Ric Hall’s Pictures Of Interest

Photograph of RNWMP member with his horse (Source of photo - Ric Hall's photo collection)

 

One of the things that has been a real pleasure for me since I began submitting articles and photographs to the Vancouver Division of the RCMP Veterans’ Association web site is being re-connected with names and faces from the past and people who are on the outside of the Force but have an interest in its history. It is fun to hear from people who may have additional information on a submitted article or were actually there.

 

 

 

Recently I was contacted by an individual who thought he may have a picture I would be interested in. His name rang a bell in the back of my brain. There was no mention of him having been a member of the Force. He did send on the picture, which is below, and I asked him if he was an ex-member.   Sure enough, he gave me his name: Wendel Ottmann, Regimental # 3158. He was a member of Troop # 7 74/75.   I know why his name sounded familiar I was his troop’s Drill Instructor some forty plus years ago.

July 12, 1906 - The photograph was possibly taken at waned Saskatchewan is very interesting.  Chief Sabitawasis (far right in the photo) is shown with his 'white' trench coat and colourful leggings while the young native gentleman (on horse second to the right of NWMP Mr. Gray) is wearing a 3 piece suite.  Then there's Chief Sabitawasis' headers .. a Mounted Police Stetson.

July 12, 1906 – The photograph was possibly taken at waned Saskatchewan is very interesting. Chief Sabitawasis (far right in the photo) is shown with his ‘white’ trench coat and colourful leggings while the young native gentleman (on horse second to the right of NWMP Mr. Gray) is wearing a 3 piece suite. Then there’s Chief Sabitawasis’ headers .. a Mounted Police Stetson.

The Mounties in this area in and around the turn of the century were well known as very modest, unassuming, somewhat reserved, and revered almost and always welcomed into homes and the community.  Interestingly enough they were not known by rank only as “Mr.” and in this case, “Mr.” Gray who appears to be Cst. Gray, a member of the RNWMP.   I could find no information on Cst. Gray as it was a very common name for members back then. Note, the date of the photo is 1906 and the Force was then the RNWMP, perhaps Cst./Mr. Gray had joined as a member of the NWMP and that is how he was remembered.

It seems “The Law” in those days was not so much the person as it was the Stetson, Sam Browne, Red Serge, Yellow Stripe, Boots and yes, the shiny black stead.  Those were the things that shone through as “The Law” and pretty much in the order presented.

Chief Sabitawasis had his very own Stetson.  Apparently, legend has it, this was a “used” gift to the Chief from either a Staff Sergeant or an Inspector that covered the area. The Chief’s self-imposed rules were that he wear this headdress on very special occasions, local Fair Days being one.  Apparently he and the local Staff Sergeant or Inspector were reportedly very good friends and the Chief would police his own people and the reports are that he accomplished that quite well.  Indeed, the Saulteaux had their own justice system. 

Chief Sabitawasis is described as a stately, dignified and quiet gentleman. The chief, with his long braids, was well-known figure in the area and was known to most residents as “Old Slippery”. It would be interesting to know how he got that name…it probably doesn’t take much imagination to figure that one out.

Fishing Lake First Nation originated from the signing of Treaty 4 in 1874. The Fishing Lake First Nation are an independent First Nation of the Saulteaux Branch of the Ojibwe nation. The band can trace their origins to central Canada, and were pushed westward to avoid encroachment by European settlers. Fishing Lake First Nation is located near Wadena in the Central (Parkland) part of Saskatchewan. It covers 3,652 hectares of land and presently has 1,739 registered band members, 490 are reported to live on reserve, 64 live on other reserves and 1,185 live off reserve. Fishing Lake is an independent Nahkawe First Nation. It is interesting to note that during the Rebellion of 1885 the band remained passive. Many white settlers’ homes bordered the reserve and they were proving to be good neighbours.

Photograph

Photograph of marker on the side of a lonely Saskatchewan road with the notation of the NWMP Fort Walsh 1875.

