EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Michael's first rough drafts of history started in Chapleau 56 years ago as high school columnist for Mid-North News

MJ waiting for an audience at College of the Rockies
Just over a month ago now I started writing a weekly column for the Cranbrook Guardian, a blog published by the Citizens for a Livable Cranbrook Society. Along with Chapleau Moments and my own blog, I also write features and edit the Uneek Luxury Tours blog which is based in Orlando, Florida.

I agreed to write for the Guardian after being asked by so many people why I lived in Cranbrook and wrote about "some place" in Ontario all the time. After having lived here for almost 24 years I agreed.

Anyway, it struck me that I have been doing and teaching communications, journalism and related things for at least 56 years now, starting with a Chapleau High School column in the long gone Mid-North News in 1957. Shortly after Joy (Evans) Heft joined me.

By late 1958 I was also co-hosting a weekly teen television program on CHAP-TV with Phyllis Chrusoskie and Gary Foran.

Never did I think that all these years later I would still be writing about Chapleau, but it is now coming up on four years since Mario Lafreniere invited me to write for the Chapleau Express. Never did I think when I was a student at CHS that I would spend most of my life as a storyteller working on those first rough drafts of history.

MJ as young reporter circa 1968
And other than covering the 1968 World Series between Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals, interestingly two of the major stories I covered, occurred in Chapleau. 

Robert 'Bob' Fife, now Ottawa Bureau Chief for CTV News, but a "Chapleau boy" contacted me to ask if I would cover a test of the nuclear winter theory that would be conducted near Chapleau in the early 1980s for the United Press news service. The story appeared on the front page of many newspapers in the United States.

The other was an interview with Pierre Trudeau, when he was prime minister of Canada, at the Chapleau CPR station for CBC Television News. Mr. Trudeau was travelling by train across Canada with his sons, one of whom Justin is now leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. In Revelstoke, BC, just down the road from me now, hecklers had thrown eggs at Mr. Trudeau's railway car.

CHS dance late 1950s.. thanks Ian Macdonald
In Chapleau, Walter Broomhead, in a ceremony on the station on the station platform, presented the prime minister with a dozen eggs. CBC Television News wanted the story. We got it.  

Let's go back to Chapleau 1958 for a moment and see some of the happenings at CHS and in the community. And thanks to Doug Greig for sending  me some of those columns from the Mid-North News.

The CHS hockey league was underway and the Redmen and Eskimos met in the season opener at the Chapleau Memorial Arena. In an exciting start to the season, the Redmen won 5-3 -- only one problem. As yet the teams did not have sweaters, and it was difficult to distinguish between the teams.  Problem was solved when always generous Chapleau merchants and others supplied them.

Harry Hong, Roger Mizuguchi, Harry Pellow CHS hockey
Twenty-five potential players showed up for the school all-star team tryouts with B. Kingsley as coach. That team played in the town mercantile league -- full body contact.

Back at the school, Angelo Bucciarelli, and Des Delaney, president and chairman of the vocational services committee of the Chapleau Rotary Club respectively, presented a plaque to the school. The 120 students attended an assembly where several melodies were sung with Alison McMillan as pianist. The plaque was presented to Jim Schafer, Student Council president.

For the first time CHS had entered a curling team in a schoolboy bospiel in Espanola. Players were Brian Demers, Jim Cockburn, Vince Crichton and Bill McLeod and apparently they gave a "creditable performance".

CHS dance.. thanks Ian Macdonald
House parties were the rage in the 1950s, as well as dances in the CHS gymnasium, the Legion and Town Halls, church basements as well as moccassin dances on the natural ice in the arena.  My lifelong friend Ken Schroeder organized many of them year round as well as playing in orchestras of the day.

Speaking of house parties, Jim Ennis threw a big one, which as I recall was open to all CHS students. I don't recall how many showed up but after reading the column Joy and i wrote about it, his house was packed, and to this day I remember it as a great get together.

Jim and friends had decorated and we danced to the music of records on the new hi-fi Jim had built. It was an evening of "fun and frolic".  

I saw the letter in the Chapleau Express from Joanne Moyle in which she wrote that "Mike Morris was the best dancer in town." Thanks Joanne , it was good for my ego, but I think many could challenge me for the title. But, just in case, some do challenge, I warn them that I have just started a cardio aquafit program at the local swimming pool.

I wrote in my first column for the Cranbrook Guardian that I am one of those most blessed people who have never really worked one day because I have been able to spend it living, in the words of Reynolds Price, the American writer, with the sound of story as the dominant sound in my life.

 Story has been central to me whether I was playing in the living room with my grandfather George Hunt bringing the history of England alive, or listening to other grandfather Harry Morris share stories of hunting and fishing and portaging. or creating my own plays for the Junior Red Cross Society performances in Grade 4 at Chapleau Public School. Brian and Teddy Demers, Alison McMillan and I created a real swashbuckler, sword fights and all, with costumes made by Mrs Marianne Demers.
Mom as a young teacher

Thanks to my mother, Muriel E (Hunt) Morris, who instilled a love of reading in me before I could hardly walk, and gave me the freedom to explore all the great children's literature of my time, story has been the place where I have lived. 

Little did I realize that my experience as the Chapleau High School reporter for the long gone Mid North News, and a television program on CHAP TV  would lead to a lifetime spent telling stories,talking about the stories of others and helping students write their own stories, in classrooms in Ontario and British Columbia. And people even hired me to write stories about people and events for daily newspapers, television, magazines and the internet. I have been most privileged to have worked with great storytellers in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, the United States and now British Columbia.

A special thanks to my friends, and you know who you are, so many of whom have been in touch, and also have assisted me with the "first rough drafts of history".  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