The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Tag: 1943 Page 1 of 3

Surprise!

“Where did you get this?” he inquired indignantly.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, April 24, 1943.

“Hey,” came Jimmie Frise’s voice over the telephone, “what’s all this on my front lawn?”

“Okay, what is it?” I inquired.

“Don’t you know about it?” demanded Jim. “It’s two full loads of fertilizer. The best I ever saw. I thought maybe that uncle of yours had come through.”

“By George, he may have!” I exclaimed. “He’s been promising us a load of fertilizer every spring for 10 years. But why would he deliver it at your place instead of my place? He knows where I live. And I don’t think he knows where you live.”

“Well, it’s swell stuff, anyway,” said Jim, enthusiastically. “Come on down and have a look. It’s beautifully rotted. And it seems to have loam mixed right in it. Boy, will it ever make my garden grow!”

I got my hat on and trotted down to Jim’s house at once. There was Jim, with a spade and a wheelbarrow, already in action.

“I was born on the farm,” declared Jim, fairly radiant with April glee, “but I never saw better fertilizer than that. Look: it oozes. And it’s all blended in with a kind of rich, black loam. That uncle of yours must be a real farmer.”

“I can’t understand,” I submitted, “why he would dump it off here instead of at my place. There are two loads, at least, there. Why would he dump both here?”

“Maybe your folks were out,” suggested Jim.

“No, they were in all day,” I said. “And Uncle Pete has been at my house no end of times.”

“Well,” sighed Jim happily, “my folks were out all day. So I can’t explain it. All I know is, we came home. And here she was. Two huge loads.”

“It must be Uncle Pete, all right,” I said. “Or have you dickered with anybody else about any fertilizer?”

“No,” replied Jimmie. “I’ve always counted on your Uncle Pete coming through with this. Every autumn, when he is down for the Winter Fair, he has promised us a load of fertilizer in the spring. Year after year, something turned up to prevent our getting it….”

“Last year,” I recalled, “he put 10 more acres under cultivation and couldn’t spare us any.”

“And the year before,” reminded Jim, “the roads were so bad.”

“This’ll be it,” I said confidently. “But I wish he had dumped my half up at my place.”

“Probably,” explained Jim, “he sent a driver with it. And the driver forgot the address and maybe he could remember my name; it’s an odd name, Frise. So he looked it up in the phone book and …”

Two Busy Spreaders

“Okay,” I agreed. “Now, how do we do? How can I get my half up to my place?”

“Let’s do this,” suggested Jim. “You help me spread mine around and then I’ll help you wheelbarrow your half up to your place. It won’t take half an hour to spread mine. And it’s three hours before dark.”

“Okay,” I submitted. “Let’s get going.”

“I’ve wheeled in three loads,” said Jim. “You wheel three, while I load you up. We’ll take turn about, three loads, eh?”

“Correct,” I said, seizing the barrow handles.

And Jimmie spaded up large gobs of the rich, globby fertilizer and dumped it in the barrow. And when it was full, I wheeled it in the side drive and dumped it along the garden borders. Jim had dumped his barrow loads at intervals of about 10 feet. So I followed the pattern. From these barrow loads, Jim could skite the stuff in all directions, over the garden borders, over the lawns, around the perennial bushes.

When I wheeled the empty barrow out to Jim and rested while he filled it, I said:

“Jim, are we making a mistake in putting this precious stuff on our flower gardens? Should we not make victory gardens? For potatoes, tomatoes, cabbages, and other simple garden food plants?”

“A city back yard,” stated Jim, heaving with the spade, “is not really suited to the growing of vegetable crops.”

“This is the fourth spring of the war, Jim,” I reminded him. “Nineteen forty, forty-one, forty-two, forty-three. The fourth spring. We have talked every spring of making some economic use of our gardens. In 1940, it was a whimsical suggestion. In 1941, we thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea. In 1942, we very seriously considered it, as an aid to the war economy. This year, by golly, we are rationed, a food shortage actually looms. And here we are, spreading precious fertilizer over your lawns and flower beds.”

“Well,” said Jim, resting on his spade, “in the first place, city soil is sour and dry and sterile. City yards are shaded by neighboring buildings and trees for many hours of the day. Besides, we are away in the summer at the very time the crops need special attention regarding weeds and bugs.”

“I venture the opinion,” I said, seizing the barrow handles, “that if we got up 20 minutes earlier than usual each summer morning, we could do all the work necessary to make a success of a little market garden plot in our own yards.”

“All you’ve got to do,” replied Jim, as I headed off up the side drive, “is get out any summer morning early enough to see the market gardeners on the outskirts of the city. You’d change your mind. For they are up at dawn and still working at dusk, all summer through. We city gardeners spend one Saturday afternoon raking up and digging our flower beds. We spend two or three evenings, after supper, planting a few seeds and a few seedlings bought at the corner store. And then, except for an occasional grass cutting and a little weeding whenever the spirit moves us we sit back all the rest of the year and gloat amidst the profusion of our flowers and shrubs. But that isn’t the way crops grow. That isn’t the way the farmer makes his hard-earned money.”

I went on in the yard and emptied the barrow in another calculated pile. When I got back out to Jim, I had another angle.

“It seems to me,” I stated, as Jim proceeded to fill the barrow, “that if the food controller really wanted us city people to help produce food, he would have spent the winter organizing the city into gardening societies. Each city block should elect a chairman and a committee. What is a city block but a little community unto its self? It encloses anywhere from 20 to 100 gardens. A city block is a walled village. Within its walls are acres and acres of arable and productive land. Under proper management, those acres could produce valuable crops. But leaving us to our individual resources, we get nowhere.”

“You’ve got a swell idea there,” agreed Jim, shovelling. “Each block elects a committee of its own. The committee inspects each garden within its confines and decides which will grow potatoes, which cabbages and carrots, which corn and so forth. Each householder is then instructed by the committee how to prepare his garden. Then the committee secures the seeds or seedlings, and under expert advice – for there are always one or two good amateur gardeners in each city block – the householder plants his allotted portion.”

“And during the growing season,” I took up, “the committee would inspect and check up on the development of each garden in the block. If any of us are away, we could organize a system whereby our neighbors would look after the stuff. And we could take our turns looking after others when we’re here: Boy, it would work out magnificently.”

“We could add tons and tons, hundreds of tons,” Jim cried, “of invaluable food products to the nation’s food supply. All we need is organization.”

And I wheeled away for the side drive, as Jimmie said:

“The food controller is a man of no imagination.”

And while I dumped this load in its proper place, I thought up a new angle.

“Jim,” I enunciated, as I returned the barrow to the pile, “do you notice how intelligent and full of ideas we are tonight?”

“I was just standing here,” declared Jim, “thinking the same thing. It is as if merely breathing in this fertilizer, we were enriching our brains.”

“It may be that, Jim,” I submitted, “or it may be the way we are debating these questions. We talk together. Then I go in with the barrow for five minutes. That gives us time to reflect. Then I come out again, and we’ve both got bright ideas to communicate. I think the secret of intelligent conversation is being here revealed. The secret of intelligent discussion is in having pauses to reflect.”

“You’re right,” agreed Jim. “Too much discussion is begun and ended at one session, without pausing for reflection.”

“Parliament,” I declared, “ought to work the way we are working right here. Instead of meeting for 12 weeks at a stretch, they ought to meet one week a month, every month of the year.”

To Improve Parliament

“H’m,” said Jim, shovelling. “That would be kind of hard on the members of parliament, wouldn’t it?”

“How?” I demanded. “The reason parliament sits for 12 weeks at a stretch is because when parliament was first invented, there was no means of transportation except the slowest of stage coaches. Members of parliament had to come by horse, or on foot, from all over the British Isles. But why should we be handicapped by outmoded systems based on several hundred years ago? All the government has to do is employ a few airplanes to bring in the really outlying members. I bet 75 per cent of the membership of the House of Commons could get to Ottawa in less than 24 hours by train. And those in Vancouver could hop by airplane from the coast to Ottawa, leaving there at breakfast and would be in Ottawa for late dinner.”

“H’m,” said Jim, having filled my barrow.

“Operating on the principles employed in the time of Queen Anne,” I asserted, “our members of parliament meet once a year for a sort of gabfest. If they had to turn up each month for one week, we would get far better service from them. They would be up to date. They would have three weeks to reflect on last week’s discussions and have thought up their next line of action. There are only 245 of them. It’s time we modernized them. Our government is operating on a system as antique as the feudal system. We should adopt modern business methods, and employ the modern equipment that is everywhere at hand. If we are going to have representative government, we should be represented, not at an annual convention but at a monthly progress meeting.”

“Wheel it away,” said Jim.

So I wheeled it back up the side drive and planned my next subject of discussion.

“Jim,” I declaimed, as I laid the barrow down beside him for the next load, “did it ever occur to you…”

“This ought to be the last load,” interrupted Jimmie. “It looks as if I had my half about now.”

“By George,” I said sharply. “I was so busy thinking. Of course you’ve got your half. In fact, I don’t think we should take another barrow full…”

“Yes,” said Jim, firmly, “one more barrow full will make it about an even half.”

“But Jim,” I cried. That pile is not half the original pile! You had three borrow fulls in before I arrived.”

“I know the original size of the pile,” stated Jim calmly. “I tell you, one more barrow load and it will be evenly divided.”

So Jim loaded her up, taking, I thought, some pretty hefty spadefuls, at that. And just as I started to wheel away, several small boys came racing up the street, shouting and yelling.

“Here it is, Mr. Andrews. Here it is!”

And up the street came a panting gentleman in his shirt sleeves and very moist with exertion.

He stooped down and took a quick look at the texture of the fertilizer. He turned a bit of it over with his foot.

“Where did you get this?” he inquired indignantly.

“A friend of ours sent it to us from the country,” said Jim.

“I ordered two loads,” announced the stranger indignantly stretching his neck and looking down the side drive, “and when it didn’t arrive today, I phoned and discovered it had been delivered.”

“Ah?” said Jim.

“Delivered to the wrong address,” said the stranger, his voice rising. “The man I bought it from is a market garden specialist out in the suburbs. He can’t get in touch with his hired man to see where it was delivered. But I just thought…”

Jim looked at me and I looked at Jim, and we both thought of Uncle Pete and his past performance in regard to long promised fertilizer. And I imagine the stranger must have guessed something from our expressions.

“This fertilizer I ordered,” he said quietly, “is a very special grade. It is mixed with the finest loam and humus. It costs $10 a load.”

“Ten…” said Jimmie.

“I am using it in a victory garden,” explained the stranger. “I have turned my whole garden into a victory garden. I spent $20 on fertilizer. It’s terribly hard to get. I practically had to bribe this guy to get it. And now it has been delivered to the wrong address.”

“Don’t pay for it, then,” I said stoutly. “If a man delivers goods to the wrong address, is that your fault?”

“I have paid for it,” said the stranger, eyeing me coldly. “And besides, it’s the fertilizer I want. Not the $20.”

“Well, an uncle of his,” said Jim, indicating me with the spade, “sent this to us.”

“I just thought,” remarked the stranger, showing no intention of leaving, “that if you had this fertilizer by mistake, you wouldn’t want to have to rake it all back and put it out here again. The man I ordered it from is trying to find his driver. They may be along any time….”

“Jim,” I said, resting the barrow, “could I speak to you a minute in the garden? I want to show you where I’ve been dumping the barrow…. Excuse us, sir.”

“Certainly,” said the stranger, standing guard over my half of the pile.

