A BC Time Capsule

I recently helped a long-retired member with some down sizing which meant getting rid of some old kit. Don’t you just love the smell of moth balls early in the morning?

During his early career he saved many newspapers clipping that involved the RCMP during the 1950s and 1960s. Most of the clippings are from the Vancouver Sun. While scanning through his binder, I noticed that there were several articles involving the RCMP and the Minister of Highways, under Premier W.A.C. Bennett’s tenure in office, “Flying Phil Gaglardi”.

Those of certain age, either growing up, or serving as a member of the RCMP, in BC will remember these two characters from their time in office.

William Andrew Cecil Bennett was the 25th Premier of British Columbia. With just over 20 years in office, Bennett was and remains the longest-serving premier in British Columbia history. He was usually referred to as W.A.C. Bennett, although some referred to him either affectionately or mockingly as “Wacky” Bennett.

In 1976, W.A.C. Bennett was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. He died in 1979, and was interred in the Kelowna Municipal Cemetery, in Kelowna, British Columbia.

In 1998, the Government of Canada honoured W.A.C. Bennett with his portrait on a postage stamp of Canada. The W.A.C. Bennett Dam near Hudson’s Hope, built under the Two River Policy, is named after him. The library at the Burnaby campus of Simon Fraser University also bears his name. He was featured on the cover of Time Magazine on September 30, 1966

Philip Arthur Gaglardi was appointed Minister of Public Works on the day Bennett’s cabinet was sworn into office, August 1, 1952. His office included responsibility for highways. In 1955 Bennett created a new Department of Highways and appointed Gaglardi as the first Minister of Highways. His term was marked by rapid expansion of the province’s paved road system, as well as the completion of most of the major road bridges in British Columbia. Bennett described the building program as “the greatest highway building program…per capita in the entire Western world.”

There are two possible reasons why Gaglardi was known as “Flying Phil”:

# 1 – the way he managed to convince a reluctant W.A.C. Bennett to buy the government a Learjet (hence, “Flying Phil”). Premier Bennett was travelling in a newly inaugurated government-owned ferry to Prince Rupert. To demonstrate that the ferry was too slow for government business, he convinced a pilot friend to fly him to Prince Rupert in a Learjet, thereby managing to get there before Bennett did. Gaglardi waited on the dock to greet the Premier with a purchase contract for the plane. The plane was quickly purchased.
# 2 – Another explanation of Gaglardi’s nickname was his propensity for getting speeding tickets while driving in large-engined cars around the province checking on the progress of road construction or in his own words “testing the curves”.

He was “Flying Phil” to enthusiasts, “Sorry Phil” to detractors. British Columbia’s minister of highways and public works left his mark on everyone, even the amused men he caught slacking on road work. Phil Gaglardi swooped down to fire them. But he couldn’t. They were farmers fixing a fence.
The “man who drives his own roads with something like the speed of the Holy Spirit,” historian William Kilbourn said of him.

He served as mayor of Kamloops from 1988 to 1990, and died Sept. 23, 1995.

“Flying Phil’s” run in with the RCMP “for testing the curves on his highways” were grist for the editorial writers and the cartoonists, in particular Len Norris of the Vancouver Sun. I am sure many will recall turning to the third page of the Vancouver Sun for the Editorial and the cartoons of Len Norris. His pokes into the eye were classic. Many politicians and famous folks who were caricaturized in a Norris cartoon, often sought out the original drawing.

Len Norris

The Norris Cartoon Collection, 1660 cartoons, is the largest single collection of the work of one of the outstanding cartoonists of the 20th century. Len Norris was born in London England in 1913 and died in 1997. From 1950 to 1988 Norris worked as an editorial cartoonist for The Vancouver Sun. This collection was acquired by SFU Library in 1995 and was the remainder of Len’s personal collection. Previously the National Archives of Canada and the Provincial Archives of B.C. had taken the cartoons related to national or provincial political leaders. But what a remainder! This collection is mainly of the social history of B.C.; the life of the people of the province.

Some classic Len Norris cartons featuring the RCMP and Flying Phil Gaglardi

“Now Here’s the Deal,” which are words written by Len Norris in one of his best-known cartoons for the Vancouver Sun. Set on the day of a 1964 border ceremony for the Columbia River Treaty, it depicts lead-footed highways minister Phil Gaglardi at the wheel of a speeding convertible. Cowering in the back seat are Prime Minister Lester (Mike) Pearson and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, who flank Premier Bennett, a thumb crooked behind each lapel, in full rhetorical flourish.

“Now here’s the deal,” Premier Bennett pronounces. “Phil blacktops the road from California to the Aleutians. Mike gives up the Yukon and Lyndon gives us Washington and Oregon.”

So horrified are the senior politicians you’d think they’re prepared to cede territory just to get out of the car.

“Flying Phil” is once again cornered by the RCMP

“Flying Phil” often decorates the wall in the RCMP office when Norris
was dealing with other issues.

Other Classic Norris Cartoons – there are so many!


On a sadder note:

Notice RCMP members searching through the wreckage, wearing boots and breeches,
Sam Brownes and Forage caps.

From the RCMP Honour Roll:
97 10880 S/Sgt. Stanley Samuel Rothwell November 22, 1930 – August 6, 1958 Killed in an airplane accident, while in the performance of duty, along the East Shore of Skaha Lake, B.C.
98 14740 Cst. Richard William Green August 6, 1946 – August 6, 1958 Killed in an airplane accident, while in the performance of duty, along the East Shore of Skaha Lake, B.C.
99 10410 S/Cst. Joseph Edouard Raymond Cormier October 24, 1949 – August 6, 1958 Killed in an airplane accident, while in the performance of duty, along the East Shore of Skaha Lake, B.C.

Author banner for Veteran Ric Hall

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