The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

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Appearances are Deceiving

“Yah,” I roared out past Jim, “yah, you big windbag, what are you holding up traffic for?”
“Nix,” hissed Jim, “It’s a cop!”

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, July 17, 1937.

“Policemen,” said Jimmie Frise, “always ought to be in motor cars; not on motor cycles.”

“The law,” I disagreed, “is a game. If you can see a cop on a motorcycle, it’s fair. It is conceded in all civilized countries that cops should not be allowed to hide.”

“Modern traffic,” said Jim, who was watching me steer my car amidst the hot and anxious outward bound traffic of Saturday noon, “modern traffic has got past the amusement stage. It’s a game no longer. Now that the Ontario speed limit has been increased from 35 miles an hour on highways to 50 miles, and in cities and towns from 20 up to 30 miles an hour, a strange and grim psychological factor has emerged.”

“What’s that?” I inquired.

“When the law was 35 miles an hour,” said Jim, “hardly anybody obeyed it. But the knowledge that we were exceeding the limit gave us all a margin of caution. We were alert. Being already guilty of one breach of the law, to wit, going faster than 35, we were a little cautious about breaking it any other way. We were wide awake in the first place for speed cops. We had a guilty conscience, even if only a subconscious or semi-conscious guilty conscience. It made us careful, alert.”

“I follow you,” I confessed.

“Now that the law is 50,1” went on Jim, “that guilty conscience has evaporated. The only sense of guilt we have is when we are driving less than 50, and we wonder if other drivers are put out with us for not keeping up with the Joneses”.

“I believe you’re right,” I admitted, stepping slightly on the gas to increase my speed from 34 to 37.

“Now, a sense of guilt,” explained Jim, “is one of the greatest and most humane of civilized forces. It is our general sense of guilt that makes us kindly, tolerant and good natured towards our fellow men.”

A large blue car swerved angrily past us and the lady in the near seat turned and said something bitter to me. I couldn’t hear her words but if I put the right meaning to the shape of her mouth, that lady certainly is no lady.

“See?” cried Jim. “Before the law was changed, her sense of guilt would have prevented her from cursing you. Now she is free to call you names if you aren’t doing at least 50.”

“Psychology is a funny thing,” I mused.

“No, it’s human nature is funny,” agonized Jim. “With no need for caution under 50 miles an hour as far as cops are concerned, old rattletrap cars that should not ever exceed 30 miles an hour are going to be going as near 50 as they can. And every instant they are on the road they are a menace to human life.”

“There goes one now,” I said, as a shabby old top-heavy sedan with narrow tires of the vintage of 1925, slithered past us and did a sort of Charlie Chaplin skid to get straight on the pavement again.

To Miss the Old Fear

“Then,” said Jim, “plenty of drivers of perfect cars, as far as mechanism is concerned, but who intellectually are incapable of driving more than 40 miles an hour – you know, the kind of people who are clumsy and always spilling things and bumping into things are going to miss that old restraining fear of cops sorely. Such people really need that fear. Without it, they are helpless.”

“Listen to that,” I murmured, as a car behind me continued to snort its horn savagely until I got away over to the side of the pavement. And when it passed, four furious faces leaned and glared out the windows at me.

“You take the young fellow driving one of those rattletrap old cars,” said Jim. “He has, for instance, three other young people in the car with him. He is going 35, which is all the machine is capable of without swerving right off the road. When his companions egg him on to greater speed, he had, heretofore, the excuse that there is a speed cop usually on the top of the hill ahead. But now, what excuse can he offer? Will he say his car is too poor and rickety to risk any more speed? No young man could admit any such thing. So what does he do? He tries for 50 and the admiration of his companions. And just as he lurches and slithers over the top of that next hill, who does he collide with or send head over heels into the ditch but a perfectly nice lady with a carload of children, going 40 miles an hour?”

“It’s bad,” I admitted, as a car driven by a white-haired old lady zipped past me, going about 60.

“Motorcycle cops, therefore,” said Jim, “should be abolished and police should be equipped with ordinary cars of various makes and colors. So that the motorists never know but what the car behind them or the car coming towards them is police.”

“Ah,” I agreed. “A new hazard. A new fear.”

“Correct,” said Jim. “And the police should be most active on the highways, touring day and night at a brisk pace, watching for cutter-ins, hill passers, curve passers; they should pursue and give an official warning to all drivers of old ashcans that were driving at any speed that made them wobble and lurch. Fines for recklessness should never be less than $252, so that for all fools there would be a real terror of coming too fast around curves or attempting to pass without reasonable distance being given.”

“We must put some sort of fear into them,” I declared, for now we were outside the city and on to a wider strip of pavement so that the traffic behind, which had been fairly patient, now began to get excited like lions at feeding time at the zoo and start to zip and cut and swerve and duck in their anxiety to get ahead.

“What’s the good of their doing that?” demanded Jim. “Don’t they realize that there is a line-up for miles ahead of them? What good is it going to do them to scare the wits out of you by cutting in ahead of you with two seconds to spare, when they are going to have to keep that up all the way to Muskoka?”

“It’s a nervous sort of thrill. I suppose,” I said. “It’s like gambling. Like roulette. They would go to sleep if they had to drive steadily. Only by hop-scotching around like that do they keep awake.”

“I wish there were double the cops,” said Jim, “and all incognito in plain cars. That would stop those St. Vitus dance3 drivers. We ought to adopt the system of having a big red enamel patch painted on the back of every car that is convicted of reckless driving. With three patches on your car, 30 miles an hour is your absolute limit. You’d feel like a marked man then, and behave.”

“Look Who’s Ahead of Us”

“Boy, did you see that?” I breathed as two cars, chasing each other at 50 miles an hour, both dove back into the line ahead of us to make way for a big passenger bus coming tearing along in the opposite direction at 50, too.

I had to change gears on account of the sudden stoppage the cutting in of the two cars ahead had created. Minute by minute as we got out into the country it grew worse. Those who knew the law was 50 miles an hour wanted to go 50, and were indignant at all those who didn’t. They kept cutting out and in and charging ahead until in a little while the congestion ahead of us was so bad we were not only slowed to 30 miles but gradually formed a solid line, and frequent dead stops were necessary.

“Oh,” I snarled, “where are the cops?”

“The only way to travel nowadays,” said Jim, “is by aeroplane. No self-respecting citizen will stay on the roads much longer.”

It was hot. It was gassey. It was nerve-racking and on-edgey. The farther people were behind us the more anxious they were to get ahead. And every time the down traffic left space, 40 cars behind us leaped out of line and formed a double line, racing past us until down-coming trucks or cars forced them back into our line; and with fury we had to make room for them. It meant a stop almost every time.

“Get out into the swim,” said Jim, at last. “You jump, too. Everybody else is doing it.”

“Not me,” said I.

“It’ll thin out a few miles north,” coaxed Jim. “The sooner we get there, the sooner this strain will be over.”

“I’m safer where I am,” I said. “In line.”

But in a few moments, the car that had been ahead of me for several miles decided it was getting too thick and it made the jump and got into the scramble.

“Not me,” I cried triumphantly. “Look at whose ahead of us now!”

“It’s cops,” said Jim.

And sure enough, in the car now immediately ahead of us, were the round heads and flat caps of two large cops sitting the stiff way cops sit at the wheel of a car.

“They’re only doing 32,” said Jim looking at my speedometer.

“It’ll do me too,” I said, settling comfortably in back of the cops.

“Now,” chuckled Jim, “watch these cutter-inners when they see the cops.”

But it made no apparent difference. The minute down traffic left a hole, out leaped about ten times more cars than the hole would accommodate and the minute the down traffic came level, all these birds had to scrunch back into line and everybody had to grab and brake and swear and change gears.

“I guess they don’t see they’re cops,” said Jim.

“Why don’t the cops do something, instead of just jogging along?” I demanded hotly.

“Pass them,” advised Jim.

“Not me,” I said. “I respect law and order. Those cops are at least setting an example of orderly driving.”

“And nobody even looks at them,” scoffed Jim.

“What good could they do?” he went on. “In a jam like this?”

“One of them could stand on the running board,” I suggested, “and hold out his hand to warn those behind not to try to pass. In ten minutes the congestion ahead would sort itself out and we could all do 40. It’s that crowding ahead that makes us all go slow.”

“Don’t let’s talk about it,” said Jim.

“Very well,” I said.

With a Baleful Look

So we continued, in regular series of mixups, of grinding and braking and starting and slowing and horns blowing and swearing and cussing as the impatient miles went by. Every time there was a jam-up and cars head would try to cut in ahead of me I would blow my horn furiously in the hope of rousing those two cops ahead from their lethargy.

“What’s the matter with them?” I shouted. “Sitting there. Like dummies. With all this murder going on.”

“Hire a hall,” said Jim.

He sank down in his seat and closed his eyes.

We came to a town. Jim woke and sat up. In the business block, traffic stopped dead for a minute, and one of the cops in the car ahead prepared to get out.

Heavily he backed out the car door. He was in a khaki uniform and with him, hugged to his breast, he backed out a large brass horn.

“Pah-ha-ha,” roared Jim. “A bandsman. A tuba player.”

“Well, I’ll be….” I admitted a little ruefully.

“There you go,” laughed Jim, “always taken in by appearances. Abusing the cops and it was just a couple of lads from the town band.”

Traffic began to move again and we tooled through the town and the minute we got outside, the panic began again, cars leaping, swerving, ducking.

“Well,” asked Jim, “are you going to stick behind the piccolo player?”

“Heh, heh, heh,” I said, taking a quick look behind and then swerving out.

I stepped on the gas and leaped past the bandsman’s car.

“Yah,” I roared out past Jim, “yah, you big windbag, what are holding up traffic for?”

“Nix,” hissed Jim. “It is a cop!”

And it was.

“Ow,” I said, ducking back into line. “It was a cop, giving a guy a lift from the band.”

“Ow,” said Jim, craning his neck to look in the mirror. “He’s after you.”

In a minute, I saw a car creep alongside. It’s horn tooted sharply. I looked. The cop, with a baleful north of Ireland look in his green eyes, was signalling me languidly to pull off to the side.

I took to the shoulder carefully, so as to allow the line behind to pass. The cop pulled in ahead of me, got out and walked back, hitching his belt.

“What was that,” said the cop, resting his elbow on my door, “you said to me as you passed?”

“Huh?” I asked. “Said to you? I wasn’t speaking to you.”

“Oh, yes you was,” said the cop. “What was it about me blocking traffic? Big wind-bag or something?”

“Oh, that?” I laughed heartily. “Oh, that? Oh. I was speaking to my friend here, my friends, he’s deaf, see? I have to shout at him. Oh, ha, ha, did you think… Oh, ha ha, Jimmie,” I shouted in Jim’s ear, “the policeman thinks I was shouting at him.”

“Did he?” said Jim.

“Yes,” I roared in Jim’s ear. “Isn’t that funny?”

“Heh, heh, heh,” laughed Jim, fairly heartily.

“Well, anyway,” said the cop. taking a long slow look at me. “I don’t like the way you cut in and out in traffic. You’ll be the death of somebody if you keep that up.”

“Why, officer,” I cried, “everybody is cutting in and out. Just look at them.”

“Yes.” said the constable, “but not right under the nose of a policeman. I’d better see your driver’s license, mister.”

And he took down all my particulars, tested my lights, brakes, horn and wanted to see my spare light bulbs which I promised him I’d buy at the next town. And all the time the traffic fought and snarled past us.

And then he got in his car and drove ahead of us 24 miles at 28 miles an hour.


Editor’s Notes:

  1. Ontario’s first province-wide speed limit on rural highways was introduced in 1903 at 15 mph (24 km/h). The speed limit was increased to 25 mph (40 km/h) by the early 1920s and increased further to 35 mph (56 km/h) by the late 1920s. The speed limit on most rural highways was increased to 50 mph (80 km/h) in May 1937. During World War II, the speed limits were temporarily lowered to 40 mph (65 km/h) to conserve Canada’s fuel supplies. The next speed limit increase took place in 1959, when the speed limit for passenger cars using the new superhighways such as Highway 400 and Highway 401 was changed to 60 mph (100 km/h). ↩︎
  2. $25 in 1937 would be $528 in 2014. ↩︎
  3. St. Vitus’ Dance was diagnosed, in the 17th century as Sydenham chorea. The old term hung around for a while. ↩︎

Buy Low, Sell High!

He looked Old Maud over, with one lightning glance, the way David Harum1 used to look over a horse.

Jim, with the help of Greg and a few friends, works out a plan to beat the used car dealers at their own game. But…

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by Jim Frise, April 24, 1948.

“I’ve decided,” announced Jimmie Frise, “to sell my car.”

“Jim, you’re crazy!” I exclaimed.

“No: I’ve just decided I’m smart,” he declared. “I’m going to cut the price of my new car by $6002.”

“But you told me last night,” I protested, “that the car dealer said he couldn’t get you a new car until August or September.”

“Precisely,” agreed Jim. “The fact that summer is almost here, plus the extreme shortage of new cars, is what accounts for the fact that I can get $600 more for my old car than it’s worth.”

“You mean,” I cried, “that to make $600 you are going to do without a car all summer?”

“With a little co-operation from you,” admitted Jim, “that’s what I’m going to do.”

“Co-operation?” I queried.

“Yes,” said Jim. “You see, you are away at your summer cottage for two weeks in July, during which time your car stands idle in a tumble-down old rented garage up at the Landing. I figure you wouldn’t mind letting me have the use of your car during those two weeks…”

“Jim,” I interrupted. “There’s May, June, July and August…”

“Correct,” said Jim, “I’ve telephoned three or four others among my friends, checking their holiday schedules. There’s Bumpy and Bill Sparra and Harry Wilcox. They’re all taking their holidays at different times through the summer. And it so happens they are going to summer hotels up the lakes, where they abandon their cars, at the end of the highway, having to pay rent for garages…”

“Jim, look here,” I cut in sternly. “Use your common sense. How are you going to run all over the country, borrowing people’s cars?”

“It will be fun,” assured Jim. “It will be sort of like a holiday in itself. For example, when you go up to your cottage, I’ll go with you and drive your car back here and use it for the two weeks, bringing it up to the Landing the Sunday you are coming down. See?”

“But…” I began.

“You’d far rather,” cried Jim, “leave the car in my care than leave it in one of those baking summer resort garages, where anybody can break in!”

