EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Friday, October 15, 2010

Hockey keeps country together along with the weather as great Canadian unifiers

Tee Chambers, Harry Pellow, Aldee Martel, 1954
I started my blog Michael J Morris Reports two years ago now, and seemingly, like most things I have undertaken in my life, I was not really sure the direction it would take. For the moment at least, it seems to have settled on creating "a portrait of Chapleau" as Ian Macdonald, my friend and now retired professor of architecture at the University of Manitoba once described it.

However, perhaps appropriately, given my interest in hockey over the years, in the beginning one of the first pieces I wrote  was how hockey keeps the country together. Given the start of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2010-2011 NHL season, about which I will say no more, I decided to share, in slightly amended form. Hockey Keeps the Country Together to mark the second anniversary of Michael J Morris Reports. Thanks so much for being part of the experience.


I took a course in twentieth century European history from Dr Jacques Goutor more than 40 years ago now, and the first thing I learned from him was that hockey kept Canada together. Well, he didn't actually come out and say that exactly, but on the first day of class he told us about his arrival in Canada from France.

Dr Goutor told us that upon arriving in Toronto, he went out and bought the newspapers and the headlines were LEAFS WIN STANLEY CUP! It was 1967, our Centennial year as a nation, and the Toronto Maple Leafs had defeated their arch rivals the Montreal Canadiens in six games. It was to be the last time the Leafs would win Lord Stanley's mug.

As an aside Dr Goutor was one of the best professors I ever had and went from Wilfrid Laurier University to the University of Western Ontario.

All so typically Canadian for our Centennial year in 1967-- a team from the heart of English Canada wins the Stanley Cup but the focus for the celebrations of the centennial is on Montreal, the major French Canadian city which hosted Expo '67, and the cup is named after an Englishman who was Governor General at one time. Trust me on this one! It is such as this that contributes to keeping the country together and safe-- the invisible hand of Canadian compromise!

Dr Goutor, who at the time had little knowledge of hockey and its importance to Canadians, said he decided to stay here because it had to be a safe place if the headlines were about a sporting event. He was raised in France and lived through the horrors of World War II and its aftermath.

To this day, I watch the headlines of Canadian daily newspapers, and headline writers are ecstatic on those days they can proclaim victory for their local hockey team when it wins a title, and are beside themselves with joy when Canada wins internationally. But they know their audience. Hockey keeps it all together in this vast and magnificent land where we will travel great distances for a hockey game, and complain about that other great Canadian unifier, the weather.

Our passion for hockey of course begins at the local level. I was raised in the northern Ontario town of Chapleau, where the Chapleau Huskies, in various incarnations have been the pride and joy for much longer than I have been around. Growing up there in the 1940s and 50s my hockey heroes were local, especially the late Garth ''Tee" Chambers, who to this day I believe was better than any NHL player who ever donned skates.

When I returned to Chapleau to teach at Chapleau High School, shortly thereafter I was "hired' by the 1970-71 Midgets to coach them. Yes, they actually "fired" their coach and I took over, and that is a story in itself. Jamie Doyle, the team captain, and his buddy Keith McAdam, approached me in the hall at CHS and offered me the position.

At that time though, the focus was on the Chapleau Junior "B" Huskies who were playing  in the  Junior B league, and in 1967, their first  won the league title, and Northern Ontario Hockey Association title. The coaches of the day were the late Lorne Riley, who had been an outstanding goalie, and Keith 'Buddy' Swanson. Earle Freeborn was the coach when I returned to Chapleau in 1968, and I had once again become a referee. Saturday nights were hockey night in Chapleau, and the great community unifier, especially when the Wawa Travellers were in town.

A few years later in 1974, again after receiving a visit from hockey players, the Chapleau Intermediate "A" Huskies were born and our arch rivals in the Northland Intermediate Hockey league were the Timmins Northstars. For three years it was a struggle to beat them in the league semi-finals but in our fourth year we did, and it was like we had won the Stanley Cup. We won in Timmins but soon received reports that back in Chapleau, the celebration had begun with horns honking and a party underway.

And so, from local unheated hockey rinks, many of them called barns, where rivalries among communities bring people together to cheer on their own team, to national and international championship series, Dr Goutor was right. It is a safe country in which to live

I welcome your comments. E email me at mj.morris@live.ca

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Men O' the Northof 227th Battalion head off to World War I from Chapleau while local Red Cross Society supports effort and community holds reception for soldiers when war ends

Members of Chapleau Platoon, 227th Battalion at station
Recruiting for the 227th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in World War I was underway in Chapleau in May 1916 after its commanding officer Lieut-Col. C.H. LeP. Jones had paid a visit to the community.

At the same time the Chapleau branch of the Canadian Red Cross Society was active, and after the war ended the community held a Reception to Returned Soldiers.

Immediately after the visit the Chapleau Citizens Recruiting Committee was formed and by August, 62 volunteers had signed up to join the 120 Chapleau persons who were already in the forces. Quite an achievement for a small, isolated community of about 2,500 people although some of the volunteers came from nearby communities like Missanabie and White River.

In Snapshots Of Chapleau,'s Past on www.chapleau.com George Evans noted that on Saturday, August 12, 1916, the First Chapleau Platoon of the 227th Battalion of the Sudbury, Manitoulin, and Algoma Overseas Battalion paraded from the YMCA building on Lorne Street, down Birch Street, over the tracks, to the railway station.

