Articles

Look what they’ve done to the Mounties

They don’t wear scarlet coats or ride horses or stand six feet tall or always get their man ... ... but the story of these quiet men with brief cases is more dramatic than even Hollywood suggests

ALAN PHILLIPS July 1 1954
Articles

Look what they’ve done to the Mounties

They don’t wear scarlet coats or ride horses or stand six feet tall or always get their man ... ... but the story of these quiet men with brief cases is more dramatic than even Hollywood suggests

ALAN PHILLIPS July 1 1954

Look what they’ve done to the Mounties

Articles

They don’t wear scarlet coats or ride horses or stand six feet tall or always get their man ... ... but the story of these quiet men with brief cases is more dramatic than even Hollywood suggests

ALAN PHILLIPS

AS DERWENT CONNISTON lay dying in the frozen Arctic wasteland, the words of burly, steely eyed Inspector McDowell echoed in his mind: “Don’t come back until you get your man, dead or alive!”

This solemn bit of repartee is from James Oliver Curwood’s best-selling novel The River’s End. It has been duplicated so many thousands of times in fiction that there’s scarcely a red-blooded boy from Bristol to Bangkok who doesn’t recognize “Get your man!” as the slogan of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the most glamorous police force in history.

Hollywood has arrayed such high-priced help as Gary Cooper and Alan Ladd in the famous crimson tunic and gold-striped blue breeches. Every day the U. S. comic-book press exports to a dozen countries around the globe the adventures of such stalwarts as King of the Royal Mounted, Renfrew of the Royal Mounted, and Sergeant Preston of the Yukon. In Ottawa, as this is written, a U. S. camera crew is filming a series of television color shorts “based on the files of the RCMP.”

Whether these indestructible heroes emerge from

a motion-picture projector, a printing press or a television tube, they’re all cut from the same red cloth. At the drop of a clue, the “Mountie” leaps on his horse or hitches up his huskies and hits the trail. In his scarlet coat he battles, barehanded, a ferocious pack of wolves. He fights his way through a mountain pass in a blinding snowstorm with only his boy-scout hat for protection. Singlehanded he tracks down gangs of desperate killers, rustlers, fur poachers and hijackers.

As a result, the whole world knows the Mountie. He’s a bachelor, handsome, young and at least six feet tall. He’s fair and square; he never shoots unless the bad guys shoot first. He’s the clean-cut protector of the young, the aged, the innocent and all beautiful damsels in distress. As a lover, it’s true he’s a bit on the backward side (partly modesty and partly all those rules and regulations) but in a pinch he can yodel like Nelson Eddy and cause case-hardened charmers like Paulette Goddard and Dorothy Lamour to behave like bobby-soxers.

The force has such a reputation that when a Mounted Policeman from the Granby, Que., detachment called to arrest a man for smuggling

tobacco, the man’s wife, relying on the vaunted RCMP chivalry, pretended to faint in the Mountie’s arms to give her husband a chance to make his getaway. The Mountie, disappointingly, seized the man in a police grip and let the woman fall in a flower bed. She emerged muddy and wrathful, profanely daring the Mountie to combat, from which he abstained.

Such setbacks to the legend are seldom reported. One Irish lad from Dunmanway, Cork, had such implicit faith in the RCMP that he sent off a letter addressed to: “Santa Claus,c/o The Mounties, Regina, Canada.” The commissioner’s office obligingly sent the boy a reply and signed it “Santa.”

Even in Canada the Mountie remains a hero. During the Royal Tour, Bert Marsh of the United Press came into the Charlottetown JHotel and spotted a small boy sitting in the lobi>y, embarrassed but obviously determined.

“Waiting for the Princess, son?” said Marsh.

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Real Mounties Never See These Mounties

“Naw. I’ve seen her.”

“The Duke?”

“Naw. Seen him too.”

Marsh’s curiosity was now aroused. “Anything I can do?” he asked.

Out it came: “I want to meet a Mountie.” He did, thanks to Marsh.

The Charlottetown lad’s ambition is shared by women all over the world. In England, one Brenda Willis wrote to her local paper, “Dear Editor, I wonder if you would be so kind as to print my request. I would like to marry a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman.” From Boston, four girls wrote to the Canadian Government Travel Bureau; they were planning a trip to Antigonish and would like to have four Mounties, “one for each of us.”

