What were some of your responsibilities? What was your official title?

My classification was Clerk 3. I issued fire permits, camping permits, grazing permits, hiking permits etc. I did the Fire Weather Index daily from spring till the snow fell. I typed compensation and accident reports and District inventories, all on an old Underwood manual typewriter. The Warden’s monthly summary sheets all had to be typed every month as well. They did finally get me an IBM Selectric typewriter which was wonderful. I can’t remember just how many copies of the inventories had to be done but that was in the days of carbon paper as there were no copy machines and the inventories were many pages long, listing every knife, fork, spoon, fire and trail maintenance equipment and much, much more. I also was responsible for depositing the District Wardens paycheques each month. I had to keep a bit of a rein on the trail crew guys and rationed out their cheques to them if they were given a few days in town. Back in those days there wasn’t this formal interview stuff and what have you, and some of them fell off the bottom of freight trains in terrible shape after wandering the streets of Alberta or B.C. cities for the winter. These men went to work on the trail crews or cabin crews and worked their butts off. They seemed to be quite happy with me managing their money. That way they would have something to show for their hard labors. I can also recall hauling one or two of the native trail crew guys out of the bar and pointing them back to work.

I did radio checks with the fire lookouts and the backcountry wardens. Every year Norman Woody would do a great lengthy document on tranquilizer drugs. If I remember correctly he used very little punctuation and had many long fancy drug names that one had to decipher. At that time farm boys and cowboys were the candidates of choice because they had the skills and knowhow to work and live in the backcountry. Some however didn’t have a whole lot of schooling so I had to do quite a bit of rewriting on some of their stuff. I can recall being away at one time when Alfie Burstrom had to write a dog report and he submitted it, I guess, in handwritten form. I don’t think it went over too well with Regional. Some of the Wardens had terrible handwriting (e.g. Abe Loewen). This made for slow going when typing up some of their stuff until I got used to it.

Another duty which was supplying the single backcountry wardens with a place to lay their weary, drunken heads when they came to town for their days off. Bob Haney used to keep his fine western style suit hanging in my front hall closet, just in case there was a dress function happening when he was in town. There was no crew house for these guys when they came in from the district so they had to fend for themselves. It’s kind of funny they still, even the older ones, still call be Ma or Mother. I guess that’s what I was to them at the time. My husband had moved out shortly before I went back to work and I had two young boys to look after as well. Their grandparents lived right across the street from the school and they went there for lunch (dinner) pretty well every day throughout their schooling which was a godsend for me, especially when we moved out of town to the hatchery. Everything seemed to run fairly smoothly and we all took care of each other.

When the Wardens Ski or Climbing Schools were held in Jasper the guys would go out on the course all day and very often close down the Athabasca Hotel bar at night. They would then come over to my house and party some more. One has to wonder how they were able to function at their course the next day. I can’t recall there ever being any accidents because of our irresponsible behavior though. You mentioned interviewing Peter Fuhrmann and I can recall one such night when a bunch of the wardens came to the house after the bar. Peter must have brought some Vodka and thought that “Black Russians” should be the drink to end the evening with. I had no ice in the fridge so Peter went out, armed with a hammer and chisel, and chopped ice off the eaves troughs of the house. It seems to me that just as it was starting to get daylight, Peter and I drove to Mount Robson to see if we could see the top of it. I’d like to think that the course was over for the week, but can’t be sure. Peter could be such a nice, fun person. I had a good visit with him at the l00th Anniversary celebration in Banff.

How long did you work for Parks? What year did you officially retire?

I regret not keeping a diary of some sort but I do have a letter from then Superintendent Rory Flanagan that is dated January 04, 1982. This should have been dated 1983. I suspect that, it being so early in the new year, his secretary wasn’t programmed into it yet. The ongoing changes in the outfit were starting to leave a bad taste in my mouth and I also had decided that I would leave before my pension froze (which would have happened when I turned 55 in February). I have thought in later years that this wasn’t such a good move. I reapplied for the Warden Office position a couple of years later but had no computer skills which kind of left me out of it. In 1985, I went to work as a seasonal with the campground cleaning crew for a couple of summers and eventually ended up working full time as the Cleaning Supervisor. I was 67 when I packed it in and was still physically able to do my job well and should probably have carried on for a couple more years because “if you don’t use it, you lose it” applied to some degree. I sure used it this winter though, keeping tons of snow shovelled off the driveway and chipping 2 to 3 inches of ice off the half of it we didn’t use this spring. Also, had I known I would be back working for Parks for another 15 years I would have bought back some of my pension. Damned hindsight!!

