EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Michael's Musings Go to Time Capsule for 25 Years

Photo by Michael Pelzer
Almost 50 years ago I asked P.V. Wade, the legendary managing editor of the Star-Phoenix in Saskatoon, why he didn't  write a book. 

I had read a couple of his columns and as a young reporter, newly arrived in Saskatchewan from Ontario, I was impressed. Mr. Wade, none of us dared call him Phil, was a World War !! veteran, and had served on the staff of General Dwight Eisenhower, as Canadian press relations officer.

Mr. Wade replied: "I have never written anything that would make it into the plastic books of the 21st Century."

Well, he wasn't quite right about the "plastic books", but in 50 years of doing and teaching journalism and communications, I too never thought anything I have written would survive much past its publication date.

To a great extent, nothing I have written has survived, but was quickly dispatched into the "dustbin of history" taking Ronald Reagan a bit out of context, simply because journalists write the "first (or maybe second) rough drafts of history", attributed to Philip L. Graham, when he was publisher of the Washington Post. Others may or may not complete the stories. Enough already of mixing metaphors!

Therefore, I was most surprised to receive an email inviting me to have my Cranbrook Guardian columns placed in a time capsule being organized in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the city's Sam Steele Days. It will not be opened until the 75th anniversary in 2039.

The time capsule will be closed at a ceremony to be held at the Chamber of Commerce office on June 19.

Here in part is the email I received from Maureen Frank of the Sam Steele Society: "I am helping to coordinate the Community Time Capsule and was wondering if you had a collection of your articles ... to add to its contents. I read your column through the Cranbrook Guardian and feel the topics you write about cover topics that will be of great interest to a future population. I hope you will consider the impact that your writings may have on a future population. Thank you!"

I've never really thought about the possible impact that my writings may have on a future populations. In fact, for 50 years I've wondered if they had any impact on anybody.

When I was at the Star-Phoenix, I was sent to North Battleford to open a bureau for the newspaper. Part of my duties included writing a column for the weekend edition, and I decided to do one on a controversy surrounding the building of a new swimming pool in 1966.

I was really proud of my article and waited until after the locals had time to read the paper before joining them in the bar of the old Auditorium Hotel. We chatted about hockey, weather, curling, crops -- but nobody mentioned my swimming pool column.

Finally, in exasperation, I asked what they thought about my column, and was greeted with dead silence. Eventually, one said, "What column?", and the conversation resumed centred on topics under discussion before I interrupted. Lesson learned.

Anyway, after thinking about Maureen's kind invitation -- and in interests of full disclosure, after sharing the news with three of my closest friends -- I replied and agreed to prepare a collection of Guardian columns for the time capsule. I just couldn't resist.

As I wrote in my first Cranbrook Guardian column in March 2013, I agree with Reynolds Price, the writer, that to "tell and hear stories is essential" -- and he argues it comes second after nourishment and before love and shelter.

"Millions survive without love or home, almost none in silence; the opposite of silence leads quickly to narrative, and the sound of story is the dominant sound of our lives, from the small accounts of our day's events to the vast incommunicable constructs of psychopaths."

In my life for sure, in the brightest and darkest moments, the sound of story is the dominant sound. Think about it. Now I am off for a walk to hear more of the sound of the Cranbrook story. If we meet, please feel free to say hello. And I hope that in 2039 when the time capsule is opened, some will enjoy my stories.

Thanks to Maureen for the invite and special thanks to Jenny Humphrey for publishing my "musings" and to my friend Joel Vinge for as always being there and getting the stories together. My email is mj.morris@live.ca 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tower stories by Tim Cecile from black bears to sunbathing to moonshine

names below

Tim Cecile worked for the Department of Lands and Forest and later the Ministry of Natural Resources for over 30 years (from 1964 until 1997) in the Chapleau District. From 1964 until 1968 he worked summers only and after 1968 he worked full time. He worked on fire crews in the early years and later on was still involved as a camp boss, transportation officer etc. on larger fires in busy fire years. 

Tim relates that one job a fire crew had was to bring in supplies to the tower man and in many areas they could not drive all the way to the tower and had to carry groceries, tanks of propane etc, long distances and of course all uphill, which was very hard bull work. 9E tower in particular (Flame Lake area, highway # 129 south) was a long tough climb, especially with the big propane tanks.

Here are Tower Stories by Tim Cecile:

·       Sometime after the Second World War (late 1940’s) my Uncle Cecil Petrosky was working as a tower man in the Chapleau district (not sure what tower) and while cutting grass around the tower cabin he cut his leg badly with a scythe, he then had to climb to the top of a 80 foot tower to radio for help and he had a very hard time making it to the top. He then had to get back down which was not a lot easier.
Lawless Cecile climbing tower

There is a story (never confirmed) about a young lady who manned a tower at Biscotasing during the Second World War who used to open the hatch and sun bathe nude on the tower cabin roof (80 feet up). Apparently all the float planes would buzz the tower when passing the area to check on her. I worked in Biscotasing on a fire crew in the early 1960’s and heard this story a few times but was not able to confirm it.

There was a fire tower in the Chapleau Crown Game Preserve called Manning tower. This tower always had black bear problems and one tower man was forced to sleep in the tower overnight  on a couple of occasions as the bears had broken into his sleep cabin at the bottom and were eating all his food and hanging around the base of the tower all night. Once he had to wait until the radio operator came in to the Chapleau office in the morning so he could call for help as the bears were still there and he could not get down.
Around 1965 I was working in Biscotasing on a fire crew and they were building a new 100 foot tower to replace the 80 foot tower at Mattagami south of Biscotasing on the CPR main line. I and another young fellow were sent to help just for the day and we were to return to Bisco that night and that all we required was a lunch. They left us there for two full weeks, we had no spare clothes, no sleeping bags (we were in tents and someone gave us a couple of gray army type blankets each). After a couple of days we radioed the Chief Ranger (Bill O’Donnell) to take us out or send us some clothes and our tooth brushes.

 He called us a couple of babies and said tough it out or walk home and if we left we were fired, so we toughed it out. While here we were introduced to the tower man who only had one leg (I think he lost the leg in the Second World War but I am not sure). He had rigged up a barrel full of rocks as a counter balance, complete with pulleys and ropes and would use a special seat to raise and lower himself to the tower and he made it up and down in very quick time.
·       Another interesting thing he had at Matagami tower was a still back in the bush where he made moonshine which he treated us to on a few occasions and was it ever potent stuff. We searched for that still and never found it, we later heard a rumor he had it in hidden in a cave somewhere.  

Thanks Tim for sharing some of your Tower Stories and also to Ken LeClaire for his research assistance.  My email is mj.morris@live.ca    


Crew working on tower. From left Bobby Glowacki, Tim Cecile, Mike Cecile (sitting), Arthur 'Puxie' McAuley, Rodney 'Butch' McAuley (visiting), Larry Elfson, Lawless Cecile (Chief Ranger), Lloyd Woods (Deputy Chief Ranger) Tim Cecile photo collection

Lawless Cecile on ladder climbing up Lackner Tower, built in 1957, Clarence Iserhoff was first "tower man" Tim Cecile photo collection


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