The Mounties rival Niagara Falls as Canada’s premier tourist attraction and in reluctant deference to this fact the RCMP has its men patrol Ottawa’s Parliament Hill and the station platforms at Jasper and Banff at train-time, clad in their hot, heavy, red-serge dress uniforms. One Ottawa constable was photographed 800 times in one day last year. At the last San Francisco World’s Fair, one of the most popular exhibits was “a real live Mountie.” He stood stiffly at attention outside the Canadian pavilion, flushed and perspiring while bevies of admiring girls enveloped him in giggles, had their pictures snapped beside him and plied him with highly personal questions. “How old are you?” “Are you married?” “How many men have you killed?”

Tracking Down Rabbits

Because of the deeds attributed to them in fiction, movies and comic books, Mounties are often asked how many men they have killed. Their replies are disappointing to those who associate blazing six-shooters with scarlet tunics, for remarkably few Mounties have killed anybody. Most of their duties are pretty prosaic. In Ottawa, for example, the daily routine of Constable Edward Brethour is to examine fire extinguishers and elevator shafts in government buildings and to see that waste paper is disposed of in a way that won’t cause fire hazards. In Vancouver, a constable trudges from house to house checking naturalization papers. In an Alberta detachment a Mountie sits at his desk and writes out a report on the increase in rabbits. None of these men has killed anyone yet, and it’s doubtful if anyone will kill them.

Supt. Edward Brakefield-Moore, a former member of the New Brunswick bar, now in charge of RCMP training, says his figures on deaths in Canada show more chance of a civilian dying a violent death than a Mountie. “The RCMP is the safest group in the country to be in,” he says.

Since the 81-year-old force began, only 89 men have died on duty, far more by drowning than by gunfire. In fact, the last time a Mountie was killed in action (Constable Alexander Gammon on May 25, 1950) he wasn’t even on duty. He was walking home for lunch after a forenoon hitch as a Bank of Canada guard in Montreal. As he walked by a branch of the Bank of Toronto the door burst open and a man with a gun in his hand came rushing out. Gammon seized him, they grappled, the man fired three shots and left Gammon dying on the pavement. The killer, Thomas Rossler, was picked up months later in Montana. He died on the scaffold in Montreal. While Rossler was hanged for murdering a Mountie, Mounties aren't supermen and they don’t “always get their man.”

That isn’t their motto and never was. No Mountie rides a horse in the line of duty any more, unless he’s assigned to the famous Musical Ride. There hasn’t' been a true manhunt in the north since 1932, when Albert Johnson, “the Mad Trapper of Rat River,” was tracked down and killed, and that wasn’t a lone Mountie chasing a dozen badmen, but a lone badman chased by a Mountie-led posse of eleven. The truth seems to be that although the Mounties wear the best-known uniform in the world and are the world’s bestknown police force, most

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Look Who! They've Done to the Mounties

CONTINUED EROM PAGE 8

of the knowledge about them is either grossly exaggerated or pure myth.

The RCMP is often compared with the FBI in the U. S., a comparison that’s not very enlightening. There are three main types of police in Canada: federal, provincial and municipal. The Mounties act as all three. Right across the country they enforce some 55 laws which chiefly concern the federal government (income tax evasion, smuggling, etc.). They have signed contracts with all provinces except Ontario and Quebec to act as provincial or rural police. By request of. the municipalities, they police 120 cities and towns. Add to this their role in policing the Northwest Territories which are under federal jurisdiction and the Mounties are unique.

They’re the G-Men, the T-Men, the IJ. S. Coastal Patrol, the Texas Rangers and Scotland Yard rolled into one. Like the G-Men and T-Men, they track down spies, drug peddlers and counterfeiters. Their converted minesweepers steam to the aid of disabled vessels, like the U. S. Coastal Patrol. On the prairies, where rustling still goes on occasionally, their role is much like that of the Texas Rangers. And like Scotland Yard in London, they walk a city beat.

