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CHAPTER FourIn Canada
ONE SUNNY AFTERNOON IN JUNE, THE ALLAN LINE STEAMER Parisian was nosing its way slowly up the St. Lawrence river towards Montreal. The trip from Liverpool had been successfully made through the Straits of Belle Isle and the warm sunshine and calm water of the St. Lawrence were welcome relief to the stormy passage across the Atlantic. Later in the afternoon, as the steamer neared the port, the decks were lined with eager men and women watching and waiting to enter their new home.
Most of the people on that ship were emigrants. They had come from the "old country" seeking fame, seeking fortune, or seeking just a home on some western range. A motley crowd they were - young and old - penniless and well-to-do; for in the 1900's these passenger ships carried every conceivable sort of passenger. Sitting astride one of the large cables in the bow of that steamer were two young boys, one, your writer, then fourteen years of age. Sydney, his brother, was twelve years old. Quite young they were; too young, in fact, to be sent to a new and strange land; but here they were, all excitement as the steamer docked.
The fact that they were flat broke did not seem to worry them. The ten shillings so generously donated to them by their father had gone for candy and soft drinks on the way over. No - they were not quite broke - for Sydney had saved a quarter out of the wrecked ten shilling capital with which they started. Twenty-five cents - that was all and the letter they had in their pocket was addressed to a Baptist preacher eight hundred miles away. They had no ticket to Belleville, Ontario - just this twenty-five cents. When the customs inspection was out of the way, these two boys began to wonder what came next. They had nowhere to go. Something like the traditional Nazarene "foxes had their holes, birds had their nests," but these two preacher's sons had nowhere to lay their heads; so they did the next best thing.
Montreal, Canada, is a large city - far larger now than it was then, but it looked quite large to Sydney and me as we meandered around the streets in the middle of the night, not knowing where to go, what to do, where to sleep, and with only twenty-five cents between us with which to eat. We certainly were "on our own" for sure. Outside Notre Dame Cathedral there were some seats, occupied by others as broke as we. Every so often the police would come along and rap the feet of those who had dared to stretch out and try to snatch a bit of sleep. All types were on those benches - Bums and near bums, down-and-outers, drunks - bad crowd and one to which we had not been used. We had seen small groups of "men of God" get drunk - in fact we saw that ever so often. However, these men were respectable - they were well dressed - they had sufficient food to eat, and they had a place to sleep. This sort of crowd, however, we had never seen before.
The hours dragged by. There we sat, Sydney and no chance of leading this world to God as we sat there. The clock in the cathedral struck four. We were both getting hungry, so, "borrowing" the twenty-five cents from Sydney, I told him to wait there and promised him I would return shortly with a sack of cookies or something else to eat. I found an all-night restaurant and bought a sack of mixed cookies and doughnuts. These I took back to Sydney, and we sat there eating them. Then we were really and truly broke, but the "eats" were good.
That day, we walked around Montreal, not knowing what to do. Taking the letter to the Reverend Wallace from my pocket, I read and reread it. It was just a plain formal note from my father, one Baptist preacher, to the Reverend Wallace, another Baptist preacher. The note stated that-
"This letter will introduce to you my two sons, Frank and Sydney. I trust that you will be able to help them find something to do in Canada."
The Reverend WaIlace lived eight hundred miles away, and that letter held no hope that I could see. It must be remembered here that we had never before been thrown on our own. The wonder to me is that either of us is alive today. A greater wonder is that we did not fall in with the wrong people and go down the scale to the lowest depths. Finally an Irish policeman saved us, for the very next night, while both were sleeping on this bench outside of Notre Dame Cathedral, l felt a tapping on the sole of one foot. Awakening, I saw there one of the biggest Irishmen I have ever met. "Sure and what is it the likes of ye two arr doin' sitting outside of this house of the Lorrd at this hour o' the morrnin'?," said the officer.
We gave him the story of our arrival on the S.S. Parisian and showed him the letter to the Reverend Henry Wallace of Belleville, Ontario. "Well, that's a hell of a long way from here, and begorra, ye can walk if ye want to, but maybe Oi can foind yez another way to git there - yez had bether follow me . . . come on," said our friend - for that is what he proved to be. "Never heard of a pracher turnin' two kids the like of yez out loose in the worrld before," he said, "What sort of a pracher is the mon?" We side-tracked the question and followed Pat, for that is probably what his name was, to the largest railway station in the city of Montreal. There he met a city detective and, explaining the situation to him, called a railway official into a huddle.
