SEVENTY BUSY YEARS
What I Have Seen and Heard and Done in that Time
COLONEL GEORGE H. HAM
NOTE. — Herewith begin the reminiscences of Col. George Ham. The editors believe that Colonel Ham’s story of his own eventful and busy life, interlarded as it is with stories of all the interesting and prominent people that he has met (he knows everyone more or less) will prove one of the most readable features that this or any other magazine has ever offered. George Ham has always been known as a clever and witty speaker and the prince of raconteurs. He now proves that he can torite as entertainingly as he can talk. The next instalment will tell of Winnipeg in early days.
IT HAS been said by facetious friends that I have sev eral birth places. How ever that may be, Trenton, Ontario, is the first place where I saw light, on August 23rd, 1847,
and on the spot where I was born has been erected a touching memorial in the shape of a fine hotel, which was an intimation, if we believe in fate or predestination, that my life should be largely spent in such places of public resort. After events confirmed this supposition. Hotels have been largely my abiding place, from London, England, to San Francisco, and from the City of Mexico and Merida in Yucatan as far north as Edmonton.
My father was a country doctor but, tiring of being called up at all hours of the night to attend a distant kid with the stomach-ache, or a gum-boil, wearied and disgusted with driving over rough roads in all sorts of weather to visit non-paying patients, he gave up the practice of medicine, studied law, passed the necessary examinations, and in 1849 moved to Kingston and was associated with Mr. (afterwards Sir) John A. Macdonald. Two years later he was appointed a sort of Pooh-bah at Whitby, Ontario, when the county of Ontario was separated from the county of York, as part and parcel of the then Home District. When questioned about my early life, it was usual for inquisitive friends to ask: “How long have you been in Kingston?” And my truthful answer—“Just two years”—invariably evoked a smile and the satirical remark that that was about the usual sentence.
My first recollections in babyhood were of my arm bei ng vaccinated before I was three years old, and to mollify any recalcitrancy—I didn’t know what that word meant then—a generous portion of fruit cake thickly covered with icing was diplomatically given me. I immediately shoved out my other arm for another dose of vaccine with the cake accompaniment, but it didn’t work. Another recollection is my going oút with my sister Alice to see a military parade. We took along the family’s little pussy carefully wrapped in my sister’s new pelisse. At the corner of Princess and Bagot streets, the martial music of the band frightened pussy and with a leap she disappeared under an adjoining building, pelisse and all. That’s seventy-odd years ago, but every time I visit Kingston, even to this day, I watch around Bagot street to see if the cat’s come bade. Which she hasn’t; nor has the pelisse.
When I Was At School
WHITBY was first called Windsor, and I have a map drawn in 1841, on which that name appears. It was changed shortly after. School days at Whitby, at the primitive district Henry Street school, were just about the same as those of any other school boy’s; and the pleasurable monotony was only broken by such events as the schoolhouse catching fire, or the teacher being ill, which granted us a few real honest-to-goodness holidays. Some of us deeply regretted that the darned old place hadn’t burned down altogether, as the holidays would have been prolonged indefinitely. Snowballing matches between the Grammar and District schools kept the boys busy, during favorable winter weather, and it was only when the snow disappeared that one school did not invade the precincts of the other, sometimes with disastrous effects. These affairs were not Sunday school picnics, and no quarter was ever asked or given. One of the Grammar army got plugged in the ear in a severe combat by a snowball in which was enclosed a good-sized stone, and when he was keeled over, there was no first aid to the wounded, but a savage reprisal. Cricket was also a favorite game, but it was not aggressive enough. Football and shinny—especially on the ice, where the Town and the Bay met every Saturday for a whole day’s conflict—afforded more and better opportunities for personal encounters and were more popular games. The goals were a mile apart, and I never knew of a game being scored by either side. Golf, croquet and similar sports were unknown, but would have been scorned as too insipid. But we played One-old-cat or Two-oldcat—predecessor of baseball. Prisoner’s base gave fine opportunities for running and wrestling, and had many devotees. Don’t think that the boys were any rougher than the boys in any other school, but in the glorious old days rough and tumble was usually preferred to more sedate and lady-like games.
