The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

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Sprinkler System

By Greg Clark, July 14, 1945

“How much hose, inquired Jimmie Frise, “have you got left?”

“By golly,” I said, “I’ve only got about 30 feet.”

“That’s about what I’ve got,” muttered Jim. “And even that leaks.”

“Mine,” I informed him, “spurts all over at the tap. It has two main flaws which shoot fine jets about 15 feet. And in between are sundry soft spots that dribble.”

Mine’s exactly the same,” said Jim. “What I was going to suggest, we ought to pool our hose. I’ll bring my section over and we’ll make a new splice and join them up together. It will make one good hose. Then, on alternate nights we’ll roll it up and take it to each other’s house.”

“A fine suggestion,” I commended. “Maybe out of the two 30-foot lengths we could get one decent hose of 50 feet. Which would just about reach the foot of my yard.”

“Same here,” said Jim. “At this moment some of the best flowers I’ve got are parching to death, 10 feet out of range of my hose.”

“Shouldn’t we have bought some of this ersatz hose?” I inquired. “This wartime composition rubber? I see lots of that hose for sale.”

“Not me,” declared Jim. “I’m waiting for the experiments to end before I invest in any wartime substitutes.”

“I’ve talked to some people,” I advised, “who say that these rubber substitute hoses are better than any rubber hose they ever owned.”

“Maybe so,” said Jim. “But if rubber heels and the rubber soles you get on sport shoes these days are any sample of what rubber substitute is, I don’t want any of it. Did you ever notice the black scars the kids’ shoes make on the hardwood floors?”

“So that’s what it is?” I cried. “I’ve been wondering what those black scratches were.”

“Every scar,” asserted Jim, “is a little bit of wear and tear on the rubber substitute in the shoes. At that rate, they can’t last any time. And I bet hoses and tires are the same.”

“But it stands to reason,” I countered, “that science would sooner or later find some substitute for rubber. The minute the motor car was invented and good roads began to branch out in all directions all over the world, we should have foreseen that mankind would not for long be dependent on the juice of a tree that would only grow in certain restricted climates.”

“It does seem silly,” agreed Jim. “The whole world, from the Arctic through the temperate zones to the tropics and on down through the south temperate zone into the Antarctic, hundreds of millions of people with millions of motor cars each with five tires, all dependent upon a few South Sea Islanders squeezing the sop out of some special trees.”

“It isn’t good enough,” I submitted. “Science just had to get busy, war or no war.”

“Yet,” pointed out Jim, “look how dependent the world still is for so many different things on some small section of the world. Tea, for example. And coffee. How is it the whole world has become so victimized by certain habits and customs? Russia drinks billions of gallons of tea every day. Look at Britain, soaking up tea in lakes and gulfs. Up in northern Canada trappers having to have their pail of tea breakfast, noon and supper. And coffee! Millions of Americans, millions of South Americans, Frenchmen huddled over their coffee cups all along those open-air cafes of the boulevards. Spaniards, Italians …”

Mystery of the Moose

“That’s a queer thing,” I admitted. “A little bush grows in China and India. A few famished Chinese soak the dried leaves in boiling water. They’ll soak anything in boiling water. Sharks’ fins, birds’ nests. So they soak dried leaves. Presently, the queer little habit had spread all over the earth, and hundreds of millions simply can’t do without it.”

“Science hasn’t done anything about that,” pointed out Jim. “Maybe they can find a substitute for rubber. But can they find a substitute for all the other odd things men squeeze out of trees or pluck off bushes in comparatively small areas of the earth’s surface?”

“Do you know, Jim,” I mused, “it seems to me mankind is the laziest animal of all. Admitted, a moose is lazy. All a moose had to do, 1,000 years ago, was keep on slowly feeding south, through continuous lily pad ponds and willow brush and all the other things he eats, in order to reach the southern states. And there, in lush comfort, with no severe winter, the moose tribe would have found heavenly habitat. But are there any moose in Louisiana or Georgia? No. They are found exclusively in the hardest, bitterest spruce tracts of the north, where winter comes like grim death and hangs on for six months out of the 12. Why didn’t the moose tribe feed steadily southward? Why were they so lazy as to stick up in the inhospitable Canadian north?”

“Hmmm,” said Jim.

“The same with so many other beasts,” I said. “But man, apparently so energetic, so discontented, so eternally in search of better and more comfortable regions in which to live, is so lazy that If some Chinese shows him how to soak dried leaves in boiling water, mankind thinks the Chinese have the only leaves that can be soaked. Why haven’t we experimented with our own leaves?”

“Maybe we have,” said Jim. “Maybe those of us that are still left are the ones that haven’t – experimented. I think it is safer to let the Chinese experiment with soaking dried leaves and the Turks experiment with roasted berries. Always let somebody else do the experimenting. If they find something good and it doesn’t kill them, okay. Let’s use it.”

“That’s the trouble with us,” I protested. “Is there a sillier spectacle on earth than the past 30 years, with millions of motor cars racing all over the world, in seven continents, surely the most energetic and hectic spectacle in all human history. Yet the whole vast pandemonium dependent on the juice of some trees growing in a couple of small tropic areas. Modern industry may be a marvel. Modern science may be a wonder. But they both ought to be ashamed of themselves, putting the whole traffic of humanity on a foundation of bug juice from some pagan island.”

A Question of Rubber

“The best principle to observe in modern business,” explained Jim, “is, if it works, leave it alone. The first use of rubber in connection with traffic was rubber tires for wealthy men’s buggies and dog carts. Then – came the bicycle. And before anybody had time to invent a synthetic substance for the millions of bicycles in the 90’s, the rubber importers, who had got busy to meet the buggy trade, were able to produce enough wild rubber to meet the first onset of the bicycle tire trade. Then, foreseeing the great days ahead when the whole world would travel on bicycles, the rubber planters began to create orchards of rubber trees. Nobody foresaw the motor car. But by the time the motor car dawned, the rubber growers had got far enough ahead with their dreams of a world entirely bicyclized to meet the first onset of the motor car.”

“And of course,” I put in, “the motor car would have been simply out of the question without rubber tires.”

“Correct,” agreed Jim. “So you see, the rubber growers and rubber importers in every case were far enough ahead to meet the demand. So science had no call to get busy and invent a substitute. Industry always leaves well enough alone. Business says, if it works don’t change it. And that is why, up until now, there has been no call to science to invent a substitute for rubber.”

“Have they really got it?” I questioned. “Don’t you think rubber, like tea or coffee, like leather for shoes and wool for clothes, is something natural-born and right and fitting? Even if they do work out a perfect substitute for rubber, won’t there always be a demand for genuine rubber tires? They’ve invented no end of substitutes for wool and cotton for clothes. They’ve got imitation leather of every description. But people still like wool clothes as the ancient Romans did, and cotton, as the ancient Egyptians did, thousands of years before Christ. And can you imagine the day ever coming when men will give up genuine leather shoes?”

“Rather than be ruined,” Jim submitted, “I imagine the rubber planters of the east will offer their rubber so dirt cheap that the rubber Importers and the rubber processors will see the chance to make a little dough; and the rubber industry will be revived. Then we’ll witness a great pitched battle between the synthetic rubber interests and the natural rubber interests. Cartels will be formed. Little gangs of British bankers and investors, desirous of cutting the throats of other British bankers and Investors, will gang up with little gangs of American bankers and investors desirous of cutting the throats of other American bankers and investors. That’s a cartel.”

“I thought a cartel,” I interrupted, “was where all the British bankers and investors desirous of cutting one another’s throats got together with all the American bankers and investors desirous of cutting one another’s throats, because it was agreed that the public was hardly worth all the throat cutting. So they ganged up and cut the public’s throat instead.”

“I guess that is a cartel,” amended Jim. “And it may well be that rather than stage a pitched battle over synthetic rubber versus natural rubber they will organize a gigantic world-wide stock company of all the natural rubber plantations. All the planters will be bought out. All the importers and processors will be bought out. And then they’ll sell the stock to the public.”

“That would be a good way to put an end to the natural rubber industry,” I agreed. “But in the meantime I sincerely hope they get through with their experiments on synthetic rubber before the tire rationing comes off. Don’t you think one of us ought to invest in one of these rubber substitute hoses?”

“Look,” said Jim. “There’s just this one summer left. Surely we can pool our hoses and get by for the next couple of months. Then, by next year, either real rubber will be back or else a first-class substitute will be available. I have the feeling that with the war still on the best substitutes are still going into war materials.”

“Okay,” I subsided. “You bring your hose over and we’ll see what we can salvage from the two.”

So Jim ran home in the car and rolled his hose and brought it over to my garden. Jim’s hose was already synthesized. Of the 35 feet he had serviceable, 20 was an old smooth-bore type of hose dating back to the year of his marriage, about 1918. And the rest was the ribbed type, part of an extension he had bought about 1926.

Mine was just the one brand. It was the old smooth-bore style and was the relic of the first and only hose I ever bought. It had three splices in it. The passing years had seen soft spots and bends and cracks appear. I cut the defective section of a foot or so out, and then rejoined the good bits with those metal tubes and rings that splice hose together.

Evening in the Garden

Jim’s had an old-fashioned bronze nozzle. Mine had a more modern nickel-plated nozzle, with a knurled section for easy turning. But the connections at both my nozzle and the tap ends were so defective that regular fountains played at both ends. I had to stand at arm’s length from my nozzle; and even so my feet got soaked.

“So we’ll use my terminal connections,” suggested Jim.

A couple of summer bachelors can spend no more profitable evening than pottering in their gardens with hoses and hoes. With a sharp knife I severed from my three-spliced hose both the nozzle and the tap connection. We attached Jim’s hose to the tap to locate the best spot in which to splice in my hose.

