It is interesting to note, that when Jim was drawing in a more realistic style in the early 1920s for Life’s Little Comedies, he does not draw black people in a stereotypical manner.
Tag: January Page 1 of 4
By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, January 20, 1934
“You’re not,” said Jimmie Frise, “the man your great-grandfather was.”
“I suppose not,” I admitted. “Did you know him?”
“What I mean,” said Jim, “Is that to get along at all in your great-grandfather’s time you had to be strong. Nowadays anybody can get along.”
“In a way,” I said.
“Every year,” went on Jim, “it becomes easier for the weak to compete with the strong.”
“So much the better,” I stated.
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” said Jim. “Just hold on a minute. Where you get out of bed in the morning, in a house heated with a furnace, your great-grandfather…”
“Call him Ebenezer,” I put in.
“Ebenezer had to creep out of bed in an ice-cold shanty and light a fire in the stone fireplace. Where you get your breakfast on a gas stove Ebenezer had to cook his at the open hearth. Where you back your car out or catch a street car Ebenezer had to walk to his job.”
“I don’t think the winters were as cold in those days,” I said. “At any rate, not being accustomed to steam heat, they wouldn’t feel the cold the way we do.”
“In your great-grandfather’s time,” continued Jimmie, “it was easy to pick a man of strong character. They stood out over the heads of all the men of weak character. Men of weak character succumbed to all the hardships of climate and toil. Nowadays, it is as easy for a man of weak character to get along in life as it is for a man of strong character.”
“The weak still fail,” I argued.
“Yes, but the whole scheme of modern life is to prevent them failing,” said Jim. “It won’t be necessary much longer to have strong characters.”
“Holy doodle, Jim!” I gasped, as the power of his argument lifted me.
“Your great-grandfather Ebenezer,” went on Jim, “wanted a wife. Having demonstrated his strong character by the way he stood the hardship, stuck to his job, delivered the goods, he was entitled to one of the best girls in the neighborhood. And he got her. To-day a girl doesn’t have to be much of a hand to be a competent housewife, with ready cooked foods, newspapers full of menus and ideas, electric devices for cooking and cleaning. How much variety would a modern girl get into her cooking if she had nothing but an open fireplace to cook on and if she had to walk three miles to the nearest store for her groceries?”
“How much variety did Ebenezer’s wife get?” I inquired.
“We’re All Getting Soft”
“Men can make a good living nowadays,” said Jim, “just sitting and watching a machine. In the olden days there used to be a sort of fat, loquacious man who sat all day on a barrel in the corner store, discussing everything. To-day that fat man is a big shot salesman, with the help of a car to haul him around from barrel to barrel all over the land.”
“Life is certainly filled with opportunity these days,” I admitted.
“But no opportunity to demonstrate character,” said Jim. “And that is why leaders are so hard to find, all over the world. Only a hundred years ago our leaders stood out clearly defined in every village. And they chose our leaders for the country. And the leaders of the countries directed the world, with firm hands. No doubt they were often wrong. But they were firm. It is that firm touch we miss to-day.”
“What are we going to do about it?” I asked.
“We could give up our motor cars and walk to work,” said Jim.
“My great-grandfather never walked eight miles to work,” I said. “And even if he did, it wasn’t across a hundred streets filled with dangerous traffic. It was along pleasant paths through the woods.”
“We ought to do something,” said Jimmie, uneasily. “I feel as if we were all getting soft. This is the era of ease and comfort. When it is so easy to keep warm, get good food and earn an easy living, why should we bother about vague, faraway things such as Ottawa or Geneva or Hollywood or the chain broadcasting corporations! They are our real rulers. But why worry?”
“We could take out our telephones,” I suggested, “and send our kids over to do the messages to the stores.”
“That would be good for our kids,” admitted Jim. “But it wouldn’t strengthen our characters.”
“I feel all weak inside, Jimmie,” I said. “I never realized how soft my character has become.”
“Look at the Scotch,” said Jim. “They are noted all over the world, in business, politics, war, for their strong character. And it comes from the fact that they have no fancy modern inventions in Scotland.”
“Do you suggest we stop all inventing and bust up all the factories and wreck Niagara?” I cried.
“Which would you rather have?” retorted Jimmie, sternly, “comfort or character?”
“Well, we’ve got comfort,” I said. “Can’t we get character, too?”
“How?” demanded Jimmie.
“We could all start thinking about it,” I ventured.
Resolving To Go Primitive
“You can’t add one cubicle to your character,” declared Jimmie, “by taking thought.”
“Well, then, this very night,” cried Jimmie, “we will go primitive! We will try to recapture some of the stern stuff our forefathers were made of. We will test ourselves, just to see how far we have fallen, how shabby our strength of character is, our resolution, our firmness. We will start by walking home from work!”
“Oh, Jimmie, it’s a cold night!”
“My ancestors,” shouted Jim, “trekked forty miles through the virgin winter wilderness to carry a sick woman to the nearest doctor!”
“My great-grandfather Ebenezer,” I claimed, drove heard of twenty cattle from Holland Landing to the town of York for twenty-five cents!”
“We’ll walk home to-night,” declared Jim.
“What will our wives say?”
“My wife is out,” said Jimmie, “for supper and for the whole evening.”
“I’ll telephone my wife and tell her I have to work tonight,” I said.
So we started at five-thirty to walk to Lambton, where we live, near the banks of the Humber.
It was a fine cold night. Our spirits were inspired by the feeling of character actually growing within us. We set out, as Jimmie explained, to follow the old Dundas road which Colonel Denison cut through the wilderness during the War of 1812, to allow travellers to escape the American gunboats lying off the mouth of the Humber which would shoot at wayfarers following the lake shore highway.
Side by side we strode out Dundas street and we passed the Grange and Spadina avenue and were well past Bathurst street before we began to slow up a bit.
“How do you feel?” asked Jim.
“My character feels a hundred per cent improved,” I replied, “but my feet are starting to hurt. Our ancestors didn’t have to wear shoes like ours and walk on hard, icy pavements. They wore moccasins and walked on lovely, soft snow.”
