Margaret Costello was "drifting across town", likely in her Volkswagen, one evening in early 1962, heading for a council meeting which had been postponed, but discovered a bingo game underway in the Town Hall basement.
Better known as "Maggie" she was the local reporter for the Sudbury Star, and later the Sault Daily Star for many years.
The bingo game in progress downstairs had more people playing then she had seen in a long time, so she went to find out what it was all about.
She asked C.O. 'Olie' Carlson, the township clerk and fire truck driver, "Whose bingo is this?," she asked.
"The fire brigade's", he replied, Margaret wrote in her Sudbury Star column. Just a quick aside. For many years, the township clerk was also the fire truck driver and lived in an apartment above the old fire hall on Pine Street. T.R. Serre and Vern Goldstein, two of the previous township clerks had lived in the apartment.
Margaret chatted with Fire Chief Adam Andrews to find out why the fire brigade was holding a bingo.
The fire chief explained that the bingo, along with other activities, was to raise funds to provide the firefighters with dress uniforms.
She wrote they would add "distinction to our already outstanding fire brigade by providing members with uniforms, smart and individually tailored."
But, they were not for fighting fires but for special occasions in which they participated. From this beginning in 1962, the fire department members, have been present at so many special occasions and functions in Chapleau, the most recent being the ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in World War II on April 9. Thanks to Pat (Purich) Russell for providing me with photos from the Chapleau ceremony at the cenotaph.
In talking with Maggie, the fire chief commented, "And it's not costing the taxpayer a cent", as fundraisers were being held.
Maggie pointed out that the chief had good reason to be proud of the work of this brigade and of the acquisition of a new fire truck which would also mean a saving to taxpayers in the form of lower insurance with better equipment to fight fires.
She complimented the fire brigade on it promptness and efficient performance.
Chapleau township council had approved a new truck and "this monster" arrived by December 1961.
The truck carried a 500 gallon tank, a 625 gallon per minute pump for where water was available, breathing apparatus, hoses, ladders and equipment for firefighters. They spent two days training in the use of the new equipment.
In 1958, Chapleau saw a great improvement in its fire alarm system. The boxes found on many street corners were replaced with a new system installed in the old pumphouse by Bell Telephone. Apparently it was the first in Northern Ontario.
A special phone was installed in the home of all fire brigade members. When the pumper received a call, he went to a special booth and placed call, and provided exact information on the location of the fire. It also determined how many firefighters were available. Also in 1958, Adam Andrews succeeded George Collinson as fire chief.
ERRATA: In my recent column about Prime Minister Lester Pearson sending telegram to Chapleau telephone operators extending congratulations on their work during the forest fire of 1965, the gremlins were at work. I wrote that acting chief operator was Mrs. Mary "Bowles". Not so! It was Mrs. Mary Bowes, and I apologize for the error. Thanks to her son Bob Bowes, for his email. My email is email@example.com