|The Thin Blue Line|
|Walking the Beat|
It has been said that police work is, during any given hour, fifty-five minutes of boredom and five minutes of sheer terror.
While that statement may contain an element of truth, reality lies somewhere in between. The majority of occurrences responded to by a police officer are not earth shattering events or life threatening. In fact, unlike a fireman, Insurance companies do not consider the policing profession to be high risk. That is little comfort to the families of the many officers fallen in the line of duty. Nor does it relax that knot in the stomach when an officer confronts an amateur offender who more often than not is more tense than the officer. Or getting involved in the middle of a domestic dispute where either or both the combatants turn on the mediating officer. Being struck down by an errant motorist while writing up a traffic citation at the side of the highway is not as glamorous as shooting it out with a gang of bank robbers, but the results can be just as deadly.
Veteran officers understand the risk and take precautions to minimize the danger. It is those periods of inactivity when guards are down and thoughts turn to hijinks that generate the most trouble for an officer. Police administrators can be a humorless lot at times.
Police officers are gregarious by the nature of their work. Not only do they work together, but tend to socialize within the fraternity almost exclusively. There have been instances where a couple of the opposite sex have even slept together. That is always good for a bit of administrative head scratching, especially when the aggrieved spouse complains bitterly to the Chief what a no good, rotten individual that constitutes half the sleeping team. Even the other half of that team attracts a few choice adjectives.Generally, socializing off duty is done as a form of protection from verbal inundation. No police officer is really interested in listening to the gripes of someone who is a friend of a brother of a person who got a ticket for speeding. Or hear how the son of a neighbor's uncles got beaten up by the police for doing nothing more than standing on the street corner picking his nose. It was the truth too, for it had been discussed in the coffee shop by a group who heard it from someone who read it in the National Enquirer.
For many reasons, police officers tend to favor drinking alcohol. It may be they feel safe in letting their hair down while surrounded by colleagues and not subjected to criticism as they would be in a group of ordinary citizens. It is, however, a false sense of security. Too many have done things while under the influence of alcohol and in a group that would never have occurred to them had they stayed sober and went to a movie. Standing before the Superintendent the next day trying to explain why he drove his car across the golf course at two in the morning can be a tad disconcerting for an officer. Particularly when the stomach wants desperately to disgorge its contents on the Super's desk. Somehow, in the light of day, trying to shoot gophers from a moving car isn't near as funny as it was last night. Police administrators have no sense of humor. At all.
From a biased point of view, probably the foremost reason for keeping their own company, is the bonding that takes place. Bonding takes place within every group brought together for a common purpose from school students to the Rotary Club. The military forces it on a group of new recruits through a calculated plan called basic training. It takes a while longer with the police, since they are not subjected to the same rigorous break-in period, but the bonding is every bit as strong.
One officer responded to a biker who has pointed out that the officer was out numbered by the biker's family of friends by declaring, "Of course I cannot hope to emerge victorious in a knock-down with you fellers. But I want you to chew on this: you think you belong to a big gang who will back your every move. It may well be. I, too, belong to a large gang, of world wide proportions. If I go down, another will take my place, and another, and another. I am a member of one of the largest brotherhoods in the world and everyone of them will hunt your ass down, without rest, until you get what's coming to you. So, yes, you may get me, but you can't get us all. And we will get you."
Police officers may gripe among themselves about a colleague, but when the chips are down, they will close ranks around that same colleague. The media makes much of this protectionism without really understanding the bonding effect. Yet reporters will undoubtedly practice the same when one of theirs is threatened.
Finally when a group of people are continuously coping with the rawer elements of society, they tend to become battle hardened, and cynical, to the point where they feel they can only trust themselves. They become an island within their community. A place where only a select few from the outside are allowed to penetrate.
