EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Winter of Our Years Not Quite Yet By Looking Back to Go Forward

It never entered my mind that I may now be in the Winter years of my life until I received an email from a friend recently. She expressed the thought that we are in the “Winter” of our years, and may have arrived there sooner than we thought.
It was a most kind message, but it got me thinking about the Winter years -- was I really there now?
Gosh, it seems like just yesterday that I was cruising the sidewalks of Chapleau on my tricycle, and making the trip up and over the horseshoe bridge to visit my grandparents. Lil and Harry Morris, on the other side of town. That was in the 1940s.
It doesn't seem that long ago since I started in Grade One at Chapleau Public School, and enjoyed every moment of the eight years I spent there. My mother, Muriel E. (Hunt) Morris, who many of you knew, taught at CPS for 32 years and we had an arrangement that I would not bother her with "son stuff" ever, and it worked.
Mom and Maw (Lil Morris) at Healy
Well, maybe one close call, as Mom was my teacher in Grade Six, and treated me like everyone else, even on the day I got the strap for being part of a big snowball fight, and had to enter the room while she was reading the afternoon story to the class. She just continued reading and never mentioned the incident. 
And, it would have been a disaster for me with the other kids if Mr. J.M. Shoup had let me off, particularly because I was guilty. I actually loved snowball fights.
In Grade Four with Alison McMillan, Ted Demers and Brian Demers, I was part of my first drama production, a swashbuckler complete with costumes made by Mrs Marianne Demers to raise funds for the Junior Red Cross Society. Great fun, and I thought about it every time I directed a play.

It was only 58 years ago since I started Grade Nine at Chapleau High School in 1955, and I have fond memories to this day of the positive influence John 'Mac' McClellan, George Lemon, two of the principals, and Dr Karl A Hackstetter and his wife Mrs. Hackstetter, had on me. Roland Michaud and Richard Murchland were two of the best English teachers I had anywhere, and contributed immensely to the "sound of story" being alive in all I have done ever since.  Like every kid I had my favourite teachers and these happened to be mine.
High school days were awesome, and I made many new friends who arrived at the same time from Sacred Heart Roman Catholic  Separate School. The annual inspection of 1181 Chapleau High School Cadet Corps, banquet and dance were highlights of every school year.
And to visit with so many of them again at the CHS reunion in 2012, was a very special moment, as well as seeing students from my years there as a teacher. 
As an aside, like Mario Lafreniere I had to write out lines for some teacher(s) but his sound more difficult than mine were, although Mrs. Hackstetter had us write out new French vocabulary ten times each and then pronounce them correctly.
'Nanny' Edythe Hunt
It seems that it was only yesterday that my cousins were singing 'She'll be Coming Round the Mountain' on the day our grandmother, Edythe Hunt, arrived home from England in 1944 after serving as a Red Cross nurse with the British Army in England since 1939. I told them she was coming from Toronto and there were no mountains on the route.
It was only a moment ago that my mother and I got on the evening Canadian Pacific Railway train for an overnight ride to Toronto to visit family and friends there, or board another train to head into the United States to visit folks there. 
It doesn't seem that long ago since I took my first airplane ride over Pittsburgh in a Piper Cub with Iven Nichol as the pilot, one of my father, Jim Morris' best friends from RCAF days, and his daughter Sandy as the other passenger. That was about 1953, only 60 years ago.
When I am out and about I sometimes still sing 'Heart of My Heart' that our Bantam team sang over and over again in our private railway car on the way to and from Sudbury to play hockey in 1954.
I wasn't a very good hockey player but loved the game so Don and Olive M. Card and Garth "Tee" Chambers made it possible for me to become a referee, even sending me to a school in North Bay. And I remember like it was only yesterday that Sunday afternoon in 1956 when Tee gave me my first referee's sweater and I worked a game with him in the Chapleau Memorial Arena.

My lifelong friend Harry 'Butch' Pellow sent me an email recently recalling time we all spent at the camp my mother and grandfather built at Healy shortly after the end of World War II. Sure I recalled, and I remember learning all about canoes from my grandfather Harry Morris who despised outboard motors.
And going "down the lake" by one of two rivers to reach a bay called Mulligan's was an important part of my growing up in Chapleau years.
I learned to hammer a nail "helping" Bill Pellow build the first of Pellow's Cottages, and my efforts ruled put the possibility of any career as a carpenter,
My old friend Ken Schroeder enjoyed a Chapleau Moments I had written about Arthur Grout, and thanked me for including a photo from his days working in Smith and Chapple Ltd. after school and during holidays. That was about 1958, and I worked there too.
I recall vividly the day my uncle, B.W. 'Bubs' Zufelt and my grandmother, Edythe Hunt,  drove me from Chapleau to Timmins to start my first full-time job as a daily newspaper reporter. I just calculated and that was only 49 years ago now.
Chapleau's own Bob Fife has just become the host of CTV Question Period, and as I write it seems Bob was sitting in front of the teacher's desk in room 104 at CHS  in 1968-1969 when I arrived to teach Grade Nine history -- the British Epic, not so long ago.
Cast of You'll Get Used To It
It is 26 years ago now since we produced Peter Colley's marvellous play about World War II, 'You'll Get Used to It', in conjunction with Branch 5 of the Royal Canadian Legion to standing ovations for the cast.
OK, I admit that I took early retirement from College of the Rockies 13 years ago, and was feeling a little tired when I decided to call it quits after 32 years as a teacher. 
But I enjoyed every day I spent as a faculty member at COTR where they even encouraged me to develop and teach one of the first college graduate new media communication programs in Canada. I taught Writing for New Media (now Social Media) in 1994, just a few minutes ago it seems. I will always appreciate the support and encouragement given me By Dr Wm Berry Calder, the college president.
Dr Berry Calder and MJ in chit chat at COTR
I stopped riding my bicycle a few years ago because I started to become concerned about a tumble. And, I curse the city now when the sidewalks aren't plowed in the winter immediately after a snow storm even though I was raised in a village where side streets may never be plowed.
Yes, I walk by those new tennis courts on Second Street North in Cranbrook BC where I live now and want to go and play just one set for old times' sake but realistically it ain't gonna happen. But I recall so well Eric Young, Greg Lucas, and Rev Frank Leigh who taught me to play on the court beside the rectory at St. John's Anglican Church, starting in the 1950s.
But, I walk about five miles a day, and swim at least 250 metres daily -- well kinda, but I have to admit that I use a noodle for assistance -- but the lifeguards at the Cranbrook Aquatic Centre now think I should spend some time without it. And who am I to argue. Most are about 50 years or so younger than me.
As I reflect on the subject of the Winter years though by looking back to go forward, I can only say, Not quite yet!
Robert Frost, one of my favorite poets ended his poem 'Stopping by Woods on Snowy Evening' with
The woods are lovely, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
That's my plan too.
Let me leave you with one of my favorite sayings attributed to Etienne de Grellet (1773-1855), a Quaker missionary: 
"I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; let me do it now. let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."
To me at least, that's a great way to spend the Winter years. 

My email is mj.morris@live.ca A somewhat different version of  "The Winter of Our Lives: Not Quite Yet!" appeared as a column I wrote for the Cranbrook Guardian.

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