“I suppose that’s true,” I grudged.

“At any rate,” he announced, “if I sell my car now, at top prices, I get the new car for hundreds of dollars less, don’t you see? I bet I wouldn’t get $300 for it next September when my new car is ready. Yet I saw the same year and model as my car up at one of those used car lots for $900.”

“Surely not!” I scoffed. “Nine hundred dollars?”

“It’s a fact,” cried Jim. “I’ll drive you up and show you.”

“Still, to be without a car all summer,” I brooded, “is a pretty serious matter, Jim. In a sense, it’s really for summer – for the five months from May until October – that we own cars, most of us.”

“Exactly what has created the present market for used cars,” pointed out Jim. “The way to make easy money in this world is to take advantage of the weaknesses and needs of your fellow man. You’ll never get ahead in this world if you just work for wages or salary all your life. My new car next fall is going to cost $1,700. By taking advantage of the present market, as well as the good nature of half a dozen of my friends, I will buy that car for only $1,100. That’s what you call business.”

“You run certain risks,” I reminded him. “Suppose you crack up one of your friends’ cars?”

“I run that risk driving my own old jalopy,” countered Jim. “In fact, I will be far more careful driving your car and Bill Sparra’s and Harry Wilcox’s than I would my own. Every way you look at it, it’s a wise and shrewd move on my part.”

“Jim,” reflected, “there is a moral aspect to this business. If you did without a car all summer, that would be the price you pay for that $600 you are going to make. In other words, to earn $600, you sacrifice your car for the summer.”

“Are you hinting,” inquired Jim, “that you don’t want to lend me your car, when it’s lying idle anyway?”

“No, no!” I hastened. “I just feel there’s something immoral about this used car racket, selling old jalopies at outrageous prices, just by taking advantage of the widespread desire to drive cars in summer. If you were going to do without a car for the summer suppresses that natural desire, why, the $600 you would make would look quite so… so…”

“What I say,” declared Jim, “is, make use of every advantage in this world. Among the advantages we possess are a number of fine friends who would be glad to lend me their cars for a couple of weeks, partly for the sake of friendship, partly to see me make $600; and partly to save them the rent on those tumble-down summer resort garages where goodness knows what might happen to your car…”

“Okay, okay,” I surrendered. “And it will be $600 that won’t show in your income tax, Jim. I suppose the smartest guys in this world are the traders who make deals like this all the time. We salary and wage earners are the suckers.”

“I’ve been a sucker long enough,” said Jim, rising and pulling down his vest and lighting a cigarette with a very big-executive flourish. “It will give me a new self-respect, next fall, to be driving around in a car that cost me 600 bucks less than those of all the suckers I pass in traffic. Do you want to come up with me while I shop around and make the sale? Do you know any of these used car lot pirates?”

“The fact is,” I replied, “not only do I not know any of them, I’ve never seen any of them. I’ve looked at hundreds of used car lots in passing, but now that I come to think of it, I’ve never in my life seen anybody around them. Just a great big corner lot packed with motor cars sitting there. And no human inhabitant in sight.”

“Oh, they’ll be there, all right,” assured Jim. “They hide at the back, somewhere.”

So we went out to Jim’s garage and took a last look at Old Maud, Jim’s faithful schooner for more than 10 years. Many’s the thousands of miles it has carried us on fishing trips and hunting trips. Many’s the $10, $20 and $50 it has cost to have its engine overhauled, its brakes relined, its clutch repaired. Many’s the thousands of dollars’ worth of gas its rusty old engine has inhaled in our service.

“I’ll just get a pail of water and a rag,” said Jim, “and give her a wipe.”

While Jim was sponging off the exterior of Old Maud, he had me, with a whisk-broom, tidying up the interior, from the trunk compartment, I removed sundry personal odds and ends, such as a set of rusty chains, an old shovel and an accumulation of ancient car tools that had shaken themselves into out-of-the-way corners of the compartment.

“No wonder she’s rattled,” remarked Jim, as I passed him carrying an armful of salvage toward the garage. Jim sponged off the body, fenders and windows; and I took the hose and tidied up the wheels and spokes. Little by little, Old Maud took on a genteel if shabby expression. We hadn’t seen her so clean in years. But just the same, her scars showed more clearly.

“It’s better, perhaps,” pondered Jim, as we stood back and surveyed the old schooner, “not to tidy up an old car too much. It only accentuates its age, like cosmetics on an old woman.”.

“Anybody,” I stated, “who would pay $900 for an old crock like that is nuts.”

“Not nuts,” smiled Jim, patting the wobbly hood, “just summer madness.”

“Do you feel any twinges of sorrow on bidding goodbye to an old friend and faithful car like this?” I asked.

“Aw, no,” said Jim, lightly. “Some cars, like some people, can live too long. Come on. Let’s get it over with.”

“You won’t sell it right tonight!” I protested.

“If I get a decent offer, I’ll sell right now,” said Jim.

“But what about the family? Are they reconciled to being without a car?”

“I’ve explained the whole deal to them,” said Jimmie. “And they all are in complete agreement. I’ve promised to allow them $5 a week for taxis, in special cases of emergency. Then I figured you wouldn’t mind lending me your car once in a while, for special occasions…”

“Mmmmm,” I reflected.

“I’ve suggested the same to Bumpy and Bill Sparra and Harry Wilcox,” went on Jim. “The family figure we’ll be a lot better off, for a while, than we’ve been with Old Maud here.”

Jim waved me into the car and stepped on the starter. Old Maud’s starter whined and whimpered, and finally the engine exploded into life, and the usual fumes belched up through the worn matting on the floor boards.

“I’ll take you first,” shouted Jim, “to the place they have this same model at $900.

A few blocks away, we arrived at the large used car lot of McGrigor, Mortis & Co. A big banner over the entrance bore the company’s name and the legend: “Highest Prices Paid.”

Along the front of the lot, there was an array of the handsomest new cars you would see even at a motor show. Resplendent, shining, glittering, none of them showed the slightest sign of having been used at all. But as we drove in the lane, we saw that back of the glittering cars were close-packed ranks less glittering cars. And farther back still, were rows and rows of cars that didn’t glitter at all. These most backward ranks of cars all had prices painted on the windshield with whitewash. $375 or $500 or $625. Only the shabbiest cars had the indignity of prices painted on them.

Sure enough, as we drove down deep into the lot, a man emerged from a little shack and came toward us cautiously.

“Mr. McGrigor?” inquired Jimmie heartily, out the car window. “Or Mr. Mortis?”

“Neither,” said the gentleman. “They’re both in Florida. What can I do for you?”

“I was thinking of selling this car,” said Jim, as though in doubt.

“You might get somebody to buy it,” agreed the gent.

“What would you give me for it?” inquired Jim.

“How much do you want for it?” countered the used car man.

“Well, you’re the buyer,” smiled Jim. “What would you offer?”

“No, I’m not the buyer,” smiled the used car man, “I’m only interested in selling cars. How would $250 catch you?”

Jim was stunned.

“Two,” he croaked, “fifty!”

“That’s all it’s worth to me,” said the used car man.

“But…” sputtered Jim, “right over there is the same model as this offered at $900!”

“Aw, sure,” said the used car man, “but that car has a new engine in it and only two years ago it had a new transmission and rear end. We’ve put a lot of work on that, the same as we would with this if we bought it.”

“Two fifty!” fumed Jim. “Why, I’ll sell it privately, I’ll advertise it…”

“Sure, sure,” laughed the used car man, “and in about a month, the buyer will be back with it, saying you misrepresented it; and he’ll sue you unless you give him back $400.”

“Do they sue you?” demanded Jim bitterly.

“Aw, no,” explained the used car man. “We do a lot of work on the cars we take in. And in the contract of sale, we make mention of all the work done, see. How about $250?”

Jim did not answer. He backed Old Maud out the lane, and in silence we drove back home.

As he turned off the ignition in the side drive, Jimmie spoke for the first time.

“Imagine,” he said tenderly, “imagine selling a faithful, wonderful old car like this for $250!”

He patted the seat affectionately. He ran his hands lovingly over the steering wheel.

“Next fall, when the new car is ready,” he said. “It will break my heart to part with her.”

“At that price,” I added.

“You have no sentiment,” accused Jim.


Editor’s Notes:

  1. David Harum references a movie (and book) about a businessman and a horse he purchased. The story is known more today for the racist stereotype played by the black actor Stepin Fetchit. ↩︎
  2. $600 in 1948 would be $8,480 in 2024 ↩︎

The Old Car Does

A series of loud musical snorts interrupted. And there, coasting to a quiet stop was the big green roadster with Ella and her husband in it.

By Gregory Clark, April 26, 1930.

Madge and Bill decided last November to make the old car do another year.

There was a lot of deciding done last November, if you recollect. Last November was a time when, if you did not decide yourself, matters were decided for you – by your broker.

Anyway, on one of those evenings, when we all sat about consoling each other, I recall Madge saying:

“It takes a thing like this stock crash to bring people like us to our senses. Take cars, for example. Our car is perfectly good. Yet we’ve got into the habit of buying a new car almost every year. The minute we pay the last payment on the old one, we dash down and buy a new one. It’s absurd.”

“For fifty dollars,” said Bill, “or maybe seventy-five, I can put the old car into better shape than she’s ever been in.”

“Fifty dollars,” said Madge, “is a lot of money, even if you haven’t got it.”

“She’s only gone thirteen thousand miles,” said Bill. “The tires are in good shape. We’ll just have the engine overhauled, the body bolts tightened up, and you won’t know her. She’s good for another year.”

“And I’ll save the sixty or seventy a month we would be paying on a new one,” said Madge.

That was last November. The long winter has rolled by. As far as I know, the old car was not overhauled. The fifty or seventy-five was not spent on her. And whether Madge has been saving the sixty or seventy a month that they would have been paying on a new car I do not know. For they had the usual lavish and expensive Christmas up at Madge and Bill’s, and Madge’s Easter finery was just as fine as ever.

All washed up and gleaming, the old car rolled up to my house Sunday for our Easter drive. They always take me with them on their Easter drive because I say handsome things about Madge’s clothes. And Bill gets a real kick out of having a back-seat driver he can actually frighten into silence.

“The old car certainly looks great,” said I, stepping into the back seat. “You’d never know she is sixteen months old.”

Perhaps right there all the trouble started. Because I mentioned the car before noticing Madge’s clothes. I tried rectify matters by exclaiming, staring, throwing myself back in amusement as I beheld the vision sitting beside Bill. But I knew by the little hard look in her eyes that Madge would have no car coming before her.

“Listen to that second gear,” said Bill, as we slid away. “Isn’t she sweet?”

“Like a new car,” said I.

“Sounds like Bill putting out the ashes to me,” said Madge.

“Wonderful the way you have preserved the looks of her,” I said to Bill. “And yet you are not one of those finicky birds, always sheltering your car.”

“It costs us two dollars and a half a week,” said Madge, “a hundred and thirty dollars a year, the income from two thousand dollars, to keep the old crate looking the way she does. And if it weren’t for me, it would never be washed or polished.”

“Well,” said I, “I think you’ve got a wonderful car for well into its second year.”

“I feel kind of funny sitting here all dolled up like this in an antiquated car.”

“Madge, nobody will even see the car so long as you are sitting in it,” said I.

Just Nicely Broken In

“One thing,” said Madge, “we won’t be conspicuous. Everybody is in the same fix. Everybody is making the old car do. Not one of my friends is getting a new car. That makes it easier.”

We went bowling merrily along Bloor St. in an endless procession heading westward to the Lake Shore and the Dundas highway, for the wide open spaces where you are lucky if you can go eighteen miles an hour. The car ahead of us was enough to make all our hearts beat with pride. It was a ramshackle old schooner with wobbling wheels, and an engine like a brick truck’s. The one behind us was one of those plain family cars. A couple that passed us in a pathetic effort to speed things up were no better. Madge reeled the window down her and leaned back happily.

“I can’t understand,” said she, “how we enslaved ourselves to the new car habit for ten years.”

“You just get a car nicely broken in,” said Bill, “and then you trade her in for a new set of problems. Why, this car is just like part of me. I can make her do everything but take off the ground.”

We went across the Humber bridge and ahead of us streamed the endless flow of cars. As we approached the slight grade by the cemetery there was a check, and everybody had to go into second gear. It sounded like a great industrial centre, machine shops, planing mills, rivet hammers.

“Just listen to them,” said Bill. “If we don’t need a new car, there are them as does.”

The man ahead of us stalled. Before he got started he had coughed and banged and blown smoke all over us. Madge shut her window.

“Poor chap,” said Madge. “He, too, is making the old car do.”

“Do what?” asked Bill.

Out to Islington we crawled. Bill, with usual disregard for public rights, gaining a couple of lengths whenever traffic permitted. The old car did not jump to the job with quite the zest either Bill or I expected, so that we got into line again only after causing a general squeaking of brakes and an air of bad temper all about us.

“I wouldn’t do that, Bill,” said I. “Just find a nice place in the line and keep it.”

“Right,” said Bill, promptly stepping on the gas and attempting another cut-in. But luck was against us. There was no place open for us. We blocked the other-way traffic. It had to halt, and with loud braying of horns all about us we had to creep shame-facedly into a hole some kind-hearted lady driver left for us in our own line.

Past Islington and out on the Dundas highway, we drove along, amidst fumes and nerve strain, slowing down and speeding up in that irritating way familiar to the wide open spaces of our beautiful countryside. The car was warm. And presently it began to exude a smell as of frying rubber.

“Is that us? Or the car ahead?” asked Bill, anxiously.

“Look at the meter.”

“It isn’t working. I bet it is us. We are heating up.”

“Go a little faster,” said Madge, “and the fan will cool her off.”

“People are Awful Liars”

Bill just stepped on the gas to do another cut-in when a loud hoot from behind warned him to keep in line, and a green and gleaming craft zoomed soundlessly past us.

“Good heavens!” cried Madge. “Did you see who that was?”

“Who?”

“It was Ella!” cried Madge. “And only last week she said they were going to make the old car do.”

“Maybe they went out motoring last Sunday,” said Bill, starting another attempt to cut ahead. But again a loud snort behind us kept us in line while a gorgeous tomato roadster swept grandly past us.

The smell of fricasseed rubber increased. Madge leaned down and smelt around.

“It’s us,” she said. “Turn into the first service station.”

