EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Labour Day in 1959 became Hospital Day sponsored by Lady Minto Hospital with 'fun for all ages from oldest to youngest'

Designating it as 'Hospital Day', the Lady Minto Hospital sponsored a day full of activities on Labour Day in 1959.

The program was designed for "fun for all ages from oldest to youngest", according to a report in the Sudbury Star.

The day's activities also provided the opportunity for citizens to meet the staff of the local hospital.

A parade started from the hospital at Elm and Queen streets, in "old Chapleau", led by the hospital float with its "bedside motif" with Beryl Rowntree, Christina Freeborn, Gladys Ryan, Ann Maureen Bedford, and Claire Fortin caring for the patient -- "a huge toy panda".

There were other floats including one from the Senior Citizens, as well as the Town Band and the Branch Number 5 of the Royal Canadian Legion Pipe Band. The parade ended at the Beach area.

The nurses on the hospital float took up station in the Lodge Room (upstairs) in the Town Hall for a polio shot clinic supervised by Dr. G. E. 'Ted' Young. It was a busy place with 276 people getting a shot. Mrs. Audrey Bertrand arrived to assist at the clinic.

Registrars were Mrs. D.O. Payette, Mrs. Rita Bedford and Mrs. Mansel Robinson.

Down at the beach races got underway for the youngsters organized by J.M. Shoup, who had been doing this job for as long as I can remember. Mr. Shoup had just retired as long time principal of Chapleau Public School in 1958.

A very popular event sponsored by the Catholic Women's League of Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church was a pigtail contest. Winners in the various age categories were from youngest -- Lynn Hazen, Helene Tremblay, Joan Martin and Linda Marchioni. Mrs. Ed McCarthy was in charge.

Over at the ball field behind Chapleau High School a championship minor league baseball game between the Cubs and Bruins got underway for the Broomhead Trophy. The Bruins emerged victorious and team captain Neil Midkiff accepted the trophy from D.J. 'Jim' Broomhead.

There was also another ball game with teams coached by Keith 'Buddy' Swanson and Tommy Godfrey which was apparently very popular, but results not revealed.

Meanwhile, another popular event was underway at the Beach area where Walter Broomhead and daughter Karen were providing pony rides for the youngsters.

There was a dance in the Town Hall basement in the evening, highlighted a draw for a car -- winner was George Brady.

Chair for the day was C.B Greenlaw, and committee members included George Riesz, Mr. Shoup. Jim Purich, Vince Crichton, Sylvia Crozier, Mary Chrusoskie, Mrs. W.W. Lawrence, Mrs. George McCallum, Mrs. A. Boulard, and "many others"
In May a successful Tag Day had been held. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Chapleau experiencing 'tremendous power shift' too as societal change in communications takes place globally

More than 20 years  ago now Howard Rheingold, one of the pioneers of virtual communities, said that " a tremendous power shift is underway ... this power shift is about people and our ability to connect with each other in new ways... "

Speaking at the first Writers' Retreat on Interactive Technology and Equipment conference sponsored by the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and Emily Carr College of Art and Design, Rheingold noted in 1994 that he was struck by the "citizen-to citizen movement now known as virtual community" popping up everywhere he travelled.

I was at the conference preparing to teach my first Writing for New Media course at College of the Rockies where I was also working on the development of a grad program in New (Social) Media Communications launched a year later. Very few people at the time agreed with Rheingold and other internet pioneers who believed as I did that we were embarking on the biggest societal change in communications since the days of Gutenberg and his printing press.

I spoke on the topic of how the Internet could defeat politicians, or help them win,  at an annual conference of the Canadian Association of Journalists in 1996,  and argued, that in due course, it would be a major contributing factor. Interestingly, the old guard in the room vehemently disagreed with me, while campus journalists supported my position.The old guard, and me, had never heard of Barack Obama in 1995.
in my office at COTR circa 1995

Fast forward to now! You don't hear much about virtual communities now, as all the talk is about social media. The power shift has occurred despite the naysayers then and now, because of our need to connect, one with the other, and we have choices like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Skype, and yes, even email.

