EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Larry Martel shares memories of volleyball voyages by Chapleau High School championship team of 1979-80 coached by Steve Cavalier

Names at bottom. Click to enlarge
Larry Martel's story about the Chapleau High School champion volleyball team started when I  shared a link on Facebook to a Globe and Mail article about the rammed earth home built by Steve Cavalier and his wife Sylvia Cook at Colbourne, Ontario. Steve had posted the link to the article. Steve taught English at CHS, and in 1979-80 was Larry's Grade 13 English teacher as well as the Senior Volleyball team coach.

One thing leading to another, as it usually does, Larry agreed to do some "low level research" into the team, as he referred to it, and six versions later, he had shared the story of the championship team. Larry, the son of Lorna (Edwards) and Aldee Martel graduated from CHS, then the University of Western Ontario, then earned his designation as a Certified General Accountant and works as a comptroller. 
Not one to stand in the way of a good story, which Larry has written about the "volleyball voyages" and his coach and friends of 1979-80, I am delighted to share it with you. Thanks for the memories Larry. I was teaching at CHS in 1979-80.
Chief asked me to jot down some memories of our volleyball voyages in 1979-80. He mentioned the fact that Don Swanson had commented on the event and that they had been contacted by our coach at the time, Mr. Cavalier. The memories started to flood into my old head, I started to put some ideas down and noticed later that I couldn’t stop smiling while I was remembering (likely in a distorted ill-sequenced manner) the best memories of that time. I might not have known it then, but I now know that Chapleau was a pretty cool place to grow up.
My older two kids went to a high school with an enrolment larger than the population of Chapleau. I mean Chapleau in the day when there were three burners puffing freshly burned spruce parts into the air.
When I tell people that I went to a high school with a maximum attendance (not on a warm spring day) of 300, some people laugh. The one great thing about going to a small school is that, even though I was a moderate athlete at best, I managed to ‘make’ some teams and enjoy some great trips to wonderful metros like Marathon, Manitouwadge, Geraldton, Thunder Bay and Wawa. I forged great friendships. I got to learn a lot from great coaches like Ross Hryhorchuk, the Chuchmans, Doug MacLean, Mr.(Elmer) Rosenberg, and Chris Knowles.
Volleyball was different. When I was in grade ten, I had no idea that I could play volleyball. During one of those lunch-time inter-house games I had the good fortune of playing next to Rhonda Jones. We were doing our best to smack the ball back over the net for the glory of Chimo House … Go Chimo!!
She was the one that told me that I wasn’t too bad and should try out for the team. Well, I worked up the nerve and made the second string as a setter. When I did get to play, I filled in for Shane Evans. Can you imagine trying to play second fiddle to one of the biggest personalities in our school? It was terrifying!
Luckily for me, I had two energetic, organized, tactical and talented coaches. Andre Cyr and Les Jones taught us the fundamentals and had us diving for balls until we felt like we were going to die. That was usually around the same time that Andre would start laughing at us for being weak. I learned a lot from both of these guys. Andre is now linked to our family through marriage and I followed in Les’s footsteps by going to Western and becoming a bean counter.
When I got to the senior team, things got interesting very quickly. Mr. Cavalier was the coach and this guy was passionate about the game. He played growing up and had the height and coordination that allowed him to be a very good player. When he coached us, the man could still play. What really clicked with us was that Mr. C. could hit the ball. He hit the ball very hard. 
He got our attention quickly and we knew very early on how lucky we were.
When he moved to teach in Chapleau, he brought a new dynamic to CHS volleyball. He had a no-nonsense approach to the game and brought in some creative plays that really worked with our small team. Unfortunately, we didn't get a great turn out for the team that year (lucky me) as hockey took first crack at some of the better players.
The year turned out well nonetheless. The senior team won the Eastern championship in 1979-80. We had a great trip to the cottages down the hill at the goose (motor hotel). Here is what I remember or how I have chosen to reclassify my memory of this time.
After the round robin session, we ended up tied for first place and had to participate in a play down with Marathon and Wawa. The first game was against Wawa. They had the coolest warm up routine ever. One at a time, they would run up to the net, do a block, land and do a back roll / summersault. Mr. Cavalier told us that they were a good warm up team and that we should finish them quickly. Well it was just Wawa after all. C ya 15-7.
Next came Marathon. I’ve been to Marathon. Marathon hits your nose first about 5 miles from Marathon. Fozzy said that “their town smells and they have ugly uniforms”. Who would know better than Fozzy? He has family there for God’s sake.
Ironically, the game against Marathon did in fact live up to their town’s name. It went on for what felt like hours. We were tired young guys. I didn’t think that we could do it, but Donald kept us in the game. Don was focussed. He hit the ball hard and most got through the blocks. When they didn’t get through, they hit the floor like meteorites. Our captain had this intense stare that made me too afraid to succumb to my fear of losing. He and Dan-Dan had a great connection that day.
Mr. Cavalier yelled out orders and we carried them through. He reminded the young squad to mix it up a bit as the other team would triple block Don. He called a couple of time outs that I can remember. In one time out, he showed a calmness that helped get us focussed. On another time out, he surprised me and yelled with positivity and passion that energized us to get over the tiredness and pull off the win.
I remember the other Chapleau team members, who were sitting in the bleachers waiting for us to get this over with so we could go home. They were yelling encouragement from the bleachers. The guys on the bench couldn’t sit down. There was an enormous energy flowing from our friends and team mates to get it done. So we did. 28-26.
I remember the final play to win the tournament. Millson bumped the ball to me at center, I pushed it to the power side and Rob smashed it home. This is the way that I remember it and Rob will vouch for me. Nothing but the truth, so help me Rob!!
Mr. Cavalier: Our English teacher who played ball at Trent University. He was an amazing spiker and taught us so much about the game. He was also great to talk to on our long trips. A fine leader, a great singer / guitar player and good example for a bunch of small town kids.
Dan (Dan-Dan) Morin: Great athlete and superior setter. He lined up the ball and Don hammered it home. He had the weirdest serve and the other team could not return it. Superior sense of humour.
Dan Tebbutt: Good weak side hitter. With Don and Rob, the weak side was all that was left, but Dan filled the bill. One of my best friends growing up. Drove a 250 blue motorcycle.
Donald (the hammer) Swanson: Power like crazy. Laughed at everyone’s jokes. All round nice guy and our captain. We didn’t even have to vote.
Rob Serre: Another amazing spiker. I can’t think of a sport that he was not good at. Rob is one of those guys that is friends with everyone. He was my power hitter, my ‘pat me on the back’ guy and another great friend.
Brad (Fozzy) Gilbert: Brad was another good outside hitter and the ‘glue like substance’ that keeps a team together. He was my first ever best friend and the first Toronto Maple Leafs fan that my Dad let into our home. He drove a 250 red motorcycle and is the funniest person that I have ever met.