“The more your feet hurt, the better for your character,” said Jim.
“It seems a long way to Roncesvalles,” I said. “And then from there to the Humber…!”
So we took it a little easier and talked about other means we might discover for improving our characters.
“One thing we will do,” said Jimmie, “when we get home, we’ll go to my place and cook our supper on the open fire in the grate! My folks are all out to-night. We can have the place to ourselves.”
“Ham and eggs,” I said. “Boiled potatoes.”
“And tea,” said Jim. “We’ll boil the potatoes and the tea and fry ham and eggs. That’s the sort of food our ancestors cooked on the hearth.”
“Is it a wood fire?” I asked.
“No. I’ve nothing but soft coal, but we will get some wood on the way home.”
“If we pass wood yard,” said Jim, “we could each carry an armful. Or maybe we could go down in the valley by the Humber and cut some wood. That would be better. There weren’t any wood yards in our great-grandfathers’ days.”
These discussions spurred our feet, but by the time we got to Lansdowne avenue, to what used to be called the White Bridges, I noticed even Jimmie was picking his feet up tenderly, while I had sharp aches up both my legs and my feet were sore, as if scalded. But my character was shining inside of me like a 60-watt bulb.
“It’s ten minutes past seven,” said Jim. “Perhaps this is enough character building for to-night. To get on with the cooking before my folks get home, perhaps we had better take the street car.”
So from Lansdowne we took the car, and walked from the end of the bus line to Jimmie’s house. We got an axe and went down to the end of the street and into the Humber ravine.
“We want pine and birch,” said Jimmie.
“It is illegal to cut trees down here,” I warned him.
“Men of character do not let technicalities deter them,” said Jim.
But no matter how woodsy the Humber valley looks in summer you would be surprised how few fire-wood trees there are. We slithered and slid around the valley for nearly half an hour before we found a birch tree and a small fallen pine. And while I kept watch for the county police, Jim cut firewood. And with two good big armfuls we climbed the hill and hastened back to Jim’s without meeting any police and hardly any surprised pedestrians.
In no time we had a splendid fire roaring in the grate and it was a toss-up which shed the brightest glow about Jimmie’s living room, our characters or the crackling wood fire. Jim got a couple of fancy candles from the dining room and lit the living room with them, turning out the electric lights.
He got two pots and the frying pan. I peeled the potatoes while Jim arranged some pokers and curtain roads on the fire basket to serve as cranes and hobs, such as our ancestors used for cooking.
On the living room table Jim spread bread and butter, salt and a Spanish onion.
Wonderful Pioneer Feeling
There, glowing with the loveliest glow, we squatted before the fireplace and started to prepare our meal. We set the potato pot and the tea pail on the rods and got the frying pan hot for the ham and eggs. Owing to the fact that Jim’s fireplace was not originally intended for cooking, the addition of these pots and pans in some way affected the draught, so that a lot of smoke got into the room.
“But that is all the more real,” said Jimmie. “Our ancestors lived in smoky rooms.”
The potatoes took a long time to start to simmer, and there was no sign of boiling in the tea pail, when Jimmie, in moving the frying pan, tipped the potato pot over and the water put the fire out.
It took all of fifteen minutes to recover the potatoes and get the fire going again.
“I guess you had better go down and cut some more wood,” said Jim.
“It’s against the law, Jimmie.” I said. “We got away with it once. But the law of averages is now against us. This time, we would be caught.”
“There isn’t enough wood left,” said Jim.
“Seeing this is our first experiment,” I said, “let us fall back on coal. Our ancestors were resourceful men. They would not have hesitated to use coal if it were handy.”
So we put soft coal on and had a splendid fire in no time, though it took the potatoes a terrible time to get started again. Once they did start to boil, it took one man all his time lifting them off every time they boiled over for fear they would put the fire out again.
With the tea pail and the potatoes boiling merrily, and the ham and eggs sizzling in the pan, I tell you it was a wonderful pioneer feeling that filled our bosoms, crouching there in our shirt sleeves before the open fire. It was now nine-thirty, and we were hungry enough to eat a horse.
The coal cracked and spluttered a good deal, and quite a lot of black smoke got into the ham and eggs. They caught fire once, and Jimmie leaped back so violently with the frying pan ablaze that he upset the potatoes again. But there was so little water in them that it did no harm.
“Now,” cried Jimmie, ladling the ham and eggs on to plates on the table. “Now how does your character feel?”
“I certainly have an empty feeling,” I said, “if that is character.”
Jim laid the frying pan down, and there was a hiss as it scorched a big bubbly ring in the living room table top.
“Not so good,” said Jim, laying the pan back on the brick hearth.
When Character is Rugged
The potatoes were not quite boiled. The ham and eggs tasted of coal. The tea tasted of something funny, but we never discovered what it was. But character, when it is strong, can stand for almost anything in the way of food. We were just finishing our meal when Jimmie cried: “Hist!”
There were sounds on the veranda.
“Quick!” cried Jimmie, leaping up. He led me out through the kitchen, the back porch and into the dark yard.
“No time!”, he gasped. “My family!”
“But where do we go?”
“We’ll hide out here for a while, until they get over it,” said Jimmie. “And then we will go back in and say we know nothing about it.”
“It’s an awful mess,” I said. “Those pails and pans and the wet wood ashes, and smoke all through the house, and that burn on the table!”
“We’ll say we were at a movie. We’ll say it must have been burglars that broke in,” said Jimmie.
“But our coats and hats are inside,” I protested.
“We’ll say we just ran out for the police.”
“Jimmie!” I cried. “Is this character? Lying out of it like this?”
“They would never understand,” said Jimmie.
“We could explain that we are building up our characters, we could tell them the whole story,” I said.
“No, I have a better idea,” said Jim. “Let’s go over to your house and I can stay there until my folks are all in bed, then I can sneak in. It is easier to explain things in the morning than at night.”