These civilians are people who have proven themselves as friends of the police some way or another. Many jokes are made about the police cruisers being able to pass anything on the highway except a coffee shop. The odd cup of free coffee, notwithstanding, the owner isn't stupid. He or she knows the visible presence of the police in their establishment deters many would-be rabble rousers. The police, for their part, feel comfortable in a place that genuinely welcomes their presence. When a little old lady living in a quiet part of town wants a police officer to listen to her tale of woe about a neighbor who mows the lawn at 6 in the morning, she asks him to park the cruiser a block away and come in the back door so her friends won't see her talking to the officer. Really makes for a cozy feeling of being needed and wanted. So when a member of the public takes a stand for the police for no other reason than a sense of justice and fair play, they occasionally get invited into the inner chamber.
The five minutes of sheer terror is misleading. Confrontation will make the adrenaline flow, the body tense for fight or flight and the mind compute a dozen ways to handle the situation, but actually gut wrenching fear is more rare than one would think. There are exceptions, of course. The two Los Angles police officers who, back in the 60's, were taken at gun point to a Bakersfield cornfield where one was shot while the other ran for his life probably felt the cold hand of fear squeezing their guts. Fortunately, that scenario doesn't happen too often. Getting punched in the mouth, spat on, subjected to prolonged recital of their ancestry with pointed reference to their mother's unwedded state, is much more common.
The younger the officer, the greater the absence of fear as such. Only the veteran officer realizes his vulnerability, but what he lacks now in speed and stamina, he makes up for in the art of negotiation.
The vet and the rookie are like the old bull and a young bull standing on a knoll in the pasture looking over a fine herd of cows.
The Young Bull said, "Let's run down there and ride two or three cows."
The Old Bull thought about that for a moment, then replied, "Let's WALK down and ride them all."
Youth is wasted on the young.
On August 3, 1959, I donned the blue uniform and became a member of the big blue battalion. It was a step that I never regretted although others with whom I came in contact may have regretted it enough for themselves and me included.
After my release from the Royal Canadian Air Force in July, 1957, a variety of jobs attracted my attention; logging and construction mainly. Seasonal in nature, they were only a means of pocket money for immediate use. When I saw an ad in the Fredericton Gleaner seeking a police constable, I applied. Not because I had any particular idea of serving the community or helping people. It just happened to be a full time position with reasonable prospects.
Being a police officer had never really occurred to me. Actually, flying was a boyhood dream. Even though I spent 3 years servicing aircraft, I never really pursued the pilot dream. So when I mailed in the application, I had neither driving desire nor burning ambition to become a law and order enforcer. In fact, when I had no reply, I gave the matter little thought.
It was a year later when a call came from the Chief of Police, Bryce Neely, asking that I attend his office a couple of days hence. He didn't give a reason. Immediately my mind raced backwards scanning events hastily retrieved from the memory banks for any indication of my summons before the law. Unable to think of anything serious enough for judicial crucifixion, I presented myself at the appointed time as requested.
Chief Neely explained my application was still on file; was I still interested in becoming a police officer?
"Yessir", said I.
"How tall are you?"
"Six feet 2 inches"
"How much do you weigh?"
"One hundred ninety."
"When can you start?"
And that was the extent of the screening interview. Within two hours I was sworn in, issued a uniform, badge, handcuffs, whistle, and told to report at midnight two days from now.
Somewhat bewildered by this sudden induction, I voiced a concern about knowing what to do. Not to worry, said the Chief. I would be paired up with an experienced officer who would show me the routine."Right", I said, the doubt still nagging away inside.
At precisely one minute to midnight, I arrived at the police station. then located in the basement of the City Hall, rather proud of myself for punctuality. Add a little pride in my new uniform, and there stood an eager recruit ready to battle the ravages of crime and mayhem threatening society in general and the city in particular. Nothing like getting off on the right foot on the first shift.
Sgt. Hogan Ward, shift supervisor, took me to one side. "Say pal", he began. Hogan called everyone pal. I thought at the time he was being quite friendly. "We show up at least twenty minutes before a shift begins. Don't pull this stunt again."