We did. The fan belt was gone, frayed to a rag. A new one adjusted and we took our place in the Easter queue again.

At Cooksville we turned north for a spin up to the high country, Brampton, Caledon. Traffic promptly thinned.

“Ah!” breathed Bill, settling back and letting her have her head.

Except for a tappet click and a slight shimmy that suggested the wheels had got out of line during the winter ruts, the car did very nicely indeed. In the first two hundred yards four new cars, two of them little roadsters of a well-known brand, overtook and passed us smoothly, effortlessly, the occupants deep in conversation as if it were nothing to pass us at forty-five.

As the fifth one slid by, Madge stifled a scream.

“Did you! Did you see that? It’s Harry! Harry! And not ten days ago he was sitting at our table bragging about how good his old car was. Honk him!”

“Too far ahead,” said Bill. He stepped the gas deeper. We increased our pace, but the glittering bit of gray blue ahead faded into the distance.

“What’s our speedometer say?” asked Madge, bending down. “Fifty – it’s likely broken, too.”

Before we got to Brampton we were quite hardened to being passed. Bill wouldn’t let an old car pass us, but the new ones, the shiny ones, the silent, leaping kind, just acted as they pleased.

“It’s great to have new Easter outfit to show the cows and chickens,” said Madge, as we bowled along.

“You chose this road,” said Bill.

“I think people are awful liars,” said Madge.

“Me?”

“No, people who talk about hard times. We are getting the same salary as usual. Other expenses have dropped down, entertaining, for one thing, and because everybody’s doing it, we’ve cut down housekeeping expenses and so on. I can’t get over Ella. Just plain lying. I bet she had that car all picked out for Easter. How much do you bet they don’t turn up our place to-night for tea? In the new car.”

“It will be an old car in a month,” said Bill.

Those Practically New Tires

At that moment a curious dragging sensation was apparent in the car, and Bill slowed and slewed her to the side of the highway.

“Tires practically new,” muttered Madge. It was indeed flat. Flat as only balloon tires can be with a complete and utter flabbiness.

“Gosh!” exclaimed Bill. “The spare!”

“What about the spare?” demanded Madge, grimly.

“At the garage,” said Bill.

We found a good grassy place for Madge to sit on the rug. We dug out of the bowels of the old car a sixteen-month-old tube repair set. We took off the wheel, demounted the rim, a terrible job, requiring hammers, wrenches, strained grunts and really the assistance of a good mechanic. But we managed. We got it off. We gummed up the tube. We battled the tire back on to the rim and tried to beat the rim back into a circle.

All the while Madge watched the Easter traffic soaring by.

“Six out of ten cars are new cars,” said Madge. “People are awful liars. I bet that whole stock crash and all that talk about tight times was a put-up job by people just wanting to make a dash at Easter.”

“Rrrrmph! Ummph!” said we, from the ditch.

“Anyway, why should people be hard up when all the profits they had were paper profits?” asked Madge, cuddled on the rug. “They lost a lot of imagination, that’s all. But losing your imagination doesn’t prevent you from buying a new car when your old one starts falling to pieces all over the road.”

“Immph!” said Bill.

“There ought to be a law against old cars endangering the public on the highways,” she went on. “Some people hang on to their cars year after year until they are actually a greater public menace than murderers.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“Just look at the people in the old cars that are going by! Just look at them! Mean, crabbed, bent-over people, with starved-looking children and brow-beaten-looking wives.”

We hadn’t got the rim snapped back into shape yet.

“They look as if they thought they were saving money,” laughed Madge. “But they aren’t. They are spending more money on new tires, patching, mending, overhauling than the monthly payments on a new car. A car is only meant to last so long, anyway…”

Bill winked at me, in the ditch. In whisper he said:

“You don’t have to be married as long as I have to learn how to get new car. Just listen to this.”

“…little by little,” Madge was going on, as her eyes followed the various models by, “little by little, they disintegrate like old people, like old servants, they just go to pieces gradually. But to have the gift of renewing youth, beauty, power, just by turning in the old model!”

Seeing It in His Face

A series of loud, musical snorts interrupted Madge. And there, coasting to a quiet stop, was the big green roadster with Ella and her husband in it.

“Need any help?” squealed Ella.

“Do come over here and sit down for few minutes,” called Madge.

“Listen to her get out of this,” murmured Bill to me.

“Can you imagine,” cried Madge, as Ella ran across to us, “just look us! Look at Bill’s face! And we came out here just to see the new models.”

“How do you like ours?” asked Ella.

“So you beat us out after all, you fibber,” said Madge. “Here we have been burning our tires out going from motor dealer to motor dealer trying to decide on a new car. And you said last week you were going to make the old one do.”

“So did you,” cried Ella. “But I knew you were only fooling. Something told me.”

“And because Bill and I couldn’t agree, we came out here where we could really see the new cars and get a real idea of them.”

“How about ours”‘ asked Ella.

“Very nice,” said Madge. “But…”

“But what?”

“Well,” said Madge, gently, “we wanted something a little better next time. This one went to pieces so fast. Think of it, sixteen months and it’s ready for the dump.”

Click went the rim. Bill and slammed the tire back on the car while the girls chattered. They toodle-ooed and parted.

“What a line that was,” said Bill to Madge, as we got into the car. “How are you going to get out of that now?”

“Hadn’t you decided we should have a new car?” she retorted.

“What’s, that!”

“With the fan belt going phut!” cried Madge. “And the tires blowing out! And heating up! And no pep to her! Everybody that likes walking past you! Why, Bill, I could tell your face back there near Cooksville that we were going to have a new car!”

“Can you beat it?” begged Bill.

“You dear old boy!” Madge laughed. “You can’t hide a thing. That dear old face just shows every thought in your head. Why, of course I knew all about the new car. Hours ago.”

“Can you beat it?” doggedly repeated Bill, while he eyed my long-drawn wink in the rear-view mirror.

“And it’s going to be Christopher Eighty,” said Madge. “Maroon, with wire wheels on the side.”

“Did you see that in my face, too?” asked Bill.

“I certainly did,” said Madge. “When that Christopher Eighty went by us there just before the tire went flat, I could see absolute determination written all over your face. ‘That’s the car,’ your face said, just as plain as if you had spoken.”

Madge slipped her arm along the back of the seat, where Bill could feel it. Her hand petted his shoulder.

“Car,” said Bill, “car, take a good look around you. Gaze on these greening fields and spring-bathed hills. Rub your old feet into the warm pavement and breathe your lungs full of fresh air.

“For this your last trip in the country, car.”

Madge dropped her hand from the cushion at Bill’s back and gave me a sharp and victorious pinch.


Editor’s Notes: This is another proto-Greg-Jim story from a few years earlier than the time they started. It seems to me it is an exaggeration that cars were so poorly made that they had to be replaced every year.

A tappet is a part of the engine above the cam shaft.

Christopher Eighty is just a made up car model.

Paint Job!

Rusty saw a cat. Then the tragedy happened. He chased the silly cat… it took a flying jump on to the car

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, March 10, 1934.

“Your car,” said Jimmie Frise, “needs a paint job.”

“It has reached the stage,” I admitted, “where it either has to have a paint job or it has to be turned in.”

“With an engine like that,” said Jim, “you would be crazy to turn it in.”

“The funny part of it is,” I said, “a paint job at the moment seems more expensive than the first instalment on a new car.”

“Heavens!” said Jim.

“A paint job,” I pointed out, “will cost $50. Right now. Whereas the first instalment on a new car will only come to about $38. And then I won’t have to pay it till a month from now!”

Jimmie looked at me curiously.

“I suppose,” he said, “the bulk of the public is like you.”

“I pride myself,” I agreed, “that I am an average man.”

“I tell you what,” said Jim. “I’m an artist. Color is my line. I am free and easy with a paint brush. If you like I will help you do a paint job on your car.”

“A home-made paint job,” I demurred, “always looks amateurish.”

“Sir,” said Jim, indignantly, “not even the most expert car painting establishments have artists in their employ!”

“I beg your pardon, Jimmie,” I cried hastily. “Of course I would be delighted to have you help paint the car. The only fear I have is that I might undo all the good you are capable of doing. I am a terrible painter. I get paint in my hair. Inside my shoes. It is incredible.”

“With me to guide you,” said Jim, “I think you would do a very good job of painting.”

“After all,” I agreed, “if we make a mess of it, I can turn the car in.”

“Now how about the color?” asked Jimmie.

“It is a kind of beige now,” I said. “A lightish brownish color.”

“Isn’t it funny,” said Jim, “how many bright-colored cars are shown at the motor shows and how many drab black, blue and other dull-colored cars the public buys?”

“I was thinking,” I said, “of a nice dark blue. It would be a nice change from its present color. And if we do a good job, the neighbors might even think it was a new car I had.”

“Funny,” remarked Jim, “how many new cars the neighbors sell!”

“Say dark blue with black fenders,” I suggested.

“I see,” said Jim, “that at heart you are a chartered accountant! You have a cold, mathematical mind! For you there is no joy in life. You have no soul for color.”

“I love color!” I cried. “I know no man who goes as crazy as I do in the spring, at the sight of tulips, daffodils…”

“Yet you want a black car,” said Jimmie. “You want to add to the gloom of this sad city. Toronto, with its sober streets, its drab windows, its cautiously dressed people. Never a splash of color, never a joyous burst of bright hue.”

“Express Yourself in Color”

“It is in the air of this country to be sober,” I pointed out.

“What!” shouted Jim. “With Ontario and her blue skies, her intense greens, her world-famous riot of autumn reds, purples, golds and yellows! With half her surface water, Ontario is one of the most colorful lands in all the world!”

“M’mm,” said I.

“As a true Canadian, a true denizen of Ontario, “went on Jimmie, excitedly, “you ought to express yourself in color. You should rebel against drabness. You, a son of the fifth and sixth generation in this glorious, color spangled Ontario!”

“Quite so,” I admitted proudly.

“And here you have the chance of a lifetime,” said Jimmie. “You are going to paint your own car, with the help of an artist. Let your car bespeak your true Canadian character!”

“What color do you suggest?” I inquired.

“Colors!” cried Jim. “Not color. I suggest a red body for the red leaves of October. Blue mudguards for the blue sky of Ontario, and the blue water of our myriad lakes. And the top…”

“Black,” I said.

“Everybody has a black top,” cried Jim scornfully. “Why not use a little imagination? I say, paint the top like an awning, which, after all, a top really is. Paint it red and yellow!”

“Oh, Jim!”

“Yes, sir, red and yellow, for the autumn leaves, for the fruitful grain fields of Ontario, for the yellow sands of Wasaga Beach and the shores of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie!”

“Jimmie,” I breathed, “you are inspired!”

“How about Saturday afternoon?” demanded Jimmie, hotly.

“Done!” I said. “Let’s see, I’ll buy the paint. Red, blue, yellow.”

“And better get a little green for trimming,” said Jim.

Saturday noon, I had the garage laid out with all the paint and the brushes, step-ladders and so forth. My family was away for the day. Jim arrived the minute he was through his lunch and we donned our overalls.

Jim took a bed slat and ruled off the roof of the car into stripes, as we did the top first so as to have any paint drip down on the lower works before they were done.

“Now,” said Jim, “you do the yellow stripes and I’ll do the red.”

From the top of step-ladders it was no trick at all to do stripes.

In the winter sunlight that top looked lovely.

“I am sorry,” I said, as we surveyed it, “so few people will be able to see it.”

Unfinished Symphony

Then we started on the tonneau. Rapidly the scarred beige of the old car vanished under the proud, bold strokes of two patriots laying on the red of autumn leaves, the red of wintergreen berries, the red of wild strawberries, of Indian flame, of the scarlet tanager and the red-headed woodpecker, and all those other beautiful things we have in Ontario.

“We’re spilling a lot,” I said to Jim.

“The blue will cover it,” cried Jim, who was quite carried away by his emotions. He was swinging his paint brush the way the conductor of a symphony orchestra swings his baton during those rich, juicy bits.

Rusty, Jim’s so-called Irish water spaniel, was sitting watching us with delight. Next to water, which he has hardly ever seen, Rusty loves paint. He is an artist’s water spaniel and has chewed up many a tube of water colors in his day.

We finished the red, and started on the blue. The chassis, they call it. The blue was the blue of Ontario’s sky, of her lakes, of the eyes of her fairest daughters. I tried some out on one side of the hood.

“We should do this to music,” cried Jimmie, “we should have the radio playing ‘O Canada.'”

“Jim,” I said doubtfully, “take a look at it now we’ve done this side.”

“A symphony!” exclaimed Jim.

“It looks like an advertisement for something,” I said. “Gum or maybe barbers supplies.”

“It is an advertisement,” cried Jim. “An advertisement of Ontario, of her boundless color, of the spirit that animates at least one citizen of this joyous, flaming country!”

“But will my mother-in-law go to church in it?” I said. “If any of my folks get married, can we go to the wedding in it? Or won’t I run up the price of an ordinary paint job in taxi bills?”

Jim gave me a cold, long stare.

“Have you no imagination?” he asked.

Jim was up on one mudguard and I was over on the stepladder at the far side, sopping up some pools of yellow and red that had gathered in the corners of the roof, when the tragedy happened.

Rusty saw a cat. He chased the silly cat. The cat ran around the car a couple of times, and then took a flying jump on to the hood.

“Arrrgh!” screamed Jim.

But I was glad.

The cat slithered over the hood, Rusty followed, with swimming motions. The cat leaped to the roof. I helped it.

Rusty skated all over the roof. On to the hood again and along the mudguards.

Then up the alley they chased. So I went around to Jimmie’s side where he was shading his artist’s eyes with his cleanest hand.

“Let us call this the first coat,” I suggested gently, “and as soon as this dries, give it a good coat of black all over.”

Jim peeked at it through his fingers.

“Marbled,” he muttered. “Or shot, like silk. A sort of modernistic effect.”

“Or what do you say I turn it in?” I asked.

“I believe in signs and omens,” said Jim. “I guess this means to turn it in.”

So any day now a car dealer is going to get a shock.

Rusty saw a cat. Then the tragedy happened. He chased the silly cat… it took a flying jump on to the car

Editor’s Notes: $50 in 1934 would be $1,065 in 2022.

A tonneau is an area of a car or truck open at the top. It can be for passengers or cargo.

