EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Friday, May 21, 2010

Reflections on Victoria Day

Remember the old ditty that goes something like this: "The 24th of May is the Queen's birthday. If you don't give us a holiday, we'll all run away."

Well, we've changed the date to make it the third Monday in May, which in 2010 happens to be the 24th, but Canadians still look forward to Victoria Day, named after the British monarch who died more than a century ago. I wonder how many Canadians today even know who she was.

It says something about this vast and magnificent land, and its people, the majority of whom are housed along a thin east to west ribbon of territory, close to the American behemoth, that the name of the major Spring holiday is named after a figure from Canada's past.

And to me, that's OK. We are a people who have never really understood each other very well -- Canada has more or less developed on a regional basis, yet we can enjoy together the common holiday -- Victoria Day.

When I was a kid growing up in the northern Ontario town of Chapleau, the ice would be off the river, and the weekend marked the beginning of the swimming season for the hale and hearty. Have to admit that I was not among them, preferring to wait until Dominion Day -- now Canada Day.

It was also the weekend when summer camps, (now usually called cottages) were opened for the season, and perhaps most of Canada followed much the same routine. At least, today as I reflect on the past 50 years or so, it seems to me they did wherever I happened to be living -- Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and now British Columbia.

We always felt quite kindly towards Queen Victoria for giving us a holiday, and nobody ever abolished it so we didn't have to run away. Every once in a while someone wants to change the name of the holiday to reflect contemporary Canadian society or abolish the monarchy. Queen Victoria's great-great granddaughter, Elizabeth II officially remains Canada's head of state -- and as an aside, she plans to spend Canada Day here.

At one point in my life I was a staunch monarchist, most likely because I was so greatly influenced by my grandparents, George and Edith Hunt, who had an abiding faith in values like duty, service, the monarch, family, country - and the Anglican church, then called the Church of England in Canada.

My thinking on the monarchy has changed somewhat today but on this Victoria Day weekend I pause and wonder if it was all so bad years ago -- at least we knew where we stood without equivocation.

We knew beyond any shadow of a doubt as my Grandpa Hunt would say who we were. We did not need opinion polls to tell us what we were thinking.

Much has changed in Canada since the days of my grandparents, but on this Victoria Day weekend, having now lived in five provinces of this great nation, I think we are still a work in progress. Perhaps it is a good time to reflect on ourselves as Canadians and define our future focusing on those things that bring us together rather than those things that divide us.

Many years ago now, the distinguished Canadian journalist Bruce Hutchison wrote in a column: "This nation with all its problems, its unbalanced politics and its replusive self pity remains the luckiest in a deranged world."

So, let's enjoy the Victoria Day weekend, and let's not run away from the challenges before us as Canadians.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ian Macdonald and David McMillan share behind the scenes moments about 1181 Chapleau High School Cadet Corps including march into river

"1181 Chapleau High School Cadet Corps, General Salute, Present Arms," Company Commander Cadet Major Stanley Barty ordered at 1400 hours precisely, the Girls Bugle Band played, and the annnual inspection and social event of the school year was underway 53 years ago on May 22, 1957 on the grounds behind the old school on Pine Street.

Following the salute taken by Central Command Area Cadet Officer, Captain H.G.L. Hutton, there was the inspection in line, and the march past followed by the demonstrations. Neil Ritchie was in charge of the precison drill while bren l.m.g., first aid and rifle were headed by Cadet Sergeants Jim Evans, Roger Mizuguchi and Doug Slievert respectively.

Ian Macdonald, who was Second in Command as Cadet Captain and David McMillan, the Company Sergeant Major, kindly shared some of their memories about the Cadet Corps from their time at CHS.

Courtesy Ian Macdonald
Ian explained that "the Cadet inspection included a drill exhibition by the Precision Squad and a demonstration of how to dismantle and assemble a Bren Gun. CHS had a war surplus Bren Gun with the firing pin removed along with some extra ammunition clips and spare barrel. I think that the rifles that the cadets carried were standard army Enfields modified for 22calibre barrels. Target shooting was part of the Cadet program."

In 1957 Neil Ritchie who headed the precision drill was taking Grade 13 in several annual stages, according to Ian, and "had earned a lot of seniority and was given the rank of Cadet Lieutenant Colonel which was the highest rank possible in Cadets. Usually a Cadet Lieutenant Colonel commanded a batallion rather than four platoons but we moved Neil up because it was the only way that the rest of us could be promoted up the chain of command."

