Sunday, May 24, 2015

"The Chief" stuck as decided by the Chapleau Midgets of 1970-71


As I was reading a message from one of my former students from Chapleau High School on Facebook, it struck me that I have sure been called an awful lot of names over the past 60 years or so.

Growing up I was simply Michael or Mike, my mother being the one person who always called me Michael.

When I became a newspaper reporter in 1964, bylines were so important and Michael was used in them except at the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix where the legendary managing editor P.V. Wade made me Mike Morris, but he usually called me by my last name, as in "Morris, get in here now!" After I started teaching at Chapleau High School, I became "Mr Morris" and had great difficulty adapting to it.
As CHS student

I still recall telling Robert Fife, now the Ottawa Bureau Chief of The Globe and Mail one day that my name was Michael not Mr but not much I could do about it.

The principal of the day J.B. Walsh would come into the staff room and sternly say, "Mr. Morris, my office now!" Just a shade of difference between Mr Wade and Mr Walsh.
As young reporter

Shortly after I started teaching, the 1970-71 Chapleau Midgets hockey team fired their coach (yes, they fired him) and hired me. At a practice Keith McAdam one night, said, "Hey, MJ...!" and before he got any further in no uncertain terms I told the team I was "Mr Morris" to them. I had really adapted quickly to being a Mr. Teaching high school will do that to you.

I stormed out of the dressing room having made my point, lit a cigarette, and listened through the door to the players talk it over. They really did not think Mr sounded right, but what to call me so that I wouldn't lose it again. Lionel Corston, my next door neighbour and First Nations person spoke up and said, "Let's call him Chief. He's the chief and we are the Indians." Immediately they all agreed. (I use the word Indians totally in the context of the dressing room conversation.)

The dressing room door opened and led by team captain Jamie Doyle, who had hired me, they marched past, each one saying, "Hi Chief" with the mischievous smiles that only kids can display when they have won a round.

What could I do? The name stuck, at first just used by hockey players, then much more widely, and when someone wanted to really make a point it became "The Chief said..." Of course for the most part I was Mr Morris at school. Like all teachers I also became "Sir" as in "Sir said.." and later I had an increasing number call me "MJ" and still do.
As politician 1978

While living in Chapleau I became the reeve (mayor) of Chapleau, and I was called Reeve Morris, Mr Reeve and at times "Your Worship" --- an honorific I actually hated and still do when I hear it in reference to the head of a municipality.

But not all names I have had were terms of endearment. Here is one example as told to me by Gilbert Landry, who was the head custodian at CHS for many years and my good friend. One night Gilbert was at a social gathering when the conversation turned to the Canadian economy which was in a downturn in the early Seventies. Gilbert reported that one person commented: "I know what's wrong with the economy. It's all the fault of that son of a bitch Morris and Trudeau." Pierre Trudeau was prime minister of Canada at the time.

I know that in my time I've been called an SOB and worse whether it has been because of my involvement in hockey or politics or whatever. But that's OK.

At College of the Rockies it was mostly Michael. On Facebook, it seems that I'm getting Michael, Mike, MJ, and Chief most of the time. The odd Sir or Mr Morris.

At College of the Rockie
How did I deal with it when people asked me what I preferred to be called over the years. I have simply replied that whatever makes them comfortable. Obviously Chief brings back some of the fondest memories while coaching those Midgets who were so much a part of my life 40 plus years ago, and for Lionel Corston who died far too young.

In the past ten years I have a new one. My best friend calls me "Bud" as in "what's up today Bud?" when he contacts me on Facebook or phone or with a text.

By the way, today I am Michael J. Morris, with my cousin Michael K. McMullen, as our book 'The Chapleau Boys Go To War' became available on Amazon.com.

Please comment or email me at mj.morris@live.ca.

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