EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Michael reflects on Grey Street to Elgin Street as connecting link on first anniversary of Chapleau Moments with personal thoughts of home

NOTE: The following appears in the July 17 edition of the Chapleau Express. My thanks is extended to all those who have contacted me about my blog too.
A year ago when I accepted Mario Lafreniere's invitation to write a column for the Chapleau Express, I wondered if I would be able to come up with enough material for a month's worth of Chapleau Moments.

Since starting Chapleau Moments a year ago this week, I have often reminded myself of the words that Dr. J.B. McClinton shared with me in a Timmins restaurant shortly after my arrival there to begin my career as a daily newspaper reporter with The Daily Press in 1964. I was having coffee with Dr. McClinton, a great promoter of Northern Ontario and Highway 101 connection between Chapleau and Timmins, and he said, "So, you want to be a reporter.

"Look around you. There are stories everywhere. If you never left this restaurant for rhe rest of your life, you would never be able to write all the stories that happened in this place."

Well, "let me tell you" as my good friend Dr. G.E. Young would say when he started a story, if I continued to write for another 46 years, I would never be able to share all the stories about the people and moments that are part of Chapleau's history.

Let me first thank Mario for providing me with the opportunity to share some Chapleau moments with you -- the stories of the incredible people who have called Chapleau home -- those who still live there, those who now live somewhere else, and those who are no longer with us but left their mark on the life of the community since 1885, and before.

Let me thank all those who have contacted me during the past year with comments, story ideas and their recollections of the life and times of Chapleau. Maybe that's been the best part of the experience, reconnecting with so many of you over the past year and bringing back such wonderful memories of home.

And yes, I've discovered beyond any doubt that Chapleau is still considered home to those who have lived there, even if like me, they have been gone for many years. It has also been great to open emails from folks I do not know to read about their connection to Chapleau.

Of course, I am not really "from" Chapleau, having been born in Hamilton, Ontario, where my father, James E. Morris, who was born in Chapleau, was a flying instructor at the Elementary Flying Training School at Mount Hope, part of the Commonwealth Air Training Plan in World War II. He had joined the RCAF in 1940 but took leave to be a flying instructor, at the EFTS. My mother, Muriel E. (Hunt) Morris was born in Glasgow, Scotland and came to Chapleau with her parents just before World War I.

When my father went back into the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1942, we returned to Chapleau to stay with family while he was overseas on active service during World War II. We stayed after he was killed while on active service on July 16, 1943-- 67 years ago this week.

Many readers will recall my mother who taught at Chapleau Public School for 32 years, and let me say thanks to all those who have kindly remembered her in messages to me during the past year. While at the public school she directed annual concerts including Gilbert and Sullivan's musical 'HMS Pinafore'. Billy Kemp, Charlie Byce and Gordon Bolduc all had leading roles in this production, while Joan Kemp was the pianist.

Mom was also very active in St. John's Anglican Church where she was choir director. However, one of the great moments in her church life was undoubtedly in 1935 at a service marking the 50th anniversary of the parish. As one of the soloists she sang 'Now the Day is Over.' Her father, my grandfather, George Hunt was the choir director while the organist was Miss Nettie Herner, who later married Arthur Grout. My grandmother, Edith Hunt, along with Mrs. P.J. Collins were joint conveners of the banquet. In 1974, Mom married Ernie, the son of Mr. and Mrs. P.J. Collins.

My parents were married in St. John's Church in 1940. Mom died in 1989.

(Saying from Desmond Tutu, retired Archbishop of South Africa: "Ubuntu is an African word meaning 'I am who I am because of all who have contributed to my being'. I walk because someone held my hand as I was learning. I laugh because my mother laughed. Her laughter was carried from her mother, and hers. It is kept alive by family and friends. Losing our loved ones opens the way to compassion for others, and connects us all soul to soul.")

In my first Chapleau Moments column, I shared my tricycle ride from our home on Grey Street, uptown and across the old overhead bridge, to visit my grandparents, Lil (Mulligan) and Harry Morris on Elgin Street. It just struck me that trips from Grey Street to Elgin Street were actually started by my parents when they were dating in the 1930s -- a connecting link for us to both sides of early Chapleau. As I have noted previously my grandmother was a member of the Mulligan family who came to Chapleau in 1885.

