“What were some of your responsibilities then in Jasper?

(15:54) Duane – I started out just as a general warden.” Doing general warden things, regular patrols, again backcountry patrols as required, fire fighting, mountain rescue, resource management stuff…wildlife census, that kind of stuff. Just the whole bag of the things that wardens did. We were there for two years and Mac Elder was the Assistant Chief Warden in charge of law enforcement. By the time that we had got to Jasper they had moved away from the district system and went to an area system, it was called. So they had Jasper divided into four geographical areas and they had an Assistant Chief Warden in charge of each one of those. Mac was the assistant Chief Warden in charge of area one, it included (the town) of Jasper. Probably at the end of my first two years there, they changed to a functional organization and they went to public safety, resource management, law enforcement and administration. So Mac was in charge of law enforcement at the time and then he promoted out of there. I competed and picked up the assistant Chief Warden position in about 1975. I did that almost until the end. I think the last couple of years I was the assistant Chief Warden in charge of resource management just before we left Jasper. I was operating those two functions, just managing those two different duties, I guess or activities.

“From Jasper where did you head?”

(18:11) Duane – Then we went to Ottawa. It was a new position in Ottawa as the National Warden Service Coordinator. They created that (position) because they had no field people in Ottawa. They decided they wanted field people and I made the mistake of going to Ottawa in May of one year on a conference and it was just gorgeous down there. The trees were all leafed out, it was warm, and you could walk around in short sleeves. The office was in the 26th floor of a high rise building there in Hull; it was a beautiful view out onto the river. I just thought, “Jeez, I could work here you know.” A few months later this job came open…I went down and I was successful in that. So in October of 1981 we moved to Ottawa. I was the National Warden Service Representative in Ottawa, which they had never had before. There were growing pains. There were a lot of times where you were dragged into all kinds of meetings that had nothing to do with warden stuff because you came from the field. It is amazing how people would think, “This guy was in the field, so let’s see what he says.” That wore off pretty quick…we actually had a number of warden positions that popped up after that. I think they had trouble with each and every warden that went down there because it was a very political environment. Wardens by nature I think were doers. You are practical, you know, if there was a problem you solved it. You didn’t spend a lot of time politicking. You got down there and it was all politics. So it was a lot of adjustment too.

(20:07) Donna – Well, I think it was a good experience.

(20:09) Duane – It was a good experience, but I couldn’t wait to get out of there. We planned to go down for two years. I thought, whatever I wanted to accomplish I could do in two years and that didn’t happen. It took us six years to get out of there.

(20:24) Donna – I liked it though.

(20:26) Duane – It was my six years of capital punishment!

(20:31) Donna – But what was nice about that is we finally bought our own home.

“Which was a big thing.”

(20:36) Duane – It was. In the Parks that was an issue. We were still in Park housing before we left. It was just safe and easy but you realized had we got into our own home earlier…then just financially we would have been better off in terms of equity and all that stuff. It just kind of lulled you into this false sense of security. I watched over the years when wardens retired they lost their house. They had no plan or place to live. They hadn’t thought far enough ahead. Your job ends and your house ends.

(21:17) Donna – You had to pay rent on your house, so you didn’t have enough money to have two places then.

(21:29) Donna – I loved Ottawa. It was good to me. I had a wonderful career there and things worked pretty well for me. I was an office manager for doctor offices. Darren was 15. He did not at first like Ottawa, not the first few months, but then he loved Ottawa.

(22:00) Duane – He went from a school that had probably a total of 350 kids to one that 2600 hundred in it, and he was just lost. He was a stoic sort of kid, but it was so confusing for him with the buses. 50 buses would show up…

(22:20) Donna – It was awful the first six months.

(22:23) Duane – What he would do was, he didn’t want to ask and he wasn’t certain which bus to get on, so he would leave school early and walk home.

(22:30) Donna – That was in Orleans.

(22:31) Duane – It was about five miles. So he would walk home five miles and arrive about the time he was supposed to be there on the bus. We didn’t know for weeks he was doing that, until Donna saw his feet were all blistered up. “What is going on with that?” Then he fessed up that he was walking home. So it took a little adjustment. But in the long run, I think we would all agree that it was better to have gotten him out of Jasper…We saw so many local kids that never did much with their lives. They work for Parks or they work for CN (Canadian National Railway) and made huge money, lived at home, did drugs and that was all they did. I think it was better in the long run to get him out.

(23:21) Donna – He grew up in a good environment…Warden’s kids are always pretty good.

(23:33) Duane – A lot of warden’s kids grew up fairly solid…just nice kids.

“So you were in Ottawa for six years?”

(23:55) Duane – Until 1986, yeah. In the fall of 1986 we headed back west, no 1987, sorry.

(24:05) Donna – Just in time for the Olympics.

