|MJ and Ian 2014 at Harry "Butch" Pellow party|
Ian became an architect and is the retired head of the department of architecture at the University of Manitoba, where he was awarded the distinction of professor emeritus. Thanks Ian.
Michael was recently soliciting his readers for favourite memories of growing up in Chapleau. Mine were in the late 1940’s.
Let me first offer a bit of context. The information age was still a life time away from Chapleau in those days . Day time radio, when you could actually receive it, was limited to one AM station in Timmins. I don’t think we even had a telephone installed in the house until either 1949 or 1950. The primary mode of communication to the outside world was what our younger generation now refer to as “snail mail”. Chapleau Public School teachers were excellent in developing our handwriting skills and the postal rate for a standard first class letter in those days was only a nickel which even I could afford.
I recently unearthed some slightly faded drawings that I had mailed to my Aunt in Hamilton when I was eight years old and had recently moved to Chapleau from Southern Ontario. I actually don’t remember drawing them and can only assume that I was trying to describe Chapleau to her by supplementing a normal written description with sketches of the place in summer,fall and winter .
Drawing was subsequently to become the central skill set of my professional life but back in those days as an eight year old in Northern Ontario I had received no formal or informal training on how to draw things. This is what intrigued me about these sketches. No one had yet had the opportunity to mess with my head to school me on proper drawing technique or how to see.
I know now, that drawing is the end result of a complex process between eye, mind and hand and is the subject of endless and inconclusive scientific speculation. British writer John Berger, explores and attempts to explain this relationship in an excellent book titled “Ways of Seeing” . Berger asserts that “we do not draw the objects our eyes seem to look at. Rather, we draw some respresentation, processed through our mind and through our drawing arm and hand, of that which our minds have seen.” Well I certainly didn’t know all that as an eight year old kid and was simply trying to describe typical Chapleau activity through a kid’s eyes. This is my take on the drawings some sixty five years after the fact:
Chapleau has a lot of hills which were obviously an important part of winter activity. We lived on King Street right behind the Lady Minto Hospital. The nearest hill therefore was directly across our back lane and referred to as the Hospital Hill. It was well suited to toboggans and skiing with the fun factor being how many ways you could wipe out. Just beyond the Hospital Hill was Elm Street that sloped gently to Monk Street and was well suited to sleighs with metal runners when the snow was well packed down. Slightly more challenging hills were just a short walk away where we built ski jumps and riskier toboggan runs.
The sketch focuses on hunting in the fall and most probably along the old farm road just beyond Dr.Frank Broomhead’s present residence. I wasn’t old enough to handle a 410 shotgun in those days but trekked along with Billy McFarlane and his Dad who taught us the fine points of how to hunt partridge. It was a great time of the year.
I suppose there was a bit of the architect in me even when I was eight and I was interested to see that I was able to describe a typical two storey Chapleau house with the front porches that are so common in the community. I’m not sure, however, why an Anglican kid would select Sacred Heart Church as a subject. It may have been that the Church’s distinctive byzantine style windows were easier to draw. My Catholic friends might suggest that I secretly wanted to be one of them.
The swimming sketch was definitely inspired by Bucciarelli’s Beach which was our favourite swimming hole where we spent most of our daylight summer hours. It was a neat place for kids whose family didn’t own a cottage .The beach was easily accessible by bike and preferred over the Town Beach.
Regardless of how we record things, Chapleau was a great place to be a kid. The drawings in this article, for me at least, were far more insightful than photographs in capturing the essence of those times. In retrospect, I’m very grateful to my Aunt for not throwing them away.
|CHS friends Ian, Jim and Ann Machan, Doreen (Cormier) Cachagee 2014 at Butch's|
I was fortunate to have several friends in High School who also enjoyed drawing including Bob Glowacki Mary Serre and Karen Carlson. Mary went on to become a career Mom but along the way found the time to fine tune her natural skills to become one of Northern Ontario’s better known painters. Karen continued on with her education at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto and other
High School mates including Butch Pellow, Norman Wright and Gary Schafer developed distinguished careers in architecture.
My youngest daughter quipped that it must have been something in the water. She might be right but I suspect there was something special about the place and the times which for now we’ll simply call “The Chapleau Factor”.