Diane: So I think as others have mentioned, Willi Pfisterer and Peter Fuhrmann were huge in my first 5 or so years because they were doing all of our Public Safety training and they were both really strong, skilled characters. With Peter, he always liked to push the window so we called them “Fuhrmann Sanctions” ‘cause when things got a little more difficult, Peter loved it. Fortunately, most cases we pulled through and things were fine but there were occasional times where people ended up injured. One of the trips was coming off the Wapta Traverse. There were quite a crew of us including RCMP members because Peter always liked to include RCMP members, which was good for communications and they also had to be involved at times. Coming off from Balfour, we came out Waves Creek. It’s already a very long day to start from Balfour and come out to the Trans Canada Highway but that was the plan. Skiing down Waves Creek, we reached the Yoho Valley. We actually needed to come down on the river right but whoever was leading at the time chose to go river left. Peter liked to have people out front making decisions and at that point I was kinda near the back of the group and I’m thinking, “Why are we on this side of the river?” We actually need to cross the river and the river opens so you need to cross it higher up where you can cross it on ice. So we backtrack up and got across the river and out we go down near Twin Falls trail going back towards Laughing Falls.
We had a couple of ski doos set in place at Laughing Falls by Rick Langshaw and others so that when we got to that point, we could go out by ski doo. It would be faster because it was such a long day and there were a lot of us. So there we were skidooing in the dark with one person driving and 4-5 people towing behind the ski doo. Going down from Laughing Falls to Takakkaw Falls and then down the road. Things were going smooth until somebody caught a ski, George from Elk Island, and he ended up dislocating his shoulder. We were at the top of the switchbacks. So Peter, being competent as he was, managed to put George’s shoulder back in by putting his foot in his armpit, grabbing his arm and putting it in. George rides on the back of the skidoo for the last 10 kms and out we come. It was a Peter kind of day, a long day and a little bit of this and that. But we all got out to the road. George was a little worse for wear but everyone else was in one piece…and exhausted.
3244: Peter and Willi were wonderful and then of course Tim Auger played a really big role in everybody’s lives. He was just such a lovely person, skilled and very communicative. He managed people really well as far as dealing with injured people and dealing with the press. Managing big incidents in a very competent way so we were very lucky to have Tim for so many years.
003348: Just a couple of other people to mention, people that were important to me. One was Jay Morton. He was my mentor and partner for the first summer I worked as a seasonal warden in Lake Louise, 1979. Much as he had a reputation for doing some unusual things, he was absolutely wonderful as a mentor. I had a huge amount of respect for him. When we worked as a Duty Warden team, we were together all the time. Whenever we interacted with the public, he was really just amazing. He treated visitors with respect. I still remember people asking what I thought were the stupidest questions, but Jay would always come back with a reasonable answer, give them something that they were likely looking for and they would walk away feeling very satisfied that he had contributed to their experience. Another person that was wonderful was Peter Whyte. He was the Chief Park Warden of Kootenay when I worked at Marble Canyon. He was excellent as a supervisor, mentor, and manager. He had previously worked in Banff. When I first came to Lake Louise he was assistant Chief Park Manager (like the Keith Everts positions) but he moved from Banff to Kootenay in the early 1980s and it was his first role as Chief Park Warden in Kootenay. He was there for quite a few years and then moved to Pacific Rim to be the Chief Park Warden. He was not related to Cliff or Brad White. He was from Ontario originally but just a really wonderful manager.
MH: Is there anything about the Warden Service, as you knew it, that you would like future generations to know?
Diane: I could only wish that they would have been able to have the experience that I did because I felt I was in the Warden Service at a very wonderful time for opportunity. I don’t think it’ll ever be quite the same. I know that people will appreciate their Resource Conservation experiences and living and working in a National Park anyways. But I’m sorry that they can’t look forward to the same experiences.
MH: What made the Warden Service such a unique organization? 3645
Diane: I think working with a dedicated group of very skilled individuals who were able to work together as a tight team most of the time. There was always the odd conflict here or there but most people really enjoyed their work and were willing to put all sorts of time and effort into it. Of course, way beyond regular hours, people were just so dedicated. Since we needed so much training in order to do all the responsibilities, we ended up on many training courses such as Public Safety schools, Initial Attack training or in Regina doing Law Enforcement. In many cases, you got to know people really well because you’re with them up to 24 hours a day for a number of days. Because people knew each other so well and generally liked each other, it ended up being a really tight organization that I think a lot of others were envious of. But it made for an excellent organization to be part of.
