EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Chapleau 1976: laughter at high school, comic athletic prowess, ball hockey squeakers and the circus tent

Jamie Thibault, who was president of the Students Council at Chapleau High School in 1976-77, reflected on the importance of laughter as part of everyday life at the school when he was attending it in the Seventies.

Writing in the souvenir newspaper for the school's 75th anniversary in 1997, Jamie says that while laughter was never really given the respect it should have received, "it was a something, a quality perhaps, that everyone possessed whether they were aware of it or not."

Reflecting on his high school days Jamie still heard laughter in the hallways, classrooms, gymnasiums, library, on the hill as students told jokes. passed along secrets, and pulled pranks amongst one another.

"I hear the comic anecdotes of Mr. (Bryan) Kuehl to drill home a point in his Biology class; I relive the hockey tales from Mr. Morris in Man and Society; I visualize the comical actions that Mr. (Alex) Babin used to illustrate the use of a verb in French class: I hear Mr. (George) Evans using comic relief to get the class through another session of Greek mythology; I hear Mr. (Ross) Hryhorchuk laughing at another display of comic athletic prowess..."

On the 1976-77 CHS Students Council with Jamie were Tom O'Shaughnessy, Willie Date, Tim Morin, Jean Doyle, Francois Tremblay, Elaine Travis, Mike Serre, Joan Payette and Anne Marie Payette.

Thanks Jamie for the memories.

Also at the high school in 1976, Guy Bazinet was the valedictorian, while recipients of the Ontario Secondary School Honour Graduation Diplomas included Gilles Babineau, Richard Barrer, Guy Bazinet, Heather Beacock, Andre Bedard, Angelo Bucciarelli, Doris Delaney, Russell Deluce, Linda Dingee, Michelina Frattaruolo, Luc Gauthier, Michelle Jacques, Guy Martel, Keith Travis and Andre Tremblay


Meanwhile, in the Spring of 1976, recreation activities were getting underway for the summer season.

Little League Baseball was getting underway at Grinton Park, where the Chapleau Recreation Centre opened in 1978, and with repairs to the field having been completed, under the capable guidance of president Bill Chambers, Chapleau would be hosting the District Four Little League playoffs.

At the beach Paul Richardson would be returning for his second year as the swimming instructor and lifeguard.

Over at the Chapleau Memorial Community Arena, the newly formed men's ball hockey league was getting underway with four teams participating -- Chapleau Lumber, The Hustlers, Ministry of Natural Resources and the West Side Boys.

In the opening games, the Ministry of Natural Resources squeaked by Ron Larcher's Hustlers, scoring in the dying seconds to win 5-4. Chapleau Lumber built up a 3-0 lead but couldn't hold it and lost by an identical score to the West Side Boys. I remember attending the ball hockey league games and found them so relaxing after a long winter of coaching the Chapleau Intermediate "A" Huskies in their first season in the Northland Intermediate Hockey League in 1975-76. I sat in the stands and enjoyed the ball hockey games.


In the Spring of 1976, plans were also being finalized for Summerfest and Old Home Week to mark the 75th anniversary of the incorporation of Chapleau as a municipality to be held from July 1 to 4. Led by Festival Chapleau co-ordinator Eileen McCrea, a group of volunteers was working to finalize the activities -- and bring the circus tent to town for activities in the beach area.

Manlio Spessot and the Boy Scouts were organizing the canoe and kayak races while Dorleen Collings, who was often fondly called "Chapleau's cook" was planning the menus for the meals that would be provided. Recreation Director Terry Bryson was overseeing all the recreation activities for the celebration.

Plans were also being made for a visit to Chapleau by the Hon. Rene Brunelle, chairman of the provincial cabinet, who would participate in the sod-turning ceremony for Cedar Grove Lodge for Senior Citizens which would be located on the old separate school site on Pine Street. During Senior Citizens Week, the Chapleau Senior Citizens Club saw plans for the new complex and made their comments.

Terry Bryson announced that a picnic for senior citizens would be held during the Old Home Week, while Councillor Ernie Gilbert outlined grants for Senior Citizens centres.


Robert Andras, who was the minister of Manpower and Immigration for Canada was in town in June and officially opened the Chapleau Centennial Museum for the summer season by raising a new Canadian flag on behalf of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

Under the capable supervision of Dorleen Collings, The Chapleau Sentinel reported that the museum had been a "beehive of activity with flowers blossoming and the fountain "spattered with the pennies of those seeking luck." Inside many displays were being restored. The rock collection, stuffed birds and animals and the famous Rotary table were all in place.