Might Have Been Worse

“Jim,” I muttered, as we walked down the side drive, “we’re in a mess.”

“It looks like it,” agreed Jim. “Whew! Ten dollars a load.”

“I suggest we tell the guy.” I submitted. “Explain all about Uncle Pete and everything.”

“I’m glad we didn’t get it all spread out,” said Jim, looking at the several neat barrow loads piled around his yard.

“I’m sorry we didn’t,” I submitted. “Because even if we had to rake it all up, stuff as good as this fertilizer would do our gardens good, if only for a few hours.”

“It’s a pity it isn’t raining,” sighed Jim, “to wash some of the good out of that pile on to my front lawn.”

“Let’s go and tell him,” I concluded.

So we walked out and explained the whole situation to the stranger. He was very decent about it, especially when we walked him into the garden and showed him the several piles heaped about.

“If I had a load left on my lawn,” he agreed, “I’d naturally think some of the people who had promised me fertilizer had come through. Almost everybody in the world has been promised a load of fertilizer by their country friends, at one time or another.”

“Especially,” I said, “in the fall of the year.”

We heard a truck snorting out in front. And sure enough, it was the market gardener from out Islington way, with his confused and embarrassed driver.

All three of us took turns wheeling the small piles back out of Jim’s yard while the driver forked the main pile back on to the truck.

And when we all shook hands and they drove off, Jim said:

“Well, it was nice to have had it, if only for a little while.”

“Yes,” I reminded him, “and it seemed to fertilize us into some very brilliant ideas.”

“M’hm,” mused Jim. “I forget. What were they?”


Editor’s Notes: In this context, “to skite the stuff” means to move it quickly.

Victory gardens were vegetable gardens that people were encouraged to grow during wars to augment the food supply during times of rationing.

$10 in 1943 would be $165 in 2022.

“Italy Must Have a Regency”

Brooding and saddened, as if looking down on his country’s ruin, is the face of Benedetto Croce, world-famous Italian philosopher. At left and right are symbols of the tragedy of the peninsula’s recent history. Fascism – which Croce never yielded to – represented in the ceremony of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler in the heyday of the Axis placing a wreath on the tomb of the unknown soldier in front of the Victor Emmanuel II monument of Rome. At right, Italy’s present devastation, caused by combination of bombings, artillery bombardment and German demolitions, is typified by a war-wrecked granary. The nation faces a huge reconstruction after the war.

By Gregory Clark, December 31, 1943.

By Air Courier to the Star Weekly from Naples

Between my hotel in Naples and the temporary home of old and famous Benedetto Croce in Sorrento, lie 30 miles – in every foot of which occurs not one field, not one meadow, not one open garden.

It is just endless human habitation. Naples; then the suburbs of Naples; then the villages adjoining Naples, in continuous contact of house, hovel, wall, beautiful but forbidding villa, humanity crawling amidst it everywhere.

So that by the time my jeep drew up in front of the massive flower-laden (in November!) wall of the villa of the late William Waldorf Astor in Sorrento, where Benedetto Croce has had sanctuary the past year or so, I was already numbed and saddened for his answer to my question – “What is the future of Italy now?”

His answer was – a regency for the five-year-old prince, grandson of the present King Victor Emmanuel, which would allow 15 or 20 years before that young gentleman could become sufficient of a king to interfere with still one more of the countless attempts for Italy to work out a political system that will bring her abreast of the western world in freedom, in comfort, in stability – or abreast of us in our dreams of those things.

This regency would get rid of both the king and the crown prince who suffer some share of the Italian people’s furious reaction to fascism. They are tainted. The regency would permit Badoglio or some other trusted or half-trusted individual to act as head of the government, surrounded by ministers representing both the Socialists, who want a republic, and the anti-Socialists, who feel safer with a king.

There are not a few in Italy who want neither. They want exactly what all of us should have foreseen as the reaction to fascism when it collapsed. And that is communism. There is the rub in Italy.

All the forces, individual and political, in Britain, America, France and everywhere else in the shivering old-fashioned world who helped build up fascism in Italy and Germany as a barricade against communism failed to foresee that if fascism failed, a great dammed-up force of the thing they were trying so desperately to dam back, would burst upon them. Italy right now is the ground over which that dam is to burst – if a whole horde of excited and anxious people, not all of them Italian, do not bear false witness.

In going to see Benedetto Croce, who is 78 years old, and who was already a world-famous philosopher and scientist 40 years ago, and minister of education for three years prior to fascism, I went with no political interest whatever. I am just one of those thousands of Canadians and tens of thousands of Americans who for the past three months have been walking through Italy looking upon nationwide spectacle of poverty, degradation, despair and ruin.

We do not need to be politicians to know that something has got to be done about Italy. We need only be citizens of Canada and the United States to know that when this war is all over and we go back home, we will have memories to bear, opinions to hold and votes to cast.

Across the Bay of Naples from the villa window in Sorrento we could see Naples. Along the waterfront, as modern and up-to-date as any great seaport in the world, lay utter and pitiless ruin. Not millions, but billions of dollars have gone up under our bombs and German demolition blasts. By some infernal humor of war, we had left that part of Naples which was old and historic and muddled and narrow and typical of everything Italy has been trying to escape from intact. But everything modern and new and big, everything that represented Italy’s effort to escape from the past, her port, her shipbuilding yards, her great modern factories and warehouses of every conceivable line of industry, we had reduced to tangled ruins of bent steel and heaped rubble.

“And further north,” said Croce, “in Milan, Turin and Genoa, the ruin and loss are worse.”

“It is not this ruin I wanted to ask you about,” I started. “We have lately fought and marched several hundred miles from the very toe of Italy through an Italy I am sure not one of the thousands of Canadians who saw it believed was possible in this day and age. Tiny villages which in America would house 500 people, housing 5,000. Living conditions so remote from all modem conceptions of public health, let alone human dignity, that it seemed to us we were dreaming. Peasants in a world from which we thought peasants had gone long, long ago. Women acting as beasts of burden. Slavery, with no other word for it, everywhere. Here and there, a county town with a brave show of a few modern buildings in the midst. But around the back, the same old filth and degradation. If it takes billions to restore those factories over there along the proud front of Naples and in Milan and Turin and all over the north of Italy, how many more billions will it take to sweep Italy free of the 16th century?”

Croce may have been a little offended at my naive and unctuous question. But his answer was this:

“If we can have a pause, free of political turmoil, long enough to permit the best elements of the Italian people to express themselves to one another, I am confident that not only is there a sufficient number of those best elements to establish, by legislation, a reasonable and happy solution for Italy, but that the sufferings Italy has experienced in the last war, in this war and under fascism between the two, have finally inspired in the Italian people a mass desire for peace and security that will survive under whatever world politics the future may surround us with.

“I was offered, along with my friend Count Sforza, a ministry under the king when he escaped from Rome and set up his government in the south with Badoglio. I refused. I said I had no ambition but that I had 78 years! I am giving anyone who asks counsel and advice. My advice is always the same. Seek a pause in events in which to bring together all the parties, all the creeds, all the sections and interests of Italy. And in that pause, free from political struggle against one another or against the world, work out Italy’s salvation. Does that answer include both the proud modern cities and the peasants?”

“How long would it take to set up this regency in the present confusion?” I asked. “And is the regency the majority opinion of the national committee?”

“The regency suggested itself to the majority of the national committee, said Croce, “when it was realized no self-respecting experienced public man in Italy could associate himself with either the king or crown prince in view of their lack of character throughout the Fascist regime. It would take us only a matter of days to set up the regency if we had the facilities of press and public halls, which of course are denied at present. Above all, however, we do not want a coup de force, a coup d’etat, another party foisting itself upon Italy. We have had enough of those. Garibaldi was one. Mussolini another. It matters not who or how good the leader, or how bad. To force there is always the reaction. In God’s name let Italy have a rest, a pause, a time to relax and talk and think freely. I am certain that if the United Nations do not understand on what a brink Italy now stands, just another and worse confusion will descend upon us.”

Benedetto Croce all his long life has been an educator and a thinker. And in this hour, he thinks what Italy needs is a period of education. He was born on the island of Ischia, near Capri. When he was a small child, his mother was killed in a great earthquake and he himself was buried for many hours in the ruins. Then, in his prime years he was all but buried under the ruins of fascism. But he survived both catastrophes. He has no fear of the powers of nature, geological or human. But when the earthquake is over he believes in clearing away the ruin, not calling down another quake to reshape the ruins in the hope that they will tumble straight.

One of Benedetto Croce’s most famous contributions to modern philosophy is his writing on the absolute. He maintains that there is no absolute fact, no absolute good, no absolute truth or even absolute beauty. He has defined the forces that bear on life to change, imperceptibly but eternally, the absolute. A sort of Einstein in the realm outside mathematics.

He has lectured in America, France, Britain, at all the greatest universities of the world. He was already a very great man when fascism rose in Italy. So famous, indeed, that when he refused to join the Fascist party, and when his non-co-operation with the Fascists became a dangerous scandal to the party, there was not a thing they dared do to him.

He did not flee the country, as other anti-Fascists did. He just went ahead non-resisting and non-co-operating. He had been made a senator by the king in 1921. After fascism, he simply declined to take his seat. When they tried to convert his writings into support for the Fascist ideal, he immediately published corrections but in such terms that nothing could be done about it. To scientist, no truth can be adduced in support of anything. It is just truth – as far as it can be seen at the moment!

And now the only advice he can give is to cease believing you have the truth; cease fighting for what you conceive to be the truth; and to get together with all your fellowmen and try to find the truth among you all. All – including peasant women staggering day and night under huge burdens

And all – including such density of population that in my jeep journey from my hotel in Naples to the late William Waldorf Astor’s villa, with high thick walls for keeping people out, and hanging lovely and high over the famous Bay of Sorrento and of Naples, I did not pass in 30 miles, one open stretch of meadow, one garden, but only continuous human habitation, wall touching wall, house-house, hovel-hovel, and all swarming and crawling with humanity, ragged, stunned sleep-walking, bewildered in a far deeper bewilderment than I ever have seen in any humanity, but which I have seen in the animal kingdom, among herds of cattle in the stockyards, and among corrals and in herds of sheep driven along dangerous tumultuous town streets.

On my way home from seeing Croce I asked my jeep driver what he thought was the chief problem of Italy.

“Too many Italians,” was his solution, as he nipped the jeep in and out amidst the ragged, scampering, sleep-walking throngs.

Too many, too confused, too pitiably victimizing one another in their ultimate hunger of body and soul; too pitiably, with wide dark blank eyes, trying to victimize us in small pitiable things, so that the tough guys among us curse them for swindlers and the soft guys among us can scarce forbear to weep.

I am thinking this minute of my backyard in Toronto, full of peace, full of security. Thinking also of my jeep driver’s farm north of Orangeville on this afternoon brown and quiet and far-flung and with nothing moving. But in the barns, the stables, in the mow, in the house, in the kitchen, in the pantry, in the milk shed, in the rocking chair beside the stove, in the kettle simmering on the wide hot top – peace, security.

I have heard only one man laugh in Italy and that was old Benedetto Croce – you pronounce it Craw-chay – when he described how his king invited him to become a minister of this, his ruined and wrecked native land. And that was when he said, from the security of his age and of his pride these past 30 years in which he pursued only truth:

“I have no ambition: I have only 78 years!”

His laughter was the saddest thing to hear.


Editor’s Notes: Greg was a war correspondent in Italy at the time. Benedetto Croce was a Greg described him, and did serve in government again after the war was over. He was also President of PEN International from 1949 until 1952, and nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature sixteen times.