I Own a Race Horse
YXfHITBY in the early days was also a great horse’ ' racing centre. There was a mile track up near Lynde’s Creek, which attracted large numbers of sports from all parts of the country—but the number of nonpaying spectators, who drove into town and hitched their wagons just outside the fence, was also very large. Nat Ray, and the Ray boys of Whitby, were the leading local sports, and Quimby and Forbes, of Woodstock, were the pool sellers, and such men as Joe Grand, and Dr. Andrew Smith, Toronto; John White, M.P. for Halton; Bob Davies, Roddy Pringle of Cobourg; W. A. Bookless of Guelph, and Gus Thomas of Toronto, were regular attendants. Purses of $400 downwards, big sums in those days, were offered. Black Tom, Charlie Stewart, Lulu, Storm, Jack the Barber, were amongst the horses that ran. Black Tom—Nat Ray’s horse—could trot in 2.40, which was then a good record. Storm—oh, well Storm—it was an appropriately named horse. It was raffled and Jack Stanton—
Jack was starter for years at the Ontario Jockey Club in Toronto, and was as good a sport as ever lived’—and a couple of other fellows and I had the good or bad fortune to win it. Storm was contrary as a petulant maid, and when we had no money on her would win hands down, and when we bet our last nickel—good-bye to our money. I lost all my little money on Storm, and willingly gave Jack Stanton my share in the contrary horse. If I remember aright, he came out about even. Jack always smoked a certain grade of cigars, which then sold at five cents, and' thought they were the best in the land. In after years, when I had recuperated financially, I would bring him upsome special Havanas, which cost 25 cents, and give him’ one, just to see him light it, and, while I wasn’t looking, throw it away in disgust, and light one of his own ropes, which he really enjoyed. How I delighted in Jack telling me that the cigar was a fine one, he presuming that I would think he meant the 25-cent cigar, and I knowing he was referring to his nickel nicotine.
Then the sports in town for the races played poker at night at the office of Nat Ray’s livery stable. The first night I played, and in the first hand, I had a pair of deuces, and so green was I that when Charlie Boyle made a raise of $5.00 I senselessly stayed, drew three cards and with the luck of a greenhorn pulled in two other deuces. Charlie filled his two pair, and had a full house. He bet $5.00 and I, thinking I had two pair, and not knowing their value, raised him $5.00. Finally he called and threw down his ace full. I said I had two pair and when I showed the two pair—of deuces—there was a generat hilarity; Charliesaid he had never in his life ran up against a greenhorn who didn’t beat him. I didn’t know that my two-pair were fours. I cleaned up $65.00 that night and thought, as all greens do, that I knew all about poker. I learned differently in the following nights.
In 1870, the Queen’s cup was the great event of the meeting. That was when Charlie Gates' Jack Bell won. There was a big field, and Charlie’s horse was in it—one of the rank outsiders. Terror was a prime favorite. Charlie always liked the younger generation, and when I asked him what horse to bet on, he said any one but Jack Bell. Such is the perversity of youth that I immediately placed my money on Jack. The favorite led for the first mile, but in the next quarter was passed by Jack on the Green and another horse and Jack Bell closed upon the leaders, and coming down the home stretch forged ahead and won by nearly a length. Terror was fifth, and I was again a
capitalist. All the winnings were made by such amateurs as myself, and it wasn't because of our good judgment or experience, but on luck. That was one of the memorable races of the early days, and is not forgotten to this day by a lot of old-timers.