Stephen Millson: Great server and strong spiker. Did you know that Stephen had a humongus sense of humour? He was a really quiet guy; straight to the point, but when you got to know him he always had a great perspective. He probably doesn’t know it, but I learned a lot from Stephen.

Tim (Demo) Morin: By far the best all round athlete that I have ever had the pleasure to meet. A great setter and hitter. Also one of the best people and loyal friends in the world. A true leader leads by example and his name is Timmy.
Billy Hong: Billy had a huge spike. He would spike with his fist closed. I always found that weird, but the other team took notice like crazy. A huge personality who always had the best of intentions at heart. He was the innovator who convinced us to get these cool (we thought) orange team jackets. Mr. Walsh (J.B.Walsh. the school principal) ;was not impressed as the school colours of blue and light blue were difficult to detect in these bright orange jackets. He was right, but the trouble was worth it. We bonded even after the games thanks to Billy.

Larry Martel: Dan-Dan was our star setter and he owned the right to Don, so I set the ball to Rob, Billy, Fozzy, Danny T and Steve and they smashed the daylights out of it. 
I was thrilled to make the team and enjoyed all of the practices, games and long trips with the guys. When Rob and I get together (never often enough) we annoy our kids with our best memories of our sports ventures … not sure it is all true .. but good enough to make us laugh and  propose a toast to ourselves once or twice.
My email is mj.morris@live.ca, and I look forward to more stories from Chapleau High School students as the 90th anniversary approaches.

THE TEAM: Back row from left Steve Cavalier, Dan Morin, Dan Tebbutt, Don Swanson, Rob Serrre, Brad Gilbert, Steve Millson. Front from left Tim Morin, Billy Hong, Larry Martel


Anonymous said...

Wonderful story, Larry. Very well-written and your descriptions are vivid. Enjoyed it tremendously! Good job.

erin said...

Wow. I cannot believe how vivid your memory is Larry. Bravo. Great story. Me, on the other hand... I remember snippets only of my volleyball days. I was on the junior volleyball team, grade 9-10. With great players like Lysette Cyr, Carolann Dube, Diane Francour, Leitha McAdam, Cathy Collings, and I think Nancy Travis too if I’m not mistaken. If I had a picture it might trigger my memory. Damn, where are those yearbooks?! I do remember though, that I had major personality conflicts with our coach and my cousin by marriage, Mrs. Jardine. I think we took home a medal from one of the tourneys in Wawa but if memory serves she refused to give me mine! Guess I gave her too much grief on the trip... oh yes, now I remember. Terry and I got caught cavorting on the bus, and probably at the hotel too... sigh... so ended my volleyball career at Chapleau High. Thanks for the memories, Larry.

Michael J Morris

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


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