|My grandfather George Hunt had store here|
I came across an excerpt from Mr. Poling's book while researching another subject, and it looks like a great read.
Mr. Poling, an author of several books worked as a journalist with the Canadian Press for many years.
In 1885 he notes that Chapleau "offered little in terms of natural beauty, plopped down on the lowlands beside the slow moving Chapleau river surrounded by swamp and tracts of funereal black spruce and emaciated jackpine."
He contends that the "town went up in too much of a hurry to allow for anything beautiful in planning or significant architecture adding that most houses were "wood frame two storey boxes the shape of the hotels in a Monopoly game".
"Buildings usually were clad in clapboard because sawn lumber from the bush was more readily available than manufactured brick." Zap, but true in Chapleau's early days.
He refers to Chapleau in its earliest years as a "bleak place" aside from railroading "especially during the long winters of snowdrifts, icy winds and freezing temperatures that could kill anyone without heated shelter".
By this point, in the excerpt, I was not too sure I liked Mr. Poling's description of Chapleau, but continued anyway.
Moving to early Chapleau families - LaFrance, Tremblay, Burns and Aquin specifically, - he became kinder and writes about the importance of family and church.
He notes that many families, French and English, were Roman Catholic and they "built themselves what probably was the finest building in town", Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church.
For many citizens, the church was the "main entertainment place" adding that it was bicultural and bilingual "right down to the stained glass Sacristy windows -- St. Patrick on one side and St. Jean-Baptiste on the other
I did not know that one, and smiled to myself, thinking about all my Irish and French Roman Catholic friends.
Mr. Poling notes that in 1911 a "young, energetic and personable priest" Father Romeo Gascon arrived who quickly became involved in many aspects of community life --- for example, in 1916, my grandfather Harry Morris played on a baseball team called the Young Elephants, coached by Father Gascon. Grandpa was Irish for sure, but an Anglican!
I will leave you with one anecdote that likely involved the LaFrance, Tremblay, Burns and Aquin families who became close friends, and in fact, there were some marriages between the families.
Mr. Poling writes that "booze, not often openly used in conservative families made an occasional appearance.
"One memorable appearance was during Christmas holidays when family celebrations broke out all over town. These people then tied to the railway knew all the train schedules down to the minute and the contents of every car.
"One night, one of the Tremblay boys, who had married into the LaFrance family led a party to the tracks with a brace and bit and several buckets.
"It was a bitter night with the white of one's breath barely visible in the fog of blowing snow. One of the boxcars contained a shipment of fine Scotch whisky that was headed west.
"They drilled through the boxcar's wooden floor into an oak keg and caught the whisky in pails as it drained through the hole."
'Waking Nanabijou: Uncovering a Secret Past' by Jim Poling Sr. is available at www.amazon.ca My email is email@example.com