Recently, I have been thinking about Chapleau folks and how they are connecting with each other no matter where they may live today as I watch a group of Facebook friends communicate with each other each morning. They share the weather report from where they live, so typically Canadian, and other news. I won't identify them as I did not request permission to use their names but I really enjoy their daily meeting.

I have used three photos with this column to provide examples of three Chapleau pages on Facebook which are in my view at least very successful. 

One is the Chapleau History and Genealogy group launched by Louise (Tremblay) Etter which now has over 1,500 members. Its members provide awesome photos and comments related to the history of Chapleau and its people.

I enjoy "Chapleau Kebsquasheshing" the golf club page because weekly it provides information on club activities, most particularly "Adult Night" winners. Despite my almost 30 years away from Chapleau, I still can identify most of the golfers.

And I selected the Trinity United Church page as a great example of how to keep members informed on church activities.

There are many other Chapleau pages, which I am delighted to see, and should any wish to contact me about them please feel free to do so.

Despite having taught social media, I joined Facebook  some years ago now  at the suggestion of former students, and I extend great thanks to them. I have been able to reconnect with so many people with whom I had lost touch for many years, and catch up on their lives. Facebook is also an example of the success of new media with its convergence of all media to digital forms.

At any given time on Facebook, "friends" are using text, still photos, videos and all kind of cool things to communicate with one another and a broader audience if they wish. One-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many!!! While I have focused on Facebook, others like Twitter and Instagram are also in the mix.

While teaching new media at COTR I made many fearless predictions about where we were headed. At times I really didn't have a clue but knew something big was happening. I am still learning.

In the COTR library where students had access to computers, they were banned by the powers-that-be from accessing chat rooms, which in those days was the main reason the students wanted to use the computers. To me it was a sure sign that big changes could not be far off. The kids were way ahead in social networking, while the established order wanted to ban them from the practice. Now kids are "tweeting" and "facebooking" and so on.

When I think of it though, my generation liked to pass notes around the classroom to our friends, which of course was forbidden. Now they stay in touch by texting each other on cel phones, and using Facebook, Twitter, etc. Plus ca change. Plus c`est la meme chose.

I would love to hear your comments on social media and its place in your life, and how you enjoy staying connected with others. Critics welcome too!

My email is mj.morris@live.ca, or feel free to contact me on Facebook.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Cones dropping on roof of tent nestled among pine trees 'great fun' for pupils at early Chapleau school

The first schools established in Chapleau shortly after the community were  established in 1885 was in a tent, according to a handwritten history of life in the fledging community included in the Richard Brownlee papers.

The handwriting is excellent but I can't say for sure if Mr. Brownlee, who arrived in Chapleau in February 1886,  wrote it some years later but it is a great read. Mr. Brownlee's first barbershop was in a tent in "old" Chapleau where the Lady Minto Hospital was built at Elm and Queen streets in 1914. He later in 1886 moved to a leanto attached to the T.A. Austin store in the present downtown area,

As an aside, I wonder if today anyone is keeping "handwritten" notes on Chapleau as it is today. If so I would love to hear from you.

The first school was  in a tent, then in the first Roman Catholic Church at Birch and Lorne where Collins Home Hardware is now for short time, then back to a tent located on Beech Street where the Trinity United Church Manse is located beside the church.

The writer noted that "It was a very pretty spot and the tent nestled among the big pine trees. Great fun was had when the pine cones dropped on the roof making a drumming noise. There were twelve rough hewn seats in the school.

"Another feature of this school was the big stove in the middle, and those who sat near it roasted, while those away froze."

However, by about 1891, a school was located in a small building on Pine beside the Rectory of St. John's Anglican Church.

This was schooling in the community as the 20th century arrived, and Chapleau was incorporated as a municipaility in 1901.

Education of the children however was on the minds of the first council as the writer says that "the first act of the new council was to float debentures for the erection of a public school."

It was built beside St. John's Anglican Church, and later became Chapleau High School

G.B. Nicholson was the first reeve and he was returned by acclamation in the election held each year until he retired from the office in 1913. Members of the first council were A. Rathwell, D. Royal, P.J. MacFarlane and W. Boswell.