The first thing we knew was that we were to have free railway transportation to Belleville. That sounded good. Of course, we were hungry again, but that did not matter. Surely the Reverend Wallace would look after us when we arrived the next day. We managed to "beg" a bit of food on that ride from Montreal to Belleville, and we arrived there the following day, which happened to be Sunday. It was about a two-mile walk from the depot to the house of the Reverend Wallace, and at about seven o'clock in the morning, we arrived there. Knocking at the door, or rather ringing the bell, we heard an upstairs window open and a voice shouted, "Who is it - what do you want?" Backing up from the porch and looking up at the window, l beheld there a bespectacled individual with a long pointed "billy-goat" beard.
"We are Frank and Sydney Robinson, the sons of the Reverend J. H. Robinson of Halifax," I told him. "Father said that you would look after us and help us find jobs when we got here." It did not take this Baptist man of God very long to show his indignation at being disturbed at seven in the morning, nor did it take him very long to tell us that he was a very busy man. Moreover, he never did any business on Sunday. "Come back tomorrow," he shouted as he banked down the window. "I wish he'd have caught his whiskers in the window," said Syd, and while I did not re-echo that sentiment, it would have been very easy to have done so.
Well, here we were a preacher's two sons, refused a place to stay and something to eat by another preacher. I have a sixteen-year-old-boy, Alfred, and regardless of what he might do, regardless of what sort of jam that boy might get into, I would stand by him through thick and thin. I cannot conceive of my ever sending him on a four thousand mile journey into a strange land with $2.50 in his pocket. How my father's mind reasoned, I do not know, and I never want to know. Yet, he was a representative of God. He was in "the Baptist church" and as such was supposed to tell others how they might find God. What sham and hypocrisy is that! This man Wallace was not one iota better. These men may have known "god" but they certainly did not know the God I know.
It makes no difference which system of religion one may take to analyze today; they are all alike. Each has a conception of God which was either borrowed or stolen from an older system of religion; or it was manufactured out of thin air for the convenience of the particular system of religion which promoted it. There is no system of theology, nor is there one religious organization on the face of the earth which is giving to mankind the true conception of God - not one. Each and every "god" is either a man-made or a church-manufactured "god" who never existed in reality or in truth. This applies to every system of theology in existence. Herein lies the magnitude of the "Psychiana" Movement. It is through this Movement, and through this Movement alone, that God, the True Spirit, is being revealed to the world. The man who is now revealing that Spirit to the world was the boy who, nearly forty years ago, stood outside this Baptist preacher's home, broke, hungry, and with no place to sleep.
It seems to me that somewhere in the bible of the denomination of this man are words which read something like this:
"Inasmuch as yea did it not unto one of the least of these my brethren- ye did it not unto me."
I do not know whether or not they hold "fraternals" in Canada. If they do, undoubtedly the Reverend Wallace could be found guzzling beer and smoking cigars in the midst of them all. For these things were done and are still done by these "men of God."
On Monday morning, the following day, Sydney and I reappeared at the home of the Reverend Wallace. This time, it was not quite so early. The night before, we had met a livery-barn proprietor called Mike McMahan in Belleville, and Mike allowed us to sleep in the hay-loft over the horses. Strange how Irishmen were coming into our picture. First it was an Irish policeman in Montreal - now, an Irish livery barn owner. Anyway, we slept; and the next morning Mike saw to it that we had a bite to eat. In Belleville recently, I looked Mike up. Rather I inquired about him, only to find that he long since had passed to his happy hunting grounds, or wherever it is good Irishmen go when they die; yes, both the Montreal policeman and Mike McMahan were good Irishmen - no doubt about that. The two Baptist preachers would not feed us - one sent us away to a strange land with $2.50, and the other, on the Lord's Day, was too "busy" (in bed in his night-shirt) to see us.
Another passage of scripture from the bible of the Baptist comes to me here. It runs something like this:
"Inasmuch as yea did it unto the least one of these, my brethren, yea did it unto me.'
The two Irishmen, therefore, were better men than the two "representatives of God, in the Baptist denomination."
On this second visit to the home of brother Wallace, we were shown into a large cold room and there catechized for further orders. Why were we here? - what did we intend to do? - did we have any money? - were we "saved?" - and a lot more foolish questions on the same order. Finally, after giving us a free meal, which he really did, and I say this to the man's credit, we were sent to different farms. I went to George Bacon at Corbyville, a few miles from Belleville, where the famous Seagram's Whiskey plant is located. I don't know why I was sent there unless it was to remind me of the "fraternals."
The "salary" with Mr. Bacon was the large sum of $2.50 a month and board. Some of the "board" was more like a board than anything I have seen. In any event, beggars should not be choosers, so to George Bacon in Corbyville I went. The funny part of this story lies in the fact that although the Reverend Wallace was "too busy" to talk to us that Sunday morning and "too busy" to give us something to eat or a place to sleep, he did exact his "pound of flesh" from me. It cost me three months' wages which went to him for "securing the position." Believe me, when one had worked one month for Bacon, he knew he had worked.
