EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Peter Bernier recalls Chapleau memories including roar of falling snow and hitching rides on ice sled skis

Peter Bernier, a member of one of Chapleau's pioneer families was having coffee recently in Sudbury where he lives now and started thinking on the subject of changes, so put together some anecdotes from his conversation about growing up and living in Chapleau and sent them to me. 

Peter was most active in Chapleau community life, especially during the 1970s when he served as a member and chair of the Chapleau Recreation Committee in 1978 when the Chapleau Recreation Centre was officially opened. He was also president of the Chapleau Junior 'B' Huskies Hockey Club when the team played in the International Junior 'B' Hockey League.

As an aside, Peter's father Gene Bernier, with Yvon Martel and their volunteers were mainly responsible for the construction of the airport at Chapleau -- now called the Eugene Bernier Airport.

Peter wrote that he seldom saw kids playing outside now adding:  "I remember some interesting things. In our area of town, There must have between six and eight rinks outside, built on gardens or driveways. It seems to me that they appeared some time in December and lasted until March or April. Skates were optional and tennis balls (pucks) were mandatory. 

Swings were on right.note teeter totter and merry go round
"Hockey sticks were expensive. A practice by Hespeller was $1.50 or so. To get the money it was necessary to do work around the house - shovelling walks etc.
"Games lasted until dark or until the whistle for shift change at C.P.R.
"Often a game would spring out on the street. This meant that you had to be on the lookout for vehicles. Then the call CAR!. Prompt move of the net - wave the car through - continue the game. Everyone was the ROCKET or TIM HORTON."

Peter lived on Elgin Street, and after all these years, I am delighted to learn that kids "on the other side of town" from where I lived also played road hockey. I had concluded that it must only have been played on Aberdeen Street and environs where Keith 'Buddy' Swanson, played and did the play by play a la Foster Hewitt at the same time.

Just think, today those games, on either side of town, would now be going viral on You Tube. And I am sure there would be playoffs for the all Chapleau Road Hockey Championship between teams from both sides of town, and likely the Planer area too.

Maybe Chapleau kids still take to the road?

Ice sled being pulled by tractor. Note skis
Peter also recalled the ice Houses of the CPR and the reason for the - Ice gang - (dream job for all young lads) He explained to his coffee partner  where the ice came from and how it was trucked by truck on those huge ice sleds driven by heroes who braved the ice with their trucks. Dalma Landry and Marcel Dion come to mind. I remember that we would try to jump on the skis to get a ride.
"Probably a dangerous thing but we were young and going to live forever."

The ice came from the Kebsquasheshing River, near the old water pump house, and hauled up Elgin Street to the ice houses at the CPR. In the summer it was used on the CPR passenger trains to air condition the cars. The summer ice gangs were also a dream job for many Chapleauites.

Moving to the other side of town, Peter wrote, "I remember the swings down by the old town hall. The big thing was to see if it was possible to pump hard enough to reach the top of the swing. 

"There was a merry-go-round there and it was mandatory that one would try to get it going fast enough to throw a person off. We did not know at the time we were experiencing centrifugal force ( having too much fun for science).
"Don't forget the teeter totter where you learned who your friends were ( the ones who did not jump off )"

I sure remember each of those and was also able to play on them during recess time at Chapleau Public School.

He also recalled the roars inside and outside the Chapleau Memorial Arena on Lorne Street during hockey games on a Saturday night. 

"Remember the roar of the crowds in the old Chapleau Memorial Arena. The musty smell from the steam heat from the CPR. The roar of the snow sliding off the arena roof onto roofs of cars parked there by unsuspecting out of town fans."

The fans surely must have wondered why those prime parking spaces near the main entrance to the arena were empty. They sure learned at the end of the game.

Peter worked at Smith and Chapple Ltd. and shared this anecdote about Joe Shannon, the manager of the men's wear. I worked in the store's men's wear department with Mr. Shannon while attending high school and university and can fully attest to Peter's comments.

"Joe Shannon was one of the best salesmen I ever knew. I was in the men's wear with him one day when a customer came in for  pair of laces. That was back when people still tied their shoes instead of just stepping into them as they do today. I watched in amazement as Joe innocently asked questions and gently led the man on a trip through his wallet.
"When he left the store, he didn't need the laces. as laces came with the new shoes he bought. The shoes were coloured so they matched the new suit, shirt and ties. It istill impressive today and I do not remember Joe being pushy. He was just serving the customer.
"Joe was the one who also taught me that we had to keep the dollars in Chapleau. If we did not have the item in stock, it was far better to phone the competition to find it; rather than having them go out of town to get it. As he said it,  'The competition has to eat too - they just don't have to eat Steak!'."

Those were the days. Thanks for sharing some of your memories from Chapleau Peter. 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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