Platoon commanders were Cadet Lieutenants Jim Hong, Lucien Bouillon, Leona Paquette and Naomi Mizuguchi while the bugle band commanders were Margaret Rose Payette and Mary Serre. Gail Leon was drum majorette.

Ian also recalled that CHS Principal George Lemon participated at the 1957 cadet inspection in full army uniform but John McClellan who had retired the year before did not appear in uniform although the Cadet Inspection and the Cadet movement was very important to him. Mr. Lemon had served in the Canadian forces in World War II and Mr. McClellan in World War I.

David McMillan recalled a humorous incident that apparently occurred while Mr. McClellan was still principal at CHS. "There was a humorous incident that I have tucked away in my memory box that I often look back on and wonder if it was fact or folklore. At any rate, the Corps was out on the ballfield practicing the march past, under Mac's watchful eye, in advance of the upcoming Inspection. For whatever reason Mac saw something he didn't like in the routine and took over temporary command with instructions not to deviate from the program until he gave the order.

"What he failed to realize was that the Corps were facing north towards the River when he gave the 'Quick March' order immediately prior to being distracted by someone or something close at hand. By the time he returned his attention to the marchers, (the leaders) had led the troop into the River between two boathouses and up to their waists in water. This was not an isolated incident by any means because I recall ending up behind the Public School on another occasion simply because marching orders were either not heard, understood or simply ignored."

Ian noted that "male Cadets wore a standard Canadian Army issue style khaki uniform with a woolen tunic and pants, web belt, spats, parade boots and khaki beret. This really wasn’t much of a fashion statement so the decision was made to add a bit of panache and provide the cadet officers with white spats, web belt and a white lanyard. I can’t recall how we managed to do that but it helped immensely." David added that two things came to mind about the uniforms: "their ability to
create an itchy effect and retain heat on those hot June days when we were in uniform on a dusty ballfield."

David also remembered that CHS had been designated a Signal Corps and "had a monstrosity of a main transmitter that I believe was referred to as the 4880 and if this is indeed correct, I have no idea as to why this number comes to mind after all these years. At any rate, it was set up inside the High School and groups of cadets would be scattered around the ball field with
satellite radios attempting to transmit and receive messages with the base unit which, more often than not, was a futile and frustrating exercise."

Ian pointed out that the Cadet Inspection itself was only one of many official roles that the Corps participated in." Earlier in 1957, we participated in a sporting competition with Terrace Bay High School. We were fully attired in our cadet uniforms and marched from the CPR station in Terrace Bay to their High School gymnasium. I remember being a bit concerned about damaging their slick hardwood floor. The gym floor at home really wasn’t worth worrying about."

The CHS band usually led the parade at the Winter Carnival and also marched over to the CPR station when Governor General Vincent Massey was passing through Chapleau.

The day did not end with the inspection and march around town as it continued as one of the annual major events in Chapleau community life. Activities moved to the Town Hall where the school's commencement, the Cadet banquet and dance were held.

The day's program noted that: "Along with the fine performance of the Cadet Corps, including the smart stepping precision squad, the colourful bugle band and the various demonstrations, the students have illustrated their artitsic talents through the decorating of the Town Hall and the organizing of the banquet itself."

In 1957, Thane Crozier was master of ceremonies while Stan Barty, the cadet company commander and students council president gave the response to the toast to the Cadet Corps. Bert Lemon's toast to the ladies was responded to by Nancy Honda.

At the commencement, school board member J.G. "Jiggs" Goldstein presented graduation certificates while Leona Paquette presented tabloid sports awards to captains of their respective teams who were Jim Hong, Naomi Mizuguchi, Ronald Morris and Dawn Goldstein.

The day ended with dancing to the music of Connie De Salle and his Orchestra from Sudbury.

The Cadet inspection and banquet were a tradition long established at Chapleau High School and bring back inevitable memories. As I wrote this column so many fond memories of my years as a student at CHS returned, and I extend my sincere thanks to Ian Macdonald and David McMillan for taking the time to share their memories from 53 years ago when we were members of 1181 Chapleau High School Cadet Corps. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

CADET OFFICERS IN PHOTO: Stan Barty, Ian Macdonald, Neil Ritchie, David McMillan and Jim Hong

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