As D.O. Payette was retiring as president of Smith and Chapple Ltd. in 1949, he wrote an article sharing insights into the store's history during the years since 1930 when he and Arthur Grout were partners.
It covers a lot of subjects but given recent news about the potential mining development by Goldcorp which will have an immense effect on Chapleau, I decided to share Mr. Payette's story on how gold mining and prospecting affected Smith and Chapple in the 1930s..
Just as Mr. Payette and Mr. Grout took over the business from V.T. Chapple, the Great Depression hit, and they were looking for business.
It so happened that the Swazey Gold Claims had just been opened not too far from Chapleau. In the 1920s there was considerable prospecting in the area.
"We had to do our best to get business," Mr. Payette wrote.
He pointed out that there were some airplanes flying to and from the claims and many landed on the front river at Chapleau.
"One morning Art Grout saw one of these planes overhead. He quickly got rope, stakes, and an axe and beat it down to the lakeshore to assist in the plane's landing. Passengers were escorted to the store, a tour and sales pitch rendered, and my partner said: 'If we haven't got what you want, we'll get it"'.
Result: The store managed to get a fair amount of business from this source.
As an aside before going any further, my father, Jim Morris, learned to fly planes from these early bush pilots. My grandfather Harry Morris told me my Dad would tell his parents he was going down to assist in unloading and loading planes. Partly true, but he was also going on flights with these early pilots, and learning to fly the planes.
He thought my grandmother, Lil (Mulligan) Morris didn't know, but she did -- Mothers always know!
Back to Mr. Payette. As time passed, Chapleau became a busy place for several flight services, "outstanding among them was Eclipse Airways."
|my Dad 1930s|
Smith and Chapple also had workers travelling by canoe. taking orders from prospectors with delivery on mahy occasions by plane.
Canoe travel was actually quite common, and other Chapleau merchants , including Edgar Pellow, used it in their business --- a story for another day!
The Kinty Gold Mine opened near Bret Lake about 30 air miles from Chapleau. Mr. Payette and Mr. Grout believed it would be a "prosperous town" and built a few log cabins on the shore of Bret Lake -- one a store with living quarters for the shopkeeper, one for cooking and dining, and one as sleeping quarters for travellers and prospectors.
Then bad breaks --- the mine decided to establish a townsite some distance from their location. By 1933 the mine closed.
Mr. Payette wrote they were stuck with stock but managed to survive, although for the rest of the depression there were few prospectors still in the area.
He wrote: "We struggled on, cutting expenses, sweating blood, laughing at our own mistakes, hiding our tears until the advent of 1937, and a ray of light appeared."
As World War II began in 1939, the railway and ,lumber industries picked up again, and business was good through the war years.
In 1949 though Mr. Payette decided to retire and Mr. Grout took over as president. The staff photo above was taken at a party near Mr Payette's retirement.
I was delighted to read the article in the Chapleau Express about the meeting that Goldcorp held recently with the municipality, and the planning that is underway for Chapleau to become at least in part a "mining town." My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Names of staff 1) Ad Andrews, 2) Grenville "Bob" Murray 3) Bob Warren, 4) Earle Sootheran, 5) unknown, 6) D.O. Payette, 7) Norm Veit, 8) Joe Shannon, 9) Tom Godfrey Jr., 10) Blanche Payette, 11) Dorothy Bain, 12) Zetta Murray, 13) Viola Nolan, 14) Helen Lapp, 15) Dick Lapp, 16) Gene Bernier, 17) Ted Soucie, 18) Keith (Mac) Macdonald, 19) Fred Matters.