This story appeared in Silver Linings (1978), and was the cover image. The colour image really makes the difference in this story. It is also an early story, so for whatever reason it is considerably shorter than the standard later.

In Holiday Mood

Then a tire somewhere amongst us went bang and whined. “Oh, ho,” I said, “some poor beggar has got a blowout.” “It’s us,” said Jim, hollowly.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, August 13, 1938.

“What time,” demanded Jimmie Frise, do you want to leave for home?”

“Let’s leave good and early,” I submitted, “before we get caught in that awful Sunday night jam.”

“How about five o’clock?” suggested Jim.

“Too late,” I protested. “We’ll just get within about 50 miles of the city by the time the jam in at its height. We’ll be two hours going that last 50 miles. In one awful stew.”

“Listen,” said Jim, “why don’t you accept the 20th century for what it’s worth. Accept it. Adapt yourself to it. Traffic jams on Sunday night are part of the normal age we live in. Get in tune with it. Don’t fight it. Nothing you can do will alter the fact that every Sunday night in summer you have to boil your way home.”

“Unless I leave in time to get home ahead of the jam,” I pointed out.

“Look,” said Jim. “We arrive here at the cottage at 6 p.m. Saturday. And you want to clear out at noon Sunday. It doesn’t make sense.”

“I’d rather,” I explained, “curtail my weekend than wreck my nerves fighting my way home through a midnight traffic war. If anybody would keep in line and let us all get home at 35 miles an hour, it wouldn’t be too bad, But there are always those cutter-inners. Those anti-social bounders that leap ahead every time they get a chance, only have to duck back into traffic again and throw the whole line out of gear for miles back. Those are the bounders. Those are the people that fray my nerves.”

“Be one of them, for a change,” laughed Jim. “It’s fun. It’s a sort of game. Be a traffic inner and outer on our way home tonight. Give it a try.”

“Not, me,” I assured him. “You don’t gain one mile in 50, and you risk your life and you strain your car and you infuriate all the other people in the line. It isn’t so much the stopping and starting that gets me down, in that traffic jam as we near the city. It’s those traffic bounders that keep whizzing madly by you, on the wrong side of the road, and every time they have to nose back into traffic when they meet an up-comer, everybody else has to tramp on brakes, slack off and make way for them. One of these days, I’m just not going to make way for one of those babies, and we’ll see what happens.”

“You’re old-fashioned,” stated Jim. “All these views you hold about traffic only prove that you don’t belong to these times. The true son of the nineteen-thirties has no nerves at all with regard to traffic. If you are in tune with your time, you just don’t notice things like traffic bounders. You just sit easy and hop along with the jam as best you can. That’s the spirit of the times.”

“We’ll clear out of here,” I informed him, “at 2 p.m., right after lunch.”

“I decline,” said Jim. “I say we leave right after supper. It is only 115 miles. Even allow three hours for that little distance, we’ll be home shortly after dark.”

“Two p.m.,” I reiterated.

Coming Back Is Different

“Look,” said Jim, “let’s compromise. We’ll leave right after an early supper. We can have a swim at four and supper at five and be out of here before six. And then, instead of going home the main highway, we’ll take that back road that comes out through the west end.”

“It’s a gravel road,” I demurred. “Dusty.”

“It’s a swell big highway,” retorted Jim. “I know dozens of people around here who never go home any other road. A big wide gravel highway.”

“In an open car,” I pointed out, “we’d have grit in our teeth all the way.”

“They tell me,” said Jim, “that hardly anybody ever uses the road. It’s the best way to get home. Let’s do that. Let’s take the fullest advantage of our week-end by staying till evening and then take the back road home. Let the bounders have the smooth highway, we’ll take the happy road home.”

“I don’t care for experimenting,” I muttered, “but we’ll try it this once.”

So we had a pleasant snooze after lunch and then a swim at three, and the children couldn’t be found at 5.30 for supper, so we ate a few minutes past six. But it was still the fine shank of the evening when we loaded up our gear in the car and, waving fond farewells, wheeled out the Muskoka road and headed for the highway.

“What did I tell you?” I demanded, as we came in sight of the highway. Cars, like hurrying beetles, were zipping in unsteady streams southward. The evening was full of the weary roar of traffic.

“We only have about 20 miles of this,” said Jim, “and then we turn off on to the back road. Relax and take it easy.”

So I got to the right of the road and let the bounders bound. I held a comfortable 40 and let the fifties and sixties, with horns blasting and tires ripping and slithering on the far shoulder, race headlong past us.

“I bet those birds,” said Jim, “won’t be home half an hour ahead of us. They’re heading straight into the maelstrom. We’re going the lazy back way, and we’ll jog into town pleasantly aired, while they have completely lost all the good their week-end in Muskoka has done them. Nerve-wrecked, exhausted, jittery.”

It is funny the difference in tone and tune between going up to Muskoka and coming home from Muskoka. Going up, all is jolly and lively. When a man races past you, you smile to think how eagerly he goes to see his family. But coming home, there is no sense of the merry. It is just a lot of bad-tempered people selfishly struggling home.

“What a spirit,” I mused, “in which to end the Sabbath Day. It isn’t Sunday baseball games or Sunday tennis that the churches ought to be worrying about. It is this Sunday night traffic. Here are hundreds of thousands of people, all ugly, at war, angry and in no Christian spirit whatsoever, profaning the Sabbath more by their state of mind than all the baseball games imaginable.”

“The churches,” said Jim, “are practical. They can’t stop people motoring. But they can stop baseball games.”

And as we coasted along, a man stuck his head out of a passing car and shouted at me: “Put a nickel in it.”

And a little while later, another youth shouted as he passed:

“Which end does the concrete come out?”

“There you are, Jimmie,” I said bitterly. “There’s a Christian spirit for you.”

“Never mind,” consoled Jim, “in a few minutes we’ll be turning off on to the gravel.”

The Easy Road Home

A few miles south, we came to the town where the gravel highway goes one way and the concrete the other. Already the inpouring side-roads had filled the highway so that, even in this modest country town, there was a solid stream of cars necessitating frequent halts, slow grinds forward in low gear and more halts.

“Take the next turn to the right,” said Jim. “Then we’re away.”

But as we approached the fork, we saw that about half the cars were taking the gravel and half sticking to the pavement. Down the gravel road for miles hung a great dust cloud.

“Look,” I protested. “It’s jammed too.”

“Take it, take it,” commanded Jimmie before I could come to any decision. So I took it. With a slither and a bump, we were on the gravel and headed the back way home to Toronto. Ahead, cars fled away in yellow clouds, fencing around each other anxiously for front position. Hardly had we gone 50 yards before two cars with horns roaring slithered past us, sweeping up vast clouds of dust and flinging pebbles against our windshield.

“So,” I said, “we take the easy road home.”

“We just happened to get into a bunch,” explained Jim. “Wait a few minutes until this crowd get ahead.”

So I slackened speed and let the dust-flingers move farther out. But, one by one, fresh cars came rushing from behind, as if each driver hoped to get ahead of all the others and so escape the dust.

“This is going to be a dandy drive home,” I assured Jim. “We should have left at two p.m., as I advised.”

“It’s just a coincidence,” said Jimmie. “We have run into a bunch. People don’t like a dusty road like this. In a few minutes, there won’t be a car in sight, ahead or behind. You wait.”

So I slacked still more, and jogged along. But, whizzing and rattling, car after car came rushing from behind and, as far as I could see in the reverse mirror, cars were following.

“There aren’t any back roads any more in this world, Jim,” I informed him, “All roads are main roads.”

“Do you want to turn back and get on the pavement again, then?” demanded Jim.

“One’s as bad as the other at this time of night,” I informed him sadly. There was grit in our teeth already and the windshield had begun to go gray.

“Everybody told me this was a swell way to go home,” said Jim. “Maybe they meant earlier in the season before everybody got fed up with the jam on the main highway.”

I said nothing. I just took to the side of the road and held it at a nice 40, while with regular monotony cars from behind overtook us, blew their horns indignantly at my dust cloud and speeded furiously through, leaving a specially dirty dust cloud for me to hang in for two or three minutes.

“Nice, friendly people,” I remarked.

But now even Jim was silent, huddled down with lips set grimly against the dust and his eyes squinted.

“We’re overtaking somebody,” I informed him suddenly.

Ahead, through the dust, I could see a car, then several cars.

“Don’t tell me,” I protested, “that there is a jam on this road too.”

We came up in rear of a line of a dozen cars, all crowding and jostling close to each other.

“It’s a detour,” said Jim, who had stood up to look.

And it was a detour. Across the gravel highway barricades were set, fending us off to right and left, down traffic taking a narrow dirt road around a concession to the right, and up traffic apparently using a concession to the left.

“Well, sir,” I said happily, “if there is anything else to recommend this road, I wish you’d mention it right now.”

“How did I know it would be like this?” retorted Jim angrily.

“You didn’t know anything about it – that’s the trouble,” I informed him.

And slowly taking our turn, while behind us fresh cars came furiously and dustily to a surprised stop, we turned off on to the side road which was baked hard and full of ruts and bumps and hummocks of dead grass.

“What are they doing?” I shouted to the man minding the barricade.

“They’re improving it,” he called back politely.

“Oh, goodie,” I told him.

And as we lolloped and swayed and bumped along the narrow road with a slow and laboring string of cars ahead of us, I developed the theme.

“They’re improving this road,” I explained, “to relieve the main highway. They will pave it. So that instead of only one big traffic jam every Sunday night, you can choose between two big traffic jams.”

“In that case,” said Jim, “you’ll have to adapt yourself to the 20th century. You’ll have to modernize yourself.”

“I think I’ll give up motoring,” I announced. “Motoring is getting too vulgar. The high-class thing to do presently will be never to motor.”

“If you weren’t so silly about traffic,” said Jim, “we would have been spared all this bouncing around in the dust. We’d be somewhere outside the city limits right now, a couple of traffic bounders taking a little fun out of zig-zagging through the jam.”

“I much prefer this,” I said, even though we at the moment nearly crashed a spring in a hole in the dirt road, “to being in that main highway tangle. This may be a little rough and dusty, but it’s safe.”

And then a tire somewhere amongst us went bang and whined.

“Oh, ho,” I said, brightly, “some poor beggar has got a blow out.”

“It’s us,” advised Jim, hollowly.

And it was so.

“Pull as far off the road as you can,” said Jim. “We have to let traffic past somehow.”

So we came a few yards farther on, to a farm lane where we pulled out of the traffic and set the jack up on a wobbly turf and got all dusty taking off the spare and all greasy taking off the old one and all grass-stained putting on the new one and all wet with perspiration trying to release the jack so that it would come down.

And when we tried to get back out of the farmer’s lane into the road, it was getting dusk and everybody was grim and angry and tired so that we had to wait until about 30 cars passed before there was a slight gap in the traffic. And when we did pop out into the road, the man we popped ahead of was so indignant that he blasted his horn for 10 seconds at us and came up right against our back bumper and we could hear him yelling things at us, but we could not hear the words.

And the whole thing was in a lovely holiday mood and very unlike the Sabbath altogether.


Editor’s Notes: This was a time when people’s weekend did not start until afternoon on Saturday. Families with cottages would have the wife and children spend all summer at them, and the men would only come up for the very short weekends, and would be “summer bachelors” in the city during the week.

This story appeared in Greg Clark & Jimmie Frise Outdoors (1979).

Wham-Bang!

I went, with a dismal crunch, into the solid bumper of a car in the next rank.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, July 6, 1946.

“You look irked,” remarked Jimmie Frise.

“I am irked,” I admitted. “I’ve been irked all day.”

“The heat getting you?” suggested Jim.

“No, the traffic,” I stated. “Honestly, Jim, I don’t know what we’re coming to. Here we are, with hardly any new cars on the market yet. And the traffic is so bad it is hardly worth the nerve-strain to try and drive a car downtown.”

“I wonder where all the cars are coming from?” mused Jim. “Since there haven’t been any new cars manufactured for the past several years, there can’t actually be so many more cars on the streets than there were in 1944, for example.”

“It seems to me.” I submitted, “that there are TWICE as many cars on the streets as there were a year ago. What’s happened?”

“Maybe it’s just notion we’ve got,” supposed Jim.

“Notion nothing!” I protested. “I tell you, the downtown streets are well nigh impassable these days. Use your eyes, Jim! Not only are the cars jamming the streets in traffic, but you can’t find a place to park for a distance of a mile from the centre of the city.”

“All the parking lots are full,” admitted Jim.

“What is causing this increase in cars?” I insisted. “No new cars have been made for three years, of any account. Yet Toronto is jammed with more cars than there were in the heyday of car manufacturing, back in 1938 or 1939.”

“It’s very mysterious,” agreed Jim.

“It may be.” I presented, “that all those tens of thousands of war workers who came to the big city from towns and villages all over the province to work in war factories may still be lingering in the city. And they made enough money to buy cars – second-hand cars.”

“That might be it,” said Jim.

“Yet I don’t think,” I continued, “that the small towns are any less furnished with cars than they ever were.”

“Well, the cars have come from somewhere,” declared Jimmie, “and they aren’t new cars.”

“Not only are the cars more numerous,” I asserted, “but the driving is worse than I have ever known it to be.”

“I don’t think it’s the driving, Greg,” said Jim seriously. “It isn’t bad driving. It’s bad manners.”

“How do you mean?” I demanded.

“Driving isn’t bad,” explained Jim: “Driving is childishly simple. It’s the manners of people driving that is the trouble these days. Everybody trying to beat the other guy. Everybody trying to edge ahead of the other guy.

“And everybody,” I cried, “being impatient with the other guy! Drive down Yonge St. in the middle of the day and you can collect more dirty looks, more nasty cracks hurled at you out of the windows of other cars….”

“Don’t you hurl a few yourself?” asked Jim sweetly.

“Well, what can you do,” I retorted, “when some guy goes yappity, yappity out the car window at you!”

What It’s Coming To

“It isn’t bad driving,” summed up Jim, “it’s bad manners that’s the trouble these days. Driving in traffic has become a tough game, like hockey. You try to skate the other guy off. You try to give him the butt end. You try to take the puck off him by stealing the lead in traffic.”

“Nobody cares a hoot for anybody else,” I agreed. “If you want to park, you don’t stop to think that somebody may be behind you. You just jam on the brakes, whenever you see a parking space, and let the car behind look out for itself.”