So in our shirt sleeves, we hustled through the night to my house. It was easy to explain our shirt sleeves to my family because we told them we had run out suddenly from Jimmie’s to see a car crash we had heard in the night, and it was half way to our house, and we just ran over here to let Jimmie see a new book I had on dogs.
Jim and I sat drowsily in my den until about one o’clock and then, he wearing one of my old coats, I let Jimmie out quietly.
“Good luck,” I whispered.
“I’ll be all right,” replied Jim.
“Sneak in softly,” I warned.
“Leave it to me.” said Jim softly.
So, full of character, we parted.
Editor’s Notes: At the time of writing in the mid-1930s, Greg and Jim really were close neighbours. It was indicated that they lived in the Lambton neighbourhood, which is essentially correct. Greg lived on Baby Point Road, so it is the general area. So if they wanted to walk from the old Toronto Star Building at 80 King Street West to the corner of Baby Point Road and Jane Street, it would be a distance of 10.6 kilometres (about 6.5 miles). They also mention Roncesvalles, which would be a neighbourhood they would pass.
Captain John Denison was an early Toronto settler.
Smoke detectors were not a common household item until the 1970s, so they would not have had to worry about the house filling with smoke.
This story appeared in the book Silver Linings (1978).
Osgoode Hall Continues to Belch Forth Young Barristers at a Furious Rate – Devious are the Devices Used to Decoy Possible Clients to the Doors of the Ambitious Young Legal Lights.
By Gregory Clark, January 22, 1921
There is a plague of young lawyers in Toronto.
It to estimated that there are now three lawyers for every criminal in this city.
That is a terrible state of affairs.
Osgoode Hall is belching forth raw barristers at a furious rate. Bay street, Yonge street and the other solicitor-laden thoroughfares are crowded at all hours of the day with grim, judicial appearing young men in search of junior partnerships. Several of Toronto’s leading barristers have given up their lucrative practices altogether in order to devote all their time to refusing jobs to the hordes of young lawyers who lay siege to their offices.
Many of the young lawyers have in consequence been forced to accept poor but honest situations as salesmen, insurance agents and office clerks.
But a few of them have courageously extracted a few hundred dollars from their parents and have opened up offices.
Most of the law business goes, naturally, to the old established law firms with six or more names on their office doors. The humble citizen loves to refer to his lawyers in names covering from fifteen to twenty syllables, although the actual work is done by the office boys and students while the numerous senior partners play “Ricketty Aunt” at the club, or shoot birdies in Bermuda.
The young lawyers who set up offices, therefore, have to do some real work in securing clients.
Clients are like pickles. The first pickle out of the bottle is hard to get. After that, they come easy.
It is that elusive first client that is the difficulty.
For the first week, the young lawyers sit in their offices and place huge volume of the law open before them on their desks. They walk out frequently, briskly, for the double purpose of looking again at the fine shiny new name plate on the door, and of creating an impression of traffic. To the same end the new barrister has his father, uncles, friends call on him as many times a day as possible. These know their part. They must walk anxiously, eagerly along the corridor to the law office; worried expressions on their faces; and come out smiling, as if all their anxieties were laid aside.
The young lawyer, for the first few days, has the stenographer copy yards and yards of egregious bunk out of fat law books so that the office will be filled with the comforting, prosperous music of the typewriter.
Some little genius is also displayed in the pursuit of clients. One young barrister, who is bound to be heard from, by the name of Torts, went forth as soon as he had hung his shingle and made the acquaintance of one of the most notorious bad-eggs in the city.
The barrister and vagrant were closeted together for over two hours. Presently the vagrant, well-known to every policeman appeared on the streets in a highly intoxicated and belligerent condition. He was, of course, promptly arrested and locked up.
In the morning, when he was brought to court with nearly a hundred other prisoners of all kinds, the rascal began to shout out to the guards:
“Send for Mr. Torts! I want Mr. Torts! There’s only one real lawyer in this town! I want Mr. Torts!”
Half a hundred prisoners heard this significant praise from one who apparently should know one lawyer from another.
Mr. Torts was, indeed, waiting in the Court. He defended very ably the vociferous scalawag who had called for him and got him off with a $10 fine, which was promptly paid.
Thereupon at least a dozen prisoners in the dock called upon Mr. Torts to defend them. Three of these cases were remanded and went before juries. The ingenious Mr. Torts practice was founded.
Still another inventive young solicitor named, shall we say, Mr. Repleven, hired the hardest looking man he could find in the unemployment line-up. And all this hired man has to do, for $25 a week, is to ride up and down elevators, hang around restaurants and repeat in a challenging fierce voice:
“That’s all right! Mr. Repleven will get me off, he will! If any lawyer in the world can get me off, it’s Mr. Repleven. See if he don’t!”
Repetition! That’s the secret of publicity! Look at Beecham’s Pills and Mayor Church! Repetition. So by hiring this conspicuous and desperate-looking character to go about at random repeating that liturgy, Mr. Repleven has succeeded in drawing his first client out of the bottle.
He is expecting another any day.
Editor’s Note: Osgoode Hall was originally founded by the Law Society of Upper Canada and where one would go to become a lawyer in Ontario. It is now affiliated with York University.
By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, January 14, 1933
“I see by the papers,” said Jim Frise, “that whiskers are coming in again.”
“It’s about time,” said I. “Nothing but whiskers will save the world.”
“What are you giving us?” snorted Jim.
“I’m telling you,” I repeated, “nothing but whiskers can save the world. Whiskers went out of style about forty years ago. And since then what have we had? Just a series of mistakes, disasters, wars and calamities. A lot of women have been running the world. The razor is Satan’s cleverest invention.”
“How could whiskers help us?” asked Jim.
“Whiskers,” I said, “are the symbols of masculine authority. The trouble with the world these days is that there is no authority. Nobody is boss. All faces are bared to the light of day and each of us can see what poor, weak faces all the rest of us have. Now, God provided us with whiskers to disguise our true character. A man hidden behind a bush of imposing red whiskers can get away with anything. You can’t see his expression. It is the same as a masked bandit. You are impressed by him. You can’t see his lips trembling with anxiety or nervousness. He seems to be a rock of purpose and courage.”