Once again my sincere thanks to Margaret Rose (Payette) and Bobby Fortin who kindly loaned me the Richard Brownlee papers. I am writing this column as a state of emergency was declared for Cranbrook and area because of wildfires. Our heat wave continues too.

ADDENDUM  In my column on Charles W. Collins, in providing the names of family members who have managed the business I failed to include Susan Collins, granddaughter of Mr. Collins and daughter of George Collins. My apologies! Thanks Jordan for the email.

Also, the gremlins were really at work as I wrote in my lead of all places that in 1918, the business would mark 90 years with the Collins name. It should have been 2018, next year.

I started my newspaper career at the Timmins Daily Press 53 years ago on September 1, 1964, and there are still occasions when I don't manage to get the words right!  My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Charles W Collins active in Chapleau community life established retail business associated with family name in 1928

In 2018, the Collins name will have been associated with retail business in Chapleau for 90 years, but its founder Charles W. Collins, also played an active role in many other aspects of community life.

Mr. Collins was the son of Mr. and Mrs. P.J. Collins who arrived in Chapleau in 1909. With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, soon thereafter many Chapleau boys enlisted in the armed forces, and a plaque in St. John's Anglican Church notes that he was one of 42 church members who were  in the forces by 1916.

Let's go back to 1885, and a few years beyond for a moment. Alexandre Langis arrived at 615.1 on the Canadian Pacific Railway with a contract from the company to clear the land that would become the townsite of Chapleau.

After completing the contract Mr. Langis stayed with the CPR but left to start a business with one E. Jackman at 4 Birch Street West at Young and Birch Street. The building happened to be owned by my great-great uncle Patrick Mulligan. He had established Murrays and Mulligan, General Merchants, on that site in 1887.

An Albert Desjardins came to Chapleau in 1908 from Montreal and bought out Mr. Jackman so the name was changed to Desjardins and Langis.

In 1909 they relocated to the southwest corner of Birch and Lorne streets which for a short time had been the site of the first Roman Catholic church.

Later, Harry Wolfe, who was the son-in-law of Mr. Langis, purchased the interests of Mr. Desjardins, and in 1924 the store became known as Langis and Wolfe.
names below
In 1928, Charles W. Collins bought out Mr. Langis and the store became known as Wolfe and Collins. The Collins name has been associated with ownership of a  store at that location ever since.  In due course Mr. Wolfe left the business and Fred Matters became a partner, and the store became Collins and Matters. When Mr. Matters left it became Charles W. Collins Stores Ltd and now the fourth generation of the family is in the business.

They have been Mr. Collins followed by his son George, his granddaughter Susan,  his grandson Doug, and now his great-grandson Joshua. Over the years other members of the family have also been associated with the store.

No other name has been associated with a locally owned business in Chapleau in its entire history for as long as Collins has.

Charles Collins was also active in the community, and by 1950 he was chair of the board of Lady Minto Hospital and encouraging its members to accept the need for renovations. The hospital had opened in 1914.

 At the annual meeting of 1952, Mr. Collins, and D.O. Payette, secretary, presented plans which would also include a nurses' residence. 

Mr. Collins urged the board members to go on record as supporting the project "100 percent" which they did.

By 1955 the renovations including the nurses' residence had been completed. The sun parlours on the east and west ends of the hospital located on Elm Street, across from Queen Street.

Of all the improvements perhaps the most important was an elevator that became a reality through a generous gift from the W.E. Mason Foundation. Mr. Mason was a great supporter of Northern Ontario and founder of the Sudbury Star newspaper.

The kitchen had been moved to the basement with all new equipment described as 'the last word in cooking convenience for large scale service.
names below

As the 1950s began, Chapleau installed a sewage system while Mr. Collins was president of the Chapleau Board of Trade, (Chamber of Commerce). Mr. Collins was also supportive of the Chapleau Memorial Community Arena opened in 1951. 

Mr. Collins was also a member of Branch Number 5 of the Royal Canadian Legion, a charter member of the Chapleau Rotary Club, and St. John's Anglican Church where he served on the advisory board for many years.

Over the years renovations were undertaken at the store.

