|Red light on old water tower far left seen all over town|
Bet you didn't know that Chapleau had its version of the popular television show in the 1950s, although in upholding law and order, their duties may not have been as exciting.
In fact, when I was a teenager in the 1950s, we had two versions of "Startsky and Hutch". One consisted of Jim Collings and Don Houghton, who out of ear shot we referred to as"Collings and Houghton", and they were local constables.
The other was Ron Lewis and John Craig, commonly referred to as "Lewis and Craig" the two Ontario Provincial Police officers whose patrol area was vast as the surrounding communities like Sultan, Nemegos, Pineal Lake, Kormak and Island Lake were busy places.
The town police force consisted of Jim and Don, another constable, and the chief. They had one patrol car. Ron and John were the only OPP officers and had one cruiser. Neither cars were radio equipped.
If you needed the town police, you would call their office and leave a message. To let the officers know there was a call, a red light turned on, on top of the water tower.
They would proceed to the town hall office to answer the phone.
Some evenings when they had set up a speed trap usually on Mill Road, pranksters would call the number, wait until they headed to the town hall, and then zoomed to Bucciarelli's Beach. To this day, I am not going to reveal the names of those who were guilty of sending Jim and Don off to answer a fake phone call.
All in all though, as those of us growing up in Chapleau in the 1950s drove around town pretty aimlessly, of an evening, but never too far from Main Street in case something really exciting happened, we had a pretty good relationship with both Jim and Don and Ron and John.
In fact, on occasion, they did us favours, and all these years later I remember them most fondly.
In his book "Pioneering in Northern Ontario", Vince Crichton includes a chapter on the Law in Chapleau starting in 1886.
According to Vince, Harry West was the first police officer who had come to the community and built a small hotel which eventually became known as the Sportsman. He was appointed by the province, but apparently little law enforcement was done as it would have been "detrimental to the hotel business or shall we say the bar business."
Another early officer was a Thomas Lanergan, who according to Vince was a good policeman.
"His favourite expression was 'Halt' when he wished to question or stop someone... The prevalent use of this utterance resulted in him being known by the townsfolk as 'Old Halt'"
Having served in the military during the Riel Rebellion, when on duty, he wore his uniform complete with medals, clasps and service ribbons.
Percy E. Scott, who had been working on the CPR was appointed Chief of Police, sanitary inspector, weed control officer, truant officer and other duties. Vince noted that he was a "pretty good sort of chap to the younger people of Chapleau..." Mr. Scott later became town foreman (public works superintendent), a position Jim Collings also held some years after serving on the Chapleau ;police force.
Through much of its history, it seems that Chapleau had a chief of police and perhaps a "night constable." If my memory serves me right, the police got their first patrol car in 1952.
Previously, If the officer needed to get somewhere in a hurry, he would call a taxi.
In 1967, the Ontario Provincial Police took over all policing duties in Chapleau.
And just a few words about the town jail located for many years in the basement of the old fire hall at Lorne and Pine streets. As Vince noted, it was "something to behold". It consisted of three cells side by side "with a cold cement floor which was far from dty in the spring of the year." Each cell was about six feet long and four feet wide with a small bed made of strap iron on which there was usually a far from clean blanket."
If two or more were lodged in the same cell, one got the bed and the rest the floor.
Vince summed up the jail: " A night spent in this sin bin was equivalent to a term of incarceration of many days in other jails." This jail ceased to be in use with the completion of the OPP building in 1957.
I had often thought through the years about the Chapleau' versions of "Startsky and Hutch" and after thumbing through Vince's book again, decided to share a bit about law and order. My email is email@example.com