|1938 Carnival Parade on old horsehoe bridge|
Ross Kemp was the driver of the sled carrying the Queen while Chief Parade Marshal Jimmy Purich, resplendent in his uniform, headed the Queen`s procession from the CPR station over the old horsehoe bridge to Main Street, riding a pure white horse pulling another sled.
It was Chapleau's second winter carnival, and despite the effects of the Great Depression on the community, people were out for a good time.
Marie Perpete was crowned the Queen of the Carnival. The Chapleau Post reported that she was dressed in a pure white ski costume with white ski boots, white slacks, and a parka trimmed with white fur.
Ever the Chapleau booster, A.J. "Art" Grout, who had the title, Minister of Foreign Affairs, had written a letter to H.K. Kennedy, the editor of a magazine called 'The Vacationer' extending an invitation to him to come from Toronto for the carnival. I have no idea if Mr. Kennedy made the trip but Mr. Grout, super salesman that he was, extolled the wonders of Chapleau in his letter.
He wrote in part that Chapleau was a very modern town with a population of about 2,800 people well equipped with schools, hotels, and business places and "is far more modern than one would expect in a place so far in the Northern wilds." Remember that at this time in its history, Chapleau was very isolated with the CPR being primary way to get to and from town.
Talk about turning potential negatives into positives when talking about Chapleau, Mr. Grout was a real professional. Writing about Mr. Grout in Chapleau Trails, Dr. Bill Pellow, the editor and publisher, refers to him as "a staunch promoter" of the early winter carnivals. He sure was.
Mr. Grout's letter continued that "timbered forests came down to within a few hundred yards of the outskirts of the town" but the citizens were enthusiastic about winter sports and got into winter costumes to enjoy the carnival to the fullest. he also mentioned that it was common to have five feet of snow and 40 below zero temperatures at carnival time.
At the 1938 winter carnival there were 122 winter sports events spread over three days, Mr Grout wrote. One of the major events was the sled dog races with over 20 high class teams entered. There were skiing events taking place on a new 45 foot tower for jumping as well as log chopping and a curling bonspiel.
Five hockey teams made up of teams from Chapleau and surrounding camps would be playing in a tournament and there was also a turkey shoot and of course the grand dances.
A highlight of the carnival was the midnight torch light parade and snake dance down the main street.
It fascinates me to see the tremendous community spirit that was so alive in Chapleau during the Great Depression as the citizens launched an annual winter carnival. I looked in 'Break at Nine', George Tremblay's excellent book on the movies and life in Chapleau to see what he might have said about those times.
Mr. Tremblay wrote in part: "... Chapleau saw its share of hardship during the depression.There was no such thing as a food bank to help the hungry and unemployment insurance was unheard of in the 30s. However, people helped each other and when a family slipped into a desperate situation, their neighbours would organize events to help them out..." Yet they put together a carnival. Mr. Tremblay was born and raised in Chapleau.
Through the years, the Chapleau Winter Carnival brought everyone together and I will share more about them in future columns. My thanks to Doug Greig for his help with this one. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
This feature appears in the January 16, 2009 edition of the Chapleau Express.