EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Friday, October 22, 2010

"Fingers were never idle" as Chapleau Red Cross Society branch served on home front in World War II

Work report more at http://www.chapleau.com/
Shortly after World War II started in September 1939, the Chapleau branch of the Canadian Red Cross Society was once again active and sending "comfort" boxes overseas to local troops.

At a meeting held in the Town Hall in January 1940, Mrs. Pierre Tremblay reported that she had inspected 1,127 pairs of socks, 156 sweaters, 128 pairs of mitts, 46 pairs of gloves. 36 helmets and 52 wool caps -- almost 1, 400 items in total all made by volunteer members of the Chapleau branch. It had also been very active in World War I.The auditor's report for the past year presented by Harry Searle, a World War I veteran after whom Branch Number 5 of the Royal Canadian Legion is named showed that the local Red Cross had received $4,446.46 all in donations and an amazing amount for 1940 from people in a small community like Chapleau and the surrounding area. The report was signed by T.R. Serre and John 'Mac' McClellan.


Mrs. Allen Austin, convener of sub branches reported there were 54 members in Dalton, 30 each in Lochalsh and Missanabie respectively, 12 in Nicholson, 53 in Sultan and one in Amyot.

As Remembrance Day nears, our thoughts turn to the men and women who served in our armed forces, and rightly so, but on the home front in Chapleau and many other communities across Canada were doing their part for the war effort through branches of the Red Cross Society, and other groups. As I looked though names of members of the Chapleau branch from information on www.chapleau.com, I realized that many of the workers had family members serving in the armed forces -- and some would not be returning home. Others had served in World War I. For example, there were 39 workers at a meeting in January 1944, and I recognized 25 of them at least as having family in Canada's armed forces in World War I or II.

Mrs. Maud Hands, who in 1947 became the first woman to be elected to Chapleau council was very active in the branch and served as its president.

In a report dated October 1943 to the Red Cross Society headquarters, the Chapleau branch called attention to the "wonderful work" of some of the local members who were over eighty and ninety years of age.

It noted that Mrs. McNair of Missanabie, 91, had knitted 150 articles while Mrs. Thrush, 92, had "made a knitted article for every week of the war" adding that "finding sweaters and scarves too heavy for her frail hands, Mrs. Thrush knit smaller articles" including 125 pairs of baby bootees for the British bomb victims.

Mrs. Anne H. Bell, who the report says was "shut in because of high blood pressure" had knit 180 pairs of socks. Another person mentioned was Mrs. McQuaig, Sr. 84, who was "a faithful worker for the Red Cross. Her fingers were never idle." Mrs. McQuaig also inspected work and made corrections as required.

At the annual meeting of 1945, Mrs. Boyd reported that in the past year the branch had provided 634 pairs of socks, 783 surgical pads, 400 mouth wipes, 867 suits of pyjamas, 189 pillow cases, 20 personal property bags, 34 surgical coats, six kit bags, 12 hot water bottles, eight day shirts and 17 pieces of children's underwear. The underwear was made by Mrs Flannigan and Mrs. Brownlee from odd ends of flannelette left over from pyjamas.

At the weekly work sessions there was often entertainment and one noted that a presentation was given by the local Glee Club under the direction of Miss Ruth Wedge. They sang 'O England'. Tea and cookies would also be served.

The Chapleau branch met weekly throughout the war in the Town Hall, except when a flu epidemic swept Chapleau and meetings had to be cancelled.

And so, when we pause to reflect and remember on November 11, let us include those dedicated citizens, volunteers all, who spent countless hours preparing comfort boxes not only for those who were serving in the forces, but for victims of war too. As I think back, I recall going to meetings of the Chapleau branch with my grandmother Edith Hunt, after she returned from England near the end of World War II where she had served as a nurse. Today I remember many of the members who were active in Chapleau life after the war, and the veterans, and I wonder why!

The best answer I ever got that explained how these ordinary people from communities like Chapleau became the exceptional generation came from Frank Coulter when I once asked him why he had served so long on the local school board. His answer was profound but simple. J.M. Shoup, a veteran of both world wars and long time principal of Chapleau Public School had said they had a "duty to serve." Frank, a World War II veteran , along with so many other men and women accepted the duty to serve, to make Chapleau a better place. Lest we forget! My email is mj.morris@live.ca

NOTE: Hugh McGoldrick sent me the following information. Thanks Hugh.

"Many years ago as I and my friends were exploring the soon-to-be torn-down town hall we found the book. It looked interesting so I took it home to my mother, (Anne (Zufelt) McGoldrick) who as a young girl was also noted as attending some of the meetings listed therein. Later she donated it to the Chapleau library. I am glad to see it being referenced today.

"Had we not been exploring that day that formal record would have surely been lost forever."

Chapleau World War I and II veterans urged to become involved in community life as Legion members elected to township council in 1947

Two years after the end of World War II, as those who served in Canada's armed forces returned home to Chapleau, they were being urged to take more of an interest in community and municipal affairs.
Both J.M. Shoup, president of Branch No."5" of the Legion, and Harry Searle, after whom the Chapleau branch came to be named, urged the World War II veterans to be more involved in community life. Mr. Shoup, who had served in World Wars I and II and Mr. Searle, who served in World War I, and worked tirelessly for benefits for veterans were speaking at the annual Legion Armistice Day Banquet and Dance held in the Town Hall in 1947.

