EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fascinating nicknames abounded in Chapleau

Boo and Butch! Buttons and Babe! Jiggs and Gussie! Hoss and Killer! And Aunty Moo too!

After I wrote a piece about names I have been called in my life, several suggested I write about nicknames used in Chapleau over the years, and so with the help of Robert Jardine, Gail (Coulter) Cyr and others, I decided to have a go at it. Let's call this piece a starting point, and we shall see where it goes. By no means am I attempting to provide all the nicknames --- you can send me your list in fact, and you don't have to be from Chapleau to participate.

Link to my first story on names: http://michaeljmorrisreports.blogspot.com/2009/02/names-ive-been-called.html

And if I have made any spelling or other errors just let me know and I will make corrections. All nicknames were used with utmost respect and friendship as they are here. I was raised among all these people and to badly misquote the Spanish philosopher Cervantes, there is something about the people in the village that you don't always find in the City. They care about each other very deeply and nicknames are certainly terms of affection.

I started with "Boo" and "Butch" simply because they are of my generation of Chapleauites. Harry "Boo" Hong, who died a few years ago now, was a member of one of Chapleau's oldest and popular families, and if my memory serves me right, the family with the oldest continuous business in Chapleau -- Jimmy Hong, Boo's brother, still operates Hongers, founded as the Boston Cafe by their parents.

"Butch" is Harry Pellow, who was Boo's lifetime friend, and is also a member of one of Chapleau's oldest families. Harry now lives in Toronto where he has operated his own architectural firm for 30 years. Butch was the architect for the Chapleau Civic Centre, Chapleau Recreation Centre, Cedar Grove Lodge, Chapleau General Hospital and the golf clubhouse.

Gail (Coulter) Cyr reminded me of the nicknames in the Chambers family who really dominated the local sports scene after World War II. They played fastball, Garth "Tee" and Keith "Sonny" for the Legion team (my favourite) and "Dudie"for the CPR. (Help with his proper name as I have completely forgotten it.) Tee and Dudie were outstanding hockey players of their time, and to be honest Tee was my favourite hockey player (and coach and referee) of my entire life. Their younger brother William "Billy" was also greatly involved in Chapleau sports.

In their family the girls had nicknames too as Carol was "Babe" and Harriet "Buttons" who was in my grade at school.

And who is "Aunty Moo". That`s my mother, Muriel E Morris and the nickname "Moo" was given to her by my father James E "Jamie" later "Jim" Morris. Her nieces started calling her Aunty Moo and it stuck.

It was my parents' generation that really had some fascinating nicknames, and I will share just a few with you starting with ""Jiggs and "Gussie". In those days men generally signed their name using their initials as in J.E Goldstein who was called "Jiggs", and A.E Evans who was called "Gussie. Of course I called them Mr Goldstein and Mr Evans respectively, never ever daring to call them John or Albert, their proper names, and absolutely never by their nicknames!

My uncle B.W. Zufelt, who owned a bakery and was reeve of Chapleau for several years was called "Bubs" and of course I called him Uncle Bubs, while Harry Pellow's father was C.A. but everyone called him "Bill" and his brother K.A. was "Pat". Just to give you a sign of the times, even though so many had nicknames, there was much more formality. For example, when my mother married E.E. Collins who was called "Red" or "Ernie", I had always called him Mr Collins. I asked Mom what I should call him and we agreed upon Ernie. I was back home teaching by then and was the reeve but I still called that generation Mr and of course Mrs. (My father was killed in World War II while on active service overseas in the RCAF)

Bill McLeod' s father B.W. McLeod was called "Bordie", while Henry Corston was "Chicken" and his brother Stewart was"Toodie. Edwin Keays was "Killer" and Yvon Morin was "Shorty", and John White was "Jokie". Elmore Leigh's nickname was "Sparky" and Henry Theriault, the long time president of Branch 5 of the Royal Canadian Legion, "Hank." George Sanders went by the nickname "Ice", while Ron Morris who was quite tall was "Shorty." Dr G.E. Young was called "Doc" by most over the 52 years he practised medicine in Chapleau, but his nickname was "Ted." "Hoss" was Harold Casson.

Robert Jardine told me that his Uncle Donald was "Flappy" and his father Douglas was referred to by his initials "W.D." as use of initials was also pretty common, as L.D. Card was referred to as "LD" or "Dondy" while his brother F.A. Card, who was a long serving Chapleau councillor and also reeve was "Nick."

I am not even going to try and provide all the nicknames in the Fortin families but I would be remiss if I did not mention some of them. Some that come to mind are ""Buzz, "Cac", "Mick" "Willie" and "Froggy". Mr "Willie" Fortin died in 2008 at age 100.

Let me share an anecdote involving "Froggy" Fortin. In the summer of 1961, after my first year at university I was working at Missanabie for the then department of lands and forests and I used to hitch rides on Canadian Pacific Railway freight trains back into Chapleau. One night I saw that the conductor was Mr "Froggy" Fortin and I hesitated to ask him for a ride in his caboose, but I did.

He looked at me and growled, "Who are you and why should I give you a ride on my train?"

I muttered my name and turned to leave.

He said, "Wait a minute! I know who you are are. You are Jimmy Morris's son and you can ride on my train any time."

Mr Fortin proceeded to tell me that during the depression when my Dad was a CPR police officer he was clearing everyone off a train heading west which was his job. Men were on the freights heading to work in the wheat fields. My Dad saw Mr Fortin, a Chapleau boy, and permitted him to stay on the train -- the rest he kicked off!

That gave Mr Fortin a good head start on getting work out west and he never forgot the favour. So I got my ride to Chapleau for a dance and have never forgotten the favour. But I always called him Mr Fortin, never "Froggy" and his brother "Mick" who lived near us on Grey Street was Mr Fortin too.

So in my village where nicknames were so popular, people cared about each other notwithstanding differences they may have on some issues.

I hope you will share more nicknames with us. In doing this post it brought back so many fond memories. Email me at 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