It wasn't the last time the "brass" attempted to ream a new asshole to replace the one I was supplied at birth, but this one probably had the most effect. For the next twenty years, an hour before the shift became the norm.
Working midnight till 8 a.m. for the next week, I accompanied Sgt Ward in the Paddy Wagon, a '57 chev, six cylinder complete with cherry on top and a grinder siren in the grill. In the first four nights, we responded to a fatal car accident, a rape, and a break and enter in progress, plus a variety of less serious incidents. Although I found this all one mass confusion, I was soon convinced this is where I was meant to be. Exciting, fast moving, unpredictable. Except I never seen another prolonged surge of activity like that first week. I think it was planned that way for my benefit.
The break and enter during that first week deserves further mention. Break and enter is the act of unlawful entry into someone else's business or dwelling. Usually under the cover of darkness, although daylight is not really a deterrent. In this incident, Sgt Ward and I were patrolling the downtown area when the station officer radioed that a citizen had heard breaking glass at the rear of Vet's Grocery on the Woodstock Road. Within a couple of minutes we were on the scene. Looking in the front windows, all seemed to be in order. However, when we walked around the back, a gaping hole in the plate glass door greeted us. At the same time, we heard the sound of movement inside.
Hogan said, "Pal, you stand here by the door in case they come out. I am going inside." Armed with only a flashlight (none of us carried sidearms in those days), he stepped through the opening and disappeared.
The seconds stretched into minutes without a sound from within. Suddenly, there came a loud crash, a grunt or two and moaning.
Certain as hell that Hogan had been ambushed, I mentally prepared to tackle whatever appeared in that door. I gripped my 3 cell flashlight, ready to flatten anyone not in uniform. To my relief, Hogan appeared, a big grin on his face, both arms locked around the necks of two youths. One had blood streaming down the side of his face. Pushing one through the door to me, he dragged the other out as he made his exit. We hustled them both into the back of the paddy wagon and made for the holding cells.
Hogan later explained he had crept quietly around the place, finally spotting one of them crouched behind a display rack. As he jumped for the young thief, the other had attempted to jump Hogan. Big mistake. The heavy flashlight Hogan carried made solid contact just over the ear, knocking the would be assailant into a canned display. The other one hadn't moved before Hogan had him in a vise like grip around the neck. There was no more fight in either of them.
I was impressed.
Hogan Ward was a fairly big man, six foot, two or three, 200 pounds or so. He had served overseas and was probably in his late thirties at the time. Hailing from the Doaktown area, his reputation as a street scrapper preceded him in most situations. Certainly Patty B and Bev K learned a hard earned lesson in Vet's Grocery store at 2 a.m.
Hogan was the most unflappable person I had ever met. He rarely exhibited any outward sign of excitement or anxiety. Even in somewhat embarrassing situation. On one occasion we were slowly cruising down Brunswick Street, when the light turned red at Carleton. The car ahead of us had been caught partway out in the intersection so the lady driver put the shift lever in reverse and backed up as far as she could, her rear bumper almost touching our front bumper. Then she just sat there, not moving the shift lever into first gear.
"Did you see that?" I said to Hogan who was driving. "When that light turns green, she is going to forget the car is still in reverse and come right back into us."
"D'ya 'spose Pal?" Hogan backed the paddy wagon up as far as he could to give her a little more room.
At that instant, the light turned green, the lady dropped the lever into first and shot through the intersection. Hogan stepped on the gas also. We shot backwards into the car behind us.
"Shit, Pal", said Hogan.
As the days and nights passed by in kind of a blur, I gradually became acquainted with the duties required and the rest of the members.
Chief Bryce Neely headed up the force, assisted by Deputy Chief Cyril Barchard. Clowes Bishop and Holly Hovey comprised the plainclothes, or Detective Branch. Ed Perley functioned as the civilian clerk.