Mr. Searle proposed a toast to the branch and talked about the founding of the Legion and those from across Canada who were responsible. He stressed that it was with no thought of personal gain that the Legion was founded. Mr. Searle was present at the meeting in Winnipeg in 1925 where the Legion was founded and Chapleau received its Charter in 1926 as Branch No. 5 and was later named in his honour and is now known as Harry Searle (Ont. No. 5) Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, according to information on the Chapleau community portal.

J.L Whitney proposed the toast to the memory of those who did not come back while Mrs. L. Montgomery outlined the work of the ladies during the war both in the forces and at home. She said that although the war was over there was still a fight against poverty to be won.

J.M. Shoup
In his remarks Mr. Shoup gave an outline of the work of the branch during the past year and what had been accomplished at the hall. He said that the hall was becoming more and more a community centre every day and that more and more facilities would be added for the benefit of both the general public and veterans.

Over 240 members and guests were present for the turkey banquet which was enjoyed by all. World War II veteran Henry Therriault was chairman for the evening while J. Thomson played the Last Post. After dinner they moved to the Town Hall auditorium where an hour of excellent humorous entertainment was provided under the direction of Ted Soucie. Dancing followed in the basement to the music of Wilf Simpson and his orchestra.

About a month later, Mr. Shoup was returned as branch president for another term at the branch's annual election of officers. Henry Therriault was elected first vice president, A.R "Rene" Acquin, second vice president, with George Collinson as secretary and Fred Matters as treasurer. Auditors were Mr. Searle, Mr. Collinson and Steve Therriault. The executive committee consisted of Mr. Searle, Mr. (Steve) Therriault, Ovide Cote, W. Morrison and Walter Steed. Interestingly two members of the Legion executive were elected to Chapleau township council in the 1947 election: Mr. Steed and Mr. Shoup. In that same election Mrs. F.M (Maud) Hands, who had been a nurse in England during World War I, became the first woman ever elected to Chapleau council.

When I discovered the articles about the 1947 activities that appeared in the Chapleau Post, it seemed appropriate to use them  as it marked the beginning of changes in Chapleau that would continue for many years. The veterans of World War II heeded the comments of Mr. Shoup and Mr. Searle to become involved in community life, and they were involved in every aspect of it in the years to come.

As I wrote in my 1984 book, "Sons of Thunder... Apostles of Love" the veterans returned home, resumed their employment, married and started to raise their families. .. These veterans, having experienced the bitterness of war and having lived through the Great Depression were determined to build a better community for their children.

I added: They became involved in local organizations, sat on the municipal council and school boards, and were active in their church. Chapleau was beginning to change. The barriers of isolation were being removed.

As I reflect today on the Chapleau where I was raised, attended school and later returned to teach at the high school, I recall the names of so many of our community's veterans who rose to the occasion not only in time of war, but in time of peace to create a better place for us all.

At a Remembrance Day service in St. John's Anglican Church one year later in 1948, Rev. Canon H.A. Sims said in part, "We must make peace by working hard at overcoming ugliness with beauty; overcoming meanness with generosity; overcoming lies with truth, and by overcoming evil with good." The service was to dedicate a prayer desk in memory of my father. Flying Officer James E. Morris, who was kiilled on active service in the RCAF in 1943.

Those who did come home understood so clearly the words of Canon Sims, and gave so much to our community. Thank you. To those who did not return, they shall grow not old because we will always remember them. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Chapleau cenotaph moved to new site beside Royal Canadian Legion Hall in 1978

In June 1978, a very moving ceremony was held to rededicate the cenotaph which had been moved from its original location beside St. John's Anglican Church, to its present site beside the Harry Searle Branch No. 5 of the Royal Canadian Legion Hall. Newcomers to Chapleau and many younger people may not know that at one time the cenotaph had another home.

 The cenotaph was located at the north end of Young Street between St. John's Anglican Church and the old Town Hall.

The ceremony conducted by branch president Henry Therriault opened with the singing of 'O Canada' and the hymn 'O God Our Help in Ages Past' by the Chapleau Community Choir. Rev. William Ivey, branch padre, then gave the scripture reading followed by the community choir singing the anthem, 'Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory.' Mr. Ivey and Rev. Carson Duquette then delivered prayers of thanksgiving.

The cenotaph was then unveiled and Mr. Ivey gave a prayer of dedication while Air Cadet Morris played Last Post and Reveille. Cenotaph guards were Ken Russell and Lou Casconette. Branch president Therriault then laid a wreath, followed by others at the foot of the cenotaph in its new location. Legion members who were on parade deposited their poppies.

Jack Boucher was responsible for moving the cenotaph.

I placed a wreath on behalf of the citizens of the Township of Chapleau.

Led by the Chapleau Town Band, Legion and Air Cadet members went on parade around town, followed by visits to the cemeteries for a dedication of the graves of veterans.

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