Sydney hit it off a bit better. He was sent to Deseronto, about sixty miles from Belleville. His "salary" was $5.00 a month, and Gould was a real fellow. This man Bacon got me up before daylight, and we never ate supper until dark - and all for $2.50 a month - after Wallace, the "man of God" in Belleville, had taken his toll. I don't believe there is such a place as "heaven" and, therefore, neither Wallace nor I can go there. But if I should be wrong and there should be such a place, I can't help but believe my chances are far better than his. I suppose this man is long dead and gone, and perhaps I should not talk about him. This story, how ever, will be truly told.
One thing Mr. Bacon insisted on was that I attend church, which, incidentally, I refused to do. After working six days in the "fields of Bacon," I needed a rest. I needed a rest badly. Church did not appeal to me. I never wanted to see the inside of another church after this experience with the "agent of God" in Belleville. Bacon and I clashed on the church subject, and after the first battle, church was never mentioned again. I'm just wondering why it was that George Bacon was so insistent that I go to church. If he had religion, I never saw it - unless, of course, it was the same kind of religion my father and the Reverend Wallace had.
After I had worked long enough to pay Wallace his "fee," I began to figure that I was getting just exactly nowhere. I was working hard day and night; and when the end of the month came around, I owed Bacon for laundry and new shirts. That just did not add up; so I began to cast around for something which paid more money than Mr. Bacon did. Hearing that $1.50 a day could be made shovelling coal out of cars at the Grand Trunk Railroad shops, I applied for a job. Here I ran into another Irishman, Pat O'Brien. How ever, I don't believe it was the actor by that name.
Giving me the "once over," Pat said, "Sure and it's dommed little coal ye'll be afther shovellin' Oim thinkin'. But if ye want to thry it, I'll be the lasht wan to shtop ye." l worked half a day, and that half a day nearly killed me. Here I was, with Greeks and Polacks, shovelling coal out of cars into a chute.
It was hard work - too hard for me; so at noon I walked off the job, or rather I staggered off the job. The seventy-five cents for the half day's work is still there. I never went back for it.
It was quite evident, however, that it was up to me to get another job. I had no home to go to, and I didn't want to go to see Wallace again. If I did, I figured I would be working another three months for nothing. It was then that I met a railroad fireman called Herm Robinson. I met him outside a boarding house where I had gone to see if I could wash a few dishes for a meal. I did. I ate. Herm told me that he knew of a job shovelling concrete. Now, "shovelling concrete" meant nothing to me. I did not even know what concrete was. I knew what a shovel was. George Bacon taught me that. But concrete well - where was the job?
The next morning bright and early I discovered what concrete was. The job I was after was for a contractor who was laying concrete sidewalks in Belleville. Like a real man, I tackled the job. Well, if shovelling coal was heavy, this job was worse, for wet concrete weighs more than coal. Anyway, I stuck that job out as long as it lasted, which was only a few weeks. It gave me eats, and when I left, I had thirty dollars in my pocket. In other words, I was a rich man. Then along came a job in the middle of the winter. This was delivering bread on a country route with an old white horse and a sleigh. The man I worked for was Mr. Foster. He was another religionist, and so was his son, Fred.
This bakery job paid $5.00 a week with board and room. I liked that job; but Belleville can get awfully cold in the winter time. However, I stuck it out until Foster found a boy who would work for $3.50 a week, and let me go. At that time, Sydney came down with double pneumonia. He had lost his job at Deseronto when the season closed; and although he was then only thirteen years old, he got a very heavy job cutting ice out on the Bay of Quinte. I did not know this until later, but the toes were sticking out of his shoes and he had no socks. He was dreadfully ill. The county put him in the hospital where his life was despaired of. Beside myself with grief, for I did not want to lose Syd, I met another good Irishman - an attorney called Paddy McMahan. I told him the story of Syd, and he advanced the money with which to wire the Reverend J. H. Robinson for help. I have a copy of this wire, and l have the original reply from father. Here is the wire I sent:
"Syd dangerously ill double typhoid pneumonia - I need help out of work'
Here is the reply which came back:
"Secure best medical advise sorry cannot help financially."
It must be remembered here that the step-mother could ride around in her "carriage and pair," and it must be further remembered that at this time my father was able to keep two servants. Yet the only thing he did was to tell us to "secure best medical advice." We knew that already, and Syd was getting the very best medical advice possible.
