The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Tag: 1942 Page 1 of 2

Hardships of War

As we came through the door, a lady from behind gave an impatient shove, and to my horror, the bag of sugar, balanced conspicuously on the top of my load, fell off and burst with a most horrible squash fair in a puddle on the rainy sidewalk.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, November 28, 1942.

“I’ve got the week-end shopping to do,” announced Jimmie Frise. “Want to come along?”

“Wait till I phone,” I said, “and see if I can do our family shopping, too.”

And I phoned and got a list of a few things the house required together with due warnings not to go and buy up a lot of silly things we didn’t need.

“You’d think,” I said to Jim, “women would be glad of a change.”

“Aw,” smiled Jim, “the Saturday shopping trip is the most delightful fixture of the housewife’s life. The market place is one of the oldest of human institutions. And in the modern city, where the market place is spread along miles and miles of shopping streets, it is still perhaps the greatest human institution.”

“In days gone by,” I offered, “it was in the market place that public opinion was formed. Nowadays, to form public opinion, you have to organize service clubs, like Rotary and Kiwanis, the Board of Trade and other business organizations.”

“And the trade unions, don’t forget,” added Jim, “and the churches. In the olden days, when the market place was the centre of the community, all they did in church was worship God.”

“I have the idea,” I submitted, “that as the market place gave way to rows and rows of shops, and men stopped coming to market and let their wives do all the shopping, public opinion began to lose its power.”

“Nonsense,” scoffed Jim. “There was never so much public opinion as there is now.”

“Nor was it ever more confused and formless,” I retorted. “In the time of King Charles, the yokels in the market places had more opinion that mattered than we have within half a mile in all directions from King and Yonge streets. They had so much that the king lost his head.”

“Puh,” said Jim, “you can always dramatize history. It was just a gang of Nazis that executed King Charles. That was the only time Britain ever had a dictatorship.”

“They had market places in the days of the Roman Empire,” I recounted, “and in those market places, a little bunch of agitators called Christians told their story and took possession of the whole earth. They had market places all across the ages that followed and there resulted the slow and patient destruction, by an ever maturing public opinion, of tyrants and masters and cruel government. In the palaces, the rulers gave forth their edicts. But the palaces fell to dust and the market places stayed on. In the monasteries and colleges and churches, the thinkers spoke and wrote with the sublime power of logic and intelligence. But what they spoke and wrote seemed silly in 50 years, even to their own successors, and the market places stayed on and flourished. For in the market places, the mass of mankind met and talked, free of all party or sect, because in the market place, there is no room for party or sect.”

To Form Public Opinion

“But they could go home with their vegetables in their arms,” pointed out Jim, “but with their prejudices and convictions still in their minds.”

“No, sir,” I stated, “in the market place you go to buy or sell. And to buy well or sell well, you can’t take into account your own personal opinions nor those of the man you deal with. A service club or a lodge or a union or a church, you join it to signify the opinions you already hold. It is a place in which not to change your opinions. But in the market place, new, strange and often disturbing opinions are to be met with. You are exposed to the ever-present danger of the germ of a new idea in the market place.”

“You’re just one of those,” accused Jimmie, “who try to see something noble and spiritual in sordid business.”

“Far from it,” I responded. “It is the way in which sordid modern business has robbed us of the market place that disturbs me. For it is the way modern business has cut all men off from one another so that most business is done without men ever meeting one another and sharing each other’s minds that has got us all adrift in a vast sea of trouble.”

“The world has got too big,” said Jim, “for market places. The market place we are heading for now, down on Bloor St., is 15 miles long and 60 feet wide.”

“And in no half mile of it,” I declared, “is public opinion the same. Sometimes, Jim, I feel awfully suspicious of Nature in connection with this war. I wonder sometimes if it isn’t Nature that flings us headlong at each other’s throats every once in a while. Because we are too numerous. She is always trying to cut us down in numbers, so that we can get together more easily. In the rest of the animal kingdom, whenever rabbits or pigeons or anything else grow too numerous, a plague gets loose among them and they are practically wiped out – all except the strongest and toughest. As rabbits grow more susceptible to plague, the more numerous they are, so do men grow more susceptible to war, the more numerous they are. Because they can’t get together in market places and form their opinions. They have no opinions. Then along comes a small gang with a powerful opinion – like the plague germ in rabbits -and away we all go into a dreadful war.”

“There might be something in it,” said Jimmie, as we neared the corner and could see ahead the principal shopping district of our neighborhood. “And I can’t think of any cure for it, unless it was made the civic duty of all men to go shopping with their wives.”

“That is an important idea, Jim,” I exclaimed. “The civic duty of all men to go shopping with their wives. And while the wives are shopping around the shelves, the men could gather in little neighborly groups and chat together. ….”

“The way it is now,” said Jim, “the weekend is given over to men to golf or go fishing. The one period of the week when men might get together, as neighbors, and exchange a few ideas is given over to escaping from their neighbors, and to the companionship of those they have chosen to be with.”

“Yet there seems to be quite a lot of men, Jim,” I said, as we reached the corner and looked over the throng of Saturday afternoon shoppers milling along. “Why, there are hundreds of men out with their wives.”

“I should say, then,” pronounced Jim, “that these men we see are full of civic virtue. These are our better fellow citizens.”

Men Who Go Shopping

And despite the fact that a little rain had started to fall, cold November rain, we stood on the corner, watching the crowds of shoppers hurrying past, with our eyes especially on the men, to see what manner of men they were.

There were plenty of middle-aged men and not a few men in their 30s. And here and there some quite young house husbands. 30 and under.

“There is one thing about the men in this shopping scene,” said Jim, a little doubtfully, “they do look a little hen-pecked. Don’t you think?”

“Well, not hen-pecked, exactly,” I submitted. “They just look like guys who can’t think of anything better to do.”

“Now that one there,” muttered Jim, as a young, rosy faced man in spectacles and with light red hair, passed by with arms full of parcels, “looks as if he were fond of his stomach. I can understand him coming shopping.”

“And that cadaverous bird,” I pointed out. “He looks as if he wouldn’t trust his wife with the money. Maybe he just comes along to pay the bill.”

“And that one,” checked Jim, as a thin, neat little man trotted anxiously past in the wake of his large, commanding wife, “is obviously just brought along to carry the parcels.”.

“Our theory,” I submitted, “is not upset in the least by these examples. It is the men who don’t want to come shopping who should be obliged by law to come to market.”

And upon this reflection, and the rain starting to come down in earnest, Jimmie and I stepped into the stream of shoppers and hustled along to the big store where Jimmie prefers, if not to buy all his supplies, at least to look over the vast array of provender and get some ideas as to what to buy from the smaller merchants whom he has known for years and who give you the feeling of having bought something rather than having popped something out of a slot.

“I’ll get my tea here,” said Jimmie, putting Rusty on the leash and picking up a basket from the basket rack. “I’ve got the tea coupons, I hope.”

And to our astonishment, he had the tea coupons sure enough, and we went and got the one precious pound of tea for Jim’s numerous family. And then we started exploring, after tying Rusty up in the vestibule. One thing about these big modern groceries is that there seems to be no end to their expansion. The next thing they will be selling is phonograph records and 49 cent novels; and then the drug business will really have to step out.

I had a basket, and we moved happily along the high banks of merchandise, I getting a new shoe brush, a bottle of ginger marmalade and a new kind of light rope clothes line I had never seen before that would come in very handy next summer for putting new bow lines on the rowboat and canoes, up at the cottage.

Jim collected oranges, two cauliflower, ketchup, a small bag of flour, a carton of salt, a peck of potatoes and so forth; and then we came to the canned goods. We love the canned goods. Not only their immense array and variety but the human comedy that goes on in their presence. It is delightful to edge slowly along past the high cliffs of brightly clad cans, noting all the endless variety of the things that can be bought already cooked, from vegetables to filet mignons, from carrots to pig’s tails; fish, flesh, fruit, of every description. But one of the best things about the canned goods section is a lady buying a can of anything. Jimmie and I have spent hours observing the ladies. They stand wrapt before a huge pile of one sort of canned goods. There are 50 cans, all the same, all containing the same thing, all the same size, the same brand, all the same price. Nothing, not even a fly speck, distinguishes one can from the other.

The Wrong Basket

But it is more than a lady can stand. Not easily does a lady give in to the triumph of modern business.

There she stands, baffled and troubled. She stares intently at the trim stack of, let us say, canned tomatoes; all the same brand, same size, alike as modern scientific perfection can make them. She picks one off the top and examines it. Then she puts it back and takes down its neighbor. This she sets back, carefully, on the pile, and removing two other cans to one side, selects one perilously from the second row.

She nearly takes this one. She almost gets it into her basket but her eye unwillingly strays back to the stack and she pauses. Fascinated, she stares again, returns the can she has selected to its place and, with still greater risk of upsetting the whole stack, takes one from the third row. This she studies intently and thoughtfully for a moment, then steps back and stands gazing with wide-awake intelligence at the whole stack.

Abruptly, she steps forward, sets the can she has in her hand resolutely back on the shelf and takes one, any one, from the top of the stack. This, with an air of great resolution, she drops into the basket; and with an air of tremendous accomplishment, she moves along to the next stack.

