EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cheers to a new year -- another chance to get it right

"Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us. Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right." -- Oprah Winfrey

I had planned to try and write something profound today to share with you as we enter into a new year but when I came across the above statement by Oprah, she summed up  how I feel today.

For all of us, 2010 will be a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us,and to help you along your way, I share the Serenity Prayer so much used by members of  Alcoholics Anonymous:

God grant me the Serenity
to accept the things I cannot change

The Courage to change the things I can

And the Wisdom to know the Difference

Thanks so much to all of you for taking the time to share part of your lives with me over the past year.

Happy New Year!


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hello Canada, Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens to be restored

"Hello Canada and hockey fans in the United States, this is Foster Hewitt from the gondola in Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. The first period is over and the Leafs are behind  6-0, but the score is no indication of the play..."

This was the voice we heard on CBC radio every Saturday night in every city, village and town across Canada and into the United States too as Foster Hewitt brought us the Toronto Maple Leafs' games from Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. No matter how far the Leafs were behind their opponents when Hewitt came on the air, the score was never any indication of the play and hope springing eternal and with Foster's help, and our cheers as we huddled by the radio, the Leafs would emerge victorious.

Sadly in those days some in my village of Chapleau, in northern Ontario, some cheered for the Montreal Canadiens, and one for the Detroit Red Wings, but mostly we were for the Leafs.

Michael McMullen, my cousin, recalled when  he lived in Chapleau. "Most of us who spent time in Northern Ontario identify MLG with Foster Hewitt and his broadcast of Leaf games on CBC. As you will remember, radio was great for the imagination. I remember when the CBC installed a repeater station somewhere near Chapleau in the early 50s and we could receive the CBC during the day and evening.

"Bee Hive corn syrup had 8x10 B/W pictures of the Leaf players available in the 40s and 50s. I remember listening to games and imagining the players that I had with Foster Hewitt's play by play. The Leafs and MLG were synonymous. As an aside, when I first saw Foster or a picture of him, he wasn't at all like I had imagined. "

To actually visit Maple Leaf Gardens and attend a game was a dream fulfilled I was very fortunate to have family in Toronto and my mother (Muriel E. (Hunt) Morris) and I would often go to Toronto for Christmas vacation and I would get to see the Leafs play. Sometimes we would stay at the Royal York Hotel another venerable Toronto landmark. Shopping at Eaton's and Simpson's now both gone was mandatory. Later Michael and I would go to games getting there on the "red rocket."

Michael recalled his first visit to the Gardens:  "It felt like a shrine and an honour to be where the greatest players in the world played. I always felt that it was a great place."

Indeed it was a great place to be. Going there was an experience with the hockey game the main attraction. You would likely see some of the retired Leaf  greats chatting with fans and signing autographs -- Ted Kennedy, Johnny Bower, Turk Broda, King Clancy, George Armstrong and Johnny Bower, among others. You might even see Conn Smythe, the owner of the team who had built the Gardens in 1931 in about six months. George Armstrong came to speak to our class at Chapleau Public School when I was in Grade 7, and the Maple Leafs fastball team played in Chapleau one year and I recall getting their autographs at the Boston Cafe.

In their opening season there the Leafs lost their first home game 2-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks but went on to win the Stanley Cup. The Leafs have won 11 Stanley Cups, the last one in 1967.

For a long time, notably in the 50s, the Toronto Marlboros and the St. Michael Majors, Junior A teams, played a doubleheader on Sunday afternoons at MLG. It was a great time to see the up and coming Leaf prospects. Many of these players were the backbone for the Leaf-winning teams of the 60s,  Michael recalled.

MLG also hosted the first NHL All Star game in 1947, and on April 2, 1957 Elvis Presley made his first concert appearance outside the United States. The Beatles appeared there on each of their three visits to North America. One of the most popular events at the Gardens after the Leafs was professional wrestling with  local hero Whipper Billy Watson as the star attraction.

Michael added: "I had the opportunity to play hockey at MLG. The first time was a real thrill and then it was just like any other ice surface, but the place was still unique." He also remembered  taking his son Bruce to his first game at MLG in the 1970s. Nothing had really changed in 25 years, but it was still a magical place (ticket prices had gone up significantly though)."

In 1999, the Leafs left the magical place on the northwest corner of Carlton and Church streets for the Air Canada Centre. MLG has been little used in the past 10 years.

