EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Go Boston! Memories of the Boston Cafe and the Hong family by Harry 'Butch' Pellow

The Hong family: Boo, Ma Hong, Jean, Jim, Yen (Pellow collection)
The 90th anniversary reunion of Chapleau High School in 2012, gave so many of us the opportunity to come home, and as Harry 'Butch' Pellow recalls here, "GO BOSTON!" again,  the place on Birch (Main) Street where we gathered and spent so much time as kids. The Hong family were very much part of our lives, and what a pleasure it was to visit with Yen, Jean and Jim at the reunion.

Jean, Jim, Yen in 2012
In fact, on the Sunday afternoon, after the closing ecumenical service. I went down to the beach, and then wandered back to the Redwood aka Hongers. The lunch crowd was gone and I sat there reflecting on it all. Like Butch, the Boston and Hong family were very much a part of my Chapleau life. 

I have been blessed in many, many ways over the years, but I am so thankful that my mother, Muriel E. (Hunt) Morris. after my father Flying Officer Jim Morris was killed on active service in the RCAF during World War II, made the decision that we would stay in Chapleau. I had the very best of friends who remain so important to me, and I was able to "GO BOSTON!"

I am still in touch with some of Yen and Jim's children who keep me posted on the family. Just a couple of messages: to Helen who told me some time ago, I should visit Singapore, your father (Yen) told me I should make the trip; to Doug (Jim's son) who played on the last hockey team I coached in Chapleau, it was great chatting at the reunion and yes, I follow your latest career as a curler; to Bill (Yen's son) thanks for keeping me posted on the familyand your career, and to Heather aka Bubbie, (Yen's daughter) you have been an incredible  inspiration to female athletes.

 I asked Butch to share some memories of the Boston Cafe and the Hong family. Thanks my friend for agreeing to do so. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Click on images to enlarge!


By Harry 'Butch' Pellow

Butch in 2012
The Hong Family, had a hotel in Lochalsh in 1934 which catered to the Cline Lake Gold Mine; but it is the Boston Café built in Chapleau by Fong Hong in 1924 which many of us knew as The Redwood and know today as “Hongers”; but there are many other stories for those of us who were raised in Chapleau in the late forties, and fifties that say “Go Boston”

You can read more about the Hong family in "Chapleau Trails", published by my brother Dr. Bill Pellow.

My lifetime friend Michael Morris introduced me to the Hongs and specifically Guy-Yen, Harry or “Boo Boo” as he was known throughout his entire life. 

Aldythe, Bill Pellow and Ma Hong
My dad, C.A. 'Bill' Pellow,  had known Boo’s family since his dad arrived in Chapleau in the 20’s, and in the 30’s during their time in Lochalsh. For him it was a lifetime relationship too and I think he nicknamed Jean, “Rosy”  

Boo was a gentle guy, born on May 02 1941 just over 72 years ago.  Boo was brother to Jean (Rosy), Jimmy and Yen; and we mustn’t forget Sparky.

His dad Fong Hong had passed away in 1940 and his mother Sue who raised the family in Chapleau was called Ma. Boo and his siblings were raised in an environment of love and caring, of daily labour contributing to the family’s restaurant business, and to the Hong family’s culture; and their important contribution to the lifestyle we all knew and to understand as we were growing into young adults.

In the late ‘40’s and 50’s “The Boston” as a building had four significant and
identifiable parts; first there was the dining room and kitchen facing Birch Street; there was the basement where all of the restaurant’s winter supplies including coal were kept; there was a second floor where the family lived and shared accommodation with many wonderful young people from China who arrived and given work in the restaurant; and an opportunity to assimilate with Canadian idiosyncrasies, language, religion and social attitudes and then, when ready, left for the city or other communities to begin their lives as Canadians. 
Boston Cafe Early years

And finally, there was “the other side” which included two floors. The ground, which provided an address for Pete Therrien’s taxi service on Birch Street, a vacant annex to the restaurant and storage for its provisions facing the old horseshoe Bridge; And the upper floor which would be described today as the Hong’s family room. Neither the upper or lower part of “the other side” was heated full time so visiting there in the winter months required some endurance. [(3) Boston Exterior in 1950’s can we find one?]

