Howland Avenue

Discussion in 'Prewar' started by canuck, May 13, 2019.

  1. canuck

    canuck Closed Account


    "Clark's elderly father asked his two decorated veteran sons never to walk up the street past the neighbours to their house at 66 Howland Avenue again. Go the long way around so the neighbours won't see you boys. All the young men of their block were dead, except Greg and his brother Joseph. Clark senior tried to balance his pride and joy of both sons back home with his grief and concern for his neighbours and friends - who might be looking out their windows." FIRST BLOCK OF HOWLAND AVENUE.pdf

    The heroes of Howland Ave. | The Star

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  2. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    Major Gregory Clark, O.C., O.B.E, M.C., was a Canadian war veteran, journalist, and humorist/newspaper cartoonist.
    In 1967, this diminutive writer of great note was made one of the initial Officers of the Order of Canada, awarded - "for the humour which he has brought to his profession as a newspaper writer and radio commentator.
    Major Gregory Clark, O.C., O.B.E, M.C. is interred in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
    Surviving 3 long years ( 1916 - 1918 ) in the Trenches of World War I, Gregory Clark returned to Canada in 1918 as a Major with the Canadian Mounted Rifles, having been awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry at Vimy Ridge.
    After the Armistice, Clark returned to his job as a newspaper reporter for The Toronto Star newspaper.
    With about 10 times the per capita casualty rate of the United States spread out over four full long years of debilitating declared war, Canada in 1918 had whole villages and neighbourhoods stripped of most of their young men. Armless, legless, blind, and insane veterans returned to scarce if any public services. Profound social, demographic and political consequences took decades to work their way through a Canadian nation newly aware of its sacrifice and strength. In his famous short story "None Else of Name," Greg Clark expresses regret, loss, pride of accomplishment, and respect for fallen comrades with an anti-triumphalist, self-deprecating subtext.
    Clark's comrades, TOMMY HOLMES, a Victoria Cross recipient at seventeen at Passchendaele, Corporal JAMES POST, awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal ( second only to the VC ) at 16, a sergeant at 17, and returned to England a private before 18 for misdemeanors behind the Lines - and a dozen more - merited respect and mention by name. So too did the hundreds of others Clark could have written of if he had had the time.
    Canadian experience of the war is a story in large remarkable part for its impossibility of fair description. Pithy example must suffice.
    Three Officers and seventy-eight men of the Canadian Mounted Rifles later answered the roll call on 4 June 1916 out of the original 22 Officers and 680 men who had stood at Sanctuary Wood on 2 June. The Canadian Mounted Rifles reformed. The Regiment fought bravely and well to the bitter end on 11 November 1918. They knew what they had done. Others could sing their praises.
    Too old for active service, in World War II Greg Clark returned to the battlefield as a reporter.
    To his peers he was the Dean of Canadian War Correspondents, reporting on the German Blitzkreig from France in 1940, on Dunkirk and later Dieppe from England, and on the Italian and North-West Europe campaigns from the Front.
    Awarded Officer of the Order of the British Empire for his service as a war correspondent, Clark left The Toronto Star for The Toronto Telegram at the War's end.
    It is believed that his having been denied leave by The Star after the death of his only son in action in 1945 may have inspired the move.
    Both before and after World War I, Clark worked for The Toronto Star. After the war, he soon became a leading correspondent and reporter.
    At the Toronto Star, Clark befriended and mentored a young Ernest Hemingway, who said that Clark was the best writer on the paper.
    In later life Hemingway called Clark one of the finest modern short story writers in the English language.
    Clark's later war reporting and reminiscences of soldiering have a poignancy uncommon to first person reflective writing about war.
    Clark's haunting memoir "The Prayer" is perhaps the definitive description of a young officer having to bury his dead after his first battle. Beginning "Along about sunset, I began to think of the dead ... " it follows with a tight, telling description of the field interment of seven dead young Canadian soldiers. The exhaustion and shock of battle having purged the Lord's Prayer from his memory, Clark leads his surviving men in prayer over the grave with "Now I lay me down to sleep ...". The hardened sergeant approved. Clark had done his best to proper effect. War is about compassionate respect for one's dead comrades "God Bless these seven men", not punctilious memory of Orders of Service.
    Mass syndicated in the 1950s, Clark's superb parable "One Block of Howland Avenue" puts face, name and consequence to the demographic catastrophe of World War I to Canada. Clark's elderly father asked his two decorated veteran sons never to walk up the street past the neighbours to their house at 66 Howland Avenue again. Go the long way around so the neighbours won't see you boys. All the young men of their block were dead, except Greg and his brother Joseph. Clark senior tried to balance his pride and joy of both sons back home with his grief and concern for his neighbours and friends - who might be looking out their windows.
    Though he was probably Canada's most honoured journalist, an initial Officer of the Order of Canada, and decorated as both a fighting soldier and as a war correspondent, Clark's work is sadly out of print.
    Rather randomly published in anthology compilations between the late 1950s and the early 1970s in Canada by Collins, Ryerson Press and McClelland and Stewart, Clark's work may have had so little serious academic attention in part because it was mostly written by a working journalist for publication in newspapers and popular magazines - hiding in plain view, as it were.
    Clark wrote about four or five dozen disarmingly charming, granite-hard war stories. Many have a profound point well told. Some are just a fine read. All are a worthy read.
    Clark's three stories The Prayer, One Block of Howland Avenue and None Else of Name, resonate today as a the insights and memories of a toughened gallant veteran who bore the scars, yet emerged with enhanced compassion, dignity and a still-effective sense of duty. Free of bombast and triumphalist cant, Clark's work is long overdue for a modern compilation.

