EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Harry 'Butch' Pellow recalls Chapleau in Winter and Hockey on its Rivers about entertaining ourselves, laughter, being out of doors, pushing limits, building relationships

See names at end.Click image to enlarge
Harry 'Butch' Pellow is one of my oldest friends and recently I sent him an email asking if he had any memories of us playing hockey on the front river as opposed to the 'pond' on the back river. As he notes in the following reply, not too long ago we had chatted about hockey on the pond. Now he takes us to the front river.
Imagine how wonderful it was to grow up in a place with two rivers on which you could play hockey, and you could go "down the lake" by either one to a bay called Mulligan's. In Chapleau, you could go from your home as Butch notes through other people's back yards, up or down back lanes as the case may be, across lanes to that place simply called "the arena" or if you were old enough to recall, the old old arena was "the rink".
Harry is a member of one of Chapleau's early pioneer families, and was the architect for the Chapleau Civic Centre, Chapleau Recreation Centre, Cedar Grove Lodge, Chapleau General Hospital, the golf club house and the Trinity United Church. He is also a great storyteller.
Here is Butch with Chapleau in Winter and Hockey on its Rivers. Thanks Butch for the memories.
Chapleau in Winter and Hockey on its Rivers
By Harry 'Butch' Pellow
Not that long ago we chatted about hockey on the pond over the old wooden bridge and across the back river, over a hillock and north of the old sewage treatment plant. Who can forget it when your best recollection was that your hands were blue, your laces were frozen (maybe from Saturday morning’s practice) and your skates unrelentingly accepted your now almost frozen foot. But it had its moments and the braver amongst us endured. I have said before I was not one of the brave.
Harry Pellow 2012
But there was another venue too and it was on the front river just west of the concrete swimming pier where so many gathered this past July during the Chapleau High School 90th Anniversary Reunion to celebrate the homecoming and watch the fireworks. 
Like the pond, it arrived when the ice did but it was far more accessible, and collecting a group required far less planning and organization to pull together enough players for shinny. It was often after school and on weekends and as you recall surfaced one Christmas holiday and maybe because “Ice” Sanders was unable to make a rink on the ‘clinker’ surface of the public school grounds. 
Pickup included anyone who could get enough equipment together to make it worthwhile and at the same time wear warm clothes. Warm clothes because the west wind, however mildly blowing, was cold on that open river front and by the end of a school day or an early winter weekend evening the sky was grey, sunless and foreboding; and, had it not been for wild enthusiasm why would anyone choose the river over The Boston Café?
Harry 'Boo' Hong, Roger Mizuguchi, Butch
Well the Hong brothers did as you and I did Mike, and what greater motivation should there have been than that?
What made river hockey exciting was its spontaneity, the boundlessness of the perimeters of the playing surface, the almost undefined roll of scraped-off snow and ice along the edges; and that you always had to watch out for the ripples that had been created in the surface by the last breezes that sculpted the ice before it froze.
Boo and Butch 1947
Think of that slap shot by Hong, Hong, Hong, or one of the really big guys when it accelerated over the ice ridges and soared away out over the river; or at you directly, then veered away as it embraced the ripples. Can you recall the sound of the skates cutting through the crisp surface as they raced for the puck, can you recall the whack, slap, and clicking of sticks on each other and on the ice? 
What about the yelling and chanting and the code words that defined the play. “..over here” “…pass it, pass it”; “…go, go go”; “he scores!” etc….; wild enthusiasm and true abandonment because it would be dark very soon and there were very few lights to mark the way home.
Tee Chambers, Butch, Aldee Martel 1954
There was a collective enthusiasm to make the most of every minute and everyone was in sync.
Remember how difficult it was to take a breath in the cold air, how your breath made fog as you skated up the ice or paused for ‘a breather’? Wow! Your eyes were often half frozen shut and the ice crystals on your mitts made it impossible to swipe your nose. Never to be forgotten.
Do you remember how the Hongs played hockey and skated? Yen sprinted, was light on his feet, very fast and dipsy-doodled like no one else (except maybe Max Bentley). He even bore the nickname “Ziggy”. Jim was a powerful steady and fast upright skater and a great stick handler as I recall; and our friend Boo skated low, took long steady deliberate strides and always made skating fast look easy; he also had his skates rockered so there wasn’t more than a couple of inches touching the surface.
Butch and Boo
When you think of the sound of skates on natural ice, you can’t help imagine these really great players doing their stuff can you? Wouldn’t it be great to experience it all again?
I recall one other particularly relevant experience on the front river Mike and that was when I was in grade seven or eight. There had been a fast freeze, the ice was smooth and crystalline, there was no snow, and along with a few others including Tiny Martin, Charlie White, maybe Boo and you too, we all ventured onto the ice oblivious of the danger. It was the beginning of an event that could have been catastrophic if one of us had walked too close to the edge and what a sad night that might have been.
I vividly recall Vern Goldstein clambering down through the snow from the Town Hall office where he had seen us from the Clerk’s north-eastern window and then called us off the ice and sent us home. I knew we had done something wrong but it was the threat of Police Chief JackAngove calling my home that gave it meaning. This was an experience I have never forgotten and the beginning of a long list of confrontations with nature that have caused me to be very respectful of it, and the dangers that lurk in its beauty. 
When I got home that evening Wilf Simpson had called my mom, Jack Angove had called my mom, and she was prepared for me when I arrived very cold, very afraid and very apologetic. I’m pretty sure that was a Friday evening because I have a vague recollection of being told “no more hockey unless..” as I dressed for practice the next morning before making my trek in the dark through Evans' backyard, through McKnight’s, down Lansdowne, through Therriault’s, and to the front door of the old unheated arena for a much different experience.
The wonderful thing about river hockey in Chapleau that I think we all need to think about a lot as we get into the season of joy and remembrances is that it had no religious, racial, language or nationalistic perimeters; there were no upper town or lower town distinctions and I don’t recall there being good players or bad players; albeit there were little ones and big ones too. We were all players and it was a game, a spontaneous moment, a gleeful opportunity to engage in role playing and in doing what northern boys and girls and their parents had done for decades before us. It was about entertaining ourselves, laughter, being out of doors, pushing the limits and building relationships.
Was it Joseph Conrad who said
“youth…. the glory of it!”?
A few names who might have been on the river ice at any time: Jim Evans, Boo, Jimmy, Yen, Ian Macdonald, Dave McMillan, Gilles Morin, You, Me, Jack Poynter, Terry Shannon, Tony Telik, Leo Vizena, Charlie White, and more.

(Note: Likely all the players on the 1956 CHS hockey team in photo, at one time or another)

A highlight of the year for the Chapleau High School team of 1956 was a trip to Terrace Bay. Back row from left: David McMillan, Doug Sleivert, Stan Barty,Thane Crozier, Clarence Fiaschetti (teacher and coach), George Lemon (principal) Second row: Doug Espaniel, Roger Mizuguchi, Bill Cachagee . Front are Jim Hong, Bert Lemon, Harry Pellow, Ken Schroeder, Robbie Pellow (Mascot) Marc Boulard, Harry Hong, Jim Machan, Ron Morris. Most would have played river hockey.
Thanks for the memories Butch. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

BUTCH ON ROAD HOCKEY  http://michaeljmorrisreports.blogspot.ca/2010/03/harry-pellow-recalls-enthusiasm-at.html

BUTCH WITH MEMORIES OF 'THE BIG ROCK' http://michaeljmorrisreports.blogspot.ca/2012/11/harry-pellow-shares-memories-of.html

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Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
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