The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Tag: February Page 1 of 3

Always Too Late

By Greg Clark, February 25, 1939

“I’d be willing to bet,” stated Jimmie Frise, “that in 25 years the whole world will be Nazi.”

“Never,” I declared.

“By Nazi,” said Jim, “I mean Fascist or Communist or some kind of gang control, like Nazi.”

“Never,” I repeated stoutly.

“Yes, sir,” insisted Jim, “the whole shooting match is moving that way. Slow but sure. You can actually see the trend now, the way you can see autumn coming.”

“I would rather see spring coming.” I put in.

“Well, it’s autumn we’re looking at, all over the world now,” said Jim. “For a hundred years we have had summer. Now comes the autumn of the world. Soon all the trees of a shady and comfortable life will be bare. Soon the fields of human endeavor will be bleak and gray. And all mankind will muffle up and hide away in their lonely shuttered houses against the winter of a stormy world.”

“You talk as if history went in seasons,” I protested.

“So it does,” said Jim.

“We’d never submit to any gang control.” I stated. “Not us. We’ve tasted freedom. We’ll never let go of it.”

“We’ve sold our freedom,” said Jim gently, “for something more comfortable. We sold our freedom for efficiency. We have gradually submitted to efficiency in all things. Electric light is more efficient than candles. Street cars are a more efficient way of going to work than walking, Shoe factories are a more efficient way of making shoes than cobbling.”

“Now, now,” I cut in; “all you want to do is kick against progress.”

“Not me,” disagreed Jim. “All I want to do is show you what progress is. And where it goes. You admit that the biggest effort of the past hundred years has certainly been in making the means of life more efficient in all things.”

“I sure do,” I agreed.

“Okay.” said Jim. “Then the best way to run a country is the best way to run a factory – hand it over to one man or a gang of men, called a board of directors, and let them run it with what they deem to be the maximum of efficiency.”

“Huh, for themselves,” I scoffed.

“Ah, no,” said Jim. “You can’t find a board of directors in the whole of North America, in the whole world, who will admit they are running their company in their own interests.”

“Sure they won’t,” I agreed.

“They are running it,” said Jim, “in the interests of the industry, of the public welfare.”

“Well, the public isn’t faring very well in most parts of the world,” I pointed out.

Life Can Never Be Easy

“It’s their own fault,” declared Jim. “They wanted life to be easy. And life can never be easy. If it comes easy one way, it becomes uneasy some other way. That is all history is – the story of men’s trading one thing for another thing, always in the hope of getting something for nothing.”

“Such as?” I challenged.

“Such as,” said Jim, “this: We grew our cattle and rendered our tallow and molded our candles and so had light. But that was uncomfortable and hard, so we traded that for a corporation that gave us electric light at the touch of a button. But now, when we lose our job because the factory we work for is run by a stupid or ruthless board of directors and we can’t pay our electric light bill, the power is turned off on us, and there we are, in darkness. A more terrible darkness than ordinary darkness because now we have forgotten how to grow cattle and render tallow and mold candles. That is a terrifying darkness. A much more terrifying darkness than any our ancestors knew, however poor and humble they were.”

“Pooh, Jimmie,” I protested; “those ancestors, living in hovels, were at the mercy of any roving robber baron that passed by their shack.”

“Today, how different?” said Jim; only he asked it as a question and raised his eyebrows and looked at me with a mocking expression.

“Well, anyway,” I retorted, even if we have robber barons among us today it is better than being bullied by a dictator and his gang.”

“Don’t be too sure,” said Jim. “Inefficient bullies surely can’t be as good as efficient bullies. Not if there is any virtue in efficiency.”

“You hate efficiency,” I sneered.

“I think it is overrated,” admitted Jim. “I’ve seen it destroy a great deal of human joy and happiness.”

“It made things cheaper,” I pointed out.

“But threw a lot of men out of jobs,” countered Jim.

“It organized a disorganized world,” I declared.

“Ready to the hand.” retorted Jim, “of the ultimate efficiency expert, the dictator.”

“Jim,” I admitted, “I begin to see what you’re driving at. It isn’t that the dictators have taken possession of men. It is only that men have cheerfully handed themselves over to dictators.”

“Now you’ve got it,” said Jim. “The last of all to submit to efficiency were the farmers. But the minute farmers began to organize into co-operatives and take on efficiency machines in trade for greater ease and security, they started to form battalions for some dictator – of their own choosing.”

“Then the only free man now,” I cried, “is the most backward man: the hillbilly, the tramp, the savage.”

“Everybody else,” decreed Jim, “is tossing his freedom away, lining up behind the glamorous banners of efficiency and preparing to march at the command of a dictator.”

“To heck with it,” I said.

“Too late,” said Jim.

“It is never too late,” I cried.

“It is always too late,” sighed Jim. “Look at history.”

“Jim,” I shouted, “we’re newspapermen. Let’s get going. Let us rouse the public. Let us write articles. Let us hold public meetings. Let us stage radio programs. Let us take up the fiery cross of freedom and warn the people of this country where we are headed.”

“They’d never listen,” said Jim.

“Let Us Fight Efficiency”

“Sure, they’ll listen,” I cried. “We’ll make them listen. We’ll stage a revival. We’ll employ the smartest talent. We’ll adopt the most modern and up-to-date methods of propaganda. I don’t mean any countrified little outburst. I mean, take the country by storm. Set it on fire.”

“We’ll be efficient,” said Jim slyly. “We’ll be a couple of dictators in no time.”

“There you go,” I said bitterly; “being cynical about the most sacred things of all, human freedom.”

“No,” said Jim, “I was just agreeing with you. Let us put on a whale of an efficient assault against efficiency.”

“I don’t believe you mean it,” I said cautiously.

“You’re right; I don’t,” said Jim. “Some things are deeper than words or even ideas. And biological trend is one of them. Purely biologically mankind has chosen to be more comfortable by means of efficiency. Efficiency is not a natural thing in men. By nature they are inefficient, happy-go-lucky, decent, amiable, hoping for the best. To adopt efficiency, mankind has to change its nature. One of the changes it has to make is to give up its sense of freedom in being happy-go-lucky, amiable, decent and hoping for the best. In all things, for generations past, we have chosen efficiency. Okay. It is almost complete. In 25 years we will have realized our dreams. We will be efficient. It will not be men who will be our despots. It will be the despot, efficiency.”

“Then,” I cried, “let us fight efficiency.”

“How?” laughed Jim.

“By turning back,” I pleaded eagerly. “By reviving the means of freedom, by refusing to buy factory-made goods.”

“Ha,” said Jim, “a sort of William Morris or Elbert Hubbard revival of the homely arts and crafts.”

“Let us encourage our wives and daughters to knit and weave,” I explained. “Our sons to take up metal hammering and wood working. Let us start a back-to-the-land movement, not amongst the unemployed, but amongst the rich and influential and well-to-do.”

“They’d love it,” agreed Jim.

“It’s the well-to-do we’ve got to rouse,” I cried. “If we show them where they are leading us and themselves they’ll draw back.”

“Most well-to-do people are dictators already in their own sphere,” said Jim.

“But they wouldn’t like to be under a Hitler,” I triumphed.

“They’ll have to like it,” smiled Jim, “because they themselves have proven – in their own field – that authority is efficiency and efficiency is success.”

“Which do we want most,” I demanded, “success or happiness?”

“Now you’ve divided mankind into the four classes,” said Jim. “Those who want happiness, those who want success, those who want both, and those who will sacrifice either for the other. There you’ve got them all.”

“Do you mean to say there are people who want only success?” I asked.

“The business and professional world is full of them,” replied Jim.

“And people who want only happiness?”

“The trades and labor world is full of them,” said Jim. “And the loan shark offices are packed with the people who want both. And the quiet places of the earth, the gentle farms, the little cottages on the edges of villages, are filled with people who have surrendered success for happiness; and the lobbies of hotels and the night clubs and the office lights burning high and late into the night, and all the other lonely places of the earth are filled with those who choose success at the price of happiness.”

“I hate the look of the future,” I muttered.

“There is nothing you can do about the future any more than you can do anything about the past,” said Jim. “It’s all buried deep in the nature of men.”

“Then,” I declared, leaping to my feet, “let’s do something about the nature of men.”

