EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Friday, February 13, 2009

The names I've been called include "Chief", "MJ", "SOB", "Sir", "Bud" and......

At Cocoa Beach FL, photo by Michael Pelzer
As I was reading a message from one of my former students from Chapleau High School on Facebook, it struck me that I have sure been called an awful lot of names over the past 50 years or so.

Growing up I was simply Michael or Mike, my mother being the one person who always called me Michael. 

As CHS student
When I became a newspaper reporter in 1964, bylines were so important and Michael was used in them except at the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix where the legendary managing editor P.V. Wade made me Mike Morris, but he usually called me by my last name, as in "Morris, get in here now!"

After I started teaching at Chapleau High School, I became "Mr Morris" and had great difficulty adapting to it. I still recall telling Robert Fife one day that my name was Michael not Mr but not much I could do about it. The principal of the day J.B. Walsh would come into the staff room and sternly say, "Mr. Morris, my office now!" Just a shade of difference between Mr Wade and Mr Walsh.

As young reporter
Shortly after I started teaching, the 1970-71 Chapleau Midgets hockey team fired their coach (yes, they fired him) and hired me. At a practice Keith McAdam one night, said, "Hey, MJ...!" and before he got any further in no uncertain terms I told the team I was "Mr Morris" to them. I had really adapted quickly to being a Mr. Teaching high school will do that to you.

I stormed out of the dressing room having made my point, lit a cigarette, and listened through the door to the players talk it over. They really did not think Mr sounded right, but what to call me so that I wouldn't lose it again.

Lionel Corston, my next door neighbour and First Nations person spoke up and said, "Let's call him Chief. He's the chief and we are the Indians." Immediately they all agreed. (I use the word Indians totally in the context of the dressing room conversation.)

The dressing room door opened and led by team captain Jamie Doyle, who had hired me, they marched past, each one saying, "Hi Chief" with the mischievous smiles that only kids can display when they have won a round. What could I do? The name stuck, at first just used by hockey players, then much more widely, and when someone wanted to really make a point it became "The Chief said..."

Of course for the most part I was Mr Morris at school.

Like all teachers I also became "Sir" as in "Sir said.." and later I had an increasing number call me "MJ" and still do.
1978 at opening of Chapleau Civic Centre

While living in Chapleau I became the reeve (mayor) of Chapleau, and I was called Reeve Morris, Mr Reeve and at times "Your Worship" --- an honorific I actually hated and still do when I hear it in reference to the head of a municipality.

But not all names I have had were terms of endearment. Here is one example as told to me by Gilbert Landry, who was the head custodian at CHS for many years and my good friend.

One night Gilbert was at a social gathering when the conversation turned to the Canadian economy which was in a downturn in the early Seventies. Gilbert reported that one person commented: "I know what's wrong with the economy. It's all the fault of that son of a bitch Morris and Trudeau." Pierre Trudeau was prime minister of Canada at the time.

I know that in my time I've been called an SOB and worse whether it has been because of my involvement in hockey or politics or whatever. But that's OK.

At College of the Rockies it was mostly Michael. On Facebook, it seems that I'm getting Michael, Mike, MJ, and Chief most of the time. The odd Sir or Mr Morris.

In my office at College of the Rockies
How did I deal with it when people asked me what I preferred to be called over the years. I have simply replied that whatever makes them comfortable. Obviously Chief brings back some of the fondest memories while coaching those Midgets who were so much a part of my life 40 plus years ago, and for Lionel Corston who died far too young.

In the past ten years I have a new one. My best friend calls me "Bud" as in "what's up today Bud?" when he contacts me on messenger or phone.

Please comment or email me at mj.morris@live.ca.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

2010 Olympics: stop the spin and focus on athletes

After having Gordon Campbell, the premier of British Columbia tell me on Global TV news this morning about the celebrations being held today across the province and Canada to mark the unveiling of the Olympic torch one year before the Vancouver 2010 Olympics begin, I really tried to get in the mood. On my daily walks I even looked for Cranbrook residents to be celebrating -- you know, cars with Olympic flags on them, horns honking, much like they do after a major hockey victory. Not one did I see! Nada!