His tap connection was flawless. Not a drop oozed. His nozzle was pretty good, but it had only two kinds of spray – either a great heavy flood like hailstones beating the zinnias and phlox; or else a fine mist of spray that would take all night to dampen the pansies.

But it was the mid-section of Jim’s hose that really fell short. There were several soft spots, dozy, like punky wood. These allowed water to seep out. There were also several real cracks, from which spouts of water 10 feet high curved up in various directions when the tap was turned up full.

“Jim,” I said, “this looks to me like a deal you’re putting over on me. There isn’t a five-foot stretch of your hose that hasn’t got a leak in it.”

“Cut it in the middle,” urged Jim, “and we’ll splice your hose in. Maybe with a good 30-foot section in the middle, like that, the water will flow too fast through mine to leak.”

“Nonsense; the more the pressure, the greater the leak,” I stated. “I don’t think it’s worth while trying to splice yours. Wait minute.”

And I went along and counted seven leaks.

“Each of those leaks,” I pointed out, “would require at least six Inches of hose cut out. That reduces your hose by close to four feet. And seven splices would require seven splicers.”

“Oh, try it anyway,” cried Jim. “We’ve got two splicers. Hitch her up and see if we can get enough pressure at the nozzle to reach the back of your yard. If not, we will simply have to go and buy some substitute rubber hoses.”

So we squatted down and went to work on the splices. We cut Jim’s hose at the junction between the old smooth-bore and the later model ribbed hosing. Then we dragged mine up and spliced its 32 feet in between.

When we pounded the end of the ribbed iron splicer into Jim’s hose, the perished rubber split, and we had to keep on paring off an inch or two until we finally hit upon the idea of filing the splicer a little smoother.

We got it hitched at last and then Jim walked back to the tap and turned it on.

It was quite a performance. I was holding the nozzle. If I turned it to the coarse stream a wavering jet, about seven feet long, wobbled and splattered heavily on the turf, digging a hole. If I turned to the fine spray a round balloon appeared, about the size and shape of an umbrella, and most of it drifted back to me.

An Idea Dawns

But back down the hose there was a wonderful display. From Jim’s two sections seven different spurts rose and arched in various directions. From both splices angry little explosions hissed in all directions. And from my section, in the middle, one very fine spurt and two smaller ones divided the north and south about equally between them.

We stood and watched for a moment.

“Turn her off, turn her right off, at the nozzle!” cried Jim suddenly. “Turn the way for the fine spray until she goes tight off.”

I turned. And as I did so all the spurts and fizzles and splutters suddenly arched higher. And three new ones appeared.

Jim strode up to me.

“My boy,” he cried excitedly, “this has been staring mankind in the face for centuries. Ever since hoses were first invented, we’ve been enslaved by the one idea. The fire hose. The hose with one stream to be directed on one target. But a garden hose should have not one but 10 or 20 outlets.”

“Don’t you see?” he expanded, “Talk about substitute rubber and drinking tea and coffee! Why, it has taken the war to show us what a proper garden hose should be like. Instead of the human race having to stand on damp lawns, steering a silly hose yard by yard over the flower borders, we invent a modern hose, a hose with 10 or 15 little nozzles. And then, all we do is walk down and stretch the hose the length of the garden, turn her on, and then sit back in the garden chairs and watch the garden get watered properly, simultaneously and at our ease!”

“Jim, if we patent this!” I gloated expectantly.

I laid the nozzle end down, and we walked the length of the hose, inspecting the leaks. Those that were not quite big enough, I enlarged with my pen knife, until they threw a nice spurt about 10 feet.

“Cut new holes, at regular intervals,” suggested Jim.

And judiciously turning the tap on and off, we spaced our cuts at regular intervals, until we had a series of 19 jets that, with the evening breeze wavering them, covered the whole expanse of the garden.

“Think,” I said, as we sat back in the deck chairs and watched the play of the little fountains, “of the old-fashioned sprinklers. The kind you had to keep getting up every few minutes to walk over wet grass and get squirted yourself, shifting them from place to place.”

“All we have to do now,” added Jim, “when we’re through, is turn off the tap and haul the hose back in. Only our hands get wet.”

As we sat and gloated, my next door neighbor came out and looked over the fence.

“Some hose,” he remarked.

“There you see,” I informed him, “the birth of a great idea. It is going to be patented. Our fortunes are made. This is the Frise-Clark hose. Or the Frike hose. Or maybe the Clarf hose. History is being made before your eyes.”

“Didn’t you ever see a cloth hose?” inquired my neighbor.

“A what?” I inquired.

“A cloth hose that waters the ground all along its length?” he asked.

“I certainly didn’t,” I said. “But anyway, it doesn’t sprinkle.”

“Sprinkling is the worst feature of hoses,” said the neighbor. “If we could water our gardens without sprinkling the flowers and foliage, causing them to weaken and blight, but merely wetting the earth, we would have the ideal hose. And we’ve got it in the cloth hose.”

“Where did you ever see one?” I demanded.

“You could have seen one for the past three summers,” said the neighbor, “by just looking over the fence.”

Which we did. And there, draped along the flower borders and over the grass, was an earth-brown hose of cloth, originally white, he told us. And it was quietly leaking water onto the parched earth, leaving the flowers and foliage to the dew, but richly soaking the ground and the roots.

“I got it,” he explained, “rather than one of those substitute rubber things.”

Jim and I went back to our garden chairs.

“Well, anyway,” said Jim, “I like the look of ours better.”

And we noticed, at the same time, that the spurts were not quite so high.

But when we counted them, instead of 19, there were already 22.

Editor’s Note: Rubber was rationed during World War Two. Innovations in the different types of synthetic rubber was stepped up to meet demand.

Squeaks don’t come any Narrower!

By Greg Clark, July 7, 1930

“I’d like to see Mr. Denison, please,” I said to the lady at the desk in the hospital corridor.

Yes, hospital. Merrill, whether from the after affects of being jiggled on a horse’s back or from too much golf, was taken from the train at an eastern town and rushed to hospital where he was operated on for appendicitis.

And taking the first train after hearing the bad news, I dashed down to his assistance.

“Mr. Denison?” asked the lady in white. “You mean Dr. Denison.”

“Ha, ha,” said I to myself, “the big scamp is masquerading as a doctor is he! Doctor of what? Doctor of architecture, doctor of horse-back riding, doctor of expense accounts?”

“Very well,” said I to the lady, “Doctor Denison.”

Far be it from me to disrupt any of Merrill’s little schemes.

“You are expected,” said the lady in white. “If you will just come this way, I will hand you over to the nurses.”

It was a nice little hospital, surrounded by beautiful bushy gardens, and its corridors were spotless and shiny. I was glad Merrill had the good fortune, if he must be stricken away from home, to land into such a hospital as this.

The lady in white led me down the corridor into a small white room. On a table lay a quantity of linen. And at one side of the room stood one of those wheeled cots on which the sick are taken for a ride.

“Just undress here,” said the lady in white, and put on that white gown there. When you are ready, ring this bell and the nurse will come for you.”

I looked at her in astonishment.

“Undress?” said I.

“Of course,” said she.

“Why undress?” I demanded.

“You can’t go in your business clothes,” said she.

“Ah,” said I, “for sanitation’s sake?”

“Exactly,” said the lady in white, going out the door.

Well, the last thing in the world I would do would be to carry germs into Merrill, lying there exhausted from his operation. But how wonderful, I said to myself as I unbuttoned my collar, the way science is advancing! Here in a small city hospital you couldn’t even go in to visit a friend without undressing and putting on a sanitary nightgown.

“I suppose,” said I, as I removed my boots, “the next thing they will be doing will be making you take a bath before you can visit a friend in hospital.”

The hospital nightie did not exactly fit me. It was more like a tent than a nightshirt. But I liked its extreme modesty.

I rang the bell.

Two nurses entered the room.

“Will you come this way, sir, for your bath?” said the one with the blue eyes.

“Bath!” said I.

“Yes, sir, you must take a bath.”

“Well, I’ll be jiggered,” said I.

So they led me through an inner corridor and left at the bathroom where I had a real good shower. It was a dandy needle shower. I felt fine. Merrill, said I, will be glad to look at a chap as fresh and rosy as me. After the train journey, this bath is a good idea.

“This Gentleman Pulls a New One”

When I came out of the bathroom, the nurses were sitting waiting for me.

“Now we will go to the ante-room,” said the blue-eyed one, “where the male nurse will prepare you.”

“Prepare me?” said I. “Is anything wrong?”

“No,” said the blue-eyed nurse. “Prepare you means shave you and that sort of thing.”

“But I shaved this morning,” said I, somewhat indignantly, for even on a train I pride myself on giving my chin a good clean scrape.

The blue-eyed nurse laughed prettily.

“He’ll do a much better job,” said the nurse.

“Well,” said I, “your hospital is away ahead of anything in Toronto. I never heard of such precautions as you take. Why, you would think I was the world’s champion germ carrier. But if you don’t mind, nurse, I think we will pass up the shave. I feel perfectly presentable now.”

“Dr. Denison insists on everything,” said the nurse.

“He would be to glad to see me if I was covered with mud.” said I.

“Well,” said the nurse, “I’ll have to see the superintendent. Will you wait here?”

I waited. Presently the two young nurses came back with an elderly lady with a peculiarly cool and determined face.

“Good morning,” said she. “How do you feel?”

“Great,” said I.

“Have you any pain?” said the superintendant.

“Pain,” I snorted. I never felt better in my life.”

“That’s splendid,” said the superintendent. “Now, tell me, did it have a flexible handle?”