What did you like best about being part of the Warden Service?

The camaraderie with the guys was high on the list. The kids went to their dad’s or their grandparents most weekends and I could go out and play. Brian Wallace, John Strachan, Lloyd Freese and I all got nice new Rossignol skis and, for a couple of winters, became the Rossignol Racing Team. The guys would come over to the house and we would have our toast and peanut butter and coffee and then late morning we would go up to the hill, make a few runs and then probably drink a bottle of sparkling wine. We did quite a few things together until all the single guys got married or moved on to other parks.

Did you climb and hike?

Climbing – no way! Working where I did I was exposed to the dangerous down side of the activity too often. Toni Klettl was the Public Safety Area Manager and had one of the offices across the hall from mine and he had some pretty ghastly photos of accident victims. I showed them to my boys in hopes that it would be a deterrent. Ted played a bit on one of the practice walls but that was it.

We had no family car when I was growing up but my dad and I would hike from our house to lakes and Beaver dams that were within a five mile radius to go fishing. These were enjoyable times. The only longish hike I went on was with Bob Haney, Brian Wallace and a friend of Brian’s who was visiting from Saskatchewan. We hiked the Skyline Trail which is a comfortable two day hike in one day. We cheated a bit though, getting driven to the Signal Mountain Fire Lookout, which cut out a portion of it. I had fried the toes of my old hiking boots in a campfire so thought it was time for new ones. Not being the brightest light on the tree, I bought steel shanked boots. About three quarters of the way along the trail we figured our feet could use a rest and took off our boots and soaked our feet in a creek. There was no way that I could force myself to put mine on again and I did the rest of the hike in my sock feet. I swore that if I ever was to go on another long hike I would have a pair of stinky moccasins in my back pocket to put on if my boots were giving me grief. Pine needles are not pleasant to walk on in sock feet.

Horseback Riding – When I was a kid I had a bit of a crush on a fellow whose father owned one of the pony barns so I spent a lot of time hanging around there and being a ‘go-fer’ and ‘shit shoveller’. I got to ride a fair bit during that time. Later on I lost interest when the swimming pool opened and the lifeguards were a bunch of hunks.

I did ride into Tonquin Valley with Toni Klettl to shut down the cabins for the winter. It was a beautiful warm short sleeved day riding in there. The first night there was an electrical storm that just about shook the cabin off its foundation and the next day we rode up to Maccarib Pass in the rain looking for caribou. It snowed about a foot that night and we went out on the lesser used lower trail to check to phone line. The horses were not impressed. One might say we had three seasons in three days.

Was there anything you didn’t like about being part of the Service?

Not until about 1970 when they started screwing around and, in my and many others opinion, started to fix things that weren’t broken. It was leaving a bad taste in quite a few people’s mouths. I believe it was called centralization. It just seemed to go downhill from there and morale was getting pretty low.
What are some of the memorable events from you Park career?

In 197l Mickey McGuire was supposed to retire in the spring or early summer and we got some forest fires, one on Whistler Mountain and the other on Mount Quincy. He held off on his retirement plans until things were under control. Mickey and I would go to work around 7 am – maybe we took our lunch – I don’t remember. At supper time Mickey would go home for tea and whatever for his supper. When he got back I would go across the street to the Athabasca bar and have a hotdog and a beer and then we’d carry on with our evening chores. We took orders from the fire camps and received updates on the day’s fire fighting progress. This was done with the use of a single side band radio. These things were not your ideal mode of communication because of the way they fluctuated, making it hard to pick up parts of the conversation. One person had to be sitting right beside the radio and the other person back a ways so that hopefully what one person missed the other one caught. It mostly worked. At about eleven o’clock the fires had quieted down and we figured it was time that we could go home. I think Mickey made me put in for overtime, although I certainly didn’t expect it. There was an armed forces Chinook helicopter that had been working in the area that came to our aid shuttling crews back and forth. I was fortunate enough to get a ride with them on one of their trips. When they were called back to their base in Edmonton there was a helicopter pilot from a company in Washington, I believe, who stopped by and took over the shuttling. Most of the fire fighters were young men who were recruited from the free camp that was in operation for a few summers to accommodate transient young people. He was a Vietnam veteran and I got to make a trip with him which was quite an experience. He had the side doors off the chopper and music blaring as he went down the river, barely skimming the water. Those kids were absolutely petrified. I don’t know why I wasn’t. Guess I must have figured if he made it back from Vietnam in one piece he wasn’t going to buy the big one here.

