JOHN NELSON April 1 1926


JOHN NELSON April 1 1926



MAC going! Well, why not? Has he not always been “going?” I remember his saying that excepting for four years spent in the C.E.F. and the R.A.F. during the war, he had never remained on one job longer than ten months until he became editor of MacLean's in 1920.

“I’d stay that long,” he said, “and then would come the itch to move, and the curtain would ring down on that scene. And the next scene would probably be laid half a continent away.” And Who's Who bears him out. In 1904 on the Post and News in San Francisco;in 1906 on the Toronto Star; in 1907 and again in 1908 on the Winnipeg Telegram; in 1909 and 1910 on the Seattle Times, and the Toronto News; and in 1911 back on the Toronto Star. Then City or News editor of the Tacoma Tribune, Spokane Press, Lethbridge News, Calgary News-Telegram and Ottawa Journal, and special correspondent of the Montreal Star. And between times taking his Arts at Toronto University, his Master’s degrees at Harvard, acting as political secretary to Hon.

wider circles of artists to embellish them. The search carried him to every corner of the continent, and the fact that he had already ranged over so much of it, and that travel had no terrors for him, enabled him to secure for MacLean's a formidable corps of contributors.

EVERY craftsman handles his tools differently. Perhaps because he loved the air, the retiring editor of this magazine seemed to work as effectively on the fly as when at rest. Arthur Stringer once put it in this way: “This editor was not like any other editor man I ever had known. My earlier idea of an editor was that of a sullen, if slightly obese individual, who sat in a swivel chair in a singularly inaccessible office, casually irradiating rejection slips, and indolently blue-pencilling the plums out of a hard-working author’s product.

“But this editor man was different. He obviously did not believe in the old-fashioned Marianna-in-the-MoatedGrange way of conducting a magazine. He performed his editing remarkably like a wolverine acquiring its repasts.

N. W. Rowell, and an associate editor of MacLean'sl

Then the war, and afterwards, a few months as Canadian Trade Commissioner in Great Britain and back in 1920 to the chief editorial chair of MacLean's.

TP\OUBTLESS one reason why Mr. McKenzie found his duties on MacLean's so congenial—apart from pleasant office associations—was the fact that they kept him almost constantly on the wing. T. B. Costain, his predecessor, now associate editor of the Saturday Evening Post, laid a solid foundation. He was successful in persuading many Canadian writers to give their articles to a Canadian publication at a time when this was rare. The result of his work was the contribution to MacLean's of the output of Stringer, Packard, Basil King, Leacock, Service, Gordon, Fraser, Nellie McClung, Macfarlane, Agnes Laut, Alan Sullivan, Arthur Heming and others. These Mr. McKenzie continued to cultivate.

But he swept the whole Dominion for new writers, and he did not spare himself in seeking them. And he was able to secure first class British and United States writers as well. But his ceaseless search was for Canadian writers! Some he discovered, some he developed; the work of others he re-expatriated. He effected notable improvement on the covers of the magazine, enlisting wider and

When he wanted copy he went out and captured it like the Great Horned Owl, rejecting later what he could not assimilate. He patrolled Canada very much as a policeman patrols a suburban beat, unearthing the modest violets of the ink-well and persuading them to do things which they apparently had nursed no earthly intention of doing.”

Arthur got that last figure’s legs crossed slightly, but possibly that’s because he doesn’t know much about policemen. But he surely knows Mac.

C'OR Mr. McKenzie's kindly per* sonality wooed many shrinking scribblers who but for his encouragement would have given up their task. When he struck a city, these would gather timidly about his quarters submitting manuscript, and, stimulated by him, would go away with the purpose to write firmly established. Even writers with an exaggerated opinion of their own worth were somehow deflated without losing hope. And those who were lazy or indifferent were often dragooned by the most shameless bullying. For when the editor of MacLean's wanted a certain article he never let up till he got it. A personal experience will illustrate this.