“I beg your pardon,” said I.

“Did it have a flexible handle? Or a stiff handle? In other words,” said the superintendent, “will it bend?”

“I certainly beg your pardon,” said I, entirely bewildered.

“The toothbrush,” said the superintendent.

“What toothbrush?” I asked.

The superintendent turned and winked at the two nurses who were smiling shyly.

“The toothbrush,” said the superintendent, “that you swallowed.”

It was like a dream. I have had looney dreams like this often.

“I didn’t swallow any toothbrush,” said I, laughing.

“No?” said the superintendent. “Now, like a good man, you just come with us to the ante-room where the male attendant will prepare you. It’ll all be over in no time.”

“Look here,” said I, “there’s a mistake somewhere. I didn’t swallow any toothbrush. All I came here for was to visit my friend Mr. Denison.”

“Now that is ingenious,” said the superintendent to the two young nurses, talking to them just as if I were not there at all, or as if I were a specimen in a case. “It is not at all uncommon for patients to lose their nerve at the door of the operating room. And they are very clever about it too. But this gentleman pulls a new one. He was coming to visit his friend Mr. Denison. I must tell Dr. Denison that.”

She led on. I stood fast.

“Look here,” said I. “Excuse me. Just be good enough to ask Mr. Denison if he is expecting me.”

“Dr. Denison is expecting you,” said she. “He is changing now. You must be ready in five minutes.”

“But I don’t know any Dr. Denison,” said I, shakily, for I could see no way out of this. “I just got off the train half an hour ago and dashed up here to see my friend Denison, who was operated on for appendicitis yesterday.”

Bound, Gagged and Bathed

“There is no Mr. Denison operated on for appendicitis here,” said the superintendent. “Come, come, sir, pull yourself together. You are in a very dangerous situation.”

“I know it,” said I.

“If that toothbrush gets past a certain point, you are likely to have peritonitis and die.”

“Look here,” I yelled, “I swallowed no toothbrush!”

The superintendent turned to the nurses.

“This is the gentleman?”

“He was handed over to us,” they said.

“Short, medium stout,” said the superintendent, sizing me up. “How was he dressed?”

“In a brown suit,” said the blue-eyed nurse.

“Rather shabby?”

“Well, yes,” said the blue-eyed nurse. Never put your faith in blue-eyed nurses. They look at you with such sweet eyes, but they think your suit is shabby.

“This the man all right,” said the superintendent. “Just call MacWhirtie.”

It was impossible to look dignified in that nightshirt. I knew that. Then the door opened, and in came great giant of a sandy-haired Scotchman in overalls, the kind they have one of in every hospital. His hair grew down almost to his eyebrows, and he had blue, simple eyes.

“Just help this gentleman into the ante-room,” said the superintendent.

“Hand’s off!” I roared as MacWhirtie advanced.

But, making soothing and clucking noises, MacWhirtie swept me up, smothered me in the colossal nightshirt and laid me down on a table. I struggled. He held me down.

“Careful,” said the superintendent. “He’s got a toothbrush in him. Don’t let him struggle like that.”

So MacWhirtie got one of those crag-climbing strangle holds on me, and pinned me down.

I could see, from under MacWhirtie’s arm, a pallid little man in soiled white overalls approaching me with a shaving mug and an old fashioned razor.

“Get away from me,” I yelled.

The door opened and in walked a tall thin blond man.

“Well, well,” said he.

“Dr. Denison, this the gentleman that swallowed the toothbrush,” said the superintendent, “and he has got a little fright just at the last minute.”

“We’ll soothe him,” said the doctor, “Get off, MacWhirtie.”

I sat up.

“Doctor,” said I, “there will be the devil to pay over this. I just came in on the train half an hour ago…”

“Where do you feel it now?” asked the doctor, sitting down on the edge of the table, and putting a kindly arm around my shoulder.

“I say,” I said stoutly, “I came up here to visit my friend Mr. Merrill Denison who yesterday was operated on for appendicitis. And they have seized me, bound me, gagged me, bathed me, put me into this nightshirt…”

“Well, well,” said Dr. Denison.

“Well, well, nothing!” I shouted. “I warn you I am not the man you think I am.”

“Then why did you accept the nightshirt and take the bath?” asked the doctor, good-humoredly and patiently. “Like a good chap, now, pull yourself together.”

“Listen,” said I, desperately, and probably by this time I did look like a man who had swallowed a toothbrush, “how do I get out of this?”

“Just as soon we get the toothbrush,” said the doctor. “All right, MacWhirtie, just assist the gentleman into the operating room and we’ll do without the shave. I’ll use plenty of alcohol first.”

Blue-Eyed Nurses Should be Forbidden

MacWhirtie assisted me.

He laid me down on a cold marble table with dazzling lights in my face. I lay there wondering what Merrill would have done in such a predicament as this. Merrill would have said something witty. But I couldn’t think of anything witty. MacWhirtie was standing over me, with a great compassionate look on his simple face.

I smelt druggy smells. I heard something making sizzing noises. The nurses were busily dashing about the dazzling room. They rolled a big thing like a tank on a baggage hand truck over beside me. I sat up. MacWhirtie laid me down.

A silence fell on us all. The doctor smiled down on me.

Then the door of the operating room opened.

The lady in white who met me at the door of the hospital, stood there.

“The gentleman who swallowed the toothbrush is waiting downstairs,” said she.

The silence continued.

Nobody moved.

The smile faded from the bending face of the doctor.

MacWhirtie put one hand under me and helped me sit up.

“Well,” said I.

The blue-eyed nurse started to giggle. I think blue-eyed nurses should be forbidden. They have no sense of other people’s dignity.

“Well, sir,” said I, “you nearly had me disembowelled!”

“We were just going to X-ray you for the toothbrush,” said the doctor. “It would have been quite a hunt.”

“Now, how about taking me upstairs to see Mr. Denison,” said I.

“There is no Mr. Denison here,” said the superintendent in a business like voice. She was the sort of lady who takes the offensive especially when she in the wrong.

“I have a telegram in my pants, if I can get them,” said I, “informing me that he is here.”

“Maybe he is at the other hospital,” said the doctor.

“What other hospital?” I asked.

“There are two hospitals here,” said the doctor, “Just go to the phone and ask if there is a Mr. Denison over there.”

The blue-eyed nurse hurried out.

By the time I got my clothes on, which I donned in the same room with scared little man who was hastily undressing, the nurse informed me that Mr. Denison was indeed at the other hospital.

I shook hands with everybody, the doctor, MacWhirtie, the little man who was now wearing the large nightshirt, and even the blue-eyed nurse.

Then I took a taxi over to the other hospital.

“Mr. Denison?” said the lady in white sitting in the corridor of this hospital. “Just come this way.”

She led me down a corridor.

“Just a minute,” said I. She halted.

“I shaved this morning,” said I. “I’ve had a bath, this suit was French-cleaned only the day before yesterday, and I’m in highly sanitary condition.”

“Yes, sir,” said the lady in white, stiffly.

She opened door.

And there, pale, weary, but with one eye shut in silent greeting, lay Merrill.

Editor’s Note: This is one of the early “pre-Greg-Jim” stories that Greg wrote co-starring fellow writer Merrill Denison, from the Star Weekly. He also worked as a playwright and would later move to New York and still contribute occasionally to the Star Weekly. Jim would often illustrate these stories.

This is the Life!

July 6, 1946

The Evening’s Fishing

By Greg Clark, July 3, 1937

“What is it,” asked Jimmie Frise, snuggling deeper behind the steering wheel, “that makes us so nuts about fishing?”

“It’s like having red hair,” I explained, “or being able to sing. It’s just born in us.”

“I’m not so sure,” said Jim. “Here we are, heading north at a high rate of speed for the opening of the bass season. We’ve spent every week-end in May and June trout fishing, to the neglect of our business and our families. We’ve spent far more money on it than any budget normally allows for pleasure.”

“Fishing only lasts,” I pointed out, “from May first to the middle of October. Five and a half measly months.”

“Most people,” stated Jim, “take two weeks’ holidays in the summer and let it go at that. Here we not only take two weeks but about twenty week-ends.”

“Everybody does something with their week-ends,” I countered. “Golfing, driving in the country. Lots of them take trips south.”

“Most of them,” corrected Jim, “just stay home.”

“Well,” I agreed, “it’s a free country. And if a man takes more pleasure staying home on week-ends and saving his money, that’s his pleasure. I would no more think of interfering with him staying home than I would permit him to interfere with me going away.”

“What I mean is,” said Jim, “those who stay home feel that they can’t really afford to go busting off on trips.”

“They’re welcome to feel anyway they like,” I admitted happily, “so long as by deed or word or facial expression they don’t attempt to interfere with my way of thinking. These people who stay home on week-ends are probably looking forward to a comfortable old age. That’s a form of amusement I have no use for. Comfortable old age! Imagine guys in good health sitting around all Saturday and Sunday greedily looking forward to a comfortable old age. Of all the disgusting habits.”

“I’d say it was mighty good sense. Farsighted.” said Jim.

“Short-sighted, you mean,” I insisted. “Can’t they see all around them that old age is hardly ever comfortable? It’s full of aches and pains. They’re so fat they can’t breathe or so thin they hurt all over even lying in bed. All the things that have happened to them in their lives seem to pile on top of them in the end. They’ve eaten too heartily or have got round-shouldered at sedentary jobs. What they thought all their lives was just being careful turns out in the end to be only mean and it shows in their faces. Unless you die when you’re about twenty-five life is always disappointing and the longer you live the more disappointed with it you grow. That is unless you go fishing or something.”