    Quote: " A sportsman is one who not only will not show his own father where the best fishing holes are but will deliberately direct him to the wrong ones."
    from a speech to the Empire Club of Canada in 1950: " Are bombs the only way of setting fire to the spirit of a people ? Is the human will as inert as the past two world-wide wars would indicate ?"
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  3. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    His son, Lt James Murray Clark, was killed in action near Cap Gris-Nez (Tardinghen) on September 17, 1944 while serving with C Company of the Regina Rifles. He is buried at the Calais Canadian War Cemetery.


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  4. alieneyes

    alieneyes Senior Member

    Greg Clark met the boat bringing home the Mac Paps from Spain in 1939 and spent a week on the train collecting stories which the Star then published. Brilliant stuff.

    More people should know about him.
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  5. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    I completely agree but must confess that before today I had only vaguely heard his name. Some of his WW1 writing is brilliant but difficult to find. I intend to spend some time researching Clark and his writing more thoroughly. In his day he seems to have been highly regarded.
    Ironic that his family was spared in WW1 but he lost his son in WW2. Probably not an infrequent occurrence for surviving WW1 veterans who had started families between 1920 and 1925.
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  6. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    'The Prayer'

    (by Greg Clark - Major Gregory Clark, 4th CMR, 1892-1977)

    Along about sunset, I began to think of the dead. They were lying where we had to place them, with rubber capes over them. It had started to snow, but along the western horizon, away back over Mount St. Eloi and Villiers au Bois, far back westward where Canada lay, and all heart’s desire, there was a narrow magenta strip of sky.

    I was standing in our newly dug trench, looking back at the sunset through the grotesque and shattered arms of the apple trees that had been the orchard of La Folie farm. And there I saw a curious figure. It was our new chaplain, Padre Davis, whom I had not yet met. He was kneeling in the mud, in the open, with his helmet off, reading from the little book.

    My seargeant, Sgt. Charles Windsor, was farther along the trench. I went to him and he got two of our men with shovels. We crept out into the orchard and I chose a shell hole and they dug from it a single big grave. We had seven men to bury out of our little platoon.

    While they were carrying the boys from the different parts of the orchard to this best spot, which was under a tree that I thought might some day leaf and flourish again, I went and told the padre.

    But he said it would be an hour or two, and long after dark, before he could get to us, because he had so many right where he was.

    “Bury them,” he said, “and if you like, say the Lord’s Prayer over them. That is your privilege. An officer may bury his men. And then in the morning, as soon as it grows light, I will come and we will hold the service over them.”

    This was my first meeting with him. He was gentle, standing there in this ghastly place, the slow snow falling on his bared head, the odd last shell moaning over, and darkness folding down. I thanked him and saluted because I was so tired and trying to do the right thing.

    When I got back, the boys were in their grave. The two men with the shovels were standing by, like the picture called “The Angelus.” Sgt. Windsor said I should get down in the grave, where the boys were lying under their rubber sheets, and take their personal effects, paybooks and notification disks off them. But I asked him to do it, because he was so much older a soldier than I, though younger in years. He had been in three battles. This was my first.

    He climbed out and handed me the seven dirty handkerchiefs tied up into little bundles.

    “Now, men,” I said, “I will say the Lord’s Prayer before you cover in the grave.”

    We all took off our helmets and bowed our heads.

    “The Lord’s Prayer,” I announced firmly.

    And I started to remember the Lord’s Prayer.

    It seemed so far away. The Lord’s Prayer, I said to myself. And my mind went wandering down all the long, empty alleys of my mind, away down lonely empty forgotten alleys, where there was nobody any more, but like a vacant house that had not been lived in for many a year.

    And I could see my mind, shaped something like me, but more like a boy, a boy that grew smaller and smaller all the time it wandered down those grey forgotten corridors, and it could not find the Lord’s Prayer anywhere. I could feel the men standing there across the grave, and one of them coughed briefly.

