Wednesday, 26 April 2017

1885 - The Kicker

On slow news days perhaps, when there was space to be filled, the Spectator would give full vein to reporters to write about their observations of life in Hamilton.
Such was probably the case on November 19, 1885, when a column, headlined “The Kicker” appeared. In the column, the ‘Kicker’ talked about the behavior of young people, and about what can happen when the street lights go out :
“The small boy, especially the street variety, is an object of interest to me. I like him. But I am not blind to his faults, and I am candid enough to admit that I do not approve of the treatment which young Mr. Dudeworth received the other day from a boy on James street south.
“Mr. Dudeworth was strutting up the street when he became aware of two pretty young ladies coming down Jackson street. As soon as he saw them, and saw that they saw him, he summoned into his face an expression of the most supernal inanity, crooked his arms at a more pronounced angle, and projected himself forward with a more fashionable awkwardness. He passed within a few feet of the young ladies and bestowed on them a cold, stony glare, and they returned it with a glance of shy approval. Up to this point, Mr. Dudeworth looked just as he wished to look. To the outward gaze, he was merely a moving automaton propelled by some internal machinery, as incapable of feeling as of thought. But, ah ! how little can we know from exteriors! That calm, unruffled, supercilious face was but a mask; behind it throbbed a human heart, quick to respond to the touch of emotion.
“Young Mr. Dudeworth had advanced only a few yards in front of the young ladies when a Small Boy appeared on the scene. He was standing at a gate as the young gentleman passed.
“ ‘Say, mister,’ he shouted, ‘you’ve got a big hole in your pants !
“Mr. Dudeworth’s face was the scene of a sudden and remarkable transformation. The look of blank inanity gave place to one of the most intense anguish. He stood rooted to the ground, and made a rapid movement with his hands as though to discover by the sense of touch where the rent was; but the motion was suddenly arrested when the unfortunate gentleman thought of the young ladies close behind him, and he stood with his arms stretched out behind him as though he were leaning against an invisible support. Then he lost his head and made a rush across the street through the mud and went up a lane to investigate.
“Now, there was not a sign of rent in any part of Mr. Dudeworth’s clothing. It was a malicious fiction on the part of the Small Boy, who had invented it solely for the purpose of lowering Mr. Dudeworth in the eyes of the young ladies. I was a witness to this scene, and lectured the urchin severely, but judging from his demeanor and remarks when I left him, I am inclined to fear that my admonitions had little effect.
“Speaking about bad manners in the youth of our streets, I am reminded of another incident which I witnessed one day last week. Sheriff McKellar met an aged, poorly-dressed Irish woman on a street crossing. The old woman was carrying a heavily-laden basket. The sheriff politely stepped off the dry boards into the mud and let her pass without dirtying her shoes. The old woman was moved. She set down her basket and called after the sheriff :’God bless yer honor for yer good manners ! Sure, if the childer on the streets was half so p’lite as you, it’ud be better for ‘em.’ The compliment appeared to please the sheriff greatly, for the smile had not left his face after he had walked three blocks.
“It is not often that I have been outdoors when the darkness was so intense that I ‘couldn’t see my hand before my face.’ But it was as dark as that on Tuesday night last, or rather Wednesday morning between 1 and 2 o’clock. It was raining. I can’t tell whether the rain had quenched the gaslight and electric lights, but certain it is that, standing on the corner of James and Main streets, near St. Paul’s church, I got off the sidewalk and fell headlong into a ditch, but, fortunately, I escaped with no serious injury than very muddy garments. Now, if I can, if necessary, produce irrefragable testimony that I was perfectly sober at the time, and am usually as steady on my legs as most men; therefore the mishap was no fault of mine. It seems to me that if I had broken a leg or an arm in my fall, or had suffered any other injury equally serious, I would have had good ground for an action against the city for not having the streets properly lighted.”1
1   “The Kicker”

Hamilton Spectator.  November 19, 1885.

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