“It never fails,” breathed Jimmie, rejoicing.

“Maybe there is something about the solder, or the way the can is closed,” I suggested.

“No, no! They all do it,” gloated Jim.

And he reached down to pick up his basket so that we could proceed with our own affairs.

“Hey,” he said. “Where’s my basket?”

“That’s yours,” I assured him.

“No it isn’t,” declared Jim. “I didn’t buy any bread. And hey… where’s my TEA!!”

He was looking in the basket. There was no doubt of it. His precious pound of tea was gone.

“Why, somebody has picked up my basket by mistake,” he said, raising his voice in the hope of attracting the attention of the guilty party. Everybody around examined their baskets. But Jim’s was not among them.

“Let’s get to the turnstile, quick,” I advised. For I too like tea.

At the turnstile, we explained to all the young ladies what had happened, and inquired if anybody had found a pound of tea they didn’t belong to. But nothing of the sort had been reported.

Again we examined Jim’s basket. In in among other things, was a bag of sugar, about six pounds.

“Well,” said the head girl, “whoever has lost that sugar would probably be as anxious to get it back as you are the tea.”

So Jim took one aisle and I another and we cruised up and down, looking at every body’s basket, without any luck.

“Look here,” said Jim, very worried, “that was our two week’s ration of tea. Can I get any more, by explaining….?”

“Maybe if you wrote the Tea Controller,” suggested the girl.

“Was That My Sugar?”

So Jim took back all the stuff in the basket, and set each item back where it belonged, except the sugar, which he kept as hostage. And then refilled his basket with the oranges, ketchup, potatoes, cauliflower, etc. that he required. And very crestfallen, stood before the tea counter for a while, hoping somebody would restore his tea. And also before the sugar counter, hoping that the loser of the sugar would come with his complaint.

“Men,” said Jimmie, as we wended our way hopelessly back to the turnstile, “should never be allowed to go shopping. They are too sloppy. They pick up the wrong basket.”

“How do you know it was a man?” I inquired.

“No woman would pick up the wrong basket.” said Jim.

Our parcels were bagged up, all except the sugar, which Jim gave me to carry as he wished to lay no claim to it.

“Take your time,” he pleaded, “Don’t let’s be in a hurry. Let’s even hang around in front for a few minutes…”

As we came through the door, a lady from behind gave an impatient shove, and to my horror, the bag of sugar, balanced conspicuously on the top of my load, fell off and burst with a most horrible squash fair in a puddle on the rainy sidewalk.

“Was that my sugar?” cried the lady angrily.

She had a square package in her hand.

“Is that my tea?” inquired Jimmie, taking it.

I was trying to scoop what sugar was still dry into my hat, and at the same time chasing Rusty away from the widening pool of sweetness.

Everybody was sympathetic about the sugar, but the lady accused us of having picked up her basket; and we retorted by fetching witnesses to prove our basket had been picked up first, because we had gone all over the place trying to set the mistake right; whereas the lady had to admit that she had only discovered her mistake when she came to the counter a moment before.

So Jim got his tea. And the lady accepted as a compromise the three pounds I had salvaged in my hat, plus a pound each from Jimmie and me, which we would faithfully deliver to her house in a few minutes, from our own domestic supply.

“For after all,” said Jimmie eloquently, clutching his pound of tea firmly, “aren’t all in this war together?”


Editor’s Note: Receiving rationed goods during the war would require you to hand in ration coupon before receiving the product (it would be behind a counter that someone would have to get for you). This would explain why Jim was distressed while he was still shopping when he lost his tea, as the coupon was already spent, and why he could hold the sugar “hostage”.

“Wrapt” is an archaic spelling of “rapt”.

Free is the Air!

October 10, 1942

Squirrels Win, as a Rule

Up to the back gate, in the paved lane, rode our neighborhood policeman, on a bicycle.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, August 29, 1942.

“Now I’ve got squirrel trouble,” announced Jimmie Frise indignantly.

“Chewed into your attic?” I sympathized.

“No,” said Jim. “It’s complicated. This squirrel has a feud on with my Irish water spaniel, Rusty. For about two hours every morning and two hours every evening, it teases Rusty almost to distraction.”

“Well, that’s not your trouble,” I pointed out. “That’s Rusty’s.”

“No, but the neighbors,” explained Jimmie. “They’re complaining about the row Rusty makes over the squirrel.”

“Okay, keep Rusty in,” I solved.

“You can’t keep a dog in all day,” protested Jim. “And anyway, the darn squirrel doesn’t even come around our place until it sees Rusty out.”

“Well, discipline your dog,” I advised. “Give him a spanking or two and he’ll soon quit bothering with squirrels.”

“Not Rusty,” declared Jim warmly. “This feud has been developing quietly for two or three years. Now it’s the biggest thing in Rusty’s life. It’s the biggest thing he has ever had in his life. He’s scratching at the door to get out the first thing in the morning. He races around the yard, checking over the ground to see if his enemy, the squirrel, has been around yet. Then he gives a couple of defiant barks and sits back to wait.”

“There’s the moment to discipline him,” I explained.

“Aw, you don’t know Rusty,” said Jim. “He’s eight years old. He’s a person now, not a dog. He has his rights and knows them. He knows he can bark if he likes. There is no law against a dog barking. Except to excess.”

“Then what happens?” I inquired.

Then Comes Trouble

“Well there sits Rusty, all on the alert,” described Jim, “and sure enough, in a few minutes, along comes this squirrel on the telephone wires, coming from the south.”

“A black squirrel?” I inquired.

“A mangy, middle-aged dusty sort of black squirrel,” said Jim. “He lives in some oak trees about a block to the south of us. Along the telephone wires he comes, a few feet at a time. And when he sees Rusty crouching and watching for him down at the foot of the apple tree he starts a queer rusty, sucking sort of sound which is squirrel for cursing.”

“You understand squirrel talk?” I asked.

“Then Rusty starts to bark,” said Jim. “He rushes forth barking up at the squirrel, who sits on the telephone wire, looking down at Rusty and emitting those nasty, wheezy sounds baring his teeth.”

“Naturally the neighbors would complain,” I submitted, “if Rusty keeps it up.”

“Keep it up?” cried Jim. “They go for an hour or more. You would think a squirrel had more to do than come and tease a dog.”

“Well, you’d think a dog had more to do than get all bothered by a black squirrel,” I countered.

“Do the neighbors blame the black squirrel for inciting the row?” demanded Jimmie. “Not they. They blame it all on Rusty.”

“Aw, Jim,” I laughed, “don’t be silly. Either train your dog to keep quiet or get rid of the squirrel.”

“I’ve heaved rocks at the squirrel,” confessed Jim, “with only this result: that the squirrel thinks I’m in the game now too. And Rusty regards my actions as legal confirmation of his own attitude.”

“Haven’t you got an air rifle?” I inquired quietly.

“They’re illegal in the city,” said Jim, “and anyway, black squirrels are game and protected by law.”

“Get the hose after it,” I suggested.

“You don’t know black squirrels,” said Jim “They are the hardest animal in the world to snub. The more you disturb them, the more pleased they are. This blame squirrel sits on the telephone wires until he has got Rusty frothing at the mouth. Then he comes a little farther along the wire until he can take a jump on to the apple tree. Rusty regard this tree as sacred to him. It is his altar. His property. In all the world, Rusty makes claim to only one thing, and that’s our apple tree.”

“I can understand a dog,” I admitted.

“Well, sir,” went on Jim, “teetering and crouching on that telephone wire, the squirrel measures the four-foot jump to the nearest branch of the tree. Rusty, in a frenzy of excitement below, and at the same time trying to hold himself in control in the hope that the squirrel will miss the jump, alternates between almost insane rushing back and forth and stopping all of a quiver to watch the leap. It is like us at the circus, when the acrobats are ready to jump. We don’t know whether to look or not to look.”

“So the squirrel jumps?” I egged.

“And then Rusty really goes nuts,” said Jim. “For there is the squirrel up his sacred tree, running around it gaily, as if the tree belonged to him: running up to the topmost branches, darting down the trunk almost to within one jump of Rusty.”

“The poor neighbors,” I reminded.

“Well, after about 15 minutes,” related Jim, “Rusty gets completely exhausted. And he quiets down and goes some little distance from the tree and sits down. He knows the squirrel can’t jump back to the telephone wire. He knows that it has to come down the trunk and make a dash for the fence.”

“Why doesn’t he sit at the foot of the tree and out-wait the squirrel?” I inquired.

“He has tried it hundreds of times,” said Jim, “and the squirrel always wins because somebody comes and calls Rusty to supper.”

“Is there any hope of Rusty catching the squirrel at least?” I inquired. “The law of averages is on his side now.”

“No,” said Jim, “he waits and waits and finally he lies down, with his eyes on the tree. Then the squirrel, tired of the game, starts experimentally coming down the trunk. If Rusty leaps up too soon, he just retreats up the tree and sizzles derision down on Rusty’s head. When Rusty least expects it, the squirrel makes the jump, rushes across the garden, up the fence, back up a telephone pole and on to the wire again, with Rusty one jump behind. And, after a few choice insults, retires south to his own domain.”

