EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Chapleau Figure Skating Club annual ice shows always amazing and exciting as audiences in three arenas charmed by skaters for more than 70 years

Back: Rita Payette, Shirley Matheson, Freda Depew. Front: Evelyn Sheahan, Rhonda McQuaig, Shirley Nixon
 Remember the 'Skater's Waltz', so popular when we went public skating at the old old rink on Lorne Street, and almost always included in the annual figure skating shows by the Chapleau Figure Skating Club.

As I read recollections of figure skating in Chapleau from about 1937 prepared by Juliette (Morin) Payette, I went to Youtube and listened to the Skater's Waltz, in a rendition of it conducted by the famous conductor Toscanini. In fact I listened to it several times as I reflected on my growing up years in Chapleau and those wonderful people who so actively participated in the life and times of Chapleau.

Julie, a member of one of Chapleau's pioneer families, married Bill Payette, a son of D.O. Payette, a leader in the community for so many years. 
Ann Card at Ice Show 1975
Julie shared her memories with Ann (Card) Morin, who so kindly assisted me in researching this piece about Chapleau figure skating. The Card family has been so active in Chapleau with her grandfather William Card serving on council and her uncle, F.A. 'Nick' Card as councillor and reeve.

Julie recalled that the first Chapleau Figure Skating Club was organized and opened to boys and girls in 1937with a Mr. Baker from Fort William, (Thunder Bay) who taught figure skating for several years, and even eventually married one of the skaters, Connie Vezina.

"The Club was doing very well with about 25 skaters," Julie noted. "This all took place in the first arena built on Lorne St. which was replaced on the same location in 1951. We had two dressing rooms at the front of the building which were both heated by a big wood stove that kept our boots warm and where we could run in when we were cold.

"Proper music was piped out to the ice surface. We learned the basics like the figure three and figure eight, a few jumps and eventually Mr. Baker paired us to do the 'Skater's Waltz'."

Julie recalled that some of the members were Frank and Lorne Block, Norman Cohrs, Bill Payette, Yvette Burns, Elise Depew, Freda Depew, Sally Uugo, Helen Martin, Rhonda McQuaig, Shirley Matheson, Juliette Morin, Marion Morris (my aunt), Shirley Nixon, Evelyn Sheahan and Connie Vezina.

She added: "A bit more info on the arena. There was an open loft above the girls dressing room also heated by a big wood stove where the Chapleau town Band led by Mr. D.O. Payette played on Friday nights for public skating 8 to 10 pm. The arena was always packed on those nights but if you were younger than 14 years you had to get off the ice at 9pm. We did not appreciate this one bit." There was a nine p.m. curfew for children in Chapleau for years.

In 1940, Sally Uugo, who later married Joe Crichton, was recognized in the Sudbury Star as "outstanding for her performance" at the club's carnival.
The paper noted that Sally was "a talented figure skater who is also deserving of a great deal of credit for her work in the club's interests when she worked so hard to keep the organization together.

Sally "charmed the audience with her 'Rhumba on Skates". In a conversation with Ann, Sally remembered the big cast iron wood burning furnace that heated the old old rink.

Sally is the grandmother of Lisi Crichton Bernier, Chapleau's present deputy mayor. Sally died in 2012.

Moving forward to the 1950s, Pat Purich recalled that figure skating was a "big part of our lives growing up in Chapleau" and although the old old rink was replaced with the Chapleau Memorial Community Arena in 1951, skaters also used outdoor rinks made in many parts of town.

I can recall at least 10 outdoor rinks in the 1950s plus 'The Pond' on the back river and on the ice on the front river behind Chapleau Public School.

Pat noted that in the 50s, "figure skating was fun and challenging, practising and preparing for our local winter carnivals in February... We were lucky to be part of the excitement and did our very best to please the crowds.

"Those were the days of Barbara Ann Scott, 'Canada's Sweetheart' from Ottawa, who was a figure skating idol. Barbara Ann's historic achievements made us all proud Canadians."

Lynn Purich, Pat's daughter, who was skating in the 70s and 80s learned to skate at age four on an outdoor rink on the river. Lynn said she was "eager to skate and take figure skating lessons." Her dedicated mother brought her to lessons sometimes at six a.m. and over time she earned badges and crests through the Canadian Figure Skating Association.

Lynn described the experience: "Annual ice shows were amazing and so much excitement... Crowds of people who supported figure skating, hours of preparation and planning and practising for shows.. so many dedicated skaters and parents..."

Some of her numbers included teddy bear, mother hen with little chickens, Egyptian princess.

Joanne Laughland and Lynn Purich
She also paid tribute to Wendy Lebrun, Joanne Laughland and Betty Publow who were among her teachers and coaches.

Ann (Card) Morin performed her first figure skating solo when she was four years old and has been active in Chapleau figure skating ever since. She has been on the executive about 25 years, most of them as president. Her father, George Card, was also active in Chapleau figure skating, but I just have to add that her brother George was a pretty good hockey player, and played on the first team I coached in Chapleau, the 1970-71 Midgets and later the Chapleau Intermediate "A" Huskies.

Ann recalled: "Just thinking a little of my past in skating. My first solo age four. Wow, you should see the pics of my costume blue with pink marabou.... My last solo as a skater for the club I needed a dress and my mother could not so sew so I made it. i still have it lol. You could not buy dresses when I skated. You had to make them. Mrs (Veda) Warren made most of my dresses. I still have my first pair of skates."

Marion Morris
In chatting with Ann on Facebook as she assisted me with this article I came to realize the great amount of work done by parent volunteers in figure skating

As Ann recalled memories from the past she said that, "We had to make the patterns for the costumes for ice show then make the costumes from the patterns. First the parent had to pay for the material and get it made and then they could keep it but the club is left with nothing for the future I liked the idea of have costumes in the club that you could reuse year after year like we used to do so we started making costumes and keeping them at no cost to the parent and now we have boxes and boxes of costumes that we reuse just like it was when I skated."

When she skated "in the old (memorial) arena we had the old reel to reel for music not sure what it was called but I still have it tucked away .. then to cassettes then CD's and now an little two inch ipod." The figure skating club was also very much responsible for a sound system in the Mrs. A.W. Moore Arena.

Ann and her husband Philip's three daughters Arlayna, Alissa and Amanda are all figure skaters and Ann assured me that their first granddaughter, arriving soon, will also be one.
Ann added: "The real funny thing is I love hockey too. So do my girls. My China cabinet has the middle level full of Toronto Maple Leafs stuff and I brought my daughter to a Toronto Maple Leafs game in Toronto. I don't know who was more excited me or my daughter. ...We had awesome seats..."

Ann, thank you so much for all the work you have done in helping me with a glimpse at the history of figure skating in Chapleau. It's been fun and we even chatted about the "sticks, pucks and jersey guys" but that is another story. Thanks also to Juliette (Morin) Payette, Pat (Purich) Russell, Lynn Purich, Louise Cooper, (a member of the Chapleau Nixon family) and Sally (Uugo) Crichton. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

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Michael J Morris

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


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