As town, city, provincial, federal and frontier police they’ve more duties than any police force in the world. In B. C., the Maritimes and the prairie provinces they’re game wardens, fisheries inspectors, shipping registrars and census-takers. In the Yukon and Northwest Territories, where publicofficials are few and far between, they’re magistrates, postmasters, coroners, sheriffs, customs collectors, immigration inspectors, measuring surveyors and tax collectors. They issue licenses for dogs, furs, game, mining claims, timber and cars, report on the weather, pay out Family Allowances and perform marriages.

They stretch the word police to its limits. When a lion escaped from a traveling show in 1950 and began to prowl the main street of Rycroft, Alta., the RCMP Spirit River detachment had to stalk the beast and shoot it. When the Alaska Highway opened for traffic the Mounties had to cope with an influx of ancient decrepit vehicles which had run out of gas and whose owners had run out of cash. When a foreign dignitary visits Canada it’s the RCMP who have to protect him. They have usually done this so well that ex-President Truman said regretfully as he left, “I’d like to take the Mounties back with me,” an idea which Elizabeth and Philip carried out after the Royal Tour when they took Assistant Commissioner Melville F. E. Anthony and four of their RCMP bodyguards back to London as their guests.

No Mountie thinks his job is glamorous. In the crime labs at Ottawa and Regina 32 Mounties work a nine-tofive routine with white smocks over their uniforms. They peer through microscopes at a cartridge fired from a killer’s gun, at a bloodstained suicide note, or at a strand of hair found beneath a dead woman’s fingernails. They run a chemical test on the contents of a suicide’s stomach. But at five o’clock, the grisly carefully numbered exhibits go back in the safe. It’s engrossing work—but it’s strictly a job.

One man in the crime lab used to run for his bus every morning. He would grab his brief case in one hand,

forage cap in the other and kiss his wife good-by as he ran out the door. One day in the lab, absorbed in an interesting bit of work, he let five o’clock pass by unnoticed. Suddenly, another Mountie opened the lab door, stuck his head in and yelled, “The bus is leaving!” The startled lab man jumped up, snatched his brief case and hat, kissed his sergeant and sprinted after the bus.

In the new, five-story, grey-stone headquarters on the outskirts of Ottawa (built as a Catholic seminary and rented by the force) Commissioner Leonard Hanson (Nick) Nicholson and his top brass make police policy and boss the work of 378 uniformed desk-ridden Mounties and 546 civilians, mostly girls. The supply branch sees that the men are fed, clothed, sheltered and mobile (25 ships, 10 aircraft, 1,071 motor cars, 78 trucks, 62 motorcycles, four snowmobiles and 178 horses —for basic training only). The Fingerprint Bureau, the section that registers firearms, the crime-index section where criminals’ records are filed and the monthly Police Gazette which publishes pictures of Canada’s most-wanted criminals, are quietly busy servicing

“Physically, tilt* Mounties arc the smallest cops in tin* western world**

police forces all across the country. The Criminal Investigation Branch handles the paper work on all serious cases —arson, armed robbery, major frauds, murder. They see where two narcotics cases 2,000 miles apart may be the work of one syndicate; they read the signs that indicate a revival of illicit liquor manufacture. The staff of G Division, headed by Supt. Henry Larsen of Northwest Passage fame, manages affairs in the north. And up on the fifth floor, the very hush-hush Special (counter-espionage) Branch trades reports of enemy aliens with other intelligence services, translates the published news from behind the Iron Curtain and tries to fit it in with the findings of their own undercover men. The atmosphere^throughout the building is military and efficient. Officers and sergeants eat in separate messes; constables and civilians line up in the basement cafeteria.

The scope of the RCMP and the vast terrain its men patrol—3,600,000 square miles—have created an impression that the force is large. Actually, there are only 4,432 men, about the same number as the police force of Detroit. New York City has close to 20,000 policemen.

Mounties aren’t even big individually. The popular idea of the tall broad-shouldered Mountie is a leftover from the days when a policeman had to be able to kick down a saloon door and break up a brawl. By taking only big men, the RCMP found it was getting too much brawn and too little brain power. An anthropologist was consulted on the height of the average Canadian. “Just under five feet, eight inches,” he reported. So the RCMP made five feet, eight inches its minimum requirement. Physically, the Mounties are the smallest police force in the western world.

