Popular in Peace–Slacker in War

Toronto Star Weekly/March 13, 1920

Some hints to those Canadians who went to the States to work at munitions and are now getting 15 per cent on their United States money.

During the late friction with Germany a certain number of Torontonians of military age showed their desire to assist in the conduct of the war by emigrating to the States to give their all to laboring in munition plants. Having amassed large quantities of shekels through their patriotic labor, they now desire to return to Canada and gain fifteen percent on their United States money.

Through a desire to aid these morally courageous souls who supplied the sinews of war we have prepared a few hints on “How to Be Popular Although a Slacker.”

It were wise, of course, for the returning munitioneer to come back to a different town than the one he left. Citizens of his own city might have misunderstood his motives in exposing himself to the dangers of the munition works.

The first difficulty to be surmounted will be the C.E.F. [Canadian Expeditionary Force] overseas badge. This is easily handled, however. If anyone asks you why you do not wear your button, reply haughtily: “I do not care to advertise my military service!”

This reply will make the man who was out since Mons and is brazenly wearing his button feel very cheap.

When you are asked by a sweet young thing at a dance if you ever met Lieut. Smithers, of the R.A.F., in France or if you happened to run into Maj. MacSwear, of the C.M.R.’s, merely say “No,” in a distant tone. That will put her in her place, and, besides, it is all that any of us can say.

A good plan is to go to one of the stores handling secondhand army goods and purchase yourself a trench coat. A trench coat worn in winter-time is a better advertisement of military service than an M.C. [Military Cross]. If you cannot get a trench coat buy a pair of army shoes. They will convince everyone you meet on a streetcar that you have seen service.

The trench coat and the army issue shoes will admit you at once into that camaraderie of returned men which is the main result we obtained from the war. Your far-seeing judgment in going to the States is now vindicated, you have all the benefits of going to war and none of its drawbacks.

A very good plan would be to learn the tunes of “Mademoiselle from Armentiéres” and “Madelon.” Whistle these religious ballads as you stand in the back platform of the streetcar and you will be recognized by all as a returned man. Unless you are of hardy temperament do not attempt to learn the words of either of those two old hymns.

Buy or borrow a good history of the war. Study it carefully and you will be able to talk intelligently on any part of the front. In fact, you will more than once be able to prove the average returned veteran a pinnacle of inaccuracy if not unveracity. The average solider has a very abominable memory for names and dates. Take advantage of this. With a little conscientious study you should be able to prove to the man who was at first and second Ypres that he was not there at all. You, of course, are aided in this by the similarity of one day to another in the army. This has been nobly and fittingly expressed by the recruiting sergeant in these words: “Every day in the army is like Sunday on the farm.”

Now that you have firmly established by suggestion your status as an ex-army man and possible hero the rest is easy. Be modest and unassuming and you will have no trouble. If anyone at the office addresses you as “major” wave your hand, smile deprecatingly and say, “No; not quite major.”

After that you will be known to the office as captain.

Now you have service at the front, proven patriotism and a commission firmly established, there is only one thing left to do. Go to your room alone some night. Take your bankbook out of your desk and read it through. Put it back in your desk.

Stand in front of your mirror and look yourself in the eye and remember that there are fifty-six thousand Canadians dead in France and Flanders. Then turn out the light and go to bed.

(Source: William White, ed. Ernest Hemingway: Dateline: Toronto. Simon and Schuster, 2002.)