“What do you think,” demanded Jimmie, “the churches have been doing for a thousand years; and schools and ten thousand writers and philosophers and reformers and statesmen?”

I slapped my leg emphatically.

“But we’ve never been in such peril before,” I cried.

“We’ve always been in peril,” replied Jim, “hence churches, teachers, philosophers and statesmen.”

“Let’s take up the torch,” I pleaded.

Beclouding the Issue

And at that instant I smelled a curious smell.

“Phew,” I interrupted. “What’s that smell?”

Jim sat forward.

“H’m,” he said, “it smells like sulphur …”

“Ouch,” I yelled, leaping violently backwards.

My leg was stinging with a sharp bee-like sting, right on the thigh. I reached into my pocket. My fingers stung as if from fire.

“Your pants are afire,” commented Jim, pointing.

A faint cloud of smoke was emerging from my mid region.

“Jimmie,” I shouted, reaching frantically into my pants pocket and attempting to pull the pocket inside out.

“Matches on fire in your pocket,” said Jim, rising to his feet.

“Hyah,” I gasped, scrabbling with one hand to draw out the pocket and with the other holding the front of my pant leg free of my leg.

“You shouldn’t use old-fashioned matches …” commented Jim.

“Help me,” I bellowed, starting to skip around, because the fire was now beginning to scorch my tender leg. “Help.”

“Well, for heaven’s sake,” said Jim, “take your pants off.”

For now an evil-smelling cloud of smoke of scorched cloth and smothering matches was billowing from my pants and I was indeed in peril.

I tore my coat off faster than ever I removed it in all my life, Jim whipped my plaid pullover of me and in a thrice I had slipped my pants down, to reveal a completely charred pocket and a large hole, smoldering at the edges, in both my tweed trousers and my underwear. And on my leg a nasty red spot.

I beat the smoldering cloth out.

“What a silly thing…” I gasped.

“You shouldn’t carry those dangerous old-fashioned matches,” declared Jim firmly.

“They’re the only kind I like,” I stated indignantly. “Those safety ones just go fffff.”

“Then,” insisted Jim, “you shouldn’t slap your leg the way you do. Don’t be so vehement if you’re going to carry dynamite in your pants pocket.”

“I’ll slap my leg if I like,” I retorted, more in indignation than anything, because no man likes to be standing with his pants half off and his clothes on fire and listen to somebody lecturing him.

“Sure, sure,” said Jim bitterly. “And you’re the guy that wants to change human nature and set the world on fire for freedom and you can’t even keep your pants from catching fire.”

“Okay, okay.” I said, “but what do I do now? I can’t go around with a hole in the leg of my pants.”

“There’s a cleaning place across the road,” said Jim, “where they mend all kinds of burns and things.”

“I can’t go over and sit there with my pants off,” I informed him angrily.

“Okay, okay,” said Jim. “Take them off and I’ll take them over and have them patched up somehow and wait for them.”

“Suppose somebody comes in?” I asked.

“Lock the door,” said Jim, “and when I come back I’ll rap three short, quick raps so you’ll know it is me.”

So Jim took my pants and I locked the door, and just to be doubly sure I put my overcoat on and sat at my desk with my legs under it, and tried to think about the way the world is going. But by the time Jimmie got back I hadn’t thought up a single thing. Which goes to show that without his pants a man isn’t much of a thinker.


Editor’s Notes: William Morris and Elbert Hubbard were members of the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th and early 20th century which advocated traditional craftsmanship.

Medicos Suffer Loss of Prestige as Result of War

Canada’s Soldiers, Forced in the Field to Believe That Nearly All Illness Was Simply a Matter of the Imagination, or at the Worst a No. 9 Pill, Now Have the Idea that They Can Get Along Without Doctors Altogether – What a Change Has Come Over the M.O.’S.

By Greg Clark, February 28, 1920

The war has put a serious crimp in the medical profession.

Not that doctors fell down – far from it. In the pure advancement of the science of medicine and surgery, the war may be said to have speeded the profession up to unparalleled pitch.

But the practice of the profession has certainly suffered in so far as It concerns half a million Canadian soldiers, their wives, dependents and next of kin.

Picture the Medical Officer at war. Ho was merely a doctor in uniform. Yet, oh, what a difference —

You felt sick and sore all over. Your stomach had a far-away, detached feeling. There were shooting pains in your joints and your head was dizzy.

So you went to the Medical Officer, with that old unerring Instinct that, in prettier days, made you telephone for the same gentleman in civies, to call on you in your bed —

Aye, with that mournfullest of bugle calls, the Reveille, blatting in your ears, you rose in the chilly morn, and stumbled, sick, sore and half-clad, down to the Medical Officer’s billet.

You found him sitting, with his cap over one ear, in his raincoat over his pyjamas He glared at you with an undisguised professional eye. A hard, flinty and skeptical eye that seemed to penetrate your tibia, tarsus and medulla oblongata.

“Well!” said he.

“Sir, I’m sick,” you replied. “I’m dizzy and have pains here and here, and a sort of –“.

“Sergeant,” said the Medical Officer, “one ounce of oil and a number nine for this man. And mark him light duty!”

“Next!”

Pfft! All over in a twinkling.

Oil! Number nine! Ugh! Light duty! Ye shades of Caesar and D’Artagnan and General Byng! Was ever a poor soldier so whelmed in ignominy, so bereft of heart! Oh, the swing and the swank and the swagger of the carefree soldier’s life!

Reader, dost know what light duty is? Peeling potatoes for the cook, skimming grease off dixies of mulligan, sweeping out billets, emptying swill.

Somehow, you swallowed the oil and the pill under the marble eye of the Medical Sergeant. Somehow you staggered back to your billet and reported to the orderly corporal for light duty. Somehow the daylight nightmare passed, and at eventide as you laid you in your chicken-wire bunk amid the fumes of charcoal braziers and drying socks, you made a vow never to “parade sick” again, but to die, like a martyr, in your tracks some day, in the heat of battle, the victim of a malignant disease, while bullets passed you harmlessly by.

Yet, never was a healthier army known. Never did men smash all the medical rules with such impunity. Sitting in slush, wallowing in mud, sleeping all the sunny day in deep and damp and foul-aired dugouts and sitting in all night in the damp, chilly, night air. Nine men out of ten should have died of pneumonia or galloping decline. But they didn’t. A marvellous medical corps shot you a pill or a spoon of oil or merely a stern glance, and lo, all ailments vanished.

The soldier came to the conclusion that practically all illness is largely a matter of Imagination or at worst a simple matter of pills.

But the soldier comes home. Back to the soft bed, the steam heated billet, the umbrellas, the rubbers and the regular hours.

One day, he feels sick. Pains in his joints, dizzy of head, and so on.

And an almost forgotten instinct twigs him. With a mysterious smile on his face, he calls on the doctor.

He is ushered into a quiet, solemn little room. Presently a grave, but friendly gentleman enters. He shakes hands and eyes the patient with kindly and solicitous eye.

“Sir,” says the ex-soldier, a faint memory prompting him, “I’m sick. I’m dizzy and have pains here and here; and a sort of –“

“Mmm!” says the doctor, sympathetically.

“Yes,” continues the ex-soldier, “and I can’t eat, and my stomach feels far-away, kind of.”

“Mmm!” repeats the doctor. “Have you been this way long?”

“No, just since this morning.”

“Have you been eating meat?”

“Yes.”

“Mmm! Let me see your tongue.”

Then the doctor takes his pulse and temperature, sounds his chest and back – scares the poor ex-soldier into a fit.

Mmmmm!” says the doctor, “Mmmm! Er – would your business permit you to lay off for a week or so?”

“Yes,” murmurs the awed ex-soldier.

“Very well. Go home,” says the doctor, “and go to bed. I shall call and prescribe certain things.”

So the patient hastens home with wobbly knees and crawls into bed.

The doctor calls twice a day for a week, feels pulse, takes temperature, prescribes dark medicine and Pulls Him Through!