Perhaps the biggest misconceptions have been bred by the movies, which have never let the RCMP grow up. Without exception, Hollywood has placed its red-coated heroes of the

force’s infancy, in the fabulous era of the North West Mounted Police. In the 1870s, the country west of Winnipeg had just been taken over from the Hudson’s Bay Company. It was virgin land, ripe for settlement. But ¡t was unknown country, a wilderness ruled by fierce undefeated Indians. And as law replaced the six-gun in the wild U S. west, the worst of the frontier scum crossed the border into Canada to despoil the last great Indian wealth of the plains. They traded whisky and gunpowder for buffalo robes, horses and young squaws; they raped and killed without provocation.

The Canadian west was a tinder box in 1873, when Sir John A. Macdonald formed the Mounted Rifles and sent six troops of cavalry—300 men—on a man-killinf thousand-mile trek to the foothills to wipe out the main outlaw stronghold, Fort Whoopup. Alarmist headlines in the U. S. press warned that Canadians were raising an expeditionary force. Macdonald promptly ran his pen through the word “Rifles,” renaming the force the North West Mounted Police.

A whole army, let alone a tiny band of 300, couldn’t have kept 30,000 Indians in line by force. But the Mounted Police had spiritual allies. For 150 years the most distinctive uniform in all the American colonial wars had been the crimson coats of the British Army. All the plains Indians —Blackfeet, Crees, Piegans, Bloods, Sarcees, and Saulteaux—knew from the tales of their fathers what kind of men the redcoits were. So the men of the North West Mounted Police—led by Col. George French, and later Col. James Macleod, were issued scarlet jackets—the symbol of courageous men who never went back on their word.

South of the border where Indian wars were costing uncounted lives and millions of dollars, the only good Indian was a dead one. In Canada the NWMP knew the Indians’ respect for justice and courage. One by one the whisky traders were jailed or went back home where pickings were easier. The Mounties made their motto “Maitiens le Droit” or “Maintain the Right” and Macleod won the lasting friendship of Crowfoot, the most influential chief on the plains.

When the famed Sioux war chief, Sitting Bull, took refuge in Canada after his massacre of Gen. Custer, he tried to enlist Crowfoot’s aid in one last desperate stand against the white men. The far-sighted Crowfoot refused. He spoke eloquently in favor of the treaty which placed our plains tribes on reservations. “If the police had not come to this country,” he said, “where would we all be now? Bad men and whisky were killing us . . . The police have protected us as the feathers of the bird protect it from the frosts of winter.” Today some Indians on the prairies refuse to take their treaty money unless it is handed to them by a Mountie in a red coat.

There were plenty of clashes with hostile chiefs but the Mounties showed firmness rather than force. One such chief was Piapot, who so hated the 8moke-belching iron horse—the CPR —that he pitched his tepees on the railway’s right-of-way and refused to let the railroaders build any farther.

Two Mounties—a sergeant and a constable—were given the mission of moving Piapot’s men. The Mounties rode up to the chief’s tent through a mounted mob of derisive tribesmen and told Piapot to break camp. The braves hooted scornfully. Piapot merely turned his back.

The sergeant took out his watch. “I’ll give you just fifteen minutes,” he said.

The two red-coated policemen sat on

their horses and waited quietly. Piapot’s howling braves milled around them, jostling their horses and firing over their heads. Piapot smoked in malevolent satisfaction. Now and then, the sergeant would look at his watch. Piapot began to grow uneasy.

When the fifteen minutes were up, the sergeant coolly dismounted, tossed his reins to the constable, strode over to Piapot’s lodge, and with great deliberation kicked out the centre pole. As Piapot watched incredulously the Mountie went from lodge to lodge collapsing each one. Then he mounted

“Thirty Years Without Beer” was the only hook Mountie Dickens wanted to write

his horse and rode away with the constable. Over-awed, Piapot soon followed.

Such tales spread the fame of the force around the world. It gave them the finest cricket team in North America as adventurous Englishmen—remittance men and some noblemen—

came to Canada to join the NWMP. One was Charles Dickens’ son, a morose, taciturn heavy-bearded man with piercing eyes. Asked why he didn’t write like his father, he replied that the only book he would ever write would be about the prohibition-dry Northwest Territories. He would call

Those famous scarlet coats are now mainly tourist bait; and squad cars have replaced the horse

it, Thirty Years Without Beer.

