EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Karen Smith recalls bringing the band to her house the Sixties for a 'jumping' Christmas party, with furniture pushed aside, and then the phone rang .. plus Ian Macdonald on toyland; Mike McMullen, Ken Schroeder at church

House parties over the Christmas season are always popular but one held in Chapleau during the Sixties still brings back memories as a live band had the place jumping in no time after it arrived at the home of Karen Smith.

Andre Renaud had mentioned the party to me some time ago when I was researching 'Phoenix Rising' a band in which he played drums for a time. The band also went under other names. So, as i was looking for some different Chapleau moments at Christmas, I was able to contact Karen for some information about bringing the band to her home to play for a party.

Karen wrote: "The heroes of this tale are my Mum and Dad. My brother Brian and I were home for Christmas. A bunch of us had gone to the show and were returning to our place when someone mentioned the band was practising in the basement of the town hall. I think it was Ken Braumberger that talked them into playing at our place."

Karen and Brian's parents were Cecil and Ruth Smith and they owned the Fox Theatre in Chapleau. To the real oldtimers, at first they had the Regent Theatre.

"In no time we had the band and their instruments loaded in trucks and cars and and set up in my parents family room," Karen continued. "Carpets in the living room and dining room were rolled up, and furniture pushed aside.

Peter Simpson and Sean Henry
"We did have a piano at our place and Peter Simpson tickled the ivory . That piano never sounded so good. The band had the place was a jumping in no time. Guitars, drums, horn, piano and even Frankie (Bignucolo) singing his heart out. "

Then the phone rang....

"Expecting a noise complaint I answered," Karen said. "It was our neighbour Mrs. Pineault concerned that someone was snooping around our garage. She could see the lights going on and off and was sure someone was sitting in the car. Out we went to investigate.

"There sat my Mum and Dad. They had arrived home to find their house filled with teenagers dancing to the music of a live band and could not hear themselves think. Dad had made a dash into the kitchen poured them both a stiff drink and there they sat, in the car in the garage waiting for the party to end."

"Learning that it was Mum and Dad sitting in the car, Mr. Pineault came over and invited Mum and Dad over to the warmth and peace and quet of their place.

"I have no idea how long the party lasted but by the next morning all the furniture was in place nothing broken and everyone had a great time.

"God Bless Mum and Dad. They had their home invaded by teenagers more than once," Karen added.

(As an aside, on a personal note, I thank Karen for her kind words about my grandfather Gerge Hunt and my family at St. John's Church.)

Andre Renaud picked up the story by recalling that it was Peter Simpson who made the arrangements with Karen " I was fairly new in the band at that time. I remember Peter saying to me," Andre we have a Christmas party to play at..It's at Karen Smith's place..

Peter told him they needed about 20 songs asking if he thought he could do different beats because he knew that in a small area the mistakes stand out and it's hard to keep the drum sound low. "You mostly use brushes or the stick on the rim and use he high hat rather than the big cymbals...."

Andre remembers that the place was packed, and it went over real well."We had a great time and there was no trouble at all..Karen was a great hostess and she paid us real well for those days..I remember $5.00 each..

"My drums were new and they were like a blue sparkle..Peter would alway say when the guys helped me move them around..Watch the bluey guys... watch the bluey.LOL. Peter had a nickname..A lot of people called him Simmy I always called him Pete."

While we were chatting Andre recalled another popular feature at Christmas in Chapleau. "I used to like going downstairs at Smith and Chapple's and look at the toy display..Also the train display they had there every Christmas.Nice place to duck into on the way to school when it was real cold..Warm up for a few minutes and keep going the rest of the way..LOL"

I remembered that Ian Macdonald, now retired as professor and head of the department of architecture at the University of Manitoba, at one time had a connection to the Smith and Chapple train display, so sent him an email for details. As always Ian replied promptly with details.

"My Dad looked after the Smith and Chapple hardware department including "toyland". It was set up in the lower level at the east end of the building under the Grocery department. The toyland display always included two electric train layouts. One was an American Flyer and the other was a Lionel.

"I had the nonsalaried assignment to oversee the operation of both of them which I gladly did. It was the only job I ever had at Smith and Chapple aside from occasionally delivering flyers.

"Several years later I began firing for the CPR and had the opportunity to actually operate full size locomotives hostling at Cartier. Most of my subsequent Christmas holidays were spent in a CPR locomotive cab substituting for running crews who were booking off. It paid a lot better than the Smith and Chapple assignment but I'm not sure it was ever quite as much fun."

Ken and Mike about then!!!
Michael McMullen, my cousin, and Ken Schroeder, my good friend, shared their exchange of emails about their role at the midnight service at St. John's Anglican Church where Michael had to fight an itch.

Michael asked Ken: "Do you remember the Christmas Eve service (midnight I believe) in either 1952 or 1953 that you and I were charged with standing in the middle aisle and determining when people could go up for communion? As I recall the church was packed. One reason that I remember it so vividly is that I had to scratch the back of my leg and was too embarassed to do anything about it while on duty (and display). The relief to do that downstairs afterwards has been etched in my mind ever since!"

Ken replied: "Funny how some things just stick .." Ken advised us that he has now been promoted to stand guard at the foot of the two steps at their church here in Hamilton. "Sigi (his wife) lets them out, one side at a time, and I wait to catch  anybody that falters on the steps .....good job ....."

I think the service was in 1952 when Rev. E. Roy Haddon was at St. John's. I recall the packed church. As an aside, at that time Michael's father Keith, was the People's Warden and my mother Muriel, and Ken's mother, Edith "Teddy" Schroeder, were in the choir.

Ian Macdonald recalled his role: "As an aside, my assignment at St.John's for the Christmas Eve service was operating the chimes. It was a job I inherited from Bob Linklater  who was then studying for the ministry at U of T. You may recall that  the chimes were actually a recording which was played on a set of large speakers in the St.John's belfry connected to a record player and amplifier in the ante room off of the Vestry. There was a real bell in the belfry in addition to the "virtual chimes" which I heard only on very rare occasions. I'm not sure but I think that Miss Herner donated the  sound system. You probably know better than I.

I believe she did along with her sister, Mrs Nettie Grout

Thanks all for the memories. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas at Our Place in Chapleau by Bill and Barbara Groves

Bill and Barbara (Bowland) Groves kindly shared photos of their beautifully decorated home in Chapleau. plus Billand Barb out for a Winter hike in the golf course area.

They also sent along the following message:

"From our place to yours Merry Christmas and Happy New Year."

And, the same to you Bill and Barb.  mjm

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