“Were you then at the regional office in Calgary?”

(24:13) Duane – Yes. They created a new position as well. I was a regional law enforcement specialist. I pretty much did that or a version of that until I retired in 2008.

“I read your retirement speech on line, it was fantastic.”

(24:45) Yeah, that last letter that I sent to people… Charlie Zinkan (former Superintendent of Banff National Park) and I were at the airport one day. We were in the middle of the arming hearings, the gun issue hearings in Ottawa. Of course we were on different sides of the issue. Charlie was down as a manager and I was down as a witness for the warden side. We were just coming back and having a drink at the airport…and he made that comment to me, “Duane you just got to learn to relax.” He said, “It’s just a job.” That just hit me.

(25:19) Donna – It was never just a job.

(25:21) Duane – I kind of thought, “Well, if senior management is feeling that, it is a little wonder that some of the issues we were having with Parks or the change seemed to be around that mentality.” It was just like they decided, “Hey, this is a job. I will collect my bonus and do whatever and get out of here. But I am not going to worry about stuff.”

(25:42) Donna – It’s not just a job and nobody would work for that money unless it was some special way of living…That’s the way it is.

(25:49) Duane – It wasn’t just a job. It was a career. I look at somebody in retail or a bank clerk, that’s a job. “Charlie, this is not a job.”

(26:00) Donna – It was a way of life.

(26:02) Duane – Just some of those things came to mind of how special it really was. So I just sort of thought, “No, this is not just a job.”

(26:11) Donna – I wouldn’t change one minute of the experiences we had at all…I don’t know anybody that has led a more interesting life that way, than we have. There are other wardens that have but…

(26:29) Duane – It was part of the experience of being a warden and I think the group of my peers, when we started and ended would probably say that we had “the golden years” of the warden service.

(26:45) Donna – We did, I think so too.

(26:47) Duane – It was changing you know, you talk to Mac Elder and some of the old timers that lived out in the bush and had their family’s out there and they loved it. I mean that was their way of life and they mourned it when it left and changed. But when they changed more into the functional, centralized role and upped the education it was really positive for so many years. A lot of the programs that we had in the old days like public safety when we first started training we had leather boots with hobnails in them for climbing boots and construction hard hats tied on with a shoelace, old fashioned ice axes and the old hawser ropes and stuff. It was really primitive. Over those years that we were wardens that program (public safety) and fire, and law enforcement came so far. It was a very positive, positive period. We expanded a lot and we learned a lot. We had a lot of freedom in some ways, so I think we see it as “the golden years.” I suspect down the road if you talk to some of these young wardens now, in 15 years they will probably say that they had the best. It is just your own personal experience. But it really was something…there was lots of opportunities and generally there was money and generally there was a positive attitude about making change. It was good…

“Just to go back to your earlier years are there any rescue stories that stick out?”

(29:06) Duane – There are probably two of them. (I was probably involved in about 90% of rescues and recoveries…Being the Assistant Chief Warden you can insert yourself in these things, it was nice. Wardens did that anyhow, 30 wardens would show up and you only needed two! They would all get paid overtime and it was all nice. Anyways, that is kind of the way it was, people just showed up. I never supervised the public safety side of it, but I was on the public safety team for probably 15 years and did a lot of search and rescues and recoveries. Two, I mentioned, one in the letter (retirement speech) with a local kid in Jasper. We got called out in the middle of the night (because) this kid had fallen into a crevasse coming down off Mount Athabasca. It turned out it was two brothers from Jasper, I think that they were about 19 or 20. They had climbed Athabasca and they were coming down, roped together. They were on the end of a 150 foot rope, so there had a lot of distance between them. The lead kid fell through a crevasse and his brother tried to self arrest (which) he did fairly well. But the crevasse was deep enough that he went the full 150 feet, so the one at the bottom was just kind of going down like an elevator while his brother tried to arrest him. When he reached the lip of the crevasse, he fell the full distance unsupported. His brother was able to get himself out of there and put a call in. But by the time we got out and staged it was already dark. So we climbed most of the night up to the site and figured he was dead for sure because his brother said, he wasn’t doing anything. He wasn’t responding and he had been in the bottom of the crevasse for probably eight hours by the time got up to get him out. So we thought it was a body recovery for sure. We sent one of the guys who was on the team down to the bottom to check and see what we had and he let us know that he was still breathing. He was still alive! We took quite a while to get him out of there, we had to chop him out of the bottom because he was kind of jammed in. We got him up to the surface around day light and flew him into the hospital. They took a good chunk of his skull off for two weeks in Jasper because of the swelling. Once that went down enough they could put the skull piece back on and then they shipped him to Edmonton. He was in the hospital there probably for three months or something like that recovering. About six months after the accident I saw him on the street in Jasper. He had some brain damage; he was just a bit slow. He was a really nice kid. Again it sticks in your mind that you were going up for a recovery and all of a sudden it turns out (it was a rescue)

(32:17) Donna – He remembered you.

