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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Pioneer citizen Elizabeth Holding a 'vital part' of Chapleau development for over 50 years

Elizabeth Holding was "a vital part of the development" of Chapleau for more than 50 years, according to a tribute in the Sudbury Star after she died in 1959.

Although the writer is not named I assume it was Margaret Costello who was writing for the newspaper in 1959 as Chapleau correspondent.

The story notes that St. John's Anglican Church was "blanked with flowers and filled with friends to pay final tribute to one of Chapleau's earliest and well loved residents." The funeral service was conducted by Rev. J.G.M. Doolan, the church's Rector.

Born in England, the daughter of Robert and Louisa Holding, the family arrived in Chapleau in 1890. For the first six weeks until their belongings arrived, "wooden boxes served as tables and chairs while the floor served as beds."

 Her first schooling was in a tent located beside the present Trinity United Church, and continued in the first school house on Pine Street beside the Anglican church rectory. Her teacher there was Miss Charlotte Weller, who would become the wife of G.B. Nicholson, Chapleau's first reeve, and prominent businessman, later a Member of Parliament.

Apparently she was an excellent student as the article notes that "her keen mind absorbed readily what she was taught" and "her school work bore the stamp of care, order and attention " that were evident through the years in her daily living.

Her father, Robert Holding, built a house on Beech Street calling it the Crusoe House, recalling a seafaring experience he had when he was marooned on an island.

On July 1, 1900, she married Charles Frederick Vice, who was an engineer on the CPR. They lived in Crusoe House.

"During the early years of the railroad wrecks were not uncommon. Survivors were brought to Crusoe House for food, shelter and care. There was always room for those in need of help."

Now Mrs. Vice, she started to become active in community affairs and when Mr. and Mrs. Nicholson built St. John's Parish House in 1919  in memory of their son Lorne and his friends who were killed in World War I, (now the Royal Canadian Legion Hall),she and her husband became its supervisors. She also became the librarian.  The building was officially opened in 1920.

Very active in the life of St. John's Church, she sang in the choir, taught Sunday School, and was active in the Women's Auxiliary and member of the Nicholson Bible Class. This class was taught by Mr. Nicholson for more than 25 years, assisted by Mr. P.J. Collins, the father of Charles W. Collins.

In the wider community, Mrs. Vice was a charter member of the Ladies of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, the Orange Lodge, the Canadian Club and other organizations.

Her father, along with other business ventures, was a prospector with great faith in the future of Chapleau and area and his daughter showed public   spirit and great interest in the growth of the community, the article noted.

Frederick James Annand, a friend of her husband's arrived on the scene, and he and Mr. Vice worked on the construction of some of Chapleau's oldest buildings. Mr. Vice was a stonemason by trade.

Mr. and Mrs. Vice somewhat later moved to Swayze for a for a  time, and a newspaper reporter covering the gold mine story interviewed them. Mr. Annand who had left the area saw it and got back in touch.

In 1942, Mr. Vice died and Mr. Annand once again saw the story. He got in and in 1947, he and Mrs. Vice were married, and moved to the United States, but her life always remained "entwined with Chapleau's development."

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Chapleau fire brigade holds fundraisers for dress uniforms in 1962 along with arrival of new fire truck

Margaret Costello was "drifting across town", likely in her Volkswagen, one evening in early 1962, heading for a council meeting which  had been postponed, but discovered a bingo game underway in the Town Hall basement.

Better known as "Maggie" she was the local reporter for the Sudbury Star, and later the Sault Daily Star for many years.

The bingo game in progress downstairs had more people playing then she had seen in a long time, so she went to find out what it was all about.

She asked C.O. 'Olie' Carlson, the township clerk and fire truck driver, "Whose bingo is this?," she asked.

"The fire brigade's", he replied, Margaret wrote in her Sudbury Star column. Just a quick aside. For many years, the township clerk was also the fire truck driver and lived in an apartment above the old fire hall on Pine Street. T.R. Serre and Vern Goldstein, two of the previous township clerks had lived in the apartment.

Margaret chatted with Fire Chief Adam Andrews to find out why the fire brigade was holding a bingo.

The fire chief explained that the bingo, along with  other activities, was to raise funds to provide the firefighters with dress uniforms.

She wrote they would add "distinction to our already outstanding fire brigade by providing members with uniforms, smart and individually tailored."