Neighbors Complain

“Does this go on every day?” I asked.

“The neighbors have complained to the police,” said Jim, “and the police have given me warning.”

“Did you ask them if you could dispose of the squirrel?” I demanded.

“All they said was, it was illegal to use firearms or air rifles within the city limits,” said Jim.

“They never mentioned catapults?” I pursued.

“By jingo, no!” cried Jim.

“Okay,” I exclaimed exultantly. “Then I’ll help you deal with that squirrel.”

For wrapped spirally around one of my fishing rod cases is an old piece of inner tubes too small to be remembered for the salvage drive, but not too small to be remembered when you want a catapult, after 40 years.

And in Jimmie’s apple tree we found perfect crotch and from an old boot’s tongue we cut the perfect patch. And in a matter of half hour, we had as fine a catapult anybody ever saw.

“I don’t think,” I suggested, “that we should shoot stones. Or any hard objects. There are too many houses and garages around. I never broke a window when I was a boy. I would hate to break a window with a catapult at my age.”

“We are rendering a public service,” declared Jimmie, “in getting rid of this squirrel. Get rid of that beast, and Rusty becomes once more the honest, kindly human being he has always been.”

The apples on Jim’s tree have long since gone back to nature. They are small and runty and woody in texture and sour to taste. Not even the kids eat them. I tried one in the patch of the catapult and let drive with up into the leafy solidity of the apple tree.

“Whee,” said Jim. “Perfect.”

“And if I hit the squirrel,” I added, “with a nice, smooth, round apple, it won’t really injure it. It will just give it a hint.”

Rusty Ready For Battle

Rusty who had been looked in the kitchen until the preparations for battle were complete, came out on the dead run, ran excitedly around the garden smelling the tree and in the fence corners until he was satisfied with whatever report the squirrel had left its recent visits.

Then he stood at the wire gate at the back of the garden and emitted couple of defiant hoarse barks.

“See?” said Jim. “No harm in that.”

So we sat in the garden chairs and Rusty took up a position under the apple tree, watching with lifted muzzle to the south along the telephone wires.

Suddenly Rusty whined.

And in the distance, I could see the squirrel running in short stops and starts, high on the telephone wire, heading our way.

“Well, I’ll be jiggered,” I confessed.

Rusty crouched in the corner of the garden, his whole body shaking as with an ague. The squirrel arrived overhead, and detecting Rusty hiding below let loose a volley of wheezy, sucking and chattering abuse.

Rusty went berserk. He barked, whirled, leaped, like a dervish, letting loose a veritable clamor of sound.

“Okay,” said Jim, signalling. “Let him have it.”

I stood up and picked a nice, small, smooth apple about the size of a ping-pong ball.

Fitting it snugly in the patch of the catapult, a drew a long stretch.

“Ffffttt,” went the catapult, and the apple sped through the air, passing within about six inches of the swearing black squirrel.

With the greatest of ease, through the distance was nearer seven feet than four from where he was at the time, the squirrel leaped and soared into the apple tree.

“Hey,” came a distant shout in a loud, angry voice. “Hey you.”

“Psssst,” warned Jimmie, signalling me to hide the catapult.

A Visitor Arrives

And up the back gate, in the paved lane, rode our neighbourhood policeman, on a bicycle.

“Have you seen any kids throwing apples?” he demanded, glaring suspiciously at the apples on the ground.

“Kids? Apples?” I requested politely.

“Some kids throwing apples,” announced the cop, angrily, “and one hit me square on the back of the neck.”

“We certainly haven’t seen any kids around here,” said Jimmie.

But Rusty, who now discerned the squirrel in the lower branches of the tree, began to go into hysterics.

“Here, shut up,” cried Jim, leaping for him.

“Ho,” said the cop, “that’s the dog they are complaining of, isn’t it?”

Rusty, with an audience of three, went into a terrific spin. He Frothed. He leaped half way up the trunk. He nearly strangled to death, he barked so hard.

“What’s he got up there?” demanded the policeman, getting off his bike and walking in to look up the tree.

The squirrel, with bared teeth and mouth all puckered up, was giving us a fine going over.

The Catapult!

In my excitement, being unable to push the catapult in my trouser pocket, I had stuffed it down the back of my pants. And before I realized the situation, the cop had seen the weapon and had quietly reached and withdrawn it.

“So?” he said, eyeing me and the catapult.

He reached down and selected a nice shiny apple.

Setting his legs wide apart, he drew a long stretch and let the apple fly up into the tree. It hit the branch on which the squirrel was squatting, directly under the beast, and it burst into a flying explosion of juicy fragments that hissed and ripped amid the leaves all about the squirrel.

With all bravado gone, the squirrel with extraordinary alacrity, leaped unerringly from the topmost branch of the apple tree back on to the telephone wire. So eager was it to get away, it never even had to balance itself when it hit the wire. It kept right on going south until it was out of sight.

“That’s done it,” said Jim, with deep satisfaction.

“You could be pinched,” said the policeman, “For shooting a catapult in the city.”

“You shot it,” I pointed out.

“It’s a dandy,” said the cop, stretching it, and trying another apple in it. He let it go up through the tree. We heard a distant cluck as if it had hit a car top.

“Nix,” said Jimmie sharply.

The policeman hastily shoved the catapult down the back of his pants.

“I’ll have to confiscate this,” he said sternly.

And he stalked over and got on his bicycle.

Rusty, Jimmie and I went over and saw him off the premises in the friendliest fashion.

He rode with the majestic slowness of the law up the lane until he was nearly out of sight. Then he bent over the handlebars and put on speed.

“Yeah,” said Jim. “He’s got a catapult. Now he and his buddies will be shooting with it all night.”


Editor’s Note: A catapult was common slang for what we would now call a slingshot.

The Mechanics of the Thing

“… in the mechanical arts you have a true demonstration of social effort.” “Ouch,” screamed Jim.

The first rule is: Leave things alone. Particularly things like lawn mower blades

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, July 18, 1942.

“You’re looking particularly gloomy,” observed Jimmie Frise.

“I’ve been thinking,” I explained, “and it always makes me bilious.”

“You want to be careful,” warned Jim. “You should leave the thinking to those whose job it is. Suppose everybody started thinking. What a fine mess we’d be in then!”

“Don’t be cynical, Jim,” I cautioned. “Isn’t it time everybody started thinking? We have been leaving everything to the guy whose job it is. Or was. If some bird was interested in politics, we left polities to him. If some bloke liked soldiering, we left soldiering to him. If some other baby liked making great big steel tractors, we left making great big steel tractors to him. Then along comes a war. So we leave the conduct of the war to the guys who like politics. And we leave the soldiering to the bloke who likes soldiering. And we leave the making of tanks to the baby who likes making tractors. It never occurred to us that maybe these people who liked doing those things were no more fitted to save us from disaster than any other three busybodies we might pick out at random.”

“Now, now, now,” protested Jimmie. “Doesn’t it stand to reason that people experienced in government should be trusted with government in an emergency? Isn’t it reasonable to suppose that people interested in soldiering should be entrusted with handling our soldiers when we raise them? And doesn’t it make sense that industrialists should know more about producing war material than anybody else?”

“What you say proves,” I informed him, “that you haven’t been thinking. You’ve got faith. But you aren’t thinking.”

“Then,” smiled Jimmie loftily, “what should I think?”

“I suppose,” I weaseled, “that because a kid likes to play hockey, you should let him on the championship team?”

“But the way you find your championship team,” crowed Jim, “is by scouring all the lesser teams. You don’t make a championship hockey team out of wrestlers and tennis players. That is precisely how we get government, soldiers and industrialists. Out of all those playing those games, we select the best.”

The Eternal Battle

“I have trapped you,” I announced. “You still think war is a game. Our government, our army and our industry are not bridge tables. Neither are they private clubs or lodges in which only members may play. War is a convulsion. It is a desperate illness of the body social. It is a natural disaster like smallpox or infantile paralysis. It is like the eternal battle between the birds and the insects. It is one of the awful manifestations of nature. Periodically, one of the tribes of man that is down suddenly struggles to rise up. It happens endlessly, all across history, like the struggle of water to seek its level; like the battle of the jungle; like the fight in a garden between the plants; or the never-ending combat between the trees of the forest.”

“I admit war isn’t a game,” submitted Jim.

“Peace is a game,” I asserted. “A shabby, sordid sort of game, at that; in the hands of a lot of cigar-chewing promoters. But war is life and death; as it was in the beginning. War calls for fighters. And now the fighters must come to the top. By fighters, I don’t mean the noisy boys, the assertive, star performers who drew the big gates in the game of peace. What is there about government that a strong fighting man could not learn in 30 days? All he has to do, after 30 days’ study, is push button and call in a chief clerk to give him the technical data he wants. You and I have both been soldiers. What is there about soldiering that a clever man who has never soldiered could not learn in 30 days? All he has got to do is push a button and call in a department manager in the uniform of a general, to get any technical data he needs at the moment. What is there about one industry that a good man in any other industry cannot take in at a glance? The greatest successes in industrial and financial history have been created by clever, outstanding and fighting men who came in from the outside. War is neither a matter of government, of soldiering nor of industry. War is fighting. And what is fighting? Is it a game? Is it a thing of rules? A lot of dead men thought so, like Caesar, Alexander, Napoleon. They all ended in ruin, because fighting is another thing entirely – a matter of imagination of courage, of intellect and of soul. And as Caesar, Napoleon and all the rest found out, too late, the fighters hardly ever wore uniform, hardly ever had any political connection and hardly ever had the patience to collect, like raspberries, one by one, a billion dollars.”