By the way for those who don't know, Cranbrook is located in the southeastern corner of British Columbia where we have been told time and again that the Vancouver Olympics are for all British Columbians.

That is something like the Ontario government telling us that Toronto projects would benefit Chapleau in northern Ontario where I used to live. Out here they say that the government's interest ends at Hope (that's the actual name of place, not stolen from the title of Barack Obama's book), while in Ontario it ends at Barrie.

But as usual I digress. I want to get into the Olympic spirit like "all" British Columbians are, indeed like all Canadians are if I believe the junior minister from the Harper government on hand in Whistler today for the Olympic torch celebration. Some of the Olympics events are being held in Whistler which makes sense because they are the Winter Olympics and they have snow there. In Vancouver, who knows! There was also a celebration in Richmond, BC.

I took a virtual tour across Canada checking for reports of celebrations from sea to sea to sea but other than stories in the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail, reportingfromVancouver/Whistler, not much did I find.

Canadian Press struggled with a story on national celebrations, but their reporter was forced to admit that in Halifax something was planned but nobody showed up.

Last night the mayor of Vancouver admitted on the news that nothing big was planned there today. Something about security costs being too high. Speaking of security costs the breaking news today was that costs may have skyrocketed from $175 million to $1 billion for the 2010 games. Tom Clark on his new CTV Newsnet show Power Play tried to get Harper minister Peter Van Loan to come clean but the reply was that negotiations were ongoing. Typical comment.

I am all in favour of the Olympics by the way. But let's focus on the athletes and the games, and stop the spin.

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

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Homeless housing finally finds home

A professor at Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver gave his industrial design students a project to create Homes for Less -- affordable, short term housing for homeless people. But for a time the housing for the homeless itself remained homeless.

Writer Amy Juschka captured the entire story in a feature, including a photo, on Megaphone, Vancouver's street newspaper. Some of the mainstream media picked up the story after it appeared in Megaphone.

Anyway, Amy Juschka writes that no municipality in the lower mainland of British Columbia seemed to want to use the houses despite a desperate need for places for the homeless. We know there are the homeless but you won't put them in my backyard seems to be the attitude.

However, the Vancouver Aboriginal Transformative Justice Society took a different view and it appears they will take the houses and incorporate them into one of their projects, Congrats to them!

You can read Amy Juschka's excellent article here.

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

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Facebook is one huge virtual reunion with students

MJM circa 1970 at CHS
About a month ago I started using Facebook at the suggestion of former students, and it has been a truly wonderful experience -- it's primarily been a virtual reunion with my students from the years I taught at Chapleau High School starting 40 years ago. I have added a few other friends but at this point, the vast majority are from CHS. I also taught at College of the Rockies, Cranbrook, BC, and have a few students from there now.

Thomas Wolfe, the American writer, noted in 'Look Homeward, Angel' that "you can't go home again, because home has ceased to exist except in the mothballs of memories." To mix the metaphor, over the past month as I have caught up on the life and times of their lives we sure have been looking homeward, back to that small community in Northern Ontario, and in my case at least, overworking the "mothballs of memories" as I try to recall them as students and make family connections. I'm improving and it's great fun!

Some of them still live in Chapleau but the vast majority have moved and continued their lives in so many different places. I have been gone over 20 years now but like all who were raised there, still consider Chapleau home.

But today I want to especially recognize my former students who lived in the Chapleau area and travelled by bus daily to attend school. Northern Ontario winters were harsh then as they are now, but very seldom did the school buses not arrive on time. Once in a while there would be an announcement, "The Sultan bus has arrived" just a few moments after nine a.m.

Sultan is located about 50 miles from Chapleau by highway, and kids from there made the return trip daily from Grade one to the end of high school. They also came from Island Lake, Pineal Lake and from two First Nations reservations as I recall. If I have missed one please let me know.

I'm so delighted that "bus" students are part of the virtual reunion on Facebook. I always felt that they were shortchanged by the school system as most were never able to participate in extra curricular activities. More on that one another time!

So thanks so much for bringing me up to date and for once again sharing your lives with me. I have been going home again for our wonderful visits on Facebook!

Feel free to comment or email me at mj.morris@live.ca

Michael J Morris

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


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Following the American Dream from Chapleau. CLICK ON IMAGE