But somewhere in this procedure the ex-soldier comes alive. He startles his poor wife half to death by suddenly bursting into wild laughter as he lies on his sick-bed. He has remembered. The incongruity of the thing has hit him. Again he can hear reveille sadly waking the morn with its flat ta-too, ta-too! The chilly crawl to the M.O.’s billet, the brief, disappointing interview —

“Hurroo!” yells the ex-soldier and leaps out of bed and confounds the doctor, when he calls, with a glance.

As we know now, much of the influenza was due to laymen trying to doctor themselves with various pills and powders and to fear. The best preventive of flu is to wear the hat at a jaunty angle over the ear.

But the returned soldier strikes the happy medium. He remembers that during the war he was unable to dope himself with all manner of pills from the corner drug store and that he was not subjected to any flummery on the part of the Medical Officer. Thus he was healthy.

A Toronto officer visited the booklined studio of his former regimental Medical Officer. The usual jovial and profane greetings over, the officer launched into a harrowing description of his symptoms. The M.O. sounded him, pulled a long face.

“Better lay up for a few days –” he began.

“Mo, you old rascal,” yelled the officer, “do you remember that day on the Lievin front that I was sick and you wouldn’t send me out because the Colonel fancied he was short of officers? Do you remember, I really was ill? Well, to-day’s the anniversary of that day, you old scalawag, and I just thought I’d drop in and celebrate it. There isn’t a thing the matter with me!”

So the M.O. smothered his chagrin, shed his professional manner, and become once again the jovial, cynical, hard-headed and congenial old poker-player he always was.


Editor’s Note: Not taking illness seriously during World War One became a common joke for soldiers, as men were always needed. The “Number 9 Pill” was a laxative.

The Hotel Lobby

February 22, 1919

“Grips” was slang for suitcases.

"Dead Eye"

By Greg Clark, February 20, 1937

“Have you noticed,” asked Jimmie Frise, “these new shooting galleries around?”

“Don’t tell me,” I cried, “that shooting is coming back.”

“It is,” said Jim, “and with a bang. All over the country these little shooting galleries are opening up. You shoot for a pool.”

“Money?” I inquired sharply.

“Cash,” agreed Jim. “A certain amount of what everybody pays for his shots goes into a pot, like in poker. The target is a very tricky one. It is the capital letter Z. With three shots, you have to obliterate all the letter Z, which is in red ink on the target. If the slightest trace, of red remains, after your three shots, you lose. Only the most expert marksmen, and the luckiest marksmen, can cut out all that Z with three shots from a little .22 rifle.”

“Does the pot get very big?” I asked.

“I’ve heard of it growing to $60,” said Jim. “Often it goes as high as $20.”

“By George,” I assured him, “that’s worth shooting for.”

“And very exciting, too,” said Jim. “These little shooting galleries are located in shops and stores; and in their front windows they stick up signs or a blackboard and announce the size of the pool every hour or so. When the word spreads that the pool is growing big, the boys gather from far and wide to take a shot for the big money.”

“And the greater the excitement.” I supposed, “the bigger the pool grows, because nervousness and excitement spoils the shooting.”

“I heard of a case down in one western Ontario town,” said Jim, “where an old Black Watch sergeant-major, one of those regular old soldiers, used to wait until the pool got up around twenty bucks, and then he’d walk in and collect. He has carried off eight or nine of these big pools, I’m told.”

“I can picture that,” I laughed. “A Scotsman, cool and practical. And an old soldier. And he just walks in, very calm and cold-blooded, and shoots that twenty bucks right into his Caledonian pocket.”

“Certain of the bigwigs in the country,” said Jimmie, “look with disfavor on these shooting galleries. They are trying to find out how they can be stopped.”

“Why?” I demanded. “Don’t they want the plain people to have any fun?”

“Well, for instance,” said Jim, “old Colonel Lundy-Lane or some other patriot, sees in these shooting galleries a nefarious plan by which the Reds are getting in their target practice. And then Mr. Bulger Baggs, that widely known public pest, who watches the morals of the nation, hates to see anybody making $20 as easily as by shooting. If you let people make money easily, what will happen to the nation’s supply of hard workers? And anyway, Mr. Baggs is no good at shooting, himself, or he’d be down collecting those twenties.”

“Jim,” I said, “if public opinion in the persons of our prominent patriots and well known wealthy moral guiders is going against these shooting galleries, we had better get busy.”

“As Good As in My Pocket”

“Would you come with me and try a hand at it?” asked Jim.

“The money is as good as in my pocket right now, Jim,” I assured him. “You’ve never seen me really shooting. Do you realize, if I had cared to follow it, I would have been one of the greatest Bisley shots in history?”

“I’ve been hunting with you,” said Jim.

“Ah, yes, hunting,” I protested. “I admit that at hunting I am no great shakes. But that is no test. You take a little man like me, working in an office fifty weeks of the year, and then suddenly going out into the wilds to clamber about on rocks and through swamps, carrying a great big eight-pound high-power rifle. No wonder I can’t hit anything. And anyway, the muzzle blast and kick of those big rifles.”

“Now I come to think of it,” said Jim, “in twenty years I have never seen you hit anything.”

“Jim,” I informed him, “I’m not one to talk about myself and my exploits, but did you ever know I have shot at Hythe, which is the greatest musketry range in the world? Do you know that all the time I was in the army, I was conniving, every time my regiment was out of the line, to get the job of musketry officer? That I seized every opportunity that presented itself in a period of three years to shoot at the ranges? That I have fired tens of thousands of rounds?”

“But did you hit anything?” asked Jim.

“My boy,” I advised him, “there is all the difference in the world between range shooting and field shooting. Some of the greatest hunting shots in the world are no good at all at targets. And some of the greatest target shots couldn’t hit game with the flat side of a shovel.”

“Are you any good with the .22 rifle?” asked Jim.

“I’ll show you whether I am any good or not,” I informed him, “when we go to lunch. Are there any of these shooting galleries handy?”

“There’s one a couple of blocks over,” said Jim. “I looked in yesterday. The pot was around $8 at that time. And there were about fifteen guys lined up to shoot for it.”

“Jim,” I said, “in the army, my men called me Bull Clark, because of the way I used to shoot nothing but bull’s-eyes. At all ranges from one hundred yards up.”

“Maybe,” said Jim, “you took up target shooting in self-defence. Bull Clark, eh?”

“That’s what they called me,” I reminisced tenderly. “In the dark, as I would come along the trenches amongst my merry men, and they wouldn’t notice me on account of my size, I would hear them talking about me. ‘Wait,’ they’d say, ‘until the little Bull comes along.’ And that sort of thing, all very affectionate. Oh, they knew a good shot when they saw one.”

“Likely they did,” agreed Jim.

“Of course,” I related, “an officer is not supposed to do much shooting in the trenches. He leaves that to his men, and spends his time in administration.”

“Down in dugouts,” helped Jim.

“Well,” I explained, “you daren’t show any lights in the trenches, and an officer has to spend a good deal of his time down in dugouts, reading orders and looking at maps and that sort of thing, by the light of a candle.”

“It all seems very reasonable to me,” said Jim.

Firing At the Little Z

 “But often,” I went on, “my men used to plead with me to take shots in the trenches, when good targets offered. I recall one time they called me up out of the dugout in great excitement and pointed to a dark figure standing out in No Man’s Land. Even in the dark, I could see it was a German. The boys thrust a rifle into my hands and begged me to fire. But just in time I recollected the traditions of the British army and, instead of shooting, I ordered my men to line the parapet and open fire on the German. They just burst out laughing because it was a dummy they had put up for my amusement.”

“Still,” said Jimmie, “if you had shot you’d have hit it, don’t you think?”

“To tell the truth,” I confessed, “I have trained my mind and eye to the nice perfections of shooting at a range, with the result that both in hunting and in war I am a little at sea when it comes to what you might call rough and ready shooting. But with a prize of $20 up, I feel sure my former talents will come to the fore again.”

“In the artillery,” said Jim, “we really had no practice at what might be called shooting. It was more like arithmetic. There we’d be, in the mud, with our gun, its nozzle pointing off into space. Three miles away, over a couple of hills, would be the enemy. So we’d sit down with a piece of paper and do some figuring. We’d add and subtract, then we’d multiply and divide. And thus we would get a number. Then we’d walk over to the gun and twiddle some dials around until we got that number, or one near it. We would all strip to the waist and then fire six shells furiously at that number. Then we’d sit down and wait. If we didn’t get any messages from our own infantry that we were hitting them, we knew we were hitting the enemy. And from then on, all we did was shoot so many shells off in the morning and so many in the evening, and everybody was happy.”

