A stranger might be surprised to discover an up-to-date community like Chapleau considering its "wild surroundings", a booklet prepared for the Royal Tour of 1939 declared.
An excerpt from the booklet 'Across Canada - Commemorating the Royal Tour' was written out by either Mr. or Mrs. Richard Brownlee, and is included in the Brownlee Papers. If my memory serves me right this booklet was primarily prepared for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and the Royal Party who accompanied them on the Royal Train.
"Considering its wild surroundings, the stranger is agreeably surprised to find a spot so remote from what he calls civilization, anything so completely up-to-date as Chapleau.."
The writer, who would have made a trip across Canada before their Majesties paid a visit added, "...no shack-town but a busy railway divisional point, with electric light and power, three churches, public, separate and high schools, hotels, a library, a hospital, a YMCA, motion picture theatre and bank ---- and a nine-hole golf course."
As an aside, I have lost track of the number of times since I left the "wild surroundings" of Chapleau for so called "civilization" I have had to explain that the community was a most "up-to date" place and has been for more than 100 years.
The writer also describes Chapleau's location most eloquently.
"On the shores of Lake (he got that wrong) Kabequashesing (close) Chapleau is the pulsating heart of the Chapleau Game Preserve, which has an area of 5,000 square miles and is the loveliest many say in Ontario.
"Strict protection has enabled the speckled brook trout, lake trout, great northern pike. walleyes, moose, deer, bear and other game in the preserve to multiply so much that they have skipped over into surrounding territory. Countless lakes lead readily through these splendid fishing and hunting grounds."
The writer mentions canoe trips to the height of land, "the continent's backbone, dividing north from south bound waters", with"raging rivers through magnificent scenery..." This is only one of the similar journeys which may be made from Chapleau.
He seemed greatly interested in the "rolling school cars' operated out of Chapleau , and other Northern Ontario points with the "object of giving the children of scattered railway men and others remote from even the smallest educational centres an opportunity otherwise unavailable of acquiring not merely the three R's but high school standards."
The teacher and family lived on the car which also included a library, and there were between 30 and 40 pupils ranging in age from five to 20.
The article concludes by noting that Chapleau has a lumber industry and is "situated in a rich gold, mica and copper district..."
Remember that this article was written mainly for readers, including King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, who knew very little about Canada, In fact, as I was working on this column, I wondered if their Majesties had read it.
Chapleau was not included for an "official" visit as the Royal Train was scheduled to arrive at two a.m. However, Chapleau Reeve George Fife wanted to meet the King and Queen, a message was sent to them, and they got up and met the Reeve, and other dignitaries.
Apparently, the King also conducted an inspection of 1181 Chapleau High School Cadet Corps who were on hand for the occasion.
Yes, Robert Fife, The Ottawa Bureau Chief of The Globe and Mail and host of CTV's Question Period is the grandson of Mr. Fife. Bob confirmed that his grandfather did indeed have Chapleau officially added to the Royal Tour.
Thanks again to Margaret Rose (Payette) and Bobby Fortin for loaning me the Brownlee Papers. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org