Put Off the First Train
TN THE fall of 1856, the town schools had a holiday, be^ cause on that day the first railway passenger train was to arrive in Whitby. The pupils were assembled up town at the High School, then called the Grammar School. The Public School pupils led the procession, preceded by the town band, and the Grammar School formed the rear of the column, under command of Mr. William McCabe, who was then the only teacher in the Grammar School. Arriving at the station, we were lined up alongside the track. About 3 p.m. a train with three passenger cars arrived from Toronto, filled with invited guests. The locomotive was decorated with flags, and on the front and sides was a piece of bunting on which was painted the words “Fortuna Sequitur.” We were ordered to make a note of these words and produce a translation thereof on the following day. We generally agreed that “Let or may fortune follow” was about the meaning of these Latin words. The train moved on to Oshawa where John Beverley Robinson and others delivered addresses.
On the return of the train from Oshawa, a number of school boys boarded the car during the stoppage at Whitby, and then occurred the first and only time I was ever put off a train. I was bound to make the trip to Toronto as I had never experienced a ride on a railway train. The conductor put my brother, four years my senior, and myself off the rear end of the car. We ran to the front end, only to be again ejected. This was a little discouraging I will candidly admit, but we made another bolt for the front entrance, and when the irate conductor threateningly ordered us off, some of the compassionate passengers told him to give the boys a show, which he grudgingly did; and to Toronto we went. In the other cars, the invited guests protested against the invasion of the Whitby youths, but they, too, notwithstanding the threats and warnings of the conductor, stuck to the train. Neither my brother nor myself had a cent, but that didn’t worry us at all, and when we arrived in Toronto, it was after dusk. No one knew when the train would leave for Whitby, and so we had to sit in that car, hungry as bears, until good old Hugh Fraser of Whitby loomed up about ten o’clock with some crackers and cheese, after which we didn’t care a continental what old time the train would leave—crackers and cheese are very invigorating. The other fellows pooled all the money they had and Jack Wall (afterwards Dr. John Wall of Oshawa), who had been attending college in Toronto, rustled some more crackers and cheese, which seemed to be the sole and only article of food on the menu that night. The clock struck 4 a.m. as we reached home, completely tired out but happy as clams. I was the first boy at school next morning and was the hero of the day. Rides on railways then were big events of the mightiest importance. I remember that the G.T.R. car was No. 2, and a third of a century later I again rode in the same old car, then on the Caraquet Railway in New Brunswick. But as I had a pass the conductor did not dare throw me off once—let alone twice.
A hot battle was waged between Gordon Brown, of the Globe, and a member of the Grand Trunk engineering staff, as to the road and its equipment and as to its time-table for the excursion train. No one was hurt, although threats were made, and it is alleged that the Grand Trunk engineer sent a challenge to the editor of the Globe, which he did not accept or pay any attention to, except by publishing it in the Globe.
Some of My Boy Friends
'T'HERE were some pretty bright boys who graduated 1 from those schools and made a name for themselves in the world. John Dryden became Minister of Agriculture for Ontario; Johnny Bengough, who was always handy with his pencil, evolved into a great cartoonist and published Grip in Toronto; Hamar Greenwood, who had a great gift of the gab, went to England, was knighted, and appointed Chief Secretary of State for Ireland; Jack Wetherall went to New York and achieved position and wealth as an advertising manager for Lydia Pinkham, whose female pills are peerless and unparalleled (so he says); Dick Blow became mayor of the town; Jim Bob Mason—his name wasn’t Jim Bob, but that’s what we called him—went to the States where his son, Walt Mason, I am informed, is making a fortune writing popular prose poems. D. F. Burke (we called him Dan) went to Port Arthur, and when he died a few years ago left a big fortune tnus distancing most all his old comrades in worldly good fortune. Dan got a charter for the Port Arthur, Hay Lake Railway, and used to be chaffed over its construction equipment, which jealous-minded people like
