January 11, 1917
“Beware of the Green-Eye Monster”
That’s what was marked in chalk on the wall beside the employment office on Bay St. There were three soldiers standing in front with grins on their faces that were anything but friendly.
I saw these three as I was going down to the shops to buy some groceries. I’ve been noticing that there’s more and more soldiers on the streets these days – not the ones going to war, but the ones that have returned. They seem to have nothing to do but to make trouble for others.
I knew that shout was directed to me, but I kept on going. Although I was a target (being a single male), the targets that had the greater attention of the soldiers were the Greeks. Most of the shops and cafes downtown are owned by Greek immigrant families. The Greek sons wait on the tables and the Greek daughters work in the back kitchens. There was a rising resentment against the Greeks because Greece was neither considered an ally or an enemy in the War. Canadians went off to fight, but they stayed home. Most of the Greeks had came here before the War and were well established. In contrast, the Macedonians more recently had come as refugees from fighting against or with the Greeks. I never could keep straight who was fighting who over there. The Macedonians stayed with their own in the neighbourhoods on Danforth on the other side of the Don. But the Greeks, having most of the shops and cafes by Yonge and Wellesley, were mixed in with the business district and it was a sore reminder to the many families of English descent who had sent their sons overseas to fight to see the Greek sons working at home. It was often said, “We Anglos are sending our sons to fight overseas, and it’s the Greeks making the money by taking their jobs.”
For the Germans, it was more straightforward. They were enemies. As a result of the Enemy Alien Registration Act, the men of German-descent, “Huns”, as everyone called them in Toronto, were rounded up and sent to internment camps. The same happened in the town of Berlin, now named after Lord Kitchener.When I was fire ranging last summer I saw the camps on the eastern side of the Park and close to Pembroke too. But since the Enemy Act didn’t apply to the Greeks they stayed. They took the jobs in the factories and kept serving in the shops and cafes. When the veterans came back from the War, they found no jobs – all filled by women and Greeks. There was nothing left for them. Though they fought for the country, many of the soldiers felt that the Dominion had no longer had any use for them. Hardly a week would go by without someone jumping to their death out of a window or in front of a train. When the recruiting efforts turned in poor numbers, the talk of conscription started in earnest. The veterans began to call it the “Revenge of the Green-Eye Monster”. The Green-Eye Monster would be rounding up the slackers to fight overseas. That was the intent of the chalk missive I saw scratched on the wall today.
I managed to get my groceries. When I got back I checked the directory in the Studio building to see if I had any mail. There wasn’t any mail but there were some old issues of the newspapers and magazines set aside for me. Bill Beatty, when finished with them, leaves them for me to read. And when I am done with the newspapers, I cut the pages into quarters and put them in the privy for one final use.
I had tea, and looked at my canvases . I looked at the finished ones and the blank ones ready to go. I felt pretty good about my progress. I’ll start on my next canvas tomorrow and I’ll prime it with a light brown. I like my canvases to have the same feel and texture of birch panels that I get from the mill in South River. Umber in linseed does the job well for light brown.
One thought on “January 11, 1917 Green-Eye Monster”
Seems like it is not happening in the past, but right now. So look forward to reading these. Beautifully written with such a feel for every nuance of the time.