George added: "As described in Vincent Crichton’s Pioneering in Northern Ontario, it was 'a red letter day.' The Town Band led the way and the whole town turned out to support the 'Men O’ the North' as they set out to do battle with 'the Hun' in fields of northeastern France. Six officers, fifty-three enlisted men, a bandsman and two buglers marched in full gear to the cheers of the patriotic people of Chapleau..."

Some would not return.

A Wikipidea entry says thats "The 227th Battalion, CEF was a unit in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War. Based in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and Camp Borden, the unit began recruiting in early 1916 on Manitoulin Island and in Algoma . After sailing to England in April 1917, the battalion was absorbed into the 8th Reserve Battalion on April 22, 1917. The 227th Battalion, CEF had one Officer Commanding: Lieut-Col. C. H. LeP. Jones."

Meanwhile, on the home front in Chapleau the local branch of the Canadian Red Cross Society was also very actively involved in the war effort. As I was browsing through Hugh Kuttner's immensely interesting web site, http://www.chapleau.com/
  I was sure that I recognized the handwriting on the minutes of a meeting of the branch in 1917 that had been made available and are on Hugh's site.

Reading the minutes, I realized that Edith Hunt, my grandmother, was the secretary, referred to in the minutes as "Hon. Sec." She had arrived in Chapleau from the United Kingdom just before World War I with her husband George, my grandfather, and their two daughters Elsie, and my mother Muriel.

The minutes were from an executive meeting held on October 22, 1917, in the council room in the Town Hall, which had been opened in 1914, one of the many projects in the early years of Chapleau led by its first reeve G.B. Nicholson, who had retired as head of the municipality after serving from 1901 to 1913 but was in attendance at the meeting.

Mr. Nicholson's only son Lorne, a member of the Chapleau Platoon was one who did not return home from World War I. He was killed on November 4. 1918.

From the minutes I was also surprised to learn that May (Mulligan) McMullen was the president of the Chapleau Red Cross Society at the time. I contacted Michael McMullen, my cousin and our family historian to see if he knew that his grandmother had held this position. It came as a surprise to him too. Michael's grandmother and mine, Lil (Mulligan) Morris were sisters. They were members of the Mulligan family after whom Mulligan's Bay is named.

The first vice president was Father Romeo Gascon, of Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Parish and second vice president was Mrs. M.L. Copping, while Mrs. H.B. Pelton was the 'Hon. Treas.', the treasurer.

Wikipedia notes that the Canadian Red Cross was established in the fall of 1896 as an affiliate of the British Red Cross Society (then known as the National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded in War). Colonel Dr. George Sterling Ryerson spearheaded the organization's founding; he was earlier responsible for setting up Canada's St. John Ambulance Association in 1895. The Canadian Red Cross Society Act (1909) legally established the Red Cross as the corporate body in Canada responsible for providing volunteer aid in accordance with the Geneva Conventions

The Chapleau branch was busy during World War I assisting with the preparation of packages to be sent to the troops and others being affected by the war. Mrs. Copping was the general supervisor of the effort while Mrs. Cochrane was sewing convenor, Mrs. Ferguson packing convenor and Mrs. White surgical supplies convenor.

On April 21, 1919, Chapleau held a reception for returned soldiers chaired by Reeve J.D. McAdam with T.J. Wolfe as secretary of the organizing committee. It was held in the Town Hall which, with its theatre and downstairs hall, had become a centre of community life.

According to the official program, which is also available on http://www.chapleau.com/
 music for a concert was provided by Comte's Orchestra under the direction of Mr. Alf Comte, who I remember from the many years he operated the barber shop on Birch Street. The orchestra also played for a dance following dinner. As I reflected on growing up in Chapleau, it seemed that major celebrations included a concert, dinner and a dance all held in the Town Hall.

The concert program included a quartet, violin solo, flute solo, vocal solo, a reading and the overture by Comte's Orchestra.

The dinner menu included oysters in shell, roast turkey with cranberry sauce, tomatoes a la mode and a variety of deserts.

I have always been intrigued by the formality of dance programs in years gone by and the one at the reception was no exception. Divided into two parts, it began with the grand march around the hall, followed by two step, waltz, quadrelle, fox trot, barn dance, Paul Jones, one step and fox trot. Part two varied slightly but of course ended with the Home Waltz.

For this column, after discovering information about my grandmother and great aunt's involvements in the Chapleau Red Cross at http://www.chapleau.com/
 , I decided to generally focus on parts of community life connected to World War I primarily from http://www.chapleau.com/
 I extend my most sincere thanks to Hugh and all those who have made the site possible. It is an incredibly valuable resource. My only regret is that it was not available when I was teaching history at Chapleau High School. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Monday, October 11, 2010


Dr. Vince Crichton, one of Canada's leading wildlife biologists and native of Chapleau, Ontario, kindly provided some scenes from his collection of photos of Canada's boreal forest east of Lake Winnipeg. Vince graduated from Chapleau Public and Chapleau High Schools and earned his BSc and MSc from University of Manitoba and PhD from University of Guelph in wildlife diseases.   He is the son of Vince and Dora (Morris) Crichton. His father is  the author of "Pioneering in Northern Ontario." Thanks so much Vince. Click on image to enlarge.

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