Mike, Boo and I were only a few months apart in age but because my birthday happened earlier than theirs I was allowed to go to school a year ahead of them. On a particular day in their first or second year in public school, Mike brought me along to Boo’s for a Saturday afternoon of playing cowboys..
Butch and Michael

 Not an uncommon thing to do in those days. Boo and Michael both had pretty nifty looking revolvers as I recall and they were very much oversized for their young frames. I was loaned one by Michael so I could play my part. The game lasted just about all afternoon and went like this: Chairs were reversed and we attached bridles (strings) to their backs and they were the horses. We spent the rest of the day saddling up, mounting and un-mounting, chasing bad guys and shooting, shooting, shooting. As I recall we were the good guys and I am happy to say have remained that way since then.

This went on for a good part of our first winter weekends as friends, and as we got into the later years of public school we then frequented the “family room” where Yen kept his drums and practiced regularly.

Georgette ??, Shirley Cormier, Butch, Donna Lane, Joy Evans, Boo
I don’t know if he still has them but for sure he was very good and for as long as I was in Chapleau he played in the local dance orchestras who’s venues were the Legion and the basement of the old Town Hall on Friday and Saturday evenings and on other special occasions as well.

 Yen would frequently get us bouncing around to the beat of his drum’s music and encouraging us to sing. I couldn’t then and cannot now but I am sure we tried hard. Yen was a Sinatra fan and did his best to emulate Krupa ….. and he did.

At the time, the Hongs had some boxing gloves which we all took our turn at. Michael remembers getting whacked in the face and calling it a day; and I am certain I would have taken the same course.

We also became enamoured with an old “green eye radio” that belted out boxing matches, baseball and hockey games; and we became familiar with names like Joe Louis, Ezzard Charles, Jersey Joe, Rocky Marciano and Floyd Patterson.
Butch, Jim, Boo

 We listened to the Saturday and Sunday baseball games from Comiskey Park, Ebbets Field, Tiger and Yankee Stadium, Fenway and Candlestick Parks and soon began to call the plays when our favourites for the Dodgers, Yankees or Phillies came to the plate. 

There was Aaron, Dimaggio, Rosen, Musial, and Mays; and then on Sundays the play would break up with a recap of Saturday night’s hockey games from Detroit Olympia, Madison Square or Boston Gardens or an arena in some other distant City in America but mostly with Foster Hewitt and Danny Gallivan screaming out the plays from Maple Leaf Gardens or the Forum. 

Boo, Jim and Yen knew the teams, the players and the plays and soon even I picked up on who was a batter, a pitcher, baseman or fielder and soon we were all calling the plays along with the announcers of the day. It began to sound like an episode from Vinyl Café by Stuart Maclean. I would go home for dinner dead tired from a Sunday of sports and having no idea or no image of the field, the city or arena from which the game or the match was called.

Boo, Jean, Butch
At some point and certainly pre-high school Boo and I both had BB guns and were pretty good shots but became quickly bored with target practice in the back yard; and soon discovered that bags of potatoes and other soft produce were stored in the low ceilinged basement of the Boston. We discovered that the potatoes did not cause a ricochet and “saved” the BB’s which we would recover and reuse.

 Unknown to us these potatoes were frequently peeled and served to customers in the restaurant and with increasing frequency there were complaints from patrons. Soon we were prohibited from dropping down the trap door from the kitchen and spending an afternoon in the dark basement “just shooting”.
Butch in kitchen. "Don't open trap door"

The Boston had a side yard that later became Yen’s Bridgeview Motel but before that it was a gravel and cinder playground where we played pickup softball, and frequently played out 3 on1 the runs and pitches of the baseball heros we listened to on Sundays in the other side. 