After the war, King Victor Emmanuel III had tried to save the monarchy by abdicating on May 9, 1946 with his son becoming King Umberto II. A constitutional referendum was held on June 2 1946 where the Republicans won, and the monarchy was abolished.

Pietro Badoglio was an Italian general during both World Wars. He became Prime Minister of Italy after the fall of the Fascists. Carlo Sforza was an Italian diplomat and anti-fascist politician.

Who’s Got Christmas?

We could find no sad young men. We saw any number, in fact hundreds of young fellows in uniform, brown, blue and navy. But they were far from looking lonely.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, December 24, 1943.

“Do you realize,” demanded Jimmie Frise, “that this is the fifth war Christmas?”

“I not only realize it,” I stated, but I have been worrying about it more than I can tell you.”

“I wonder how many million men – and women,” pursued Jim, “will be absent from their homes this fifth Christmas! Millions of Americans, hundreds of thousands of Canadians, millions of British, millions of Germans, Russians, Japs – not that they care….”

“I’ve been very uneasy this past few weeks,” I submitted, “watching Christmas approach. I’m a superstitious guy. All these December sunsets we’ve been having. I have looked at anxiously for fear I might see a fiery chariot come riding down.”

“We’ve got this on our side,” pointed out Jimmie, “that at least we are fighting to preserve Christmas on earth. If millions of us are blaspheming Christmas by merely being absent from our homes and hearths, at least it is because we are fighting the forces that have openly announced their intention of destroying all that Christmas stands for.”

“I’m sorry, Jim,” I stated, “I can’t agree with you. We did our blaspheming against Christmas in the 20 years this war was brewing. Back in those ugly terrible days when we sat fat and cosy in our little world letting all the rest of the world go to hell. Back in the days when we could not raise enough public funds to give more than a dirty little dole to our own unemployed, right here in this very city. We could not find a few of our soiled millions to give work, in government-owned projects, to a million Canadians quietly starving.”

“Just a minute,” said Jim.

“Just a minute you,” I insisted. “We had our Christmases then, remember? We who were comfortable – and eight million of us were comfortable – arranged through public charities for Christmas banquets for the homeless, down in the big empty hostels in the warehouse district. We gave to the public funds for Christmas gifts and Christmas hampers. But we had our own Christmases! Sure, sure. Around our sacred little burning trees, we cherished our children, and our wives, and the old, old tradition.”

Who’s Hiding It?

“Just a minute,” said Jim.

“But where,” I cried, “have all these billions come from, in little Canada alone, these billions, not millions, these billions and billions of dollars to be poured out into war? Who had those billions? Where were they in 1933, 1935, 1937?”

“You don’t understand,” said Jim. “It is a problem of economies. It is a question so complicated….”

“So complicated,” I sneered, “that even our greatest brains can’t grasp it. All right then, if you can’t say who had all those billions that we have found for war, can you say who has got Christmas? Where is Christinas? Who’s hiding it from us?”

“How do you mean?” inquired Jimmie indignantly.

“All I say is,” I muttered, “that wherever there is an absent man or an absent girl in a house in all this world today, there is no Christmas. We had our Christmases back in those years when we did not care a pin for all the rest of the world. Now our Christmas is taken away from us to pay the debt. Because Christmas is not a thing for individuals. It is not for you and me. Is it for one family and not for another? Christmas is for all mankind. And all I say is, those of us who presume to make Christmas our own personal and private affair are blaspheming it.”

“You mean,” said Jimmie, “that all this mess we are in is our own fault? Our own fault, each and every man.”

“Nothing comes of itself, Jim,” I explained. “Everything is brought. This Christmas is a tragedy to millions of us on earth today only because it was not a little tragic to us in the Christmases past. We celebrate the birth of Jesus in the greatest and most selfish and personal and private holiday of the year. We forget, on Christmas, to remember the death of Jesus.”

“It is not what He was born for,” suggested Jim, “but what He died for that is important.”

“Yes, and so long as we forget that,” I submitted, “I guess we too will keep on dying, on crosses of a kind, through all time.”

“What do you think!” inquired Jim, since we are both old soldiers who have never had much time to think about religion, “what do you think was the one essential thing Jesus taught?”

“That God is our father,” I submitted, “we are his beloved children.”

“The brotherhood of man,” muttered Jim.

“No other faith” I said, “can save us, forever.”

So again we sat and thought, about socialism and Communism and the C.C.F. and the labor movement and all the religions and all the social service enterprises and the Rockefeller Foundation and the countless, countless things men have tried, in centuries past, and in this bloody and grimmest of all centuries, to figure out the brotherhood of man. But we are so choosey.

“One thing,” said Jim slapping his knee, “we’ve got to do some little thing, no matter how late it is, to make Christmas a little less personal this year. For example, soldiers. There are sure to be some kids marooned in town this Christmas in the army or air force. We ought to look after two or three of them.”

“I keep thinking,” I said, “of the kids who have been five Christmases away.”

“That doesn’t make it any less lonely for these kids away for the first one,” said Jim. “How do we go about finding them? Could we call up the ‘Y’ hut at the camp or the Salvation Army hut?”

“It’s Christmas Eve,” I said. “Downtown it will be jammed and crowded. Among the throngs will be sure to be some kids in uniform wandering about pretty forlorn, trying to capture, from the very multitude, some feeling of Christmas – maybe looking for one face from back home. Do you know what my hunch is? Let’s drive downtown and walk in the crowds and pick up two or three of them and bring them home.”

“On Christmas Eve?” inquired Jim. “I thought of having them to share Christmas dinner tomorrow.”

“Christmas Eve is the best,” I explained. “Don’t you remember Christmas Eve when you were a kid? Let us go and pick up two or three of these youngsters and use them as symbols for all the others in the ends of the world. It was Christmas Eve, mister, that there was no room at the inn.”

“H’m,” muttered Jim.

And into the night we backed Jim’s car, which is in better shape than mine, besides he having seven more gallons left than me, and we drove down along the waterfront and up Yonge St. into the last-minute throngs of Christmas shoppers. We parked and went on foot into the midst.

But such is the mystery of human nature, eternally in hunger for whatever joy is offered, we could find no sad young men. We saw any number, in fact hundreds of young fellows in uniform, brown, blue and navy. But they were far from looking lonely. Most of them had a girl on one arm and a pile of parcels in the other. For all the war, there were no unhappy faces here. Up at the main corner between the two big department stores, we saw two soldiers leaning against the wall watching the throngs boil by. We spoke to them.

“How are you boys fixed for Christmas?”, I inquired heartily.

“Pretty good,” they said. “Why?”

“Well, we are a couple of old soldiers,” explained Jim, “and we just thought we’d take a last-minute look around downtown to see if we could find any of the boys that were left out in the cold that we could give a little Christmas cheer to.”

“Thanks very much,” said one of the two “But the fact is, we’ve been sent down by our families to try and pick up somebody the same way.”

“Good hunting,” said Jim.

“Good hunting, sir,” replied the boys.

It is pretty tough going in these Christmas Eve mobs, so Jim and I took the inside track along the store fronts, and shoved our way patiently along, because after all, a high resolve is not to be so lightly abandoned. And presently, I leading against the wind and hastening herd, we were held up by a small figure flattened against the bricks of one store front.

“Christmas cards,” he said, in the gloom. “Christmas cards.”

We, too, flattened ourselves against the bricks.

“Christmas cards,” said the weak voice. “Christmas cards, five cents.”

We could see him now, a small elderly ragged little man, his hat pulled down and his collar up so that he seemed to be calling out from a cave.

“Christmas cards.”

Nobody but us paid any attention.

“Speak up, man,” I said to him quietly. “Make them hear. Like this: CHRISTMAS CARDS!”

And I let it go good and round.

But nobody even looked.

“There’s Your Answer”

I saw the little man smiling out at me from the cave of his hat and his collar.

“See?” he said.

“Well,” I said, “anyway, I’ll take a few. How many have you got?”

“A dozen,” said he.

“I’ll take the whole lot,” I said, “I was just going in to buy some. You always forget somebody at the last minute.”

“They’re not much good,” said the little man, drawing a frowsy packet from his pocket.

“Call it dollar,” I said, handing him the bill.

“Thanks,” said the little man eagerly. “Thanks a million.”

We could now see him quite distinctly as the three of us huddled in the falling dusk amid the whirling throngs. He opened his ragged overcoat to secrete the dollar somewhere within his clothes and my eye caught a glint of a button on his lapel.

“Hey,” I said harshly, seizing the old boy’s coat. “What’s that!”

But I knew what it was. It was the bronze button with the Union Jack in the shield, the proud old bronze button that we got in that other war, and which marks us as veterans…

“Old soldier?” demanded Jimmie sharply.

“Oh, yes,” said the little man, buttoning his coat. “Oh, yes.”

“Listen,” I said, dropping my grip from his coat front, “we’ve got a proposition to make to you, brother. We’re old soldiers ourselves. We’ve got an idea….”

But just as I started to fumble with the idea, a great, a strange, a hard, a disturbing Idea, an idea shaking my Christmas to its very core, from the white Christmas table cover, from the bright candlesticks, the red crackers, the steaming turkey on the blue platter, the little man, like a gnome, vanished. Somebody jostled us. And when the jostle ended, he was gone.

“Hey, Jim….”

Jim fought upstream, I fought down. I ducked in and out of the mob. I came back along the curb, outside the throng. I heard Jim call me.

“He was gone,” said Jim.

Together we hurried up the block and watched. Together we went and watched the main corner. But he was gone.

“Mister,” and Jim to me, “there’s your answer, whatever it is.”


Editor’s Notes: The C.C.F was the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, which became the New Democratic Party (NDP) in 1961. It was a socialist-labour party in Canada.

The Rockefeller Foundation is an American private foundation for philanthropy that was created by the Rockefeller family in 1913, and still exists today.

They used Jimmie’s car since he had more gas, as gasoline was rationed during the war.

Fake Magic

Into the tube after the rabbits they went…
Out from the hole in the table came the frightened rabbits, one right after the other…

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, December 5, 1936.

“Do you know anything,” asked Jimmie Frise, “about magic?”

“You mean black magic?” I inquired.

“I mean ordinary magic for kids,” said Jim. “Parlor magic. Tricks.”

“At one time,” I replied, “I was going to be a magician. I think that was when I was about fifteen.”

“Do you remember any tricks?” asked Jim.

“No, I gave up the magic idea,” I confessed, “after a few tries. I’m one of those people who wants to make the coin really disappear. If I flip the coin up my sleeve, I am the first to see through it.”

“There’s a kids’ party at my house,” said Jim, “and I was thinking I could put on some magic for them.”

“Between the two of us,” I suggested, “we could pull some magic.”

“Let’s get a book of magic,” said Jim, “and practice up some tricks. I think it would be swell if we could work out a little program of magic. We could not only do parties at our own homes, but we could render a nice favor to our friends, going about putting on children’s shows like that.”

We got a book of magic and it was wonderful the simple tricks we learned in no time. The card tricks and coin tricks are mostly done by quickness of the hand deceiving the eye, and neither Jim nor I were very good at that. Our eyes were too quick, and our hands not quick enough. However, we practiced these hand tricks patiently, and even though we couldn’t fool each other, we felt that we would at least fool children; especially small children.