“You don’t know what shooting is,” I informed him.

So at noon, after lunch, we strolled around to the new style shooting gallery which was in a formerly vacant dry goods shop. At the rear, sheet steel backdrops served to catch the bullets fired. The range was only ten feet, and you fire standing from the off-hand position, not resting your rifle on anything. But the target was so tiny, a sheet of paper with the Z to be cut out with three .22 bullets only if they were placed with supreme accuracy one on the top bar, one on the diagonal and one on the bottom bar of the letter. You could win cigars by shooting at other and easier targets. But it was the Z that was attracting most customers. Each one who missed increased the size of the prize.

And the pot was $9.75.

We watched the boys for some time before our turn came. They seemed to be pretty good. The rifles were regular little .22 repeaters, and after each three shots, the attendant changed the card and put up a new Z. Plenty of times, those marksmen would cut the top and bottom bar, but their third shot would go wild. Perhaps with nervousness

“Maybe the rifles are phoney,” I suggested to Jim.

“No,” he said, “they’re good enough to shoot right on the good shots.”

“Maybe every third cartridge,” I said, “is defective?”

“No, it’s the human element that provides the trick,” said Jim. “Watch.”

The shooters set themselves in fancy stances. Took curious holds and grips on the little rifle. Some held it lightly as a feather. Others wrapped themselves around it, as if they were trying to climb up it. Some fired almost the instant the sights fell on the tiny target. Others aimed and held their breath and aimed and held breath until you were fit to scream with the delay.

But none of them out the little Z clean. There were a couple of arguments, when near complete obliterations were achieved. But in each case tiny bit of the red letter was visible.

Jim stepped up. He fired four rounds of three. I felt sorry for him. He went at it so like the artillery. He thought he was firing shrapnel.

“Strip down to your waist, Jim,” I recommended, when, in three rounds, he had not even hit the Z anywhere. On his fourth round, he hit the top of the Z But his next two shots were two inches off.

“Here,” he said. “Let’s see what you can do, Bull.”

But it takes time to get the hang of a rifle again, and of a strange rifle. I may say it only took me two rounds to discover that what a man needs, even a very famous marksman, is practice.

“Well, Bull,” said Jimmie as we hurried out to make room for nee shooters, “you didn’t do so good.”

“I wasn’t trying,” I said. “Jim, I’ll tell you what let’s do. That big cellar of yours is perfect. I’ll borrow my son’s .22 and we can spend a few evenings brushing up. A little practice is all I need. And then we can go back in there and clean it up. Boy, did you see that pot when we left! It was $14.25. That would buy a lot of trout flies.”

Practice in the Cellar

So after supper, Jimmie and I repaired to his big cellar den, where he has the pool table and the paintings of Old Archie and the Town Constable on the walls in various sporting activities such as crap shooting and cock fighting, and we set up a rifle range. Jim had some sheet iron, and we nailed up a sort of protecting wall of boards to the back of which the sheet iron was tacked, and we then proceeded to work. We shut all doors to keep the crack of the little rifle from disturbing the neighbors, and made red, white and blue targets of suitable size for a range of 25 feet.

I soon showed Jimmie what shooting was. Jimmie showed me, too. We made series of bulls until we reduced the target to a mere patch in order to make it a sporting proposition.

“Why couldn’t we shoot like this at noon?” I demanded.

“Well, for one thing,” said Jim. “we’re leaning on the billiard table; and besides we’re using stronger ammunition, these are what they call ‘long rifle’. They’ll knock a cow over.”

“Let’s try some fancy shooting,” I suggested. “Just making bulls is too tame.”

So we tried off-hand shooting, that is, firing without a rest. At this, we were not quite so hot. Next, we tried firing five rounds rapid. We would fill the magazine with five shells, and then fire as fast as possible to see how many bulls we could get. We didn’t get so many. In fact, some of our shots were a foot or more off the target.

“I tell you,” I exclaimed, “we could practice snap shots. We could turn our back to the target, and then when the other fellow calls fire, we wheel around and fire at the target point blank.”

This was great fun. Some of our shots were on the target, but most of them were off on the planks to the side.

I was taking my third turn at snap shooting and fired a specially quick one when there came a dreadful crash from the cellar room next door.

“The fruit,” said Jim, rushing for the door.

As he opened the door, a cloud of smoke billowed into the room.

“The furnace,” shouted Jim.

And in an instant all was confusion as Jimmie and I rushed about opening windows and doors. We inspected the fruit cellar and found that a bullet had struck a quart of peaches, bursting it and causing it to topple several bottles of cherries, plums and marmalade to the floor in transit.

On inspecting the furnace, we discovered seventeen bullet holes in the pipes, through which little spouts of smoke and fumes were leaping.

“I guess you didn’t put enough thicknesses of planks and sheet iron to stop the bullets,” I explained.

“Thank goodness you hit the fruit,” said Jim, “or else we might have gone on shooting the furnace up and smothered us.”

But even so, we had scarcely time to get the furnace pipe plugged with putty and the house aired and the fruit cellar mopped up before the family got home.

“It’s just one of those things,” Jimmie called laughingly up the cellar stairs in answer to inquiries. “We were just trying a little off-hand target shooting.”

“It’s a boy’s game,” I remarked when he came back into the room.

“You said it, Bull,” agreed Jimmie.


Editor’s Notes: This story appeared in “Greg Clark & Jimmie Frise Go Fishing” (1980)

22 Caliber ammunition is most common caliber in small rifles.

$20 in 1937 would be $170.50 in 2020.

Bisley is the location in Britain of the National Shooting Centre. Hythe Ranges is a British military shooting range.

The off-hand shooting position is a standing position, and considered the hardest.

Comic Page Ad

February 24, 1934

Jim created this advertisement to show new comic strips coming to the Toronto Star in 1934. They are:

  • Moon Mullins by Frank Willard
  • Felix the Cat by Otto Messmer
  • Secret Agent X-9 by Dashiell Hammett and Alex Raymond (a famous duo who only worked on the strip for it’s first year)
  • Shop Acts by Henry Rouson (a very short lived comic)
  • Joe Jinks by Pete Llanuza (who had recently taken over from creator Vic Forsythe)
  • Etta Kett by Paul Robinson
  • Doc Wright by Rube Goldberg (a unexpectedly serious strip from a long time gag author that only lasted for 10 months until he switch back to humour)

Pre-War Stock

February 19, 1944

Silk was no longer available during World War Two for ladies stockings, as it was needed for war production (for things like parachutes). Nylon had not been invented yet, so the discovery of silk stockings in a store in 1944 could have caused a riot like this.

A Couple of Picks

By Greg Clark, February 18, 1933

“I,” said Jim Frise, “am a Technocrat.”

“A who?” said I.

 “From now on,” pursued Jimmie, “I am a Technocrat. After the Presbyterians went Union, I was a continuing Methodist. But now I am a Technocrat.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well,” said Jim, “a Technocrat is one who does not believe in efficiency. A Technocrat says, Aw, what’s the use of trying to be efficient! Let the machines do it!”

“Hear, hear,” I applauded.

“The trouble with the world to-day,” said Jim, rather grandly, “is that they have let a few efficiency tyrants in manufacturing and finance set a pace that the rest of us can’t follow. A man with a new idea in business is just as dangerous as a man with a bigger and better battle-axe used to be in the olden days.”

“Surely,” said I.

“Because, mind you,” went on Jim, “it isn’t the nature of man to be efficient. Biologically, he is just an easy-going man, lazy, wasteful, happy-go-lucky. And you might just as well try to grow wings on him as to make him efficient, the way the poor old world was trying to do the last thirty years. That’s the cause of things to-day. Not the war, not capitalism. Just the Pollyanna notion, on the part of few smart fellows that all of us could be stepped up to their speed.”

“Still,” said I, “the world is a much more efficient and comfortable place to-day than it was even thirty years ago.”

“Is that so?” scoffed Jimmie. “What would you say was the most efficient thing around us at the moment?”

“The water works system,” said I. “You turn a tap and water comes. Pure, safe, lovely water.”