There were three shifts of uniformed officers with a Sergeant in charge of each. Alexander (Sandy) Burgoyne, Hogan Ward and Harry (Toots) Clark. Later, Paul O'Hara, Gerry Laskey and Walter Phair would take on this role.
The officers included: John Thompson, Phil Booker, Parker MacConaghy, John King, Stan Barr, Les Sears, Claude Price, Everett Porter, Cameron Munn, Ron Cronkhite, Bill Scott, Art Fox, Al McLean, Gordon Robinson, Ed Gorman Bill Dickson, and Len Gillis. A couple of months after I joined, Lee Libby and Gordon Saunders came on strength. Before I left, Ron Sullivan, Len Jones, Alden Jones, Bob Taylor would also come on strength.
In the six years I spent with Fredericton, Chief Neely and I had our share of confrontations. For some reason I did not really curry his favor. Actually, I think he was generally pissed off at the world. I just happened to be handy when he needed to vent his displeasure.
One occasion he was being extremely vociferous about my background and ancestry, finally winding up his little tirade with the comment, "And I knew all about you before you came here; bumming around the streets of Canterbury...."
I snapped right back. "I always worked before I came here and I'll work a long time after I leave. And for your information, I didn't come from `bumming around Canterbury', so your information isn't all that factual".
"I have a drawer full of applications in my office. You can be replaced, you know!" With that parting shot, Chief Neely stormed into his office and slammed the door shut.
Commenting later, Gordon Robinson laughed. "I seen some of those applications", he said. "One of them, hand written on lined paper, went something like this" 'Dear Chief. Ever since I been a small boy I wanted to be a policeman. PS I fight real good too."'
I can believe it. Considering my own hiring process, I had long come to the conclusion staffing was not Neely's strongest asset. Nor human relations.
It turned out my wedding day, a Saturday, September 9, 1961, conflicted with my scheduled afternoon shift. Theoretically it was possible to have the ceremony at 2 p.m. and be ready for duty at 4. My bride to be, understandably cool to this idea, felt I should spend the evening with her. As later events unfolded, the best thing I could have done on that day would have been to report for duty. But that is another story.
I sought out Chief Neely to relate my dilemma. I found him standing in the outside doorway to the police station talking to a citizen.
"May I speak with you a moment, sir?" I asked in my politest tone.
"I'm right here," he barked. "What do you want?"
Something told me this would be an exercise in futility.
"Um, I'm getting married on Saturday afternoon and scheduled on duty at 4. I'd like to make arrangements to have the time off."
He looked at me with all the contempt he could muster. "If you are scheduled for duty at 4, then you be here." And turned his back to me as he continued his conversation with the citizen.
If it hadn't been for the generosity of my colleagues to cover for me, my honeymoon would have been spent patrolling the beat my new wife struggling to keep in step.
The very sight of me seem to throw the chief into a frenzy. He stomped into the station officer's room, looked at me and said, "I don't know where you can find a dollar, but you find one and find it damn quick"I could only imagine the subject of his wrath. Money missing from the parking fine float in the cash drawer? Had to be. But it was bang on when I checked it a couple hours ago. Money missing elsewhere? His office? The Clerks?
All of these wild thoughts flashed through my mind trying to decipher exactly his displeasure.
"Dollar?" I said. "I don't understand."
"A dollar for a haircut," " he thundered. "You need a haircut,"
I was stunned. "Now?" was all I could muster.
The mop headed foursome from Liverpool had yet to make their fashion felt on this side of the Atlantic. Short hair, military style, was still the norm. Once a week mandatory visit to the barber shop for a neck trim kept the wrath of Neely from descending in great gobs on our nearly bald heads.
I may have gone ten days without a trim, hardly noticeable today. But I dutifully marched to nearby Hachey's barber shop for the required trim as ordered. Probably the only time I took care of personal grooming on company time with the chiefs blessing. The irritating thing about it, I had to borrow a dollar.
