Monday, 12 August 2013


This life is on “damnition” grind if one follows up day after day the routine work. Did you ever tackle the job of filling so much space every week for a department in a great family journal like the venerable Spectator? No? Then try it in mid-summer when the sun is bright and warm and the blue sky and our beautiful bay are calling to you to take half a day off and enjoy nature in her happiest mood. Away back in the last century, my old Hamiltonian, when you and I had the freshness of youth, summer evenings on the bay were a joy that the boys and girls of the present day know naught of. After a long ten hours in the workshop, for we had to work from 7 in the morning till 6 at night, and no half holiday on Saturday, there was a pleasure in tramping down to the bay, for we did not have even the old-fashioned one-horse car, and going out for a sail on one of the most charming miniature lakes in this broad land, where nature has made every provision for the pleasure and happiness if its children. Before starting the boys paid a visit to Ecclestone & Bethune’s bakery and had a tempting little lunch put up, and the girls would take from their homes delicacies prepared with their own hands. And what times we used to have in that long ago, with songs accompanied by the guitar, as we floated along on the smooth water, probably dreaming of the day when the girl that sat beside us in the boat would be our guardian angel through the years to come. Those old Hamiltonians were rare dreamers. Then each one would hand out their contributions to the feast, and with appetites that only youth can appreciate, short work was made of the cunning little packages. Ah! those were evenings long to be remembered, and as we journey on toward the sunset of life, their memories become more precious. “Life’s dream is o’er” with the majority of us who sailed on our beautiful bay in the moonlights of the last century.

But to get back to where we started. If you never felt it a boundless duty to grind out so many hundred words to fill your allotted space in a newspaper once a week, then get down to your typewriter and rattle over the keys for an hour or two and see what will come of it. There be times when one is musingly inclined, and the lines of words will flow as easily as rolling off a log; and then again, instead of being a labor of love, you hear the manacles of his mightiness, the managing editor, calling in tones not to be misunderstood for the fulfillment of your assignment. Fancy what it must be for the local reporters and the army of inside editors upon whose devoted needs rests the responsibility of turning out so much copy a day to fill the sixteen or twenty pages of the Spectator. Of course, the good-natured advertiser does his share in making the daily paper interesting, and when some enterprising business firm sends in an unexpected page of display matter, a sigh of relief goes up for the reportorial staff that so much less is expected from them that day. Did you ever hear the story of the revival that was held in the woods back of Ancaster in the days when camp meetings were the power of Methodism? At one of the experience meetings, one old brother slowly rose up in the audience to testify. He had been a bad man, he said, in his younger days, had drunk Canadian whiskey when it was only fifteen pence a gallon, and had profaned the Sabbath by playing cards in Deacon Smith’s barn, but the grace of the Lord had changed his heart, and he now felt that he was without sin. Old-fashioned Methodists have heard such experiences in the days when class meetings were one of the features of the early church; and, if one should wander off now into some country neighborhood and drop into an old-fashioned love feast, the old, old story would still be heard, and you would wonder that such a saintly a man as the speaker could ever have been such a tough in his younger days. When Brother Jones had told his experiences and sat down amid the amens of the audience, a stranger arose in the back part of the church and said that he could vouch for every word that Brother Jones had said, as to the kind of a boy he had been in his youth. He said that he used to know Brother Jones when he lived up on the shores of Lake Erie, and if there was a meaner, more dishonest, low-lived, son-of-a-gun in that part of the country, he had never heard of the man. When the stranger sat down, Brother Jones rose again, but there was nothing meek or lowly about him now. With glaring eyes and fists clenched, he said that the man who had made the statement concerning his character was an infernal liar, and some of the old Ancaster people, when they tell the story now, say that, in his wrath, Brother Jones used a word with a great big D before infernal liar. Be that as it may, Brother Jones has long since been forgiven. Meanwhile, the stranger who had created the disturbance had quietly slipped out and gone, and during the remaining years of Brother Jones’ life, it kept him busy explaining to the Ancaster people that he never lived, ever, on the shores of Lake Erie, and never saw the stranger in his life before. But in spite of all his denials and explanations, there are yet some old-timers out in Ancaster who are half-inclined to believe the story. Give the dog a bad name and it is never forgotten. Once in a while, when you hear one of those old saints tell their experience, and of how wicked they were before they were snatched as brands from the burning, you wonder how it was possible to transform them into such bright and shining lights as to be qualified to pass the collection plate in church on Sunday.