Because I was never able to pitch a straight ball Jim or Boo played that role and the others played catcher and baseman. I was frequently designated runner and frequently ‘bonked’ with a fierce pitch to get me out at home plate. It had an impact on my future I think and I became wiser and much more aware of my opportunities and events in my life and I have avoided ‘bonking’ ever since.
As we matured somewhat (but never truly matured I hope) the Boston Café recreated itself for us as a meeting and gathering place best represented by the numbers of teenagers and young adults who converged on it about noon or just a little after as the churches got out on Sunday; and frequently there were Christmas parties where the Boston turned into a delightful place for a festive dinner hosted by Ma.

On a wonderful spring day we would find the young ladies strolling by in their Sunday best, the boys of a like age sitting on the steps and leaning against the restaurant windows watching them, and frequently cars straggling by very slowly hoping to pick up one or more of the girls for a ride to Bucciarelliiville or The Diversion. Neither of these destinations as you might know were much of a ride but they were an event and a distraction.

About this time Jean was off to Nursing School in Toronto and while Jim and Boo were still in high school somewhere between 1954 and 1956 or 57; and a few years before I left for Teacher’s College in 1959 (another story).

These were special days partway through the muscular aches and awkwardness of adolescence and the emergence of being a young adult. I don’t know what girls called it but I know it was an awakening

You could see the difference week by week as the snow disappeared and the spring sunshine sparkled on the half frozen puddles and weeping snow banks. Everything looked a little more exciting, the opposite sex looked a little more interesting; and whatever it was, “something was happening”.

In the Boston in my younger years, I apprenticed occasionally as dishwasher, server, cleaner upper, window washer and whatever else was presumed appropriate. Sometimes I even wiped off the Nickelodeon; Sometimes it was a ‘put on’ by Jim or Boo, or an initiation, but I always enjoyed it.

"Just looking..."
I was embraced by the Hong family and as I have said many times before I think I enjoyed much love and as many meals at the Boston as I did at home and so did many others. For sure I was treated to Ma’s special desert, her “Boston Cream Pie”, and I was privileged to say there has never been one finer except maybe the ones made by Yen, Jean and Jim for us when we attended the reunion last summer.

 I was honoured by their effort and have made reference to it frequently ever since. 

“Go Boston” is what the Bruins did in defeating the Leafs this year and may still finish up with The Cup but boy was it close. Foster Hewitt would have been dangling out of the Gondola and Yen. Jimmy and Boo would have been calling the play to the very last whistle in “the other side”.

Jean, Butch, Yen with Boston Cream pie at reunion
I miss Chapleau in the late 40’s and 50’s and attribute much of my lifestyle and successes to a few very special people and wonderful friends who unwittingly partnered with me and took me through those crazy adolescent years. Could do it all again. 

I miss the balloon tired red racers we had and being the first on the streets when the snow melted . I especially miss Boo Boo and my Chapleau friends as many do, and wish it could all be recreated again. 
“Go Boston” and we all did. Weekend Saturdays all day, weekend Sundays just after noon until the sun swung around to the west and the sidewalk in front of the Boston was in shade; before and after the movies, softball on the ‘north side’ of Les McMillan’s fence in spring and summer, and hockey games on the river, on Aberdeen Street and at the area in winter. 

The Boston was home to some and a meeting place where you would always find someone you knew and where there was always a friendly smile to greet you. It was a hamburger, a pop, a shake and maybe a piece of Ma’s pie; and for some just a smoke, a hi or hello; but it was there, and anytime.

Many of the fuzzy pictures were taken with a very old eight millimetre movie camera. They were taken at the Boston Café and ‘downtown’ on the same spring day in 1954 or 1955. You will know the names and remember the faces and if you are like me you will remember other circumstances of the day.

If you have pictures reminiscent of the Boston and want to share I know the Hongs and I would enjoy seeing them. Reach me at harry.safari@ sympatico.ca. Butch

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great story Butch! A lot of memories, though I was years younger... I entered Chapleau High, as your fans was leaving, but the 'Redwood' was certainly our place to hang out and meet up.
Lark Ritchie.

Michael J Morris

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


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