It was at this point that I received my first faint inkling that there is real Power in the Spirit which is God. All through these months I had continued my private talks with God. I still knew that sometime, in some manner, I should head a movement which would make God real to the whole world. Naturally, I was beside myself over Syd. Miss Green, the Supervisor, called me one evening to the hospital. "Syd cannot live," she said. Then I began to think of applying the Power which is God to this terrible illness, and at once I knew Syd would live, whether he could or not. A great calm came over me. Looking at Miss Green, I said, "May I see him?" She said I might. I shall never forget my reply. Here it is - "Oh, well - he's unconscious, Miss Green, and wouldn't know me anyhow. I'll see him in the morning, for he will be completely recovered by then." She looked at me with a curious sort of look and then, grasping my hand, she said, "Frank - I believe you. Your face shows a Power - I wish I knew what it was."
I was at the hospital in the morning to see Syd. The fever had gone. He was conscious - and better. This was a case where the application of the Spirit of God, even without seeing the sufferer, brought the desired results. Now, so many years later, I receive more wires and long distance calls from over the world than any man engaged in religious work. They come by the hundred. They all recover. To give you a typical example: Day before yesterday I had to leave hurriedly for Seattle to see my advertising agency. Just as I was leaving, a long distance call came in from Davenport, Iowa. Here was the substance of the call - "I am Mrs. Blank, one of your Students. My sister is dying of cancer - will you come and heal her?" I replied that it would be impossible for me to come and that it was not necessary that I come. "I'll wire you $5,000 if you will come," she said. Here is my reply, "Madam, if you wired me $50,000, I could not come. It will not be necessary; for the Spirit which is God is not bought with money." Today I received a message that her sister, dying of cancer two days ago, is well.
Let me interpolate here long enough to say to you that if you will learn the best eight words in the English language, you will be able to drive out all illness just as fast as I can drive it out. Certainly the Power which does this is not a human Power. Therefore, it cannot have anything to do with me. It operates alone, under its own influence, and the only thing necessary to be able to heal as we do here, is to recognize who and what God is. Then, when that recognition is complete and full, remember these eight words - "Be still, and know that I am God."
If you really want to know, find, and use the invisible Power which is God, you, as a first step, had better forget everything any church organization has taught you about God. You cannot find the Power of the presence of God through anything any church teaches, for the simple reason that what they teach is not of God. Many church members and priests and preachers will rear up at this statement. Let them rear. One look at this murderous world today will convince anyone that God is an unknown factor in it. God will not be unknown very much longer; for already there are "Gleams over the horizon," and those "Gleams" are leading us onward to the Eternal Day-not because of anything your writer can do, but simply because he knows who and what God is, and is smart enough to allow God to bring in the Day of Eternal Righteousness through his humble efforts.
I don't want to meet anyone, Student or non-Student. They would be disappointed in me. They might look for some frock-coated, white-faced, priestly-looking individual, and they would be disappointed, and I assure you. I prefer infinitely to stay in the background, letting God work through what I write and do. This, I shall do as long as I live. After that, well, the Movement will still be in the hands of the Almighty where it belongs.
Syd went to work at another farm job after his complete recovery, and he did pretty well. I lost track of him for many years, but I understand he is now a street-car conductor in Toronto. He was in the World War and was decorated many times. He was also shell-shocked, which will account for some of the strange things I shall relate to you a bit later on-inexplicable things they were.
The city of Belleville had a great fire department with four of the finest horses I ever saw in a fire harness. Bob McCoy had the contract of furnishing both horses and wagons, and I got a job working for Bob McCoy. I drove the fire wagon; and when there were no fires, I drove a "carry all" hauling men to and from their work at a cement factory a few miles out of Belleville. That was a good job. I slept in a little room in the livery barn at night, and there was a fire alarm right in the room. Bob usually drove the teams when a fire broke out in the daytime.
Then old Dr. Tracy wanted a man to drive his buggy, and I took that job. It paid ten dollars a week, and that was something in those days. I met my first girl then. She was the daughter of a butcher, but her father did not take very kindly to me. The people were wonderful people, but when they saw me getting too serious and falling too deeply in love, they decided that I had better go fishing somewhere else. It nearly broke my heart, but I kept away and did my love-making by mail. May is married now, and I understand she married a good man. I have never seen her since. Oliphant, was her last name.
There is another chap I must mention, and that is Arthur Sills. When the Tracy job "petered out," I secured another Job packing apples for the R. J. Graham Co. Mr. Graham was mayor of the city of Belleville, and a fine man he was. Arthur's father picked and packed apples for Mayor Graham, and that is how I knew Arthur. I boarded and roomed with them. Their home was just a couple of miles from Belleville, out in the country.
