EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Saturday, July 9, 2016

Reflections on Chapleau Moments: "With old friends, you've got your whole life in common"

Reflecting on having written Chapleau Moments for seven years now, increasingly I agree with a comment once made by country singer Lyle Lovett about old friends.

"You don't have to have anything in common with people you've known since you were five. With old friends, you've got your whole life in common." the singer wrote.

For example, when Kevin Walker contributed his "I'm so Chapleau" anecdotes, others commented, all having Chapleau in common, no matter where they may live now.

In 2015, after Dakotah Woods started to play for the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, it resulted in much hockey talk, mostly about who (in my opinion) was Chapleau's greatest hockey player. 

As an aside Dakotah has visited Chapleau and met with youth from Brunswick House First Nation and Chapleau Cree First Nation... Watch for details!

That's one I wouldn't touch although several who played on teams I coached and managed in the 1970s would most assuredly be in the running -- "homebrew and otherwise" -- which incidentally was the title of a column written by my father Jim Morris in the Chapleau High School magazine circa 1932. How do I know as there was no byline on the story -- the late D.J 'Jim' Broomhead, a friend of my dad's told me so.

My personal favourite hockey player as a kid was Garth 'Tee' Chambers. 

When I was 'home' in 2015 for the launch of 'The Chapleau Boys Go To War' which I co-authored with my cousin Michael McMullen, it was a mini reunion with friends who still live in Chapleau and those who came home to show support -- yes, Lyle Lovett was right. As we chatted, I realized we had our whole lives in common.

And, thanks to Jim Hong, whose family has been running a business in Chapleau for nigh on to  100 years, we gathered at the 'Boston' about which at least one book could be written.

A highlight of my visit was the kindness of my lifelong -- at least since we were both five -- friend, Ken Schroeder, who took me on a nostalgic tour of backlanes, pointing out all the backyards and who lived there when we were kids.

Ken has an incredible memory, but I still have not quite figured out why he insisted he take my photo in the rhubarb patch in the backyard of the house where he was raised on Aberdeen Street.

I have been doing and teaching journalism and communications, one way and another close to 60 years now, and while doing a column on Ernest Lepine, reaiized that one of the stories I covered was the occasion when Mr. Lepine presented eggs to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau at the CPR station in 1982, and I had photos of it. I covered it for CBC Television News, while living in Chapleau.

I am so pleased to have been able to do  a column about the refugee family which arrived in Chapleau this year, and be able to refer to comments made by the late George Evans about why live in Chapleau. Although George arrived as an adult, I am sure all would agree he was so Chapleau!

During the seven years that I am been writing Chapleau Moments, thanks to Mario Lafreniere, it has struck me time and time again, of the accomplishments of Chapleau people both within the community and beyond its borders  -- ordinary people from a community, carved out of the wilderness of Northern Ontario -- doing exceptional things in times of peace and war.  I have only scratched the surface in sharing their success stories.

In  2016, for example, Chapleau can be justifiably proud of Liz Howard, who became the youngest winner of the prestigious Griffin Poetry prize.
Congratulations Liz.

Thanks to Doug Greig for all his help over the years.

Finally, I am so indebted to my friends Margaret Rose (Payette) and Bobby Fortin for kindly loaning me the Richard Brownlee Papers which provide such meaningful insights into the early history of Chapleau. 

Incidentally, Mr. Brownlee became my first real friend before I was five years old. My mother Muriel E. (Hunt) Morris and I were living with Mom's sister Elsie and her husband B.W. 'Bubs' Zufelt on Beech Street. 

I would wander over to Main Street and Mr. Brownlee's barber shop to visit. He would take me for drives in his car. When my grandmother Edythe Hunt came home in 1944 after serving as a nurse in England during World War II, she arrived with her arm in a sling. I couldn't wait to go and tell Mr. Brownlee that "Hitler had wounded her." She had sprained her wrist!

Thanks to all who have been in touch with comment, ideas, suggestions. Yes, we do have our "whole lives in common." 

Thomas Wolfe told us that you, and me, "can't go home to your family, back home to your childhood ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting all the time -- back home to the escapes of Time and Memory." Sorry Mr. Wolfe but I disagree.

Every blessing!  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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Following the American Dream from Chapleau. CLICK ON IMAGE