MH: Do you have any lasting memories as a Warden? 3805
Diane: My favourite park is the Lake Louise district of Banff. On assignments, I would say that Sirmilik was also a favourite place. Living in a small arctic community, being part of a community so different from our own, was just the most amazing opportunity. And then cabins, Cyclone…my history! For horses, Dolly who I used as a three-year-old and she was such a character. As much as she could be a problem at times, she was absolutely fun to have around. Generally making trouble, and then becoming the head mare of the herd when she was older. Short, fat and hairy! She definitely wasn’t my favourite horse as far as riding goes but she was just such a character horse. And for trail, Clearwater Pass is absolutely spectacular part of the parks.
MH: Do you ever miss being a Warden? 3920
Diane: Of course, I must admit when I first retired I’d see a truck go by and I’d think, “Gee, I’m really glad I’m not in that vehicle.” I’m quite ready to be doing something else. I know there are many competent people doing the work now. Passing on the reins was easy and they are doing just fine. But I do miss the camaraderie and that tight working relationship and I miss the WOW (Women of the Warden Service) parties. For about 10 years we had gatherings with a group of women related to the Warden service, not all wardens, but dispatchers, researchers and anybody who was female and related to the warden service. We would have wonderful occasional get-togethers. It was a pretty special part my later years in Banff.
MH: Do you have any photos of yourself as a warden that you would like to donate? Artifacts?
Diane: Has some but may not be able to get them to me by Sunday.
MH: What year did you retire? What do you enjoy doing in retirement? 4036
Diane: Retired in 2011. Enjoy doing many of the same things I did for work! Skiing, hiking, travelling, sea kayaking, canoeing. Still do a little volunteer work with wildlife tracking. Occupancy Surveys have been something I’ve been able to do for the last 6 years or so. Following transects in the backcountry and recording all the tracks. Generally going to places like Egypt Lake, Bryant, Palliser, Cyclone, Lake O’Hara and get to use the cabins. It’s changed a bit because it was previously a higher priority for parks to do these surveys. It was something Karsten Heuer initiated around 2009. I’ve always enjoyed tracking so that’s something I hope to continue doing. Occupancy Surveys were the follow up to sensitive species surveys. We used to pass through valleys all at the same time in February and record wildlife sightings. That ended up being less useful scientificly. Now transects have waypoints every kilometer and over each kilometer you record all the tracks. Over time it provides more reliable information. (Real science Vs Warden science.) And I was also involved in volunteering with Horsemanship, going out with a few people who needed a companion with horse skills and helping with training.
MH: Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you think I should know about the Warden Service? 4200
Diane: No I think it was pretty thorough. As I went through the questions, I went through my recent resume to see what I did for 33 years! 1978-2011…33 years. One thing that is different from most wardens, I managed to work a reduced work schedule so for a lot of my career, the last 15 years or so, I worked less than full time by choice. I was able to work 75% for a number of years. Some people thought, how dedicated can she be if she doesn’t want to work full time? For me, because of my love of travel and doing other things, it worked really well to work less than full time and then I felt I had more energy for the workplace because I wasn’t burnt out. I’d have my chance to do things outside of the Warden Service and when I come back to work, I was full on, ready to contribute. A good balance. I felt that was a great role. Since that time, there has been a lot more part time work available, I think partly because of the change in funding, reduced funding approach. Now some people who have less than full time work would prefer full time work. Generally, I’d have 12 weeks of unpaid leave plus whatever holiday I’d earned for the 9 months. So I’d be working for 8 months and off for 4 months. I was so lucky that I had supervisors like Doug Eastcott who supported this plan. I’d take time off, off-season, not during the summer. Take the time off when you are least needed. I respect that it would have been hard for the manager to do that for me because they wouldn’t necessarily have the funds to hire somebody to replace me over that time…they’d just have a little hole. But fortunately they were okay with that. It first became an option in the mid-90s when they came up with pre-retirement leave and leave with income averaging. I thought I’d won the lottery, really we could do this. Before that, a few of us like Ian Pengelly, Reg Bunyan, Al McDonald and I had talked about sharing jobs, but it was just a dream. When Income Averaging Leave became available, nobody else was interested for a long time, opening the door for me. When retirement came closer, a few others chose that option. Many people could not afford to work less than full time.
MH: Anyone else to interview? Any final comments? Diane: Off the recording, Diane mentioned a few others that would be good to interview. Andrew Lawrence who lives in Haines Junction: Lloyd Friese also from the Yukon, Kevin McLaughlin, and Rhonda Markel.
Diane’s last words about her career with the warden service, “I was lucky to fall into it…instead of changing jobs every 5 years having a profession that worked really well for me. Very appreciative of all the opportunities.”
STILL SMILING AFTER 33 YEARS!