ex-Mayor George Graham of Fort William and myself said consisted of a mule and a bale of hay, and that when the mule had eaten all the hay, he died of starvation. George Dickson was one of the prize pupils, and afterwards became principal of Upper Canada College, and Billy Bullard won equal distinction in industrial work at Hamilton. George Bruce was a model pupil, entered the ministry, and afterwards when I heard him preach in a Presbyterihn church, I felt like giving him three cheers. Danforth Roche was a stolid scholar in the school, but when he struck out for himself, he had the biggest departmental store north of Toronto, at Newmarket, and was one of the most enterprising and extensive advertisers in the Province. Joe White is town clerk at Whitby, and a mighty good one. Abe Logan went to the Western States and accumulated a fortune. Frank Warren stayed at home, entered the medical profession, and became mayor of the town. Frank Freeman, who belonged to the Freeman Family Band, consisting of father, two sisters and himself—real artists—is still a musician, and I came across him leading the orchestra at Tom Taggart’s big hotel at French Lick Springs, Indiana, a couple of years ago. Fred Lynde went to Madoc in Hastings County, and was successful in the mercantile business, and the last I heard of him was that he was a proud grandfather. George D. Perry is manager of the Great Northwestern Telegraph Co., and his brother Peter a successful educationalist in Fergus, Ont. George Ray went to Manitoba and became reeve of a municipality. Bob Perry became a C.P.R. representative at Bracebridge, Ontario, and his brother
Jack is a well-to-do resident of Vancouver. Jimmy Lawlor is in the Government service at Ottawa, and Tommy Bengough is one of the best official stenographers in the employment of the same city. The Laing boys became lost to sight. Harry Watson and Bill McPherson followed the crowd that went to Toronto, and their sisters married well, Jessie McPherson becoming the wife of Dr. Burgess, superintendent of the hospital for the insane at Verdun, just outside of Montreal. Jimmy Wallace went to Chicago and entering the audit department of one of the big railway companies forged to the front, and Billy Wolfenden, who unknown to his parents used to steal away at night to learn telegraphy and railway work at the Grand Trunk offices, went West suddenly and finally became General Passenger Agent for the Père Marquette road. When the U.S. Administration took over all the railroads a few years ago, he was appointed to a similarposition for his region. John A. McGillivray became a member of Parliament and chief secretary for the Order of Foresters. “Adam at Laing’s” was the only name that Adam Borrowman was known by for years, Laing’s being the largest general store in the town. Now he is more than comfortably fixed near Chicago. The Laurie boys went to Manitoba, started business and farming at Morris and prospered. John H. Gerrie went West, and is now managing editor of the San Francisco Bulletin.
Later on Georgie Campbell and her sister, Flo, became brilliant and very popular stars on the American stage as May and Flo Irwin. Many is the time I dandled May on my knee. The last time I saw her, she had become “fair, fat and forty,” and fear my old rheumatic limbs would now prevent me from repeating the operation. There are many others that I cannot recall, scattered all over the inhabited globe. Some have gone to the Great Beyond, and of those living the bright eyes by this time have grown dim and the various shades of hair have turned gray, but in my heart of hearts, I believe that if we could only turn back the universe and regain us our youth, there would be general rejoicing amongst us and a hot time in the old town to-night.
The law was proposed to be my profession—after graduating from Toronto University—but as there were
very few who were learned in legal lore and had achieve high distinction and greatly accumulated wealth in th immediate vicinity, I balked, and went into newspaper work in the old Chronicle office at Whitby.
One reason for this was my previous experience. Whei I was a mere kid and visiting grandfather’s old home a South Fredericksburg, opposite the upper gap of the Ba; of Quinte, that venerable ancestor of mine confided in m that he wished to make his will without the knowledge c the family and suggested that I should draw up the docu ment. In school-boy hand the will was drawn up, am while it suited grandfather all right enough, I wasn't scock-sure it was in the right form and phraseology. S I commandeered a horse the next day and stole off t Napanee, 18 miles away, and called upon Mr. Wilkinson afterwards Judge Wilkinson, whom I had met at m; father’s house in Whitby. He pronounced the will to b perfectly legal, and, having all of $2.00 in my pocket, ! rather ostentatiously asked him his fee.