    Then, all of a sudden, I found it. The Lord’s Prayer. Why, of course. It came clearly.

    “Now I lay me down to sleep,
    I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
    If I should die before I wake,
    I pray the Lord my soul to take.
    God bless father, and moth...”
    There I stopped, for I knew it was wrong. All wrong. I glanced fearfully at Sgt. Windsor, and he was shaping a twisted smile at me up under his eyebrows in the gloom, but tears were on his dirt-streaked cheeks.

    He nodded to me, and nodded toward the grave at our feet.

    So I said: “God bless these seven men.”

    The two with the shovels started throwing in the earth.

    Then Sgt. Windsor took one of the shovels from them and carried on.

    I laid my seven small bundles down and took the shovel from the other man.

    When it was finished, it was dark.
  7. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian

    I've walked on Howland Avenue. My sister lived in an apartment building there for some years. I had no idea of its history.
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  8. alieneyes

    alieneyes Senior Member

    Gregory Clark was born 25 September 1892 in Toronto, the son of Joseph Thomas Clark and Sarah Louisa Greig. He attended Harbord Collegiate Institute and did two years at the University of Toronto but did not graduate. In 1912, he began working as a reporter for the Toronto Daily Star where his father was the editor. Clark joined the Canadian Army in 1916 as an officer and married Helen Scott Murray on 15 August 1916, just days before his departure overseas for active service. He took part in the Battle of Vimy Ridge, 9-12 April 1917, with the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles, D company. Though a junior lieutenant, by the end of the battle he had assumed command of the company because of the heavy casualties among its officers. He received the Military Cross for his part in the battle.Clark returned from overseas in October 1918 with the rank of major but was not discharged until February 1919 when he resumed work with the Toronto Star. He gave up daily reporting,however, to write for the Star Weekly. At his instigation, Jimmie Frise joined the Star Weekly shortly afterward as a cartoonist and illustrator, beginning a collaboration that lasted almost thirty years. As the only full-time writer for the Weekly, often writing much of the issue, Clark consciously decided to develop his own personal style telling human interest stories from a gentle, humorous perspective and writing pieces which featured his own interests in nature,fishing and outdoors life. Circulation of the Weekly rose from 68,000 to over 100,000 within afew years and established the Clark-Frise team in Canadian journalism. During the early 1920sClark met Ernest Hemingway with whom he shared common interests in fishing and hunting, and helped him get started writing for the Toronto Star. The publication in the 1930s of the first two of many books of his stories and columns, Which We Did (Toronto: Reginald Saunders, 1936)and So What? (Toronto: Reginald Saunders, 1937), further established Clark’s reputation as a storyteller.The outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 saw his services again in demand by the Daily Star as a war correspondent. He covered the disembarkation of Canadian troops at the end of that year for England, and went overseas to cover the evacuation of Dunkirk, the Canadian Army in England, and the invasion of Italy. For this work, he received the Order of the British Empire in 1946. After suffering the loss of their eldest son James Murray Clark during the war, Clarkfelt he needed to spend more time with his wife and family and more independence in his work. He left the Star in September 1945 to do radio broadcasting but continued to write the weekly“Jim-Greg” features for the Star Weekly. He completed the break with the Toronto Star at the end of 1946 when he and Jimmie Frise accepted an offer from the Montreal Standard. Frise died in 1948 ending their memorable collaboration but Clark continued to write for the Standard until1951 when he became an associate editor of Weekend Magazine. He continued to write features for Weekend Magazine into the 1970s that, along with his syndicated daily column the“Packsack”, which appeared in twenty newspapers nationwide, cemented his reputation as one of Canada’s best-loved storytellers. In addition to collections of his columns, he also published books on fishing and short stories. Many awards and honours came to him in his later years. He won the Leacock Medal for Humour in 1965; was the first inductee to the Canadian Newspaper Hall of Fame in 1965; was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1967; and was elected to the Canadian Fishing Hall of Fame in 1976. The University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario bestowed honourary doctorates upon him. Gregory Clark died 4 February 1977.
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  9. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

  10. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    Coincidentally, I came across a photo today of my Uncle Don. Taken in 1941, just after he had volunteered for the RCAF.

    The photo was taken at 198 Howland Ave.,Toronto. I'm sure he had no inkling of the legacy from the generation before.
    The shorter man beside my uncle is his cousin, Kevin Barrett. Ironically, when he returned home in 1945, in uniform, his family held a big party for him.
    After the party his grandfather (his own father had died in 1940) took him aside and told him never to wear his uniform on the street ever again. Kevin naturally asked him why. His grandfather simply began pointing to neighbouring houses with sons that would never be coming home.

    #241 Don Purdon & Kevin Barrett  1941.jpg
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2020
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