EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Adults 'homeward bound' when entering child's world, Muriel (Hunt) Morris says at retirement party in 1970

Muriel E (Hunt) Morris
After 32 years as a teacher at Chapleau Public School, Muriel E. (Hunt) Morris, my mother, retired at the end of June 1970.

Looking through my stacks of newspaper clippings recently, I came across the story about her retirement party written by Margaret 'Maggie; Costello in the Sault Star.

My mother came to Canada from England as a young child in 1913 with her parents Edythe and George Hunt, and her older sister, Elsie, and they settled in Chapleau. She attended Chapleau Public and Chapleau High schools then Normal School in North Bay and upon graduation taught four years "in the country" as she would say at Kakabeka Falls.

Our lives take some twists and turns we never anticipate, and such was the case with Mom's. She had come home to Chapleau to teach in the 1930s, married Jim Morris, my father in July 1940 and moved to Hamilton where he was in the Royal Canadian Air Force, and  became a Flying Instructor in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.

I was born in Hamilton in November 1941, and in 1942 we returned to Chapleau  when he went overseas. It was never the plan of my parents that we would remain in Chapleau after the end of World War II.  Mom and I lived with my aunt and uncle Elsie and B.W. "Bubs" Zufelt, and at times grandparents Harry and Lil (Mulligan) Morris.

Auntie Elsie, Nanny and Mom at their mother's 80th birthday
My grandfather George Hunt was with us while my grandmother Edythe Hunt was back In England serving as a nurse during the war.

On July 16, 1943, my father was killed on active service in the RCAF, and that single act, made all the difference in our lives.

My Mom and Dad
Mom decided we would stay in Chapleau, and to this day, I am so thankful she did. It was the greatest place to grow up and live.

Enough background, and now on to the retirement party according to Margaret Costello. I wish my friend Maggie was still here so I could thank her for the story.

"Every now and then, unlike the prophets who are not honoured in their own country, an outstanding citizen of a community receives honour and tribute from friends and associates of all ages on the local scene. Such was the case when Mrs. Muriel Morris was guest of honour at a reception of the Chapleau Board of Education in the Legion Hall," Maggie wrote.

Describing the decoration in the hall all made by students of Chapleau Public School, she wrote that it was "a riot of colour provided by a tree decorated with multicoloured gigantic blooms, a bower of sunshine yellow with a proliferation of more huge flowers and individual big blossoms hung from the ceiling".

Rev. Murray Arnill, chairman of the Chapleau Board of Education, welcomed the guests -- packed with friends, fellow teachers and students past and present.

"The school choir, trained to a high polish by Mrs. Jeannette Gjoni and Mrs. Wilma Schmidt who also provided the piano accompaniment, sang four bright selections with such verve that they won rounds of applause," according to Maggie.

Heading to visit Maw and Grandpa Morris
As an aside, Mom particularly loved this part of the program as music was such a part of her life and she directed many concerts and plays including HMS Pinafore by Gilbert and Sullivan. It was also great to see Wilma directing a choir at the 90th anniversary reunion festival of Chapleau High School in 2012.

Mrs. Olive M. Card, deputy reeve of Chapleau extended congratulations commenting that my mother must "be proud to have played a part in the education of Chapleau children many of whom had gone on to distinguish themselves in a wide var iety of professions.

Board member Mansel Robinson presented gifts of a lawn table, umbrella and portable television.

In her comments Mom said "the entire occasion" was beyond anything she had ever dreamed of.

She only hoped that some of the things she had taught the boys and girls would stay with them and help make them better men and women, and was proud to have had a part in  their education and that Chapleau would be proud of them.

Then, she addressed parents, and like it was only yesterday, I recall Mom preparing her comments at home on Grey Street.

Maggie captured her words: "There have been many changes in education, but the function of teacher and parents has not changed. It is to guide children into self development, to create a climate for learning in school and at home.

"The home and school cannot be divorced if we are to be successful. The child must be encouraged to make the most important discovery of all -- himself or herself!.

"The major concerns of childhood continue through the years."

She concluded with "When we enter into a child's world we are not in a strange land -- we are homeward bound."

School principal Foy Wright commented that long before current concepts were accepted, she was among the first "to think of the child as an individual. She had a wonderful sense of responsibility not just for her own room, and a sense of dignity and quietness."

Mrs. Opal Simpson of the teaching staff made a presentation of a coffee table. Mrs. Simpson added that "To those of us who have worked with her, she has been a warm personal friend, and her departure will leave gap hard to fill."

Thomas Corston, recently retired as Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Moosonee on behalf of former students and friends presented her with a purse.

As a young teacher
Mom was active in the choir of St. John's Anglican Church where she served as choir director for many years, in the Sincerity Rebekah Lodge and the Anglican Church Women. Sonia Lucas, Margaret Fife and Margaret Turner presented gifts from each respectively.

Mrs. Mary Campbell of the teaching staff had organized a book with the hundreds of names of former pupils over the 32 years. My mother treasured this gift greatly and used it to comment when one of them got married, graduated, had children, etc.  It became her personal journal about her pupils.

Over the years, so many of my Mom's pupils have shared comments and memories of her with me which I have so much appreciated. I would never have attempted to do a column on Mom, but as another school year draws to a close, I believe her comments to parents, indeed all of us, apply today as much as they did in 1970. It is also Mother's Day on May 11.

And, Margaret Costello supplied most of the content.

Mom died on March 4, 1989. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

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