Another rather comical event was the time I did the south boundary with Todd McCready, Roy Routledge (who was our radio tech.) and a young R.C.M.P. officer. Coming back and flying over Maligne Lake you are coming in high and then the downdraft from the lake makes the helicopter drop really quick and pretty far. That young R.C.M.P. fellow turned absolutely green. Todd said to me after we landed, “God Bev, why in hell didn’t you come and sit beside me instead of him?”

I can’t think of the young man’s name but he was attempting a solo climb on Mount Alberta. It was just so sad, because he got stuck on a ledge and pretty much knew he was not going to make it out of there. He wrote a very heart wrenching letter to his fiancée, a lovely blonde young lady. She came to Jasper, along with his parents to claim the body. It was a very sad time – he wasn’t injured, trapped by the weather and alone. I assume he died of exposure but my old brain can only retain so much and it was a long time ago.

There was a young boy who fell into the water and was swept over Sunwapta Falls one summer. They searched and searched for him. His parents walked the river banks for days to no avail. Bert Rowe was the warden at Athabasca Falls and he and his wife used to do a patrol down the highway most evenings, just checking things out. Bert spotted bird activity in the river and that was where the boy had washed up on a sandbar in the middle of the river. Not a happy ending, but one that was expected, as he boy had been missing too long.

There were many major and minor incidents of an emergency nature and they were all handled in an efficient manner. The available Wardens would grab whatever equipment they felt was required to handle the situation and be on their way. There was none of the “War Room” stuff that I can recall. The equipment was more primitive in comparison to what is available now, but they somehow mostly managed to get the job done. I don’t recall worrying too much about them. I guess one was too busy attending to their end of the operation. As for the Mount Logan premonition, that could be so, although I can’t seem to drum up a memory of it. Anything that had to do with mountain climbing did make me a bit on the nervous side though. I realize that there is a great challenge for the people that do choose to climb but it seemed to me that some of them have a bit of a death wish. There were those who elected to do solo climbs and others who were lacking in proper equipment and experience.

Do you remember when they started hiring female wardens?

I’m not sure what year that would have been but the first one we got in Jasper was a young lady named Betty Beswick. I think she was followed by a taller lady. Neither of them were around for awfully long. They were okay. It had pretty much gotten to the point where the hiring was all about book learning and formal education and people who had the actual experience in backcountry stuff were most likely being passed over. Centralization caused a lot of things that weren’t broken to be supposedly fixed.

Is there anything about the warden service as you knew it, that you would like future generations to know?

It might be kind of interesting for future generations to know that the outfit could operate pretty efficiently with only the use of the old crank telephones and the single side band radios for life lines. Today most folks are walking around with little units that you can do everything but cook your breakfast with. I guess this new technology has its good points, but everywhere you go half of the people are either talking or texting on their cell phones and, it seems to me to be paying little or no attention to their surroundings. It surprises me that they aren’t constantly bumping into other people or things.

Do you have any lasting memories of your time with the Warden Service?

I’m sure there are many. Gord Anderson and I were talking and we were both in agreement that we should be attending all the Warden Service functions that we can because renewing old friendships is very important as one grows older. I have managed to travel back to Jasper to attend the last two Warden Days. Although there are fewer of the old timers there, there are still enough to have good visits with. The 100th Anniversary celebration in Banff and the two Ya Ha Tinda ranch reunions were great get togethers. I also attended the Annual retired Warden alumni meeting in Banff two years ago and will be able to fit this year’s meeting into my trip west this spring. I am supposedly the East Coast representative but am afraid I don’t have much to input into the meeting. I did go to Kejimkuijik once last summer but didn’t really have the chance to tour around the park. Maybe next time? I couldn’t believe the amount of deadfall in the campground where my family were staying. A fire in that place would be a major disaster. There is a lot of shin tangle in Jasper as well, but they are working at clearing it out and clearing fire guards.

Although it was over 40 years ago I have good memories of the retirement party we held for Mickey McGuire. I tried to notify all the people from other outfits and agencies that had worked alongside Mickey throughout the years and was amazed at how many of them showed up for the party. Mickey and his wife, Rosetta, retired to Kelowna where they were planning on a well deserved long and happy retirement. Sadly, this was not to be. I’ll never forget George Balding coming to my desk and handing me a copy of the telex telling of Mickey’s passing. He had only a year and a half to enjoy his retirement. He passed away from an aneurism sitting in his chair waiting for Rosetta to bring him his second cup of tea. George sent me home from work and I cried for the rest of the day. There were about ten of us that travelled to Kelowna for the service.