“If you can gyp a guy out of a place to park,” added Jim, “why, that’s an extra feather in your cap.”

“Bad temper,” I put in, “irritation, grouchiness and eternal vigilance to cut the other man off if possible, seems to be the proper spirit in which to enter downtown traffic today.”

Jim reflected.

“Well, you see,” he mused, “a big city nowadays is no longer a manufacturing city. It is a trading city. In a manufacturing city, or a city in which the dominant business is manufacturing, you get people of a different character entirely from the people of a trading city. You get people accustomed to decent and orderly procedure. They spend their daily lives making things, by step-to-step process. They are people with patient, orderly minds.”

“I can see that,” I agreed.

“But in a big city that has become a trading city,” went on Jim, “a city full of agents, brokers, dealers – you get a people sharply interested in making a nickel or a dime. And the way the nickels and dimes are made by traders is by being awful quick, awful nimble.”

“I see that too,” I admitted. “It’s like brokers making a fraction of one per cent on a deal. So they try to turn over as many deals as possible, to make the fractions of one per cent add up.”

“Nickels and dimes,” repeated Jim. “That’s what they are after in the big cities where trading is the dominant activity. And that is why, in a big city, the driving manners are bad. You accustom a man all day to being quick and nimble at making a big pile of nickels and dimes, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., and the habit grows on him and takes hold of him. So that when he is driving home, after work, he can’t help but try all the little quick slick tricks, turns, dodges and jumps that he has been practising all day. Result: Traffic full of guys all trying to gain a few nickels and dimes over each other.”

“I think you’ve got something there, Jim,” I confessed. “But how the sam hill are we going to improve the driving manners of nearly a million people?”

“I don’t think it is our worry,” said Jim. “Things like that cure themselves. Our traffic is going to get denser and denser. The new cars will soon be coming out in quantity, adding to the jam. And the thicker the jam, the worse the manners will grow. Finally, in about two years, the keyed-up tempers of the driving public will snap. There will be duels all over the streets. Duels between cars. When somebody’s bad manners reach the zenith, in the midst of the ever-jamming traffic, another driver will simply smack into him. The custom will rapidly spread. All over the city, cars will be slamming into one another. Sideswiping each other. Chasing each other and driving each other into lamp posts. That’s the logical end to the present trend.”

“That’ll be kind of exciting,” I exclaimed.

“There are certain fundamental principles to human nature,” explained Jimmie, “and the first of them is, if you can get away with murder, why, you get away with it. No improvement in human behavior or human conduct, was ever brought about except as the result of a universal smashup. It isn’t enough for a few nice people to try to set an example to the mob. It isn’t enough for a few nice people, with ideals, to work out a system of good manners and try to impose it on the mass. We quit murdering each other, back about the year one, when there were so few of us left that we got scared and passed a law.”

“Well, you take New York,” I interrupted. I’ve been in all the big cities of the world Paris, London, Chicago and I say, without fear or favor, that the best driving manners in the world are in New York city.”

”That ain’t the way I heered it,” “scoffed Jim.

“No, because,” I cried, “for years New York’s driving manners were the world’s worst. They just about annihilated one another. There were more traffic fatalities in New York than anywhere else on earth. It worked out just the way you described, with those duels between cars. They got so bad that they just HAD to get good, in order to survive.”

Stacked in Solid

“The New York cops,” ventured Jim, “are pretty tough.”

“They are tough,” I explained, because they are watching the manners – not the driving – of the drivers. Just try any of the tricks that are tried on every street of Toronto every hour of the day and see what would happen to you in New York.”

“You certainly are irked, smiled Jim consolingly. “What happened to you today?”

“It was parking,” I muttered.

“What happened?” persisted Jim.

“Well,” I sighed heavily, “I must have spent 30 minutes driving round and round downtown, looking for a place to park. I went to the parking lot where I usually park and the cranky old autocrat who is the chief attendant waved me angrily off. The lot was packed absolutely solid with cars. At only 10 o’clock.”

“So?” helped Jim.

“So I drove around to another parking lot,” I continued, “and it was jam full. How they are going to unscramble those cars, I don’t know. They didn’t leave any aisles or avenues among the cars. Cars just stacked in solid.”

“That’s what gets me,” exclaimed Jimmie. “There don’t seem to be any rules governing those parking lots. So desperate are we in this city for parking space downtown that nobody has the nerve to suggest any rules to control the parking lots.”

“I bet,” I declared, “there is more damage done to the fenders and bodies of cars in Toronto on the parking lots than from any other cause whatsoever.”

“I agree,” said Jim. “But what can you expect, with those parking lot moguls being allowed to get away with murder?”

“I had my front left fender,” I submitted, “bashed all to pieces only last week in one of those indoor parking places. I thought I would play safe and not leave my car in one of those open-air madhouses. So I took it into an indoor parking place where an attendant takes the car from you at the door. At 5 o’clock they brought her down, with the left front fender all folded up.”

“But they didn’t get away with it?” demanded Jim.

“Sure they got away with it,” I cried. “They said, how did I know I didn’t bring it in that way? How did I know one of my children didn’t have it out the night before and bashed it all up? Did I go around the front, they asked me, when I got into the car in my own garage in the morning? Did I walk around to the front and look at my fenders?”

“Of course, you didn’t,” sympathized Jim.

“Nobody ever looks at their front bumper when they go and get their car out of their own garage in the morning.” I stated. “So they had me there. They asked me could I PROVE the damage had been done in their place.”

“Of course you couldn’t,” consoled Jim.

“They get away with murder,” I asserted. “They’ve got us where they want us. So desperate are we for a place to park, they can put anything they like over on us. I suppose we should be happy merely to get our cars back from them.”

There are too many of us,” said Jim sadly. “Too many motorists for the size of the city. I can see nothing but gloom ahead, in the traffic problem.”

“We can never expand the size of our streets,” I agreed, “fast enough to keep up with the number of people who will be buying cars. Toronto doubles its population every 20 years. Can you picture Toronto in another 20 years? Twice the number of cars in it there are now – AT LEAST!”

“It’s a dark prospect,” said Jim gloomily.

“Evils cure themselves,” I pointed out, “by destroying themselves. Downtown Toronto simply cannot by any stretch of the imagination, contain twice the traffic it contains today. Yet we know that in 20 years it will be twice as great.”

“So what?” asked Jim aghast.

“So it destroys itself,” I said complacently.

“Which?” inquired Jim. “The traffic or the downtown?”

“The downtown,” I submitted.

“I’d say the traffic,” plumped Jim.

“Why? I demanded.

“Because the traffic,” explained Jim, “is so much more easily destroyed than those big, fat buildings.”

“Well, something has to give,” I sighed.

“Can I drive home with you?” asked Jim. “I left my car at home this morning. Too much trouble to bring it downtown.”

“Ah, there’s the solution,” I cried. “It will become such a nuisance driving in downtown traffic that nobody will bring their cars.”

“What time are you leaving?” Jim asked.

“Fivish,” I replied.

And we returned to our chores.

Where’s My Car?

At 5, Jim and I sallied forth into the flood of home-goers and I guided him to the parking lot where I had left my car in the morning. It was a panjandrum. It had been packed so full, at 10 a.m., that I did not see how they were going to get my little open job in anywhere. But I was so glad they offered to try and I left it with them.

Now, at 10 past 5, the parking lot had the appearance of a solid sea of cars.

I paid my quarter to the chief attendant in the little shanty.

“Where do I find it?” I asked.

“How should I know?” replied the head man. “Go and look for it.”

Jim and I started along the aisles. I met another attendant, a red-haired, foolish-faced guy who seemed to be floating in a cloud.

“Where’s a little fawn-colored open job, with top down?” I asked him.

“Ha,” he cried, wheeling with alacrity. “I’ll get it. Been wanting to twirl that little baby all day!”

“No you don’t,” I cried, sprinting after him. “Not with these measly little aisles you’ve left in here!”

But he beat me to the open job and vaulted in behind the wheel.

“Wait a minute,” I warned. “Let me take her out…”

“We don’t allow the customers to move the cars,” he said, stepping on my starter and plunging the choke furiously.

“Come on, son, get out of there,” I commanded. “Don’t you move that car in here! Why, you haven’t left enough room for a wheelbarrow to turn.”

He ignored me and started to back, turning in the seat to watch behind with a gleeful, idiotic expression.

I reached in and turned off the ignition.

“Here!” I said, menacing. “Get out!”

And I opened the door. At which moment, another, older attendant, a loud-voiced, excited man, arrived and yelled:

“What’s the hold-up here?”

He explained, at the top of his lungs, that getting cars out of the ranks was a specialist’s job.

I was firm. I was adamant.

“Cars and contents,” I read to him from the wall of the little shanty, “left here at the owner’s risks. Okay I’m the owner. I’ll take the risk. Thank you.”

I backed. I was a little flushed. I was a little hot. And before I had so much as touched the accelerator, I went, with a dismal crunch, wham, bang into the solid bumper of a car in the next rank. I could feel my fender squishing.

There were shouts, there were imprecations, there were nit-wit chuckles from the red-headed kid.

“The motorists in this town,” bellowed the attendant in the red shirt, “are the worst lot of dopes anywhere in the world…”

He waved me out of my car. He took the wheel. He twisted, squirmed, inched, coiled and squeezed. He got my car out. He had made his 25 cents.

And I limped home with both front and back fenders squashed.


Editor’s Note: The word “panjandrum” does not make sense in this context, as it can refer to a self important person, but also had other meanings as a nonsense word. I see it used to describe a jumbled mess.

Pigs and Lilacs

By Gregory Clark, June 19, 1926.

Friday, 3 P.M. – This being the second pause in our journey, and Willie having definitely disappeared over the horizon in search of a mechanic, Madge and I find nothing better to do than keep a diary of this motor trip. The first ten miles of a trip exhausts all topics of conversation. Madge and I are tired of exclaiming every time we see a sow with a litter of piglets. So now we will keep a diary.

Madge and Willie invited me to accompany them on a week-end tour of Northwestern Ontario. Because I had once bought a second-hand car, Willie thought I would be valuable member of the tour.

Our first pause occurred just outside the city limits. Bowling along in that high spirit in which all motor trips begin, we were suddenly conscious of a decided thudding feeling which caused all the second-hand windows of the second-hand sedan to clatter. Willie glanced around in dismay.

“It’s that tire!”

“What tire?” we cried.

“That tire I have been suspicious of!”

We drew in to the roadside, where the off-sounding tire was discovered to be flat.

“I think there is only one thing in the world more horrid to look at,” said Madge, “than a flat tire.”

“What’s that?” we asked her, rolling up our sleeves and commencing to unload all the stuff out of the back to get at the tools.

“Two flat tires,” said Madge.

After removing everything from the car in order to get at the tools, we then had to move the car about to get the flat tire over a solid bit of turf so the jack would stand up. It was only a matter of minutes until we had the spare on and the soft one on the rear.

“Leave the tools out where they will be handy,” said Madge.

“No, no!” exclaimed Willie. “That would be courting trouble.”

We concealed them all under the back seat and repacked everything on top again.

This pause, the second, some thirty miles forward on our tour of northwestern Ontario, is due to some mysterious trouble which Willie says is either in the carburetor or the main bearing. The trouble manifests itself in the engine simply moving. Willie and I have examined everything in between the front bumper and the rear bumper and are at a loss. So he has gone looking for a mechanic while I stay to guard Madge and the car. I am now going to unload cargo so that tools may be got at.

3.45 p.m. Willie returns with a young farm lad in blue overalls and red hair.

“He isn’t a mechanic, but he drives a tractor made by the same people who made this car,” explains Willie. The young man looks earnest, and selects a hammer from the tools I have spread out on the grass.

“Does she cough at all?” asks the young man.

“No. She won’t answer the starter,” we say.

“You got gas, have you?”

“Oodles.”

“Well, let me look at her.”

Autocratic Big Cars

He bends lankily into the engine, rattles this and pulls that and hits the cylinder casing two whacks with the hammer.

“What’s that for?” asks Madge, as he swipes the rusty iron with the hammer.

“Oh, I always hit my tractor like that and I don’t know what it does, but it helps.”

“I think it’s in the carburetor,” says Willie sternly.

“Try her now,” says the young man.

Willie steps on her and way she goes, with a loud belch of blue and dirty smoke out of her exhaust.

“Something lodged in her windpipe!” yelled the young man, above the roar. So we put all the stuff back, the tools under the seat again and drive the young man back to his tractor.

4.15 p.m. Willie cries: “Look at that litter,” at some immense sow and her family.

4.16. Madge screams: “Lilacs! Oh, don’t you love lilacs! I’d love to live in the country just for the lilacs.”

“There’s pigs in the country, too,” I cry above the rush of the car. Madge favors me with the look of a wounded maiden.

4.25. Going up a slight incline, car labors heavily.  Wille mutters, but we can’t hear what he says.

5.05. Pass a large car.

5.06. Large car passes us.

5.07. Pass a large car.

5.08. Large car passes us.

5.09. Pass a large car. “Eight cylinders!” yells Willie, as we sail by.

5.10. Large car passes us, slows up and stops obliquely across the narrow highway. We stop. A savage looking young man steps out and walks back.

“What are you trying to do?” he demands.

“How do you mean?” asks Willie.

“Tearing past me like that and then slowing down in front of me?”

“Slowing down? I wasn’t slowing down.”

“Listen, fella, said the golfy locking young man, “anything that passes me has got to get its dust out of my face darn quick or it doesn’t stay past me. I am going to hit forty miles an hour all day. Are you?”

“Yes,” says Willie. “But go on.”

5.13. Large car disappears in the distance in a cloud of dust that settles before we reach it.

“These big cars make me sick,” says Madge.

5.16. Car develops a peculiar erratic motion.

5.17. Car stops. Traffic being thicker, Willie runs wheel off on to the turf. We can hear engine gurgling. With glove on. I unscrew radiator cap. It blows off violently and we never see it again. It may have come down.

“Shall I shift the cargo?” asks Madge.

“This is not a job for tools,” says Willie. “I think we have burnt out a bearing.

Cars go whizzing by. We dispose ourselves on the grass.

“Pick out,” say I, “the rockiest looking flivver that goes by. The man driving such a flivver generally knows all about flivvers. He has to to make his go.”

A very rusty one comes panting along. Its rear end sagging, steam blowing from its radiator. The driver, a man with a rakish mustache and firm grip on the wheel, slows when he sees us and regards us with an expectant eye.