After I had left the force and joined another in Ontario, I had the opportunity to read the response to their request for a character reference on me from Chief Neely. It was not flattering. When asked if he would rehire this employee, the chief wrote, "Not in my lifetime."
I wrote him a letter, apologizing for any problems I may have caused him during my six years of service. Neely never replied.
Undoubtedly he had some talent but whatever it was, he managed to keep it well hidden.
Deputy Barchard, a roly-poly type of guy, had a likable personality. Not the sharpest policeman to ever come down the pike, he nonetheless managed to keep the office on even keel, calm Ed Perley down when Ed would blow his cool over the mountain of paperwork facing him. Barchard loved to fish and many a trip we made to some secluded brook with a can of worms and a bottle of rye.
Occasionally he would get a bit tipsy and end up in some place other than where he should have been. He had been attending a function at the RCMP HQ which at that time was the old Government house next to the Victoria Public Hospital on Woodstock Road. Apparently he wandered outside for some air when he got disoriented and ended up bumbling around the side of the nurse's residence. Fearing some peeping tom, or other nefarious intruder, they called the police.
Imagine the surprise when the responding officers discovered our Deputy trying to extract himself from a rose bush. Imagine trying to explain to the complainant the culprit had been apprehended and appropriately dealt with. Imagine the smirks on the face of the beat officer when they met Barchard over the next few days. He didn't take a drink for at least a week after that.
Harry "Toots" Clark attracted more gripes and grumbling than any other person in a supervisory position. With a shade more effort, Toots could have been the most hated person on two continents. He would spend the entire shift trailing after the beat officers to make sure they were not goofing off by idling their time in Edwards Taxi Stand on King Street, frequenting the Paradise Restaurant, hanging around the police station. Standing on the street "gossiping" with the public was one of his pet taboos. Keep moving, keep checking businesses to see the doors locked and windows closed. Woe betide if one was missed. Or a break in occurred without being discovered by the officer responsible for that area.
One Saturday morning day shift, I was assigned foot beat in Devon. After strolling around the two or three blocks that comprised the business area, I entered the Dairy bar for an egg sandwich and coffee breakfast. Before the egg was ready, Toots stalked in. "Get in the car", he snarled. I pointed out my coffee had just arrived and the egg was doing a dance on the hot grill. He had gone deaf. The waiter just shrugged as I tried to explain. The big hurry? Traffic was starting to get snarled up in the Farmer's Market parking lot. My assignment was to direct the parking in the lot.
If a meal period was assigned at 6 p.m., Toots went into a screaming fit if an officer entered the station before the clock on the city hall tower had not finished striking six. We couldn't take a meal break at a restaurant for we had to take over the station duty while the regular station duty officer replaced us on the beat.
Getting from Devon on the North side of the river to the police station on the south side usually meant hitchhiking across the bridge. This is not the most efficient or timely way to arrive in time for a meal.
John King walked into the station one evening at one minute to six. Toots immediately drew it to John's attention by a sarcastic crack, "What's that clock up there say?"
John cocked an ear sideways. "Tick, tock, tick took", he said with a grin.
Toots went ballistic and actually made him go back outside and stand at the curb for about 15 seconds until the six-o'clock chime had finished.
Because of his propensity for shadowing the beat officer, little games of "hide and seek" were occasionally played. During one midnight shift, my beat consisted of the area bounded by Carleton Street on the east, Brunswick Street to the South, Smythe Street to the North and the River to the North. Known at the Uptown Beat, it covered eight to ten Blocks. Going about my business of checking the back of business premises necessitated frequenting back alleys and lanes. Few cars and fewer people were out and about during these wee hours and because I was constantly in the shadows, it was possible to observe the street scene without being seen.