“You’ve got the worst philosophy I ever heard,” said Jim loudly and stepping on the gas.

“Well, show me something better than fishing,” I retorted.

“It’s the most selfish pleasure, on earth,” stated Jim. “A golfer only leaves his family for few hours and an occasional evening. But a fisherman runs away Friday night and never turns up until late Sunday night or early Monday morning, looking sunburned and guilty.”

“His family are glad to be rid of him,” I cut.

“Even week-end trips cost money,” said Jim. “A man runs away with a lot of money fishing.”

“I suppose it would be better,” I sneered, “if he were to save it little by little until the next depression. Surely nobody in the whole world believes in saving money any more.”

“Aw,” scoffed Jimmie.

“All right: all I say is, anybody is a fool to save,” I assured him. “And of all the ways of not saving, I think fishing is the best.”

“And,” questioned Jim, “when you are old and can’t go fishing any more and all your money is gone, how will you feel?”

“Far better than most of my generation,” I declared. “For I can say, ‘Here I am without any money, but I’ve had a hell of a good time.’ And the rest of the inmates of the poorhouse will be hunched up, their hands clasped between their boney knees, moaning. ‘Here I am without any money and look how I’ve suffered.’ I bet I’ll be the happiest old guy in the old men’s home. That’s something to look forward to.”

“I’m looking forward,” stated Jim. “to some swell fishing in about three hours. We’ll have the evening from at least six o’clock on. We ought to get our limit of six bass before dark in dear old Lake Skeebawa.”

“What a lake,” I agreed. “And to think we have it practically to ourselves.”

“What I like about Skeebawa,” said Jim, “is there are no motor boats on it. No engines humming and snorting and putting. No oil fouling the pure water. Just a little secret lake that seems to have escaped the march of progress.”

“What I hate about motor boats,” I said, “is that they allow wholly undeserving people, fat, cushion-sitting fish hogs, to race around the lake taking in only the very best fishing spots. Good fishing belongs to those who are willing to take the trouble to win it.”

“Of course, our guides’ do the paddling,” reminded Jim.

“Good old Simon and good old Sandy,” I cried. “Will they be glad to see us? I’ve brought Simon a couple of my old pipes and a pound of that cheap tobacco he likes.”

“I’ve brought Sandy that hunting knife I got for Christmas,” said Jim. “It’ll make a big hit with Sandy.”

“This makes ten years,” I mused, “that Simon and Sandy have paddled us the rounds of Skeebawa.”

“They’re grand old boys,” said Jim. “Let’s see: we’ll do the usual round. We’ll take to the left from the boathouse and cast all along that rush bed. Then cut across to Simon’s Point and fish the shoal for say half an hour. Then along those lily pads on the far side and so home by dark. We can do that in three hours.”

A Disturbing Sound

“Easy,” I agreed, turning to take stock of my various items of tackle, rods, boxes in the back seat. “What are you going to start with?”

“Red and white plug,” said Jim.

“I think I’ll start with that copper casting spoon,” I considered. “It’ll be a bright evening and after the hot spell the bass won’t be any too frisky.”

“Six bass apiece,” sang Jimmie; giving the gas to her. “And then in the dark walking up to Andy’s cottage for one of Mrs. Andy’s glorious fried bass dinners.”

“Then sitting out under the stars listening to the whippoorwills,” I joined in, “and talking slow and lazy with old Simon and Andy about last winter and how they worked in the lumber camps and what they trapped and the big lake trout they caught through the ice.”

“And,” sighed Jim, “going to bed knowing that tomorrow we have the whole glorious long day, from misty sunrise to moonlit dark, just casting, casting, casting.

We fell silent and watched the long road rolling under us and the bright summer fields and the farmers already in their hay. And, thinking the idle thoughts of the true angler, we watched the woods grow thicker and darker with the northering miles, and a tingle come into the air, and the smell of the lakes, the little lakes, come cool and secret through the summer.

We reached at last, both of us eager and sitting up fresh, the road that goes to Skeebawa, loveliest of the little lily-margined lakes. and wound down through familiar narrowing roads of cedar jungles and high stumpy barrens and aisled forests of maple and oak, seeing with joyous hearts the narrowing, the roughening that meant the ever nearer approach to the little lost water where Simon and Sandy would probably be waiting for us at the old broken rail fence at the turn down, as in all the happy past.

We reached the fence at last, both of us emitting ceremonial shouts and hurrahs. But neither Simon nor Sandy was waiting for us at the usual spot. Down the sandy ruts towards Sandy’s cabin we turned.

“Been a heavy car in here to-day,” said Jim briefly

“H’m,” said I. “Of course there are other guests always. But Simon will always save his canoe for me.”

“One thing is certain,” agreed Jim.

Over the knoll we rose and, as usual, stopped the car to feast our gaze on wrinkled blue Skeebawa spread below us. Jim turned off the engine and said,


A curious and horrible sound came to our ears. It was the distant drone and whine of a powerful outboard motor engine.

“Jim,” I cried.

Jim snatched at the key and started the car.

“Sandy never,” Jim said, “never would have bought an engine. He couldn’t afford one, for one thing.”

“Let’s get there,” I said, and took hold for the bumps down the few hundred yards of sandy ruts to the cabin.

Mrs. Sandy came out as we drove in the yard, wiping her hands on her apron and waving to us.

“Mrs. Sandy,” I said, leaping out, “is that an engine?”

“It sure is,” said Mrs. Sandy delightedly. “An old gent arrived last night with a trailer and his own boat on it. See, there?”

Under the pines where our car usually rested was a big rich car and attached to it a trailer such as big skiffs are carried on. It was a rich man’s car.

“Where are the boys?” demanded Jim.

“Out with him,” said Mrs. Sandy. “What a time they’re having. That boat skims, so it does. Just skims. They’ve been all around the lake half a dozen times and got no end of bass, but he puts them all back over the six he’s allowed by the law.”

“Mrs. Sandy,” I said, “didn’t the boys know we’d be here?”

“Certainly they knew,” she cried. “Of course they did and come in and I’ll take you to your room.”

“But, Mrs. Sandy,” said Jim, “we were hoping to go right out. For the evening’s fishing.”

“The canoes are right where you’ll find them,” said Mrs. Sandy. “He’s paying the boys ten dollars a day to ride in that boat with him. Ten dollars a day. My, he’s a rich man.”

“Mrs. Sandy,” said Jim, “is there nobody to paddle us?”

“Simon tried all night nearly,” said she, “to get one of his nephews, but they were busy. The boys said you wouldn’t mind paddling yourself to-night and they’ll have some nephews for you in the morning.”

“In the morning?” said I. “Is the rich gentleman staying?”

“Staying?” cried Mrs. Sandy. “He’s crazy about the place. He says he’s been looking for it all his life. He’s telegraphed all his friends…”

“Ooooohhh,” moaned Jim, and I joined in and harmonized my groan.

“Why, gentlemen,” cried Mrs. Sandy, “the lake’s full of fish. He says he never saw such fishing. He’s hooked forty if he’s hooked one. And him and the boys, in that skimmer, has just been scooting from the one good spot to the next all day long, wasting no time…. He’s taking me for a spin in it after dinner tonight.”

“Indeed,” said Jim. “Let’s get on the water,” I muttered.

Hurriedly we carried our duffle to the house, where Mrs. Sandy showed us to the room next to our old one. Our old room was strangely packed with foreign duffle, scads of it, rod cases, big leather and canvas bags, expensive-looking tweed coats, rugs, tackle boxes flung about.

“Can’t we have our old room?” I demanded.

“He’s paying twenty dollars a day,” whispered Mrs. Sandy tremendously; “twenty dollars a day for this room and he says he won’t give a cent less.”

We dropped our bags in a little room with a slanting ceiling and stuffy smell, a room I had not even glanced into in all the years. We changed into old clothes, snatched up rods and boxes and walked down, in the evening to the ramshackle boathouse and got out Simon’s red canoe.

“I’ll paddle,” I growled so determinedly that Jim didn’t even haggle.

Silently I drove the canoe along toward the long-rush beds while Jim mounted his reel and tied on his favorite red and white bass plug. As we cast along, the drone and snarl of the engine resounded from the far end of the lake, starting and stopping, as we pictured just which best spots this old devil was fishing in turn. We fished the two hundred yards of rush beds without a single strike. Not a swirl. In past years we each always took two bass off this rush bed. Two and three pounders.

“Simon,” I said, “has probably had him along here.”

“Sandy, too,” said Jim shortly.

Far down the quieting lake we heard distant merry shouts and the familiar music of a man into a fish. It sounded like a big one.

I paddled Jim heavily across to the boulder point and set him just the right distance to cast over the shoals. Ten casts, not a bass. Twenty casts, not a bass.

“He’s probably been over this ground a dozen times to-day,” I suggested.

We heard the distant engine start up and around the far point came the smoothly skimming skiff. The water was still and like a creature of evil the skiff came boring and arrowing up the lake. I heard the loud calls as Simon and Sandy saw us, and the skiff turned and came for us, racketing the echoes of the quiet hills of Skeebawa and breaking the peaceful lake into waves and wash. In an instant the skiff curved alongside us and Simon, all grins like a child, turned the engine off.

In the middle, easy and quiet, sat a skinny little man. He was beyond seventy. He was wiry and bright eyed. In his hand he held the most expensive type of rod and it was mounted with one of those twenty-five-dollar reels.

“Good evening, gentlemen,” he said, as our craft touched sides gently. “The boys tell me this is your private little heaven. I hope you will welcome a new and unworthy angel?