After Mr. Collins retired, and his son George became president, and 30 years ago in 1987, the company bought Pro Hardware, which had been part of the Smith and Chapple Ltd. complex. 

My email is mj.morris@live.ca

1930s Staff of Collins and Matters: Back row left to right: Fred Card, Fred Matters, Charles W. Collins, Herbie Vezina. Front row left to right: Olive Vezina, Beth Inges, Gertrude Currie (Curry)

Launch of Chapleau sewage system project 1950: Dr. D.W. Lougheed, Arthur J. Grout, Cecil A. Smith, Unknown, W. Steed, R. Thrush, B.W. Zufelt, Ernest Lepine, E. Brunette, Jack Shoup, Richard Brownlee, Dr. G. E. Young, Clyde Fife, D.O. Payette, Charles W. Collins.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Anne (Zufelt) McGoldrick 'genealogist extraordinaire' spent countless hours assisting friends with search for ancestors

Just over 40 years ago now, Anne (Zufelt) McGoldrick with her sister Betty, started a project to identify all their ancestors.

Over the years, it took them on trips to England and the Eastern United States as they researched their families. They scoured literally thousands of documents on their journey seeking their roots.

They were the children of the late Elsie (Hunt) and B.W. 'Bubs' Zufelt, and in the interests of full disclosure, before I go any further, I am their cousin. My mother, Muriel (Hunt) Morris and their mother Elsie were sisters. Anne was born in Chapleau, and raised there along with her sisters Betty and Joan, now deceased, and Leslie.

Her father served as Reeve of Chapleau from 1948 to 1955.

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from  Anne advising me that she had been hospitalized but was home, and as she told me about her illness, commented "I hope I'm not depressing you"  -- so typical of Anne, always thinking about the other person.
Zufelt family: Betty, Elsie, Bubs. Front Leslie, Anne, Joan

In her email, Anne mentioned our grandmother Edythe Hunt, our 'Nanny', the unshakable lady who was back in England when World War II broke out, joined a nursing unit and stayed until almost the end of the war when she returned to Chapleau. Nanny was an important person in our lives.

When Michael McMullen and I were writing 'The Chapleau Boys Go To War' we referred to Anne as genealogist extraordinaire. If she didn't know a person, she was quick to discover all there was to know. She spent countless hours going over lists of names and generating new ones, and providing answers to our research requests.

With her sisters Betty, Joan and Leslie, she also did a story on our grandmother.

Anne has also been of immense assistance to me with Chapleau Moments.

She also assisted many Chapleau friends in their quests for information about their ancestors.

 She and her late husband Michael 'Mike' McGoldrick, raised their four children Jeff, Hugh, Laurie and Toby, in Chapleau but she also found time to be involved in community life.

That involvement began when she was attending Chapleau High School as a student where she participated in the annual school play and was a member of the Bugle Band of 1181 Chapleau High School Cadet Corps.

In the 1970s, during a time of great expansion at Chapleau High School and Chapleau Public School, she served several terms on the Chapleau Board of Education.

A member of the Ladies Auxiliary to Branch Number 5 of the Royal Canadian Legion, she served as its president in 1988-89. She had relatives on both sides of her family who served in Canada's armed forces, including her uncle, my father Flying Officer Jim Morris who was killed on active service in the RCAF in 1943.

She was also active in St. John's Anglican Church, starting as a choir member while growing up in Chapleau. Anne was following a family tradition in the choir where our grandfather George Hunt had been choirmaster, and Nanny, her mother and aunt (my mother) as well as her sisters were choir members. I was in the Junior Choir.

She was also a member of the Anglican Church Women.

Most recently Anne had become a major contributor to the Chapleau History and Genealogy page on Facebook, posting photos and comments about the life and times  and people of Chapleau. Her posts brought back great memories, and were greatly appreciated.

Anne and Mike retired to North Bay where she continued her passion for genealogy, but returned home to Chapleau in the Summer to spend time at 'The Camp' with her many good friends.

In North Bay, Anne sang with the Baytones and was a  member of the North Bay Genealogical Society.