This time let me tell you a bit about my father and some of his friends, and moments they shared growing up in Chapleau. Born in 1914 in Chapleau, he attended Chapleau Public School and Chapleau High School graduating from Grade 13 in 1933, and yes, one of his teachers was John 'Mac' McClellan. In fact, Mr. McClellan coached the juvenile hockey team he played on with Gordon McKnight, Don Robinson, Eric Young, Walter Moore, Bobby Perpete, B. McAdam, Joe Crichton and Romeo Levesque.

He also rose to the rank of Cadet Captain in the Number 1181 CHS Cadet Corps directed by Mr. McClellan.

In his application to the RCAF, he noted that he was involved in all school and local athletics, including track and field where along with Claude Turner and Ken Godfrey they won marathon relay races at Schreiber and Fort William in 1931, 1932 and 1933. In those years Chapleau had very active track and field club with a five mile race held in conjunction with July 1 celebrations.

After the war, the James E. Morris Memorial Trophy was established and it was won by Greg Lucas so many times that it was finally given to him. In the 1970s, the five mile race was revived and Greg would present the trophy to the winner.

Tennis was also popular and I learned to play from some of my father's friends including Greg, Eric Young and Charlie McKee, as well as Rev. Frank Leigh who would have been a bit older. We played on the St. John's Tennis court and, those guys could really whack a ball, and won some northern Ontario titles in their prime.

After graduating from high school, my father became assistant secretary at the Chapleau Railway YMCA for three years. The YMCA on Lorne Street was a beehive of activity in those years with rooms, a restaurant, sports activities and a bowling alley downstairs. As an aside the most famous bowler in my memory was Mrs. Mabel Young, Dr. Young's mother. Dr. Young was also one of my father's good friends. Mr. 'Pop' Depew was the secretary as the manager was called.

Of course, growing up in Chapleau meant skating in the "old" arena on Lorne Street as well as playing hockey on outdoor rinks including on the river by the present beach, skiing, hiking and camping and swimming.

Two of my father's good friends who shared memories of growing up with him, which I really appreciated were Clyde Fife and F.A. 'Nick' Card.

When I turned 16, and went to get my driver's license, Clyde was the examiner and when I arrived, and knocked on his door, he said, "I was expecting you today. I was there when you were born." And he was. Clyde had enlisted in the RCAF and at the time was stationed in Toronto. So, on the day I got my driver's license, Clyde told me stories, and finally asked, "How did you get here?" to which I replied, "I drove" . Clyde replied that seeing as how I had driven to his home near the old power plant, I could drive home and he approved my license. Clyde is the father of Robert Fife, now the Ottawa bureau chief of CTV News.

Nick, who served as reeve of Chapleau and also as a councillor grew up on Elgin Street almost next door to my Dad. In fact, until Walter Paradis built his home there, a vacant lot separated their houses. I don't know if it is still visible today, but almost across from their homes was a big rock on which they painted, "Kilgore was here."

My father's love of flying started at an early age when he would go down to the Chapleau waterfront and hang out with the early bush pilots who would fly in to Chapleau in the 1930s. An article in the Toronto Telegram after he was killed noted that he was involved with early bush pilots. In applying to the RCAF he wrote that he had acquired knowledge in "part time employment" around aircraft. According to my grandfather, he really was learning to fly planes, thinking that his mother did not know. She did. Mothers always know.

In 1936 he joined the Canadian Pacific Railway department of investigation and in 1939 was part of the security team for the Royal Visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. He received his private pilot's license at the Fort William Flying Club in 1937.

In sharing a bit about my parents with you, I do so with a great sense of gratitude to them for making the decision to have my mother and I return to Chapleau while my father went overseas. Despite the tragic loss of him when I was so young, I was able to grow up close to my wonderful grandparents - George and Edith Hunt and Harry and Lil Morris - and among the greatest people I have ever known, the good people of Chapleau. Thank you for being the people you are. 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