The date was January 29, 1949, a day later than planned because of the sudden death of Thomas Godfrey, the day before just after declaring "This is the happiest day of my life," as a cavalcade of cars had just passed the Chapleau portion of the highway on its way to Thessalon.
Mr. Godfrey, a "pioneer builder" of the highway, according to the Chapleau Post, had achieved part of his objective --. ""Bucking snowdrifts and biting winds, and driving over a rugged trail where no cars had ever passed, he had driven completely over the Chapleau end of the road and was on the McFadden road leading to Thessalon when death halted him."
The cavalcade returned to Chapleau after Mr. Godfrey died but another attempt was made the next day as Arthur Grout and Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd Vice started out at 6:30 a.m. with the "avowed intention of t rying to get to Thessalon that day..."even though the weather was brutal."
The account of that trip is contained in the Richard Brownlee Papers kindly loaned to me by Margaret Rose (Payette) and Bobby Fortin.
"It was about 35 degrees below zero and one minor trouble after another was encountered, such as the motor freezing up, chains giving trouble, and, then -- something really serious happened. In going to open the trunk at the rear of the car, the keys were dropped in the snow. It was a matter of grave importance that these keys be found promptly because all of the party were getting extremely cold and were at least twelve miles from any assistance.
"After searching through the snow with bare hands for some time, and just about despairing of ever being able to find them one key was found. It turned out to be the motor key and to their very great delight the motor started promptly and although it was overheating because of a misplaced fan belt they got through to Standard Paving where they got repairs."
They met Tom Carter of Carter Bus Lines who claimed that in all his driving experience he had never had such a trip as the one he had from Thessalon the previous day. He recommended they wait until snow plows cleared the highway. There had been a "howling blizzard."
But the party decided to continue the trip and "proceeded very cautiously so as not to get off the narrow road into the snow-filled ditches." They made to Lessard's Camp where they had turned back the day before after Mr. Godfrey died.
Then, to their delight, they discovered that the snow plow had started out ahead of them, and from then on they were able to enjoy "the scenery and the winding twisty nature of the road."
"As they got down towards the Mississaugi River it was noted how closely the road clung to the edge of the river and at times skirted around high rocky bluffs or steep sloping walls of gravel>"
They arrived safely in Thessalon at about 3:30 p.m and were greeted by Mayor Cork and other dignitaries. Great sympathy was expressed on the death of Mr. Godfrey. A civic reception was held at the Stinson Hotel.
|Earle Sootheran, Mr Godfrey, Oliver Korpela|
As a matter of historical interest, the first car to make the trip over Highway 129 was not a car "travelling out" from Chapleau but was a northbound car travelling "in" owned by Frank Korpela and driven by Tom Carter. They arrived at Lessard's Camp on January 28 just after the Chapleau party had headed home.
They stayed there overnight and made it to Chapleau the next day reporting bad road conditions and heavy with snow. It was necessary to stop and clean the snow from the grille of the car several times. It was a new coupe driven up from Toronto equipped with snow tires and chains.
The opening of Highway 129, although it was often called a "turkey trail through the bush" was an important moment in Chapleau history, providing highway access to Thessalon and beyond, and also to American tourists.
Travelling Highway 129 was always an adventure, and despite many improvements over the years still is. I was over it in 2015 with Alison (McMillan) and Michael McMullen when we travelled to Chapleau for the launch of 'The Chapleau Boys Go To War." My email is firstname.lastname@example.org