While I was trying to make my case with May, Arthur was trying to outdo me. We were both pretty good-looking chaps, but I thought I had the edge on Art. May thought the best way out of the proposition was to marry someone else, and she did just that. Then I was taken down with a terrific case of tonsilitis while living with Mrs. Belle Sills and almost lost out. You see-I completely forgot God. Hot milk applications were applied, but the throat got and worse. However, in the moment I talked with God about that throat, it disappeared, and the next day I was out picking apples again.
After May's parents had given me the "good-bye" sign, I spent that winter in a logging camp owned by Mayor Graham. It was on the Central Ontario Railway, and the Post-Office was Hogansville. Another Irishman-Denny Hogan-ran everything there was in Hogansville. I remember one Christmas I was sent with a sleigh load of loggers to the station. They were going to Belleville to get drunk and to squander every cent they had made so far that year. Mr. Mott was the camp foreman. I had never driven a team of horses in my life.
An order for blankets, axe-handles, biscuits, and a lot of groceries had been given to me, and my instructions were to load up with these things. Then, after the train had left, I was to come back to the camp. "Just give the horses their heads and hold the lines taut. They'll come home themselves," said foreman Mott when I doubted my ability to take that team to Hogansville and back safely. Well, all went as it should have gone until the train pulled in. The sled was loaded with blankets, axe-handles, groceries, and lamps; but those horses did not like that train. I had them tied to a hitching post outside Hogan's store. That hitching post, however, was not strong enough to hold that team. Both of those horses reared up on their hind feet, gave a few snorts, and away they went into the woods, leaving me there looking at them. I wouldn't have been on that sled for all the logging camps in Ontario. There were axes, groceries, flour, lamps, blankets, all over the woods. When Mr. Mott came to rescue both the horses and their freight, he took one look at me and said, "This is all coming out of your wages, young fellow." However, he never did take it out of my wages. I had given him fair warning that I was no man to drive a young team through the woods. There was no one else there who could drive them, so I considered when I told him of my inability and experiences with horses, I had done my duty.
I could recount many pleasant days spent in Belleville, but I think I will reproduce in this chapter a news item which appeared in the Belleville lntelligencer shortly after Time magazine gave me a prominent write-up in 1938 Perhaps I had better tell you about the job I had driving a hack. I drove the first rubber tired hack to come into Belleville-and was I proud? - Two white horses (old nags) and a beautiful rubber-tired hack. I met the trains at the depot, charging twenty-five cents a ride to the hotels. Mr. Coe Graham owned the hack service. Here is the Intelligencer write-up:
FROM HURRICANE DECK OF A HACK TO "FIRST CITIZEN"
Dr. Frank Robinson, Newspaper Publisher, Druggist and Leader of a Mail Order Religious Study Group With Membership in Sixty-seven Countries, Recalls Early Days in Belleville-The First Rubber Tired Victoria-The First Ford-The Men Who Drove the Hacks that Met All Trains and boats-Olden Days and Golden Days Recalled.
From driving a hack in Belleville to the status of first citizen of a thriving city in western United States seems a far cry but that happens to form the two ends of the life history of a young man who began business life in Belleville, drifted west and won fame and fortune, now known as Dr. Frank B. Robinson, of Moscow, Idaho, one of the first citizens of that thriving western city, owner of the leading daily newspaper, three drug stores, the Robinison Professional Building, a tea room, a wonderful home with beautiful pipe organ in it, and recently donated Robinson Park to the city.
Frank Robinson will be remembered by many Bellevillians as a clerk in Templeton's drug store located at the corner of Bridge and Front streets some thirty odd years ago. To a former Belleville friend Dr. Robinson said that he has always retained a warm spot in his heart for Belleville the beautiful, adding that the happiest days of his life were spent in this city. He remembers living with a Mr. and Mrs. Brason, who ran a boarding house, and he says they were a fine old couple. He also remembers Mr. Charles Bowell who ran The Intelligencer and had a fine horse and rig. After working for Mr. Robert Templeton in Belleville, Robinson went to Toronto where he was employed by J. G. Templeton (a relative of Robt. Templeton) in the drug business at I42 King Street West, Toronto.
Early Hack Drivers
Returning to his early days in Belleville Dr. Robinson remembers driving a hack for Coe Graham. Working at the same place at the time were "Gibber-Gibber" Harrington, and "Rusty" Marlowe. Coe had the first rubber-tired Victoria there, and Dr. Robinson says he used to be as proud as a peacock to drive that elegant equippage to the depot to meet the trains.
From hack driving this ambitious lad graduated to the "Big Apple" and was employed by R. J. Graham in what he describes as the "apple factory." Here he worked under Gene Fairfield, George Rennie and Chas. Chesson who drove for Col. Lazier and Arthur Sutton are mentioned as friends of those days. Wonderful days he called them.
