|Grace and Arthur Grout|
Mr. Grout, one of Chapleau's best known citizens, and as Dr. Bill Pellow, writing in Chapleau Trails noted, he had "his fingers in the pie, many pies and sometimes both feet in every aspect of Chapleau's existence" at one time.
But, it was one of the Target managers, they call them "team leaders" that had captured my attention with his clipboard. In fact, it seems like all the team leaders scurry around the store with their clipboards.
Out of the mothballs of memory, I saw Mr. Grout, president of Smith and Chapple Ltd., never without a clutch of papers or a clipboard as he seemed to be always in a hurry, going somewhere, but never failing to stop to talk with a customer.
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When I got home I went to Bill's piece about Mr. Grout, and he too, had taken note of the clipboard. "Remember him racing around from one department to another with his clipboard, jotting down memos to refresh his memory and putting order into a very busy day..."
In fact, when I was going to high school and university, and working part-time at Smith and Chapple, Mr. Grout once confided in me that if I wanted to be successful in business, always carry a bunch of papers -- looked impressive to people.
No way that all these years later, Target would have received advice from Mr. Groutto include in its team leader training program, that all carry clipboards, but there you have it, in more ways than one, A.J. "Art" Grout was ahead of the curve.
As a Smith and Chapple alumnus, I worked in the men's wear, furniture, grocery and garage, as well as at Mid North News and CHAP TV in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Mr. Grout started as a messenger boy at the store, and in 1930 with his business partner D.O. Payette, took it over with Mr. Payette as president.
When the end of an era came for Smith and Chapple Ltd. on April 30, 1987, although Mr. Grout had retired in 1962, Bill Payette, commented in an article, "My father was a great businessman and he and Art got along very well." Bill had joined the store in 1941.
In the 1930s in the midst of the Great Depression, the Chapleau Winter Carnival was founded with Mr. Payette, the catalyst with meetings in his office, but Mr. Grout was more the public face as carnival chairman.
Also, in 1939, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth were visiting Canada and the Royal Train would be passing through Chapleau. Mr. Grout and Earle Sootheran, manager of the jewelry department chartered a plane for a fishing excursion to the Goose River. The plan was to catch some speckled trout to present to their majesties.
It worked. The fish were accepted and Mr. Grout received a letter of appreciation from the Royal couple.
Mr. Grout took over the business in 1949 when Mr. Payette retired, and during the 1950s the physical face of Chapleau changed. Mr. Grout expanded the store to "the other side of Main Street" where CPR houses had been, and is now Collins Home Hardware. He established a real estate business and built houses at the end of Monk Street as well as several on King Street primarily to house CPR employees as the diesel shop was established.
When oldtimers, like me now, talk about major activities we remember from Chapleau, two are always recalled -- the draws at Christmas held at Smith and Chapple and Dr. G.E. Young's Christmas display.
After Mr. Grout established Mid North News and CHAP TV, I got my start in journalism writing a Chapleau High School column with Joy (Evans) Heft and hosting a television program with Phyllis Chrusoskie. Imagine, a small place like Chapleau, had a television station in the 1950s. In fact it had two competing cable television companies after Dr. Young established one too.
In a 1958 store advertisement in Mid North News, I counted over 120 employees of the company, making it a very large employer in Chapleau.
Although business was always on his mind, Mr. Grout was also very much involved in the community and the province. In Chapleau, he was active in St. John's Anglican Church, the chamber of commerce, the hospital board, and served as a township councillor as well as reeve for short time -- and that is likely only a partial list. He was also on the committee that built the Chapleau Memorial Arena on Lorne Street.
He was also a member of the boards of the Northern Ontario Development Corporation, Northeastern Associated Chambers of Commerce and the Northern Tourist Outfitters Association.
Also active in the Chapleau Rotary Club, he commissioned Frank Barberio to build the Rotary Table depicting wood from every country in the world that has Rotary. It is now located in the civic centre.
A major part of Mr. Grout's legacy to Chapleau occurred in 1964 when he arranged to purchase CPR Engine 5433, and bring it to Chapleau to be placed in the park by the station. The engine was moved to its present location by laying a special track from the shops to the park with J.M 'Bud' Park as the engineer of 5433, and Earle Freeborn on the engine pushing it to its new home.
Mr. Grout also headed the Chapleau Centennial Committee which built the centennial museum, now called the heritage musuem which I understand has now been closed for more than a year.
After he retired from Smith and Chapple in 1965, when Gene Bernier and Robert Warren took it over, he continued to promote Chapleau. In 1978 at the official openings of the Chapleau Civic Centre, Chapleau Recreation Centre and Cedar Grove Lodge in June, he seemed to be everywhere and made a donation of paintings to Cedar Grove. He also loaned his Cadillac to transport dignitaries.
For many years, Mr. Grout's first wife Nettie worked with him at the store. After she died, he married Grace Hartman who had been a councillor and mayor of Sudbury.
For sure, Mr. Grout could be controversial, and not always appreciated. It goes with the territory when you are as active as he was in the life and times of Chapleau, but he made a difference that improved the quality of life for us in the community's boom years. Mr Grout died in 1980. My email is email@example.com