Wendell recalls finding this marker sign on the side of a lonely rural Saskatchewan road; “Several years ago at a time when I was a Heavy Equipment Operator for a Rural Municipality at Eastend, SK (pop. 400-500). I came across this marker as I was deciding to have lunch. You cannot possibly imagine how shocked I was when after I’d had a bite or two of my sandwich to notice this particular sign.  I should have mentioned that the Rural Municipality is responsible for maintaining this sign and only after conversing with the foreman of 30 yrs. service did I learn the actual plaque is solid bronze!!  Amazing the things a guy finds in the weirdest of places.”

 Ones imagination can envision those early members of the NWMP riding along the prairie and deciding on which way to go.  

 And on a totally different note.

 Back in the day for many applicants for the RCMP the biggest fear was the tape measure.   Especially if you hovered somewhere slightly below 5’8” in height.

"Sorry lad, you are too short for the Mounties! - Photograph of a RCMP recruiting leaflet outlining the basic qualifications in joining the Force

“Sorry lad, you are too short for the Mounties! – Photograph of a RCMP recruiting leaflet outlining the basic qualifications in joining the Force

I recall back in the early 1970s in northern Alberta an applicant was slightly below the 5’8” and he had to be measured a final time by the local doctor before he could be sent off to Regina. The measurement had to be witnessed by two members. Two of us in working uniform appeared at the doctor’s office. The young applicant had done everything possible to stretch his body to meet the magic measurement.   The doctor’s first measurement clearly showed a negative 5’8”. He asked the applicant “do you really want to join the RCMP?” The answer was in the affirmative. The doctor told him to take the biggest breath he ever had in his life. The young man breathes in a mighty breath filling his lungs to capacity. The doctor measures again…all eyes are looking at the narrowing gap….still short!   The doctor turns to us official witnesses and nods his head, “Five foot eight right on the nose.” Who were we to argue with a trained medical doctor?   Off the young guy went to “Depot”. He was measured again at “Depot” and a bit of a shortfall was found.   Eventually we two witnesses were called into the O.C. of the Sub-Division’s office and asked to explain ourselves….we stumbled through our explanation that it all looked good at the time. The young guy was allowed to stay at “Depot” and graduated.

I was reminded of this story from my past when Wendel Ottmann told me of his tribulations with the tape measure when applying for the Force.   “Insp. Henry Martin C. “Bullets” Johnstone, “F” Div., interviewed me and before signing my engagement papers he said, quote “So, you want to be in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, aye?  Do you know what “Maintiens le Droit” is all about?”  I was just barely 19 yrs. and was quite taken aback but the members in Wadena (all of them – every last one of them) quite literally grilled and drilled me on what to say, how to say it and how to address senior personnel.

So why was I taken aback. Simple.  I was officially too short (5′ 7 3/4″) and I had flat feet, i.e., no arch support.  I applied three (3) times after my 18th birthday and eventually slept in traction each night for seven (7) weeks to gain the extra 1/4″.   I slept with my head haltered to the headboard and my feet each had ten (10) pound zinc ingots strapped to them.  My uncle from the lead/zinc/nickel mine in Flin Flon, MB, learned of my desire and made a special trip from Flin Flon to the farm to dump off the ingots.

They worked.  After two (2) denials and a final height tally of 5′ 8 1/2″ the “Bullet” stroked his pen.  I’ll end this story by stating that I went to the Army & Navy Department Store in Regina and picked up three (3) pair of McGregor socks.  They were called McGregor Happy Socks.  They were very thick.  I wore all three (3) of them on the final day of measuring.”   Wendel

Photograph of

Photograph of the late Supt. Henry Martin C. “Bullets” Johnstone (Reg.#15347/O.637)

There are probably many men out there who wanted to apply for the Force but were short that quarter or half inch and their career aspirations never happened.   Looking around today at the make-up of the Force and the size of some of the members those who came up short may think, today, I could have been a Mountie!   I wonder how many others thought of the McGregor Happy socks as deal maker when applying for the Force.

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Photograph of two members of Surrey Detachment.

Photograph of two members of Surrey Detachment.

 

Many thanks to former member Wendel Ottman for sharing his stories with us.

If you have any stories or photographs that you would like to include in one of our forthcoming webpages, please email Ric at rshall69@shaw.ca

image of Ric Hall closing block for his Photo Corner webpage

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