To Help the Fighters

“You’ve ruled out all the ways we have of selecting our leaders,” complained Jim.

“And our leaders are ruling themselves out,” I assured him, “to make way for the fighters.”

“How will we select the fighters,” demanded Jim.

“You never select the fighters,” I explained. “They are a gift from on high.”

We sat in silence, thinking biliously.

“How useless my life has been,” muttered Jim. “Thirty years drawing cartoons. What good are cartoons now?”

“Thirty years emitting words,” I mumbled, for myself. “Like the drip from a pump.”

“We’re too old to fight,” said Jim, “but isn’t there something we could do to help the fighters?”

“We aren’t even good enough in the legs,” I snorted, “to be water boys, like Gunga Din.”

“We can still shoot,” calculated Jimmie. “We could be guerrillas.”

“I’ve often thought,” I suggested, “that we men from 50 to 60 years of age, if we were trained, could be recruited into special maintenance companies for the tank corps. Did you ever notice, around a garage, that the fellow who really does the problem jobs, on ignition, or on faulty timing, or any of the tricky cases, isn’t the strong, husky bird in his 20’s and 30’s? It is nearly always a middle-aged man, often in his 50’s or better.”

“By jingo, that’s a fact,” said Jim.

“The big husky boys,” I went on, “do the tire changing and the jacking up and the big, noisy jobs. But when your car has to be approached as if it were a murder mystery, it is always some middle-aged gent, in the dirtiest overalls, mostly wearing spectacles, who comes in, quiet and bold, and solves the puzzle. It seems to me that in this modern tank warfare, they are trying to get along without the very men they need most.”

“The men who fight the tanks,” agreed Jim, “can be the young, dashing, tough lads. But the maintenance squads… do they have to be young and dashing?”

“The light aid detachments,” I explained, “and the repair units that follow tanks into action have to be as nippy as the tanks themselves.”

“So they say,” added Jim.

“One thing,” I summed up, “in this day and age, every man ought to know some mechanics. The time has come, in human affairs, when it isn’t enough merely to be a smart buyer or a clever, seller; lawyers, parsons, accountants, salesmen, executives, even doctors, are so much baggage when fighting comes to the bare fists as it is now. Every living man, regardless of his age, should be trained to be able to make something with his hands. Every man should be a mechanic, if only to dig swiftly and cleverly with a shovel; or to splice a telephone wire or do rough carpentry.”

“Look,” said Jim. “At all the technical schools, at the universities, they are conducting classes, night classes, to teach people any one of the many mechanical arts.”

“Then…” I said with finality.

“Of course,” cried Jimmie. “Let’s get going. Let’s make a team specializing on heavy motors. You become the ignition expert and I’ll be the carburetor expert. It will be something,” cried Jim eagerly, “to fill our nights, this autumn. Every night we work, we’ll feel of more use. This awful feeling of sitting. doing nothing…”

“And in the course of a few weeks,” I stated, “we would be fit to grab hold of a job, instead of standing by and watching.”

“Even if we can’t be of practical use,” pursued Jim, “the training will at least make us the better able to understand what our fellow men are doing with their lives. In Norway, there are no private schools. All rich and poor, farmer and banker, are given the same education as far as they go. They all speak the same language, understand the same ideas. It knits them closer together as citizens. In our country, everybody ought to be made to master some mechanical craft and everybody should be taught literature, agriculture and business practice. Then, when we part to go our separate ways in life, we won’t feel like foreigners to one another as we do now.”

“Jim,” I confessed, “in the past 30 years, I haven’t mended a tap or repaired a broken switch. I haven’t even tacked down any weather-stripping. I blush to think of all the hundreds of little jobs I have passed up, around my home, in favor of calling in the plumber, the electrician or the handy man.”

Repairing the Lawn-mower

“It isn’t that you are lazy,” suggested Jim. “It is merely that you have been taught, from your earliest childhood, in school and in life itself, that you must be smart enough to be able to employ other people to do the work that is done by hand. The beau ideal of our educational system is not the white collar man. He is the white-handed man!”

“And now, in all our war camps from the Arctic to the tropics,” I exclaimed, “the commando is our ideal in a desperate effort to convert all our soft white hands into hard brown hands.”

“Okay, carburetors for me,” cried Jim, rising and rolling up his sleeves in expectation.

“I’ll run up tomorrow noon,” I said, “and find out what I can about these night classes at Varsity and at the technical schools.”

“After all,” said Jim eagerly, “just because I have been an artist all my life, surely all the stuff my farmer ancestors had hasn’t petered out of me.”

“One of my grandfathers,” I asserted, “was a stone mason and the other was a farmer who worked 200 acres. I bet I’ve got the stuff in me, if only give it a chance.”

With his sleeves rolled up, Jimmie walked around the room, tested the light switch, tried the window latches, lifted up a chair and felt its rungs.

“There are a hundred things a man can do…” he mused.

“I’ve got it,” he cried suddenly, “My lawn-mower. There’s the very thing. I’ve been intending to repair my lawn mower for two years now.”

“Clocks and lawn-mowers,” I cut in, “are two things my grandmother told me no man should tinker with.”

“Come on,” said Jim, rolling his sleeves still higher. “We’ll begin at the beginning. We’ll tackle the job on hand, just to show our hearts are in the right place.”

First he led me down cellar where, from shelves, drawers, boxes, he assembled the most extraordinary collection of tools. A wrench, hammer, file, oil can, at least half a dozen spanners of assorted sizes.

“Who said you weren’t mechanical?” I demanded in admiration.

“Some of them,” said Jim, “workmen have left behind. Others I borrowed from neighbors so long ago I forget whose they are. Every home has a scattering of tools like this.”

Out in the garden, Jim brought forth the lawn mower from the corner of the garage.

“Why, that’s a swell lawn mower,” I cried. “What’s the matter with that?”

“It needs sharpening,” said Jim, file already in hand. “And the blades need adjusting, Every once in a while, they jam some way.”

“Do you sharpen a lawn mower with a file?” I inquired dubiously

“You sharpen everything with a file,” explained Jimmie.

With a small spanner, Jim explored around among the nuts and bolts until he found the one that held the blade assembly in place. And in a jiffy, he had the blades, all in one piece, out on the ground.

“Feel them,” he said, “dull as a hoe.”

So while Jim scrubbed at the blades with the file. I tinkered around with the frame, oiling here, wiping off there: tightening loose nuts and screws and discovering, for the first time, the simple principle of gears which makes a lawn mower operate.

In 10 minutes. Jim had a nice gleaming edge on all the blades, including the big one in the frame. He wished he had a scythe stone to finish off the job, he said. When he was a boy on the farm, the thing he liked best was to watch a man stoning a scythe with long, strong strokes of the stone and a flexing wrist, making a sweet ring of steel in the summer air.

To Go to Night School

“Now,” said Jim, lifting up the blade assembly.

As his helper, I held the frame steady and helped direct the little ends of the axle into place.

“Gimme the small spanner,” ordered Jim, very mechanic like.

He tightened the nut carefully. But the blade assembly wobbled very loose in its frame.

“Have you touched any of those other nuts?” he demanded.

“I tightened a few of them up,” I explained. So Jimmie went all over the various nuts and screws, loosening and tightening, while feeling the set of the blades in the frame.

“It doesn’t hang level,” I pointed out.

“Not likely to,” muttered Jim, “with people tinkering all over the job. The first rule of mechanics is, don’t tinker. Leave things alone.”

“All I did was oil it,” I protested indignantly, “and tighten up a couple of these nuts that were just about falling off.”

“Here,” said Jim, “take this spanner. I’ll hold the blades in the proper position, and you tighten up the different nuts until it takes hold, just the way I’m setting it.”

I took the spanner and tightened. I tightened here and I tightened there, little by little the way you put on a spare tire.

“Easy now,” warned Jim.

“How’s she coming?” I inquired.

“It’s starting to grasp hold,” admitted Jim.

“One thing about mechanics,” I said, “you always have to have a helper. There is something very companionable about mechanics.”

“Easy,” said Jim. “Pay attention.”

“In most other lines of work,” I said, “you work alone. Writers, artists, lawyers, salesmen, they all work alone. But in the mechanical arts, you have a true demonstration of social effort…”

“OUCH!” screamed Jimmie very unexpectedly.

“Oh,” I replied, turning the wrench firmly in the other direction.

“Oucheeeeeee!” yelled Jimmie in agony.

The tip of his finger was caught between the blades and the edge of the mower.

“Turn it the other way,” he roared.

“That’s tightening it,” I gasped, heaving in the opposite direction.

“Take your foot off it,” bellowed Jim,

And with the littlest move of the mower my way, the blade opened and Jim snatched his finger out.

“It was your darn foot,” he accused bitterly “shoving on the mower that made the blade catch me.”