“Maybe you’re not so far wrong,” admitted Jimmie.
“Just look at the past ten years,” I went on. “Just a series of bare-faced disasters. International conferences where a lot of woman-faced politicians revealed their true intentions to one another, and each world conference more useless than the last. Whereas, if nobody but men with whiskers had been allowed to attend those conferences, all entrenched behind their barricades of fur, with nothing but their sharp and clever eyes peering out at one another, I bet you the world’s problems would have been solved by 1925.”
“By gosh,” said Jim, “when you come to think of it I am a lot more impressed by Dr. Chase’s remedies on account of the late Dr. Chase’s whiskers than I am by President Hoover’s problem solving, just because I look at Hoover’s face and say to myself, nobody with an expression like that could think of anything new.”
“You’ve got it,” said I.
“The past half a century,” said Jim, “has been a period of revelation. Revealing everything, even our faces. No secret of nature or science too sacred to be yanked out into the full view. What we need is a return to concealment. I tell you what! I’ll start growing whiskers if you will.”
“M’m,” said I. “It takes time to grow whiskers.”
“What of it?” demanded Jim.
“The worst part of whiskers is what you might call the period of incubation. One time I grew whiskers for a month on a camping trip. I know about whiskers. They don’t grow the same length at the same time. Here and there they are thicker than elsewhere. It makes you look as if you had leprosy or the mange.”
“What do you care for appearances?” cried Jim.
“Well,” said I, “to tell you the truth, my wife …”
“Ah, there you go!” accused Jim. “There’s the secret! It was the women who robbed us of our whiskers, like Delilah did to Samson. And they will die fighting before they will ever let us get back our old glory and power.”
Feeling a Sense of Power
“I tell you what we might do, Jimmie,” I suggested. “We might, experiment a little. We can get very good false whiskers at these masquerade costume places. I’ve seen them. They put them on so cleverly nowadays that they would fool even a detective.”
“You mean,” said Jim, “we could go around and see what effect whiskers would have in increasing our authority?”
“I’m on,” shouted Jim. “Black whiskers for me and red whiskers for you!”
And that was how it came about that you could have seen walking along King street the other morning two gentlemen who might have stepped right out of the eighteen-seventies. Jimmie’s whiskers were a sort of blue-black, suiting his lean and oriental cast of countenance. They were wide and full, concealing not only all his features but his eyes and nose but also his necktie and scarf. They entirely transformed that genial gentleman, whom all bums instinctively salute for a dime, into a sinister and menacing Riff chieftain.
My whiskers unfortunately were governed by the fact that I have hardly any neck, and they were therefore reddish, short and bushy, and no matter how the masquerade costume man tried to make me look romantic or imposing all he could make out of me was a sort of bad-tempered man peering spitefully out of a fox-colored hedge.
“We ought to have different overcoats,” I said to Jim. “Our friends will know us by our clothes.”
“I wouldn’t know you,” said Jim. “In fact, I don’t believe it is you now.”
So we went out on to King street and started walking bravely toward the business district.
The effects of our whiskers were instantaneous. Instead of the casual glances of passing strangers, every person we passed looked at us with a most respectful and even a slightly shocked expression.
“By gosh,” said Jim, as two girls went by with scared averted eyes after one swift, wide-eyed survey of us, “I feel a sense of power.”
“Maybe,” said I, “it is one of those instinctive feelings of respect our whiskers inspire. When all these people were little they were brought up on pictures of the twelve apostles, and they all had whiskers. We are capitalizing on the early piety of the public. They associate whiskers with saints.”
As we got into the business section dozens, scores, hundreds of people passed and every one of them gave us a definite, respectful and awakened glance. I know how Professor de Champ feels now.
“Look who’s coming!” hissed Jimmie.
It was our editor. He is a wide-eyed and observant man. He saw us forty feet away and fastened his eyes on us. We stared back at him. He did not remove his eyes from us until we passed, and never before nor ever again shall we achieve such a respectful expression in our editor’s gaze.
“Boy!” breathed Jim, as the ordeal was over. “Let’s do all our conferences with him in these whiskers.”
In the next block, which was near the office, we passed six different men and two girls who are known to us and who know us. They stared at us and drew delicately aside as we passed.
Our friend, Horses Ayers, runs a tobacco shop in between writing times as a horse authority. He knows us better than a brother. He knows us as only a man can know those who borrow money. We walked into his store.
“Cigarettes,” I commanded, in my ordinary voice, naming my usual brand. I handed him a two-dollar bill.
“Yes, sir,” said Horses, in soft and polite voice. He gave me the cigarettes and change, $1.75.
“That was a five-dollar bill I gave you,” I said sternly, making my red whiskers bristle.
“I BEG your pardon!” cried Horses, diving into the till and giving me three dollars more. “I BEG your pardon.”
“Granted!” said I, splendidly.
Jim and I stalked out of the store and got out of sight and had our first practise at laughing in whiskers. It is rather a terrible experience. There you are looking at your friend yelling haw, haw, haw, and it is like a corpse laughing.
“Listen,” groaned Jim, “anybody that can take three dollars off Horses Ayers..!”
“We could make a good living out of short-changing in whiskers,” said I.
“It just goes to show you,” said Jim. “Whiskers give you power.”
Symbols of Authority
“What now?” said I.
“Let’s go up to the city hall and complain about the tax rate,” said Jim.
There is no need to give you the details of our journey all over town. We were received with remarkable politeness by the mayor’s office. They were extremely sorry his worship was out, but they took down carefully all we had to say about the tax rate. We went up to see Premier Henry, but he was out of town. Anyway, they were most cordial. Our complaint to Premier Henry was about the color of this year’s automobile licenses. Yellow again! Could they not think of any colors but yellow and white? Had they, no imagination at all? In sad times like these did they not realize the psychological importance of brightness? Why did they not make the 1933 markers a bright cherry red?