However, on December 2, 2009, a $60-million partnership between Loblaws, Ryerson University and the federal government was announced to restore MLG. It will become a multi-function facility with a Loblaws supermarket on the ground level and an athletic centre including rink above for Ryerson University students.

"We're bringing Maple Leaf Gardens back to life," said Sheldon Levy, Ryerson president.

When the restoration is completed, scheduled for 2011, listen carefully when you are in MLG. You are sure to hear a voice from above saying, "Hello Canada and hockey fans in the United States, and from around the world, welcome back to the Gardens."

Monday, December 28, 2009

MP trying to restore passenger rail service on CPR line in Northern Ontario

Twenty years after the federal Progressive Conservative government led by prime minister Brian Mulroney, gutted the national passenger train service run by Via Rail, a member of parliament from Thunder Bay is trying to get it partially restored.

New Democratic Party MP for Thunder Bay- Superior North Bruce Hyer tabled a motion in the House of Commons last July 12, calling for passenger service to be restored to Thunder Bay and the scenic north shore of Lake Superior.

On January 15, 1990, the federal government cut Via Rail service by 55 percent, according to information on Wikipedia. The "Canadian" which had run on the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks, the nation's first transcontinental railway, built when another Conservative, John A. Macdonald was in office, was moved to the northern Canadian National Railways track -- less populated and far less scenic.

I came across a facebook group established by Alice Herculson called "Via Rail through Thunder Bay and North Shore of  Lake Superior -- we vote yes." As of December 27, it had more than 900 members. If you are on facebook, the group is open to join.

After seeing information on Mr. Hyer's motion she said in a post that her interest was "sparked" and she started the group. "I used to ride this train all the time! I would again if it was available. This is the most beautiful train ride!"

Speaking in the House, Mr. Hyer said “It was a privilege to submit a Motion on returning passenger rail service to Thunder Bay and the scenic North Shore of Lake Superior. This line was cut by the Conservative government of the late 1980’s, despite being VIA’s busiest route. Today, rail has been experiencing a renaissance because it is both environmentally friendly and efficient. This is one small step towards getting Canada back on track with passenger rail.”

Mr. Hyer, who served previously as President of the North of Superior Tourism Association (NOSTA) and on the board of directors of Northern Ontario Tourist Outfitters Association (NOTO) told assembled MPs that “Returning VIA Rail to one of the most spectacular routes in the country - through Marathon, Terrace Bay, Schreiber, Nipigon, and Thunder Bay - will be a huge boost to those communities and to rail tourism alike.”

Of course, Mr. Hyer was speaking directly about the communities in his riding, but restoration of passenger rail service would also be a huge boost to other communities along the main line of the CPR including my hometown of Chapleau.

Eugene Bouillon, who was born and raised in Chapleau, attended college in Thunder Bay and now lives in White River wrote:  "Yes, VIA and the old "Canadian", is needed back on the North Shore, the most beautiful area in all of Canada, in my opinion. The train snakes along the Great Lake Superior, awesome view. I was born and raised in Chapleau and now live in White River, the train, is a very important part of our lives. WE NEED IT BACK."

One person on the group commented: "Everyone I knew used to take the train back and forth to college and university. It was a lot easier (and environmentally friendly) than everyone driving their kids down and back, etc. and it was FUN! and COOL! and BEAUTIFUL! I would choose the train in a minute for a relaxing adventure - no driving, you can get up up and walk around..."

I can relate to this comment. I travelled to and from Chapleau to school by train for five years as did so many from northern Ontario. And those trips are a story for another day.

Another comment:  "I think bringing the train back is a great idea! It would give us all a great alternative in travelling. I believe it will create a tourist attraction, and also bring in more jobs. It's a win win situation every way I look at it! Train rides are so peaceful with such beautiful views to offer!!"

And this one: " I am flying in to Thunder Bay, driving a borrowed car to Marathon, then driving said borrowed car to White River to put my son on the train to Sudbury - Via we need you!!!!!!!"

And:  "I am all for it, in Europe, trains are so comfortable, and enjoyable!!!! We would have less pollution, and safer roads!!! Win win situation."

I like this one:  "I also agree, it should never have been taken away.Best way for pensioners to travel."

Let's see if this grassroots group can help the MP achieve his goal.

Michael J Morris

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


click on image


Following the American Dream from Chapleau. CLICK ON IMAGE