“I was just getting a good purchase on the spanner,” I explained. “Is it cut?”

“No,” growled Jim, “but it might have been.”

“I’m very sorry,” I assured him. “I was just shoving with my foot…”

“Don’t describe it,” said Jim, standing up and shaking his hand rapidly, to take the pain out of his finger.

“I was doing the best I knew how,” I insisted.

“Listen,” said Jimmie, “there is a mechanics to all things. There is a mechanics to lawnmowers. If you shove one way, the blades go one way; if you shove the other, the blades go the other. It is the same with politics, soldiering and business. There is a mechanics to them all. First, you have to be an apprentice. Then you have to be a journeyman. It takes a long time to be a master mechanic.”

“It’s a funny thing we can’t tinker with a lawn-mower,” I asserted, “a simple thing like a lawn-mower. We’re not saps exactly.”

“Yet,” said Jim, putting the end joint of his bruised finger in his mouth, “you are prepared to let guys at least as clever as us tinker with government, soldiering and industry?”

“There’s a big difference,” I claimed, “between waging war and mending lawn-mowers.”

“You’d be surprised,” retorted Jimmie, “how much alike they are, in the main.”

So when his finger stopped hurting, Jimmie held the blades steady with a stick. And I braced both feet on the frame and took hold of the spanner and tightened all the nuts until the veins stood out on my forehead.

And the lawn mower hums like a Spitfire.


Editor’s Note: A scythe stone is a long narrow sharpening stone.

It’s Not All Twaddle

Jimmie sat slouched deeper and deeper in the chair, an air of complete coziness and social ease engulfing him as he blathered to one of his friends.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, December 12, 1942

“To heck with it,” muttered Jimmie Frise, slamming down the telephone receiver roughly.

“Easy, easy,” I counselled. “That telephone isn’t your property.”

“Oh, yeah?” growled Jim, giving the instrument another shove.

“What’s eating you?” I demanded.

“I’ve been calling my house,” said Jimmie loudly, “for the last 15 minutes. And it’s busy, busy, busy!”

He reached over and gave the phone another shove, until it was almost off his desk.

“Well,” I scoffed, “is that the telephone’s fault? Why don’t you use a little reason, Jim?”

“Sometimes,” said Jim, “I wish the telephone had never been invented. It is the cause of more high blood pressure than all the rest of our so-called modern improvements put together. Oh, if there only were no telephones what a lovely, simple, happy world this would be!”

“Jim,” I calmed him, “without the telephone our world would be impossible. Why, our industry, our domestic life, our whole modern economy, you might say, is founded on the telephone. The shape of our cities, the size and length of our streets, the location of our business districts as compared with our industrial or factory districts is entirely based on the existence of the telephone.”

“Wait a minute,” muttered Jimmie, picking up the phone and dialing slowly and deliberately.

He listened intently. And then flung the receiver down more violently than before.

“Still busy!” he rasped.

“Our fire protection system,” I went on calmly, “our police organization, the medical profession – all the security of the modern community is organized on the telephone.”

“We’d be better off,” growled Jimmie, “with a big bell hung at every street corner, to ring in case of fire.”

“And a fire station, I suppose,” I submitted, “every two blocks? Jim, if we didn’t have telephones the cost of fire protection alone would double our taxes.”

“Just a second,” said Jimmie, picking up the telephone again.

He dialed deliberately as usual, with the utmost care, sticking his finger in the right hole; and then, after one brief listen, laid the telephone down again with the greatest politeness.

“Still busy?” I inquired brightly.

“Mmmmmmm,” said Jimmie ominously.

Long Conversations

“Why is it,” I inquired, “that when an enemy attacks a city the very first objective of the bombers or the artillery is to knock out the telephone buildings, the exchanges? So as to throw the city into complete and hopeless confusion.”

“Well, if the telephones were all busy as usual,” said Jim bitterly, with the idle chatter of young ladies, it wouldn’t make much difference. I bet if you could in some way make a Gallup Poll of the telephone conversations in one 24-hour day in Toronto, you would discover that about 23 of the 24 hours of talk was all sheer piffle.”

“Oh, hold on, Jim,” I protested. “Think of the business that is done over the telephone.”

“One hour of the 24 would be business,” declared Jim grimly. “The rest would be sheer social twaddle. People have no right to use the telephone as a means of social intercourse. People have no right to go visiting on the telephone. If they want to spend a social hour with somebody why the blazes don’t they go and see them?

“After all,” I pointed out, “it’s their own telephone.”

“No, it isn’t,” announced Jim emphatically. “No telephone belongs to anybody, even in the degree that it is in their home. I realize the telephone instruments belong to the company and we only rent the service of them. But over and above that, no telephone belongs to any one person or any two persons. The telephone belongs to all the people who might want to call in. For example, take an old spinster living in an apartment. She has a telephone. Now, nobody could believe that the telephone is hers more than that spinster.”

“I see that,” I agreed.

“She talks on the phone all the time,” said Jim. “She is a busy church worker and belongs to the Ladies’ Frantic Endeavor of her church, we’ll say.”

“Okay,” I encouraged.

“So she holds committee meetings over the telephone, see?” went on Jim. “Instead of going to all the trouble of gathering the Ladies’ Frantic Endeavor together, either at the church or at somebody’s home, with all the nuisance of having to bring their own tea and sugar, why, she, as the chairman of the committee, simply calls each of the seven other ladies on the telephone. And after a nice long conversation with each one she sums up their opinions, adds up their votes, and then calls each one back again and informs them of the way the vote went and just how the committee feels.”

“It’s a common practice in business,” I pointed out, that very system.”

“Ah, yes, but wait a minute,” said Jim. “This lady is a spinster. Forty years ago she had a prospect. He was a young man of promise who was snatched from under this spinster’s nose by a local blonde.”

“This is getting interesting,” I urged.

But Jimmie, seeing through my false interest, suddenly remembered the phone and picked it up. He dialed rapidly. He listened acutely. Then he slammed the receiver down again as hard as ever.

The Lost Opportunity

“Still busy,” he said, this time without any blood pressure. “Well, sir. The very day that this spinster is holding a committee meeting on her telephone, that boyhood sweetheart of hers, now a widower, is passing through Toronto on his way from New York to Winnipeg. He is a widower now, the blonde having died of premature old age, as blondes so often do. He is rich. He is powerful. But he is lonely. He is returning to his great empty house in Winnipeg. And as he waits between trains in Toronto, just one hour, he remembers his old sweetheart and the thought occurs to him to look in the Toronto telephone book – at which he hasn’t looked in 30 years. And he sentimentally looks up his old sweetheart’s name. And there it is. Miss Julie Bonbon!”

“Very romantic,” I admit.

“So all slightly perspiring,” says Jim, “this rich old widower, who is an elder and manager in one of the biggest churches in Winnipeg, by the way, calls the number, in the remote chance that this Miss Julie Bonbon is the same Julie Bonbon he knew and loved 40 years before.”

“As indeed she was,” I remarked.

“He calls, his heart in his mouth,” pursues Jimmie, “and the line is busy. Good, he says, trying desperately to think up what he will say if it is indeed she. And he tries again. Line busy. He looks at his watch. Only 15 minutes before his train is called. He tries again. Until three minutes to train time that rich old widower tries that blasted telephone every minute. And all the time it is busy. Because of the committee meeting.”

“Why didn’t he make a note of her address,” I demanded, “and he could have written her from Winnipeg?”

“Nothing doing,” said Jim. “A telephone call is one thing. A letter is quite another. And, anyway, he was so mad by the time he called for the last time that he went and boarded the train for Winnipeg, saying to himself that he was a lucky man to have married the blonde instead of this awful blatherskite. At least the blonde was dead. And on the train home he sat smiling to himself and thinking what a silly fool he was to have even tried to telephone.”

“So the moral?” I queried.

“This tale needs no moral,” said Jimmie, picking up the telephone and preparing to dial his home again. “All you need is the spectacle of that spinster, sitting in her apartment, holding a meeting of the Ladies’ Frantic Endeavor on what she foolishly imagines to be her own private telephone. In view of the great mystery and all the possibilities of this life, no telephone belongs to anybody. You never know but what opportunity, which knocks only once, may only ring once on the telephone instead.”

Then Jimmie dialed slowly and carefully and a bright smile wreathed his face.

“It’s ringing,” he said, with great satisfaction.

And it rang and rang. And Jimmie rattled the hook and broke connections. And dialed again. And again it rang and rang.

Blathering On and On

“Well,” sighed Jimmie, setting the receiver down very politely. “Whoever was in has apparently gone out.”

What did you want to get your house for?” I inquired.

And Jimmie looked blankly at me for a moment and said:

“By gosh, that story I made up has chased it entirely out of my head!”

“What I dropped in to see you about,” I stated, “was that newsreel that shows Sam Doakes. I’ve located it. It’s at the Valley theatre.”

“Away out there?” cried Jim.

“It’s only half an hour on the street car,” I protested. “And after all the time we’ve talked about going to see old Sam’s face, it is time we went.”

“It’s only a glimpse,” said Jim. “One second. And we can’t be sure it is Sam.”