And Jimmie and I, a little stiffly perhaps, welcomed him and denied it was any private heaven and that all lakes were public property and anybody who cared could come on them, and then we drifted off on the pretext of having just another couple of dozen casts at a special spot where some cedars hung out over…

“We done that,” cried Simon. “We done it twice this morning and three times this afternoon.”

And with a flourish he started the engine and away they snored for the cabin.

“Jim,” I said, “I can’t stay. I can’t even stay the night.”

“Me, too,” said Jim, reeling up.

And we slunk in and packed our stuff amid the lovely odor of frying bass while the stranger sat at feast. We told the boys and Mrs. Sandy we had just dropped in for old time’s sake, but that we had to meet a gang of friends at another lake forty miles up.

And into the night, directionless, not knowing whither, we drove, back out the old twisting road.

“The only thing a man can do,” said Jim, “is save his money and work like a fool when he’s young so as to be able to go fishing when he is old.”

“It’s the only way to compete nowadays,” I agreed.

“You never said a truer word,” said Jim, relapsing into the silence that befitted the dark and pine-girt night.

Editor’s Note: Lake Skeebawa is not real. If Greg and Jim did have a secret fishing spot, they would not reveal it in a story.

Toronto Star Ad – 07/02/32

July 2, 1932

The Local Aspirant to the World’s Tree-Sitting Championship

July 26, 1930

Cool at Last

By Greg Clark, July 31, 1937

“Ice,” said Jimmie Frise, “is badly needed at my cottage.”

“And mine, too,” I confessed. “Welcome the day when they get electric power through this neck of the woods and we can have an electric refrigerator.”

“Nonsense,” cried Jim. “Going for the ice is one of the few remaining pleasures of the summer cottage. Look at us. Radio. Indoor plumbing. A gasoline pump for the water tank.”

“On a day like this,” I sighed, “I could wish to be modern in all things.”

“The swellest kind of a day,” retorted Jim, “to go for the ice. Think of the dear old ice house. How cool it will be inside. The dark damp sawdust. It will be a pleasure just to get inside it.”

“Will you row the boat?” I asked.

“I’ll row over,” said Jim. “You row back, after you are refreshed by a few minutes in the ice house. It will revive you the way no swim can. Not even a cold shower.”

“You know,” I mused, “on a day like this, Jim, we Canadians can pat ourselves on the back, just for being Canadians. Just for surviving. Did it ever occur to you that perhaps no place on earth do they have such extremes of temperature as we have in Canada? In the summer, it is as hot as India. In the winter, it is colder than Russia. To be a Canadian, you’ve got to be made of real stuff.”

“Asbestos,” agreed Jim, “on the outside, with wood alcohol for blood.”

“In about four hundred years,” I stated, “I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Canadians take on a racial type, a sort of cross between the Negro and the Eskimo. We will gradually acquire a dark brown hide as the result of our summer. And a smooth featureless skin covering a thick layer of blubber, like the Eskimo, as the result of our winter. I bet we’ll be an interesting looking people, in about four hundred years.”

“Come and get the ice,” said Jim, rising.

“Sit down, sit down,” I begged. “This is a day for thinking twice about everything. Let’s think about things for a while. The sun will be going down in a couple of hours. We can get the ice any time.”

“Our ice box,” said Jim, “has got a humid smell. It is moaning for ice.”

“You skinny fellows,” I sighed, “are lucky. There you are dressed in thick canvas, and as cool and dry as a cucumber. Here I am in shorts and a cotton scanty, and I’m oozing slowly to pieces. Suppose you get the ice today, and I get the ice to-morrow? For both of us?”

“No,” said Jim. “It takes two to get the ice. One to dig in the sawdust, and the other to crowbar the hunk out and chop it. And then it takes two to carry the ice down to the boat.”

“You could drag it,” I explained.

“If I have to go alone,” said Jim, “I’ll bring only my own cake of ice. Depend on that. I look upon going for the ice as one of the last old-fashioned pleasures of summer resorting. Summer cottages are getting so sissy the last few years that there is really no sense in having them. You might as well be at home. In former days, you went to a summer cottage not so much to escape the heat – for really you don’t escape the heat – as to restore your mind and spirit by a taste of the simple life. Your cottage was primitive. It had outdoor plumbing. You carried the water up in pails and washed in a blue enamel basin hung on a nail at the back door. You had a wood stove and the kitchen was so hot, your wife never had to worry about reducing. The summer cottage kitchen reduced her. There was a woodpile for you to work on cool evenings or gray mornings. There was no radio. You had candles and sometimes lamps. The mattresses were made of hay and you could hear the mice tickling along the rafters and gnawing, the minute the last lamp was blown out at night.”

“I remember,” I sighed, happy just to be listening,

“Alas,” said Jim, “we have conquered even the mice. Even the ants. We’ve got modern spring beds, running water, electric light in most of them now … it’s not for the simple life we come to summer cottages now.”

“What is it we come for?” I dozed.

“Fashion,” said Jim. “Custom. That’s all it is. As a matter of fact, most summer homes nowadays are more refined and civilized than city homes. They are civilized, sophisticated. We used to get bitten by mosquitoes. Now it is the love bug that bites them at summer cottages.”

“Mmmmm,” I muttered reminiscently.

“Here, wake up,” cried Jim. “Let’s go.”

“Jim,” I said earnestly. “I love to hear you talking about things like that. You’re quite a moralist, do you know that?”

“I’m the ice man,” said Jim, champing the jaws of his ice tongs. “Come on, snap out of it.”

Which I did, and sufferingly went and got my ice tongs and followed Jim down to the rowboat. It is a pleasant row over the little bay to J. Brown’s Ice House and Lumber Yard. Even on such a day as this, with copper sun glaring and hurling down its thunderous heat, it is pleasant to sit in the stern of a rowboat and watch an aggressive man like Jimmie pulling at the oars. I think the nicest sensation in the world, on a day like this, is not to feel your own muscles working. It is positively pleasant to behold another man’s arms bending and hauling, and feel your own arms resting limply along the sides of the boat. Actually pleasurable to see somebody else bending and straining and feel your own back loose and limp against the cushion behind you. They talk about the lovely sensations of athletic sport, the consciousness of action. The sensation of inaction is far lovelier.

And presently the skiff grated on J. Brown’s beach, scarred by generations of ice haulers such as we, and we unbarked. The J. Brown Ice House and Lumber Yard has, over a period of fifty years, come to a splendid working arrangement with the cottagers of our neighborhood. J. Brown himself long ago discovered there were far too many things expected of him around a summer resort to allow him to dance attendance on an ice house. So you just go and help yourself and at the end of the season you go and settle with J. Brown, making a rough estimate of the number of hunks you have taken. It is the same with lumber. If you need a few scantlings or a plank or two you help yourself. J. Brown comes around in the evenings and closes the ice house door in case it is left open, and asks any small boys who might be around if they have seen anybody take any lumber. It’s the best way to do business, as a matter of fact. Worry and keeping accounts is what takes the pleasure out of business.

Jim led the way up the ladder of the ice house and cheered me up the climb with shouts of delight.

“Just wait till you get up here,” he cried. “It’s like a cave. It’s air conditioned.”

So I hurried up the ladder, and it certainly was a lovely sensation to step out of the slanting rays of that angry declining sun onto the soft damp sawdust into the shadowy cool of that old cracky ice house

“You dig. Jim,” I said. “I’ll chop.”

So Jim took the old spade and stabbed around in the sawdust to find the latest layer of ice. He found it and proceeded with large graceful sweeps to fling the sawdust aside. He presently bared a dark and wetly gleaming cake of ice. With the crowbar, he wedged it loose from its neighboring cakes and then stood back.

I rose and took the axe. There is something about chopping a cake of ice that wakes the sculptor in a man. The feel of the little flying chips of ice is pleasant to the skin. To make a nice neat split in the big cake of ice is the aim of every good family ice man. To achieve this, you tap and tap, cutting a channel along the top, then a channel along both sides, and finally, you give it a good sharp crack with the axe, and it splits with the grain, neat and tidy.

“I Told-You-So” Stuff

Jim, while I was chopping slowly and carefully, was prodding around in the sawdust with the spade to see what the neighbors had hidden as usual. Sometimes it is a parcel of fish, wrapped in newspaper and secreted deep in the sawdust against the ice in a corner. It is interesting to examine these packages and know just what is going on in the community. It helps you separate the liars from the fish hogs.

Jim found two packages and we ceased work long enough to open and examine them, however one was a leg of lamb and the other was two cartons of eggs.

Then, having successfully parted the huge block of lee into two handsome sections, one for each of us, we hooked the tongs into one of them and hauled it to the door and dropped it down.

“One piece at a time,” decreed Jim. “It will give us all the longer in this cool place.”

We descended the ladder into a humid, heavy world, and carried the ice down to the skiff after dousing it with the pail of water. Then we returned to the ice house for the second load. Inside, it was so lovely we both sat down in unspoken agreement and lit cigarettes. Jim saw a swallow’s nest stuck against the side of the wall and we proceeded to study it.

And suddenly the ice house went dark.

“The wind,” said Jim.

“There’s no wind,” I stated. And plowed across the sawdust to push the door open. It was stuck. I kicked it. It would not open.

“Jim,” I said, “the door’s fastened.”

“Don’t get excited,” said Jim, “it’s too hot.”

He looked through a crack in the ice house wall.

‘H’m,” said Jim. “it’s old J. Brown himself. Hey, Mr. Brown.”

But Mr. Brown has been hard of hearing for twenty years. I found a crack to peep through and saw J. Brown slowly walking along the beach path that leads past the lumber yard to J. Brown’s house, half a mile away, which is also the post-office and the general store and the dance hall and garage and everything.

“Hey,” I roared through the crack. “Hey.”