Jim sat lost in thought. A smile played around his mouth. He slapped his leg.

“We could do it!” he cried.

“No, we couldn’t!” I retorted anxiously. “What?”

“It would be great test of efficiency,” said Jim. “It would show up the whole farce. It would make a laughing stock of everybody. We’ll show them how efficient they are!”

“Easy, now,” said I. “The last time the police said they wouldn’t stand any more of our nonsense.”

“Listen,” said Jim. “We will dress up in overalls. We will get a pick and shovel each. I know a fellow in the contracting business and I can borrow everything from him. We will get a couple of those red wooden barricades they use to protect workmen on the street.”

“Wait a minute,” I begged.

“Then we will go downtown, early in the morning, set up our barricades right on a busy street, and start to tear up the pavement.”

“Damage to public property,” I denounced it.

Showing Up Modern Efficiency

“There we’ll be,” said Jim, “a couple of efficiency experts, slowly and solemnly picking away, while traffic is held up and has to go around us, and everybody stopping to watch us, and cops coming along and standing looking at us, and then, after we’ve got a nice hole in the ground, we will pack up our tools and our barricades and walk oft and leave it!

“We wouldn’t dare,” said I.

“What a joke on modern efficiency!” cried Jim. “I’ve wanted to do that trick for years. Every time I see a gang of men working on the street, I wonder if it isn’t somebody who has thought of the joke ahead of me. Let’s do it.”

“I’m no good at hard manual labor,” I protested. “I get all trembly. My heart isn’t very good.”

“Hard labor!” snorted Jim. “Do you think we are going to work hard? No, sir, we’ll just stand inside our barriers and tap away and dig a nice little hole. Part of the joke will be that we will be true to nature and just barely work at all!”

“There isn’t a story in it,” said I.

“I’ll make the arrangements,” said Jim.

And he did. A couple of nights later, I was in Jim’s back yard where he had three red barriers two picks, two shovels and a crow bar stacked in a heap, and he presented me with a pair of well-worn overalls.

“Early in the morning, about six-thirty,” said Jim, “I’ll pick you up. Wear old boots and a sweater and these overalls. We can get set up downtown before the city wakes.”

“Oh, Jimmie,” I quavered.

But before dawn, on a cold and wintry morning, Jim honked before my house, and I, in an ill-fitting suit of overalls under my overcoat, sneaked out of the house and joined him. It is needless and unwise to say exactly where we set down our barricades and picks and shovels a little before 7 a.m., but you might have seen us, as you went about your affairs. Perhaps we caused you to halt your car in the nine o’clock traffic as you came to our barriers and had to go around us, toiling there. Maybe you were one of the hundreds who stopped and stood looking at us, with that far away, unseeing expression that you all use when you pause to watch men wielding tools.

Anyway, sharp at 8 a.m., just like regular, efficient toilers, Jim and I walked out of a lane on to an awakening city street, spit on our hands, tipped our old fishing caps back on our heads and started to work inside the barriers. I would like the authorities to know that I hit the pavement very lightly and tenderly. I admit that anything I did to damage public property was done with only half a will.

Jim took his pick and shovel and with small chops, outlined a hole in the frosty asphalt about two feet wide and six feet long. And then, with me holding the short crow bar, he pounded and swung, and presently we began peeling off the asphalt and revealing the concrete beneath.

“Put Some Beef Into It”

Traffic was swelling. More street cars dinged at us. More motor cars slowed up and halted and went around us. Scores of men and boys stopped and stood looking with vacant intensity at our rhythmic motions. A cop went strolling by and give us a fatherly glare.

Nine o’clock came with its dense traffic and its noise and booming, downtown bells, kind of ecstasy of the business day.

And, while my shoulders already ached, and Jimmie toiled easily and picturesquely, along came a big man in a derby hat, walked boldly inside our barriers, and tipping his hat back, which is the sure sign of worker with tools, he said:

“Good morning boys!”

“Good morning,” said we, pausing in our work.

“Sorry I wasn’t here earlier,” said the big man. “But I was held up at the time office. The superintendent wanted to see me.”

“Who are you?” asked Jimmie.

“I’m your boss,” said the big man. “My name is Hogan.”

And then we noticed that he had a very strange, wild expression in his eyes and that he had bare fists, each of which weighed about eight pounds.

“Er-uh!” said Jimmie, although I expected better of him.

“Get on with it,” said Mr. Hogan.

And such was the tone of his voice that we instantly got on with it, Jim with the pick and me with the shovel. Mr. Hogan stood back, leaning on the barriers, and watching traffic with a casual air, while I worked up close to Jimmie.

“What the heck?” I whispered to him.

“I guess,” said Jim in a low voice, “he is a works department boss. He’ll be going on to see some other job in a minute, and then we’ll scram. This is bad.”

“Efficiency,” I murmured, between grunts.

So we shoveled and picked, and the hole got about eight and a half inches deep into the flinty concrete, while Mr. Hogan stood back, observing us and smoking his pipe.

“Step into it,” said Mr. Hogan. “You’re slow, boys.”

So we stepped into it, hoping that by a demonstration of great efficiency we would inspire faith in Mr. Hogan and he would leave us to go and look at less trustworthy workmen.

My neck, shoulders, back and legs all ached. Jim had perspiration pouring off him. Somehow, as I looked at him, I thought of him being a Technocrat and I wanted to laugh. But out of the corner of my eye, I could feel Mr. Hogan watching us intently.

“What’s the matter with you birds?” asked Mr. Hogan. “Put some beef into it. How long do you think it’s going to take us to get down ten feet?”

Jim paused to spit on his hands, and resting his pick on his lap, he said, “What kind of job is this, Mr. Hogan? Are we going down to the water mains or the sewers or the gas pipes?”

“Shut your face,” said Mr. Hogan.

He took his hands out of his pockets and glared at us.

“I’ll Dust the Road With You”

So, though it was nearly nine-thirty, and we had already done twice as much work as we had intended to, we bowed to the job and tried to think of some excuse for escaping. I had just invented the idea that I would be suddenly stricken ill, and I would tell Mr. Hogan that I had not had many jobs lately and hadn’t been eating regularly and had suddenly taken a faint spell, when Mr. Hogan stepped forward and thrust me aside.

“Listen,” he said fiercely, “if you two birds can’t get this job done any quicker, I’m going to dust the road with you.”

He unbuttoned his coat.

“If you don’t like the way I work, I’ll quit,” I said, boldly.

“You quit to-night, not on the job,” retorted Mr. Hogan, giving me a shove.

“I feel sick,” I said.

“You’ll feel sicker,” shouted Mr. Hogan, and as a crowd was collecting, and Jim kept nudging me with his elbow, I grabbed my shovel and dug harder than ever. The hole was now ten inches deep. I caught Jim’s eye and gave him a look. Technocrat! Efficiency!

Ten o’clock boomed out on Big Ben. My whole body ached. My feet, my finger tips and forehead were swollen with blood.

“Get me out of this,” I rasped at Jim.

“Noon, gasped Jim back at me.

And then a large motor car scraped and squealed to stop beside us and out jumped a chauffeur, a man in uniform, two young men in sporty tweeds and a pretty girl.

“Father!” screamed the girl.

I whirled around and Mr. Hogan was trying to escape out of the barriers, but the chauffeur and the young men in tweeds headed him off and grabbed him by the arms. Mr. Hogan fought desperately, but when the pretty girl got around to him, he suddenly wilted and started to cry.

“Daddy,” cried the girl, “be good boy, now, and get in the car!”

“Jim,” I snarled in the excitement, “let’s beat it now!”

“Wait a minute,” said Jim, standing fast. “We’ll fill up this hole.”

“Let’s scram,” I begged.

“I’ve been doing some thinking while I was chopping there,” said Jim. “Hold a minute.”

Mr. Hogan was led around to the car by rough but loving hands, and bundled in. Then one of the young men turned back to Jim and me and held out a five-dollar bill.

“Sorry, boys,” he said, “but did he bother you much?”

“No, no,” we cried.

“You see,” explained the young man, “when father was young, he used to be a gang boss on this kind of work, and now and again, ever since the depression, he has bad spells, and he goes around and takes charge of all kinds of jobs.”