The First Ford
Memories of Belleville old days and old boys came flooding back as Dr. Robinson chatted with his friend, and he recalled driving a carry-all for Bob McCoy, later working for George Sills, packing apples. Early love affairs and the girls of those days of bustles and long dresses and dainty ankles which were only visible on rainy days at muddy crossings brought back smiles and heart warmings. Happy days as a member of the militia with the old 15th were recalled and the faces of the friends of long ago floated past in memory's mirror. Others recalled included "Whale" Mackey, Johnny Consaul and old Dr. Tracy-and that red-letter day when Dr. Gibson took the road with his first Ford. It went chugging up Front street-and then stopped-all the King's horses and all the King's men could hardly get it started again-being one of those runabouts, which ran about a block and then stopped to consider the next start if any, a hectic period in early automobiling long since passsed away.
Shady Lanes and Quinte Waters
Friends who attended the Ontario Business College were also recalled with pleasure and the many happy days and nights spent in the horse and buggy days and the days when boating on Quinte waters was considered the peak of enjoyment, particularly sailing.
Leaving Belleville, Frank Robinson drifted west, coming to rest for a time in Vancouver where he drove delivery rigs and took various odd jobs which added experience if not much money to his assets.
Taking an interest in religion, he took a course in a Bible Training School at the suggestion of Dr. Elmore Harris of McMaster University, and from that study came "Psychiana", a religious movement of which he is the head which has enrolled thousands of students, and he claims has spread to 67 countries with a membership of over half a million and is still spreading. This includes home study groups with textbooks furnished from headquarters in Moscow Idaho, last year's publications reaching nearly half a million dollars. Dr. Robinson says that he believes "Psychiana" is bringing happiness into the lives of hundreds of thousands and he is very happy in it.
This Belleville Old Boy with the interesting past and more interesting present and promising future wished to be remembered to all Belleville citizens who may remember him and stated that if he receives an invitation to attend the next Old Boys' Reunion at Belleville he will be there if he has to shut down his daily newspaper to do it.
Before closing this chapter, let me tell you about Mr. Templeton who, by the way, is still alive and doing business in Belleville at the same old stand. How old he is, I do not know, but he was at least fifty when I worked for him. It was quite a "come-up" to me to be employed at a white collar job in a drug store. That was really something. However, the pay was only $5.00 a week, and it cost me $3.50 a week with Mr. and Mrs. Brason for room and board. I had to have a clean collar and shirt once a week, too, so that did not leave very much.
At the Brason boarding house lived a group of young fellows attending the Belleville Business College. They were a good bunch, full of life as a crowd of young boys going through business college should be. The fifth of November came around. In Canada that's quite a holiday - Guy Fawkes day, and it is celebrated in much the same manner as our Fourth of July. On this particular occasion, we "kids" as we were called, planned some mischief, which we usually did. I had bought some very large fire-crackers about eight inches long. They detonated with a noise like a cannon.
The Belleville Police Department had on the force a very corpulent officer called "Cheezer" Downs. No one liked the "Cheezer." I was never able to find out why he was called that nickname. The only thing that occurs to me now is that his stomach was shaped very much like a cheese. Perhaps that was it. The name, in that case, was appropriate. We were all up in our bedrooms and, seeing the "Cheezer" coming down the sidewalk, we lit the fuse and timed it to explode just as the "Cheezer" went by. Then we dropped it out the window. It wasn't timed just right, though, nor was it dropped as accurately as it might have been. The result was that it hit the "Cheezer" on the back of the neck and then exploded. It nearly blew the officer off the sidewalk.
In a few minutes, there was a great commotion in the hall below, and then the "Cheezer" in person breezed into the large bedroom, only to find everyone fast asleep-not only asleep but snoring heavily. Downs never did find out who threw that fire-cracker. He had a good idea, though, for the next night I felt a hand on my shoulder, and into the calaboose I went. The Chief of Police of Belleville was one Pat Hayes, another Irishman, but this time not so good. Of course, for me to be put in a cell in the city jail was something new, so I naturally was alarmed and called up my friend, Paddy McMahan. Paddy came down and, on inquiring what the charges were, was told "making and distributing counterfeit money." That knocked Paddy off his feet as it did me. "Where is your evidence?" asked Paddy, and they told him that the evidence would be produced in court the following Monday. That meant that I stayed in jail from Saturday until Monday. I could not figure out what it was all about. I certainly knew nothing about counterfeit money, never having seen any and certainly never having made any. Paddy knew that as well as I did, but the bail was placed at $5,000, which meant that I stayed in.
