EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Santa Claus given 'rousing welcome' at Oddfellows and Rebekahs Christmas party plus Dr. Young's 'magical land' in heart of Chapleau in 1960

About 100 delighted Chapleau children, twelve and under, gave Santa Claus a "rousing welcome" at the Oddfellows and Rebekahs annual Christmas party in the Town Hall basement in 1960, according to the Chapleau Sentinel.

Each child was presented with a gift by Santa as he spent time having a "chummy chat" with all of them.

But before Santa arrived, there was a program of songs, recitations and solo to entertain the guests including lodge members and parents.

Mrs. Richard Hoath vice grand of the Rebekahs welcomed all, while Norm Veit of the Oddfellows was chair for the evening.

Janice Corston opened the entertainment program with the recitation of a Christmas poem followed by Kelly Romain singing 'Mothers of Salem'.
Norm Veit and unknown
Allen Coulter and Robbie Pellow also sang  solos. Gail May and Derek Edwards sang a duet.

Judy Godemair gave a piano solo.

Jo Anne Dunne sang 'Away on a Housetop' while Don St. Germaine gave his rendition of 'Away in a Manger.'

The entertainment ended with 'Silent Night' sung by Joyce and Janet Cluett and Beverly Hamilton.

And then, according to the Chapleau Sentinel, "with jingling bells and  a jolly 'Ho Ho' Santa arrived amid cheers and applause."

Soon, after Santa gave each child a gift a great variety of toys covered the floor in the Town Hall basement.

A special occasion was marked with a rousing Happy Birthday to past grand of the Oddfellows Roy Desson who was celebrating his birthday.

Mr. Veit was assisted by Walter Midkiff, Hiram McEachren and others while assisting Santa were Mrs. Hoath and Mrs. Isabel Robinson.

 Whenever the subject of favourite memories of Christmas arises among those of us who go back to at least the 1950s, someone, or most likely everyone, unanimously will declare, "Dr. Young's Christmas display".

It was a highlight of the season for all ages to visit a magical land right in the heart of Chapleau.

I am including a couple of photos from the early days of his display before he converted the G.B. Nicholson home, which he had purchased after returning home to practise medicine in 1944-45.  I thank Harriet (Newcombe) Bouillon for providing me with the photos.

As I reflected on my own years growing up in Chapleau, I think the display and the lights and the music were most meaningful as we walked from our home on Grey Street South on a usually bitterly cold Christmas Eve's to the midnight service at St. John's Anglican Church.

Along the way, and on the way home we would meet and greet folks from Trinity United Church and Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, and when I was a teenager, I would run between St. John's and Sacred Heart to attend the service there with some of my friends.

My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Retiree Ken LeClaire Reminisces About Winter in Canada as State of Mind and Cultural Happening

Raised in Toronto,  Ken LeClaire  graduated from the Ontario Forest Ranger School in Dorset in 1964.  He worked for the Dept. of Lands and Forests and its successor the Ministry of Natural Resources for 30 years, being posted to Kapuskasing, Hearst, Chapleau, Cochrane, Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie, where he retired in 1994.

Ken worked as a scaler, timber cruiser, conservation officer, fire fighter and forest management technician before taking up duties in middle management as acting Manager of Southern Ontario nurseries.  

After reading my column on Chapleau winters, Ken contacted me to share a piece he wrote some time ago about Winter in a Ministry of Natural Resources in house publication.  He gave me permission to use it

It was in Chapleau where he met and married Beverly Yanta in 1969.  They have two children, Paul and Lisa and one grandchild Hunter.  
He is an active history buff with a special interest in the fur trade and its effect on the Indigeneous population of Ontario. 

 Ken and Bev live in the Soo but spend their summers at Como Lake where they built a camp in 1974.

During his years in Chapleau Ken became active with the Ministry Manglers a hockey team which won the MNR title at a tournament in 1975. He told me the Manglers are still active. WOW!

A Retiree Reminisces  About Winter in Canada

By Ken LeClaire

Canadian winter is a state of mind and a cultural happening to be at least appreciated if not enjoyed.  We use the term Canadian with poetic license: this author has never been west of Winnipeg or east of Quebec City.  He has however walked down the main street (?) of Fort Severn on a February morning going from the airstrip to the Hudson’s Bay store with the temperature at 45 below F and a strong breeze blowing in off the Bay.  We recall that morning vividly, both for the bright sun that was still low on the horizon and for the very active ball hockey game that was being played in the school yard by some Cree children.

We recall waking up at 6 am on a sleeping platform at the rear of a 16' x 14' tent on Trump Lake north of Chapleau, knowing that the fire in the Quebec heater had died around three.  Timber cruising was done in the winter in the 1960's We would fly in lumber to construct a platform and 3' walls and erect a tent over this structure.

A fly over the tent added a modest amount of extra insulation.  That particular morning stands out in our minds as when we checked in by radio with the Lawless Cecile, the Chief Ranger in Chapleau we were told that it was 52 below zero.  All that meant to us was that we needed when crossing the lake to our cruise lines.

