December 2, 1916 Heliconian Club

December 2, 1916

I worked all day and into the early evening.  At noon I went out to the lunch counter on Yonge St. I sat at the counter, it was busy, so nobody had time to bother me. I kept to myself. Before I left I had another coffee  and read the paper that someone had left behind. I came right back and worked through until it was dark outside.

About 6pm I went over to the Studio Building to pick up my mail and any newspapers that were left out. Bill Beatty was in the foyer. He had just returned from the College.

“Tom, my boy!” Bill was always gruff, jovial and effusive in his greetings. “Good to see you! Come on over for a drink!” That was an invitation  I couldn’t refuse, and before another moment could pass, I was in his studio quarter, sitting in his comfortable chair, with a whisky in hand.

“Tom, this war is going to get us all, you know. I’m too old to fight but we all bear the burden of battle in our own way . I hope you aren’t planning to make a run over the parapet into glory.”

I nodded. I didn’t want to talk about the war. Even for the price of a whisky.

“Tom, it’s the women. Where the men have left, the women are invading without recourse.” I knew what he was talking about – ever since the war, his art classes at the College, mostly men, were now mostly women. Bill couldn’t grasp the reality that the munitions workers were now women, with a few excpetions of men.

“I need you come with me tonight, I need a buffer. The women like you.” I didn’t know what he was talking about. “The Heliconian Women’s Club is having their exhibition at Royal Academy on King Street.”

Now I knew what he was talking about. The Arts and Letters Club was men only, so the women decided to start their own club – the Heliconian Club.  As Bill explained, the Heliconian Club was opening their Art Exhibition tonight and he was invited.

Bill continued, he had a gleam in his eye. “Florence MacGillivray will be there. Marion Long told me.”  My head swivelled. I didn’t know that Florence was back in the City. I knew she had returned from Europe, and thought she was with family in Whitby or with relatives in Ottawa.

“Ok, I’ll go.” I didn’t let on that I was excited to see Florence once again. She has been a mentor to me. Like Jackson and Harris, she had gone to the art schools in France. We spent many hours talking about painting. When my painting was bought by the National Gallery in 1914, her painting was bought too. “Afterglow”, it was called.

So I went with Bill to the opening. To make time, we took a streetcar down Yonge. We debarked at King and made the short walk to the Royal Academy. It was a busy affair. At these types of events, it seems the women tighten up their corsets even further. It might make for a finer figure but at the cost of a having a relaxed demeanour. Many times, I’d gaze at these women in corsets and wonder how much lace, wire and fabric I’d have to get through to find the real woman inside.

Florence was there. I spoke to her briefly. She was happy to see me but was transfixed by the social demands of the evening. I quietly told her to enjoy her moment and that we’d get together alone soon.

As could be predicted, Bill made a complete buffoon of himself in front of the women. The way he acts toward women you’d swear they were from another world. Later in the evening, we took the streetcar home and we had another whisky in his studio before going back to my own in the Shack.


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