EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Chapleau memorable Christmas moments fondly recalled

Dr Young's original Christmas display
Among the many wonderful memories that folks have been sharing with me about Christmas celebrations in Chapleau, two were recalled by almost everyone who contacted me for this article. However, others shared their stories about family tradition and community celebrations.

Alison (McMillan) McMullen captured the two that were most widely recalled: "The memories I have of Christmas were Dr. (G.E. "Ted") Young's fabulous displays (complete with music over loudspeakers) and also the draws at Smith & Chapples leading up to a big Christmas Eve draw. I see the marketing advantages now, but at the time I thought this was a great thing that the store was doing."

During a conversation on Facebook one afternoon, Raoul Lemieux shared his memories about Dr. Young's displays: "Dr.Young had to have the tallest tree put up at the office and decorated the whole building from top to bottom. It had all the characters from Disney. He had thousands of lights up it would light up the whole street." Mario Lafreniere, publisher of the Chapleau Express joined the conversation and recalled that Dr. Young also put Stars on his T.V. tower. He also had lights on his boathouse.

Erik Collings summed it all up during our Facebook chat: "The Post Office used to put a big tree in front of the building too...before they removed the grass and built the ramp...the town used to hang Holly and lights, not just at the intersection...but the whole downtown was lighted up...there used to be Skating parties on the river, when the town used to build a rink on the ice...i can vaguely remember when there was the town band playing Christmas music ."

Turning to the draws at Smith and Chapple Ltd. Vince Crichton wrote in an email: "Re Christmas in the old home town here is one that I fondly recall. A.J. Grout (the president of Smith and Chapple) used to have draws ... in the store and he had a podium set up in the front of the hardware section. There were numbers placed throughout the store and you had to pick your number and stand by it until he had the draws – lots of folks went to these and I recall going with my Grandmothers Crichton and Morris and your grandmother Hunt and of course my mum. Draws usually took place at about 8pm and we were out and on way home at 9. And, if it was blustery and cold it was a long walk home over the bridge. I recall all 3 grandmothers and my mum wearing fox or mink stoles around their necks – my mum had a silver fox and the others had mink."

Vince lived on Queen Street so it was a long walk home on a cold December night in Chapleau. As an aside my grandmother Edith Hunt and Vince's grandmother Helen "Nell" Crichton were sisters. My Aunt Nell lived in the big red house at Aberdeen and Birch Streets while my grandmother lived on Grey Street south.

Raoul Lemieux commented on the Smith and Chapple draws on Facebook when none of us were talking about them: " Arthur Grout. Nobody is talking about Arthur. All the Christmas decorations and the big give aways to attract customers in his store. It worked very well . Started his tv channel so the people could watch the draws on tv. Hundreds of people exmas week were on the streets.All the stores downtown were busy."

During my high school and university years I worked at Smith and Chapple Ltd. during the Christmas holidays and in the Fifties and early Sixties it was a bustling place on draw days. I recall Dr. Young's wonderful displays from childhood on. Amazing.

Barbara (Bowland) Groves joined the facebook conversation and recalled the old Santa Claus parades. "I remember Santa parades also. I remember then going to the town hall to get something from Santa and Santa knew all the kids' name. Did not know for a long time he was the milk man and delivered door to door so did indeed know lots of us." (Santa at that time was Jim Broomhead who also served as reeve of Chapleau.) Erik Collings had commented: "I have a few Christmas memories of Chapleau. I vaguely remember the old Christmas Parade that used to happen, i was just a young child... and Christmas carolers going door-to-door."

The parade would start at the CPR station and come over the old Horsehoe Bridge into the downtown area. Eugene Bouillon observed about the bridge: "I do remember the Horseshoe Bridge, what a bridge when you think back, today, most of the lumber trucks and delivery trucks would never make it. I remember many stuck at the top trying to make the corner. Memories..." Yes Eugene but the parade always made it.

In an email James Thibault recalled that a Christmas ritual on his mother's (Monique) side "was the family get-togethers at my aunt Yvette and uncle Raoul 'Cack' Fortin's place where the Fortins' and Burns' would all celebrate Xmas with the traditional French Canadian meal of "tourtiere, tarte au sucre (sugar pie) and p'tit Pate (Wild meat stew and dumplings) would be prepared by the women while the children danced and sang to the music played by the men on the fiddle and piano. Shortly before midnight everybody except a couple of the women, who would stay behind to take care of the food for the 'Reveillon' (yes more food and drink!!), would trek off to Midnight mass at the Catholic Church. We would then return and open our gifts and be home in bed by about 2 or 3 in the morning. Those times are behind us, but not forgotten."

Helen Henderson in an email recalled: "About Christmas in Chapleau.... I remember snow!!!!! and lots of it. Do you recall the really great Christmas Parties put on by the Rotary club? They were focused around the country represented by the current student exchange of the time. Dorleen Collings and her " crew" did a smashing job of researching the menus and cuisine of that country and presenting it to eager participants.

"Another thing I remember and you may not have heard about , was the MNR Christmas Parties Everyone present was anxious to see what" Santa "( Gary Thomson) brought to all the good little boys and girls from" the Point" and beyond.

"From then on, into the New Year just about everyone was involved in preparing for the Winter Carnival."

Erik Collings also recalled a family tradition: "Our tradition was a big dinner, that would rotate between family every year... between Francis and Chicken (Corston) , Doug and Cecile (Jardine), Olive and Bert (McAdam), Elsie and Pat (Pellow), Monique and Andre (Thibault)The best memory was one year when my mother did the party, naturally the best feast...she would cook three types of meat, goose, beef and veal, with all the fixings...the best part was called Dupe Gruta...she would mix all the roasted juices together add a bit of flavouring, reduce the stock, then we would all gather around the tureen and dip homemade rye bread and eat...it a traditions Swedish holiday appetizer...

"Besides that tradition, I remember countless holiday dinners, sitting in the Legion Kitchen, peeling potatoes...while my mother and the Legion ladies cooked."

Many of us will recall the fantastic meals that Erik's mother Dorleen Collings cooked for us at banquets and community festivals That is a story in itself.

Let's give the last word on great Chapleau Christmas moments for this week to Linda (Tebbutt) Kutchaw, Helen's daughter who joined the Facebook conversation: "Wow! I love hearing all these stories. Although I am younger than all of you that have posted so far, but not by much I must add, I do vaguely remember the decorations at Dr. Young's and the post office. As for Christmas memories: getting a Christmas turkey from the Martel family every year, our family would go to the Encil's or the Plouffe's and or the Martel's for Christmas night or Boxing day. Mrs Encil and Mrs. Plouffe sure did serve some yummy treats! I think the visiting between houses went on all Christmas holiday actually. After the kids showed each other what gifts we received, our parents would be visiting for what seemed like forever.. and I would be desparately trying to stay awake in the corner. As for Santa Claus, Mr O'Shaughnessy would be the one I remember at the kids MNR parties and the Anglican church. Graham Bertrand was also Santa CLaus, for the MNR if I remember correctly.

"I was just talking to my brother (Dan) about this recently. I remember the two of us going out to the airport to pick out and chop down a tree. Oh ya.. the size of the Encil's and the Plouffe's trees were huge!! I have many fond memories."

My sincere thanks to all who contributed to great moments at Christmas in Chapleau. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

This article appears in the December 12, 2009 edition of the Chapleau Express.

Michael J Morris


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Michael J Morris

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


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