He thrust the five-dollar bill into my hand, got into the car and vanished.

“Jim,” I said, “let’s get out of here the we can.”

Jim Sees a Great Light

Jim was hastily shoveling sand and broken concrete back into the hole.

“Help me fill this in,” said Jim.

When we had it nice and full, too full, in fact, Jim started to remove the barriers.

“Take hold there, help me carry these into the lane. And we put the trestles where we could get them later with the car.

“Grab your tools,” said Jim. And we hoisted our picks and shovels and departed smartly for the parking lot where Jim’s car was left.

“Well,” said I, adjusting my pain-racked body on the soft cushions of the car, “some joke on efficiency!”

“I saw the light,” said Jim. “Just about a half hour after Mr. Hogan arrived, I saw a great light!”

“I saw some stars swimming before me,” I admitted. “But that was from bending. I haven’t bent for years.”

“A little hard work,” said Jim, “and you forget all your grouches. After half an hour, I couldn’t even remember what efficiency was. After an hour of it, I couldn’t recollect what a Technocrat was. An hour and quarter, and I was a continuing Methodist again. The secret of happiness,” said Jim, stepping on the starter, “is hard work. It even takes away your sense of humor. I don’t see anything funny in digging a hole in the street any more!”

“Technocracy says machines will relieve mankind of toil and give them leisure,” said I.

“Leisure to stand around and belly-ache,” said Jim. “I’m going to suggest to the city that they throw out all those automatic machines for digging up pavements.”

“They save money,” said I, shifting the position of my aching limbs.

“Save money,” said Jim, “that has to be paid out in relief.”

“Anyway,” said I, with anguish reaching into my overalls pocket, and pulling forth the five-dollar bill, “I make money out of your jokes on efficiency.”

“You make it!”

“He gave it to me. Good wages. Five bucks for two and a half hours’ work.”

“I split that,” said Jim, starting to drive out of the parking lot.

“No, the nearer the ground you are, the more efficient you are at reaching five-dollar bills,” I said. “You got the fun out of this adventure. I get the cash.”

But as he ran out of gas on the Lake Shore Road on the way home, a trick Jimmie has, I bought him gas with his half of the five.

He had to walk back the half mile to the nearest gas station and carry it, though, which goes to show that brains and personality have something to do with life besides efficiency.


Editor’s Notes: When Jim said that the Presbyterians went Union, he was referring to the creation of the United Church of Canada in 1925.

The Efficiency movement was very popular in early 20th century business and industry. It was discredited during the Great Depression (when this was written), as a way to hire less workers, at a time jobs were needed. The Technocracy movement was briefly popular during this time, which advocated replacing politicians and businesspeople with scientists and engineers who had the technical expertise to manage the economy.

When Greg mentions “Big Ben”, he is referring to the clock tower on the Toronto City Hall of the time.

Quebec Shows Us How

By Greg Clark, February 12, 1927

Batteries thud out their shots into the night. Rockets fleet up and burst in jewels against the vivid starry sky. The Fete de Nuit has begun, Quebec’s night of celebration of winter.

Up the narrow, steep streets of the ancient city flow the crowds, in colored sashes wrapped about their homely workaday clothes, in gay snowshoe costumes of blanket cloth, in ski costume, in furs. And one crowd – a snowshoe club in hooded coats – are singing as they go.

“Vive la Huronne si fiere

De ses Guerriers, de ses grands bois.”

From the old town, from the hotels, from the shops all closing hurriedly, the crowds swarm up the steep streets to the Citadel. The rockets light the snow. From across the St. Lawrence glow the great bonfires on the Levis shore where the villagers hold their lesser celebrations. On the ramparts of the old Citadel, beacon fires leap and flare. The ancient fortress is limmed in a vast gleam of colored light.

Groups of glee singers in their picturesque costumes sing the old voyageur songs. “A la Claire Fontaine,” “La Huronne,” “Alouette,” “Les Montagnards.” Bands play, the ice is massed with skaters, the bob and toboggan runs are crammed with flashing groups, the snowshoe clubs in their various costumes march past, the ski clubs lead the way to the hills where they perform their little miracles of speed and marvelous control, the entries in the coming dog team races bring their huskies to show them off to the crowds, there is a carnival of confusion and music under the beacon fires and the rockets. Then the batteries fling their tumult into the starry night, the rockets make a final frenzy and the crowd seeks out the dance floor of the city, new and old, to close the Fete de Nuit.

What a professional team of half a dozen players does in sport is news. What a whole city does in sport is too big for news. Some day, the story of what Quebec is doing with winter will be written in a book of the social history of Canada.

Quebec does not set aside a day for winter sports. Her city council does not generously donate piece of park land for the celebration. The old city has been long enough on her mighty cliffs to know when the snow comes and when it departs. And for that time of beauty Quebec writes a new calendar.

Most of the cities of Canada are looking shrewdly at winter sports as a scheme for at attracting tourists. They would like to set up a sort of winter amusement park, with a foxy eye on the investment and the probable turnover.

Quebec celebrates winter for herself. And the tourists, tens of thousands of them, come to her for that very reason.

Quebec has something to show every other city in Canada. Neither the Chateau Frontenac nor the Quebec Winter Sports Association cared to make an estimate of the number of tourists, largely American, from New York and the New England states, who come to the old city in the course of the winter to unbend themselves with winter recreation. The lowest estimate was ten thousand, excluding all commercial visitors. The largest estimate was twenty thousand, from November to March. These were people of means, who had time and money to spend in amusing themselves. They are the sort of visitors Canada wants, not merely for the cash they dispense but for the potentialities of their interest in Canada which are likely to result from their visit.

Where Winter is Holiday Time

How has Quebec done It?

For long, long years, Canada has looked upon her winter as a great handicap. From the economic point of view, a liability, a detriment.

At one time in the history of this dominion, the British government was trying to arrange a trade with the French whereby they would give Canada away for a nice, jungly little Island down in the tropics somewhere.

“Canada,” they said, “is a country covered with snow for a large part of the year.”

Most of us remember the shame and indignation that was roused when Kipling published his poem, “Our Lady of the Snows.”

Just lately, the rest of Canada has been gradually, very gradually, changing her mind about snow. Quebec changed her mind a couple of centuries ago. But, of course, Quebec has been there a long time.

A certain Canadian radio station desired to put on a night of Canadian songs. A patriotic night of native songs. They thought of “Alouette” and “A la Claire Fontaine,” And “En Roulant Ma Boule.”

How about some Canadian songs in English? “O Canada,” there was, of course! But no, it too was French, translated. The project had to be abandoned because there were not enough native songs in English. And there were too many in French to suit the somewhat shrewd taste of the management.

It takes time to develop songs. It also takes time to develop something so essentially native and national as Quebec city’s three month long celebration of winter. Quebec has lived with Its winter long enough to know it and love it. And probably because it is something the rest of the world has not got, because it is distinctive, there gradually grew a desire to celebrate it. It was a time for gay clothes. It was a time for fun. Many of the industries were halted by it. The villages had nothing much else to do in winter but amuse themselves. Over two centuries, there emerged the thing they have to-day – a calendar of sports, with something for everybody to do or see for almost every day of the winter.

It is pretty evident, Quebec does not lay out her winter with an eye on the tourists. But the tourists come. Quebec is now, in the opinion of those whose business it is to tell people where to go for recreation, the greatest winter sport centre in America. It is on the grow. The Chateau Frontenac was filed to capacity Christmas and New Years week. One single party came from Boston consisting of three hundred and fifty – a train load. This was not a convention. It was a party of pleasure seekers which has grown from small beginnings, a few Bostoners meeting at the Chateau, deciding to come again, and so on, until after half a dozen years it makes a gay trainload of families, decked out in the garments not of Boston, but the quaint costumes, of Quebec. Dozens of such cumulative parties now come to the Chateau every winter.

“Way I’m looking at it now,” said a New Yorker who had not only his children but his grandchildren with him – you should have seen the old boy with four grandchildren skyhooting around the steep streets of Quebec in a dog sled behind eight huskies… “the average man in this country should have two weeks holiday in summer and one week in winter.”

But then, he was president of a bank.