(32:18) Duane – He did, he remembered the wardens. He didn’t remember the incident, but he knew the story about being rescued and all that kind of stuff.

(32:29) Duane – I think the other one that sticks in mind was when we got a call, there was a young fellow from Edmonton, a really good climber (with) a good reputation who was doing a solo ascent on the north face of Mount Alberta, by the Icefields. He was a couple of days overdue, so we went in to see where he was at and found him at the bottom of an ice chute. It is a very vertical face, probably a 2600 foot vertical face. A cirque bowl and at the bottom there is a big ice sheet…he was at the bottom of that. He had fallen a long ways. Anyhow we went in as a recovery and analyzed what might have happened. It looked like he was self-belaying and he must have slipped and the piton pulled out…so he probably went down around 2600 feet. But when we got him back to town and looked through his gear, he had a diary that he had been keeping on the climb, sort of written to his girlfriend…He wrote about the joy of the climb and then the last day or so he realized he had gotten off route. It was tough climbing and he couldn’t go back down. He was on his own and he didn’t have enough equipment or rope to repel, so he knew that he was committed to going up. He just got on the wrong line and probably got into tougher and tougher stuff. He climbed until he fell off. He was just kind of writing about that. I kept a copy of it and eventually gave it to Tim Auger (former public safety specialist for Banff National Park) because he knew him as a climber. That just stuck, it stuck a long time because you appreciate these guys that could climb to that caliber. I always did…Mount Alberta hadn’t been climbed a lot, I think it only had one first ascent made with a team and he was trying the first solo attempt. Just to read the day to day thing. He hadn’t been getting on with his girlfriend so it was sort of like, “I hope we get back together”… But you could see over time he was realizing that things were not going well and he only had one option which was to climb and he didn’t make it. So that one stuck with me for quite a while…

“Perry Jacobson (former Chief Warden of Banff and Kootenay National Parks) said, “All wardens have a few ghosts.”)

(35:37) Duane – Yeah, it was amazing over the years because the wardens in general are a pretty stoic group and they went through a lot stuff from road accidents to whatever else. I went out to a meeting in Lake Louise, I don’t know when it would be, early 2000 I guess, in there somewhere. After the meeting on the first day we went back to our hotel room and had a few beers and told warden stories. I sat for three hours and listened to guys like Dave Norcross and some of the guys who had been around for years and years and (it seemed like) nothing bothered them, or they said it didn’t. Well, I just sat for three hours with my mouth hanging open because I had never heard wardens talk that way before about how stuff was just building up on them. Where the phone would ring and they didn’t want to answer it, they would find a way not to answer it, and not go and respond because they just did a three person or a five person fatality on the road or they had just done a mountain rescue fatality… Wardens never talked about that stuff, it was just what you did. (Then) you realized in behind there was a lot of people that felt this real stress. They had just started in those days to do that critical incident stress debriefing stuff and I think that was very helpful to do. But over the years most wardens would never admit that it bothered them or that they needed help. They bottled it up. Like I said, it was the first time that I had ever heard wardens talk like that it in my life. It was a revelation to sit there with my mouth hanging open…They didn’t want one more call out. They didn’t want to go to one more accident.

(37:47) Donna – But you know as a wife…like at Saskatchewan Crossing there is not much there, a restaurant just up the road and that was about it. You know when people were in trouble or something, like a fellow came to the door one day and his wife had passed away in their trailer…

(38:14) Duane – She had a heart attack or something, but he just couldn’t accept it. I called the ambulance anyhow and sent her in (even though) it was clear that she was dead at the scene. For his peace of mind I just thought, “We’ll let somebody more professional deal with it.” So I called it that she was still alive and sent her in because I knew that he was just going to go to pieces…

“What did you like best about being a warden?”

(39:06) Duane – Oh, there is just so much. The variety of the experience, everyday you went to work and you didn’t know what you would be faced with. It could be a series of meetings that were boring, or you could get called out of the meeting and go fight a fire, or look for a kid, or deal with a problem bear, or suit up and go sling under a helicopter on a north face somewhere to rescue somebody. It was just that the variety was so incredible.

(39:38) Donna – With me a cougar jumped through the window at the Fish Hatchery, it didn’t get through the second pane. It was starving to death. Duane was in town and we had friends that were over playing cards. I saw (something) out of the corner of my eye and thought Duane was just being stupid, peeking through the window or something. Suddenly I saw this cougar and I heard it, and it just went for it. I went and got Darren and I threw him in the porch and ran. I shut the door and counted to ten. Just little incidents like that, bears at the door…