One Saturday night last fall, I stepped off the Vancouver express at Toronto, and went over to his office. 1 was dirty, hungry and travel-tired. The warmth of my welcome rather flattered me. Norman Reilly Raine was ecstatic, while Herbert Hodgins almost fell on my neck. Mr. McKenzie, however,‘quickly disarmed me of vanity.

“You see,” he said, “I want a pre-election article for this issue on the Canadian political situation, and I told them if you didn’t reach here in time one of them would have to write it. Now they know you will do it.”

I protested that my mind was a blank on the subject of politics, and that the only things I was interested in were a good bath and a substantial dinner. Moreover, I was going to spend Sunday with relatives in the country and could not return to Toronto before Monday evening. Mac wanted the article for Tuesday night.

“Fine,” he chortled, “here is a lot of data, you can read this on the train. Take your portable with you and write the story on Sunday when your friends are at church.”

He thrust the MS into my pocket, and I went grumb-

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Vernon McKenzie

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ling to my train with a mental resolve to commit murder if he persisted.

When I returned on Monday evening he led me to Norman Raine’s sanctum. “Here is his typewriter,” he said, “and I have told Norman that he is on holiday, so you can have the exclusive use of his office to-morrow. You can let me have 2,500 words by to-morrow night, can’t you?”

Next day he mounted guard over my door like a sentry, and when he missed the music of the keys for more than five minutes he would slide back the little panel between the two rooms and peer in to make sure that I was neither asleep nor otherwise unconscious. At six o’clock the copy for “Wanted—a Canadian Coolidge” was handed to this big blonde tyrant. Limp and listless, I waited for some word of appreciation, but this is what he said:

“Now that you’ve got that off, here is a list of twenty-two articles I wish you would let me have during the next few months.”

HIS excursions to New York and elsewhere were breathless in their swift succession of interviews. These started at breakfast, and continued in interesting sequence through luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner and theatre party, ending likely, with a run on the underground out to some writer’s, agent’s or editor’s home on Long Island, where conversation was continued far into the morning. His popularity with the literary set in New York, and their estimate of his worth, probably explains the high post to which he has been called

MAC’S action sense was never satiated.

In the war he had a bad crash, returning in a fog from dropping bombs over the Saar Valley, and was forced to lie pinned beneath a machine for hours, with a dying aviator above him, and one of his own feet pointing north, when nature intended it to be headed south.

Thus pinioned, he filled in his conscious moments by scribbling a description of his sensations on his observer’s pad, for the benefit of the lady whom he expected to be his widow. One such experience would have satisfied most men. Not so McKenzie. Whenever he got an opportunity, he climbed into a machine. One day he read an account of an airman testing a new parachute by dropping from one of the Government hydroplanes into the Pacific. He pestered me to get consent for a similar adventure by him from my friends at the Jericho hangar.

MR. McKFNZIE gets a lot of fun out of golf, more out of bridge, and most out of tennis. But it is questionable if anything gave him more pleasure than teaching the class in journalism in Toronto University He waylaid everyone who came within range, and who had any knowledge of the subject, to speak to this interesting group. Another outlet for his enthusiasms was to make dates for his friends in all kinds of places and relationships. It was not unusual for him to wire a traveler two or three days out of Toronto, that he was to speak before some large and important gathering, on his arrival. Similarly, those who traveled with him often found a crowded list of engagements ready-made for them, of which he kept scrupulous account even when the other party concerned lost track of them.

MCKENZIE and MACLEAN'S became interchangeable terms. They have stood for a fixed policy to give Canada a truly Canadian magazine. And together they have done more in the last five years to stimulate, discover or create a school of Canadian writers than possibly all other forces put together.

AND so, now, to London!

A I can see him swinging down Fleet Street through the fog, his trusty crook

over his arm, his cigarette at the old insouciant angle. St. James’ Palace and Ten Downing Street will soon know he is in town. The last time that the Prince of Wales was in the west I was bombarded with telegrams from Mr. McKenzie who clamoured that I interview the Prince on various themes. He would not be comforted till I drew formal and final refusal from the Heir Apparent to relax his established practice.

But the Prince will no longer be immune, now that he and Mac are to be fellow townsmen!