Seems like only yesterday.

Monday, April 19, 2010

King George VI meets George Fife at the Chapleau CPR station at two a.m. in 1939 without his chain of office

By Bill McLeod

In the late 1930s there was a lot going on in the world. King Edward VIII had abdicated in December of 1936 and was replaced by his brother Bertie who took on the new name of George VI. The official reason for Edward’s abdication was that he was messing around with an American divorcee named Wallace Simpson and wanted to marry her. Since the British sovereign is also head of the Church of England, whose crank was not turned by divorce, Edward chose Wallace over the throne.

But there were other issues that were causing great concern to the British establishment. Apparently Fast Eddie the King wasn’t too swift. War was looming on the horizon, and Eddie didn’t seem to be twigging to the gravity of the situation. Also, the British Government was worried that he was getting a bit too chummy with his German cousins and with senior members of the Third Reich. Getting rid of Eddie solved a number of problems but created some new ones. They sent him off to be Governor of the Bahamas – out of sight and almost out of mind. While Eddie was presiding in the Bahamas, Harry Oakes, the fabulously wealthy discoverer of Lakeshore Mines was murdered. No one was ever charged with Oakes’ death, but rumors swirled for many years that Eddie the Governor might have known a bit more about the case than he let on.

If all this seems like it has no connection with Northern Ontario, bear with me.

In 1939, the new King and Elizabeth, his Queen were sent on a tour of Canada. In addition to introducing the new royal couple to Canadians, the junket had another purpose. Since Bertie and Liz had not been trained or groomed for the throne, they needed to get accustomed to all the scraping and bowing. If they goofed, the bumpkins in the Canadian boondocks might not even notice.

Fast forward to July of 2000. The Queen Mother, now well into her nineties, gave a rather extensive interview to the Globe and Mail. One of the events the old Queen related to the interviewer was the 1939 tour of Canada. She specifically mentioned Chapleau.

Apparently the Royal train had to stop in Chapleau at 2:00 a.m. to take on water. The reeve of Chapleau at the time was a highly regarded man named George Fife. For many years Mr. Fife ran the town’s hydro generating plant and power distribution network. I remember him as a jovial man who liked to tease kids. He was the grandfather of Phyllis Crang of Sudbury, one of Northern Ontario’s best ever athletes. And one of his grandsons is Bob Fife, CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief.

When word came to Chapleau that the Royal Train would be stopping there, George Fife sent word to the crew that he would like to meet the King. Probably without much enthusiasm, George VI hauled his butt out of the sack, put on his suit and tie and went out on the station platform to meet Mr. Fife. After making some small talk, the King asked the reeve (mayor) if he had a chain of office. Not a man to pass up the chance to have a little fun at the expense of the sovereign, Fife replied that he did have such a chain “but he only wore it on special occasions”. That cracked the King up and, sixty-one years later, the Queen Mother laughingly told the Globe and Mail about her brief visit to Chapleau and about how funny the King found Mr. Fife’s comment.

There may well be another version of this story as I found out when I read Jean Chretien’s memoir, My Years as Prime Minister. Over his long career Mr. Chretien became quite close to the Royal family. One of the reasons they liked him and Mrs. Chretien was that they could speak French with them. On page 243 Chretien describes a January, 1994, luncheon with the Queen Mother at Sandringham. The old Queen got to reminiscing about the Royal tour of 1939. She recounted a dinner one evening with Camillien Houde, the colorful mayor of Montreal. She inquired as to why he wasn’t wearing his chain of office. Like George Fife, Camillien told the Queen that he did have one but wore it “only on special occasions”.

It’s difficult to figure out how the Queen Mother could confuse George Fife with Camillien Houde. But maybe this was an “all purpose” story she used whenever what she deemed an appropriate occasion arose. Who knows? It is a very funny tale.

On a more serious note, Camillien Houde was interned during World War II probably because he wasn’t as sympathetic to the war effort as he might have been. Something like Pierre Trudeau, only Trudeau wasn’t incarcerated. One of the jobs Houde was given involved dismantling some urinals to be melted down and used in the war effort. He was quoted as saying that he was required to “turn urinals into arsenals”. A pretty good line.

Bill McLeod has a new book coming out in 2010. For details email Bill at wemcleod@sympatico.ca

Michael J Morris

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


click on image


Following the American Dream from Chapleau. CLICK ON IMAGE