EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Reflections on the familiar sound of trains on a warm summer night in Chapleau and going 'down the lake' to Mulligan's Bay by two rivers

Lil Morris, Edith Hunt (my grandmothers), Beth Goldstein, Mom and Anne Marie, Merrick, Dawn and me at camp
As I reflected on the past two years 9now three) of writing Chapleau Moments, for the Chapleau Express, recent emails from two Chapleau High School graduates came to mind, and let me start with them to mark the occasion.

In one of my email conversations with Larry Martel he mentioned reporters writing the first draft at history, and immediately it sounded familiar but I could not recall who had originally said it.

A Google search revealed that many journalists give former Washington Post President and Publisher the late Philip L. Graham credit for being the first to describe journalism as "the first rough draft of history," but as in most things, there is disagreement.

Yes, perhaps Chapleau Moments is a very rough draft of some of Chapleau's history. My sources have been many others who have started the story by writing about the community over the years and those who have shared their rough drafts with me during the past two years. Hardly a day has gone by that I do not hear from someone who adds to the stories that I have shared, and so often gives me an idea for a new one.

Thanks to the hundreds of people who have been in touch since Mario Lafreniere invited me to write the column in the Chapleau Express.

Shawn Russell who was in touch recently bringing me up to date on his life, and making some suggestions for future stories, commented that "It is difficult being the keeper of the history of Chapleau. There are so many good stories of people from that fine town...."

Indeed there are, but I am really not the keeper of Chapleau's history. All of us who call ourselves Chapleauites are, with stories we have told or are waiting to be told.

Although Shawn said he has not been back too often for visits, he noted that "I guess I have always been and always be a 'small town boy'. Even though it has been many years since I lived in Chapleau, I, like many others, consider it home. Our house is not there any more, but the memories cannot be erased. I still long for the familiar sound of the trains loading up on a warm August night. No one will know what I'm talking about except for a Chapleauite, or perhaps a railroad town person".

As an aside, Shawn's house was located at the Ministry of Natural Resources base at 'The Point'.

Out here in Cranbrook BC where I have now lived for 23 years, people ask me why I write about Chapleau and not the community where I live. I have done a few articles about Cranbrook, but the answer is really quite simple. I came here to work, and enjoyed every moment I spent on the faculty of College of the Rockies where I was even able to introduce students to digital storyelling starting way back in 1994 when I taught a course called Writing for New Media.

But I am not a part of Cranbrook, like I am Chapleau. For example, I wrote an anecdotal history of St. John's Church 'Sons of Thunder... Apostles of Love' to mark its 100th anniversary in 1985. When the good people of Christ Church here asked me to write their history, I declined but agreed to edit it instead and it was put together by my students in the New Media Lab at COTR.

It was their story not mine and they told it well.

Really though, I am a reporter, a teller mostly of the stories of other people and their life and times. I started doing it in Chapleau in 1957 when I wrote a high school column with Joy (Evans) Heft for the long gone Mid North News, and had a television show on CHAP TV owned by Arthur Grout. The rest is really history as I am still doing it some 54 (now 55) years later.

And as I mark the second (now third)  anniversary of Chapleau Moments, let me touch on some moments from my life and times there that made it an awesome place to grow up.

From left Ted Demers, me, Dave McMillan, Jim Ennis
I was very active in the Wolf Cubs and could hardly wait to turn eight so I could join.

Summers in Chapleau were always great, and camping was part of the agenda. We had a camp at Healy some 17 CPR miles west of Chapleau on the CPR, (no road when I was a kid), and we would spend part of the summer there along with friends who would join us.

But Mulligan's Bay was also part of vacation time, and no roads there either, in those days. Mom (Muriel E (Hunt) Morris) and I would spend time there at the camps of friends. And, as I have previously written about bridging Chapleau because I went from Grey Street to Elgin Street to visit my grandparents, Lil (Mulligan) and Harry Morris, such an analogy could also be drawn about "going down the lake".

We always went down the lake even though it was by one of two rivers.

Anyway, when we went to visit the Goldstein family, we travelled by boat down the "back river' to their camp at Mulligan's Bay because their boathouse was located on the Nebskwashi River.

When we spent time with the Pellow or the Zufelt (my aunt and uncle) families, we would travel down the 'front river' or Kebsquasheshing from where their boathouses were located.

Not particularly important in the grand scheme of things perhaps, but it was to a little boy who could travel both rivers to visit with his friends by going down the lake. I have used the two rivers and lake story in Geography courses.

Butch Pellow and me all ready to ride!!
We also loved to play and replaying scenes from the Saturday afternoon western at the Regent (later Fox) theatre was common. And we dressed for the parts as you will see from photo of me with my buddy Harry "Butch" Pellow as we take on the bad guys.

July 16, is a day that has special significance in my life, as my father Flying Officer James E. Morris, born in Chapleau, in 1914, was killed while on active service in the RCAF in Wold War II. Had he returned home, it was not likely that we would have remained in Chapleau, and my story would assuredly  be quite different.

In 1969, my grandmother Lil (Mulligan) Morris was the Silver Cross Mother at the Remembrance Day service in Chapleau.

Thanks so much to all of you, and a special thanks to Larry and Shawn. 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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Following the American Dream from Chapleau. CLICK ON IMAGE