EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Reeve B.W. 'Bubs' Zufelt led Chapleau during boom years of early 1950s while Chapleau Bakery famous for honey dipped doughnuts

Reeve B.W. Zufelt
When B.W. 'Bubs' Zufelt, who went on to become reeve of Chapleau during some of its most progressive years, opened Chapleau Bakery with his partner and brother Elvin 'Ebby', on April 20, 1931, he had a lot of faith in the future of Chapleau, despite the hardships presented by the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Writing in the Chapleau Post, on the 25th anniversary of the bakery in 1956, Wilf Simpson wrote that the "weak infant bakery business" had grown "into healthy manhood".

With limited capital and their faith in the future, the Zufelt brothers launched their business which became famous for not only the quality of its bread, but also buns, and the extremely popular honey dipped doughnuts.

"Of course," Bubs Zufelt told Wilf in an interview, "the cash represented our tangible assets. We had arranged for the business which included an ancient Chevrolet sedan, and we were loaded with stock -- 30 bags of flour received from Charles W. Collins on credit."
Born in North Bay, he learned the trade of baker there, and arrived in Chapleau about 1927 where he worked for Henry Pellow who was operating a bakery. When the brothers opened their first bakery, it was located at the back of the D. Pilon house on Pine street, almost adjacent to the old Chapleau High School.
Soon afterwards, the honey dipped doughnuts were introduced and he told Wilf that "In those days there were many days when the doughnuts were late getting into the store.
"Our first batch was generally finished about 10:30 in the morning -- just about recess at the high school about 50 feet distant. Those kids would pile into the bakery until you couldn't move and with doughnuts selling at two for five cents, the batch didn't last long".
By about 1936, Chapleau Bakery relocated to Birch Street next to Henry Pellow's log home near the intersection of Birch and Grey Streets.
Shortly after he arrived in Chapleau, Bubs Zufelt met Elsie Hunt who was working in the post office, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George Hunt, my grandparents, and sister of my mother, Muriel E. (Hunt) Morris. They were married in St. John's Anglican Church on December 30, 1931.
1948 Council Walter Steed, J.A. Cahill, Reeve Zufelt, Mrs. F.M. Hands, J.M. Shoup
I extend my most sincere thanks to my cousins Betty (Zufelt) Gartner and Anne (Zufelt) McGoldrick for providing me with newspaper clippings and family history of their father who was my 'Uncle Bubs', but for the first time in my life as I share his time in Chapleau's public life I will refer to him as Reeve Zufelt. Like many Chapleau people, he had a nickname, in fact he had many - Bubs, Bub, Bob, and my Auntie Elsie mostly called him Zuie. They had four daughters, Betty, Anne, Joan and Leslie.

His brother Ebby died in 1942.

Even though in the early years, running a bakery was very hard work, up early in the morning to get the ovens going and the bread mixed and rising, delivering bread to stores and customers, then getting boxes of bread on the trains for communities along the CPR line, he started to become involved in the community.

He served as a township councillor from 1943 to 1947, and after defeating two opponents started his eight consecutive one-year terms as Reeve in 1948 which in one year terms was only surpassed by G.B. Nicholson, the first reeve who served from 1901 to 1913.
In 1948, Chapleau was threatened by a devastating forest fire, but fortunately an evacuation was not required although all the preparations were made for it. The fire did directly lead to the completion of Highway 129 the next year and the resultant economic stimulus with the arrival of new lumber companies to the area. At the same time Reeve Zufelt, his council and the Chapleau Board of Trade were actively pursuing having the Trans Canada Highway go directly through Chapleau.

They were also working to get a highway link between Chapleau and Timmins which in 1962 would become Highway 101 after he was no longer in office.