They took it all down and said the matter would receive the attention of the minister.
“Of the cabinet council!” said Jimmie, sternly.
“Yes, sir, of the cabinet council,” replied the official, his hand trembling with the pencil.
We asked a policeman where there was a good speakeasy in the neighborhood. He was sorry he did not know. A real estate agent drove us all over Forest Hill village and showed us through the fifty-thousand-dollar houses.
“Haven’t I seen your picture?” asked the realtor of Jim. “Your face is very familiar.”
“Doubtless, doubtless,” said Jimmie.
When he asked us our names we informed him that our names did not matter. We had seen his goods and if we wanted any of them we would let him know. Hidden behind those whiskers, with the tell-tale mouth and the expressive lines of the face all concealed, it is astonishing how rude and bold you can be.
“How about lunch?” Jim asked about one thirty.
“Nothing doing,” said I. “It takes a lifetime to learn to eat through whiskers, and then very few of them ever learn to do it well.”
“But I don’t want to take these oft yet,” said Jim, thinking of the painful operation of removing the gum that attached the hair to us.
“Let’s have an eggnog through a straw,” said I. Which we did.
“Now,” said Jim, as the afternoon wore on and we could think of no further ways of proving the power of whiskers. “Let’s go home and see what happens.”
So we went home. I do not know the true facts about Jimmie’s case. He says they just laughed. His wife is supported by four daughters, which is, of course, an unfair disposition of the troops in any case.
“Oh, they just laughed,” said Jim.
When I let myself in the front door the maid screamed and ran into the kitchen.
My wife came into the hall and stood staring at me.
“Are you hurt?” she gasped.
“How do you like me in whiskers?” I asked.
“What on earth are you up to?” said my wife. “I thought that was some kind of a fancy bandage you have on your neck.”
“Whiskers,” said I. “How do I look in them?”
“You look as if you had the eczema,” laughed my Delilah.
“Aw, go easy,” I begged. “Don’t they sort of give me a look of importance?”
“Boys,” called my lady, “come and take a look at your daddy!”
My various boys trooped in and all at once the whole scene became a rowdy pandemonium, with everybody dancing around me and dragging me into the light.
“He looks like Duke!” shrieked my mother-in-law. Duke is an Airedale dog of our acquaintance.
“Wait! Wait!” roared the oldest boy. “I know who it is! It’s Paddy Lone!”
Paddy being a feeble-minded gentleman who sits on the side roads up in our part of Muskoka.
I strode upstairs and removed the whiskers.
All of which goes to prove that whiskers do give a man a power, an authority he does not enjoy in his bare-faced condition.
Everywhere except at home.
Editor’s Notes: “Spinach” is slang for a beard. It seems to have been most in use in the intra-war years. Since the 1870s and 1880s were the high point of extravagant beards and moustaches, it would be older men who still sported them in 1933.
The “late Dr. Chase” is Dr. A.W. Chase, a 19th century “patent medicine” seller who sold home remedy recipes, under the title Dr. Chase’s Recipes; or, Information for Everybody. He would also sponsor popular almanacs that would still be sold by his company long after his death, and would be known in 1933. He had a very long beard.
Referring to Jim as a “Riff chieftain”, is in refence to the Rif War, a 1920s colonial war between the Spanish and French on one side, and Berber tribes of the Rif mountainous region of Morocco on the other.
George Stewart Henry was Premier of Ontario from 1930-1934.
Though 1933 Ontario licence plates were yellow, they did go with red in 1937.
By Gregory Clark, January 17, 1920
Major-General G. B. Tallowhead, C.B., C.M.C., Outlines His Ideas as to How Canada May Profit as a Result of the Late Lamented War and Be Ready For Another at a Moment’s Notice.
It was with the greatest difficulty and only, through the efforts of certain personages in high political and diplomatic circles, that we secured the following interview with Major-General G. B. Tallowhead, C.B., C.M.C., etc, on the subject of universal military service for Canada.
General Tallowhead, it will be recalled, was an international authority, during the late war, on the subject of the tactical employment of field-kitchens. And his work in the salvage of bully-beef tins, wastepaper, and beef-dripping in the battle zone, with the enormous saving in money and material, was one of the factors in the ultimate success of the allies.
After a great deal of circumlocution and circumnavigation, we were admitted to a secret interview with the General in the rotunda of the King Edward Hotel.
Safely secluded behind a pillar, we opened the interview, as is well to do with distinguished personages, with a challenge.
“Is it not, sir,” we asked, “an historically typical thing that we British having fought Germany on the grounds of freedom and democracy, should now propose to adopt some of Germany’s most offensive principles? We refer, sir, to Brig.-General A. W Griesbach’s plan for compulsory military service in Canada, which was recently exploited in the Canadian newspapers.”
General Tallowhead’s face became purple with earnestness as he said:
“Not at all, sir, not at all! We British learn the secrets of civil government only in war. In the late war, we have taken far more than cash indemnities from Germany. We have taken the secret of her civil success. Not only do I believe in compulsory military training. I stand for compulsory social training, and a compulsory national organization for both peace and war!
“General Griesbach,” said General Tallowhead, “is a distinguished Canadian soldier. But I am deeply disappointed that he promotes such a half-measure as he outlined recently. His plan, in a word, is to take boys at the age of twelve and carry them through a period of compulsory military training until they are twenty-three, whereupon they enter a military reserve and are held in various reserves until they are sixty.
“Very elementary!” declared General Tallowhead. “After the lesson of the late bloody war, surely Canada is prepared to go further than that feeble compromise.
“My plan,” said the General in a loud voice, “is national civil service!
“To describe it briefly, it is as follows:
“On reaching the age of twelve years, all children, male and female, will come before a tribunal, which I will be appointed in each municipality and township.
“This tribunal will investigate the physical condition, parentage, mental force and general tendency of each child and then will decide for it what its trade, occupation or profession will be. Each calling will be known by a number. And this number will then be painlessly branded in small neat figures on the left ear-lobe of each child. I have myself, just patented a small branding device on the principle of the electric toaster and the rubber stamp.