On Monday morning the "great counterfeiter" was hauled into court. The charges sounded very impressive and very bad-"that the accused did, willfully and knowingly, and feloniously, make, manufacture, and distribute counterfeit money in the Province of Ontario in the Dominion of Canada," etc. I still did not have the faintest idea of what was going on. All I knew was the case was serious. Here I was charged with making and passing counterfeit money. That is a serious charge in any language. The strange part of it all was that I was absolutely in the dark, for until the first witness was presented, I did not have the faintest suspicion of what this charge consisted. I did not have very long to wait though. "Call the first witness," the Judge, another Irishman called Flynn, shouted. A lady whom I knew as Mrs. Thomas and who ran a little tobacco store next door to the boarding house took the stand. I knew her well- bought all my cigarettes from her-"Ran my face" through the week and paid her every Saturday night when I was paid. Mrs. Thomas was asked to hold up her right hand- "so help you God," etc. The prosecuting attorney, handing Mrs. Thomas an American silver dollar, asked her if she had ever seen that dollar before. She replied that she had, and when asked where she had seen it, she told the court that I had given it to her in payment of a bill the Saturday night before. Well, I knew that as well as she did.
The next witness, however, was a government agent, and he testified that the dollar was counterfeit. He further testified that he had reason to believe that the counterfeiters were operating from Belleville. Paddy McMahan at this point asked me what I knew about that dollar, and I told him that Mr. Templeton had given it to me last Saturday night in my pay envelope. It did not take long to bring Mr. Templeton into court, and he corroborated my statement; and so the great "counterfeiting case" against Frank B. Robinson blew up. Much to-do was made over this petty fogging little case in the recent trial in Moscow, and certain men tried to establish the fact that I had been arrested for counterfeiting. I had to reply in the affirmative, but the evidence also showed that Judge Flynn honorably dismissed the case and issued to me a certificate to that effect. The next day, Pat Hayes, the bad Irishman, told me to get out of Belleville.
It was in the beautiful little city of Belleville that my first real "religious" experience broke into light. lt brought disastrous disappointment to me. Through the eighteen years I had lived, the consciousness of God and of the work I felt I had been called to do grew. There never was the slightest suggestion that God would not speak through me to the world; but, as yet, the full consciousness of God had not come to me. Perhaps I should say that another way -let me say that the Recognition of the consciousness of God had never come to me. The God-consciousness is always with one, but the recognition is often absent. So many pseudo-gods have arisen and been presented to the world, that recognition of the consciousness of the only true God there ever has been is lost in the welter of false and pagan systems of religion operating on this earth today. No man ever spent more time seeking God than I did, and yet there was always the consciousness in me that the Great Spirit- God-had set me apart for a specific work.
As I have already stated elsewhere in this record, I made the fatal mistake of attempting to bring the recognition of the Power of God to myself, instead of keeping quiet in the knowledge I had of God. Had I known enough to do that, I should have been spared a lot of suffering. However, the end has been accomplished, and the Movement through which the Spirit of God will be universally known is an actual fact. Already the results of thirteen years' work have been amazing, and as the years and months go by, and as more men and women are liberated by this invisible Spirit which is God, it will not be too long until the fullness of the Spirit which is God is known to all men and all nations. But to come back . . .
In Belleville, I happened to get acquainted with the pastor of the First Baptist Church. His name was the Reverend O. C. Elliott. He met me first in Templeton's drug store. After having met him a few times, I called him up one day and asked for an appointment with him; I told him I wanted to speak with him about God. Reluctantly he gave the appointment. On entering his study in the church, I said to him, "Mr. Elliott, I want to do something for God. I feel that I have a work of quite some magnitude to do for God, and I'd like to talk with you about it." Evidently Mr. Elliott was more interested in money than he was in God and human souls, for this is the reply he made to me, "I shall be very happy to have you join my church, if you are able to do your part in its support-but we must have that."
I saw at once that the Reverend Elliott and I were not speaking the same language. He was talking money while I was talking God. They are different things. When I informed him that I was getting only $5.00 a week and keeping myself out of that, he said to me, "I think the Salvation Army is the place for you-why don't you go down and join it?" I thanked him for his good "Christian" spirit and went down to look the Army situation over. That night it stood on the corner of the main streets, and I listened to the testimonies of the "saved." Here, I thought, was exactly what I wanted. These good people actually knew God, and certainly that was what I wanted. So I followed them into the hall at the close of their street meeting. Adjutant Newman was in charge of that corps. I forget the name of the Lieutenant who assisted him. The songs were not very inspiring, nor was the band music. I have heard better. When the altar call came, of course, I went up. "God bless you my brother-hallelujah!" said the Adjutant. "Get down on your knees and let's have a word of prayer." Down I went to my knees and the Adjutant said, "That's right- pray, brother-pray yourself into the Kingdom." Well, I didn't know very much about praying. I knew considerable about quietly talking with God, but this public praying business was something new to me. However, to make a good fellow out of myself, I did some praying. It sounded like hollow sham to me, but I did it nevertheless. "Amen," said the Adjutant, "another brother has found the Lord. Won't you have a word of testimony, brother?" I asked to be excused from the testimony and promised him I would be out at the next meeting.