Shortly after I received her email, her son Hugh messaged me that his mother was back in hospital.

On August 17, Rebecca Anne (Zufelt) McGoldrick died. May she rest in peace. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Forest fire threatened completion of Chapleau Centennial project in 1967 but 'All's well that ends well'

The  Centennial Committee was "amazed" at the generosity of Chapleau citizens and businesses, present and past, as support for its building project gave it sufficient cash and pledges received to proceed "in all haste" to complete the project by July 1, 1967.

In fact, volunteers were busy putting the roof on the building during one of the hottest May days on record with all material donated by local lumber companies including Chapleau Lumber Co. Ltd,  A and L Lafreniere Lumber Ltd., J.E Martel and Sons Lumber Ltd., K.W. Biglow, Sheppard and Morse Ltd., Island Lake Lumber Ltd (Oliver Korpela), and Domtar of Sudbury.

All material was being transported by (Tee) Chambers Cartage and Lloyd MacGillivray Cartage. The municipality had made equipment available and employees Mel Black and Maurice Marion operated it on their own time.

Donations were being received and acknowledged in the Chapleau Sentinel and perhaps Grant (Grizz) Henderson, a former citizens summed up the enthusiasm with his comment: "Let the horns blow, the drums bang, the cymbals clang, let the clan gather." He called it  a Come Home Weekend, a Centennial Old Time Party.

Good news had been received from the CPR that it would provide heat for the building to be located in Centennial Park alongside Engine 5433, that had been placed there in 1964, a gift from Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Grout.

Planning for the Centennial project had actually been underway since 1963, but got moving after the Centennial Park was established. Mr. Grout was the chairman.

And then, with apologies to the  poet Robbie Burns for modernizing his words in  'To a Mouse', the "best laid plans of mice and men often go awry..."

The hot weather continued into June and a forest fire was threatening the community by June 3.

District Forester Jim Keddie advised Reeve T.C. "Terry" Way-White of the situation and a meeting was held in the Town Hall attended by the council and other citizens as well as lands and forests personnel and Ontario Provincial Police. The decision was made to evacuate the municipality and the order was given by Mr. Way-White. The exodus began on Sunday afternoon with between 800-900 vehicles beginning the trek out of town after the signal had been given to evacuate. There were 90 boxcars in the CPR yard and a hospital train had left Sudbury to assist with the emergency. At its peak, nearly 400 firefighters were fighting the fire.

Just before the evacuation the Chapleau Sentinel had reported that if "we are not burnt out" the project would be completed on time.

On June 6, the Chicago Tribune reported that residents began "streaming back to their homes after pelting rain relieved the fear the town might be destroyed by a forest fire..." (When I Googled for dates on the fire, the Chicago Tribune story appeared right at the top)

Work resumed and "All's well that ends well", as it was officially opened on time in pouring rain, but the sun  came out in the afternoon. It was opened by Gaston Demers, MPP for Nickel Belt assisted by Mr. Grout and Reeve Way-White.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

D.O. Payette honoured for 'untiring efforts' when he retired as Chapleau Fire Chief in 1946

When D.O. Payette retired as Chapleau Fire Chief in 1946, he received a letter which honoured him for his "untiring efforts" and years of service to the volunteer fire brigade.

As I write, most of British Columbia where I now live is in a "state of emergency" as a result of wildfires which have resulted in evacuation alerts, and evacuations of some communities. At various times in its history, Chapleau has faced a similar situation, as well as serious fires within the community.

Although the letter of thanks was directed to Mr. Payette, it struck me that its message applies to men and women like him, full-time and part-time who are first responders to this day. We owe all of them a debt of gratitude.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Amy Green 'a real heroine' in Chapleau who expressed herself in beautiful music ready to play for all occasions

When St John's Anglican Church celebrated its 90th anniversary in 1975, Rev William P. Ivey paid special tribute to Mrs Amy Green, who at the time had served as church organist for 13 years, having responded to a call to take the position on a "temporary" basis.

Mr Ivey referred to her as "a real heroine. She is an excellent organist and is unfailingly ready to play for every service, choir practice, wedding, funeral and special occasion that arises."