“That, then, is the basic principle of my plan. As you can see, it will do away once and for all with the absolutely crazy irresponsibility of our present national life. Instead of leaving the future of a man or woman to mere chance, life will be consciously directed by the State. To an extent, it will do away with personal ambition. For instance, the son of a plumber whom our tribunal decides is to be a plumber cannot become a captain of industry or a lawyer. But there nothing to prevent him becoming a great plumber!
“In a word,” said the General, “it will do away with the ridiculous case of a golf professional masquerading in his spare time as a lawyer or a banker The State will consciously direct its citizenship. We will know where we are at.
“Upon being branded, these children will then be separated into their respective groups. Instead of our present absurd educational system, where we have twenty schools in a city all teaching the same generalities to children as a whole and leaving their futures in their own hands, we will institute specialized State education. These children will be wards of the State. Those who are labelled as artisans will go to the school of artisanry, and there learn nothing but what they require to know. So with all grades – lawyers, doctors, dentists and so on.
“The girls will each be taught a useful occupation. And all the while, military training will be going on in an intensive manner. The boys will be graded into the different arms of the service and thoroughly drilled and trained. The girls will be trained as nurses, munition-makers, conductorettes, postwomen, clothing makers, in addition to being taught a few of the lighter military subjects, such as the machine gun, anti-aircraft defence, and sniping from attic windows; these for home defence.
“Now,” said General Tallowhead, enthusiastically, “picture Canada on the hour of the declaration of war!
“The State, owning all the citizens, owns all property as well. Word goes out, and every man reports to his military headquarters. Every woman leaves her home and goes to the factory, munition works, car-barn or office to which she has been allotted as her reserve.
“The State, owning all money, would promptly institute military rates of pay for everyone; and having charge of all industries, would control all prices.
“Not weeks and months, but only hours would elapse before this country would be established on a war footing. The slacker and profiteer would be eliminated. War would become, not a monstrous burden of debt, but a paying enterprise for the State.
“Aside from war altogether,” said General Tallowhead, you can see clearly how this organization would benefit the nation in times of peace. Canada would be like a huge regiment, with each member doing his or her allotted task. State discipline I would be modelled on army discipline, and our laws, instead of being hazy concoctions from out of the ages, would be smartly designed on the Manual of Military Law. Elections of our Governors would be done away with, and our Governors, etc., trained as such from boyhood, would be promoted from alderman, to mayor, premier, etc., as officers and N.C.O.s are promoted in the army.
And as soldiers are happier than civilians, so would the nation be happier, under compulsory national control than they are now under the present reign of casual, drifting, undirected indifference.
“It is going to take time,” concluded General Tallowhead, “to educate the public to this plan of mine. But I am assured that it has a big appeal to all thinking men.”
Editor’s Note: There was no doubt some recent discussion on national military service which prompted this tongue-in-cheek response.
The title seems to make no sense, but there was likely a well publicized story about a police officer in Missouri testing people’s brakes this way. Jim would sometimes get his ideas from a news story that may be printed recently.
[Update]: A reader has suggested that the joke might play on Missouri being the “Show me” State, a saying that indicates that proof is always required.
By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, Janaury 11, 1947
“Well, of all the nerve!” murmured Jimmie Frise in my ear.
“Mmmm?” I inquired.
“Did you see that?” hissed Jim more sharply. “Did you see that guy calmly pick up my parcel?”
“Uh?” I said, removing my attention from the counter where Jim and I were inspecting fleece-lined gloves.
“My green parcel!” whispered Jim. “See? That big guy at the end of the counter….”
At the end of the counter, a big fellow was pausing casually to look at some merchandise. Along with another smaller parcel, he was carrying Jim’s green package containing a beautiful llama wool sport cap of the kind the Swiss hunters wear, a sort of round wool cap that can be pulled down around the neck and ears. Grand for rabbit hunting at this time of year.
“He was standing here beside us,” whispered Jim hurriedly. “I’d laid my parcel down. Just as he walked away, I noticed my parcel gone….”
“Go and ask him for it!” I commanded promptly. “Before he gets away.”
“Nix,” said Jim, “let’s follow the guy. Let’s watch him operate. It’ll be an education.”
“It’ll be a story,” I corrected. “Okay. Now don’t let him see we’re on to him.”
We went ahead examining gloves. Out of the corners of our eyes we watched the big guy stalling around. Obviously he was stalling. He was waiting to see if we would miss the green package and raise an outcry. In which case he could easily plead he had picked the parcel up with his other, by mistake.
“He’s waiting,” murmured Jim guardedly, “for a bunch of people to come by in the aisle and then he’ll just melt into the crowd.”
“Okay,” I agreed. “Don’t let’s lose him.”
“We can’t lose him,” said Jim. “Imagine a guy the size of that engaging in shoplifting! Why, he’s as conspicuous as a moose.”
“And intimidating,” I submitted. “Lots of people, even if they suspected him, would be a little leery of tackling a man that size.”
At which moment, just as we expected, a little crowd of people came down the wide aisle of the store. And as smooth as silk, the big fellow quietly swung in with them and started away.
“Heh, heh, heh,” I chuckled, as Jim and I, without hurry, calmly fell in pursuit.
“The nerve of him!” admired Jim. “Look, he doesn’t ever try to conceal the parcel. Look, he’s carrying it more conspicuously than the other.”
“Aplomb,” I said. “A shoplifter, or any other kind of crook for that matter, has to have aplomb.”
“What the heck is aplomb?’ inquired Jim.
We Study the Master
“It’s self-possession, sort of,” I explained, as we casually strolled along in the shopping crowd, our victim fair in view. “The word aplomb comes from the same root as plummet. It means perpendicular. Straight up and down. A hotel doorman has aplomb. A bishop has aplomb. This guy has aplomb. Look at the proud, self-possessed way he carries himself! A successful crook always has that air. An unsuccessful crook cringes, is bent over, looks anxious. You can see he is a crook. But this kind of smooth operator is always ready to carry off any accident with the greatest assurance. I bet he wiggles out of 100 per cent of the cases in which he is caught in the act.”