On the following Wednesday night, I showed up at the hall. Being rather a husky young man, they tied the big bass drum around my neck, and lo and behold, here I was in the Army, going down the sidewalks of Belleville with a big drum around my neck, hammering it as if I really meant it. I liked pounding that drum. It made a lot of noise and it gave the very thing I wanted-action for God. It made little difference of what action consisted; it was action. When we arrived on the street corner, the Adjutant took off his hat and prayed. It was about the average run of Army prayer. I took it all in and trusted he wouldn't ask me to pray. He did not. After the collection was taken, we invited the few stragglers into the hall for the regular Wednesday night prayer meeting.
All this was so foreign to what I knew about God that I really began to wonder what it was all about. God, to me, was an infinitely great invisible Spirit. That Spirit, to me, was the Creative Intelligence and Power behind every thing that ever was created. It was a very sweet experience I had on the lawn of the Manse at Long Crendon some years before - but this - well, this was all so strange to me. I just could not see God in it at all. I watched the members of that corps very carefully. After the meeting, they would join me and we would walk up the street smoking cigarettes, and we would go in and get a glass of beer or a glass of ginger ale or something to refresh ourselves. When I got home, however, I gave those performances considerable thought. Was all this of God? What was all this talk of "hell-fire," "Salvation," "the blood of the lamb," etc.? Where did that come from? What did it mean? What had I ever done to damn me into an eternal hell? By what authority did the Army stand there and tell the whole world that unless it believed what the Army taught, it was in "danger of hell-fire and the judgment"? If these good folks we were preaching to were in danger of hell-fire, so was I - so were the rest of us, for certainly joining the Army had brought no noticeable "salvation" to us. All we did was to stand on the street corner and tell a pack of lies. We told the men and women listening to us that we were "saved by the blood of Jesus," and there was not a man or woman in the whole Army corps that knew the first thing about either "the blood of Jesus" or "salvation."
All that and every other Salvation Army corps in existence was doing was to go by the rules and regulations of the Army. There was not a man in the crowd who knew the structure of the Christian bible. Not a single one of them knew where it had come from, and certainly there was no one in that crowd who know the reason there are four gospels in the Christian bible. The reason there are four gospels is because animals have four legs. That is one reason, and that's not the best reason for anyone to pin his faith in anything any bible teaches if the story is in that book because "animals have four legs."
Had I known then what I now know about the bible they were teaching, I should have challenged them then and there. As it was, my connection with the Army in Belleville was not of too long duration. I was getting a bit sick of the sham and hypocrisy of it all. I wanted God. I wanted to do something to bring to men and women the actual truths of God. The Army or what the Army taught was not doing that. What "sin" had I committed up to that time which merited such a fearful thing as an eternal home in a lake burning with fire and brimstone? The only thing I had done was to try to find God. I had suffered plenty at the hands of those who taught this same philosophy under a different denomination, but as far as my being "born in sin and shapen in intiquity," well-that just simply was not true. My mother was the sweetest thing that God ever put breath into. I was born according to the laws of God, the laws of nature, and the laws of the land. In what way had I sinned enough to merit the "wrath of God"?
My decision to leave the Army came one Sunday after noon. In that corps was a very fine looking girl. I had seen her looking at me often and wondered why. She always turned out in full Army uniform. On this particular Sunday afternoon she came into the barracks rather late and took a seat by me. We had a few words of ordinary conversation, and then she said to me, "I want you to come outside with me. I want to talk to you." Not knowing what it was she wanted, I naturally followed her out of the hall. She was working as a servant, or maid, for a Doctor Dolan in Belleville, and she headed straight for the Dolan home, her arm in mine. On the way home, I asked her what it was she wanted to talk to me about. She said, "I'll tell you when we get home." Mystified, I went with her, and soon we reached the Dolan home. Entering, she took off her Salvation Army bonnet and coat and, taking me into the living room of that fine home, she said, "The Dolans are away-let's lie on the floor." Then it dawned upon my trusting self that the salvation of this world was the last thing this young Army Cadet was interested in. The next day I left Belleville for Toronto, more disgusted with religion than ever.