Councillor George Young with Reeve Bubs Zufelt
The failure of Chapleau to be on the Trans Canada Highway even after Welland S. Gemmell, the local MPP and cabinet minister, told 2,200 Chapleau citizens at the official opening of the Chapleau Memorial Community Arena in February 1951, that it would be "definitely located" through the community was a major disappointment. The Chapleau Post had declared "WE GOT IT!" in a headline and schools were closed in celebration. The new arena as well as the formation of the Chapleau Recreation Commission were among the achievements of the Zufelt years.

In fact, Reeve Zufelt had a photo taken pointing to where the highway would go to Schreiber, and The Globe and Mail said he was "jubilant" that "half the world" would be driving down Chapleau's main street.

Despite Chapleau's best efforts, the Trans Canada went along the much more expensive route along Lake Superior from Sault Ste, Marie. Politics at play of course.

Although Chapleau had a water plant and distribution system by about 1910, a sewage system had been rejected by the ratepayers by one vote in Mr. Nicholson's time as reeve -- which greatly disappointed him.

However, such was not the case in Reeve Zufelt's time and by November 1950, the plant and system were completed, just before winter set in. But, the council ran into trouble when one citizen vigorously complained that crews were working on a Sunday, contrary to the Lord's Day Act. Maybe so, but the project was completed, and Reeve Zufelt was re-elected for another year.

In the early 1950s, Chapleau appeared to be heading for a prosperous future as the Canadian Pacific Railway was establishing diesel repair shops, two soft drink bottling plants were soon in operation, retail stores were expanding and renovating, the Fox theatre replaced the Regent, a new state of the art post office was opened, new housing was under construction, the Bank of Montreal arrived, World War II had ended and many who served in Canada's armed forces were now home, married and raising families.

Although Branch Number 5 (Ontario) of the Royal Canadian Legion had been using the hall, it was Reeve Zufelt who negotiated the final terms that gave the branch ownership of the building for which he was made an Honourary Life Member.

To me, one of my best memories of those years was the paving of many Chapleau streets by about 1950, and as I had graduated from my tricycle to a two wheeler, I still remember the official opening. For some reason, it was held at the intersection of Grey and Birch streets with Grey Street North having been paved. After the official opening, we had bicycle races on the new pavement, organized, by who else, Councillor J.M. Shoup, also the principal of Chapleau Public School, who looked after all races, or so it seemed.

As Chapleau expanded, Joseph Shilliday arrived as chief of police, and the force doubled to the chief and three officers who got a cruiser -- the first one I think was a black 1952 Chevrolet with a little red light on top. Prior to this time, I recall that if the police had to get somewhere in a hurry, they would take a taxi or call the one Ontario Provincial Police officer who had a vehicle.

Bubs Zufelt also found time to be involved in other aspects of community Life. He was an avid curler and at one time was on a rink with Vince Crichton, Borden McLeod and Newt Pellow that won the NOCC championship. He sat on the board of St. John's Anglican Church for many years, served as president of the Chapleau Rotary Club and the local Progressive Conservative Association, as well as being a member of the Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen. He had worked for the CPR at one time.

He was also a member of Lorne Lodge AF and AM and a past district grand master of the Independent Order of Oddfellows.

By 1950 he had purchased a new oven described by Wilf Simpson as "one of the most beautiful pieces of automatic baking equipment ever", a new oven at Chapleau Bakery. By this time the bakery was putting out about 1,000 loaves of bread a day. He worked full time at the bakery as well as serving as reeve.

When Wilf asked him about the difference in equipment over the years, Bubs Zufelt replied, "Well, we have only gone forward with the town as a whole and it is by the support of the people .. that these things are possible. We could not foresee it (years ago) when things were pretty grim at times. Wilf added that Bub Zufelt's "faith in the town has been exemplifed when he modernizes his business and expends his capital to give Chapleau an even better product".

'Uncle Bubs' , Bertram William Zufelt, died in Chapleau in 1975. Again my sincere thanks to his daughters Betty and Anne for sharing their father's story. Also thanks to Doug Greig for his assistance. Any errors are mine. 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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