But J. Brown was aimlessly walking away, scratching his head and stopping to study his lumber piles and to gaze out across the oily lake under the descending sun.

“Hey,” we harmonized. And pounded on the walls.

“Jim,” I said, “there will be nobody else for ice at this time of day.”

“If you had come promptly, when I wanted you to.” said Jim.

“Never mind that I-told-you-so stuff,” I snarled. “Figure how we are going to get out of this.”

“He padlocks it,” said Jim.

“And leaves the key in the padlock.” I sneered. “So near and yet so far.”

“Have you got a pocket knife asked Jim, feeling his own pocket blankly.

“Mine’s in my tackle box.” I accused.

“Well,” said Jim cheerfully, “we’re cool al last. Let’s enjoy ourselves.”

It was already dim in the ice house. The light that came through the cracks was red and warm. But it was not cheering.

“Let’s try for a loose board,” I commanded.

But Jimmie just started to scout around for a soft spot, scooped himself nice nest and lay down with a comfortable sigh. I was left alone to go around the walls, trying each board for a loose spot, panting and prying and shoving; in vain.

“Don’t grunt so,” said Jim, luxuriously.

“Jim,” I stated, “I have nothing on but these shorts and this cotton dicky. I’m liable to catch pneumonia in here.”

“Oh, I don’t think so,” sighed Jimmie, snuggling.

“I’ve been sunburned,” I informed him loudly, “and my skin is tingling now and I’ve got little chills already.”

“Keep moving then,” said Jim dreamily. “Shovel or take reducing exercises or something.”

Nothing Like Exercise

Instead, I tried looking out the cracks for the sight of rescuers. I went all around the ice house once more, feeling for loose boards. I tried a couple of long shouts out a knothole, but Jimmie protested violently.

“What’s the good of all the racket,” he demanded, “We’ve just got to wait until our absence is noted and they come hunting for us.”

“They’ll never notice our absence,” I declared. “We’re never home on time. They won’t even think of us until midnight.”

“We’re cool, aren’t we?” said Jim. “We’re comfortable? This sawdust is soft, isn’t it? All right, sit down, relax, and let’s continue that discussion you were so anxious to continue a while ago. Let’s see, it was about Canadians being made of the real stuff. Asbestos hides and anti-freeze for blood, wasn’t it?”

“Jim,” I said carefully. “I’m starting to shiver. I’m getting a chill. I’m going to catch pneumonia.”

“What do you want me to do about it?” demanded Jim. “Slap you to restore circulation?”

“I’m sunburned,” I said. “We can’t do that.”

“Then,” said Jim. “exercise. Swing your arms. Bend. Walk briskly about.”

I kept still for a minute to make sure I was really starting to feel shivers, and then, feeling shivers, I began to exercise. Jim just lounged in the sawdust, his hands behind his head, watching me. I swung my arms, bent my knees, ducked, swung, in the exercises familiar to all old soldiers and all fat ladies. I worked myself into a nice warm flush and then discovered that, if I stopped, the cold clammy air of the ice house really did chill me.

“Now you’ve done it,” I informed Jim. “Now I can’t stop this monkey business.”

“Walk around,” said Jim.

But, as it was now dark in the ice house, walking about knee deep in loose sawdust was not amusing at all. So I continued, slowly, the calisthenics.

“I can hear you puffing,” said Jim, from his comfortable resting place. “I wish I could see you.”

I made no answer. Every man, in his life time, makes some such a friend as Jimmie.

“I was thinking, this afternoon,” continued Jim, on the veranda there, that you were looking kind of flabby. This will do you no end of good.”

Still I made no answer.

“At our age,” went on Jim. “men have to guard against a creeping desire to just loaf and sag and go limp.”

“Jim,” I said firmly, “please shut up.”

“I’m a moralist,” said Jim. “When I am not an ice man, I’m a moralist.”

And then we heard a boat engine. It sounded like Jim’s. It had the same miss, the same sputter and stagger and almost stop.

“That’s your engine, Jim,” I shouted, leaping for a crack to yell out of.

“If it is,” said Jim, still unmoved, “whoever is running it certainly won’t be able to hear you yelling.”

So there we had to wait, helplessly listening to the engine, sometimes thinking it was coming our way and sometimes thinking it was going away, until at last there could be no doubt that it was coming straight for the ice house beach. Then we heard laughter and answers to our calls. The kids unlocked the door, J. Brown always leaving the key in it, and they asked us what we were doing.

“We were going to spend the night here,” said Jim. “It’s the coolest place in the country.”

But they persuaded us to come on home.

Editor’s Notes: Before refrigeration, ice would be collected from lakes in the winter, and stored in an ice house, which was a large warehouse like building. It would be insulated with sawdust throughout, which could keep the ice through the summer. In the city, ice would be delivered, but in this story, it was self serve, where you had to go and pick it up. Ice boxes, were just that. A wooden box or cabinet that you would put the ice in, along with whatever you wanted to keep cool. The melting ice would drip water into a pan kept below. Ice boxes were not very good, as the cooling would be uneven, and you obviously had to replace the ice as it melted. There were more elaborate ice boxes as time went on, resembling fine furniture.

This story was reprinted in “Greg Clark & Jimmie Frise Go Fishing“, 1980.

Five Young Men

By Greg Clark, July 25, 1936

There are two pilgrimages on Vimy Ridge this week. The one is ours; a few thousand middle-aged veterans returning to the scene of an old war.

The other pilgrimage is from the skies: the 58,000 young men, forever young, who died. It is not likely they would be absent when the British King tears down the bunting from the great memorial to their memory and in their honor.

There is pathos in our pilgrimage. No vestige remains of the ruin we made in our time. The healing hand of the years has made us all strangers in the land. Trees fifteen years old wave along bright, smooth roads, trees unaware, unmarred. On the site of villages and towns as desolate as Baffin Land when we knew this Vimy Ridge, there grow pretty and trim little villages of white and red. They sell picture post cards of how it all used to look. But now, to us, these pictures are hard to believe.

Pathos in us, to see us in our buses and cars, seeking, questing: tramping on foot, over grain fields and beet fields where, according to all our senses and very good maps, here used to be dreadful excavations we called home for two, three years of our best lives. Why, these strong young men toiling in the grain fields on Vimy’s slope were yet unborn when we harvested this slope long years ago.

No vestige remains, except a few museum pieces, carefully preserved; smelling, as it were, of camphor and as little like the real thing as a stuffed deer is like a living one.

So forgive me if I tell you of what I saw and found last evening, as I walked out of Arras northerly, looking for one spot, only one spot, where once I was a man. On the distant crest of Vimy loomed the silhouette of the shrouded memorial, which is soon to be unveiled by the King. On highways coiling with traffic, I walked towards Lens, and looked in vain for Madagascar Dump with its vast untidy piles of munitions. In vain for La Targette or the Nine Elms or Thelus. It was like going into the backyard to find an old tin can; but I cannot find it, so thick are all the old fashioned flowers.

Twilight; dusk; darkness; night enfolded and when I had, by taking a sideroad and a lane and a path and finally a field’s edge, come to the place where the third Canadian division had, in its time, swept up this slope like sea wave on the sand, I sat down to look into the darkness and divest myself, if possible, of this unnerving sense of pathos.

It is here you may leave me. If you do not believe in the mystical or the ghostly.

For ghosts, I do believe, exist; but only in our own hearts.

At first, I saw an aurora; an uncertain radiance like the northern lights. Presently, sound was added and I seemed to hear a hum of countless voices, laughter and a mouth organ, singing and cheers.

The Other Pilgrimage

It was the Other Pilgrimage. Out of the sky they came thudding and striding, like troops marching at ease, hordes of them, infantry, all arms, gunners in their cross bandoliers, all ranks. And they spread over the slope of Vimy, from Carency to Arras, lighting watch fires, setting up bivvies, all higgledy piggledy, just as it used to be. With shouts they went seeking comrades amidst the braziers. With joy and clumsy leaping, they encountered their friends. Crowds and knots gathered, moved this way and that. And as I watched the ghostly multitude of the Other Pilgrimage, some of the pathos began to leave me. In dream, an hour is only an instant: but after the whole high slope had flowered to one vast sea of fires and countless moving forms, I got up from the fence where I was seated and walked into the great bivouac. The bivouac in which they were the real and I was the shadow.

At first I sought friends: Muirhead, Abbey, Cutsey Smith, Butson, any of them. It would be fine to know where Abbey went to: what far continent of infinity he surveyed. Fine to see Muirhead and discover what rank the good Lord had given him. He would doubtless be a general by now, I thought.

But amongst the countless happy warriors, with ruddy faces shining in the watch fires, I saw no friends. At first I feared to look at them, since I might see wounds or scars. But there were no wounds; and such is the nonsense of dreams, I noticed that every soldier wore flowers: some in his cap, some on his breast; others, with nosegays of little bright flowers even on their backs, or pinned to their legs. One carried a bright spray of forget me-nots before his eyes, and as he walked, amidst the jibes of his comrades, he kept peeping from behind the flowers, as if to see his way.

They paid no attention to me; I was afraid they could not see me. So I asked directions of them, and they answered me politely and without curiosity. They were all young: I have gray hair by my ears. When they answered me, they clicked their young heels together and stood straight. Another dream hour, I walked and wandered amongst the watch fires, saw the rough boots sticking out of the bivvies, the old way; heard the old familiar taunts and shouts: saw more than one crown and anchor board laid out on the grass; heard many a song, even some of the rowdy ones whose words I had forgotten.

Finally, I came to a brazier where five young men were grouped, some red and some green and some blue patches on their shoulders. They were arguing. I stood for a moment and then asked if I might join their fire. They made way with pleasure.