“Nothing,” he smilingly replied. “Nothing at all— we never charge the profession anything—never.”
And thus I was able to get an elaborate 25c dinner at th* hotel. So when the question of my future came up, thought if it was so blamed easy to be a lawyer, I want something harder.
The Rod Was Never Spared
'THERE were stricter teachers in the late 50’s and earl?
60’s than there are to-day and the “ruler” was mon frequently and generously applied. I got my full share One day I was unmercifully punished, am for a wonder, I didn’t deserve it. In mj wrathful indignation, I told the teacher, s Mr. Dundas, a fine, scholarly Scotchman o; the best old type, that I was only a boy bui that when I grew up I was going to kill him That threat didn’t go with him, and he agair vigorously applied the ruler to different parti of my aching anatomy. I dared not go hoim and tell of this, or I would have run th( chance of another whipping—for there wer« no curled darlings then who could successfullj work upon the mistaken sympathies of indulgent but foolish parents. When I hac grown up and returned on a visit to Whitby. I met my good old stern teacher and reminded him of my threat. He had not forgotten it. But I told him I wished he would, for he had not thrashed me half as much as I deserved, generally speaking. I put my arms around him, and the tears that flowed down his furrowed cheeks told me I was forgiven. We had veal pot-pie for dinner that night.
I didn’t succeed as well in another episode, when a pupil at the Grammar School, the principal of which was the lamented Mr. William McCabe, afterwards manager of the North American Life Assurance Co. in Toronto. We used to call it “playing hookey” in those days when a pupil absented himself from school to loaf around the swimming hole at Lynde’s creek and swim and fish the whole day. A note from one’s parents was always a good excuse and my beloved mother, in the kindness of her heart, never failed to provide me with one. iSut Mr. McCabe got a little leery of these numerous maternal excuses, and insisted I should get a note from my father, which placed me in an uncomfortable fix. It was either expulsion or a paternal note. I explained to father as plausibly as I could and got the note—which was, it struck me, altogether too freely given. Fortunately I could read it by placing it against the light, and it briefly but unmistakably read:
“William McCabe, Esq.—
Please lick the bearer, (sgd.) John V. Ham.”
I had rather an uncomfortable quarter of an hour wending my way to school, when a short distance from that place of learning, I saw a brother scholar, Paddy Hyland, coming up another street. Before he caught up to me, I was limping like a lame duck. Poor Paddy, in the goodness of his great Irish heart, sympathetically asked me what was my trouble, and without a qualm of conscience, I tersely but mendaciously told him:
“Sprained my ankle.”
“Poor old fellow,” said Paddy and he carefully and gently helped me along to school. “Can I do anything for you?” he asked in great distress at my supposed misfortune. ' !
“You can, Paddy. Just take this note to Mr. McCabe.” On reaching school I sank into my seat at the rear of the room. Paddy promptly presented the note, and I eagerly awaited the outcome of the interview. Mr. McCabe had a keen sense of humor, and I saw a smile come over his face as he read the note. Then he called to me:
“Here, you, come up here.”
I hobbled up. He tried to look sternly at me and said: “It’s all right this time, but don’t you try it on me again.” My sprained ankle miraculously improved immediately. My first assignment on the Chronicle happened this way: While working on the case I had taught myself a hybrid sort of shorthand, which any competent stenographer nowar
iays would look upon as a Chinese puzzle. Mr. W. H. Higgins, a clever and experienced newspaper man of more than local reputation, composed the sole editorial and •eportorial staff, and one day there were two gatherings—a special meeting of the County Council at Whitby and a Conservative convention at Brooklin, six miles north— ind only one Mr. Higgins. My opjortunitv came. In despair at not jetting a more suitable representaave, he unwillingly sent me to Brookin. Well, say, when I turned in my •eport early Monday morning, the joss was astounded. No wonder.