We recall having to stop scaling once in a while to allow the tallymen, such as Rolly Larcher, Art McAuley or Tim Cecile to move around a bit to warm up their toes and fingers.  We recall starting vehicles when fuel injection wasn’t even a gleam in someone’s eye and driving those vehicles for the first few miles with tires thumping as they came back to round.

And all through those times we recall never ranting about the cold or the snow level.  Oh sure, we certainly would say “ Golly Gee Whiz (or something close to it) is it ever cold” but the colder and more snow there was just made for easier bush travel.  In mid-July on a fire line we would laugh about the contrast.  The opening of a conversation with a stranger was, and is, always made less stressful when we can talk about the Canadian winter weather.  Sportsmen, fishing, boat and golf shows all seem to be held when the weather is the opposite for those activities. 

The next time you are shoveling snow,  instead of grumbling about the pain in your lower back (because you didn’t properly warm up) try and figure out which one of the thirty names the Inuit have for the white stuff you are throwing on your neighbour’s “lawn”.  Is it Masak, wet snow, or Qannialaaq, light falling snow?  In our mind we consider the winter weather a phenomenon, a sensual event, as Webster would say.   We consider it right up there with health care, clean water and freedom all of which make us Canadians.

Thanks Ken. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Names of those in photos

Ken LeClaire

The 1975 Chapleau MNR Manglers championship team. Back Tom Richardson, Larry Mahon (trainer and beverage scout), Ray Bonnenberg, Robin (Boggie) White, Darryl Ritchie, Esher Ritchie (coach extraordinaire), John McKee, Martin Healey, Ken LeClaire Front are Gary Black, Graham Bertrand, Randy Corston, Glen Cappellani, Joe Turner, Al Harris. Courtesy Ken LeClaire

Right to left:  Jerry McAuley, Ken LeClaire, Barrie James and I think Russ Ketchabaw.  Bush lunch, cruising party, Sheppard and Morse country, 1973. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Chapleau winters described as 'long, cold and exhilarating" included skating parties to Mulligan's Bay

On the pond circa 1954
In the beginning, back in the Winter of 1885-86 when Chapleau was a community made up of surplus boxcars and tents, a topic of conversation was most assuredly the weather when any of the about 400 first citizens gathered to chat.

Apparently, as I wrote in my 1984 book 'Sons of Thunder ... Apostles of Love' the winter of 1885-86, was "very strenuous for the early citizens of the fledgling community."

It must have been for they had left their old way of life to build a new one from any comforts they might have known. It was a "bitterly cold winter" and disease was rampant.
Bill Atkinson outside Brownlee Block cirac 1917

How many times did I hear, and make a comment about the "bitter cold" while living in Chapleau. No idea but I got thinking about winter back home recently as another winter approaches, and several of my Facebook friends give a weather report from where they live now. I never miss reading them, as it is so typically Canadian -  the weather is a major topic of conversation no matter where we are in the country.

Even Rev. O.W. Nickle, who was Rector of St. John's Anglican Church from 1938 to 1941 seemed to enjoy Chapleau winters. He commented regularly in the Vestry Book -- "a lovely cold and very cold winter's day", a lovely cold day" and after travelling to Sultan for a service he wrote, " a most wonderful winter's day, bright, clear and  cold".

Interestingly, his next parish was in Arizona!!!
Domiinion Day 1901

However, Chapleau people were busy as winter approached not only with their work but in gathering cordwood to keep the fires burning in their wood stoves and furnaces. As a boy growing up in Chapleau as late as the 1940s, our house was primarily heated by a wood stove, and Mr. Fortin would bring a supply each Fall. My grandmother Edith Hunt also did all the cooking and baking on the wood stove.

In his book "Pioneering in Northern Ontario" Vince Crichton noted that the first big event of the winter was the opening of the skating rink --- natural ice from 1885 to 1965. "One was never too old to skate in those days..." He mentioned Walter Leigh who was still skating at 74.
Birch Street winter 1947. George Collins collection

But Vince also noted that hockey was being played on the river (Both back and front) into the evenings. That continued into the 1950s at least.

There was also organized hockey with the earliest road trip I ever found was to Sudbury in 1891 ... Chapleau lost.

I learn something all the time and never knew until I was researching this column.

Vince wrote that in the early 1920s "under the light of a full moon boys and girls would skate arm in arm in groups to Mulligan's Bay, some difficulty being encountered crossing the weedy part of the river just east of the town as the river channel was never too safe in this section."
Skating to Mulligan's Bay! Wow.  Those folks who did it joined Dr. G.E. "Ted' Young who swam from town to his family's camp on Mulligan's Bay in Chapleau folklore.

In the 1920s there was also a toboggan slide on the hill right beside the golf course clubhouse. In the 1930s a slide was located on Slaughterhouse Hill and then back to golf course hill in 1956.
Toboggan slide Slaughterhouse Hill 1930s

Vince also notes snowshoes parties were held as part of winter recreation activities.

Back to 1886. Curling was underway on a sheet of ice on Lorne Street across from the CPR shops. By 1890 Chapleau had a brass band, soccer and lacrosse and baseball teams

I have included some random photos including downtown Chapleau in the early years as well as the Dominion Day celebration in 1903.

Last word to Vince: "The winters were long, cold and exhilarating but as a general rule very pleasant." My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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