EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Arthur 'Babe' Therriault of Chapleau pioneer family follows career as a boxer starting at age 13 with a win over Stan Deluce

Arthur 'Babe' Therriault, a member of one of the first families to settle in Chapleau after the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway shares his life and times in a really fascinating book that takes us from his career as a boxer, to the navy in World War II, to work in Chapleau and on to other places, and now retirement.

Babe, as he was known to everyone in Chapleau, is the son of  Steve and Gertrude (Stapley) Therriault, and the grandson of Majorique Therriault who arrived in the community in 1885. 

His grandfather secured work in the shops.

In 1886, his grandfather brought his wife Angelina Morin and children "to the newly established little village, living in one of the vacant boxcars provided by the CPR to temporarily house their employees."

Angelina died in 1891, and Majorique met Margaret Sabourin who had come to Chapleau to work as a pastry cook in the Queens Hotel. They married and she was Babe's grandmother.

I received a copy of "The Life and Times of Babe Therriault" written by Babe,recently from Brenda and David May. Brenda is Babe's daughter and David, who many will recall was an outstanding hockey player in Chapleau, the son of Roy and Carmen May. 

This week I am going to share some highlights from Babe's boxing career, and in another column more of his life and times that has been a pleasure to read this summer. Thanks Brenda and Dave.

Born on November 11. 1923. Babe celebrates his 90th birthday this year..

He started his boxing career when he was 13 at 115 pounds. "One of the boys I remember boxing was Stan Deluce who I defeated. Stan Deluce later founded White River Air Services and other airline services.

"There was also a guy from Localsh who came to Chapleau to fight and I again defeated him. Then when I was still in school, the police chief came in the morning to get me to go to Sudbury to fight because he had some position in the boxing club. ... ther best coach was a Scottish man by the name of Jack Brough who also worked at the CPR as a boiler maker. He was one great guy and i would have walked through hell or high water for him.

"I was the last one picked to go to Sudbury. The other boys were Freddy Welch, Ken Crowhurst, Cecil McAdam and I think Harvey Glabb was also there.

Babe won his first fight but in the championship round he faced Cecil Fielding getting his first lesson in losing. However, he notes that Fielding ended up owning Fielding Lumber Company and became a millionaire, "so I don't think I did any harm to him! Anyway I got a medal for all my trouble."

The next year Fielding came to Chapleau and knocked Babe out in the first round. "Boy was my mother ever frightened. She came rushing to the basement in the town hall right into the kitchen which we were using as a dressing room. I was quite embarrassed but I was OK and lived to fight another day".

By the time he was 15, Babe won his first title as the Sudbury district lightweight defeating  Freddie O'Hagen. A news report said: "Therriault registered four knockdowns before he could find and opening for that lethal punch that spelled doom for the popular O'Hagen. Trainer Murphy was so excited that when his boy scored the final knockout, he was counting with the referee to make sure it was really a victory."

In 1941 his parents arranged for him to go to Fort William and he got a free ride on a passenger train with Mr. Bob Faught as the conductor. However, in due course Babe enlisted in the Royal Canadian Navy as a Stoker Second Class. He did some boxing while in the navy.

After the end of World War II, Babe returned to boxing heading to Toronto from Chapleau to see Jack Allen, the top promoter. He was pretty successful amateur boxer fighting in various cities including some in the United States.

Here is part of a story by boxing writer Claude Kewley about one of Babe's fights at Maple Leaf Gardens.

"In Art Therriault... promoter Deacon Allen at Maple Leaf Gardens introduced the possessor of the deadliest right cross seen in local cauliflower circles in several years. It might be added, Therriault is the only fighter the writer has seen in more than two years here who knows how to use his right and when to use it.

"Down for a nine count and apparently on the ice for keeps in the second, Therriault arose to score a sensational clean-cut third round win over New Toronto's hardpunching welterweight Johnny Wilson." More than 5,000 people were at the Gardens.

Babe's boxing career ended following a fight in Buffalo in which he broke his right hand, losing it in a split decision. I have only tried to capture some of the highlights.

He returned to Chapleau where the life and times of Arthur 'Babe' Therriault continued, including his marriage to Victoria 'Vicky' Mallek. More to come about Babe in a later column. My sincere thanks to Brenda, David and Babe for sharing. 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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