In 1904 Edward VII honored the exploits of the NWMP by adding the prefix Royal. In 1920, the RNWMP was the outstanding candidate to be Canada’s first country-wide police force, absorbing and enlarging the functions of the Dominion Police who guarded government buildings and naval bases, kept identification files and fingerprint records. The commissioner moved from Regina to Ottawa and the Mounties became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. In 1928 Saskatchewan asked the force to serve as provincial police. The other prairie provinces and the Maritimes followed suit in 1932. The RCMP added a marine branch that same year. In 1937 the crime-detection lab was set up along with an air division, now manned by ex-combat fliers.

Movies to the contrary, it’s years since a Mountie in a red coat went galloping after a criminal. When the King and Queen visited Windsor, Ont., in 1939, the RCMP detachment who paraded in their honor had to borrow their mounts from the Detroit city police. The celebrated red coats are only brought out now to brighten ceremonies, tourist resorts and court rooms. And when the Mounties do take off after a criminal—in a tunic of chocolate brown and a black-and-white patrol car—it isn’t quite the way it’s portrayed in fiction.

The typical modern Mountie chasing the typical modern criminal is no lone wolf but depends on science, teamwork and well-established procedures — on two-way radio patrol cars, teletype systems, aircraft, tire tracks and fingerprints, even on highly trained dogs. All these and other elements figured in a manhunt after the Bank of Toronto branch at Wolseley, in Saskatchewan’s beautiful Qu’Appelle Valley, was held up on the morning of June 22, 1950, by two armed and masked bandits who got away with almost $50,000. The acting manager of the bank reported the crime to RCMP Cpl. Stanley Wight at nearby Indian Head. Wight telephoned SubInspector Walter Taylor, head of RCMP criminal investigation at Regina, who ordered radio patrol cars to move in and blockade the highways.

A Wolseley resident told Wight of seeing a “blue 1950 Meteor” speeding furiously toward Lemberg, 25 miles north. A storekeeper on the WolseleyLemberg road said a stranger with a “foreign accent” had stopped that morning for bananas, pop, tinned meat and crackers. This information was relayed by radio to Mounties converging on the district and at a garage in Lemberg two of them found a mechanic tinkering with a blue 1949

Meteor with Quebec license plat« The owner said he was William Lukashuk, 24, a carpenter from Bourlamaque, Que., and was going to Vancouver. He protested his innocence and there was nothing incriminating ¿ his car, but the Mounties detained him Within two days one RCMP expert had identified tire tracks near the bank as the tracks of Lukashuk’s tires; another expert had identified his fingerprints as fingerprints found in the bank, and witnesses had picked him from a line-up,

Meanwhile a teletype message to the RCMP at Montreal brought a reply that Lukashuk was deep in debt and had fled there to avoid having his auto seized, and that the man with him was his cousin, Archie Dlugopolsky, who presumably was hiding out with the loot from the bank and the guns. An aerial patrol by Wight failed to spot Dlugopolsky but police slowly cruising the Wolseley-Lemberg road for clues discovered Lukashuk’s now familiar tire tracks on a spot where he had pulled off the road and parked. RCMP German shepherd dogs picked up a trail that led along a river, lost it where the fugitive had crossed to the other side, picked it up again, then lost it completely because it had grown too cold to follow. But, as another part of the Mounties’ procedure, they’d had telephone operators warn all people on rural phone lines to be on the lookout for the missing hold-up man. On the fourth day after the robbery this paid off. Three small boys at Odessa, 35 miles from Wolseley, saw a man badly in need of a shave. They said he had a revolver. Their parents phoned the RCMP and the dogs were taken to Odessa where they picked up the trail once more. Following the dogs, the Mounties soon saw Dlugopolsky ahead of them, running. He ignored an order to stop and a shot that was fired over his head, and vanished into tall grass witji one of the dogs in hot pursuit. In a minute Dlugopolsky was shouting, “Help, save me!” The carefully schooled dog had overtaken him, knocked him to the ground and was on his back, growling. Dlugopolsky was carrying three guns—and the stolen money. He and Lukashuk, on the fifth day after the hold up, pleaded guilty before a magistrate and were sentenced to five-year terms in the Saskatchewan penitentiary.