Standing in an alley, I had seen Toots in the Paddy Wagon slowly cruising by. Just by the speed, I knew he was looking for me. By using the maze of alleys, recessed doorways, and natural cover, I avoided being seen by him while constantly keeping him under observation for the next forty-five minutes. Finally, I stepped to the curb and waited for his next pass.
As he pulled to the curb, I could see a scowl on his face that would melt glass.
P'tah. Toots had a habit of tightening his lips then a minor outward explosion to eject an imaginary droplet of saliva. It was a sure sign of irritation.
P'tah. "Where have you been?"
"Checking the doors on my beat, Sarge. Why? Were you looking for me?" The mask of innocence on my face would have made a nun envious.
He was skeptical but without any grounds for further reprisal, he simply spat once more and told me to check out a car idling in the Legion parking lot located near the western edge of my beat. Probably three blocks from where we were conversing.
"Must be a serious matter, Sarge", I said. "You drove past it several times in the last half hour. Why didn't you check it out?"
P'tah. More forcefully this time. "Get your ass up the street and have a look" With that, he roared off, the old chevvy six banger revving about five grand in first gear.
The car had gone by the time I had meandered my way to the spot. Still, it had been a productive little exercise. Toots was really pissed off. I smiled.
The basement of the City Hall housing the police station had a central hallway wide enough and long enough to accommodate three vehicles. On blustery winter nights, two or three officers would park their cars inside, always careful to leave room for the Sergeant's Paddy Wagon. A large overhead door was controlled by a switch from the station officer's desk as well as one by the door itself.
"Open the door", the radio squawked. Toots wanted to drive the wagon inside.
The station officer, Eddy Gorman, was away from the desk so did not hear the command. Toots jumped from the vehicle and punched the button to open the door, climbed back in and roared inside. Leaving the vehicle running while he again got out to close the door, it rolled ahead on the slight ramp into Gorman's car already parked inside. The resulting bump broke both headlight out of the police vehicle.
At this point Gorman came ambling along, looked the situation over and said to Toots, "Have an accident, Sarge?"
Toots spat about three times in rapid succession, looked around for someone to blame, then climbed in the vehicle, tore backwards out of the building and spun across the street to the Capital Garage to replace the headlights. He was not a happy camper.
But Harry "Toots" Clark was his own worst enemy. Eventually, his behaviour became the subject of a full blown complaint by myself and other members of the Police Protective Association. It took quite awhile, Chief Neely very reluctant to take any action, before Toots was relieved of his duties as a patrol sergeant and reassigned to Court duties. I had resigned before this occurred, so didn't get to join in the celebration.
For all his mean spirited actions, I never really disliked the man. He could bring my temper to the boiling point and at times I could have cheerfully tied him to a boxcar heading west, but for the most part, he was a colorful character who made life on the beat interesting.
Alexander (Sandy) Burgoyne had the status of being one of the older members. Fairly excitable, but easy going. He hated to be called "Sandy", so we were careful not to use the name in his hearing.
Sandy had been a member beginning way back when cars were more of a novelty than a necessity. Consequently, his driving skills left a lot to be desired. Top speed for Sandy was thirty miles per hour, emergency or not. It was embarrassing to be riding shotgun, responding to an urgent call with lights and siren going full tilt, then stop and wait for each traffic light to turn green. No amount of encouragement could get him to pass a car, even when they pulled to the side, or ease through the intersection on a red light. God knows how many accidents he left in his wake over the years.
He always drove the Chev Paddy Wagon in high gear at fifteen to twenty miles per hour causing the entire vehicle to jerk and shake. Only when it threatened to stall altogether, would he shift to a lower gear. Our first police vehicle with a V-8 engine happened to be a 1964 Dodge. A standard shift, it had power to spare. Not realizing this, Sandy grabbed the keys to respond to an emergency call one morning. Using the same tactics he employed with the old chev, he revved the engine and popped the clutch and before he caught his breath, had crossed Queen Street with tires screaming. He immediately returned to the station, never to get behind the wheel of the Dodge again.
