Thank you to the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies for granting permission to the Park Warden Service Alumni to post this interview on our website
Park Warden Alumni Society of Alberta
Oral History Project – Winter 2011
Interview by Christine Crilley-Everts with Larry Gilmar
December 22, 2010 – Banff Alberta
Place and Date of Birth: Blairmore Alberta, October 2, 1941.
Occupations: Prior to joining the warden service in Banff in1960, Larry worked for local outfitters Claude Brewster and Bill Martin. He then spent 35 years with the warden service in Banff National Park and was the last warden in the park to get a district position before centralization. After retiring in 1995, Larry worked for a local excavator where one job turned into a 13 year career!
Additional Information: As young boys, Larry and his brother Ross came to Banff every summer to stay with their older brothers Mickey and Billy. Mickey, who was the warden barn boss, became the manager of the Ya-Ha-Tinda government ranch in 1957. Billy worked was an assistant warden for five years under warden Ole Hermanrude in the Healy Creek district. It was travelling the backcountry on horseback as a young boy with the old time wardens that gave Larry a love of backcountry life and the warden service. While Larry went into the warden service his brother Ross also had a Park’s career with public works as a concrete inspector. Larry now spends his days doing odd jobs and playing with his grandchildren. While he acknowledges the changes within the warden service, he says he would do it all over again and that he would recommend the job to anyone!
(0:00:15) I was born October 2, 1941 in Blairmore Alberta. Yeah, he (Larry’s dad, Clarence), ran the mine there. My mother’s name was Ruby. She’d kill me for saying that! She hated that name, she just hated it! They came from Cowley, Alberta. He ranched in Cowley and then they moved to Blairmore before Ross or I were born. Mickey was my oldest brother. He was the boss at the Ya-Ha-Tinda Ranch. He started here as the barn boss in town, like Johnny Nylund was. Then he went out to the Ya-Ha-Tinda Ranch. But don’t ask me dates! I could be way out in left field!
(0:02:03) Before I started with the warden service, I worked one summer for Claude Brewster here in Banff and one summer for Bill Martin. Yeah (he was an outfitter too). He had Martin Stables here in Banff. That was probably the only jobs I had because I came right out of school here. Well, we came here as young kids. My dad died in 1952 and then we, Ross and I, spent every summer here after that. My mother sent us up here because I had one brother Billy that was Ole Hermanrude’s assistant. So we came up every summer. I haven’t missed a July or August in Banff since 1953, the year after my dad died. There were four boys and six girls in my family. There are three of us left.
(0:03:33) Yeah, (Larry started with the warden service in Banff). I like to tell myself I actually started in the 1950s as a ten year old kid because I travelled with my brother all the time. I had been over every trail in the park by the time I was 13 years old. I’m sure that is what got me on to the warden service because I used to travel with all the old time wardens. It was the district system back then. There were 13 districts. I started June 15, 1960. I started at Bryant Creek with Billy Vroom. For the winters and that I worked for Art Cartlidge in the warden sawmill. All the jobs for Art Cartlidge and then I would go back to a seasonal warden for the summer months. Yep, (the sawmill was by the warden compound in Banff). I started as an 18 year old. I was just in Bryant Creek for the one summer. Like I said, then I worked for Art Cartlidge in the wintertime. The second summer I went to Stoney Creek with Frank Coggins. Back to Art Cartlidge in the wintertime. The third year I went to Cyclone with Gerry Lyster, then back to Art Cartlidge. Then in 1964, I went out to Saskatchewan Crossing and by then they sent Gerry Lyster out there so I worked for him (again). Then in the spring of 1965 I got on fulltime and they moved me to Minnewanka with Andy Anderson. But, I only worked for him for about three months in the summertime and then Bryant Creek came open as a district. So I got to go to Bryant Creek and be the last warden in Banff National Park that got a district position. I stayed there from say 1966 until they centralized in 1972. Then they moved me to Saskatchewan Crossing under the new centralization. It was run out of Lake Louise but they still had wardens there. Wally McPhee was at Lake Louise there. He was in charge. Once my kids were school aged, I went from Saskatchewan River Crossing to Lake Louise and they travelled on the bus to school from Lake Louise to Banff. But then we didn’t like that so when we got a chance… we moved to Banff under centralization. The rest of my career was out of Banff. My whole career was in Banff Park. With the seasonal time it amounted to 35 years. I retired in 1995 with your dad. Together we retired.
(0:09:01) Well, (Larry’s next career) started off after I retired; I went to work for John Sykes the excavator here in town. But I was only going to do one job with him and that was when he tore Winks (the convenience store) down and built the Brewster hotel here. Then, 13 years later I was still there up until about a year ago, and I told him I wasn’t going to come back. Once I had that cancer and that I just quit all together. Now I just play at home, play with the grandkids, do odd jobs around the house, very odd! I’ve got three great grandchildren and I have to think about this one because I don’t want to miss no one! I guess seven grandchildren and I hope I didn’t miss anybody! Olivia is the youngest, it is hard to picture that my baby (Suzy) has a baby!
(0:11:25) Ross (Larry’s brother) was always in Banff too. We came to Banff together. He went with public works as a concrete inspector and I went the warden service route.
(0:12:37) Well, all the years I spent here as a kid, I knew that (being a warden) was what I wanted. It’s funny …I don’t know if I still got it, but I packed it around for years. When I came on in 1960 as a seasonal the first competition I put in on, I got the job. (Then) I got a letter from the chief warden who was Bob Hand then, (the letter said) if I wanted the job I had to quit school! They wanted backcountry wardens. What a change from what they want today! I kept that letter forever…What you need (to be a warden) and what you have to have is two different things, in my mind!
(0:13:59) My brother Billy was Ole Hermanrude’s assistant at Healy Creek and that is where I got to know Ole from when I was about ten or eleven years old. He (Billy) stayed about four or five years, that was all. Then he went back home and started ranching out of Cowley.
Billy Gilmar sweeping hay at the Ya Ha Tinda Ranch.