Sometimes, however, it takes the Mounties a little longer to get their man. In 1917 a man was sent down for 15 years for rape. In 1924 he got his ticket-of-leave, or parole. In 1930 he broke his parole. A warrant was issued but he’d disappeared.

For 20 years nothing was heard of the man. Then in 1950 a Toronto city policeman picked up a man for

jngjng a Dise fire alarm. Instead of

yjng a $50 fine the man chose jail, jn the usual manner his fingerprints Aere sent to the RCMP Fingerprint Bureau in Ottawa. They found in their routine check that the prints were (hose of the missing parole-breaker and he went back to the penitentiary for eight years, two months, and 25 days. This, too, is typical—except for the time period.

Sometimes they don’t get their man at all. In June 1950 two constables arrived in Niagara Falls to serve a simmons on two tax delinquents, a brother and sister. They found their quarry all right—in the cemetery, where the brother and sister had been for twenty, and five years, respectively.

These cases are not the stuff of which legend is made. But beneath the modern procedures the old traditions remain. The modern Mountie is very much aware of his reputation. At the ceremonial opening of the Alaska Highway in November 1942 a column of RCMP stood on parade. It was 20 below zero and the head of the U. S. Army engineers, Gen. O’Connor, told the officer in charge of the RCMP that his column could keep parkas on. “Wouldn’t think of it, sir,” the RCMP officer said, and throughout the ceremony the Mounties stood unflinchingly at attention, clad only in scarlet serge.

A U. S. politician who noticed the byplay remarked, “I thought only the II. S. Marines felt that way about their uniform.”

The RCMP feels the same way about duty. No wise man pulls his weight on a Mountie. Mounties have given traffic tickets to cabinet ministers, senators and provincial premiers. If a constable is right he knows the force will back him up. The classic case occurred a few years ago when a constable on patrol on the outskirts of a small town heard a shot down by the river. He hurried down and saw a man with a rifle in a motor boat. The man was no stranger to the constable. He was one of the district’s leading citizens.

“You know you’re not supposed to shoot ducks out of season, don’t you. sir?” asked the constable.

The prominent citizen said he hadn’t known there was any closed season on the particular type of duck he’d shot. He apologized at some length. It put the constable in a delicate position. He didn’t want to offend the man but his duty was clear-cut. “I’m sorry, sir,” he said at length, “I’ll have to prefer charges against you.”

“I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” suggested the hunter. “I’ll drop a line to the chief game warden and explain what I’ve done. How’s that?”

The constable was glad to agree. Back in his office he typed out a full report. His commanding officer wrote to the chief game warden to expect the letter from the town’s well-known citizen. Weeks went by but the letter never came.

The RCMP, through the constable, had made a gentleman’s agreement and it had been broken. So the inspector ordered a warrant sworn out for the man’s arrest, charging him with shooting a duck out of season. The prominent citizen was outraged. “Intolerable and preposterous!” he thundered. The KCMP had no evidence, only a constable’s word against his. He was acquitted at the trial.

Now the RCMP was outraged. The force appealed the case and won. The man was ordered to pay a $10 fine. He refused. He declared he would carry t he case right to the Supreme Court.

So the RCMP began to collect further evidence. Then, unexpectedly, the man decided not to appeal. Immediately the RCMP sent

a Mountie to collect the $10 fine. The man’s big home was dark. The Mountie peered in a window. The furniture was gone. The man and his family, the Mountie learned, had left town the night before and were headed out of the country.

So the Mounties began in earnest to dig into his affairs. His house, they learned, was heavily mortgaged; payments were overdue. He had lost a great deal of money in a bankrupt factory. Then a widow claimed she had given the man $30,000 to invest for her. She said she had written him

about it without getting an answer.

The RCMP sought to trace the man but he had disappeared. It was not until he registered with a group in another province some time later that they picked him up and brought him back for trial. Once again he was acquitted. But at the end of the trial a Mountie served him a warrant that stated he owed the Government $10. This time he paid.

But not quite soon enough. The Mounties had turned up a woman who claimed the man had defrauded her of $80,000. Again the Mounties arrested

I fl. it seen~ though t. legendary z frequently g~ justify it. * Next Issue: The F What it takes to he a Mountie