Although Mrs Green continued as organist for about 30 years, her contribution to the community overall as pianist and organist was summed up in article written after she died in 1995.   

"As long as she had the strength to sit on a piano bench and the eyesight to read the music she  expressed herself in beautiful music that will live on in the hearts of all all that knew her."

In 1984, when I was writing 'Sons of Thunder ... Apostles of Love' to mark the 100th anniversary of St John's I had a chat with Mrs Green who provided me with an anecdote involving my grandmother Lil (Mulligan) Morris.

Apparently my grandmother played a role in Mrs. Green becoming church organist. She revealed the following "... when I told my neighbor Mrs Morris, your grandmother, that Mr Doolan (Rev J.G.M. Doolan) wanted me to stay and play the organ that Sunday and I had wanted to go to Toronto to buy a long white dress for the Eastern Star where I would have the office of organist,  Mrs Morris said that if I would stay and play the organ that she would make me a dress for Eastern Star.

"So Mrs Morris and I went over to Simpsons order office and looked through the catalogue and ordered the material and your grandmother made my long white dress for all special meetings as officers. So I started playing the church organ in 1962."

My grandparents Lil (Mulligan) and Harry Morris lived right beside Amy (Pitts) and Len Green on Elgin Street --- at Teak Street with the Green house on the corner!

Born in England in 1900, she arrived in Chapleau in 1913,with her parents Louisa and Frank Pitts after her parents had read an article by Rev. Guy Rogers extolling the virtues of Northern Ontario  and Chapleau which he had visited.

Although Rev Rogers had good things to say about Chapleau and St. John's when he visited, he also commented "How the early settlers stood the monotony and hardship of life is known only to them and God. What it must be like to live at some pinpoint when the temperatures fall far below zero!"

Apparently, the family arrived in Chapleau during a March blizzard, and was ready to leave before life in the community really began, but the outpouring of friendship kept them there. The article about Mrs Green notes that Rev Percy Soanes, rector of St John's formed a welcoming committee, and her father got employment in the CPR office. Her mother, who was an excellent cook, was hired by Dr. J.J. Sheahan, who also provided accommodation for the family.

She had been unable to bring her piano from England but Mr and Mrs Bill Lyness made the piano in their home available to her.

She graduated from the continuation school in Chapleau and then attended Kingston Business College.

Her father enlisted in 1916, in the Canadian Army in World War I, but became ill and returned to Canada in 1918. He died in 1922.

Chapleau friendship continued as Mr. Lyness and friends came together and built the Elgin Street house for them. This was really quite common in the early days, as I recall my grandfather telling me about friends helping build their house --- and after World War II, our camp at Healy.

She married Len Green who had come to Chapleau for a short visit from England in 1924.

By this time the area where they lived in Chapleau was referred to as 'Little England' --- some of the families in the neighbourhood were Green, Wedge, Hands, Mitchell, and a bit later Card and Austin, and of course my grandparents.  To this day I am not sure if my grandparents really qualified as they were Irish.

As time passed Mrs Green's ability as an accompaniest became well known and she was called upon to play piano and/or organ at many events.

Her husband Len, who had served in the armed forces in World War I, was a charter member of Branch 5 of the Royal Canadian Legion, while she was a charter member of the Ladies Auxiliary, also serving as president. In 1985 she was awarded a 50-year membership pin.

Mrs Green was also recognized for her bookkeeping skills and for 17 years served as secretary treasurer of the public school board, as well as working for the CPR and Austin Lumber and other places where she was needed.

She was also librarian for  number of years where one of her favourite visitors was a young man by the name of Ted Young, who apparently loved mystery stories. She followed his career and he eventually became her doctor when he returned home as Dr G.E. 'Ted' Young. 

Gardening and reading were two of her passions and she continued both all her life. She read a book a day!

In 1937, Mrs. Green learned that an old trapper's cabin was available at Healy, and she bought it for $25. It became an important place for summer vacation, and after World War II, we joined them there when my grandfather, assisted by my mother Muriel E (Hunt) Morris built a camp there.

Len Green as well as other Healy residents also assisted in the construction, extending Chapleau friendship beyond its boundaries! The Green family also built a new camp.

