all day at this job?”

“We won’t be done before dark, ma’am, “I assured her.

Jimmie came down off the stepladder and joined us. He didn’t have overalls. All he had on was his old fishing clothes.

“Can you do mine starting tomorrow at 8 a.m.?” she inquired crisply.

She was so sharp and businesslike, I thought Jimmie had certainly got on the most amiable relations with his neighbors.

“And how much,” she inquired shrewdly, “do you charge? Is it by the window or by the hour?”

I looked at Jim to let him in on the joke.

But he was just standing staring at the lady with a puzzled frown.

“Well, usually, madam,” I said, “we charge by the window. We measure the window in square inches, and…”

“Nonsense,” said the lady, very choppy; “I have it done each year, the whole house, for $6. I’ll give you $6 and no more.”

“What do you say, Jim?” I hedged, feeling he should be in the neighborly fun.

“Well, aw, ugh,” said Jim, changing position and standing more squarely in front of the lady so she could get a look at him.

She glanced at him briefly, but looked at once back to me as though I were the one to deal with.

“I’ve been watching you,” she said, and you certainly do a good job. My windows don’t really require a second washing at this season of the year. But I have decided that you do so thorough a job I will have you do mine. Come. When will it be? Tomorrow? That will suit me best. And I will pay $7, seeing it is winter.”

“Aw, er, wuh,” said Jimmie, smiling broadly and opening his coat to show his business collar and shirt underneath.

“Well, ma’am,” I said, “we are busy tomorrow, but we’ll give you a ring the first day we’re free. How will that do?”

She looked at me impatiently.

“Very well,” she said. “Make it a good clear day. But I suppose you know your business.”

So I wrote down her name and telephone and she walked back across the road, stamped the snow off and went indoors.

“Well,” said Jim, “I’ve lived across the street from the lady for 10 years. I know her as well as I know you. She knows me as well as you do.”

“She thought you were my helper,” I said. “She practically brushed you off.”

“She certainly didn’t recognize me,” said Jim.

“People never look at faces,” I stated. “They just look at clothes.”

“Then any little embarrassment I have felt,” said Jim, “over washing windows here on my front lawn has been wasted.”

“Precisely, Jim,” I agreed. “If any neighbor happened to notice us working around your house they’ve just said to themselves, the Frises are having something done, and forgotten about it.”

“It was your overalls,” cried Jim.

“The magic garment,” I exulted.

So we have arranged that when the lady across the road calls Jim’s house to get the names of the window cleaners who did such a thorough job the family will give her the telephone number of the first window cleaning outfit we found in the book.

And we hope they wear overalls when they arrive.

All Aboard!

June 7, 1941

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