He had paused at the notions counter. He was slowly moving, a step at a time, along the counter, studying with rapt attention the cards of buttons, the cards of hooks and eyes, dome fasteners.
“See!” hissed Jimmie, as we too slowed along the opposite side of the aisle. “See that woman ahead of him? And that expensive-looking package she’s carrying? Well, wait till she lays it down!”
We watched covertly with bated breath.
“What art!” I breathed. “What technique! The guy is a master. He knows that in the notions counter women are always picking things up, and in order to pick things up, they’ve got to lay things down. How much do you bet he gets that expensive-looking package?”
“By the look of that package,” assessed Jim. “I figure she’s got a $15 bed-jacket. Or maybe one of those $20 cashmere cardigans …”
Slowly, the unsuspecting lady, with the parcel tucked under her arm, moved along the notions counter, peering at everything, the spools, the safety pins, the knitting needles. And slowly behind her, moving with the greatest indifference, lost in contemplation of the trivial things on the counter, drifted the big man.
She halted. The man halted. She picked up a large spool of colored elastic. She studied it intently. She made as if to take the package from under her arm. We stiffened.
But she suddenly changed her mind and tossed the elastic back and walked briskly on. The man followed. When the lady turned right at the end of the notions counter, the big fellow paused, and then turned left.
“He takes his time,” admired Jim, as we followed, at leisure. “No ordinary packages for him. He only chooses the best.”
“What a queer hobby!” I mused. “It’s sort of like gambling. He never knows what he’s getting until he gets home.”
We followed him up the main aisle, and then began a most fascinating chase. He went to the escalator and took it up. At a discreet distance, we followed.
“Do you think he’d recognize us following him?” I inquired.
“Not him,” said Jim. “He’s like a hound on the scent. He’s like a setter at point. Each job, once done, is forgotten in favor of a new victim…”
The Vulnerable Point
“But look here, Jim, how about your llama cap?” I demanded. “At what stage are you going to get that green parcel back? If by any chance he did see us, and recognize us as the two guys he stuck down there at the glove counter, he might make a sudden dive into an elevator or something … Or he might even chuck your green parcel out a window.”
“Hmmmm,” said Jim uneasily. “I don’t want to lose that $3 cap. Let’s keep a closer watch …”
So instead of following 30 feet behind, we moved up to about 15 feet.
He was marvellous. He got off the escalator at the third floor and wandered straight over to the ladies’ lingerie department. If there is any place the ladies lay their parcels down, it is in the lingerie department. No lady is ever satisfied merely to look at lingerie. She’s got to feel it, finger it, twiddle the silk between her fingers. And to do that, she’s got to put her parcels down on a counter.
“I wonder if he takes purses?” I suggested.
“I wouldn’t think so,” said Jim. “Purses are too easily identified, too immediately noticed if gone. Ladies don’t often lay down their purses, even when they set down all their packages. And besides, there is never very much in a woman’s purse. Maybe $3 or $4. No, it’s parcels this guy is after. They’re easily explained a mistake, madam, a mistake! I’m very sorry! With that aplomb …”
We followed the big fellow around the lingerie department. He was a superb actor. He paused here and there to examine various garments with that shy and slightly self-conscious air a man uses in the lingerie.
When the masterful salesladies of the lingerie department came and spoke to him, he just smiled, shook his head and wandered on.
Two or three times, we thought we were about to witness a snatch. Ladies did lay parcels down and wander a few feet away. The big guy DID pause, long enough to cast his practised eye over the packages. But apparently none of them were good enough to merit his attention.
“I guess an expert,” said Jim, “can tell at a glance what’s in a parcel.”
We followed him up to the fourth floor, then to the fifth. He went with unerring instinct to the departments where people set parcels down. The wool department. No lady can buy wool with other packages in her arms. She must feel the wool, fondle it.
The china department. Several people laid themselves open, became vulnerable here. To examine a tea cup or a cheese dish, you’ve got to lay your parcels down. The big fellow moved calmly about the china department, pausing here, pausing there; and we could see, in each instance, just which victim he was appraising.
In the china department, he startled us by actually buying something. He bought a green glass beer mug with a wooden handle.
“Hmmm,” said Jim, puzzled. “Do you suppose by any chance he has spotted us following him around? Do you think this little purchase is intended to throw us off the scent?”
“Jim,” I urged, as we retreated a little way in confusion, “let’s get it over with now. Either walk right up to him and demand the parcel back, or else get a floor-walker to act for us. The floor-walker can do it very nicely, no scene …”
“Are you afraid of that big lug?” Jim demanded meanly.
“Well, there’s no use getting punched on the nose,” I submitted.
One on Him!
“Listen, all we’ll do,” said Jim, covertly watching the rascal as he calmly awaited his parcel and change, “is walk up to him quietly and ask him what is in the green parcel. Tell him we saw him pick up our parcel and have followed him all over the store. That’ll frighten him. He’ll know we’re on to him. When we ask him what’s in the green parcel, of course he won’t know. Whatever he says, we’ll say it’s a llama wool cap. We’ll demand he open it, or we’ll call the store detectives…”
“Look!” I exclaimed. “I’ve got a better idea, Jim. Why not serve him his own trick? Why not US pinch your green parcel off HIM?”.
“Eh!” Jim checked.
“Let’s,” I said with increasing excitement, “beat him at his own game! Let’s tag on to him until he lays HIS parcels down and quietly snatch yours back.”
Jim looked speculatively over to where the big crook was standing with his back to us, awaiting his parcel. He had, for a fact, laid his other parcels down. Jim’s green one was on top.