          Do you remember when you could buy a young and tender spring chicken, weighing three pounds, for the trifling sum of a quarter of a dollar? That must have been ages ago, to which the memory of the housekeeper of the present day runneth not back. Speaking of spring chickens makes one’s mouth water at the recollection of what it looked like as it was turned out of the pan, a rich, brown color, steaming hot, smothered in gravy, the incense of which filled the kitchen with a fragrance that will never be forgotten. Ah! me, will those scenes ever come again, or are we to pass down through life with only the memories of a barnyard to recall the days when Biddy was in the flower of her youth? Surely, the raising of chickens has not become one of the lost arts, or why is it that to indulge in the luxury of a fry, one must either be a bank manager or a member of the city council. In looking over the last census of the United States, there were on the farms of that country in 1910 over 195,000,000 fowls, valued at $154,000,000. And, mind you,, that did not include the number of chickens kept in the back yards in cities, towns or villages. The eggs raised on those Yankee farms in 1909 numbered over 1,500,000,000 worth over $200,000,000. The eggs produced in the eastern states brought about 30 cents a dozen, while in the western and southern states, the price was down to 20 cents, and even lower. This old Muser looks back to a pleasant visit to his old home in Illinois last year, when his entertainers fed him on tender chickens, fried as only those western housewives know how to get up a dainty meal, and eggs that cost less than 15 cents a dozen. But let us get on with our story about the chicken industry. There was a time when the farmer’s wife made all of her spending money out of chickens, eggs and butter, and then she did not get rich at it. Here in Hamilton, a woman could go to market and buy a fine pair of fowls for half a dollar, and eggs at 10 to 12 cents a dozen. Now, the average housewife looks longingly at the scraggy bits of old fowl for which the seller has the conscience to ask from one to two dollars a pair, and tough at that very often. It used to be that a farmer’s wife might expect to sell about $200 worth of eggs and $150 worth of chickens during the year and still have left at the end of the year more fowls than she had at the beginning. Speaking of chickens reminds us of the troubles of poultry raisers here in Hamilton. Every now and then some one makes complaint to the police that their morning sleep is disturbed by the crowing of their neighbor’s roosters. We read once of the method adopted by a chicken fancier who lived in a town whose chanticleers crowed lustily every morning at daybreak, to the great discomfort of the neighborhood. In his study of chicken life, he noticed that when a rooster crowed on his porch, he always stood up, and stretching himself to his full height, he let it go for all that was in it. He tried the experiment of nailing a board over the roost just high enough to allow the rooster to get on his accustomed place beside his Biddy, and it worked like a charm. Old chanticleer could not stand up and stretch his neck, and it knocked the crow out of it. Try it, you Hamilton chicken raisers, and your neighbors will have no more cause for complaint.


The good people of Hamilton are stirred up a bit about the proclamation of the mayor prohibiting the use of city water for sprinkling purposes except ar stated times. Fortunately for the lawns and flowers nature has been more generous than our civic authorities, and there has been a liberal sprinkling of rain to keep them from being burnt up by the summer sun. For more than half a century the Hamilton waterworks have been in operation, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars for extensions and an ocean of water to pump from and yet enough water cannot be supplied even to sprinkle lawns and flower beds. Our city dads are saving at the spigot and wasting in the bunghole. Enough water is needlessly poured out on the asphalt streets every hour in the day to supply the wants of the people and then have plenty to spare. Of what sense is there in pouring water on the asphalt heated by the summer sun to dry off before the wagon has reached the end of the block? And almost before the passing of a shower of rain the wagons are at it again. The people of Hamilton pay a bigger tax for the water they use than do the people of any city in Canada or the United States, and yet every summer there is the outcry against using it for lawns and flowers. The surplus revenue from the waterworks after paying the cost of running and incidental expenses should build up a system that would equal any in the world so far as supplying the necessities of the people.


When a prominent man dies who has been connected with the city government, or a member of some club, or a director of a bank or trust company, due honor is paid to his memory by the institution with which he was connected by raising of the Union Jack at half-staff on the building. It is a recognition that the deceased had been identified with the business interests of the club, bank or industry. For the first time last Sunday, we saw the flag at half-staff in front of a church at a funeral of one if its members, and it did seem so appropriate that we complimented the rector of the church. We learned that it is always done, even for the humblest member of the congregation. Not only is the flag floated on funeral occasions, but the rector informed us that it has been the custom of that church ever since he became connected with it as rector to raise the flag every Sunday morning and keep it floating all day. A man who is loyal to the flag of his country makes a better Christian, for he is generally loyal to everything that is good.
The recent accident on the D. L. and W. railroad near Corning, New York, resulting in the death of a number of passengers and the maiming of many more, has caused the issuing of a radical order by the officers of the company forbidding the use of intoxicating liquors by the employees of the company, whether on or off duty. And it goes still further, for it prohibits all men  connected with the movement of trains from indulging in any habit, such as gambling, that may unfit them for the safe, prompt and efficient performance of their duties. Nine times out of ten accidents in railway service are almost directly traceable to the intemperate habits of the employees. In the case of the Corning disaster, the engineer of the train was known to be under the influence of liquor a short time before he took charge of his engine. Many years ago some of the leading railway companies issued orders against train employees using liquor whether on or off duty, and the result was fewer accidents on these roads. If there is any class of men who should be total abstainers, it is railway trainmen, policemen and members of city fire departments, for there is not a minute, either day or night, while on duty that they are not exposed to danger or may be called upon to avert danger to others. An old fire department chief in Chicago began in the service when he was a young man and was in the habit of taking an occasional drink. When he was promoted to captaincy, he cut the drinking out, and only indulged when on holidays. When he became chief, he said, he determined that total abstinence was the safest, for he did not known the moment when some great responsibility would devolve upon him at a fire, and then, if ever he would require a clear head to guide him. From the day of his appointment as chief to the hour of his death, he never drank liquor of any kind, and he advised the men under him in the department to follow his example.

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