“His wife says it’s him,” I assured. “She’s seen it 30 times. It shows Sam standing beside an anti-aircraft gun with a pair of field-glasses and the gun is actually firing at the Huns.”

“Wait till it comes to some neighborhood theatre near home,” said Jim. “I was intending to stay in tonight and loaf. The family is out and I can get a lot of things done tonight that I have been putting off.”

“I even got the time the newsreel comes on,” I pleaded. “Look. What would Sam Doakes, a lifelong friend, think of us two if he knew his picture had been in the newsreels and neither of us had gone even to the trouble of going to see it?”

“What time does it come on?” Jim asked.

“Twenty to nine,” I said, “Allowing half an hour to get there by street car, we can leave your house at 8 and be in our seats in plenty of time…”

So Jimmie agreed that he would be ready if I called at his house a minute or two before 8.

And at five to 8 I was in his front hall and Jimmie came downstairs with his hunting boots in his hands, having been upstairs greasing them. It took him a few minutes to wash up and get his coat on. And we were just passing out the door at five minutes past when the telephone rang.

“Drat the thing,” said Jimmie, snatching up the receiver. “Why, hello, Andy!”

“Tell him you’ll ring him back tomorrow,” I said loudly, and pointed to the hall clock.

But Jim sat down on the hall chair. “You don’t say?” he said eagerly. “How many? Seven. Boy, that’s some litter. How many males?”

I walked over and stuck my watch under his nose. It was seven past 8.

“Mm-hmmm,” said Jimmie delightedly. “What color are the three males? All blue ticked, eh?”

And as the grandfather’s clock tocked and ticked the minutes away. Jimmie sat slouched deeper and deeper in the chair, an air of complete coziness and social ease engulfing him, his eyes shut, smiles brightening his countenance, his eyebrows lifting, as he blathered on and on to his old friend, Andy Perkins, breeder of beagle hounds.

Somebody Else’s Selfishness

His conversation consisted mostly of “Mmm-hmmm” and “Well, well” and “Think of that.” Just when you would think it was about to end he would ask some fool question, such as “Who was the grandsire of the dam. did you say, Andy?” and I could hear Andy’s voice scratching and droning endlessly away on the receiver.

Eleven past 8, 14 past 8, while I stood, watch in hand, coldly waiting for this social engagement to come to an end and recalling, vividly, the Jimmie I had seen a few hours earlier at the office slamming telephone receivers down and vainly dialing his home.

At 8.15 I walked over and held my watch down under his nose and made him open his eyes as he lounged there, drowsily “Mm-hmmm-ing.”

“Well, Andy,” he said, straightening up “it swell to hear from you. I’ll be coming over as soon as I can to have a look at the litter.”

And then it took him, another good five minutes to wind up. He stood up. He buttoned his coat with one hand. Straightened his hat. Smiled. Nodded his head. Bowed. Handed me the cigarette butt that was now burning his gloves. And at 23 minutes past 8 made his final “So long” and hung up reluctantly.

“Okay,” he said briskly.

“Jim,” ‘I stated bitterly, it is too late. We never can make it now.”

“Nonsense,” he cried. “I wasn’t three minutes.”

“Jim,” I stated, “you were 15 minutes on that phone. Longer than you were trying to get your house this afternoon, remember?”

“But I haven’t seen Andy for five months,” Jim said indignantly. “And, besides, it was a more or less of a business conversation …”

“It’s a queer thing,” I informed him levelly, “how we can always justify our own misuse of the telephone, even while our blood pressure is still up 100 over somebody else’s selfishness.”

“If we step on it,” said Jim, nudging me out the door, “we can still make it to the theatre by 20 to 9.”

But just off Jim’s front steps I saw my small daughter coming full pelt around the corner and when she saw me she cried out:

“Hurry, Daddy, hurry. Long distance!”

And up the street like a terrier I legged it to my house to hear across 1,000 miles from his camp in Nova Scotia the voice of my son.


Editor’s Note: In the early days of the phone network, the phone company would own the telephones as well. So when they were discussing the ownership of telephones, there was that aspect as well.

Miracle Year for Salmon!

Leo Briar, 16-year-old student at Magee high school, Vancouver, is one of hundreds of volunteer workers who are helping to haul in this year’s record salmon catch and pack it for shipment overseas.

Like an answer to prayer Canada is hauling in its greatest catch in history, packing it all for Britain and starving Europe…

By Gregory Clark, October 17, 1942.

VANCOUVER

Captain Joe Katnich is 40. He is master and owner of the 63-foot fishing boat Westview, home port, Vancouver. In 10 days, Captain Joe and his six chosen crew netted 50,000 sockeye salmon averaging seven pounds apiece, in this greatest salmon run, this most miraculous salmon run, in Canada’s history.

Captain Joe owns the boat, but, for the salmon season, charters it to the big canning company which takes his fish, so as to put himself and his crew on the old-established co-operative basis with the cannery.

The catch is divided into 11 shares. That is tradition. To the boat, 2 1/2 shares. To the net, a vast, complicated seine, 1 1/2 shares, making 4 shares. The remaining 7 shares are divided equally among the seven aboard, master and six of crew.

50,000 fish at 6 1/2 lbs.

325,000 lbs. at 13 1/2 cents.

$43,875 or, with “scrap fish” added, $44,000. Each share, $4,000.

For 10 days’ work, each of the crew gets $4,000. The net belongs to Captain Joe, so he gets another 1 1/2 shares, or $6,000 more.

For 10 days work, in this miracle subterranean blizzard of precious sockeye storming up from the Pacific, Captain Joe gets $10,000.

From the 2 1/2 shares belonging to the boat, he gets a rebate, for chartering it to the company, of another three or four thousand.

High Man of the Run

For 10 days, then, of this incredible gift of the sea to us poor, food-rationed, anxious and bedevilled humanity, Captain Joe Katnich is somewhere near $15,000 richer; his crew of six, plain, strong, brave men of the sea, Slavs, Swedes, Natives, walk up the catwalk to the cannery offices and draw a yellow cheque each for $4,000. And, in the day and night humming cannery, vast and white by the teeming. stupendously generous, life-giving river, by the action of these seven men from the 325,000 pounds of fish they caught, stream out more than half a million cans of salmon, one pound, half pound and quarter pound.

To go to Britain! To go into food reserves on our coast, and in Britain. Food reserves for a starving Europe. One of the mightiest weapons of war. The promise to France, Belgium, Holland, Russia – them all.

“But,” said Captain Joe with one of those permanent Slav grins, “don’t think I’m rich. When the government gets through with that $15,000 – poof! – taxes!”

“Where do you come from, captain?”

“Yugoslavia.”

“When?”

“1925. I take one look. I made a couple hundred. I go right back and get my wife and baby.”

“Did you learn fishing here on the Pacific coast?”

“No, SIR! My family have fished the Adriatic since olden time; since the Romans.”

“You glad to be a Canadian!”

“Ohoho yes!!! Who isn’t? And it was not hard to be. In 1930, five years here, the company (packing company) think I am safe man, so they choose me for master of one of their boats. In 1936, I got enough money to buy my own boat. This is her. The Westview – 63-foot. The best.”

And best she is. For, unless the incomparable storm of salmon runs far longer than any one dreams, Captain Joe Katnich is high man of the great 1942 run, with his 50,000 big fish.

The Canneries Glutted

There were any number of other boats that made over 30,000 fish catches, some over 40,000. A few boats landed square into the middle of the run, even though it had passed up the gulf past the hordes of State of Washington seiners, and made one-day hauls of 12,000 fish. One captain got 15,000, had his boat filled to the point of sinking and then threw his seine again and filled it and had to wait until the “packer,” the company boat that comes around and takes some of the fish off the seiners, arrived. He had nearly 3,000 corralled in that net, overflow.

Of course, it is silly to try to depict this great miracle of the fishes in terms of one boat, one master, a few men.

Over 45,000,000 pounds of sockeye salmon were caught in this one swift run of only a few days. The canneries of the B.C. coast were glutted. Day after day the government had to order “cease fishing” to the seiners so that the fish would not be wasted, so terrific was the catch and so hopelessly swamped were the canneries.

All this miracle came following the dedication of the whole catch to Britain. Was it a miracle? Was it answer to a prayer? And what these Canadians have done, the Americans have done equally, in the lower American waters through which the mighty Fraser salmon run has to pass.

Well, to a stranger like myself, this spectacle at the Fraser’s mighty mouth looked more like some Wagnerian regatta of the gods than a mere industrial scene. When we speak of the large seiners like Captain Joe Katnich’s, it is nothing. There are only 100 of them. When we speak of the gill netters, in their little 30 and 40-footers, who do not go out in the treacherous gulf but labor in the more or less sheltered mouth of the Fraser, it is nothing: although there are literally hundreds of them.

They’re “Dollar Fish”

There were rowboats in this miracle. Little one-man dories. As we cruised with camera up and down the miles of river mouth in a speed boat, we saw and talked to kids, two in a boat, with a gill net 100 feet long, which they laid out over the stern of their skiff, who had got 160 salmon yesterday and had 60 more, at noon, as we passed; and they, like kids, hauling in their net into the silly little boat, with the high waves running, and taking the big seven-pound sockeyes out of the meshes and the 10 and 15-pound chums and an odd cohoe (“scraps,” says the cannery man, not meaning any insult to the fish) and one loner, a shy lad of about 20, toiling alone with a big net over the stern of a rowboat I wouldn’t go out on Toronto bay with! The sea running, the crazy little craft bouncing and rearing, with 20 sockeyes all over the floor of her, sliding; and 60 the day before.

At a dollar a fish. “Dollar fish is what they were called along the coast; although, at an average of 6 1/2 pounds, they came to 80 some cents.

“There goes a dollar,” yelled one gill netter indignantly, as our speedboat hove near and he, in paying attention to us, allowed one writhing, sea-bred seven-pounder to struggle out of his grasp from the net and back into the sea.

That sockeye, released from the mysterious net and from the hands of man, put on an incredible performance. In a vast arc, three hundred yards, at intervals of about 20 yards, it leaped along the surface, in terrific muscular leaps of 20 feet, a living torpedo, plunging, careering madly over the surface, either in terror or ecstasy; until it finally went deeper and leaped no more.

The seiners, the big boats, left at 4 a.m. from the Fraser and went as far out and down the Gulf of Georgia as they needed to meet the incoming miracle. Early in the run they went far down, near where the Americans were making their first, their choice skimming of the mighty crop. As the 10-15 day stampede drew northward to the great Fraser, home of them all, the seiners backed up, day by day. The seiners go forth in as much of a flotilla as they can, because the channels and the tides which the sockeye ride are well known to the captains, and the best captains are watched narrowly by all the rest of the flotilla.

Overside goes the dory: grabs a rope attached to the outer end of the piled seine net, with its thick corks to float it, and its big fat lead weights to sink it. And its brass rings, big around as a tea plate, to purse it when the fish are in the bag.

Past the American seiners, far more numerous, has come the silver tide. Past the seiners out of the Fraser it surges. And then the gill netters get their chance.

Besides several days of the run on which the government called a closure by reason of the glutted canneries, Saturdays and Sundays are also closed. This lets a share of the sockeye get safely past the perils of man and up into the Fraser to go through Hell’s Gate and hundreds of miles up into the rivers and lakes where they spawn and make their promise of another record run four years from now.

The gill netters are the little people of the miracle. But they have the most fun. The average gill-net boat is a chunky little craft of 32 feet, with a small cabin forward, a round drum amidships for helping haul in the net and a sort of slide or pulley at the stern over which the 150-fathom – or 300 yards long – net, with its floats and sinkers, comes, hand fed, but engine-drum hauled.

You will see little boats like them all over the waterfront of the world, in Muskoka, on the St. Lawrence, even up on the lumberjack lakes.

The reason we pick the Geddes boat, which is only a 28-footer, is because Mr. and Mrs. Lawrie Geddes were the captain and crew, man and wife, and mighty pleasant young people, too. Geddes and his wife come over to the Fraser mouth, 15 miles from Vancouver, for six months of the year. Then tie up their boat and come home to Vancouver for the other six months, where he works in the shipyards.

How the Gill Netters Work

We came alongside and talked to them, all bobbing up and down on the windblown Fraser fresh off the gulf. They had 165 fish in the boat at the moment. No. 167, because there were two threshing about in the net, half up over the stern, right where Mrs. Geddes had slipped the clutch as we hove alongside. Yesterday they took 300.

Mrs. Geddes was about 27. Lawrie Geddes about 30 or 32. Six of the spring, summer and autumn months, they fish together for a living, with gill nets, as now, in the great sockeye run; with plain trolling when the huge spring salmon or tyee are on the move, 20 to 80-pounders. They have a happy and amusing life. When we took our picture of them. Mrs. Geddes said, “Goodness, I haven’t even had a chance to redd the place up.” The place being this little boat which, with its cabin, is their home for months of every year.

Beaming at the whoppers in their fishing smack are Mr. and Mrs. Lawrie Geddes.

Nothing like this 1942 sockeye run of the dollar fish have the Geddeses ever seen; for it was 1913 when the last great sockeye run was recorded. They make enough, in ordinary seasons, to keep them happy and paid for their time. This year, they will probably pay off all the family debt.

They feed out their net both day and night. Picking a clear spot in the crowded river, they start feeding their gill net, 900 feet long, over the stern. Mrs. Geddes lets the engine slowly pull ahead while her husband feeds its neatly folded length over the roller at the stern. Once they get a few yards of it out, it is easy to feed the rest off. They may lay it straight out, in a line; or curve it; or make a letter S of it. For this net does not enclose the salmon. The salmon, running this and that up the river, now fresh water, hit the net, shove their heads through, are caught by their shoulders. And if they try to back up, are trapped by the gills.

On the end of their net is a small wooden buoy with a bright cloth flag on it. At night, they put a lantern on it. This to warn the fishermen not to foul their net, although most of the fishing boats have a guard or skeg around their propellers, so they can ride right over a net. And if they do, okay, for sooner or later, in a madhouse like this, somebody is going to run over somebody else’s net,

The net is fed out to its full length. With its corks holding its top edge up and the weights holding its lower edge down, there it rides, 12 feet deep in the river.

Some of the gill netters leave it only half an hour. Others leave it two or three hours and have a nap in the little cabin of their craft, or eat a meal. It is all a matter hunch.

Just When They’re Needed

Of the little rowboats and skiffs we were able to get little information beyond the number of their catch which they could shout to us, because we dared not run to close in on them, due to the rough sea in the river mouth. They were all being run by boys, some of them appearing to be under 18.

They did not bring their catch into the big canneries, and we were unable to locate them along the shore. But they were having the most fun of all, their feet braced on the gunwales, as the crazy little craft bucked and leaped. If they got as much each day of the run as they had when we passed, they would make several hundred dollars; their license costs them a dollar; and their net, new, $300 from the company; or a second year net, $150. One young fellow in the Western Leckie Co. which makes nets, took his holidays in the upswing of the run, bought a fishing boat for $350, got a net for $150, caught $900 worth of fish, sold the boat for $450, and came back to work much refreshed by his vacation. And besides, he will sell nets much more efficiently from now on!

It would be nice to take another couple of pages of The Star Weekly to tell the why and wherefore of this miracle of the salmon run of 1942. For there is a why and wherefore. Twenty years ago, the salmon industry in B.C. was a $20,000,000 producer. Ten year ago, it had fallen to a mere $3,000,000. The scientists and the business men got busy. They are finding out new things about salmon every year. Why, when they dwindled to the vanishing point, this colossal resurgence of the sockeye in 1942, this year of crisis and of need?

Well, maybe the editors will let Norman James, the photographer, and me go rampaging around, at their expense, to view more miracles. This is a miracle at Hell’s Gate, on the Fraser. There, 130 miles up from the mouth, these billions of sockeye have to negotiate a terrible door. Some years it is closed. Some years it is open. Sometimes, the day, the week it is open the sockeye are not there. They are miles away, hundreds of miles, at sea. Or strewn downstream dead, from having assailed Hell’s Gate a week too soon, or too late. Then, one year, they arrive and find it open. And they are in plenty. And they go through. And then the miracle blooms. For down, the next year, come their billions of babies. And on the fourth year, return again in the marching myriads.

Then we get the miracle, like 1942.

And in 1942, it is miracles we need.


Editor’s Notes: This story was published in the middle of World War Two.

A seiner is a boat that fishes with a seine, a large net with sinkers on one edge and floats on the other that hangs vertically in the water and is used to enclose and catch fish when its ends are pulled together or are drawn ashore.

To “redd up” means to tidy up.

“Never a Dull Moment” – Pepsi Ads

The following are various advertisements created by Jim Frise for Pepsi that ran between 1942-43. They feature a smart kid thinking philosophically about Pepsi, and two other regular kids.

1942
1943
1943
1943

And The Fish Were Biting!

And licketty bang, we went thundering and bouncing over the field in a hay rick …

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, August 22, 1942.

“I’m glad,” stated Jimmie Frise, “that you I are wearing your business clothes.”

“As a matter of fact,” I confessed, “it is getting a little harder all the time to put on my fishing togs. At least, in public.”

“To tell the truth,” said Jim, “the reason I suggested we leave as early as this was to avoid the neighbors seeing me pack up the car with fishing tackle and the outboard engine.”

“I noticed you drove up to my house very quietly,” I informed him, “not tooting your horn as usual, but just rolling up into my side drive.”

“Well, I didn’t know what you might be wearing,” explained Jim. “I’m glad to see you put your fishing clothes and tackle in an ordinary suit-case this time, instead that old canvas bag you generally use.”

“I guess we both feel the same about going fishing,” I submitted, “We are both trying to conceal the fact that we are taking a holiday.”

“Well, for all our brave talk,” said Jim, “this is the first time we’ve gone fishing since the opening of the season, away back in the end of June.”

“And now the summer’s nearly over,” I sighed.

“If people knew how we measure our lives,” said Jim, “not by years, but by days spent in the open, they mightn’t think ill of us.”

“Well, I hope we have some luck,” I stated. “This is our last fishing trip for 1942. With the end of this trip, another year has gone out of our lives.”

“We should kick,” said Jim. “Think of the boys in the army who have been three years away.”