“That,” chuckled Jim suddenly, “is an idea! Imagine his feelings when he finds the green parcel gone! He’ll be in a panic …”
At which moment, the salesgirl came back and gave him the beer mug which, after a moment, he stuffed into his overcoat pocket. Then he meandered over to the elevator and took it down to the main floor, us packed beside him in the car. It was breathtaking to be this close to the scoundrel. For there, just under my nose, and not a foot from Jim’s, was Jim’s green parcel brazenly exposed. Oh, it was exciting!
We let him off first. He led us to the perfume counter. He laid his two parcels down, green one on top. He spoke jokingly to a salesgirl, and she proceeded to let him sniff a variety of perfume bottles.
It was an odd sight. This big goof going through all the ecstasies, and refinements of selecting an itty-bitty bottle of perfume…
I cased the joint. Jim moved over to protect me from the off side. Just as the big guy flirtatiously closed his eyes in sniffing, I reached out smoothly and, all in one sweet swipe, picked the green package off the counter, moved on and handed the parcel to Jim. Without pause, we went straight out the main door and down Yonge St.
Our hearts were beating wildly. Our breath was coming fast. But it was with laughter we were bursting.
“What a joke!” bellowed Jim as we got out into the winter air. “Boy, I’d like to see that guy’s face right now…”
Who Robbed Who?
We went into a coffee shop for our 11 o’clock pot of tea and relaxed. Ah, it was delightful! There is nothing more enlivening to the humdrum life of modern society than a little excursion like this into the realm of the unusual, the bizarre…
I got my tea and sat back. From my coat pocket I took my own package and opened it to have a look at the muffler I had bought.
Jim, with doting fingers, undid his green parcel to try on the llama cap.
It WASN’T a llama cap!
It was a lady’s bright blue nightgown!
“Oh, my gosh…” gasped Jim, struggling to his feet. “Oh, OH, my gosh!”
We stood transfixed with horror.
“What do we do?” moaned Jim. “What do we DO!”
“The.. uh… who … aw …” I explained.
“Don’t you see!” wailed Jimmie. “We’ve ROBBED a guy, a poor, innocent big guy…”
“You saw him snatch the parcel … the green parcel…” I croaked.
Jim stood staring agonized into space.
“No,” he whispered. “No! Now that I come to think of it, I believe I left my green parcel on the fishing tackle counter, when we were talking to Jack Sutton …”
“You … you …” I accused.
So we left our tea and hastily wrapped the green package and ran back up the street to the big store.
We ran to the perfume counter. We hastily searched the aisles, but in the crowds we knew it was hopeless. We hastened to the tackle counter and, as soon as Jack Sutton saw us coming, he reached down under the counter and picked up a green parcel, which he waved reassuringly to Jim.
“Oh … oh … OH!” moaned Jim.
So this is what we did.
We went up to the lost and found office and turned the other green parcel over to the girl.
We said we had found it on Yonge St, and, on opening it, we had found the bill inside and knew it had come from this store.
“You are very kind,” the girl smiled, “and very HONEST.” (The capitals are mine.)
“Say, just for fun,” I said, “will you keep track of whoever calls for that parcel, if someone does I’d like to know what kind of person buys nightgowns that color?”
“Tee-hee-hee, I will,” assured the girl.
I telephoned the next day.
“It was a great big man,” the girl informed me. “He was a policeman on his day off. And he was so glad to get the parcel, because he was sure somebody had snatched it on him. Some shoplifter. And he said he was SO MAD…!”
Editor’s Note: This was the last Greg-Jim story published in the Toronto Star Weekly before they moved to the Montreal Standard. The microfilmed image is at the end, while the colour image is from an online auction.
By Gregory Clark, January 9, 1926
“What is a snake for?” asked the heir to my millions.
There are some things a child of four cannot solve by reasoning. A snake is one of them.
“What a question!” I parried. “What a question!”
And I attempted to change the subject by introducing a little wrestling bout. But it was no use.
“Now tell me what a snake is for?” he asked, after wrestling had been carried to its furthest usefulness.
“Well, sir, snake is a very useful little creature. It eats mice and wicked insects.”
“Are mice wicked?”
“Well, you know what they did to your little mattress up at the summer cottage.”
“Did God make snakes?”
“To eat mice and insecks?”
“And did He make mice and insecks too?”
“Now, son, theology is no subject for little boys.”
We have a private understanding that when I put on certain grave and solemn air and screw my face up horribly, he does not ask the obvious and next question, which, in this case, as you can see, would have been – “What is theology?” It is a cowardly device, but I can’t help it.
“Well,” said he, “why didn’t God make snakes pretty?”
“I think,” I said, “that he made them pretty to begin with, but after they had been eating mice and wicked insects for a long time, they turned into the sort of looking things they are now.”
The boy’s grandmother, who has already commenced teaching him a few Bible stories, went –
“Ahem!” She signalled me, sternly, for this tale of mine would be sure to conflict with the Adam and Eve story, to which she would be coming one of these days. She finds it hard enough, as it is.
“Did God make everything pretty?”
“I am sure He did.”
The boy sat studying the problem earnestly.
“What,” he asked, “does Mrs. Tootum eat?”
Mrs. Tootum is an elderly friend of his grandmother’s, who has the misfortune to be somewhat unprepossessing in her later years because of an absence of teeth.
In the silence that followed the question, Grandmother got up and left the room. We could bear her crying as she walked up stairs. At least, we thought it was crying. Her face was very red.
The boy came over to me with a rather horrified air.
“What does Mrs. Tootum eat, Daddie?” he whispered, confidentially. “Does she…. does she eat……?”
And be nodded his head suggestively.
“My boy,” said I, “what might be true of snakes is not true of men and women. Some of the nicest people in the world God made – well, not pretty.”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, God made birds pretty, because they sing. He made chocolate eclairs pretty because they taste nice, He made Mamma pretty because she is my Mamma, and He made snakes ugly because they eat mice and insecks, and toads ugly because they hop, and motor trucks ugly because they run over. That’s what God does.”
“It doesn’t always work,” I said, profoundly.
Pondering the question, he went upstairs, and I heard him say to his grandmother very sweetly.
“When is Mrs. Tootum coming to dinner again?”