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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Michael touring Chapleau on his tricycle bridges the great divide

My home town of Chapleau, Ontario has an incredibly rich history starting from around 1885 when the first settlers arrived with the Canadian Pacific Railway, and members of my family, the Mulligan side, were there in the beginning of the community. Of course my First Nations friends were in the area earlier and have played a most significant role in the life of the community.

Before the Chapleau High School 90th anniversary reunion festival in 2012 I was last home in 2001 for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Chapleau, invited by the council of the day as a former reeve (mayor) and the guest of my dear friend Dr. G.E. Young. While home then and in 2012,  I was most appreciative of all those who spoke so kindly of my mother, Muriel E. Morris, who taught them at Chapleau Public School over the 32 years she was on the staff there. In 2012 I was invited by the committee to be part of the program.

I was born in Hamilton but raised in Chapleau attending Chapleau Public School and Chapleau High School.

And now let me share some personal moments from my life as little boy on his tricycle, growing up in Chapleau in the 1940s as I bridged the great divide created by the CPR tracks going through the centre of town as I travelled from our house on Grey Street, "uptown", and over the old overhead bridge to my grandparents' house on Elgin Street on "the other side of town." When my grandmother Morris went over the bridge, she was going "overtown."  (Photo of me taken in 1948 with my Mom in front of Boston Cafe as we head for the overhead bridge,)

My grandparents Harry and Lil (Muliigan) Morris
I had family on both sides of the tracks. Mom's parents, George and Edith Hunt, who had come to Chapleau from the United Kingdom prior to World War I lived with us on Grey Street and my Dad's parents Harry and Lil Morris on Elgin Street.

My grandmother Morris was a Mulligan and a member of one of Chapleau's founding families, while Grandpa Morris came to work on the CPR from Ottawa early in the 20th century. My father James E. Morris was killed on active service in the RCAF during World War II in 1943.

Anyway off I would go on a summer morning to Maw and Grandpa's house on my tricycle, and every time I made the journey it was like saying 'Good Morning Chapleau' as I would meet so many people along the way. I would head up Birch Street and usually run into Jim Broomhead making his daily milk deliveries who would tell me to be sure to say hello to my grandparents.

At the time Mr. and Mrs. C.A. "Bill" Pellow lived at Birch and Aberdeen and Mr. Pellow would always have a funny story for me. Sometimes Mr. Earle Sootheran would be leaving for work at Smith and Chapple Ltd. and would invite me into his house to see the angels in the stones.

As I travelled by Charles W. Collins Stores perhaps J.G. "Jiggs" Goldstein or Frank Coulter would be in the window getting the store ready for the day and I would wave and say hello. I might run into Ed Downey, the local pharmacist and of course A.J. Grout, the president of Smith and Chapple Ltd., always in a hurry but he took time to say hello. As I headed on to the bridge Mrs. Hong might be in front of the Boston Cafe, and maybe if I was real lucky, on my way home I would stop to play with her son Harry ("Boo") and have some of her famous Boston cream pie.

Quite honestly arriving at Maw and Grandpa's house opened up a whole new world for me. The CPR station was on their side of town -- the departure point when we left town. There was no highway until about 1948, and until the 1950s, the built up area of Chapleau pretty well ended at Queen Street. I could head off to play in a `different`bush than the one across from home on Grey Street. And yes, trust me, it was different. Imagine years later when I returned home and taught at Chapleau High School (the new school) I was spending my days in the bush where I had played as a child.

To a little boy my travels around Chapleau on my tricycle so many years ago now were truly great moments because of the people I met along the way. These were people who had carved Chapleau out of the wilderness, survived diseases and the Great Depression, served in World War I, World War II and were building a better place for their families.

The greatest resource any community has is its people, and let me give you one example that exemplifies the kind of people who have lived in Chapleau. One day I was chatting with Frank Coulter, who has just completed serving 18 years on the public school board. I asked Frank why he had chosen to serve so many years. Frank replied simply: ``Because Mr. Shoup told us we had a duty to serve, and this was one way I could.``

(Mr. J. M. Shoup served in World War I and World War II and was the longtime principal of Chapleau Public School.)

A duty to serve! Enough said.

Please feel free to email me at mj.morris@live.ca

2 comments:

Michael J said...

Raoul wrote
sure brings back memories. Please don't stop there keep going. Write the book.

Michael J said...

Wes wrote

Agreed

Michael J Morris

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

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