EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Louis Bignucolo retired as CPR engineer after 42 years of 'railroading' at Chapleau

Louis Bignucolo who arrived in Canada from Italy  worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway for 42 years before retiring in 1960. 

At a party where he was honoured, Walter Steed, another pioneer citizen, commented that "Railroading was a hard job in my day," adding that Mr. Bignucolo was among "survival of the fittest."

Starting as a fireman he worked his way up to engineer.

But Mr. Bignucolo was not always a railroader after arriving in Chapleau. Mr. Steed noted that prior to joining the CPR, Mr. Bignucolo had been a contraactor, and had participated in the building of the horseshoe bridge.

Another article about Mr. Bignucolo in the Sudbury Star says he was involved in the building of the power dam for the Chapleau Electric Light and Power Company.

He worked with his brother Joseph who went on to become a major contractor in Chapleau responsible for the construction of a great number of buildings including businesses and houses but that is a story for another day.

Upon arriving in Canada from Italy  Mr. Bignucolo worked for a short time at the International Nickel Company in Sudbury.

The Sudbury Star reported that when Mr. Bignucolo stepped off Train Number 7 in August 1960, he was greeted by a large welcoming party including family, friends and CPR officials that included Assistant Superintendent Elmer Fisher, Master Mechanic George Machen, Roadmaster William Madigan and Chapleau native Alcide Small, representing the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. Mr. Small later became Superintendent of the Schreiber Division.

A highlight of Mr. Bignucolo's railroad career was being selected as a crew member for the Royal Train carrying King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on their Royal Tour, from Chapleau to White River, in May 1939. Robert Carmichael was the engineer.

Mr. Bignucolo and his wife held a retirement party at their Lansdowne Street home. A bit later Mr. Bignucolo was honoured at a party held by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers where Mr. Steed spoke. L.A. 'Les' McMillan was the master of ceremonies on this occasion.

At this party, Mr. Fisher, the assistant superintendent, commented that Chapleau had a "great bunch of railroaders" among them Mr. Bignucolo and many others.

I have been browsing through railroad stories compiled by the late Doug Greig, and am fascinated by them. They bring back memories from my own childhood, and my grandfather Harry Morris, who retired as conductor in 1952, a contemporary of Mr. Bignucolo and others who started "railroading" in Chapleau during the early years of the 20th Century.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Chapleau Brass Band greets Governor General of Canada with 'Yankee Doodle' in 1889

names below
Shortly after a Mr. Garneau arrived in Chapleau and had  been appointed bandmaster for the Chapleau Brass Band in 1889, the Governor General of Canada's train was to pass through the community on its way to western Canada. 

"The band was requested to play at the station was the train was being serviced Mr. Garneau who was not well posted on patriotic music on this side of the Atlantic had the band play, 'Yankee Doodle" as this was one of the pieces they played best," according to Vince Crichton in his book 'Pioneering in Northern Ontario'.

Mr Garneau came from France.  Vince noted that this anecdote was later told by J.B. Dexter one of the community's earliest citizens to D.O. Payette, who arrived in 1904.

The Governor General, the Earl of Minto, appointed by Queen Victoria, was familiar with Canada though having served in the military here during the Northwest Rebellion. There is no mention of his reaction, if any to the playing of 'Yankee Doodle'. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

D.O. Payette jokingly referred to business partner Arthur Grout having first dime from memorable moment when they took took over Smith and Chapple Ltd. in 930

After being involved in "active business" in Chapleau for 44 years, D.O. Payette decided to retire as president of Smith and Chapple Ltd. on January 28, 1949.

In an article prepared for the Chapleau Post, Mr. Payette begins with a joking reference to his business partner "Art Grout has the first dime Smith and Chapple took in that memorable morning of January 29, 1930, when we took over from V.T. Chapple."

In an article prepared for the Chapleau Post, Mr. Payette begins with a joking reference to his business partner "Art Grout has the first dime Smith and Chapple took in that memorable morning of January 29, 1930, when we took over from V.T. Chapple."
Mr Grout
Apparently that first dime was set on a card bearing an appropriate description and kept by Mr. Grout. I wonder where it is today, some 88 years later!

Mr. Payette became president and Mr. Grout vice president.
Mr Payette

He relates that when they first took over the store business was "good" but as the "grim hand" Great Depression took hold  in Canada, Chapleau did not escape.

Railroad workers with 25 years experience lost their jobs, and the "lumbering industry practically ceased to exist".

The partners needed to find new customers quickly. At about this time, gold claims started to open, and "considerable propserity" was being achieved. They decided to do their best to get  business from this source.

Aircraft were landing at Chapleau on their sway to and from claims.

Mr. Payette relates that one morning when a plane landed on the Kebsquasheshing River at Chapleau, Mr. Grout raced to the waterfront and assisted with the landing, then brought all the passengers to the store. He told them "If we haven't got what you want, we'll get it."

In due course several flight services operated out of Chapleau, and their store started taking deliveries by canoe and  delivering  byplane to the mining camps filling orders from prospectors.

Let me digress for a moment. In 1930 my father Jim Morris was attending Chapleau High School, and would go and help the pilots load and unload planes. My grandfather Harry Morris told me that he was also learning to fly planes, but did not tell my grandmother Lil (Mulligan) Morris. Nonethelesss she knew he was taking flying lessons from the bush pilots. Mothers always know!

Mr. Payette said that despite adversity ''sweating blood, hiding our fears" by 1937 business started to improve.

By the start of World War II in 1939, they were adding a two story building to the east side of the men's wear department to include a meat and grocery department, two apartments, and snack bar. 

Mr. Payette wrote that business was good during the war years, and by 1945 they had paid off Mr. Chapple.

In 1949. he told Mr. Grout that he wanted to retire. Mr. Grout at started at the store at age 14, and noiw would become the owner.

A period of "real expansion" started after Mr. Grout took over as president.

Mr. Payette explained that up until then main street had been essentially one-sided with most businesses on the north side with only the Algoma Dairy at Birch and Young street and the Regent Theatre at Birch and Lorne. In between was a high board fence and behind it were CPR cottages facing the shops.

The new building housed various departments of Smith and Chapple over the years.

In conclusion Mr. Payette pays a trubute to Arthur Grout as "a man of inestimable ability and energy. Our partnership traversed the years with harmony and good fellowship."

Mr. Payette was not only involved with Smith and Chapple over the years, but was very active in community activities. By 1906, he appears in a photo of a Chapleau hockey team and he later managed teams. He also played in the Town Band and was bandmaster. In the 1930s, he was referred to as "the catalyst" behind the founding of Chapleau winter carnivals. 

He also served as fire chief, member and chairman of the high school board, manager of the Chapleau Memorial Arena, member of the Knights of Columbus, choirmaster at Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church member of the Chapleau Rotary Club, and he also golfed and curled..

I am an alumnus of Smith and Chapple Ltd. having worked in various departments while attending Chapleau High School and Waterloo Lutheran University now Wilfrid Laurier University. It was a great place to work. My mail is mj.morris@live.ca

Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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