Months of Carnival

The Fete de Nuit, with its carnival spirit of assembling in the snow night, is not what it might be in Montreal or Toronto. The weeks and months are laid out in a sort of festive calendar. Certain nights are given over to hockey matches, professional and amateur. Then other nights are given to ski competitions, skating races, snow-shoe hikes under the leadership of the various Quebec snowshoe clubs – despite the way the snowshoe is looked upon in this moment of popularity of skiing, it is by far the more picturesque sport, and lends itself to fun and frolic. Other nights are given to bob sled races. The Quebec dog derby is becoming a classic. And towards the end of the season there to a great masquerade of winter which says goodby to winter with the same regret Ontario bids summer farewell.

Quebec has an incomparable lead on the rest of Canada not because she has more or a better winter, but because the recognition of the spirit of winter is rooted right in the people. Not just a few of the people but all the people make definite obeisance to winter. The ice sculpture in front of al the stores is only an indication. The gay red and green sleighs of the merchants and the corporation, the sashes worn by the men over their coate-quaint, woolen sashes of bright color, some of which are old and worth as much as two hundred dollars. Of course you couldn’t live in Quebec without having a spirited and humorous respect for winter. Quebec’s streets run up and down more than north and south or east and west. You have to equipped with humor to walk either up or down one of those streets. For at any moment you are likely to go on your ear.

Can other Canadian cities welcome winter in the same highly profitable fashion Quebec does?

Can Toronto, with her queer scabby, dirty, slushy winter do anything better than scowl at winter?

The Great Lakes cities are rather unfortunate. They are placed against warm bowls which melt winter away. Those old boys who talk of winter not being what it used to be are men born and brought up in towns and cities set in a few miles from the lakes, and who remember their winters of old. The winters in Newmarket, Stratford, Peterborough are just as good as they ever were. Toronto’s winter is pretty much as it always was. Go back a few miles from the lake and you find winter.

Toronto can have winter in all its glory little way up the Metropolitan railway. Hundreds, thousands of people who have summer cottages on Lake Simcoe are already taking annual parties of winter sports enthusiasts up to Lake Simcoe in the winter. The solution of the winter recreation problem for Toronto will undoubtedly be a series of resorts set back from forty to a hundred miles, where there are the trees, hills and snow.

Would Toronto Wear a Sash?

Some of the small towns sleeping away over that ridge that rises a few miles back of Toronto could make a fortune if they undertook to amuse Toronto people with snow. Toronto is no less a sport and recreation city than the average city in America. When winter comes, golf, motoring, tennis, all the familiar sports are ended. There is a leisure class which then goes into sort of steamy hibernation, dancing, playing bridge, going to shows, yet unhappy and restless because the exercise in which they are accustomed in winter id left out of their scheme of things.

They go to Quebec now. They even go to Lake Placid, which is down south. A few are discovering the one or two resorts in Muskoka which have everything Lake Placid has, except the loud voice.

But Toronto is so convinced that winter – in her world, anyway – is a matter of slush, alternating with furious grips of zero weather which hardens the slush for a day or two and then collapses into another flu week, that it will be slow work waking Toronto to the fact that there is beauty only fifty miles away.

If Toronto people were to put on a blanket coat or sash, to which they are as fully entitled as the people of Quebec, there would at once be rumors of a circus in town. The most Toronto will do in the way of releasing the spirit in dress is to wear a small bit of colored feather sticking up in the back of the hat band.

“That’s a beautiful sash,” We remarked to a young man beside us watching the bob sleds racing at tremendous pace down the old Quebec wall.

“Yes,” he said. “Ceinture fleche: my grandmother wove this when she was a girl. It is mine now.”

He has winter-burned the color of leather. He had a hard, lean look, and his eyes were aflame with interest in the fleeting sleds.

“Do you bob?”

“No. Skis,” he said. “After banking hours, skis.”

“Do you jump?”

“Yes. I can do ninety, a hundred. But it’s the ski running that is sport. We picked up fox back six or seven miles in the Laureation the other day. New stuff. A grand sport.”

“More fun even than the summer, eh?”

“Summer! Man, I spend the summer just yearning for winter to come again!”

Ho told us of the fox hunt on skis, the hours working along the ridges, sliding and pawing along the sides of those purple Laurentian hills that rise back of the old city and at last, towards evening, the picking up of a fox on the high ridge, the shouting and view hallo, and the party sweeping and racing over ridge and valley in pursuit of the astounded tox.

“Did you kill him?”

“Kill him! Not he; we drove him to his hole in a rock slide, and left him for another day. We have sent for English hunting horns for the chase, to sound the view hallo.”

This is something Toronto could do. Quebec does a hundred things Ontario could do.

But perhaps the sash would be beyond Toronto.

And in the sash may be the whole appeal.


Editor’s Notes: French songs mentioned include À la claire fontaine, La Huronne, Alouette, and En Roulant Ma Boule.

Our Lady of the Snows is a poem by Rudyard Kipling in 1897. Apparently it caused immigrants to reconsider going to Canada because of the weather.

Skyhoot, also means “scoot”, or to go quickly.

View Halloo” is the term given to the shout when a hunter spots his target.

A Winter Street Scene

February 10, 1934

Sleighing Party

By Greg Clark, February 8, 1936

“It’s the axle,” said Jimmie Frise.

“Then,” stated I, not indignantly, “we’re here for the night.”

“I guess so,” said Jim, staring around the strange little village, with its steamy windows throwing a faint light on the deep snow banks piled high against little stores, sheds, cottages.

“What does the garage man say?” I asked.

“He says it’s the axle,” replied Jim. “And it will take at least three hours to fix, and he’s got an engagement tonight.”

“An engagement?” I cried. “Do you mean to say he won’t fix our car because he’s got an engagement? An engagement? Whoever heard of garageman having an engagement?”

“He’s a very nice young fellow,” said Jim. “I told him we weren’t going any place except fox hunting, and we’d put up here for the night.”

“Is there a hotel?” I demanded.

“No, but he said he would run around and find a place for us.”

“Some old widda,” I snorted. “Damp spare beds, unslept in for fifteen years. An ice cold spare room, with golden oak dresser and an afghan…”

“Well, it’s a broken axle,” reminded Jim.

I entered the garage with Jimmie and we stood looking at the car, from under which scrambled a handsome young man wiping his hands hastily on waste.

“Well, young man,” said I, “I hear you’ve got an engagement. Do you suppose there is anything two visitors like us might do in this town?”

The young chap studied us excitedly for a moment.

“You might like to come with us,” he said.

“Where?”

“A sleighing party,” said he.

Jim and I looked at each other.

“I haven’t been on a sleighing party,” cried Jim, “for thirty years!”

“Perhaps the young ladies,” I said, “wouldn’t care to have a couple of elderly strangers horn in on what really is a very merry and intimate occasion.”

“It’s a stag sleighing party,” said the young garage man. “That is, kind of.”

“Stag?” said I, “What is it, a lodge? Or a Liberal rally?”

“It’s a kind of church affair,” explained the young fellow, unbuttoning his brown overalls and starting to peel out of them. He did not look to me like a Bible class young man.

“We’ll come,” said Jim, eagerly. “I don’t fancy going to bed at a quarter past eight.”

“Come on, then,” said the lad. “We can arrange where you stay after we come back. Leave it to me.”

So we left our bags and hunting gear in the car and followed the young chap out into the wintry world where he led us at a fast swinging stride up the village street under a moon so glorious, so round and radiant. it was like day. There was an air of excitement about our young friend. Past the church we hastened, where lights glowed in the basement windows. Past the end cottages. Out a couple of hundred yards past the end of the village, to a side road.

A Little Bit Puzzling

“Gents,” said the young man, “we are gathering at a farmhouse a little way up. Will you wait here? Just till I explain to the boys who you are.”

“Fine, fine,” said Jim and I. “It’s a lovely night to be waiting at a crossroads.”

And he left us and sped away up the road, while we stood under the splendor of the winter moon, amid the deep drifts, inhaling the crystal air and looking back at the shadowy village with its quiet lights.

“Jim,” I cried, “what a great way to live. Just drop down into a village like this, and right away enter into the heart of it.”

“Ah, the country,” said Jim, waving his arms and beating his chest with them. “The longer I live, the more foolish I feel for ever coming into a city.”