“Need help?” he shouts, eagerly, stopping.

“Thanks, we do,” said Willie. Sorry to bother you”

“It’s no bother. Glad to help. Boiling, eh?”

“She’s hot, all right.”

Automaniac Helps Out

He lifts the hood and stares shrewdly at the engine, sniffs, listens, touches the cylinders.

“An engine,” he remarks, “should be hot to perform its best. But not this hot.”

“Yes, she’s hot all right.”

We gather around. Madge is piling out the cargo to get at the tools.

“Well, let’s see about the spark,” says the mustache. “Mixture too thin, maybe, or maybe too thick. Step on her, will you?”

Willie steps on her. She snorts and gaggles and coughs and has a series of hemorrhages. The Samaritan turns the mixture down, and the engine stops. When it gets going again he turns the mixture up, and the engine stops.

“H’m!” says he. “You’ve got plenty of oil, have you?”

“Oh, yes.”

“You haven’t got too much, have you?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Well, we’ll have to see what’s wrong with this thing.”

And suddenly the shabby Samaritan becomes furiously busy. He seizes tools right and left and begins turning, unscrewing, removing, lifting, setting aside. His hands become plastered with grease and oil. He stands on top of the engine and crawls underneath the car. In his eye is a joyous light. His teeth are bared in an ecstasy of effort. He removes, if I remember my automotive geography, the exhaust pipe and gets at the cylinder heads. From his own car he fetches weird and huge tools of all sorts. He disconnects the line and disassembles the carburetor. Parts of our car are strewn all over the running boards and on the grass.

Idraw Willie aside. “I think we are in the hands of an automaniac. This fellow is one of those bugs who glory in taking a car to pieces. He may be dangerous. Look at the thing to drives himself.”

“You said to pick the worst looking wreck of a car that passed.”

“But not so bad as his, man!”

“What will we do? We can’t ask him to leave it now. It’s all apart.”

We go back and watch the Samaritan. He is grunting, his teeth bared, wrenching and tearing. He is covered with grime and grease.

“We had no idea you would do all this work. It is too bad to…”

“It’s a pleasure, I assure you,” said he, diving under the car and emerging with a huge, dirty segment of iron. “I think I have the trouble now. Your car will run like a clock from now on, or I am mistaken.”

Slowly, like a man stringing out a pleasant meal as long as possible, he begins to put the car together again. Each nut, each bolt and segment goes back into place with a sigh. Madge has fallen asleep on the grass. Slower and slower goes the business of assembling the car. At last all is in place but one large bolt. He tries it several places. There is no room for it. Not a hole can be found.

“Well, I never saw one of these before,” says the Samaritan, studying it with amazement. “What model is this car?”

“1925,” says Willie.

“Ah, then this is a bolt they don’t use in earlier models. It has got me beat.”

“But my gracious, we’ve got to get it in somewhere,” says Willie, getting angry.

“All right!” cries the Samarian enthusiastically. And he seizes the tools with renewed gusto and starts tearing her down again. Willie and I get down and watch for holes.

Out on the grass come all the pieces once more, darkness approaching. Thousands of cars have tooted and hooted at us in passing. We find no hole. We hang the bolt in likely looking places, we feel about in dark crannies. But however slowly we assemble again, accompanied by the delicious grunts and sighs of the Samaritan, we have the bolt left over at the end. We sit on the road and stare at it.

“The speedometer reads sixty-seven miles,” calls Marge from above. “And we were going to be in Owen Sound tonight.”

“Well,” says the Samaritan, now almost covered with slime and grit, “try her anyway.”

Willie gets in and starts on the starter. The engine bursts into song, clear, regular, like a young thing fresh from the paint shop.

“Drive her slow to the next garage and they will know where this bolt fits,” says the Samaritan.

He will accept no money. Not even a dollar. We heap thanks upon him. The car has never run like this before, even if a bolt is to spare. We crank his junk heap for him and wave him on his way.

8.55 – We arrive at a garage.

“We took our car apart,” says Willie to the garage man, “and when putting it together wo had this bolt left over.”

“What make is your car?”

“Flivver,” says Willie.

“This is a Rolls-Royce bolt,” says the garage man. “You must have picked it up off the road.”

2.25 a.m. Saturday – I woke up with Willie prodding me.

“Owen Sound,” he says. “Take Madge in and register while I put the car away.”

Saturday, 9am – Away we go on the second lap of our tour of northwestern Ontario.

9.35 – “Look there!” yells Willie. “How’s that for a family?”

Another litter of pigs.

9.40 – Madge screams at a hedge of lilacs. We all look.

9.50 – Flat tire. No pigs or lilacs in sight.

10.20 – “That,” shouts Willie, “is the biggest litter I ever saw in my life. There must be thirteen!”

Another litter of pigs.

10.25 – Sure enough, we pass a farmhouse, almost hidden with lilacs.

“OOOOh!” screams Madge. “There’s where I could spend my old age.”

On the far side of the house appear two sows, each followed by litters of dancing little pigs.

“Aaaah!” cries Willie. “That’s what you call hog raising.”

10.50 – Flat tire. We can hear pigs mooing in the distance and there is the perfume of Iliacs stealing on the air.

11.30 – Hit a bump and crack front springs. We would fix it up with a block of wood if we could find a block of wood. So we go bumpety-bump along, a village showing nine miles ahead on the map.

12.20 – Arrive at village, but no garage, only a gas pump and the man who runs it didn’t know that flivvers had springs. We find a block of wood.

1.40 – Arrive, somewhat shaken, at Wasaga Beach, where the garage has no front springs, but plenty of back springs. The man will do a repair job with a block of wood that will carry us home.

3.20 – We leave for home. Madge says she has seen all of northwestern Ontario. It is a great hog-raising country.

3.22 – Flat tire. Fortunately, we had our spare mended at the Beach.

3.32 – Flat tire again. Have to mend the tube. Not half the fun shifting a spare is.

4.15 – Raining. Flat tire. Block of wood is slipping. Barrie only seven miles way. Madge wonders if any trains to Toronto run soon. Passed several lilac bushes and Madge didn’t look at them.

5.05 – Block of wood slipped. Barrie in sight. Madge can bear trains whistling.

“Look!” yells Willie. “My gracious, there must be fifteen in that litter…”

7.30 – Madge and I are sitting on the Barrie station platform and Willie has gone on with the car.

“Next week-end,” says Bill, in parting, will do the eastern tour. Peterboro, Brockville, Kingston.”

We wave him cheerily on.

Madge and I sit on the station platform.

“There is something,” says Madge, “about a train that thrills me. I can’t see one go by without getting the most homesick feeling of wanting to be on it.”

A freight comes huffing past.

It is all cattle cars.

The cars are filled with pigs.


Editor’s Notes: Cars were fairly unreliable in the early days, but people loved them just the same. It is accurate that people had to have certain mechanical skills to operate a car back then. Flat tires were much more common than now, though not nearly as common in the story.

A Flivver was slang for an old or cheap car. An automanic was as described in the story, a person who loved working on cars.

Coupons Required

Jimmie put the ruler into the tank. He held it up, but it was dry.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, March 17, 1945.

“This is going to be a tremendous year,” said Jimmie Frise, “for maple syrup.”

“It’s going to be a tremendous year,” I remarked, “for various other reasons.”

“Aw, yes,” admitted Jim, “but once history is written what does it matter? Whereas, you can eat maple syrup.”

“What a horrible philosophy!” I protested.

“Now don’t get excited,” soothed Jimmie. “If war was as important as you like to think, why haven’t wars taught mankind anything in the past? Name one war that ever did mankind any good.”

“The Napoleonic war,” I announced. “It halted an earlier Hitler in his tracks.”

“It did nothing of the kind,” stated Jim. “It just delayed the revolution 100 years, until now.”

“What revolution?” I demanded indignantly.

“Why, the human revolution,” said Jim. “The revolution to set men free from monstrous masters. The revolution to bring about the brotherhood of man. It’s been going on for untold ages.”

“Puh!” I said.

“The French revolution,” explained Jim, “was one of the biggest explosions in that never-ending revolution. It shook all Europe. It shook the whole world. And so dangerous did it appear to all the kings and aristocracies of Europe that they felt if they didn’t destroy France immediately the thing might spread and put an end to all kings and all aristocracies. So they ganged up on France.”

“Aw,” I snorted, “you’re just trying to draw a parallel with the way the modern world ganged up on Russia. How did Napoleon come about, then?”

“Napoleon,” stated Jimmie, “didn’t come on the scene as emperor until the new-born republic of France was in danger from every side, and when all the diplomacy of Europe had brought about a league ready to destroy the subversive experiment of France.”

That ain’t the way I heered it,” I scoffed.

“Naturally,” agreed Jim. “All the kingdoms of Europe ganged up and destroyed Napoleon and France. They bottled the world up for another century. And, naturally, they wrote history the way they liked it.”

“Napoleon betrayed the revolution,” I recalled. “He made himself emperor.”

“Of the republic,” said Jim. “And he didn’t do that until the whole of royal and aristocratic Europe had furiously leagued themselves against revolutionary France. Then, to save his country, not the revolution, Napoleon took charge and made himself dictator – or emperor, in those days, because the common people could understand it easier.”

“And where did the great revolution get off?” I inquired mildly.

“Remember the Duke of Wellington?” inquired Jim. “He had quite a hand in destroying Napoleon and France. He went home a hero. He was an iron god to the British. They gave him £700,000 and made him prime minister.”

“A just reward,” I said.

Not Gold, But What?

“But you asked where the revolution got off,” inserted Jim sweetly. “Well, the revolution had got loose all over the world. And the Iron Duke got himself pelted with cabbages in the streets of London. The mob attacked his beautiful mansion, called Number One, London. He was kicked out of office. And the Reform Bill of 1832 was passed. That is how you and I, my good man, got the vote!”

“Hmmmmm,” I mused.

“The revolution never stops,” said Jim. “Even in the Golden Ages, and there have been any number of Golden Ages in history, the revolution goes relentlessly on. It isn’t gold mankind wants.”

“I wish somebody,” I complained, “could find out what it is mankind wants. When are we ever going to settle down?”

“Not,” replied Jim, “until everybody in the world loses the notion that they are more worthy than others. It is self-esteem that wrecks each nation, each class, each era. So long as anybody on earth still thinks he deserves more than others, so long as he thinks he works harder, is cleverer, smarter, more industrious, more deserving – you are going to have war. And revolution.”

“Then,” I concluded, “we will never be free of war. Because there ARE people more worthy than others. And always will be.”

“But they shouldn’t collect their worth,” explained Jim, “in money or power. Can’t you imagine, a world in which the worthy people will be content with their worth?”

“In about 1,000 years,” I growled.

“Then wars will end,” decreed Jim, “in 1,000 years.”

“The world is too hard-boiled,” I enunciated, “to swallow that idealistic stuff. Even the labor unions are out for themselves.”

“That is what they have said about all revolutionaries since John the Baptist,” smiled Jimmie. “But whether a revolutionary knows what he is doing or not, he is doing good. Because at the end of all struggle to set one man free, all men will be free.”

“It doesn’t look like it in the world these days,” I submitted. “The whole world divided into half a dozen prison camps of violent opinion.”

“The fiercer the fight,” replied Jim, “the sooner the freedom. You don’t get freedom merely by sitting and thinking. If so, the ancient Greeks would have given freedom to the world four centuries before Christ. Because they stated it completely. There have been no additions.”

“What do you think we will have,” I speculated, “by the end of this wonderful year, 1945?”

“Two gallons of maple syrup,” said Jim. “Each.”

“Back there, eh?” I muttered bitterly.

“This is going to be one of the greatest maple syrup years,” said Jim, “in a long, long time. At least in these parts. Very little frost in the ground and deep snow. That’s the makings of a tremendous maple syrup crop.”

“A lot of good that will do us,” I assured him. “Coupons are required for maple syrup. Sugar coupons. Do you know how many coupons a gallon of maple syrup requires?”

“I’m saving coupons,” said Jim, “and all I want is two gallons. I am not going to use it right away. I am going to put it down in the fruit cellar until the fall.”

“Maple syrup,” I informed him, “is at its best in the early spring, fresh from the sap kettle.”

“Utterly wrong,” said Jim. “It is at its best in fall and winter. On a nasty, cold November day a plate of hot pancakes, slathered in butter and drowned in rich, pale, amber maple syrup. In February, when your spirit fails within you, a couple of crumpets, their holey texture saturated with maple syrup. Or a big hunk of sponge cake, in a fruit dish, sloshed in maple syrup.”

“I like a good gorge of maple syrup in April,” I confessed.

Essence of Spring

“Wasted,” asserted Jimmie. “Utterly wasted. Maple syrup is the essence of spring. It is the very distillation of spring. It has mighty powers. It has a flavor both wild and infinitely bland and tender. It is the very blood of the veins of our native land, Canada. It comes from our national tree. To a Canadian there should be something almost religious about maple syrup. Something festival.”

“That is how I gorge it in the spring,” I explained.

“Ah,” countered Jim, “but in the spring there are so many other forces to revive you – the smell of April earth, the coming warm winds, the green things shooting, the birds returning. I like to keep that vernal juice of April to help me in the darkness of December.”

“Only two gallons?” I inquired.

“Look,” said Jim, taking a letter from his pocket. “Here is a note from my Uncle Abe inquiring if you and I would care to come down and lend him a hand with the maple syrup.”

“We’d have to pony up the coupons,” I protested, “even if we helped make it.”

“My idea is this,” explained Jim. “We run down over the week-end and help Uncle Abe collect the sap. He can run the sap kettles, but it is collecting the sap that is hard for him with his lumbago at this time of year…”

“Yah, lumbago,” I interjected.

“Well, you can’t prove he hasn’t got it,” declared Jim.

“He always gets it,” I observed, “at haying and harvest or whenever there is any real work to do.”

“The point is,” said Jim, “we go down and help him make it. While there, we can gorge ourselves on it. Remember my aunt’s tea biscuits with maple syrup …?”

“Aaaahhhh,” I remembered

“We can get our two gallons for nothing, except the coupons,” went on Jim, “in payment for our work. But in addition, all through the summer and next fall, whenever we get a craving for a gorge of maple syrup, why, we are always welcome at Uncle Abe’s. They can’t refuse a feast of maple syrup when we helped make it. And you know how it is in the fall? When you get a craving for maple syrup it is worse than a drunk craving whiskey. Why, I remember…”

“Okay,” I said, “okay. Just one little thing. How many gas coupons have you got left?”

“Me?” said Jim. “Why, I figured we would go in your car. It’s lighter. And the way the roads will be right now I’d hate to take that old stoneboat of mine. We’d be mired before we ever got there.”

“Jimmie,” I announced quietly, “I have no more coupons. I used my last only Sunday.”

“Hmmmm,” said Jim, studying Uncle Abe’s note.

“Besides,” I suggested, “you’re wrong about a light car being any good in the mud. Your old schooner would bust through a mudhole like a tank. My little job would simply slither to a stop half way through…”

“I,” said Jim solemnly, “have only one coupon left. Three gallons.”

“Any in the tank?” I inquired.

“A little,” said Jim cautiously.

“Let’s go by train,” I offered.

“It’s six miles from the station to Uncle Abe’s,” said Jim. “And he says here the road isn’t open yet. He can’t come for us.”

“We could hitch-hike,” I hoped.

“Nobody goes out Uncle Abe’s way,” said Jim. “Certainly nobody who would give us a lift.”

“If they knew we were going to his place, you mean?” I supposed. “Well, okay, let us call it off.”

Jim read the letter again. He licked his lips and made a smacking sound.

“It’s 29 miles out to Uncle Abe’s,” said Jim. “Twenty miles to the gallon? That’s 60. And a bit in the tank? Say 70 miles of fuel?”

A Buck and a Kick

He folded Uncle Abe’s letter and put it in his pocket.

“I’m going,” he announced firmly. “I can think of no more fitting, no more patriotic, no more spiritual use to put our last gasoline coupon to than to drive out to Uncle Abe’s sugar bush to participate in the festival of the maple. The true Rite of Spring!”

He picked me up at 8 a.m. Saturday – our day off on The Star Weekly.

I looked at the gas gauge and it was very low, between empty and a quarter.

“Good,” I said. “Let’s run until she shows empty. And then load up with our last three gallons at the nearest pump.”

“I got the gas last night,” said Jim.

“Last night!” I cried, as we bowled along, “But she shows almost empty.”

“Aw, that gauge hasn’t worked for years,” said Jim.

“You didn’t do any driving last night?” I inquired anxiously.

“Just a couple of errands for the house,” said Jim. “Don’t worry. I know my own car.”

“How far did you …?” I began.

But Jimmie just speeded up suddenly which is his way of showing his temper. So I let it go.

The highway was fine, despite a little sleet. and when we got off on to the side roads they weren’t too bad. A few ruts. But none of the pitch-holes I had feared.

The whole world wore the look of the Ides of March, the wood lots had a kind of wet glow to them, and we knew the sap was ready to rise if not already rising. And Jim and I regaled each other as we tooled along with reminiscences of the various times we had eaten maple syrup over our long and hearty lives.

Only two miles or a little less to Uncle Abe’s, when the engine bucked.

It ran a few yards, then bucked again.

“Dirty spark plug,” exclaimed Jimmie eagerly.

It ran another few yards, then bucked three or four times, violently.

“Dirt in the fuel line,” said Jim, revving up the engine.

She sputtered and conked. Came on again, and conked again.

“Pull over to the side,” I commanded grimly.

“That timer reeds attending to,” said Jim, in a thin voice, getting out.

He put the ruler into the tank.

He held it up.

Dry.

“I certainly can’t understand,” began Jimmie.

But there it was. The last drop of the last pint of the last gallon of the 1944-45 issue of AA category coupons by the grace of the Oil Controller of Canada.

On a side road in the sleet, beside a rail fence, and far from home.

“I can borrow a couple of gallons from Uncle Abe,” said Jim blankly.

“You cannot!” I informed him sharply. “That is against the law.”

“But, for Pete’s sake,” cried Jim, “do abandon my car here …?”

“By law, you do,” I enunciated.

“Surely there is some provision…” wailed Jim. “We were bent on patriotic business… maple syrup, from Canada’s national tree…?”

So we walked to Uncle Abe’s. And he got the team out. And we walked back behind the team and towed the darn schooner all the way to Uncle Abe’s shed.

And there she stays until the first of April.

And we came home by train, talking about the Duke of Wellington in the smoker.

Jimmie put the ruler into the tank. He held it up, but it was dry.

Editor’s Note: The Reform Act 1832 introduced major changes to the electoral system of England and Wales.

Ration coupons were introduced in World War Two to ration scare resources.

The microfilm image is reproduced at the end.

Yellow Sally

“Why, she looks new,” cried Jim, walking around the beauty. “Oh, I had her washed up.” admitted Mr. Gitch, frankly.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, March 13, 1937.

“At last,” said Jimmie Frise, “at long last, I am about to buy a new car.”

“Jim,” I congratulated him, “it’s about time. What make are you choosing?”

“When I say a new car,” stated Jim. “I do not mean a new car in the full meaning of the word. It will be a used car.”

“Oh, not another second-hand car,” I protested.

“A used car,” repeated Jim. “There ought to be a better word than used car. Matured car. Ripe car. Car tuned in or broken in.”

“Broken in,” I assured him, “is the word. Will you never learn to profit by other people’s mistakes?”

“I do profit by other people’s mistakes,” said Jimmie, “Profit very neatly too. And the only mistake they make is turning in a car just when it is getting prime.”

“You’ve never yet bought a new car,” I accused him. “In eighteen years you have never had anything but used cars.”

“I would just as soon,” declared Jim, “pick a green banana off the tree and eat it as buy a new car. I like my cars to be run in and matured before I get them. Let somebody else pay for a lot of shine and a stiff engine. Let somebody else have the grief of seeing dents and scratches come on that investment. Let somebody else have the doubtful pleasure of driving it during its infancy at twenty-five miles an hour for the first 500 miles and thirty miles an hour for the next 500 miles.”

“If you have never had the pleasure of driving a beautiful smooth new car, Jim,” I informed him, “you are hardly in a position to judge that pleasure.”

“Let somebody else,” continued Jimmie, “have the fun of paying for all the adjustments and replacements that have to be made on a car before it is right.”

“New cars,” I advised, “are guaranteed for 90 days.”

“Yes,” said Jim, “and for the first 80 days you own a new car, you are conscious of it every time you are in it. You take special care of it. Give it oil. Treat it with consideration. There is blame little likely to happen the works of a new car in the first 90 days. But in about 180 days, you lose that first fine rapture and begin to put the car really to work. You have lost your silly pride in it. You step on it. You neglect its oil and grease a little. Whatever defects there were in it come to the surface. And our proud first owner has to pay for those corrections.”

“You make me feel,” I said, “as if I had been a fool for fifteen years.”

“There always have to be fools,” said Jim kindly. “But I have a line on a car, a swell sport model Allnox Eight.”

“What year?” I asked.

“A 1930,” said Jim. “But it has belonged to a man who has spent most of his time abroad and down in Florida. A rich guy, apparently. And it has spent most of its life in a garage. It has only gone 16,000 miles.”

“The price?” I asked.

“Prepare yourself,” said Jim triumphantly. “Get set. Take hold of something for support. Only $400.”

“There must be something wrong with it,” I said. “A new Allnox Eight is $2,200.”

With a Weasel Smile

“I Telephoned this guy last night,” said Jim excitedly. “It’s a private deal. No dealers, he said. He’s going on another trip abroad and he says he sees no reason for keeping this car laid up in his garage all the time. But he realizes it is a 1930 model and he is willing to let it go at a nominal figure, despite its wonderful condition.”

“What color is it?” I asked.

“Daffodil yellow,” cried Jimmie. “And he says it looks as if it had just come from the factory.”

“Are you going to see it?” I inquired.

“Am I going to see it?” shouted Jim. “Have I got the $400 in my mitt? Have I an appointment to see it at noon to-day?”

“How about …?” I began.

“Certainly,” said Jim. “I expect you to come with me.”

The neighborhood to which we drove to inspect the Allnox Eight was hardly the type of district a rich man would choose to live in. As a matter of fact, we were doubtful if we had the right house when we rang the bell because there were “roomer” signs in the windows. But this was all explained by Mr. Gitch when the landlady called him to the door.

Mr. Gitch was a small lean man who looked as if he were wearing somebody else’s clothes. He had a smooth tapered face that made him look like either a fox or a greyhound, and his eyes had that slitty, greyhound appearance of being able to see around to the back. Still, lots of men look rather funny by the time they are rich. You can’t get rich for nothing, I always say.

“Gentlemen,” said Mr. Gitch, softly, coming out on the porch, “I have the car around at the back. You will pardon my diggings here, but as I explained to you, I am seldom in Toronto; and whenever I am, I stay with this dear old soul who was a chum of my dear mother.”

He led us around the narrow side entrance and through a yard full of junk and boxes, to a lane. All the way through, he continued to explain in his soft, tender voice.

“After stopping at such places as the Ritz in London,” he smiled, “and the Ambassadoria in Rio and the Hotel London in Shanghai, you would imagine I would find it a little irksome to stop in a neighborhood like this.”

He smiled up at us from under his forehead and shook his hand delicately at the junk around. It seemed to me I had seen a weasel smile at me like that in the instant it had appeared and disappeared in the grass along a country fence.

“But this dear old body,” he chuckled, “would be simply heart broken if she heard I was in Toronto and had not stayed with her.”

He pushed through a hole in the back fence where a plank was off, and there, there, stood the Allnox Eight.

Daffodil yellow, sure enough and gleaming, flatly, indeed, as if she had come straight from the factory. Not a dent or scratch marred her satiny glowing surface.

“Why, she looks new,” cried Jim, walking around the beauty.

“Oh, I had her washed up,” admitted Mr. Gitch, frankly.

Inside, her upholstery was covered with dust covers of a snappy color and design, securely fastened down with tapes. It seemed to me that here and there, faint signs of age showed on her, such as the nickel of the lamps and the felt around the windows. I wordlessly placed my fingers on these slight omens, but Jimmie ignored my hints and walked around the car with increasing excitement.

“Nature is Completely Honest”

Mr. Gitch followed him with a curious softness of foot and voice that made me think of a cat.

“Hop in,” said Mr. Gitch. “We’ll take a spin.”

He drove. We rolled smoothly along the lane and into the streets full of bakers’ wagons and under-school-age children. Mr. Gitch raced the engine to show its power, since, obviously we could not let her out in these narrow streets.

“Listen to that,” cried Jim. “Has she ever got power!”

“At 16,000 miles,” said Mr. Gitch.” these American cars are on a par with European cars such as I am familiar with, I should say she was just nicely run in.”

He steered her around the block and back into the lane, where we dismounted.

“How about it?” asked Mr. Gitch and while I could not be sure, it seemed to me I saw his hands clutching and unclutching the way a hawk’s talons do.

“It’s a deal,” said Jim. “Can you drive her downtown to my office? We’ll drive down there and meet you and close the deal.”

“That,” said Mr. Gitch, “would suit me perfectly.”

“Meet me in half an hour then,” said Jim, “right in front of the office. I’ll be waiting there.”

We hastened out to my car and as I slammed the door, I cried:

“Jim, there’s something phoney about this whole thing. Call it off. Have the car examined by a mechanic.”

“What’s that?” demanded Jim, coming out of his trance.

“Something phoney,” I repeated. “I don’t like the man.”

“It’s the car we are buying,” retorted Jim. “Is there anything wrong with the car?

“Nature,” I declared, “is pretty honest in puting on the outside of all her packages a description of the contents. A crow is black and evil looking. A fox is sly and slinky. A deer is graceful and timid and shy-looking. If a man looks like a pig, you are generally pretty safe in assuming that he is a pig. ‘If a man looks like a fox, he is generally sly. If he…”

“What are you giving us?” snorted Jim.

“It’s a fact,” I assured him. “Nature is completely honest. She rarely fakes the outside of a bad package. Men are different. They can fake up the outside to look like a million dollars. That man reminded me of a fox, a weasel and hawk. I don’t like him.”

“Listen,” said Jim, “if we went around buying stuff only from the people we liked the look of, where would we be at?

“We would be a lot better off,” I stated.

“I guess,” smiled Jim, “you’re just a little jealous. As a new car buyer, you are just a little ribbed on seeing what kind of deals can be made if you look around. Oh, boy, can you see me sailing around in that yellow baby? That’s a sportsman’s car. Can you see me going to the races in it? Or out in the country, on a fishing trip?”

“Jim,” I said, “it’s phoney. It looks all right, it seemed to run all right. But that man is a weasel.”

“Haw, haw,” laughed Jim.

So we came to the office and parked my car and went and stood in front of the building to await Mr. Gitch. As we stood there waiting, our old friend Constable McGonigle came sauntering along and stopped to have chat with us. He belongs to the anglers’ association and is one of the most distinguished pike fishermen in the country despite his enormous size. Most good anglers are on the small side, but Constable McGonigle is a notable exception. We chatted merrily about the fast approaching season, Jimmie keeping a weather eye open for Mr. Gitch and Constable McGonigle keeping a weather eye open for sergeant; and suddenly Jimmie cried:

“Here he comes.”

Waiting For Delivery

Mr. Gitch in the magnificent yellow car was slowing down to come in to the open space where we were standing.

But suddenly he seemed to change his mind. He swung the wheel and stepped on the gas and with a roar of the engine leaped away and all we could see was the great yellow car vanishing along the street swaying in the traffic.

“What the dickens,” said Jim.

“What was all that?” asked Constable McGonigle.

So we explained to Constable McGonigle about the impending purchase and arranged to take him along with us on the first fishing trip in the new car which, in honor of the trout fly of that name, we agreed to call Yellow Sally. And he sauntered on, leaving Jimmie and me to wait for Mr. Gitch to come back around the block.

“Maybe,” said Jim, “he was just showing us how it handles.”

“Maybe,” I suggested, “he thought this space wasn’t big enough for him to park.”

We waited five minutes, ten minutes: no Mr. Gitch. We walked up to the end of the block both ways and looked. No Mr. Gitch. We walked right around the block and met Constable McGonigle again but he said he had noticed no yellow car.

At the end of an hour, we decided to go back to Mr. Gitch’s and see what had happened. A sad little old lady opened the door and we asked for Mr. Gitch.

“Mr. Who?” said she.

“Mr. Gitch,” we explained, “the gentleman we called for this morning about a big yellow car he was selling.”

“Oh, him,” said the landlady. “He only rented the room for an hour this morning. I never saw him before.”

“Ah,” said Jim.

“But,” said the lady, “maybe you could get him at a garage three streets over. I forget the name, but they have a big garage three streets over. I noticed that big yellow car backing out of it only yesterday, the same one he had in the lane this morning.”

Hastily Jim and I drove along to the garage which we found without trouble and we asked for the boss.

“A big yellow car?” he said. “Sure, we did the paint job on it just this week.”

“Paint job,” said Jim.

“One of the best paint jobs we ever did,” said the boss. “It set him back $70. But he insisted. We did a swell paint job and we trimmed up all the nickel and we sewed down a new set of dust covers on the seats and you wouldn’t know it from a new car hardly. That is, by the looks.”

“Was it in pretty good shape?” asked Jim.

“Pretty good shape?” asked the boss. “It was the worst old wreck I ever had in this place. He got it for $50 and he spent $70 on it. Can you imagine that?”

“Heh, heh,” laughed Jimmie.

“But he said in his business – he’s a salesman,” explained the garage boss, “he says appearances are everything.”

“Well, if he turns up,” said Jim, “tell him a couple of people were looking for him.”

“I doubt if he’ll be back,” said the boss. “He told me he was heading for California.”

So we drove back down town, and on the way, we stopped and bought a nice box of cigars for Constable McGonigle.

And Jim says it is always best to take a mechanic along with you when you got to look at a used car.


Editor’s Notes: “Allnox 8” is a made up car name, and is a play on words for cars of that era. The “8” would be an indication that it was an 8 cylinder engine, and “Allnox” is a joke on the term “Nonox” which meant “No Knocks”, an engine that would not “knock” thanks to additives to gasoline like lead. It would only be later that it was discovered that leaded gasoline was bad for the environment and for human health.

$400 in 1937 equals $7,400 in 2021. $2,200 would be $40,600. $50 would be $925.

Just a Push

Standing in the middle of the road was a stout man with his hand up in a commanding manner…

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, February 11, 1939.

“Ah, what’s the use.” cried Jimmie Frise, “of being in a bad humor?”

“There’s little in the world today,” I assured him, “to be good humored about.”

“Even so,” persisted Jim, slackening the speed of the car as he always does when he feels a speech coming on, “even so, what can bad humor do to help the state of the world?”

“I think,” I submitted, “that if we all got mad, it would clear the air. If everybody, all of a sudden, just got raging mad, mad clean through, you might see some surprising results. Suppose, all over the British world, if everybody, young and old, men and women, rich and poor, just jumped up with a wild yell and started out the front door. Suppose all the streets of all the cities of Britain, in Edinburgh and Dublin and London and Montreal and Cape Town and Calcutta and Regina, suddenly filled with angry men and women, roaring and bellowing with rage.”

“At what?” demanded Jim.

“At the way the world’s going,” I stated. “Do you know what one of the major causes of world confusion is right now?”

“What?” asked Jim.

“British good nature,” I declared. “The serene good nature of kindly men and women, of tolerant. easy-going, gentle-minded men and women, young, middle-aged and old. I can see all the cities of the British, all the towns and villages, all the farms, in England, in Canada, in Australia, full of solid, quiet, good-humored people. You can’t jar them out of their good nature. They are shocked at the rest of the world. But they let it go at that. Why don’t they get mad? Why don’t they leap up out of their rocking chairs and start smashing things? I bet you a good big burst of British temper would settle all the racket in this world the way the roar of a lion quells all the silly tumult of the desert. All the jackals quit their snarling, all the monkeys cease their chattering, all the querulous birds are still.”

“It will take a lot to rouse British temper,” said Jim. “What we’ve been through the past three years proves that. We dethroned a king without a tear. We have respectfully withdrawn our navy and our armies, here, there, everywhere. With polite bows, we have rationalized and understood. We have evacuated, stepped aside, gone visiting up hills, and sent notes of protest so polite the receiver thought they were fan letters. Maybe we haven’t any anger left. Maybe our anger is exhausted.”

“I’d like to send a valentine,” I declared, to certain quarters of this globe.”

“Good-nature conquers, in the end,” said Jim.

“I bet the dinosaur was a good-natured beast,” I agreed. “Whenever we dig up a dinosaur. it always has a good-natured grin on its face.”

“Without good-nature,” decreed Jim, “no human accomplishment ever amounts to anything.”

“Good-nature has its place,” I corrected. “Good-nature is the spirit of enjoyment of something we have won. But good-nature doesn’t enter into the winning or the defending of that thing.”

“A good-natured man can get far more than an ill-humored man,” countered Jim.

“I deny it,” I retorted. “The most successful men on earth are the ones capable of the most powerful ill nature.”

“What a terrible thing to say,” protested Jim.

“Suppose,” I offered, “that we had gone into the Battle of Vimy filled with good nature. Can you imagine the result? Instead, we went into that battle like tigers. Trained tigers. They trained us for six weeks solid, day and night; marching us endlessly to make us hard: feeding us like prize fighters to make us strong: filling our minds with fear and hate to make us alert; and when we did the trick, we did it like a tornado. And it was a great success. No, sir; good-nature has its place, but it isn’t in winning or defending something we deem precious.”

“We’ve had such a long spell of the dumps,” pleaded Jim. “Ever since 1929, we’ve been going around with our tails between our legs. Now you suggest that we go in for a spell of bad temper.”

“We should have gone into a temper in 1929, instead of into the dumps,” I declared. “We should have recoiled on the people and the forces and the influences that wrecked us. We should have cleaned house then, the way you do when the plaster falls. Instead, we were gloomily good-natured over the whole mess. Our good nature is our curse.”

“What we need now,” said Jim, “is a supremely good-natured leader who can overcome the forces of evil by the sheer power of human good-will massed behind him.”

“Mr. Chamberlain is good-natured,” I replied, “Mr. Roosevelt is good-natured. Mr. King is good-natured, Mr. Hepburn, Mr. Aberhart, everybody is good-natured. I tell you, there never was such an opportunity for a bad-tempered politician as right now. What we are craving is a bad-tempered, ill-natured, cantankerous statesman. And one will arise, before very long, and you’ll see the whole British world catch hold of his coat tails.”

“I wonder what this bad-tempered gentleman wants?” interrupted Jimmie, taking his foot off the gas and starting to brake the car.

Standing in the middle of the road was a stout man with his hand up in a commanding gesture. He was a middle-aged man, dressed in patched trousers and red sweater. On the side of the road was an aged and dilapidated car.

And on the face of the gentleman signalling was an expression of fury.

“Pass him,” I suggested. “What’s he want, holding us up as if he were a cop.”

Since he was standing resolutely in the middle of the road, and as Jim always likes to be of help to people, we could not pass him, and we drew to a stop. Jim running down the window that the irate man could speak to us.

“Gents,” he said, angrily, “would you mind giving me a push?”

“Not at all,” said Jim. “Is she stalled?”

“Stalled,” the stranger gritted fiercely. “The blankety blank blank blank!”

“I’ll back up and come around,” said Jim eagerly.

“You’d think it was the car’s fault,” I muttered, as Jim started to back up and the stranger got into his car and slammed the door.

Stranger Gives Orders

We eased up gently to the rear of the old car. Its bumper was bent and askew. but Jim got a grip on it with his strong front bumper and with a slight grinding of gears, started the old bus moving.

The stranger steered into the middle of the highway and held it straight.

“Well,” I demanded, “why doesn’t he get it going?”

The stranger was sitting perfectly straight, making no visible effort to work his choke or his gears or anything else.

“Why doesn’t he put it into second gear?” I demanded again.

And Jim and I sat watching through the window ahead and seeing nothing but the head of the stranger as he sat serenely at his steering wheel.

“I’ll ask him what’s the idea?” said Jim, slacking speed so that the car ahead rolled free and came to a gradual stop. We drove up behind and Jim waited for the gent to come out. But he didn’t. He just sat in his car, not even turning his head.

Jim got out and walked ahead.

“It won’t start,” Jim explained, “if you don’t put her into gear.”

The stranger glared at Jim out of red-rimmed eyes.

“Okay,” he said, “okay, brother, give us another shove.”

So we got into position again and got the bumpers engaged and started. We could feel the resistance as the stranger let in his clutch and engaged his gears. We shoved for about 50 feet and then the stranger let out the gear again and we bowled him along at a neat 20 miles an hour.

“He must be out of gas,” said Jim. “We’ll just shove him along to the next gas station.”

Since we were nearing the suburbs of Toronto, there was a gas station likely to appear any minute. We cheerfully pushed the stranger ahead of us the better part of a mile before a gas station hove in view.

But the stranger showed no intention of turning in, as we drew near, and Jimmie started to slacken speed. Out the window ahead came the hand of the stranger, beckoning us to go on.

Jim slowed down and the stranger proceeded straight ahead, coming to a halt in the middle of the highway. We turned into the gas station.

“I’ll pretend I need gas,” explained Jim.

The stranger got out of his car and walked back on to the gas station gravel.

“Out of gas?” he inquired sharply.

“Yes,” said Jim. “I thought maybe you were out of gas… when she wouldn’t start after you put her in gear.”

“I’ve got gas, all right,” stated the stranger coldly.

Enough is Plenty

He stood waiting. Jim ordered three gallons, though he didn’t need it, and asked the boy to look at his oil and water. The stranger stood waiting and watching.

“We don’t want to leave my car out there in the middle of the highway,” he informed us, a little hotly.

“Just a minute,” said Jim, “how far do you expect me to push you?”

“I’m trying to get it started,” snarled the stranger, growing very red in the face and angry of eye. “Do you begrudge a little shove to a man who can’t get his car started?”

“Look here,” said Jim, growing a little angry, himself, “we’ve shoved you more than a mile, and you haven’t made the slightest effort to get it started. We’ve been watching you. You just sit there and steer.”

“Didn’t I let her into gear?” retorted the stranger, very hot.

“Why don’t you run it in here and let this gas station man help you?” inquired Jim, in a friendly tone.

“And get gypped,” roared the stranger, “for doing something I can do perfectly well myself! Listen, mister, if you don’t want to give a little shove to a fellow motorist on the highway…”

“Okay, okay,” said Jim, eagerly. “I’ll be right out.”

“Jim,” I said, “I never saw such nerve as this guy’s got. What the Sam Hill you are wasting our time shoving this bird …?”

“One more try,” said Jimmie.

So we got going, after a few preliminary bumps and false starts and drove him a good half mile down the highway.

“Jim,” I said, “why not let us help him get it going. Between us, we know the rudiments of an engine. Instead of us shoving this bird at 20 miles an hour all the way into the city let’s get out and have a look at his engine and see if we can get it started.”

“That’s an idea,” said Jim, honking his horn and signalling to the stranger to turn off to the side of the road. He did not pay any attention, so we slacked speed and left him to roll on to a stop.

We followed and parked behind him and got out.

“Look,” said Jim, “we can’t go on shoving you indefinitely. Let’s have a look at your engine. Maybe we can …”

But as Jim started to lift the hood of the engine, the stranger let out a bellow: “Hold on there, mister,” he shouted angrily. “None of that.”

“None of what?” shouted back Jim.

“You leave that engine alone,” commanded the stranger, clambering out of the car.

“What’s going on here?” roared Jimmie, fiercely jerking the hood and opening it.

A Very Nice Bluff

A comical spectacle met our gaze. There was no engine. Well, there was a cylinder block and a lot of odds and ends hanging to it, but no carburetor and no generator and none of the things that naturally meet the eye when you lift the hood of a car.

“What is this?” hissed Jimmie, furiously peering into the stranger’s face.

The stranger seemed to dissolve before our gaze. All his anger and fury vanished.

“Tell me,” choked Jim, “what’s the big idea?”

“Well, you see,” said the stranger wearily, “I was just bluffing.”

“I’ll say you were bluffing,” shouted Jim, furiously, pointing in at the gutted engine.

“I bought this,” explained the stranger meekly, “in Brampton. For $10. I thought if I got it home, I might tinker with it and pick up some spare parts and things. You see, I’m unemployed. I haven’t any money and I always wanted a car and I never had one.”

“You haven’t got one yet,” I suggested, looking at the ratty vehicle in detail.

“I did $10 worth of work,” went on the stranger sadly, “and took this car in payment. Then I got shoves. Some people gave me little shoves and others gave me quite long ones, longer even than you.”

“You mean to say,” I cried, “that you’ve got shoves all the way from Brampton to the outskirts of Toronto?”

“Yes,” said the stranger meekly. “After all, it’s just like hitch-hiking, sort of, isn’t it?”

“Like heck it is,” said Jim.

“Oh, you’d be surprised,” said the stranger, “how much good-nature there is in the world. All going to waste. What’s the harm in using a little of it when you can? Lots of people who shoved me seemed pleased to have the chance.”

“Did they know you were deceiving them?” I inquired, as a moralist.

“Oh, no,” said the stranger. “But I did find that the ruder I was, the better service I got.”

“Oh, did you?” said Jim.

“Yes, it’s a curious thing,” said the stranger, who now appeared to be quite a gentle little man. “If I stood in the road and smiled, they drove right by. If I glared, they stopped. If I asked politely for a shove, they replied that they had engine trouble and couldn’t help me. But if I looked angry and swore and held my breath so my face got red, they were only too anxious to help me.”

“That’s a curious thing,” we agreed.

“Not at all,” said the stranger. “The worse-tempered a man is, the more good-natured are the people around him. They’re cowed, see?”

“Ah,” said Jim. “Cowed. Well, mister, do you expect us to shove you any further?”

“Oh, no,” said the stranger, gently. “Not at all. I’m very grateful to you for helping me on my way. I’ll have no trouble getting another shove.”

So we bid him good-by, and as we drove away, I looked back and saw him taking up his stand in the middle of the road again, hunching up his shoulders, holding his breath to make his face red, and generally assuming an attitude of power and fury.


Editor’s Notes: All of the politicians mentioned were contemporary to the article, Neville Chamberlain (Prime Minister of the United Kingdom), Franklin D. Roosevelt (President of the United States), William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister of Canada), Mitchell Hepburn (Premier of Ontario), and William Aberhart (Premier of Alberta).

Depending on where you start and end, the distance between Brampton Ontario and the “outskirts” of Toronto, would be between 20-30 kilometers.

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