It was, however, in the tricks of magic requiring devices that we discovered the most interesting field. For example, by fastening things to long pieces of elastic, we could make them vanish like lightning. Under our coats, we could fasten a handkerchief or a flower or a ball, the elastic holding it hidden. By a quick, careless swing of the hand, we could pull the object into view, in the hand. Then, with a kind of mumbo-jumbo and a wave of the hand, we simply let go of the object and it vanished past our elbow out of sight, so fast nobody would see it. After showing our empty hands, we made the casual, quick snatch and produced it again, apparently from the air.

So we had a very nice time, sitting around with all doors shut, practicing with cards and coins and elastics, and investigating the interesting realm of magic. We spent about $3.65 on all kinds of magic balls, vanishing cups, trick match boxes, and inside-out silk handkerchiefs that you could turn from red to blue by a simple movement of the hand. We developed these mechanical tricks to a high state of perfection, and the children’s party drew rapidly nigh.

“Jim,” I assured him, “we’ll be a knock-out.”

For a Grand Finale

“Kids are so hard to fool, nowadays,” said he. “They know it all. Even The little ones all have the oh yeah complex.”

“We’re short,” I suggested, “one big grand slam trick to wind our program up. We’ve got a nice lot of little ones that we can run through like seasoned veterans. But we ought to have a grand finale sort of act.”

“The nearer I get to the party,” said Jim, “the less confident I feel. Kids aren’t like they used to be. Once upon a time, adults used to be kept busy keeping things from the children. Nowadays, the children are busy keeping things from the adults.”

“My dear Jimmie,” I laughed, “we’ll roll them in the aisles with our act. We’re perfect. I assure you. That vanishing watch trick of yours will have them absolutely mystified. And as for my trick with the three red balls under the cup, I venture to say I could go on the stage with it.”

“I wish we had a rabbit act or something,” said Jim. “Or one of those sword acts where I put you in a box and stick a sword through it, only to find you vanished when the box is opened.”

“I prefer a rabbit act,” I agreed. “Maybe an act, with six rabbits. Like that one in the book where the six rabbits come out of the plug hat.”

“We could do that easily enough,” said Jim. “All we need is a table with a hole in the top and about fifteen feet of stove pipe.”

“I’m with you,” I exclaimed. “The grand finale. We get a cheap table and cut a hole the size of a stove pipe in the top. We run the stove pipe down along the floor into the kitchen. I feed the rabbits in the pipe and then shove the long wire with the piece of fox fur on the end of it, to chase them through to you.”

“I set the plug hat with the loose top,” said Jim, “on the table, covering the hole where the pipe emerges. The loose top falls aside, and as I make the magic passes, you start the rabbits coming. The wire chases them through, and out they come from the hat, like bullets out of a gun.”

“I can picture it, Jim,” I exulted.

“The only thing,” said Jim, “is the stove pipe. How could we conceal it from the kids? They’ll be all over the house before the show starts. They’ll see the stove pipe along the floor of the hall.”

“I tell you what,” I exclaimed. “Let’s use a cloth tube instead of stove pipe. We could sew up a long tube of cotton, and brace it with barrel hoops. Just a few minutes before this final act, while you are entertaining them, I’ll slip out to the hall and string out the cloth tube. Very quiet, see?”

“How would you scare the rabbits through?” asked Jim.

“If we made it big enough,” I cried, “I could come through the tube, chasing the rabbits ahead of me, and last of all, up through the table would come my head, wearing the hat.”

“Great,” agreed Jim. “Unique. Different. A real creation. The true magician is the one who invents or improves upon tricks.”

With little time to spare, Jim and I bought twenty-two feet of cotton sheeting and sewed it up, in secret, into a tube. From the grocer on the corner we got enough wooden hoops off old barrels to set them every four feet inside the cloth tube, tacking them in place. So that, closed up like a concertina, it was easy for me to handle alone.

We got an old pine table and cut a hole in its top just the size of a plug hat which we had given us by the widow of an Orangeman, and we so tapered the end of the cloth tube that it could be quickly fastened into the hole in the table, from beneath, with a wire ring. We practiced stringing the cloth tube silently and skillfully along the back hall from the living room doorway where Jim and I were to stage our magic performance.

“For fear of discovery,” explained Jim, “we’ll keep the rabbits in a box out in the yard, and we’ll hide the cloth tube on the shelf in the clothes closet. It will be only a matter of a minute for you to slip out, set up the cloth tube from my table to the kitchen, pick the rabbits from the box in the yard and pop them into the tube. Then you chase them through to me.”

“Perfect,” I said. “Letter perfect.”

The night of the party Jim and I donned our tuxedos for the occasion to give the correct magic tone. We were both on hand before six o’clock to arrange all our effects. And at six, the children began to arrive. Both boys and girls, all old friends of the neighborhood, who, after a few moments of remembering their parental warnings, and getting over the strangeness of seeing one another in their Sunday clothes, promptly let loose; and the familiar din of a children’s party filled the house,

The first item on the program was the party supper, which took a good three-quarters of an hour. Then there was a miniature movie, which, it seems, all the children had seen before several times. Then there were games for about twenty minutes, which ended up with two little girls crying because they didn’t get all the prizes, and two little boys staging a fight in the hall. And at last, came the great event of the evening, the Magic Hour, by Messrs. Frise and Clark. I must say, Jimmie and I were both trembling with excitement.

All the children were ranged on chairs and stools and benches in the living room, well back from the entrance from the hall; and in this entrance, Jimmie and I set our table.

“Now, children,” said Jim, the lights being dimmed, and soft music being located on the radio, “we are about to show you a few tricks of legerdemain which my assistant and I have learned in our travels in many parts of the world.”

“Birdseye Center,” said a boy’s voice.

Jim and I stood face to face behind the table, and began manipulating the red celluloid balls, Jim’s vanishing miraculously from between his outspread fingers while mine miraculously appeared. It was pretty well done, except that mine slipped a few times and I had to pick them up, as they rattled lightly on the floor.

“Let Pinkie Do It”

“Whhhooop,” comes a raspberry from the audience.

“Let Pinkie do it,” called a girl’s voice. “He can do it good.”

And Pinkie; a freckled little boy of about seven with red hair, came up and took the balls from me and manipulated them like lightning.

“Heh, heh, heh,” Jimmie and I applauded, to show him it was time for him to go back and sit down. But he kept on doing tricks with the red balls, making them vanish in his hands, plucking them out of his ears and from the back of my neck, until the house almost came down, and finally I had to give the little brat a pinch and hiss to him to go and sit down. Whose show was it, anyway?

We then did the colored handkerchief, and loud raspberries and cat calls greeted this performance; Jim hastily started picking the magic watch off his pant leg, where the watch is caught by a small pin projecting from it. But only loud jeers met all these efforts, while several of the boys crowded forward and seized the appurtenances of our art off the table and began doing the tricks we had been intending to do, only doing them better, if I must say it.

So Jim and I stood back, while the various boys put on the show.

“You see,” explained Jim, “one of the commonest Christmas and birthday presents during the past five years has been magic sets. All the big stores have departments now for selling magic and the salesmen are magicians who teach the kids the tricks.”

“Ah,” I told him, “but we’ve got one trick in the bag, thank heaven. Wait till they see the rabbits coming shooting out of that plug hat.”

In due time, the little boys had exhibited all our tricks, simultaneously, a sort of seven or eight-ring circus. They broke most of the things, snatching them from one another, and at last they wore everything out, and Jimmie stepped forward, calling for order.

“Now, children,” he laughed, “you have all had a good time, as we intended, performing these tricks which we provided you. But there is some magic you are not so familiar with. I grant these little common tricks are all very nice. But my assistant and I have prepared a little surprise for you.”

As Jim began this speech, I quietly slipped out through the dining room and into the hall. Lifted the concertina cloth tube down and loosened its hoops, and strung it along the hallway. Concealed behind the curtain draped over Jim’s table, I crawled in and fastened the tapered end of the cloth tube with a wire ring into the hole in the table.

With this to hold the tube firm, I backed up the hall, lifting the hoop-supported tube into shape and backed into the kitchen. There Jimmie and I had arranged some hooks in the wall to hold the other end of the tube taut, thus keeping the tunnel gaping open right through.

“This is a very mysterious trick,” I could hear Jim saying in a hushed voice. I place this hat, empty, as you all see, on the table like this. Now, in a few minutes, I shall make a mystic series of passes over this hat, and if I have the mystic rite right, out of that hat will come a rabbit. Maybe two rabbits. Maybe three. It all depends on how quiet you are as I begin the incantations.”

I slipped out the back door, where we had left the box with the six white rabbits we had rented from the bird store.

A strange sight met my eyes in the darkness. Around the wooden crate were grouped a regular pack of dogs. Jimmie’s Gordon setter, Gyp, was playing hostess.

She had apparently invited all the dogs in the neighborhood to the party, to smell the box full of rabbits.

There were spaniels and wire-haired terriers, Bostons and Pekes, a Chow, a young Newfoundland and sundry mutts, all sitting in a group around the rabbit box, some of them anxiously rising to sniff at the cracks.

“Hyah,” I snarled at them, but Gyp bounded happily to meet me, “Get away out of that, you …”

The box was heavy, but I lugged it to the back door. The whole party of dogs followed, anxiously and noisily jumping at the box, and ganging one another, with yips and growls. I managed to get the door open with only Gyp and one other dog getting past with me. Inside, I laid the box down until I had shooed Gyp and her friend out.

Carefully opening the box, I lifted the rabbits out two by two and set them inside the cotton tube a couple of feet.

Just as I stooped to enter the tube and chase the bunnies through, the back kitchen door burst open with the plunging of the dogs and in they came, yipping and snarling, a mob. I turned to meet them, but they were over and under and around me and into the tube.

All hushed, in the dim-lighted living room, the incantations were being recited by Jimmie, waving his wand.

There was a scuffle, a series of muffled yips and snarls.

Out of the plug hat popped a rabbit.

The hat was shot rolling.

One, two three, out from the hole in the table popped a sort of sausage string of rabbits, so fast they could hardly be seen, said Jim.

The dogs, trapped in the narrowed end of the cloth tube, writhed and fought furiously in the confusion. The ring came loose from the table. From under the table writhed a monstrous shape, a giant twisting serpent of ghostly white in the dimness.

The children rose in a screaming body and fled and leaped and clutched, while the bagful of dog twisted and snarled and writhed with a dreadful sound all over the living room, bumping, banging, while the little darlings leaped on chairs and screeched into the halls and up the stairs.

Jimmie and I dragged the tube out to the kitchen and then accompanied the dogs into the yard, where we remained for some time, until the last parent had called and taken her child away.

“Magic,” sighed Jimmie, “is great stuff.”

“Especially,” I explained, “If you have a magician working for you.”

From under the table writhed a monstrous shape, a giant twisting serpent of ghostly white.

Editor’s Notes: This story was repeated on December 4, 1943, under the title “Hocus Pocus” (with the artwork at the end).

An Orangeman is a member of the Orange Order in Canada. Orangeman played a major role in politics for a very long time, but declined after World War 2 as a result of more secularization and less association to Britain in society.

A concertina is a small bellows based musical instrument that was losing favour at the time, being replaced by accordions in popularity.

At a time when men wore suits all of the time, wearing a tuxedo would be considered “dressing up”. Greg and Jim could have owned them for attending fancy evening parties. Also note that the children were wearing their “Sunday clothes”, meaning that it was expected that they would also dress up for a party, in this case wearing their nice clothes they would wear to church.

Legerdemain is a phase meaning “sleight of hand” when doing tricks.

Since Jim’s dog Rusty is a recurring character in so many stories, it is a bit unusual that this one has Gyp, the Gordon Setter.

Slippery Elm!

November 20, 1943

Vice Versa

The dentist started drilling. I let out an indignant nnnn or two but he went right ahead.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, September 4, 1937.

“Mmmmmm,” moaned Jimmie Frise, “have I got a toothache!”

“Poor chap,” I sympathized. “When are you going?”

“I’m waiting,” said Jim, “to see if it will go away. Often, if you just sit tight…”

“My dear man,” I protested. “Don’t be absurd. You might just as well wait for a broken ankle to go away. A toothache is a reality. A dreadful reality. The tooth enamel has decayed and exposed the nerve. Or maybe it’s an abscess at the root. Anyway you’ve got to get it fixed. And right away.”

“Lots of times,” said Jim, “I’ve had little twinges and they’ve gone away.”

“How ridiculous,” I cried. “Jim, have you no sense at all? Don’t you even read the advertisements? Those little twinges were warnings. Now you’re getting the works.”

“You’re telling me,” said Jim, with a gaunt look, placing his palm tenderly against his jaw.

“Clean your teeth twice a day,” I quoted. “See your dentist twice a year, whether you think you need it or not. But good heavens, man, when you have had twinges of toothache, don’t you realize…?”

“I hate dentists,” said Jim, intensely. “I hate them.”

“What nonsense,” I stated. “Do you hate doctors? Do you hate motor mechanics?”

“I don’t know,” said Jim, haggardly. “Dentists are different.”

“Poppycock,” I said. “You go into a garage and see your poor car all dismembered and lying around in horrible rusty gobs, greasy and repellent. There with its hind end all jacked up in the air on a pulley, stands your poor car, the companion of your joys and sorrows, and do you hate the guy that has done it? Even when he presents you with the bill, do you hate him?”

“That isn’t it,” said Jim hollowly, looking at space.

“A doctor hurts you a heck of a lot more than a dentist,” I pointed out. “He cuts right through your hide. He makes swipes with his knife that are sheer agony.”

“Yeah, but you don’t feel them,” said Jim. “You’re unconscious.”

“Dentists have anaesthetics,” I cried.

“Local anaesthetics,” said Jim. “They jab a needle into your gums.”

“You can take gas,” I reminded him. “You can take a local anaesthetic, and feel nothing until you wake up.”

“Yeah,” said Jim. “But who would want to take a total anaesthetic for a mere toothache?”

I looked at him pityingly.

“What’s the use of arguing with a man like you?” I demanded. “You hate dentists, yet they can do more for you than any doctor living. They can whisk a tooth out, so you never feel it.”

“Until after,” said Jim.

“They can put you right under and do a week’s work on you,” I declared. “And you don’t know anything until it is over.”

“Yeah,” withered Jim, “until it’s over.”

Closely Allied to the Brain

“Anyway,” I said with finality, “you’ve got to go to a dentist. This tooth has been warning you. Like a baby, you have ignored the warnings. At last, it has collapsed. Now you’ve got to face the music. The nerve is exposed. Like a live wire, there it is, jumping and sizzling.”

“Throbbing,” said Jim, passionately.

“Exactly,” I said. “And now that you have delayed as long as possible, there is only one recourse. Who’s your dentist? I’ll make an appointment.”

I picked up the telephone.

“No, no,” begged Jim. “Wait a second. I think it is going away already.”

“Jim,” I said earnestly, “even if it does go away, don’t you understand that every twinge is a warning? This tooth is ill. It is slowly going to pieces.”

“What did our ancestors do,” demanded Jim, “before there were any dentists? They just grinned and bore it. And they were better men than us.”

“Jim,” I pleaded, “don’t be silly. Our ancestors died at the age of 40. It was their teeth that killed them.”

“They were tough,” said Jim. “They could take it.”

“Look at the miracles,” I informed him, “that modern dentistry is performing. They are discovering new connections every day between the teeth and disease. You see one of your friends slowly growing thin and old. His eyes are dim. He is suffering from arthritis. He is slowly withering away. They pull a few teeth, and presto, he is born again. His teeth were slowly poisoning him.”

“I’ve heard all that,” said Jim. “But there’s nothing the matter with me. All I’ve got is a thumping toothache.”

“They’re finding more than that,” I persisted. “They’re discovering that teeth are responsible for thousand things besides physical disease. Teeth are responsible for bad temper, insomnia, indigestion, high blood pressure, overweight, thinness, baldness, failing eyesight, sinus trouble, antrum trouble.”

“Corns, warts and bunions,” said Jim.

“The teeth,” I informed him, “are in the head. The nerves of the teeth are closely allied to the brain. It is only a matter of a fraction of an inch from the tooth to the brain. They are beginning to believe that teeth are responsible for our mental quirks. They think criminal tendencies are due to defective teeth.”

“Now who’s been reading the advertisements?” jeered Jim.

“I tell you,” I announced, “they have pulled teeth out of habitual criminals and cured them. The poison from those teeth was responsible for the weakness, the instability, the mental and nervous disturbance that made criminals of the subject.”

“Maybe I’m a cartoonist,” said Jim, “because my teeth are defective? Maybe if you had your teeth pulled, you’d be an insurance agent?”

“I wouldn’t wonder,” I assured him. “Only a thin, fragile bit of bone separates the teeth from the brain. That nerve that is jumping in your jaw right now, is it any wonder you are suffering?”

“Mmmmmmmm,” said Jim, hissing cold air through his teeth and putting on an expression of agony.

Too Much Imagination

“Come,” I said, “what’s your dentist’s name? We’ll get this over with.

“If only they wouldn’t fiddle,” moaned Jimmie. “If they wouldn’t fiddle and poke around and pry. If only they didn’t have that drill.”

“They’ve got to prospect around,” l explained. They have to locate the source and nature of the trouble.”

“Why don’t they just yank it out?” asked Jim. “I think I’d be willing to have it yanked out.”

“Don’t be silly,” I laughed. “They know their jobs. Come, what’s his name?”

So Jim gave me the name of his dentist and I looked up the number in the book and Jim himself called him.

“I’d like you to have a look at my teeth,” said Jim, smiling easily into the telephone, “one of these days.”

“Here!” I commanded sharply.

“Haven’t you a spot about a week from now?” said Jim, quite cheerfully.

Apparently the dentist had not. Apparently, he was going on his holidays at this late season, he being a musky fisherman. So Jim had to take an immediate appointment.

“This afternoon,” said Jim, wanly, as he hung up the receiver. “At 4.”

“Good,” I said, “That’s the boy. I’ll go with you.”

“Come along,” said Jim hollowly. “See me suffer. Sit out in the office, reading last December’s magazines and hear me groan.”

But nothing could deter me from accompanying Jimmie to the dentist’s. I wouldn’t put it past him running his car into a hydrant half way to the dentist’s rather than face the music. He is a man of too much imagination. I made it my business to stay right with him for the balance of the morning, had lunch with him and then, with ever increasing vigilance, remained in sight of him as the afternoon drew on. At lunch, he barely ate anything, so severely did his toothache make him suffer. Beads of perspiration came out on his forehead and he kept issuing great sighs instead of groans.

But about 3 p.m. he began to brighten.

“Do you know,” he said,” the blame thing is weakening! Really weakening. I can hardly feel it, for minutes at a time.”

“Go on,” I scorned.” Don’t kid yourself.”

“It’s a fact,” he declared. “I honestly believe it was just another of those twinges…”

“Jim,” I said, “use your head.”

“That’s precisely what I am doing,” said he. “Why embarrass my dentist who is hurrying to clean up his business so as to get away on a holiday? Why start something that may take weeks to finish? If this twinge goes away, like the others did. I can telephone him and make an appointment for October, some time, when he’s back, and he can do a proper series of work on that tooth.”

“Jim,” I said, “I never heard such subterfuging. Anybody knows that a toothache seems better as soon as you reach the dentist’s office. This is just a case of your imagination getting the better of you.”

“I Gave You More Credit”

“I’ll give him a ring,” said Jim, getting up.

“Jim,” I shouted. “I gave you more credit. This is childish. Your tooth is aching like sin. Get it fixed.”

Jim sat down again, his eyes turned aside as he listened for the toothache, as it were. A shadow of pain crossed his face.

“Very well,” he said, thinly. “We’ll go.”

And we went. I drove. We arrived promptly and without mishap at the dentist’s office at precisely 4 o’clock. There was one woman in the chair and three more waiting when we got up to his waiting room. It was 20 minutes to five by the time Jim’s turn came, and we read all the Geographic Magazines back as far as 1932 and Jim kept growing more and more cheerful as each of our predecessors was silently called into the inner studio. But at last Jim’s turn came, and the dentist, with a merry smile, beckoned him in. I walked in too, because in my heart, I knew perfectly well that old Jim was going to stage an alibi.

“Well,” laughed Jim heartily. “I’ve often heard about a toothache vanishing the minute you arrive at the dentist’s, but I never had it happen to me before.”

“Up here,” said the dentist tenderly, indicating the chair. “We’ll just have a look around.”

“I don’t even remember which side it was on,” said Jim, astonished at himself.

“We’ll just take a look,” soothed the dentist.

Jim straightened like a hero going to his execution, and sat up in the chair. The dentist tied on the bib and took the little mirror in hand and stood expectantly. Jim opened his mouth slightly.

The dentist peered and probed. He tapped around.

“Was it in this jaw?” he asked.

“Nnn, nnn,” said Jim, shaking his head.

“Upper jaw?” said the dentist.

“Nnnn, nnn, nnnn,” repeated Jim firmly.

The dentist got a little light and peered within the cavern. He probed and Jim sat like a rock. He had a kind of nut pick, with which he jabbed and scraped. Jim never uttered a sound, and the dentist frowning, sighed and grunted into Jim’s face.

“Well,” said the dentist, “I can’t see anything much wrong here. Was it on the left side or the right?”

“To tell you the truth,” said Jim, “I’m darned if I can recall. Maybe it was only a little neuralgia? Eh?”

“I see no signs of any cavities,” said the dentist. “As a matter of fact, your teeth are in pretty sound shape.”

Jim sat up eagerly.

“Wait a minute,” I said in a level voice. “Doctor, this man was in agony up to about an hour ago. It was his left jaw he had been holding all morning. A regular thumping toothache.”

“So You May Think”

The dentist was looking at me in a curious way. His eyes seemed narrowed right on to my mouth, as I spoke.

“Excuse me,” he said, suddenly stepping forward and taking my chin in his fingers. “Open. Open.”

“What is this?” I said, opening slightly.

“My dear sir,” said thee dentist anxiously “Step up here. Let me have a look at this.”

“What is it?” I said, standing firm.

“Caries. I’m afraid,” said the dentist, sadly. “Or perhaps trench mouth. Did you serve in the war?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“Sit up here, please,” said he, as Jim slid off the chair. I climbed into the chair numbly.

“Open,” said the dentist, the nut pick poised.

“Mmmmm,” he said, peering inside “Mmmm, mmm, mmmm.”

“Nnnn, nnnnnn?” I asked.

“Your teeth are in wicked shape,” he said. “Wicked shape. Have you been attending to your dental responsibilities regularly?”

“I have had no trouble with my teeth,” I assured him, “for ten years. They’re perfect.”

“So you may think,” said the dentist gravely. “That is the worst of our profession. Unless you are driven here by the toothache, you imagine your teeth are in no need. I assure you, sir, that if you don’t have these attended to immediately, you will have no teeth in a year or so.”

“Nonsense,” I said, “I can crack hickory nuts with my teeth.”

“You will be toothless in two years,” retorted the dentist.

“I’ll have them looked at,” I said, starting to get up.

“Wait a minute,” cried Jim, seizing my elbows and pulling me back down in the chair. “I’m alarmed. Doctor, take a look. Give us a survey. It won’t take a second. Just tell him the extent of the damage.”

“I’ve got my own dentist,” I said firmly.

“I’m worried,” said Jim. “This is my partner. I’m entitled to know about this. Good heavens, anything might happen to him if he lets his teeth go. Let’s have an outline of the situation.”

The dentist pried. He scraped and cracked things loose. He jabbed down under the edges and pried up. While my eyes were closed in disgust, he got his drill, unseen by me, and began drilling. I let out an indignant nnnn or two, but he went right ahead, with Jim holding me firmly but kindly.

“There’s about ten hours’ work on them,” said the dentist, at last. “Ten hours good work.”

Jim released me.

“I’ll see my dentist at once,” I said, getting out of the chair with dignity.

“I’ll make a memorandum for him,” said the doctor, earnestly.

So I’ve got an appointment for next week.

The dentist pried, scraped and cracked things loose. I let out an indignant nnnn or two, with Jim holding me firmly but kindly. (September 11, 1943)
At last Jim’s turn came, and the dentist, with a merry smile, beckoned him in. (September 9, 1944)

Editor’s Notes: I’ve mentioned before that stories were sometimes repeated while Greg was off as a war correspondent during World War Two, but this one had the unusual distinction of being repeated twice, in 1943 with the same title Vice Versa, and again in 1944 as Open Your Mouth.

I had never heard of a nut pick, a sharp metal pick for digging the meat out of a nut, often sold in sets with nut crackers, but I guess they are not as common now.

“Caries” is just another term for cavities, and “trench mouth” is an infection that causes swelling and ulcers in the gums. The term comes from World War I, when this infection was common among soldiers.

Mr. King on Post-War Canada

Prime Minister Mackenzie King of Canada

By Gregory Clark, August 14, 1943.

What will it be like in Canada after the war? By what changes in our way of life shall we Canadians who remain pay the debt of life and blood we owe to the Canadians who have passed over the highest and noblest divide?

Prime Minister Mackenzie King gave me his answers to these questions in an interview in Ottawa.

“There can be no doubt whatever now,” said Mr. King, “that Canada will be a better and a more interesting place for all to live in after the war. The foundations of the changes to come are already firmly laid down and everybody surely is aware of them. First of these fundamental facts is one over which there can be no disagreement among us. It is this: In the last war, by reason largely of her fighting men and their unforgettable performance, Canada emerged not only in her own consciousness but in the opinion of the world as a nation. In this war, by reason not merely of her fighting men but of her people as a whole and their wonderful performance, Canada is emerging as a world power. As a world power Canada’s policies will have to be world policies. It is unthinkable that Canada will not march with the very forefront of our United Nations in all things.

“The times in which we live,” said Mr. King, “constitute an epoch in human affairs. Human relations have never been so searchingly examined by mankind as a whole. This is not a time in which a little part of the world of a few nations have advanced themselves in the endless struggle of human progress. In this struggle the whole human race in involved. Canada finds herself at this critical and epochal hour just emerging as a world power entitled to march in the van. That is my reason for believing that after the war Canada will be a better, a happier, a more interesting place in which to live for every last one of us.”

“What changes do you foresee?” I asked.

“Social changes,” said Mr. King. “Security and the four freedoms first and last. The policy the government proposes to pursue will be to enlarge the field of opportunity for every man, woman and child by removing the inequalities that arise from false standards of wealth or social position.”

“That,” I said, “sounds like socialism.”

“It is social service,” declared the prime minister: “Simply social service. In the past social service has been held to narrow confines. The elements in our community life developed into social service have been special groups. It is, you might say, as if social service had been a scouting party out ahead of the main body of society. But social service now becomes, not a program but an actuality, not an ideal but a fact. What the scouting parties have discovered we move into. I think I can best describe what I expect Canada to be after the war as the promised land. For the promises of social service and social science for the past 50 years have had a definite goal in mind and that goal I sincerely believe is now in full sight.”

I suggested to Mr. King a theme that is receiving a good deal of attention lately, about the eternal problem of what to do with the clever and the shrewd in this world. Thousands of years ago we decided it was absurd that the strong should rule that the biggest man in the valley should rule the tribe, that he should steal all the prettiest girls, invade the most comfortable cave, beat into submission all others in the community was finally conceded to be unjust; and so law was born. Century by century the use of physical force was brought under control until today it is unlawful for you or me to carry a jackknife with a blade of more than three inches. Today we are at war with a new and perhaps the last great struggle of physical force to resume its mastery over human destiny. But in our long battle we forgot the mentally strong, the strong-willed, the strong-minded. What is the difference between a 250-pound man with a battle-axe and a measly little man with fifty million dollars? Have we come to the time when those endowed with mental strength must be persuaded as we have persuaded the physically strong that the strength belongs to us all and is not a gift in their own right to use lawlessly as they see fit for the control the intimidation and the abuse of their fellow men?

“That fits perfectly,” agreed the prime minister, “with a curious notion I have had lately that history has been on three planes, the earth, the sea and the sky. In ancient days life was lived and wars fought on land. That might be the epoch of physical rule. Then men discovered the seas and went abroad into the world exploring and investigating one another and warring still. That would correspond to the epoch of mental and intellectual rule. Now mankind has moved into the air, the sky. Suddenly we are not only in intimate contact with all the world about us but we are terribly at war with one another.”

“Do you think,” I asked, “that there is spiritual strength in man in view of the world as it appears today?”

“I believe,” said the prime minister in sudden complete simplicity, “in the survival after death of human personality. I believe that a man is an end in himself and not a means to any end. I believe humanity is above all race and all class and that we should love our fellow man not because he is a Canadian or a Frenchman or a Chinese but because he is a fellow mortal bent upon the same journey with us. With all my heart after nearly 50 years of a life devoted entirely to social service, I am convinced that the spiritual capacity of the human race is at its dawn. And when you ask me will Canada be a better place to live in after the war my answer is the world will be a better place to live in.”

“Why are you so sure?” I asked.

“Because the whole history of humanity has been a struggle, often cruel and long sustained,” said the prime minister, “but a never-ending victory for the greater number. Human progress has never been a steady upward slope. It has been a series of plateaus and of sudden steep ascents. We are in the midst of one of the steepest ascents yet experienced. To go back to your analogy of the physically strong and mentally strong, our enemies have asserted again and probably for the last time, the ancient claims of the physically strong. They have persecuted and destroyed among themselves and among their victims those who asserted spiritual or intellectual strength. Their battle today is for the restoration of physical strength to its prehistoric eminence. They will fail. They will be destroyed, and I trust with them all claims forever to the right of physical strength to rule mankind. But in this struggle we are climbing another ascent in the series of plateaus and cliffs by which humanity moves. And in this ascent I believe we shall discover at the top another plateau in which strength of mind or will or even of spirit will no longer demand the rights and privileges over the rest of humanity it has claimed in the past.”

A Curious Parallel

“You spoke a minute ago,” I said, “of your life devoted to social service?”

The prime minister smiled awkwardly and pressed the button on his desk. Walter Turnbull, the private secretary, came in.

“Where are those little handbills,” inquired the prime minister. “I was looking at the other day?”

In a few minutes Walter Turnbull returned with three little old handbills each about the size of a sheet of letter paper. They were faded and in an old fashion. I examined one. It was headed, “The Passmore Edwards Settlement, Tavistock Place, London,” and it was dated December, 1899. It announced a series of lectures by W. L. Mackenzie King. The first lecture was, “What is the Main Feature of the Labor Problem?” The second lecture in that settlement house in a London working class region 44 years ago was entitled, “Some Current Industrial Troubles.”

“How old are you, sir?” I inquired.

“Sixty-eight,” said Mr. King.

“Then you were 24 when you were delivering these lectures in a London slum?” I inquired, “Will you tell me a little about that? How did you come to be looking at these old handbills just lately?”

“I was invited to Columbia university,” he said, “three months or so ago to receive an honorary degree. On the same occasion Sir William Beveridge was receiving a degree. I then recollected that while I was at the Passmore Edwards, or Mary Ward Settlement as it is now called, in London, Sir William Beveridge was warden at Toynbee Hall, another settlement a few blocks away in the poor districts of London doing the same work. I thought it a curious parallel that two young men living and serving at the same time in the same work in London’s laboring district should meet after 44 years at Columbia university for the purpose of receiving honorary degrees. Sir William remained in the academic field to which I had every intention of devoting my life. By accident I was directed into public life and politics, yet I regard my life as having been devoted to social service.”

Three little cheap leaflets advertising meetings in a London Slum settlement at the very dawn of this century at which lectures on social security and labor were delivered by a young man destined to become prime minister of a great and rising young nation. In 1896 and 1897 Mackenzie King, newly graduated from Toronto university, lived at Hull House in Chicago where, under the direction of the famous Jane Addams, he studied poverty and social problems in the slums of the uprising American city. Then he went to Harvard for two years and won a travelling scholarship that took him to the Mary Ward Settlement in London for two years where he lived right in the settlement day and night studying and serving the needs of the working masses of London, lecturing to them and leading discussion groups. It was this experience that led him to accept Sir William Mulock’s invitation when still in his late 20’s to organize for the Canadian government a department of labor. That is how a social service worker of 44 years ago became a social service worker in the great modern field of tomorrow.

The prime minister told me that his book. published in 1918, “Industry and Humanity,” which is still a live textbook in universities in all parts of the world, was mainly the result of his experience in the social settlements of Chicago and London.


Editor’s Notes: This seems like a very simple interview with softball questions by Greg. It also seems padded out to fill space. The Toronto Star was a Liberal supporting paper at the time so, this would be expected.

You can read more about William Lyon Mackenzie King, Walter Turnbull, William Beveridge, and Jane Addams.

Commando Raid

July 17, 1943

There was a huge shortage of farm workers during the Second World War. Help came from various groups. These groups included the Farm Girls Brigade (composed of women under 26), the Farm Cadets and Farmerette Brigade (summer students and teachers), the Women’s Land Brigade (volunteer housewives), the Farm Commandos (part-time adult helpers), and the Children’s Brigade (youngsters under 15).

Brown Market

The old boy forked the frying chops which sizzled with the most punishing of savours!

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, June, 19, 1943.

“What a waste,” cried Jimmie Frise, “of valuable energy.”

“Where?” I inquired, glancing about the passing countryside.

“Right here, in this car,” declared Jim hotly. “You and me.”

“I can think,” I stated, “of no more honest use of our few gasoline coupons than visiting an old friend who is perhaps on his deathbed. Sam is one of our oldest friends.”

“What I mean,” cut in Jimmie, “is, we could have killed two birds with one stone. Right back there we crossed another trout stream.”

“I wish, Jim,” I said sternly, “that you would give up this eternal struggle to carry on your life as usual. We have entered into a solemn pledge not to waste our time, energy, money or gas on idle sport. Okay, let us stick to it, in the letter and the spirit.”

“Look,” pleaded Jim. “If one thing is going to hamper the war effort of this country, it is being stupid and stodgy. Never in our lives has it been more important that we use our imaginations, that we remain flexible and intelligent and alert, so that our every act, our every dollar, our every calorie, shall be fully spent to the best value. What is our situation right now? Sam, our lifelong friend, is very ill and has sent word that he would love to see us. We couldn’t get to his place by bus. And to go by train would be difficult, tedious and expensive of time. So we decide to use four of our precious coupons in driving out to visit him. Okay. After all, the human factor still survives, even in the midst of total war.”

“Total,” I asserted.

“Now,” said Jim, “in going to Sam’s, we know we have to cross at least seven famous trout streams.”

“Aw, Jim,” I snorted impatiently.

“Wait a minute,” insisted Jim. “We are both expert trout fishermen. Not many men in this country can get as many trout, in as short a time, as you and I. In certain respects, you and I are fish hogs.”

“Pardon me,” I stated. “I resent that.”

Just a Line of Talk

 “Well, what I mean,” said Jim, “is, we could be professional fishermen, if we had to. There are not many tricks about taking trout out of a stream that you and I don’t know, are there?”

“I haven’t been really skunked,” I confessed, “in the past 15 years.”

“Okay,” pursued Jimmie. “There is, at the moment, a food shortage throughout our country. Every pound of meat we eat, every sausage, every chicken, is just another cipher added to the shortage.”

“Mmmmm,” I muttered, seeing his line.

“We have,” said Jim, “in the past half hour, crossed half a dozen trout streams. In each of them are several hundred pounds of speckled trout, the finest, if I may suggest, the finest meat in the world. And we have stupidly, ignorantly, pig-headedly passed right over them, though they were ours for the mere asking. Why? Because of a wholly unintelligent pledge we made with each other not to indulge in sport. It’s criminal, that’s what it is!”

“Jim,” I stated wearily, “it is just such a line of argument as you are using that is the curse of our war effort right now. What you have just said, in relation to our little problem, is being said by men and women all over Canada, only in relation to their own lives, habits and desires. Big industrialists, bankers, financiers and members of the board are sawing off, just the way you want us to saw off, about trout fishing. Before them is the straight, grim hard road of war. But every one of them is seeking the rational, the sensible course by which they can follow that straight, hard road and at the same time take a little shortcut to pick a few daisies. Each of them is searching for the ideal system by which they may give their all, and at the same time keep as much as possible.”

“Hah, the usual cynical line,” cut in Jim.

“If it were cynical,” I assured him, “it would not be so bad. But it is here, right in this car, with us. It is in great big factories, where, for all the furious war activity, the deepest thinking around the place is being done for the future salvation of the factory. Not a worker in the factory but spends some minutes of every day talking or thinking about his private rights and privileges, and how to improve or secure them.”

“Rightly so,” declared Jim.

The Pharisees of War

“We are the Pharisees of war,” I submitted. “It is more important that we appear to be in the war effort than that we are in it. Great and terrible as are the demands of war, our own little private concerns are deeper in our hearts.”

“There are exceptions,” said Jim.

“Yes, I admitted. “There are, after all, a few really good people in the world. But, like white pine, they are usually far back from the railroads. I am speaking about us all, as a whole.”

“Still,” said Jim, slowing the car at the top of a long slope from which we could see a great dark valley full of cedar swamp, amidst which we knew one of the finest little trout streams in Ontario chills its secret course, “still, I think this case is different. We have to visit Sam. We have to use gas. We have to cross over these streams where, in maybe one hour you and I could take, for the alleviation of the food shortage, ten pounds each of the finest food…”

“Jim,” I said, closing my eyes so I could not see the valley, “you cannot temporize with life, much less with war. You have to set a hard and often grim rule. And stick to it as you would the ten commandments.”

Slowly down the mile long slope we coasted.

“I’m saving gas,” explained Jim, eating up the valley with his eyes.

When we entered the first fringe of the cedars, it was cool and fragrant, and Jim drove even slower. And when we reached the bridge over the stream, he stopped the car altogether.

We sat and looked at the beautiful dark, hurrying water. There is no water on earth as beautiful as a trout stream’s. There is a majesty about noble rivers. The St. Lawrence, below Quebec; the Ottawa above Mattawa, a noble river little known to millions of Ontarians: the Fraser, amid its mountains, a drama all unto itself. Certain lakes are incredibly beautiful. The sea is often so mighty in its beauty that it leaves you shrivelled and shrunken from that hour forth. But a trout stream, to be a trout stream, has to come from pure springs. It must travel in cool ways, avoiding the warmth of the open sun. It must be broken with riffles and rapids and falls, it must be alive and full of air, to be a trout stream. It must be secret and aloof in its character.

Jim got out the far side and I got out my side and we walked cautiously to the edges of the bridge and peered down under. Dark, quivering shadows darted this way and that, and suddenly a large trout, the size of a stick of stove wood, swung majestically around and hung poised in the shadows, its orange and milk edged fins fanning.

“You,” grated Jimmie, “and your temporizing! If it hadn’t been for you, there would be a fly rod in the back of my car.”

“Do you mean to say,” I demanded bitterly, “that you haven’t a fly rod in the back of your car?”

Jim just gave me a long, cold stare, as if he had never seen me before.

“In the back of my car,” I stated indignantly, “there is always an old fly rod. I always keep an old rod and a box of flies …”

Jim jerked so violently, the big trout vanished and all the small ones darted in all directions frantically. He walked off the bridge and wandered up the streamside amid the cedars, pausing to look cautiously into each pool. I went downstream, peering into the log jammed pools and seeing many a trout of good size, half a pound and up. In about 10 minutes, over 50 yards of water, I saw my 10 pounds of potential wartime emergency provisions.

By the time I got back to the bridge, Jimmie had cooled out, and he was signalling me eagerly from a clump of cedars up the stream.

When I reached him, he led me, stepping as soft as possible, to the edge of a pool. A spring came in there, right in the stream bed, and its golden sand whirled and eddied not only from the current but from the billowing up of icy fresh water from the earth. There, alert and filled with the lightning of their species, five glorious speckled trout circled and poised, ready for instant flight. They were all of a size, which would be about 16 inches each, or say a pound and ten ounces per.

“There,” hissed Jim, “is war effort!”

And after a good quarter hour of fascination, we wended our way back through the brush to the car, Jimmie not speaking at all.

He got in and slammed his door. I got in and shut mine politely. Jim stepped on the starter. It growled.

It continued to growl.

“Wait a minute, maybe she’s flooded,” I suggested.

Jim rested her a few seconds, and then impatiently tramped on the starter again. At the end of five minutes, we knew something was wrong with the engine. We had the hood up. We examined the carburetor. We checked the wiring to the spark plugs. We did all the things we could think of. But the engine was very hot. And very dead.

“What time is it?” demanded Jim.

“It’s just noon,” I replied.

“We were to be at Sam’s at noon,” said Jim pettishly, “and it’s another 30 miles to Sam’s.”

“Let her cool for a little while,” I suggested.

A Treat For the Eyes

So we stood around and studied the stream some more. I went back up to the spring hole and sat down and soaked my eyes in those five lunkers. Jim kept fiddling about the car. He put a hatful of the icy stream water into the radiator. I heard him grinding the starter again, and I came out.

“Don’t wear your battery out,” I warned.

In reply to which, Jim gave the horn a short, sharp snort.

“Well,” he cried, “are we going to spend all day here? If we only had a trout rod…”

“Let’s walk up the road,” I suggested, and find a telephone. Maybe in the next village there is a garage.”

Which we did. The valley was wide, maybe half a mile, and just at the far edge of it, where the cedars began to give way to hardwood, we saw a little cabin set back in the woods.

In the doorway, an elderly man was standing and he waved cheerily at us.

We walked in his path to inquire where we could get the nearest telephone.

He was a genial old boy. Apparently he was just cooking his lunch, for he had an old tea towel in his hand, and from the door came the most ravishing odor of cooking.

“No phone,” he said, “within two miles. Abbott’s used to have a phone, just over the top of the hill, there. But they took it out about 12 years ago.”

“Two miles,” we sighed, for it was a warm day and a long hill ahead.

“Stay right here,” suggested the old boy, “and in about an hour, Jake the mail man comes by. He’ll give you a lift to the nearest phone.”

“Mmmm,” I said, “we don’t want to interrupt your dinner.”

“Come on in,” cried the old boy, “and share it. I don’t often get visitors. It’ll be a pleasure.”

“Is it trout?” I inquired eagerly.

“No, I’m fed up with trout,” said the old boy. “I’ve ate enough trout this year to last me. What with the prices they can get, the farmers around here even haven’t any eggs, let alone a bit of meat. But sit down, I’ll have a dish fit for the king in another 10 minutes.”

We came inside the tidy cabin and the old boy went to the stove and forked the frying chops which sizzled with the most punishing of savors.

“No woman here?” I asked.

“Never had a woman here,” said the old boy above the frying, “women, are too pernickety for me. I like to lead my own life, always have.”

New Kind of Chops

We had arrived at the psychological moment, for the chops were just done, the potatoes were boiled and a small saucepan full of some fragrant sauce was simmering on the back of the stove. In a few exciting minutes, the old boy had three tin plates all neatly portioned and laid before us.

“Aaaah,” he said, “that sauce is made of things I picked up in the bush right handy here. Pepper root, wild garlic, tansy mustard and sweet cicely! Have plenty.”

And from the saucepan he poured liberal helpings of the sauce over the golden brown chops.

We set to.

“Gosh, that’s good!” I exclaimed.

“Lamb?” inquired Jim.

“You’d be crazy to eat lamb now,” said the old boy, stuffing it in. “Conserve your lamb, brother. Mutton will bring a good price next winter.”

“What on earth is it?” I asked, for the chops were not chops at all, but neat little sections of tender and delicate steak. I even got a miniature rib on one of my pieces.

“What do you say it is?” the old boy asked Jim.

“Well, sir, it’s mighty good, whatever it is,” said Jim. “Would it be chicken?”

“Guess again,” laughed the old boy, stowing away, and mopping up the wild herb sauce with his potato.

So we tasted and tested and guessed. And by the time we had tasted it all and tested and rolled it about and savored and sniffed, and gave up, the old boy sat back, with a heavy sigh.

“The red ones,” he said, “are no good. Only the gray ones. The grayer the better…”

“Squirrel?” I cried.

“No, groundhog,” said the old boy, picking his teeth. “Young choice groundhog. I call it the Brown Market.

Jim and I could not think of anything to say so we just looked at him.

“It stands to reason,” he said, “that a groundhog should be choice victuals, because it eats only the best. From early spring to late autumn, only the finest shoots of young wheat, garden vegetables, Brussels sprouts, only the finest.”

“I thought it would be kind of soft…” ventured Jim, trying his voice.

“Not it,” said the old boy, “Only use the good gray ones, cut out the little kernels from under the fore legs, boil him for an hour to remove any flavor there might be, and then fry him. You’ve got a dish for the king.”

I felt all right. I felt good, as a matter of fact, except spiritually. Moses did not mention groundhogs in his instructions to the Chosen People; but somehow I felt I had just offended against Holy Writ.

So we thanked the old boy. And on Jim’s suggestion, the mail man not having come by, we walked the half mile back to give the car one more try before deciding to walk the two miles over the hill.

At the first growl, the starter took, and the engine leaped to life.

“There you are, Jim,” I said. “If we had had trout rods with us, we would never have tasted groundhog.”

“Erp,” said Jim, giving her the gun.


Editor’s Note: The wild herbs mentioned are pepper root, wild garlic, tansy mustard and sweet cicely.

Pardon My Elbow!

Giving me the elbow so that my head banged against the upright rail, she aimed her shot and brought her heel down on my foot.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, February 13, 1943

“Meet me,” instructed Jimmie Frise, “at exactly 10 to 5.”

“Make it 5,” I suggested.

“No, sir, not by a jugful,” cried Jim. “I don’t want to get torn to pieces, and clawed and trampled into the bargain.”

“I beg your pardon?” I inquired.

“If you’re not there by 10 to 5,” stated Jimmie, “I’ll go on. Ten to 5 on the dot.”

“What is all this?” I insisted. “Why the exact specifications?”

“If you get on the street car,” explained Jim, “at 10 to 5, you can get far enough back in the car to have a fighting chance. But at five minutes to 5, the women are already on the run. And at 5 exactly, the stampede of the women is on. Your life isn’t worth a cent if you get in their path.”

“Women!” I protested. “How do you mean?”

“Don’t tell me,” said Jim, “that you haven’t been on a crowded street car lately. Don’t tell me you haven’t observed the Wartime Woman.”

“Jimmie,” I enunciated, scandalized, “the womanhood of Canada has risen to a man…”

“Yah,” cried Jim. “You hit it on the head. Risen to a man. That’s the trouble.”

“Why, Jimmie,” I protested. “If it weren’t for the women who are helping in industry, in the factories and munitions plants, where would we be right now?”

“It’s not the munitions girls I’m talking about,” asserted Jimmie. “They’re wonderful. They’re real he-men, to the core. They’ve got all the best traits of the men whose work they are doing. They have all a man’s innate courtesy and consideration for his fellow mortal.”

“Then who …?” I demanded.

“Wait till I finish with the war worker,” said Jim. “Those girls demonstrate a curious fact: give a girl a man’s work to do, and she develops the character of a man. I think the sight of a street car crowded with tired munitions girls going home from work is one of the most moving spectacles of our time. Weary to the bone after a long day’s toil, free by reason of their work clothes from that awful self-consciousness which the ancient laws of style and personal beauty have imposed on women, they sit relaxed, their faces untouched by make-up, with a softness and naturalness that a man somehow associates only with his nearest and dearest, like his mother or sister; those munitions girls are far more lovely to look at than they dream.”

“I agree,” I said.

The Wartime Woman

“If girls only knew,” sighed Jim, “how much more attractive and truly appealing they are when they are tired, a little dishevelled and unconscious of themselves.”

“A man,” I said, “hardly ever falls in love with a girl, no matter how hard she slaves over her make-up and clothes and pretty ways, until suddenly one day he catches her in tears, or scared to death or all mussed up and bewildered. That’s when a man falls in love.”

“When he sees,” summed up Jim, “what a girl really is, not what she is trying to be, he feels it safe to fall in love with her.”

“That’s it,” I declared. And I bet you some of the happiest marriages this world has ever seen are being framed up right now, when all those beautiful girls in the factories and war plants are being too busy to be anything but themselves.”

“Isn’t it a pity so many of the boys are away at the war,” Jim muttered. “The best guys may be missing their match.”

“Never,” I cried. “What these girls in the factories are learning about being natural they will never forget. And the wisest of them know that one fine day, a quarter of a million young unmarried men are coming swarming home from war, fuller of love of home and all the things that really matter to a happy life than any of the canny lads who have stayed home, no matter how valuable their services here may be. Those girls will wait for their boys to come home, don’t fear.”

“It’s not the munitions girls I’m scared of,” declared Jim.

“Then who’s this Wartime Woman you referred too?” I inquired.

“War,” detailed Jim, “due to the absence of a huge percentage of the male population, places new and unaccustomed burdens and duties on women. Those who enter men’s work, like in factories, are brought under men’s discipline. But of those who remain women, though brought out of the home into business and affairs, some become a problem.”

“How?” I inquired.

“It has taken men centuries and centuries,” explained Jim, “through contact with one another in the market place and the factory, to learn public manners. I grant you, men’s manners are still a long way from perfect. But you rarely find a man who will act in a crowded street car the way too many women do.”

“Jim,” I cautioned him, “you are on very dangerous ground. One of the oldest traditions in the world is the tradition of the gentler sex.”

“Gentle my elbow,” snorted Jim. “Women are lawless, untamed. For centuries, we have had to keep them tied up in the home while we men went out into the world to try and work out a system of civilization.”

“If women are so untamed,” I demanded, “how did we weak, sentimental men succeed in keeping them tied up in the home?”

“By refusing to marry any but the kind who would stay home,” Jim explained. “We men glorified the soft, feminine, gentle characteristics of an imaginary ideal womanhood. We hoped, by the process of natural selection, to eliminate the lawless woman. It worked to some extent. For a few centuries, we kept them tied up with domestic duties, family cares, trying to get them all worn out before they could break loose. We’ve always known they were untamed. We built up our civilization, in the hope that it would be too strong for the women to destroy even if they did get free. Then, 40 years ago, about the start of the 20th century, they got free. They entered business. Next they got the vote. Now they are loose upon the world. And look at it.”

Ladies in a Hurry

“For mercy’s sake,” I protested, “you don’t blame the women for the mess the world is in today!”

“The 20th century,” stated Jim, “is already known to history as the Bloody Century. Two of the most savage wars in all human history have taken place, and the century’s not half over yet. Now, what is the other thing the 20th century is notable for? What basic thing, different from all others? The emancipation of women.”

“Why, Jim, this is terrible,” I cried. “To accuse womanhood of any share in the things they hate and detest most …”

“Who hates and detests?” demanded Jim. “Is it that ideal woman we men have been dreaming up for a couple of thousand years? You just wait till we get on the street car after 5 o’clock. Anyway, I make no accusations. I draw no morals. All I do is go into the forest of speculation and bring out a few logs of fact. You do the building any way you like. I say the century of the emancipation of women happens also to be the Bloody Century. Maybe there is no connection.”

“The 20th century,” I cried, “has seen the greatest strides in social reform in all history. And the influence of women is to be credited with much of that reform.”

“The 20th century,” announced Jim, “is also the bloodiest century in human history. No other century can hold a candle to it.”

“But how could women be involved in that?” I shouted.

“Good grief,” shouted Jim, “it’s five to 5! Come on!”

So we grabbed our coats and hats and hurried out to the elevator. The elevator was full of girls, all with very determined expressions on their faces. The girl operating the elevator said:

“Room for one only.”

And as I tried to squeeze in beside Jim, she threw the lever that automatically slides the door shut, and I was very nearly sliced like a ham.

“Wait for me,” I yelled to Jim as the elevator door slammed.

The next elevator had a couple of men in it, along with about twice as many girls as the elevator would hold. The men held their breath and drew in their stomachs to allow me to squeeeeeeze in.

As the elevator door opened on the ground floor, and I stood aside to let the ladies out first, the lady behind me gave me a shove in the back with her knuckle.

“Okay, lady, no hurry,” I mumbled.

Jim was standing over by the pillars and we joined forces and fought our way out the revolving doors. Girls are nimble. They have grace. They can nip through revolving doors. But a man likes to approach a revolving door deliberately.

It was spinning too fast for me; so I paused. Two spaces whizzed round empty.

“Come on, Grampaw,” said a commanding voice behind me, and a young lady bunted me into the next vacancy and came round with me.

“Young lady…” I said indignantly as we popped out on the street and I caught my hat.

But she was gone in the throng.

“See?” said Jim, coming pop out after me.

When we reached the street car stop, there was a big crowd, about equally men and women. Three cars arrived in a bunch. The second one was our choice. We ran for it.

So did about five determined looking men and about nine women and girls. The men won.

They grabbed the hand rails and clung on the steps.

The girls panted behind us.

“How about this, Jim?” I inquired, my face buried in the coat tails of the gentleman ahead of me.

“Aw, we have to get on first,” explained Jim, “because the girls have to hunt through their handbags for their street car tickets. It is always best for the men to get on first, because they always have their tickets in their hands.”

“I see,” I said, hoisting myself another step up.

And more by luck than good management, Jim and I, poke checking a couple of men ahead of us, and executing a sort of echelon movement familiar to students of naval battles, got an empty seat together.

“Aaaaah,” we breathed, in a sigh familiar to all street car riders.

The warlike women poured in after us, nabbing seats with agility and speed until the seats were all filled and they scattered themselves down the aisles. None of them paused near Jim and me until, near the last of the load, a lady of about our age, obviously not a downtown worker but a shopper, came and grabbed the handrail of the seat with a very heavy sigh and a slight groan.

And she leaned back slightly and stared expectantly at Jimmie and me.

“How about it, Jim?” I murmured, when she shifted her fierce gaze off us for a minute.

“We come to a factory in two or three blocks,” said Jim out the side of his mouth. “Save our seats for a couple of war workers.”

“Okay,” I said firmly, and stared with intense interest, like a stranger in town, out the window.

The lady in the red-feathered hat and handbag, swayed alarmingly as the car started and stopped. She braced herself in the aisle against all who attempted to squeeze down the car to make room.

Her handbag caught Jim a couple of suggestive cracks on the ear. She continued emitting heavy sighs and faint groans and occasionally seemed to be muttering to herself. But I kept watching out the window with unabated interest.

Then we came to the factory street stop which we knew by the merry sounds of laughter and of crowds outside the car doors.

“Move down, lots of “room at the back,” cried the motorman heartily.

“Umffff,” snorted the lady beside us, holding her ground.

But despite her efforts, half a dozen of the slim war workers managed to eel their way past and at the sight of the first of them, Jim and I leaped dutifully to our feet and with the detached courtesy that becomes grizzle-headed old gents, gave them our seats.

“When We Stop Idealizing”

I could feel the lady’s breath hot on the back of my neck. For an instant, I feared for myself.

“Mashers,” she muttered; but I heard her.

The car started.

I lurched back. My foot came down on something softish and lumpish.

“Ow-ooooo!” screeched the lady with the red handbag.

And giving me the elbow so that my head banged against the upright rail, she aimed her shot and brought her heel down on my foot.

“Clumsy fool,” she grated.

I limped down the car and Jim followed, screening my confusion from the eyes of those who had witnessed the little contretemps.

“See?” murmured Jimmie in my ear, when we found a spot to cling.

I was too busy suffering to continue the debate. But after about 30 blocks, the crowd thinned in the car and I saw the lady in the red feathered hat get off the car and shake herself with all the grace of a horse getting up after a roll in the stubble.

“She didn’t get a seat all the way,” I gloated.

“Now you see what I mean about women,” said Jim. “No man would deliberately stamp on your foot like that.”

“But my dear sir,” I exclaimed, “she was only one. Look at all the rest of the fair sex in this car. All quiet and feminine and self-effacing. You can’t base a whole philosophy on one woman in a carload.”

“How’s your foot?” inquired Jim.

“I think,” I said, wriggling them cautiously, “she broke one of my toes.”

“Well, it wasn’t any man did that,” argued Jim.

“The thing is too complicated for me, Jim,” I pleaded. “That lady belonged to our generation. She was brought up to expect a seat in a car, no matter how crowded. It wasn’t my accidentally stepping on her foot that made her sore. She felt insulted.”

“Maybe,” said Jim, “we were at fault in idealizing them. If that dame is a sample of what idealizing does, we were wrong. If all the rest of the girls in this car are a sample of what letting them work in factories does, we sure were wrong.”

“Maybe keeping them tied up at home,” I submitted, “made them bad tempered, like tying up a dog.”

“Maybe,” rounded up Jimmie, “when we stop idealizing all things for our own comfort and security, even wars will end.”

And then a couple of dopey looking downtown business men, who had been sitting like two potatoes all the way, got up.

And Jimmie and I, like two potatoes, sat down for the remaining seven blocks.


Editor’s Note: A lot of creative writing had to go into this piece to both praise and complain about women on the home front during World War Two. I can picture their editor being very careful to ensure that women working would not be offended.

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