“Think,” I said, “of the simplicity and beauty of this life. This gentle village. This wide, quiet world of snow and moonlight. Of peace and kindliness.”

“Compare it,” said Jim, addressing the wide empty night, “with the strife and warfare of cities. That splendid young man we are with. So excited over a simple thing like a sleighing party. In a city, that young man would have to be up to all sorts of hellery to work up an excitement like this. Just a sleighing party. A church affair.”

Far off, we heard sleigh bells. We stared up the road and presently saw a big object moving down the snowy road towards us.

“Jim,” I stated, “there is an innocence about country life that we have lost in cities forever.”

“I thank heaven,” confessed he, “that I am still able to be thrilled by a sleighing party.”

And thrilled we were, as the mellow jangle of the sleigh bells grew louder, and the huge sleigh, hauled by sturdy horses, squealed across the snowy road towards us, and we heard the ringing laughter and shouts of young men.

The sleigh pulled up and our friend, accompanied by three or four other young chaps, leaped out and welcomed us gaily. And in a moment we were being hoisted aboard the sleigh and buried deep in buffalo robes and heavy blankets smelling richly of horse.

Beside me sat a very short, heavily built young man who seemed, under his rowdy cap, to be the least likely member of a young men’s Bible class I had ever met with.

“What an interesting group,” I said to him, as the sleigh lurched forward and the whip cracked and the bells and voices raised a din. “I understand this is some sort of church affair?”

“Sort of,” admitted the heavy youth, huskily.

“I associate church sleighing parties,” I conversed, “with a more, a more … shall I say?… a more …”

“Sissy?” helped the young man.

“Well, not sissy, exactly, but a less muscular and hearty type of young man,” I explained. “More reserved. Your companions are such a gay and hearty lot. It must be wonderful to attend a meeting of your Bible class.”

Gathering Excitement

“It sure must be,” admitted the young fellow beside me, and he started a song. It wasn’t exactly a sleighing party song. The last time I heard it was east of Arras twenty years ago.

So there I sat, across from Jim, while we lurched and tugged through the night, under the ambient moon, turning north off the highway into a road aisled with tall cedars and balsams, and the young men sang and shouted gaily, and at the front, a group of the party stood up and cheered the horses on.

The horses, as a matter of fact, plodded much more rapidly than any I remembered of old sleighing parties. I remarked this to Jimmie.

“Sleighing parties,” he confessed across to me, over the fragrant buffalo robes, “seem to have pepped up.”

And after we had lurched and jangled two or three miles up lonely country roads, we sensed a gathering excitement in our twenty friends. Many of them leaped out and ran beside the sleigh at the hills and grades. And the crowd up at the driver’s seat, standing, were like rooters at a game.

“This is a curious sleighing party,” I shouted to Jim.

And then we heard our friends shouting:

“There they are, there they are! Giddap, giddap, sktch, sktch, give ’em the gad, Tom.”

Jim and I stood up. Far ahead on the road we beheld a dark object.

“Another sleigh,” cried Jim.

“It’s a race,” I exclaimed. “Let’s hop out and help.”

So Jim and I got out and ran beside the sleigh, holding on. The big sleigh sped, the bells clashed and sang and twenty figures bobbed and leaped alongside, while the driver of our sleigh wielded his whip and the horses broke into a blundering canter.

“They see us!” shouted someone.

And the sleigh ahead, which we had been rapidly overtaking, began to move more quickly.

With shouts and urgings, with bells and squealing of runners, we chased. I got winded and managed to haul myself aboard the sleigh. Presently Jim joined me.

“What thrill,” I shouted. “But what a shame our side is handicapped by us.”

“We were invited,” gasped Jim, recovering his wind.

“A racing sleigh party,” I cried, “Who ever heard of such a delightful way to spend a night. It takes the country to think things up.”

Now we could see dark figures piling out of the sleigh ahead and running alongside to lighten it. But slowly, slowly, we gained on them. Through another dark aisle of cedar and spruce we plunged and again out into a wide and shining open stretch. But ahead loomed a slow rise and when our plunging friends outside the sleigh saw that, they yelled in triumph. And steadily, steadily, we overlook the other party.

As we neared, it seemed to me like a boarding party in the old pirate days. I could hear the shrill screaming of feminine voices. Snowballs, hunks of hard snow off the road whizzed past us. When a piece of wood about the size of a stove stick thudded into the sleigh, I began to get anxious.

“Jim,” I said, “I don’t like this.”

But already we were overtaking the first sleigh, and crowding past it, forcing it over towards the ditch. Already some of our party had bounded ahead and were clasped in mortal combat with men who leaped out of the leading sleigh. Inside of half a minute, amid the screams of girls, the jangling of bells and the snorts of excited horses, twenty wild fighting figures were tumbling in the show, with yells, grunts and shouts and thuds. And suddenly over the side of our sleigh came very large young man who dealt me terrific punch on the side of the head, one of those country swings, and then trampling all over me, charged bull-like at Jimmie.

The Annual Thrill

Thus we were engaged in speechless heaving and grabbing and heavy breathing amidst the tumult for a few moments, until I heard a girl’s voice above me saying: “Oh, you brutes.”

But by the time we got to our feet, while the fighting was still going on in spots and spasms, out along the ditches and fences I saw my short heavy friend, grasping a girl by the elbow with each hand and dragging them from the other sleigh into ours.

And inside of one minute, the whole entire load of ladies was shifted. They yelled and laughed and protested. One young lady was weeping bitterly. Several strange young men charged forlornly at our sleigh but were violently thumped and tripped and flung backwards. Meanwhile, two or three of our party were unhitching the horses of the other sleigh, and presently brought them around and tied them to the back of ours. By this time our sleigh was jammed to suffocation and a valiant rearguard stood around us to beat off the failing attacks of the enemy. And with a final uproar of shouts of okay and ready we lurched into action and moved away.

Behind us, some of them following part way with fists shaking and gestures of despair, were left on the road the men of the first party.

And down under the vastly grinning men, we rode while girls’ voices screeched and laughed and still the young lady wept.

“Aw, cut it out, Grace,” called one girl from the tangled heap of robes and laughed.

“I won’t,” stamped the weeping girl. “I saw Eddie’s nose bleeding. You brutes.”

But presently there was singing, and working his way heavily back to Jim and me came the squat young man of my acquaintance leading large bundled figures behind him.

“That was the Bible class,” explained him to us. “Gents, I’d like to introduce our chaperones to you. They’ll be your partners, Mrs. McGiffin and Mrs. Hawtrey.”

And Mrs. McGiffin and Mrs. Hawtrey were squealing loudly the way chaperones do and waggled themselves space in the sleigh and sat with us, telling about the annual thrill when the church sleighing party is always ruined by the bad boys of the village.

With horses afore and aft, and merry bells thundering and songs rising one after another, we smothered across the white country and down the dark aisles and came at last to the village.

And in the village we drew up, with shouts and cheers, before the church where people came rushing out to welcome us and we all raced excitedly into the church basement where there was rich dark smell of coffee and long tables were spread under glaring lights with pies and cake and fruit and jam and sandwiches of ham, cheese, chopped egg, pork, cold beef, salmon, pickle salad and some private mixture that one never met before and never will meet again.

And there we ate and sang and ate again and looked at fifty bright and ruddy faces and eyes so clear and strange and filled with shy and lovely expressions that you never see in cities anymore; and a little old minister got up and spoke to this unexpected flock of young men, making hay while the sun shone, he explained; and after everything was eaten and the songs were being gone over for the third and even the seventh me seventh time – that seventh timer was the one about the music goes round and around ho,ooo,ooo,ooo – a few shy, angry young men came creeping down the basement entrance and into the door where they were met with loud and wild cheers of derision and crusts were flung at them; all but one brave, slim fellow with a bruised nose, who strode whitely and furiously in and sat down beside the little girl who had been weeping.

And under the silver radiance of the moonlight we went forth and Mrs. McGiffin took us into her house and she was a widda and the furious young man with the bruised nose was her son and we sat and had another tea and our room was the spare room, and the dresser was golden oak and there was an afghan and the floor was icy cold. But the bed was high and deep and dry and warm.

And the next morning we went fox hunting.


Page 1 of 3

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén