SOME AMIABLE INTERLUDES
GEORGE H. HAM
Random Records and Reminiscences —Mostly Gay
NO MATTER how careful a person may be, he sometimes gets in wrong, or, at any rate, in the wrong place. When I was much younger than I am to-day—it was during the time of the civil war across the line —I happened to be in Rochester, New York, taking advantage of the exchange in currency which was then decidedly in our favor—a $10 gold piece sometimes reaching as high a value as $28 in U. S. funds. An old Whitby friend of my youth was Chris. Shields, then sojourning in Rochester, and he invited me to what he called a little gathering, to which I, in my lamb-like innocency, went. It was a Fenian meeting and for the most of the time there was Hail Columbia to pay and no pitch hot.
Amongst the enthusiastic patriots, Chris, was a prominent figure. He was also a devil-maycare wag. And what he didn’t do in that meeting wasn’t worth doing. He suggested all sorts of diabolical outrages—one of which was for tfce meeting to adjourn in a body to London and blow up the Tower and Houses of Parliament, but he warned them not to touch Buckingham Palace, for, he boldly asserted, Queen Victoria was the best woman in the world. Then pandemonium broke loose and out of the ruction Chris, would cheerfully emerge with some other absurd suggestion to the effect that they should invade Canada intkrnter, but must not molest Whitby, beca»»e his prospective mother-in-law lived there. He also wanted them, in order to more easily free Ireland, to shift their headquarters from the United States to Greenland where, he assured them, even the ice was green and so symbolical of Erin’s Isle. These were troublous times, and some of the excited ringleaders wanted to know if I belonged to the Order. Chris, said I did not and could not, being closely related to every parish priest within a radius of twenty miles of my old home town. I began to wear a far-away look, and was wondering what particular hospital I was heading for, when Chris, produced a supply of Canadian rye with which the immortal and complete destruction of England and all its dependencies was enthusiastically and uproariously drunk and, amidst maudlin merriment, Chris, and I sought another meeting of the Brotherhood—instead of attending which I took the first steamer for home, and swore I would stay there until Ireland was free—cost whatever it might—which I certainly did not.
At another time, I was at a conversazione—whatever that may be—of the Orange Lodge at Winnipeg to which my old friend, Stewart Mulvey, then Grand Master of the Order, had lured me. After the conversazione was ended, Stewart engaged me in conversation, and the first thing I knew, the Orange Lodge was in full session. And I was not a member of the Order. Holy Smoke! And everybody was grasping me by the hand, and I didn’t know the grip! But cautiously placing my right hand in my unbuttoned vest, I feigned an injured finger, and Stewart laughingly came to my rescue and I escaped.
Then, when in the press gallery at Ottawa, I was conversing with W. B. Scarth, the member for Winnipeg, and unnoticed by either of us, the Speaker took the chair, and prayers were said. Until after this preliminary no one but members and the necessary officials are permitted to be present. When opportunity came, I slid out, and anxiously wondered for the balance of the day if the entire constitution of the British Empire had been ruthlessly violated beyond redemption. Afterwards I learned it had not.
Being at a secret political caucus unwittingly, going toa wrong funeral by mistaking the address, bursting into a “surprise” party of entire strangers when my prospective host lived next door, taking an inebriated friend home at midnight and being slammed by his irate wife, when I had only picked him up on the street and thought I was doing a good Samaritan act, facing large audiences like I did in Chicago and Montreal, when the stage footlights blind one, and you talk to a dense blank mass of invisible people are trying enough, but a fellow can in time get accustomed to them. I have.’
A Reform Crusade That Failed
A TTEMPTED reforms do not always work out the TA way a fellow expects. One time, while in the Press Gallery at Ottawa, Lou Kribs and Jack Kerr, of Toronto, were very intimate companions of mine. We were walking down Sparks Street when a drink was suggested. I didn’t want one, and advised them against putting that
in their mouth that would steal away what they called their brains. Besides this tïeating system was silly, and I intimated that if an invitation were extended to take something useful it would be more preferable. They fell into the spirit of the reform a little too eagerly, and wanted to know what I would suggest, and, off-handlike, I said: “Neckties!” “Well, why don’t you ask us to have one?” Of course I did, and we went into a haberdasher’s store, and I asked the clerk to show us some neckties. Both Lou and Jack helped themselves to pretty fine ones, and Lou said, as the clerk wrapped up the ties: “Say, George, this is a great scheme. Next time you ask us, I’m going to take a rattling fine one for Sundays.” That busted up my reform idea. Two-dollar neckties were a hanged sight too expensive when beer was only five cents a schooner.
One Twelfth of July some years ago there was a big gathering of Orangemen at the Broad Street station of the C. P. R. at Ottawa, from which an excursion was about to start for some point up the line. Just before the conductor shouted “all aboard,” the master of the lodge, noticing two green flags at the rear of the train, angrily approached the conductor and demanded their removal. The conductor said the train could not go without them, as they were the usual signals. “Take down thim flags,” unbendingly demanded the irate master, “take ’em down. This is no dom papist procession, d'ye hear, it’s an Orange demonstration, and it’ll look like blazes to have us flyin’papist grane flags. Down they’ll come.”
NEVER had the rheumatism? Never? Well you’ve missed a lot of experience, if you are a little ahead in fun. A fellow without the rheumatics is like the chap who was never ten miles away from home. There are lots of things he doesn’t know.
Oh, yes, I’ve got it, had it for years, and likely to struggle with it for ages to come—if 1 live. It isn’t the pains and the aches and the inclinations to swear which
eternally inflict one that bother me; it is the continuous unselfish solicitude of kindly sympathetic friends. Everyone you meet has a sure cure for your ailment; not one misses the slightest opportunity to offer you unsolicited advice and a perfect never-failing remedy, and to emphasize his thorough knowledge of the cantankerous complaint by triumphantly asserting that his particular recipe cured Mr. So-and-so completely, and would knock the pain out of a glass door. It never fails—that multitudinous recipe which is so universally and generously offered, and yet after you try it and a score of others you just settle down and let the blamed old rheumatism ache away as if you didn't care a continental. It is all right enough, however, when you experiment with merely one remedy at a time; it is when you try to work three or four separate and distinct cures simultaneously, synchronously, and at the same time, that, you get into difficulties with yourself and the rest of the human
I knew a man once—a good-natured kind of a man he was—who was afflicted with the rheumatism. This was a very obliging party, and he would do almost anything to accommodate a personal friend. He got along all right till the friendly friend with the sure cure came along, and then—but I anticipate.
He started out after a tussle with the doctor’s instructions with gin and sulphur—invested in a dollar’s worth, and took it long enough to smell like an old-fashioned sulphur match when wet,¡and then was told by Maurice Kane, a fellow sufferer, that if he caught cold, his legs would stiffen as if they were starched. He gave up that, but meantime, another friend had told him to carry a potato in his pocket, and loaded down with half-a-peck —for he logically argued that if one potato was good, more were better—and a couple of southern beans and other charms, he read of the marvellous cures of Punk Pills, and he started in taking them along with Carter’s little liver pills, and Seidlitz powders, while he rubbed his ailing joints alternately with St. Jacobs Oil and Jackson’s unfailing liniment and some kind of vermifuge the name of which is forgotten. Just about this time he was advised to indulge in gin and gum-ge-whaekems—a vile decoction that leads a person to imagine two times two make five—and to utilize inwardly a mild mixture known as citrate of magnesia, which is something like the proverbial chip in the porridge. All he lacked was a dose of Dead Shot Worm Candy, a bottle of Cherry Pectoral and a porous plaster,¡to make him a complete drug store. Well, he—this friend of mine—struggled away with these nostrums and other patent medicines, wrapping himself up till he resembled an Egyptian mummy or a person from Paradise—Paradise, Nova Scotia—and he perspired and swore and got sick and anathematized and ached with remarkable regularity until his whole family got accustomed to his erratic ways. Then he doubled the doses, and this is what he told me:— “It’s all right, old fellow, never mind me. Don’t swear, old chap, I’ll do all that. Hand me those Punk Pills, please. You see, I am a kind of nineteenth-century martyr. I take these pills—forbidden to eat porridge, meat, pastry, or soup with them. Then I take these other pills—can’t drink beer or rye. I take that confounded mixture, and mustn’t indulge in oysters or coffee. Then if I take this other concoction, I can’tdrinkmilk or tea. I have figured out the whole encyclopedia, and find that I am confined to fish and fruit—fruit and fish—and when, stop, their idea of that is, red herring and dried apples. Now as an educated half sensible citizen, 1 appeal to you, isn’t that a nice exhilarating diet? It makes me sick as a hospital candidate when meal time comes around.”
I suggested that, a Turkish bath would be about the proper thing, and he pathetically told me he had tried them, and the massage treatment and electricity until he felt as if he could successfully rival the Montreal Light, Heat and Power Co.
"You never tried a Turkish bath, did you?” lie asked with tears in his eyes and a box of pills in his bands and when I confessed my ignorance of Turkish or any other baths, he went on:
“Yes, I’ve tried ’em. You go into the place and deliver your valuables up, and fork out a dollar. I hen you go into a room—they don’t have Turkish baths outside, you know—and disrobe yourself. Then the oriental attendant who is picturesquely attired with a towel atom 1 his loins, gives you a Turkish red cloth which you tie around Continued on pane 46
Some Amiable Interludes
Continued from page 27
yourself, and you hobble into an adjoining apartment where you put your feet into a big pan of hot water. Of course if you have only one foot, you put that one in, as it would be a sheer waste of time to heat up a cork leg, and it might swell it too. Well, after you get a perspiration on you, they lead you to another apartment where it’s sizzling hot. Mercury marks a couple of hundred in the shade and the zero mark is away down cellar. There you sit and sweat and swear and sweat and swear again, and you get a drink of cold water—it’s boiling hot, but it tastes cold,—and that makes you break out afresh in perspiration and blasphemy, and then just when you feel half-baked you are led to another room and laid on a marble slab, and then he—this wild eyed, strongarmed oriental—sloshes water over you and turns you over and kicks you and punches you and pounds you, and as he is bigger than you, you don’t say a word, for fear he will give you another dab, and, after he has toyed and played with you to his heart’s content, and worked his muscle up, this eastern John L. Sullivan pulls you up and puts you under a shower bath and keeps you there till the water saturates you and then he leads you to another room, wraps a white linen sheet around you, as if you were a churchyard deserter, and you lie down and rest easy and want to die, and after a while you get up and dress yourself and go out and smoke a cigarette and feel as if you owned the C.P. R.”
“And your rheumatism is cured?”
“Yes, if you think it is. But the confounded trouble is you sometimes don’t think so, and then you go on taking pills and squills and anointing yourself with liniments and oils and swallowing pills and other compounds until, until—” “Until what?”
“Until some other blooming idiot comes along and advises you to take another sure cure, and you do or you don’t, just as the case may be, but you keep as full of rheumatism as ever, and feel as if you had swallowed a barrel of sharp-pointed tacks and had to keep rolling over all the time.”
And just then a Montreal friend came
along, and when he found that there were two cases of rheumatism before him his eyes fairly glistened with joy, and he enthusiastically started out to advise us of another certain remedy, but he was cut mighty short with “Rather have the blooming rheumatics,” and the twm cripples hobbled quietly away.
Whisper—I was both of them.
Scoring A Grand Slam
SOME time in October, 1891, William Dalton, the well-known English bridge expert, wrote in the press a record of the most remarkable hand he ever had heard of, and it was reprinted in the Canadian newspapers:—
“Not only had one side all the black cards and the other side all the red, but also the high red cards were divided between one pair of partners in exactly the same way as the high black cards were divided between the other pair of partners. This was not with a new pack of cards, imperfectly shuffled, but with a pack that had been played with for two hours.” I wouldn’t claim that I was one of a bridge party that made that particular record, but I was in a game when a “grand slam” was made under almost identical circumstances. It was at Christmas time in the same year 1891, when my sister and I were,playing partners against my daughter and my sister-in-law. It was my deal, and the cards which, had been in use for some time, were cut as usual. Our side held all the blacks, and our opponents all the reds. We could outbid them with “Royals”—now merely called “Spades” —and did so until the limit was reached. My daughter led a heart which was promptly trumped and after that followed the usual slaughter.
Experts say that the odds against one side having black (irrespective of the way the high cards are divided between each pair of partners) are 500 billions to one, i. e., a million times 500 millions to one. The odds against an entirely black or an entirely red hand are far smaller, it being only 30,524 to 1 that a specified player should be dealt suchahand. Itconsequently follows that if a player were to play thirty deals per day for two years, it
j would be more likely than not that at ¡ least one such hand would be dealtto him during the period.
Guess that’s the greatest feat I have 1 ever accomplished.
Irvin Cobb's Vile Insinuation
MY OLD FRIEND, Irvin Cobb, the writer, is printing a series of what ; he calls “My Favorite Stories.” Kind friends have deluged me with copies of j the following, for what particular reason goodness only knows—unless—unless— ! hut it cannot be possible—that he is re! ferringtome. But here’s the story :—
“One of the most widely known and most popular railroad men on the western hemisphere has formany years handi led the publicity for a Canadian system. He is as popular in the States as he is in the Dominion. Wherever he goes people 1 pay him tribute for his abilities as a story teller and for his genial and kindly habits generally. Those who know him are always glad to see him when he comes and always sorry to tell him goodbye when he
“Having so many friends and being of so social a disposition, it is almost inevitable that he must do his share of drinking. A few years ago he suffered an attack of illness and the physician who attended him put him on a diet. One of the regulations was that until further notice, he must take no more than one highball every 24 hours. A few months later he ran down to New York. He called upon a friend and the friend opened a bottle of prime Scotch. As the Canadian refilled his glass for the third time the friend
“ ‘Look here, Colonel, I thought by the doctor’s orders you were allowed to take only one drink for each day. ’
“ ‘Yes, that’s right,’ said the Colonel, ‘and I’m following instructions. The drink here, for example,’ and he raised the tumblerand gazed upon the delectable amber contents, ‘this is my drink for August the twenty-first of next year.’ ” Come to think of it, it isn’t me—my doctor’s prescription called for two Scotches a day.
It is not an unusual occurrence when a visitor from the arid districts strikes Montreal that he copiously samples the light wines and beers and keeps himself generously supplied with a varied assortment of harder and more potent liquors, with the to-be-expected result. It is merely a convivial habit with the visitors, and is easily acquired. One of these hailing from a point west of the Ottawa river struck town recently and called me up several times as he was the particular friend of a particular friend of mine. After a couple of days he came to the office with a sort of “still jag” which he had accumulated during his visit. It being noon hour, he, with another friend, was invited out to lunch. In walking down the corridor, we met Colonel John S. Dennis, who was also heading for the elevator. Descending together, we reached the street entrance when I saw my friend walking away with the Colonel; but, expecting his immediate return, I waited in vain for him. A few hours later I saw the Colonel, and asked what had become of my friend. “Why,” he said, “he talked : to me as far as St. Catherine street,when I told him that 1 had an engagement, but that as he was speaking of transportation he had better see Mr. Ham. And,” continued the Colonel, “he vacantly looked up at me and said: ‘Hell, aren’t vou Mr. Ham?’ ”
He hasn’t been seen by either of us Wouldn’t Wait
WHEN I called to see my good friend, Col. John Bayne Maclean, of Tori onto, one morning, the pretty stenographer told me that the Colonel wasn’t in. In reply to my question what time he was expected at his office, she said :
“I really don’t know. He is in Europe.” “Oh, well then, I won’t wait.”
! And the look she gave me as I made for the door gave the impression that she J honestly believed I was a nut. ,
A Light That Failed
! T ET me get back to Whitby, where 1 1 -L/ spent a good many years, and tell j you how a man’s reputation was saved and the public relieved from a terrible affliction. Bill Hood was a farmer near the town, and was tired of following the
painful plough, and. fired by an extraordinary if very worthy ambition, desired to shine in scientific circles. He had an ordinary district school education but was not particularly endowed with any outstanding talents that a scientist is supposed to possess. Coming to me one day, when I thought I was editing the Gazette, Mr. Bill outlined his ambitious plans. He wanted to go on the rostrum and educate the every-day-sort-of-people. When he was asked on which particular subject he wished to enlighten the general public, Bill said that something scientific, he thought, would be the most popu'ar and profitable, and he suggested that I should prepare a lecture with which he would electrify the great unwashed. My knowledge of scientific matters was and is—remarkably limited, but my assurance was colossal. So I promised Bill that I could easily fix him up with something that would send his name fluttering down the corridors of time at full speed ahead. Then I went to an old friend, Andrew McPherson, who was quite a knowledgeable person, and laid the cold facts before him. Andrew agreed with me that in the interests of humanity, and civilization, the common herd should be educated and that Bill was peculiarly fitted for the job. I suggested that in writing the lecture Andrew should indulge in big words, mostly of the three and four syllable kind —regular jaw-breakers, which Andrew did. It was a corker. It covered the whole universe, and, if my memory fails me not, a good deal about the next world. I had it set up in type—no typewriters in those days—and handed it to Bill, who eagerly read it over—and gasped. He finally asked me what it was all about,and I told him that it had been submitted to the Principal of Toronto University and the Head Master of the Whitby Grammar School—the two brightest authorities in Canada—and they, imagining it was Bill’s own production, had candidly admitted that it was the finest exposition of whatever subject it might have been supposed to deal with that had ever come before them.
The only thing to be feared, it was suggested, was that some envious, inquisitive or curious people might ask impertinent questions which might or might not put the lecturer in a hole. Bill carefully read the lecture over again, and pocketed it—went home—and that was the last that was ever heard of it.
Just An Interview
WHETHER the following story is true or not is a matter ef little consequence, but it was told bymy friend, J. Murray Gibbon, high muckamuck of the Canadian Pacific Railway publicity bureau, and, if I remember aright, no one but those of unblemished reputation for veracity are ever employed there. This is what Murray said right before people at a public banquet:—
“George Ham has always had a reputation for making other people happy and one of his pursuits is helping people out of trouble. This attribute is widely known and one day a lad who had been dismissed
from the Bank of--went to Col. Ham
and told him his troubles.
“ ‘So you left the bank?’ queried the colonel.
“ ‘Yes, I got fired,’ said the boy.
“ ‘Give me the money,’ said George. “ ‘It wasn’t for that,’ retorted the youngster. ‘They sent me a letter.’
“The boy produced the letter which the colonel read carefully. Then: ‘Let’s; see the envelope.' This w-as looked over.
“ ‘Have you been back to the bank yet?’ he asked in a moment.
“ ‘No,’ was the response, the boy thinking the colonel had taken leave of his. senses.
“ ‘Well,’ he asked again, ‘have they called for you?'
“ ‘Well, this envelope says, ‘If not called for within five days, return to the Bank of—' Now beat it or the time will
“The boy took the advice and is now on the fair way to become the president, of the institution that once fired him.” Some people might think in repeating' this and similar stories, I am displaying a vein of egotism. Those who know me, I feel sure, will acquit me of any such vanity. Why, you might as well accuse theangel Gabriel with tooting his horn for his own glorification. And we’ll let it go at that—and call it a day.