[ wrote and rewrote that blessed report during all Saturday night, and ;he greater part of Sunday and it wasn’t till near dawn on Monday tjiat it was finished. And after all it only filled three columns. Any experienced reporter would have written it within three or four hours. I was laid $5.00 for the report, and it wasn’t io much the money I cared for as the •ncouraging words Mr. Higgins gave ne. Thereafter I reported the town :ouncil, and brought in news items— requently written and rewritten and hen written again—and some not inly written but absolutely rotten— ind my salary was increased to eight lollars a week, but I kept on the case it the same time.
Other Adventures in Employment
FAILING in health—although apparently robust and strong—inlucements of future wealth lured me to Walkerton, way ip in Bruce County, where an old friend of the family, /IT. Ed. Kilmer, kept a general store. I was to be a partner, after a little experience behind the counter. That lartnership never materialized. I used to practise on ying up parcels of tea and coffee and sugar, and, somehow ir other, I would invariably put my thumb clumsily through he paper, and have to start all over again. I could sell xes and bar iron all right enough, but everyone wasn’t uying those articles. One day a lady had me take down he greater part of the dress goods on the shelves and alays wanted something else than what was in stock. My atience was exhausted, so I went to Mr. Kilmer, and sugested he should attend to the lady, mentioning incidenilly that I honestly believed baled hay was really what he needed—and forthwith resigned. As a complete lilure as a clerk in a general country store, I always rided myself that I was a huge success. But I left town íe next day, and never became a merchant prince. To indulge in outdoor life, the township of Darlington last and West Whitby were traversed by me as subgent for a farmers’ insurance company. There was not îuch difficulty in securing renewals of policies, but it was phill work to get new business. The eneral excuse for refusal to insure as that Mr. Fanner had been insured ïfore and had never made anything it of it. My throat used to get dry as tin hom in trying to explain that íe Company couldn’t exactly guarntee a “blaze,” but the insurance olicy was to protect the insured in ise of fire. Perhaps, glibness of mgue was not one of my long suits, nd the work did not appeal to me. onsequently I sent in my resignaon and returned to more congenial ork.
\ MOMENTOUS election was that in South Ontario in 1867— íe first one held after the Confederaon of Canada had been consumAted.
I Hon. George Brown, of the Globe,
¡te leader of the Reform party, was ianding. The riding had always jsen staunchly Reform and had re-irned Oliver Mowat and other Rejrmers by sweeping majorities. In i election two years previously Hon.
. N. Gibbs, of Oshawa, the ConTvative candidate, had joined hands ith Sir John Macdonald, whose coition with Hon. George Brown had >t been long-lived. Thiselection as to be a test one, and upon its relit depended whether the new Canla should be under Liberal-Conserva. ve or Reform rule. There was jen voting in those days, and two iys’ polling, it being generally conceded that the candidate ho headed the poll on the first day would be the winner, feetings were held nightly throughout the riding, and the
greatest excitement prevailed during the campaign. I was too young to have a vote then, but I had a good deal to say. There were others. Canvassing of votes was kept up continuously and large sums of money were expended. It was necessary in a good many cases to pay men to vote for their own party. On the night of the first
day’s polling, I was with Jimmy Cook, then of Robertson & Cook, of the Toronto Telegraph, who was a practical telegrapher. The returns, as Mr. Brown figured them out, gave him a majority of 11, with one poll to hear from. Complete returns, as Jimmy Cook got them, gave Brown a majority of one. But while that was almost an even break, the Reformers were in great glee, and while they were celebrating the Liberal-Conservatives got down to work and arranged for relays of teams to bring the distant voters the next day to the polls. At three o’clock next afternoon the Union Jack went up in front of Jake Bryan’s Tory Hotel—there were Grit and Tory hotels then—and at the close of the poll Gibbs had a majority of 69.
Mr. Brown started for his Toronto home on the following afternoon train, and while at the Whitby station walked up and down the platform with a friend. A man named Jago, an employee of the railway, who had had a serious personal difference with the defeated candidate, was in the waiting room, and on Mr. Brown passing the door, he would stick his head out and tauntingly shout:
“You got licked, Mr. Brown, you got licked.”