“What’s the argument?” I inquired.

‘We were talking.” said the Green Patch, “about what we would have done if we had lived.”

“If I had lived,” explained the Red Patch, who wore a large spray of flowers on his breast, a lanky boy with bony face, “I would have been a farmer. And nothing else. It is the greatest life of all. I can see it right now. Haying time, and the barley next.

“I can see me, in the hot sun, driving the mower. Three horses in the mower. The sky hot and blue. The fences almost hidden in the long grass and the wheat. I go up this way and then I turn the three horses. Then I come down this way. It would be about five o’clock.

“If I had lived, I would have had a hundred and forty acres and thirty-head of Holstein cattle. I can see them, black and white, coming slowly up the lane from the back pasture. From the mower, I can see them coming up. and I look at them and think, these are my cows.”

“If I Had Lived.”

“There is no life,” said the Red Patch, “as good as farming. Nothing happier, safer, more comfortable. You make good money and set it away in mortgages at seven or six per cent: you work like a man until you are fifty and then move to a town like Guelph. Guelph is what I had in mind, if I had lived. And in the winter, I would have gone on visits to the States. I would attend the big cattle fairs in Chicago.

“No, you can take what you like, but if I had lived, I would have been a farmer.”

The group around the fire listened with grins.

“It may be a comfortable life,” said Green Patch, the best-looking of the boys, “and you may be free of all care and want on the farm; but would you really call it living?”

“Now if I had lived, give me the city. The bright lights, the speed, the excitement. I can see the street I used to live on. A quiet street with trees that used to arch overhead in summer. Mostly red brick houses with white verandas. I knew lots of girls on my street. You could go out and whistle after supper and they would part the curtains and then come running out. In white dresses.

“And just down at the foot of the street were the street cars and you could take her for a long ride. You could go down town and have a soda. If you had any money, you could take her to the vaudeville. Or you could just walk along and look in the store windows.

“In the city there are plenty of jobs for young fellows like us. I could have been a salesman in one of the big stores or my father was thinking of getting me a job in an office. All round you there is business and excitement, and you can look ahead and see the way you will go until you are a manager or an assistant manager. There is no life for a young man like the city, with all its opportunities and chances. On the farm, you may get no rain or something goes wrong, or prices fall…”

“Never,” said the young farmer. “People must always eat.”

“At any rate,” said Green Patch, with passion, “in a city, there is always something doing; always another job if the one you have doesn’t please you. A city is full of everything. It is the place to have lived. Are you a city man, sir?”

The question was to me, to bring me into the debate.

“Yes,” I said. “But excuse me, boys. I take it you are here on a special pilgrimage, like myself. Do you keep touch with the world much?”

“Oh, no,” they said. “We think about it – a great deal, but we don’t get much opportunity of coming back like this. And we are just here for a little while, until the unveiling. Then we have to go.”

“You,” I hesitated, “don’t keep track of what is going on in the world?”

“We have more important things to do,” explained young Green Patch.

“You see, sir,” said the Blue Patch, whose whole head was crowned with flowers, “we all have our appointed tasks. Where we are now, it is like the world, with its various continents and climes, and we are scattered all over it. But at times like this, when the world remembers us, we are allowed to come back. It is good fun to get together, a reunion like this. But we have much more absorbing interests.

Wearing Flowers

“Pardon me,” I asked, “but what are the flowers you are all wearing?”

“Where we were wounded, we wear flowers,” explained Blue Patch, “With these uniforms, they look a little funny, but they insisted we wear our old uniforms to the unveiling.”

“And what would you have done, if you had lived?” I asked Blue Patch, who was older than the others. A man of twenty-six or seven.

“I am a school teacher,” explained Blue Patch. “I would have continued in that profession, sir. It is the finest profession on earth, I believe. My ambition was to become a master in a collegiate or even in a big private school. I can think of nothing nobler than leading young people into the full glory of life and understanding.”

“The noblest,” I agreed.

“The way Canada must be now,” said the young school master, with a tender expression, with no more war, no more oppression or tyranny, it must be wonderful for youth. The one regret I had, when I left the world, was that I did not live to see the full flower of our sacrifice. To think of all those millions of youngsters, free forever and ever of the fear of war and cruelty and oppression, able at last to devote themselves to the highest ideals of life, to work for something else than miserable and vicious gain…”

“When I was living,” he continued after a breathless pause, “there still lingered some traces of the older order of things. But I am happy to think that I and my comrades here, and all these thousands on this hillside to-night were instruments in setting the world free, at last, from the narrow, selfish and greedy instincts of humanity.”

All five of the boys wore proud expressions and glanced at one another affectionately.

“It is too bad,” I suggested, “that you can not see the results of your great sacrifice. Aren’t you allowed even a glimpse of the world you left, even now and then?”

“No,” explained Blue Patch, the school teacher. “They tell us it would distract our attention from greater tasks.”

The fourth young man was a gunner. He had that bunchy look, with his leather bandoliers and stiff cap.

“I’m afraid,” he chuckled, “that if I had lived, I would have been a bum. What I liked best to do was travel around the country. I’ve ridden the rods.”

He looked around us all, half proud, half embarrassed.

“Ridden the rods on freight trains,” he said. “Bummed my way on blind baggages. Tramped the ties, hundred of miles. I’ve slept in flop houses and out in barns and in empty box cars. I’ve often begged dimes in the streets and meals at back doors of houses. It may sound funny, but that’s what I liked.”

Again he cast his eye around us. Only in mine did he detect sympathy.

“If I had lived,” he said, “I was intending to go right back to that kind of thing.”

“That was all very well,” said the school master, “back in the old days. But I bet you wouldn’t have had the courage to do it, in the world the way it is now.”

Beautiful Memory

“What moves me deeply,” I said, “is the beautiful memory you have of the world. It seems so dear to you.”

“It is,” said the farmer boy. “Not that we aren’t very happy where we are, you understand? But the way we feel, we would love to see it, the way it is now. It was lovely when we left. But how lovely it must be now.”

The fifth young man was Light Blue patch. His flowers he carried in his hands and held them before his eyes as if the light of the brazier dazzled him. He was a rugged youth, heavy set, and when he spoke, his accent was Scottish.

“If I had lived,” he said, soberly, “I would have liked to have had some kids. Two boys, I think, and a girl. The boys would be eighteen or so now. I would like to have seen one of them. The oldest one. In my family, the boys take after the fathers.”

“I should have said,” interrupted the farmer, “that I would have some kids around my farm. Those Holstein cows coming up the lane, the ones I could see from the mower when I was mowing, would be driven by a boy. Or maybe a boy and girl.”

“It is fine to have kids,” said the young Scot, holding the flowers before his eyes very close. “I could take them after supper down to the corner to get my tobacco. I could take them to fairs and that sort. My father was a strict man. He always hushed us. I am not that kind, myself. I like the racket of kids in the house.”

“Were you married?” I asked.

“No, but I had my eye on a girl. I was in tending to speak to her after the war.”

“Did you go with her?” asked the farmer, interested.

“I did not have her acquaintance,” said the young Scot. “I composed several letters to her in the trenches but I never posted them. She would be a fine woman now. I have no doubt she has children. I could wish they were mine. Two boys, and a girl. The oldest boy would be eighteen or thereabouts now. He would have sandy hair. I would buy them tartan neckties to their birthdays.”

He pressed the flowers to his eyes.

The others all stared at the fire or raised their eyes to look far off. The school master reached over and pitched the Scottie on the arm.

“You do not ask me about the world?” I said, after the silence.

And with the words, the vision seems to shiver as if struck by an earthquake, the figures so real before me suddenly began to lose color and shape; the watch fire itself began to dim swiftly; a mist swept in a vast wave, across the Vimy slope; the hosts of the Other Pilgrimage faded and vanished; their tumult subsided into a haunted silence.

And in a field in the dark, grizzled, weary, trembling and dreadfully ashamed, I stood all alone.

Editor’s Notes: The Vimy Memorial was completed and dedicated in 1936. The Toronto Star went all out in their coverage, paying the way for multiple staff members (including war veterans, included Greg and Jim). More can be read of the pilgrimage to the site by Canadians, and the vast undertaking that is was, from the link provided. This was huge news at the time, and weeks were devoted to the coverage. This advertisement appeared the same day as this story.

The Greg-Jim Stories did not pause during their trip (this was before common trans-Atlantic air travel, so everyone travelled by ship). Four separate stories of their adventures (2 in Britain, 2 in France) were published on their return as well.

The patches represented the divisions the soldiers belonged to:

  • Red Patch: First Canadian Division
  • Blue Patch: Second Canadian Division
  • Light Blue (or Grey-Blue) Patch: Third Canadian Division
  • Green Patch: Fourth Canadian Division

Greg felt embarrassed speaking to the apparitions, because of the state of the world in 1936, with the Great Depression in full swing (the price for the farmer’s food had plummeted, and the “bum” would be a common sight), and peace was not created by the Great War, as international relations were looking ever more troubling in 1936.

Resty-Nook: The Thrilling Rescue of Miss Petunia Gazelle

July 24, 1926

Jim often depicted a summer hotel called the “Resty-Nook” in his comics. In this early example, “Birdseye Center” is replaced by Resty-Nook as the title.

Caps All

By Greg Clark, July 22, 1933

“What irritates me,” I said to Jim Frise, as we bowled along the Lake Shore boulevard, “are these birds that drive in the middle of the road when they want to go at half speed.”

“Yeah,” said Jim, swerving around one of them. And the guys that want to make a right-hand turn and swing away out to the left, the way you used to turn a buggy around a corner.”

