EMAIL 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  

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