Brown kept walking and Jago kept on taunting him upon his defeat. This at last so exasperated the Honorable
George, that he made a dash for Jago and grabbed him by the lapels of the coat. But just then the train came in, friends interfered, the conductor shouted, “All aboard”
and Mr. Brown was hurried to his coach. It was, of
course, reported all over the country that Brown had
assaulted the man and grievously injured him.
Stories of Pets
We generally have had pet animals in the family, and amongst them were a French
Canadian chestnut stallion, 11%
hands high, and Major, Fido, Bismarck and Toby, of the canine family, and old Tom of the feline tribe. Pascoe, the pony, was a beauty, and I guess he must have been a Protestant, for one Twelfth of July, when an Orange parade was passing with bands playing, he ran amongst a group of onlookers on the lawn in front of the house and seizing Miss Annie Carroll, a young lady visiting my mother, by the shoulders with his teeth threw her down and tried to trample on her. Fortunately we interfered in time and prevented her from being hurt. Annie was the only Roman Catholic in the crowd— and, unless Pascoe had had strong religious convictions, it was difficult to understand why he should have deliberately picked on the only R. C. in the party.
Fido was a little black and tan with a religious turn of mind, and he knew when Sunday came around. He accompanied the family to St. John’s Church, over a mile away, and always heralded eur coming with loud sharp barks, which never ceased until all of us, including Fido, were seated in the pew. This got to be a nuisance, and Fido was confined in the barn the following Sunday morning. When we tried to find Fido the next Sunday morning, to tie him in the barn, his dogship could not be found—until we reached St. John’s, where Fido with his infernal loud bark was waiting at the church door, and joined us as usual in the morning devotions.
Bismarck was named after the ex-Chancellor of Germany, because he looked like him, and was a good watch-dog. I had been away from home for five years, and, returning one evening, was met at the gate by Biz, who growled at me. We stood facing each other for several minutes, Biz evidently determined that I should not go further, and I awaiting developments. Finally I called out, “Why, Biz.” While he had forgotten me, he instantly recognized my voice and jumped joyfully at me, wagged the stump of his short tail vigorously and gave every demonstration of joy. Poor Major, who had reached an advanced age, and for whom food was specially cooked by mother, went out one evening, ate some ground glass mixed with lard which some fiends had placed on the streets, came home and, lying with head on the doorstep, passed away with a wistful look in his great brown eyes, which brought tears to ours. Toby, who joined my family of recent years and is still with us, is a French foxhound and can do anything requiring intelligence except talk. Toby is very fond of my grandson George, whose especial pet she is. She had never seen a German helmet to our knowledge, but one day when George put one on she ferociously flew at him in a towering rage. He went out of the room and returned with a German forage cap on his head, and again the dog made a quick, vicious dash at him, and he had to hide the offending headgear before she could be quieted. There was intelligence for you, but not so much as she displayed when, as George wrote me at Atlanta: “Toby is getting along fine. She bit the Chinaman to-day, when he brought the laundry bill.”