But, they were not for fighting fires but for special occasions in which they participated. From this beginning in 1962, the fire department members, have been present at so many special occasions and functions in Chapleau, the most recent being the ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in World War II on April 9. Thanks to Pat (Purich) Russell for providing me with photos from the Chapleau ceremony at the cenotaph.

In talking with Maggie, the fire chief commented, "And it's not costing the taxpayer a cent", as fundraisers were being held.

Maggie pointed out that the chief had good reason to be proud of the work of this brigade and of the acquisition of a new fire truck which would also mean a saving to taxpayers in the form of lower insurance with better equipment to fight fires.

She complimented the fire brigade on it promptness and efficient performance.

Chapleau township council had approved a new truck and "this monster" arrived by December 1961.

The truck carried a 500 gallon tank, a 625 gallon per minute pump for where water was available, breathing apparatus, hoses, ladders and equipment for firefighters. They spent two days training in the use of the new equipment.

In 1958, Chapleau saw a great improvement in its fire alarm system. The boxes found on many street corners were replaced with a new system installed in the old pumphouse by Bell Telephone. Apparently it was the first in Northern Ontario.

A special phone was installed in the home of all fire brigade members. When the pumper received a call, he went to a special booth and placed call, and provided exact information on the location of the fire. It also determined how many firefighters were available. Also in 1958, Adam Andrews succeeded George Collinson as fire chief.

ERRATA: In my recent column about Prime Minister  Lester Pearson sending telegram to Chapleau telephone operators extending congratulations on their work during the forest fire of 1965, the gremlins were at work. I wrote that acting chief operator was Mrs. Mary "Bowles". Not so! It was Mrs. Mary Bowes, and I apologize for the error. Thanks to her son Bob Bowes, for his email. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Prime Minister Lester Pearson extended congratulations to Chapleau telephone operators, 'unsung heroes' of 1965 forest fire

Prime Minister Lester B Pearson sent a telegram of congratulations to Chapleau telephone operators on their efforts during the forest fire that threatened the community in 1965.

Mr. Pearson, who also served as Member of Parliament for Algoma East which included Chapleau, wrote in the telegram to Mrs. Mary Bowes, acting chief operator, "I shared in the relief I know all of you must have felt when the winds shifted and the rains finally came averting the destruction of Chapleau.

"May I congratulate you personally and the members of your staff for your coolness and bravery.

"You have every reason to be proud of your role in a situation which proved the fortitude of the citizens of Chapleau."

While many Chapleau citizens were being evacuated, the telephone operators remained and were working 24/7 handling a record number of calls on the system which had been in use since 1951 when operator assisted calls replaced the dial system.

The Chapleau Sentinel reported that the telephone operators were "unsung heroes" throughout the fire that ravaged the area and seriously threatened the town.
Operators busy during fire

In turns they "took an hour off here and an hour off there and grabbed something to eat whenever they could" and then rushed back to work.

Mrs. Bowes, who was replacing chief operator Mrs Myrtle Delaney who happened to be out of town on business commented  that the operators "seemed to realize there was a crisis and it must be met".

The newspaper reported statistics for the weekend showing that ordinarily the system would handle about 3000 local calls --- they rose to a "staggering 32159" within the community.

Outgoing  long distance calls would usually be less than 500 on a weekend but rose to 3695 with almost the same number incoming during the forest fire threat.

However, the days of the operator assisted system were numbered as construction was being completed on a new facility at the corner of Pine and Young streets and the community would be returning to a dial system, although long distance operators would still be on duty. The operators worked out of a building on Pine Street at one time the Orange Hall and later the by-law office.
Marcel Bourgeault on left Bonnie (Babin) Desbois shows new equipment

After midnight on December 4, 1965 a switch was thrown and the new system went into effect.

At the official opening Councillor Marcel Bourgeault, the acting reeve, brought greetings and extended congratulations to Bell on the new system and facility.

I have been receiving messages since my column  last week from folks sharing their telephone numbers, and from operators and family members who worked in Chapleau during the 1950s and 1960s. Thank you all so much.

The telegram from Prime Minister Pearson pointed out the importance of the telephone operators during a major crisis in Chapleau. In fact, on a personal basis, their efforts to keep lines of communication open, affected me too. I was working as a newspaper reporter In Toronto, but my mother Muriel E (Hunt) Morris and my grandmothers Edythe Hunt and Lil Morris were in Chapleau. I was able to get through to Mom, and even though they did not evacuate, I was able to stay in touch by phone.

All these years later, I am able to share the story of the "unsung heroes" -- the telephone operators in Chapleau! HAPPY EASTER TO ALL!!  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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