 For me, bridging the great physical divide in Chapleau because of the CPR tracks, and living on the "other side" of town from my father's parents, but visiting them often, and camping at Healy, were so very important to me. I lived on Grey Street with my mother Muriel (Hunt) Morris and my other grandparents, Edythe and George Hunt. Most readers will know my father Flying Officer Jim Morris was killed on active service in the RCAF during World War II. My email is mj.morris@live.ca  

Thursday, July 27, 2017

World War II bomber pilot Oliver Korpela expanded family lumber operations in Chapleau area

Oliver Korpela, perhaps best known in Chapleau as a lumberman, actually wore many hats, including one as a bomber pilot in World War II, whose plane was shot down over Holland in 1944.

Born in Nemegos on the Canadian Pacific Railway line east of Chapleau on June 18, 1920, in his early years, Oliver spoke Finnish, French and Cree, according to Oiva W. Saarinen in his book "Between a Rock and a Hard Place".  There was nobody to teach him English.

His grandfather and father had arrived in Nemegos in the early 20th century and had become logging contractors, cutting and delivering logs to be sawed into mining timbers and railway ties.

As a youngster Oliver enjoyed hunting, fishing, trapping, canoeing, skiing and swimming.

However, by 1931 he had moved to Sudbury and attended school until the end of Grade 10. By 1939 and the outbreak of World War II, Oliver wanted to join the Royal Canadian Air Force but his first obstacle was that he had no birth certificate. Nobody had registered his birth. This was resolved.

This was sorted out but he could not train as a pilot without Grade 13, so he took a crash course, upgraded and was posted to pilot training.
courtesy Richard Korpela

Posted to England after graduation as a pilot officer, he later joined the Royal Air Force Bomber Command and conducted successful bombing missions over Germany flying Lancaster bombers.

In September 1944, his Lancaster was shot down, and he parachuted safely into Holland.

Oliver ended up aided by the Dutch underground. His experience is included in his memoir 'The Autobiography of a Bomber Pilot" a copy of which was kindly provided to me by his son Richard Korpela.
courtesy Richard Korpela

Disguised as a mute Dutch tailor he eluded capture by the Germans until Holland was liberated in 1945. A fascinating story in itself.

Upon arriving in Sudbury, Oliver went to the barber shop at the Coulson Hotel, and discovered that his parents were staying in the hotel -- apparently a great welcome home party was held.

After returning to Canada after the war, he worked for Kormak Lumber Company founded by his father and Oliver Maki.

As a part-time bush pilot  Oliver made Kormak one of the first lumber company's to do extensive timber cruising from the air. He continued flying into his late seventies.

After the major forest fire of 1948, the company opened mills at Flame Lake --- Oliver was in one of the first cars to travel over Highway 129 from Thessalon to Chapleau in 1949 when it opened.
Earle Sootheran, Tom Godfrey, Oliver

As an aside, Flame Lake was such a going concern that the Ontario Provincial Police stationed an officer there for a time.

Interestingly, at one point in the company's expansion they chartered aircraft to bring workers from Finland.

By the 1960s,  the lumber operations included Kormak, Island Lake and Wesmak, which were all amalgamated into Wesmak with Oliver as president. In 1966 he acquired Biglow Lumber Company with Fred Fielding. All merged in due course after taking over Chapleau Lumber in 1981 and became Chapleau Forest Products Limited.

Oliver wore many hats including bomber pilot, bush pilot, lumberman, horse rancher and philanthropist.

After the war he became active in the Royal Canadian Legion, and following his death on February 19, 2006, his son Richard made a presentation of $5,000 from his father's estate to Branch No 5 president Darryl Brunette for the branch.

Oliver will also be remembered for his generosity in donating 27 acres of land  for a Finnish Senior Citizens Complex in the Minnow Lake area at Sudbury, as well as a significant donation for a wetlands park which bears his name. 

I extend my most sincere thanks to Richard Korpela, Oliver's son, who provided me with a copy of 'The Autobiography of a Bomber Pilot' --- a fascinating read.  My email is mj.morris@live.ca

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