EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Button "flew off" Gene Bernier's vest as he wheeled baby carriage down Chapleau main street, according to the Chapleau Post in 1947 plus fury of the social editor

When I was just beginning my career as a daily newspaper reporter 47 years ago this month with The Daily Press in Timmins, it didn't take me long to learn that the social, or women's editor, played a very important role in the life of the paper.

Although I would never have admitted it at that time, being all caught up in reporting the hard news of the day, it is quite likely that more people read the social news than my stuff -- with the exception of court news where we would report the name, address and penalty of every person convicted of an offense, and woe betide us if we left a name out. The wrath of the editor would descend upon us.

All these years later, I am still not sure if I feared the editor or the social editor more, for the latter's fury would be felt if we ever misspelled a person's name when called upon to make a story out of the handwritten notes, that ended up on our desks for rewriting into a story.

Such was the case at all the newspapers I worked. Hard news reporters were recruited to assist the social editors who had their own office adjacent to the newsroom. Not even the sports writers had their own private space. Sports writers live in their own space anyway, a breed apart from the rest of the newsroom.

I had learned to mind my spelling much earlier in life before I met newspaper editors though. I once got the strap while in Grade Four (I think), at Chapleau Public School, for having more than three mistakes in spelling. I swore it would never happen again, so was pretty well prepared for my years in the newspaper business.

During these dog days of summer which have finally arrived in southeastern British Columbia where I live, I have been going through scrapbooks of newspaper clippings kept by my aunt, Marion (Morris) Kennedy, which I inherited after she died. Aunt Marion's files have been the source for many articles.

Anyway, I discovered that the Chapleau Post was also big on social news and I decided to share a bit of it from the late 1940s.

Engine 2330 used on CPR passenger trains 1940s
Let me start with a piece from 1947, where the Post reporter tells a story, with tongue in cheek, about Gene Bernier, who was working at Smith and Chapple Ltd, and later became its president.
The Post reported that it was the store's custom to give as a gift to any member of their staff the first baby carriage required in the family.
"As is also the custom the new Daddy must personally wheel it home at the noon hour to the accompanying humour of the staff and the townspeople."
Gene qualified, and the Post story continued that he was taking the new carriage home "with much back slapping and cigar passing and razzing..."
Apparently, so the story goes, Gene got to the drug store and one of the buttons "flew off his vest" and struck a good lady "right in the eye" adding that "Gene is still trying to find out if his public liability insurance covers damages done from a swelled chest".
Well, not exactly the way most social news was reported, but in small town Chapleau in 1947, all in good fun I am sure.
In the same issue of the Post, the Ladies Aid to the Canadian Legion installed its officers for the next year, which was much more typical of the stories in this section of a newspaper. The officers were president Mrs. Chas. Collings, past president Mrs J. Robinson, first vice president Mrs. Geo. Desson, second vice president Miss Josephine Way-White, secretary Mrs. E. Chambers, treasurer Mrs. Geo. Hunt, sgt at arms Miss Lois Holding.
Readers will note that in those days, married women were referred to by their husband's name, not their own first name.
For example, my grandmother, Edith Hunt, played bridge every Tuesday night for years with the same ladies, and to this day I could not tell you the first name of any of them. In fact, they did not even call each other by their first names even at their weekly social gathering.
On the other hand, my mother, Muriel (Hunt) Morris, also played bridge with her friends and I knew their first names but certainly never called any of them by it. Mom and friends did call each other by their first names.
Team Number One of the Thursday Night Bowling Club held its Christmas Party at the YMCA and the members of the team served the turkey banquet to 40 members. Serving were Mrs. Evans, Mrs. Broomhead, Mrs. Sauve, Mrs. Richardson, Mrs. Futhey, Mrs. Ethier, Mrs. Collins, Mrs. Burns and Mrs. Shannon. No first names provided in this one, but "the table was tastefully decorated for the season. After the banquet a sing-song, quizz and games were enjoyed with a ukulele solo by Mrs. J. Futhey".

Of course I knew all these people who were mentioned in the Chapleau Post articles from 1947. They made for a good read and memories of life in Chapleau when I was growing up there as well as my years in the daily newspaper business. I hope you are enjoying the summer. 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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