“They’re young,” I reminded him. “They can catch up.”

“If,” said Jimmie.

Be Ashamed of Others

Which brief remark gave us a few minutes of silence as we drove out of the city and got on to the highway leading north. We were both in our regular business clothes. Our bags and fishing rods were carefully stowed out of sight in the car. We might have been mistaken for a couple of gentlemen of the War Prices Board heading out to some neighboring city to investigate a scandal.

“I guess,” said Jimmie, after we had both pondered that wicked little “if” for a while. “I guess when people begin being ashamed of themselves, the war may be said to have arrived in our midst.”

“The best way to avoid being ashamed of ourselves,” I agreed, “is to be ashamed of others. When you are busy being ashamed of the government or your neighbors or relatives, you have no time to think up things to be ashamed of in yourself.”

“And the louder the critics talk about others,” pointed out Jim, “the nearer, probably, they are to realizing their own faults. The awful day dawns sooner or later.”

“Of course, there are some people,” I recollected, “who are physically incapable of being ashamed. They haven’t got the necessary mental organ to feel shame with.”

“That’s called conscience,” said Jim.

“No, it’s different from conscience,” I declared. “Conscience is the moral sense of right and wrong. And right and wrong are like the stock market; you’ve got to have the latest quotations. But I know lots of people who do the most dreadful things without the least sense of shame. To be able to be ashamed, you’ve got to be a little soft. The harder you are, the less shame you can feel.”

“Then where does that let us off?” demanded Jimmie. “Because it certainly isn’t softness we need now. The war demands hardness from us in every possible respect. Hardness in our soldiers and fighters. Hardness in us at home here, to quit our selfish, creeping ways and get into the chain-gang of war. If being ashamed is a sign of softness, then we should not feel ashamed.”

Old Man Wilson’s Oats

And as we rolled up hill and down dale, we noted the farms and how thoroughly gleaned they all looked; all the fields stubbly brown; all the barns full; threshing going on at some; and only here and there a few farmers still toiling in the fields.

“Oats,” said Jim, “and wheat.”

Ahead of us on the side of the gravel road, a man was sitting who as we drew near, rose to his feet with every indication that he intended to hail us; a hitch-hiker, no doubt.

He waved his arm with more authority than most hitch-hikers and signalled us to halt.

He put his head in Jim’s window.

“Good-day, gents,” he said. “Are you from hereabouts?”

“No, we’re from the city,” I replied with dignity. There was something breezy and commanding about this man in his shirt sleeves that caused me to regard him with suspicion.

“H’m,” he said, casting his eye over our baggage. “Are you bent on business? Urgent business?”

“Yes,” I said shortly.

“Could it wait for a few hours?” he inquired. He had a cold, hard eye, with a slight glint in it.

“How do you mean?” demanded Jim a little sharply. “What are you getting at?”

“Well, gents,” said the stranger, “the probabilities are rain tomorrow. The farmer who lives in here is an elderly man. His oats are still in the shock. We have organized this township the past three weeks better than any other township in the province, but we still haven’t got Old Man Wilson’s oats in.”

“So?” I said firmly.

“I’m out here, on the road,” said the stranger, “commandeering anybody I can find to come in and help us get those oats in.”

“I’m afraid,” I stated, “we wouldn’t be much use to you. City men are hardly the type you are seeking.”

“Listen,” said the commando stranger, “anybody can pitch sheaves of oats.”

“I was born and raised on the farm,” said Jimmie proudly, leaning back.

“Hey, then, will you come?” cried the high-jacker, delighted.

“I thought,” I stated loudly, “that you had all these farm commandos worked out within your own township. Why stop people who…”

“We did have it organized,” explained the stranger, giving me a hostile look. “Even the boys in the army from the farms around here came and spent their leaves pitching oats and wheat. All the old men, all the girls and women …”

“Wouldn’t you be better employed,” I inquired pleasantly, “in there pitching sheaves than standing out here on the road?”

“Well, I’m a city man myself,” said the stranger, “and I’ve been up since 4 o’clock this morning. And I could see we would never get the job done before dark if we didn’t have at least eight more forks working…”

“We’re on,” said Jim, grabbing the steering wheel. “Hop on the running board and show us in.”

“No, drive right in,” said the stranger. “I’ve got to get two more…”

Just Opposite Types

So we left him on the road and drove up a few rods to the lane and drove in.

In the distance, we saw four wagons on the fields, some loaded and headed for the barn, some empty or half laden, out in the fields. And at least eight men were working on the wagons or with forks in the fields.

“Old Man Wilson’s got a lot of oats,” I remarked.

“And the country needs them all,” said Jim.

“I don’t think I like our friend out on the road,” I stated, as we drew up at the barn.

“I don’t think he likes you either,” smiled Jim. “You’re just opposite types, that’s all.”

“I think he is one of those busybodies,” I said. “There is at least one in every service club. One on every church board of managers. Always going about, doing good; in loud voice and with a commanding manner.”

“He seemed a good guy to me,” said Jim.

“What do we do?” I demanded grimly, getting out of the car.

“First put on our fishing clothes,” said Jim, “and come on out in the fields and I’ll show you how to pitch oats.”

And while we changed, the stranger arrived in the barnyard on the running board of another car with three men in it.

He greeted us in our fishing clothes with hearty enthusiasm.

“Hah,” he said “you even have the clothes. Gents, my name is Wilson, I’m nephew of the Old Man who owns this farm. These gentlemen were just heading into town to sign some property deeds so they figured that could wait.”

The three newcomers were farmers; the six of us marched in a body into the field where, at the back of the barn, Old Man Wilson was sitting amidst a collection of hay forks, pails of lemonade and other accoutrements of the harvest. Old Man Wilson was an extremely old man in his 80’s by the look of him. He was long past work himself.

“I’ll pay you regular wages,” he quavered at us grinning, as the whole platoon of us swarmed around him. “Regular wages, by jimminy. Now wade in there, boys.”

An empty hay rick came clattering out from the barnyard and Mr. Commando Wilson hailed it and signaled to Jim and me to climb aboard.

“There’ll be two others down there to help you pitch on this one,” he yelled, giving the horses a spank.

And licketty bang we went, thundering and bouncing over the field in the hay rick, headed for the long row of stooked oats.

I tried to yell to Jim that this was quite a fishing trip, but the words came out all jiggled. All the end of a half pitched row, the rick drew up and almost before Jim and I got off, the sheaves were flying from below the as the two farmers already on the job began pitching.

From everything I have seen of farm life, it’s a leisurely profession. You never, for example, see a farmer actually plowing. He is either resting from plowing; just going to plow; just finished plowing; or else is stopped down by the fence talking to somebody passing on the road.

But this was different. This oats pitching. It takes more skill than strength. But it takes strength too. Jim, after a few minutes, was almost as good as the two farmers on the far side of the rick. But after about 10 minutes, one of the farmers from the far side came around and traded places with Jim.

“I’ll just team up with you,” he said to me amiably, “until you get the knack of it.”

Getting the Knack of It

They said, at supper, that I did get the knack of it, more or less, before the day was done. I may have. But I had knacks in my neck, and knacks in my waist, kidneys and tenderloins; knacks in my legs, arms and shoulders. I was one large knack.

The wagon keeps slowly moving ahead, in short starts and stops, as the sheaves are pitched. The more you pitch on, the higher and harder you have to pitch. By the time the rick is loaded, you are heaving those apparently flimsy bundles of straw right over the moon, it seems.

By resting the handle the fork over my hip, I could get a fair heave. But to tell the truth, it was the farmer who came around to my side who really did most of the pitching. He would pretend, as he caught one I fumbled in midair, and pitched aloft for me, that that was a great improvement on the ordinary way of pitching oats. He said I had probably stumbled on a new idea of great importance to agriculture, to have a little man and a big man on one side of the rick so that the little man could pitch it halfway, and the big man catch it and pitch it the rest of the way.

He was a swell guy.

We had the whole field done well before supper time, and Old Man Wilson’s grand-daughter had prepared a magnificent spread for us.

Before we sat down, Old Man Wilson came in and staged a regular ceremony. He had an old purse, and from it he counted out our wages. We each got a dollar thirty.

“These high wages,” said the Old Man, “will be the ruin of farming.”

Mr. Commando Wilson took each of our dollar-thirties off the whole party to send to the boys of the township overseas in cigarettes from “the Oats Pitchers”.

“I came up here,” declared Mr. Commando Wilson, “on a holiday. I came up here to fish. And I got let into more work than I’ve done in 30 years…”

“Where were you intending to fish?” I inquired.

“In the lake here, back of the farm,” said he. “There’s a little lake back here, about 40 rod, that has more big bass, by big bass. I mean five, five and a half…”

Well, of course, it was too late for anything but a few casts before dark. We got two each, Wilson, Jim and I.

But we had the whole of the next day.


Editor’s Notes: Greg and Jim probably feel guilty enjoying themselves during this period of the war, when everything was still uncertain.

A rod, is an old unit of measure, about 5 metres in length.

A hay rick is a wagon, stooked oats means uncut oats, and a stook, is the stack they are in.

The Kernel

August 15, 1942

The Kernel

July 11, 1942

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