“Or worse,” said I, “the guy that wants to make left hand turn and comes up on your right.”

We overtook another of those centre-of-the-road drivers, and as we swerved away to pass him, I leaned out the window and snarled:

“Get over to the side if you don’t want to travel!”

“Aw, hire a hall!” yelled the offender.

“There’s no use trying to correct them,” said Jim.

“It’s a pity the police don’t devote some of their time to correcting the manners of drivers,” I said, instead of always testing brakes and watching speeders.”

“You mean police school of deportment?” asked Jim. “If you are caught committing any of these small breaches of driving etiquette, you get an invitation, on blue paper, to attend a course of lectures on manners at the police station.”

“That would be swell,” I said. “It would be more sensible than a fine. It seems to me the worst manners belong to those who can best afford to pay a fine. But you threaten people with a series of ten lectures by a policeman on hour a night, and by golly, they would watch their step.”

We overtook another driver who was so busy staring sideways at the bathing beauties along Sunnyside, that he was driving all over the road.

“Hey,” I shouted, as we passed him, “watch what you’re doing!”

“Thoop!” he retorted, which is one way of spelling a raspberry.

“You see?” commented Jim. “It’s no use trying to talk to them. You’ve got to have a uniform on. A police helmet, and you would be a great teacher.

“That gives me an idea,” I said, “Let’s get a couple of bank messenger caps, or chauffeur’s caps, and put them on and see what difference it makes when we check up some of these birds.”

“No chance,” said Jimmie. “That is what they call impersonating a police officer.”

“We won’t impersonate police,” I said. “We’ll organize a new association. We’ll call it the Society for the Improvement of Motoring Manners. Then we’ll appoint you and me as field workers. We will wear blue caps.”

“I don’t like those caps,” said Jim.

“Aw, why not? Bank messengers, Salvation Army, chauffeurs, anybody can wear a blue cap with a patent leather peak on it. We won’t wear uniforms. We’ll just wear the caps with these clothes we have on now. And let’s see what difference it makes when we check people up while wearing an official-looking cap.”

“I don’t mind other people’s manners nearly as much as you do,” said Jim, slamming on his brakes, swerving to the right to miss a lady who had suddenly decided to go back downtown. Jim turned and smiled sweet forgiveness to her, as she sat in her car flustered and red in the face. “We all make mistakes some time.”

They All Fall For a Cap

However, when I called around after supper at Jim’s with two handsome blue caps which I borrowed from a friend who is in the St. John Ambulance Corps, Jimmie weakened. They did not quite fit, but they certainly gave us a very official look from the neck up.

We went into Jim’s garden and sat down and held a meeting. We organized the Society for the Improvement of Motoring Manners. We elected Mayor Stewart as president, Charlie Conacher as vice-president, and then we, too, in full assembly met, appointed each other as field workers of the association, without pay.

And then we put on our caps and went out for the first demonstration.

Along Bloor St., we found several cars double parked. If you don’t know what double-parked means, it simply means that instead of going and finding a parking place and walking back to the store you wish to visit, you just stop in front of the store you want to visit, even when there is a complete line of cars parked there already. It is a swell idea. It just jams everything. It simply restores the old dirt road to Toronto.

We adjusted our caps to a severe angle and pulled alongside the offender. That is, we triple parked.

“Do you park like this often?” I asked with a cold glitter in my eye.

The handy little house husband at the wheel of the double parked car turned a sickly color.

“Sorry,” he said, grabbing for the starter with his foot.

“Make it snappy and don’t do it again,” I said quietly and coldly.

“Yes, sir,” said the obedient man.

We hope his wife was in a temper when they found each other.

As we coasted along Bloor, in the evening, a car suddenly leaped out from the kerb, and we had to take a wild swerve on to the car track to avoid colliding.

We backed up to it. A sulky looking youth was at the wheel.

“Do you do that often?” I asked, leaning out of the car window.

“Sorry,” he said. “I forgot to look.”

“Drive ahead of us,” I commanded. “Let’s see how you drive a car.”

The sulky youth, flushed and angry, having met, apparently for the first time, somebody he could not snarl at like his parents, pulled ahead of us and we followed him two blocks, while he drove at about fifteen miles an hour and with the utmost care. The back of his head fairly glowed with bad temper as he publicly shamed himself. Probably he never had driven so slow in all his life.

“Jim,” I said, “isn’t this great!”

“They sure fall for cap,” he said. “Now I know why bank messengers wear these caps. No wonder we pay the draft when they call with it.”

“Let’s get down to Sunnyside or out on a highway somewhere,” I said. “Let’s get some action.”

We went down for half an hour along the board walk. We checked up people for going slow, for cutting in, for trying to park in too small an opening

“Get along there,” I commanded to the pokey drivers. “If you want to see the sights, park and get out of the traffic. This is a highway.”

“Yes, sir,” the flustered drivers would exclaim. And their wives would all sit up and glare indignantly.

“Do You Do That Often?”

Over the Humber and out the highway we drove. Fat men seem to be the worst offenders. It appears that being fat, they enjoy the sense of speed and easy movement that can be obtained out of a car. Deprived by nature of enjoying easy and graceful movement, they take a great kick out of floating gracefully about in a car. With a line of cars coming toward us, and barely three car lengths to spare, a fast car shot in around us, and we could see a fat neck surmounted by head the size of a three for a quarter grapefruit.

“After him!” I hissed.

We overtook him, ran alongside and I motioned him to the side of the road.

Do you do that often?” I asked, sweetly and coldly.

“Sorry,” said the fat man breathlessly. “I have a very important engagement. My old mother … in fact, my wife, she’s you know… very urgent, officer, and I never did it before …”

“Don’t let that happen again,” I said levelly.

We drove on. And the fat man in the graceful ear followed us at respectful distance. We turned up a side road, and as far as we could see him, he held to twenty miles an hour.

“I wish some of these young sizzle sisters would come by in a sport roadster, with about nine in it. We’d make them empty half of them out, go home and call back for them.”

“Don’t let’s get into trouble,” said Jim. “This is my car.”

It was growing dusk. Ahead of us up the side road a car was parked. As we approached, we slowed down. The parked car suddenly leaped to life and ran ahead of us, with two young heads showing through the rear window, sitting very far apart and very prim.

All the way up that side road we approached cars, and every car started to move the minute our caps were visible in the dusk.

We swung home via the Dundas highway, correcting a few cutters-in, admonishing a few fast boys, and all you need to do to slow them down, when you are wearing a bank messenger’s cap, is to stare blankly at them.

Just near the cemetery at the Humber, a large car cut in past us, had to slow down suddenly, and there was a great squealing of brakes.

“Run alongside,” I ordered.

Jim ran us alongside, and as we drew level, with my eyes more on our running board than on the occupants of the car, I shouted, “Pull over to the side, there!”

The car pulled over to the side.

“What the devil do you mean,” I shouted, getting out of the car and walking back toward the other car, “by cutting in like that?

The mistake I made was getting out of the car. Sitting down with just my head showing, with that cap on, I may have looked official. But I lack an official body.

“Tell the Sergeant About It”

“Who are you?” asked the driver of the car. I looked sharply at him. And I beheld the tanned face, the cold blue eyes and the heavy shoulders of a gentleman of undoubted Irish extraction who was undoubtedly, by the cold look in his eye, a policeman in plain clothes.

“I,” I said, removing my cap to wipe my perspiring brow, and not putting it on again, “am the field officer of the Society for the Improvement of Motoring Manners.”

“The what?” said the large man.

“The S.I.M.M.,” I said. “Er- a new society. Maybe you haven’t heard of it?”

“I never have,” said the big fellow. His companion was also a six-footer, and also very cold about the eye.

Jim honked his horn for me to come on.

“Well,” I said, “it was just that cutting in.”

“Just minute,” said the big fellow “What are you supposed to be doing? Going around checking people up?”

“The purpose of our society is to correct certain bad manners in driving,” I said. “Of course cutting in is not one of the worst ones.”

“I tell you what you do,” said the big fellow. “You drive right down now to Number Nine police station. Know where it is? Well, you drive down there. We’ll follow in a few minutes. You tell the sergeant there about your new society, will you?”

I saw him look at Jim’s license number, making a mental note.

“Yes, sir,” said I, returning to Jim’s car and throwing my cap in on the back seat.

We drove to Number Nine station.

We sat there on a bench for about twenty minutes.

“What is it you want?” the desk man asked us, after ignoring us for all that time.

“Two detectives told us to report here,” I explained.

“What for?”

“I don’t know. He just said to report here.”

“What were you doing?”

“Just driving along,” I said. “Just driving. Out on the highway.”

“Who were the detectives?” they asked.

“Two detectives,” I said. “In a large brown car.”

“Yes, sir. Large brown car.”

“We have no detectives in brown car,” said the sergeant. “I guess somebody was pulling your leg.”

“Can we go?” I asked.

“There is nothing to stop you,” said the sergeant.

We went.

We went around by my friend, the St John Ambulance Corps man, and restored him his caps.

“After all,” said Jimmie, swinging wide around a corner and nearly colliding with car coming toward us on its own side of the pavement, “I’d rather belong to a Society for the Prevention of Societies.”

“Apparently,” said I, “those two big birds do. The dirty, impersonators!”

Editor’s Notes: Driver’s licences were only required in Ontario in 1927, six years before this story was written. Though there are always people who drive poorly, it must have been worse at a time when there was little instruction or requirements, and cars were only widespread for about 20 years. Even Jim comments on how some people turn corners like they were driving a horse and buggy.

William James Stewart was the mayor of Toronto at the time, and Charlie Conacher was a professional hockey player with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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