EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Memories of Mac's bellow, withering words, wiener roasts, field days, cadet inspections, all important part of Chapleau High School life as recalled by Jack Whitney

Phys ed on field behind old CHS in the 60s
On J.L. "Jack" Whitney's first day at Chapleau High School in the late 1920s without warning, the most outstanding noise caused all students, who with no teacher present, were being their usual well behaved selves, caused them to pause in mid whatever they were doing.
John McClellan in front of CHS
They were about to meet John McClellan, the legendary teacher and principal of the school. Mr. Whitney recalled his high school experience in a speech to high school students some years later after he graduated from CHS

First though, let me share how I came to receive a copy of Mr. Whitney's story. James Austin and his daughter Elizabeth recently went to have dinner with Bill and Sheryl McLeod at their home in Sudbury. Mr. Austin brought with him a handwritten copy of the speech signed by "J.L. Whitney" but could not recall how he happened to get it. Bill McLeod agreed to transcribed it , and sent me a copy for use in my column. Thanks all!

Here is Mr. Whitney's story.

He wrote: "How did we like high school 40 years ago?? I believe that it was very much as it is today, most of us liked it very much. I think, looking back from today, many of us would place it with the outstanding events in our lives. Some, of course, found it too difficult, and for a few it was a little too boring. Up to 1929, you know, there was plenty of work and the pay was good … 25 cents per hour … ten hour days with $1.00 a day off for board so higher education wasn’t really necessary."

He explains that in 1924 the new public school was only a few years old and the new high school, which was merely the old public school, enlarged and re-modelled, was about the same age, less a year or so.

"What about the teachers of those days? Well, when you consider that in the late twenties and the early thirties a large percentage of 5th Form (Grade 13 to you) successfully completed their university education and are today holding some rather important and useful positions in the Army, the Electrical, the Medical and the Teaching world … then I feel they compare favourably with teachers anywhere and in any decade."

"I shall never forget my first day in First Form. I was wearing black boots (not shoes) black wool stockings up to the knee and knicker-bocker pants which strapped around just below the knee and flopped over just an inch or so. Above this I had on a long-sleeved V-neck pullover, and this was topped by a grinning face and a shock of unruly light hair. I looked a good deal like most of the other boys except for size, shape and colouring.

"The girls, as I remember wore low-waisted long dresses down to two or three inches above the ankle, with lisle hose and sensible shoes. Most of the hairdos were dutch bobs with a few with long curls and most of the hats were the helmet type, usually of felt, and I believe were patterned after the steel helmets of the previous war."


"But what was memorable about this first day, you ask? For a few moments after the classroom had filled up, there was no teacher present, so we were being our usual well behaved selves. Incidentally we were seated with our backs to the door. Without warning a most outstanding noise caused us all to pause in mid whatever we were doing!! Then slowly, relentlessly and in absolute silence the creator of this noise paced down the aisle to the teacher’s desk, turned, swept the now pop-eyed group of children with a glare which would have done justice to any Sgt. Major I have ever known!!

"And bellowed: 'If any of you have been wondering who is going to be in charge around here, please let me advise you that I am'. And to prove it he caught one of the more incautious boys smack in the ear with a piece of chalk about 1” long. Need I tell you that this was my introduction to Mr. McClellan!! For many years this man remained a potent force for law and order in the old C.H.S. and incidentally he was also a very good teacher. He has left his mark, a good mark, on many and many a boy and girl who now fill the niches in life from labourers to engineers, brigadiers and doctors and from housewives to nurses, teachers, matrons in hospitals and, we in our generation are proud to say, even a successful university professor."

"Of course no one person was responsible for this metamorphosis of raw gangling boys and girls into mature, useful men and women. During the years of which I speak we had many fine men and women come to Chapleau to help us along the way. At the risk of omitting some, and I am sure I will, I must name a few who were to me, outstanding. Miss Snyder (now Mrs. Muske), Miss Trays, Miss Waring, Miss Reid, Mr. Cousineau, Mr. Courtenage, Mr. Wylie (now in Sudbury), Mr. Hobbs, Miss Cox and, but not least by any means, Miss S. B. Pallett.

"What kind of a person was Miss Pallett? Well I failed in and carried Latin to 4th Form (grade 12) and along came Miss Pallett!! I passed Latin Authors in Grade 13 with 1st class honors and got nearly 70 in Composition!! This same person, with a few withering well chosen words could make me crawl under the rug on the teachers’ room floor and not even make a wrinkle!! But I think the real worth of Miss S. B. Pallett is shown by the fact that now, 35 years later, most of her former pupils from Chapleau either write to her at least once a year, visit her in Toronto at her home or at the “Oshawa Picnic” or phone her and talk to her for hours when they happen to be in Toronto. She was a wonderful person for a teenager in the grip of change and uncertainty to have known and respected, and she is still today, that same pleasant, understanding person."\

The Oshawa Picnic to which Mr. Whitney refers was held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. McClellan at their home in Whitby after he retired in 1956. For years it was a must attend party for former CHS students. Miss Pallett was Mr. McClellan's predecessor as CHS principal.


"I do not have either the space or the time to recount the many anecdotes which come to mind about the teachers and the students of that far off day, but I might recall for you a few of the activities which we carried out, in, through, and in spite of good old C.H.S. and its staff. The Students’ Council was formed when I was in 2nd Form. There may have been one before that time but I have no recollection of it.

"We put on a three act play each year, from long before my time until after I left at any rate. We worked up, set type, edited, published and printed a school year book ”Static” for several years. We had regular school dances played for by school orchestras, annual commencements, wiener roasts, field days, Cadet Inspections, ski parties, ski meets, debating teams and interspersed here and there through this fabric which made up our school life, were a few who liked to pay “hooky” once in a while – smoke a forbidden cigarette in the boys’ or girls’ washrooms and blow the smoke up the ventilators, --- and even the odd one who dared to take a drink now and again!! Times have changed, haven’t they?

"The only thing more I have to say to all you young people is this, - live, really live your high school life. It is a very important part of your life, it should be a very pleasant part of your life and it could be one of the most memorable parts of your life! --- Incidentally, by 'live' I mean “work at'."

Mr. Whitney was married to Mildred Pellow, and their children Joan, Mary and Chris all attended CHS.

If anyone has information on when and where Mr. Whitney may have given this talk, please let me know. Thanks also to Anne (Zufelt) McGoldrick for providing background information. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Also Anne advises that she has information on many Chapleau residents that she is willing to share with those doing research into their families. In return she would appreciate receiving information from you. Please contact me and I will forward your requests to Anne.

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