T MIGHT as well candidly admit A two things, and the admission is made with not too much vaunting pride. The first is that I once had great aspirations of being a poet, and while I had not the nerve to imagine I would reach the top-notoher class with Shakespeare, Byron, Tennyson, Bobby Burns, Campbell and other noted writers, I had fond hopes of at least having my effusions printed (at my own expense) in some magazine or other as a starter, until Fame would overtake me, and then— But Fame couldn’t even catch up to me, let alone overtake me, although some of my effusions Continued on Page 55
Continued from page 9
were highly spoken of by friends who had borrowed or wanted to borrow money from me. Here is one, which I did not dash off—just like that, but labored several years at it, and forget now whether it is finished or not. It was my intention to make it an epic; as I read it now, it looks most like an epicac. But here it is:
I wonder if in the early dawn,
When upon God’s great creating plan He builded sky and sea and land And moulded clay into living man,
Why used He earth in this grand work Instead of carving hardened stone? Was it because He knew that man Could not—would not—live alone? Then using the very softest dust He made Man plastic—so his coming mate Could always mould him as she wished, Which she has done since Eve He did I create
That reminds me of a Bill Smith coming into the Gazette office at Whitby one day a good many years ago and telling me he was composing an elegy on his little dead brother, and wanted to know if I would
Í)rint it for him. I told him we were a ittle short of space, but if it didn’t occupy more than three or four columns I would do my level best. In a couple of weeks, in marched William, and very grandilo-
?uently laid his masterpiece before me. t wasn’t as long as he had been writing it. In fact it read:
“That little brave,
That little slave,
They laid him in the cold, cold grave.” William Smith. One beautiful thing about it was that, like the speech of one of Joe Martin’s Cabinet ministers, out in British Columbia, it was of his own composure. The circulation of the Gazette increased largely that week, for William came in and absentmindedly took away a couple of dozen copies to send to sympathizing friends and weeping relatives.
An Exaggerated Report 'T'HE other admission is that false reports about a person are never true. For instance, fifteen years ago the Charlottetown, P.E.I., Guardian unblushingly
reported my death, and while the reading of the obituary notice was not uninteresting, it was not altogether self-satisfying. It reads as follows:
“With sincere regret many thousands of people will learn of the death of George H. Ham of the Canadian Pacific Railway, Montreal. Very few men had so extensive an acquaintance or so many friends. He was full of good-will for everybody. During his illness letters and telegrams poured in from every quarter expressing most sincere desires for his recovery, but it had been otherwise ordered. He leaves a memory fragrant with the kindnesses that thousands have received at his hands.”
Of course, I didn’t demand a retraction, but when Mr. J. B. McCready, the editor, was seen during my visit to Charlottetown, a year or two later, he was willing to make one. Finally Mac and I agreed that it would not be advisable to spoil a good news item, just because it wasn’t altogether correct. So we let it go at that, although I have always maintained it wasn’t true.
But to this day, the paragraph, neatly framed in becoming black, lies before me on my office desk, and when anything goes wrong, and I feel down in the mouth, I pick it up and read it and say to myself: “Oh, well, things might be worse; this might have been true.” Which is some consolation.
A Brief Summary
AFTER a brief newspaper experience in Guelph, Uxbridge, and as correspondent of the Toronto press, I started out in May, 1875, for some Western point not definitely determined on. Prince Arthur’s Landing offered no particular attraction for a rambling reporter in those days, so I headed for Winnipeg, and reached there —after experiencing the first steamboat collision in the Red River—with $4.00 in pocket, $10 of which I owed. Being a practical printer, I was offered a position on the Free Press, after besieging the office for a week. Then I rose to the dignity of city editor, and in less than four years published a paper of my own—the Tribune —which was afterwards amalgamated with
the Times, of which I became managing editor. Then ill-health caused my retirement, and a beneficent Government made me Registrar of Deeds for the County of Selkirk. The introduction of the Torrens system, which required the registrar to be a barrister of ten years’ standing, knocked nie out of the position, although I produced any number of witnesses that I had a I longer standing than that at the bar (now I abolished) and so I returned to journalism ! —no, I didn’t—to newspaper work; I always wore socks and had my hair cut regularly. After sixteen years of constant work in the bustling city, I was sent for by Mr. (Sir William) Van Horne, who kindly
added my name to the pay-roK of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company.
Now, in 1920, having passed the allotted three score and ten of the Scriptures and the regulated three score and five of the C.P.R., I plug away at my desk or on the trains just as cheerfully and as hopefully as I did in my younger days—crossing the continent at least twice or more times every year and sometimes visiting nearly every state in the Union, with an occasional odd trip once in an age to the Old Country, Cuba, Mexico, Bahama Islands or Newfoundland. The rest of my time is spent at home, of which the readers of this magazine will be told in later issues.