"That thing could get a man killed", he muttered.
Thus we labored under the guidance and direction of a command woefully inept at human relations. Yet, they were men of their times who managed to get the job done. In this modern age, probably the majority of us would be out of our league. But then, the modem officer would never put up with the shit we endured.
Walking The Beat.After I finished my stint with Sergeant Ward, my next assignment had me walking the beat with another officer. My training now began in earnest.
Quickly I learned we operated in three shifts: 0800 to 1600, 1600 to 2400, 2400 to 0800, respectively known as days, afternoons, and nights. I would be working nights until the brass thought I was ready to be turned loose on the unsuspecting public during daylight hours.
Beat duty varied, depending on the shift. Generally, the night shift consisted on checking the security of every business establishment, windows and doors, front and back. If we found and unlocked door or open window, and it was surprising the number found, we immediately called the owner who most often responded. Occasionally, one would simply say lock it. Except for Friday and Saturday nights, very little outward activity took place.
On those two nights, there were usually parties or a dance being held. Drinking and fighting usually demanded a police presence. Pete Haines ran a dance every Saturday night from nine to midnight for a number of years in a hall at the corner of Carleton and Brunswick and always hired three off duty officers to keep peace and order. He paid for our time out of the proceeds at the going rate of $5 for three hours. Pete always paid $2 extra and we frequently earned it.
Soldiers from nearby Base Gagetown enjoying a break from training liked to attend the dances, indulge in a few drinks in a nearby alley, and rough up a few UNB students just to pass the time. Getting a bit tired of being on the short end of the stick, two or three students caught a young soldier alone one night and gave him quite a thrashing. There were not really prepared the next weekend when the soldier reappeared with dozens of his buddies. That evening, anyone wearing a red jacket became fair game.
Trying to control all the scuffles and fights was like holding back a flood with an ice cream scoop.
One of the beat officers, Lee Libby, no slouch himself when it came to physical demonstration, had two soldiers in tow heading for the police station when he met another bunch. Their intent was to free their buddies and they set about the deed with fervency and zeal. Lee put up a strong defence but in the end he was simply overwhelmed by numbers. In the process, he lost his hat, badge and flashlight. We eventually found the badge and flashlight, but it was rumored the hat ended up in Germany.
In the meantime, Gerry Laskey, having troubles of his own with a group, punctuated a command with a straight jab to a combatant's forehead that lifted him right out of his shoes. Everyone was so impressed, they stopped battling for the moment going their separate ways as Gerry had suggested.
But no great harm done during the battle of the khaki and red. A few split lips, shiners, and a dozen war stories to relate over the next round of beer.
The day shift started the same way every weekday. Directing traffic. The old Carleton Street Bridge would be transformed into a double lane for traffic entering the City proper with an officer at either end regulating the flow.
Directing traffic had to be the biggest pain in the ass the beat officer had to contend with. He hated it with a passion, the motorists hated it, the pedestrians hated it. Everyone thought they were being held up unnecessarily. We were convinced the driver paid no attention to the arm signals, particularly when we wanted them to switch lanes. I had one driver approach right to my knees before coming to a halt.
"For the love of Gawd", I roared, "will you go around me!"
Another one, ignoring my signal, continued on to block two lanes. When I delivered a scolding about his errant way, the driver replied meekly, "I was only following the car in front of me."
In my most sarcastic manner, I asked, "If that car had driven off the bridge, would you have followed it?"
"Probably", he said.
During the ten days leading up to Christmas, we manned the intersections almost steady from 1600 to 2200. Six hours with only the occasional break.
If the weather happened to be frigid, it was particularly difficult. The cold wind blowing off the river made the intersection of Queenand Carleton one of the coldest spots in the City. It was here one of those evenings, I nearly resigned from the force, I was that cold. In fact, I had started across the intersection heading for the station. The fact that one of my colleagues would have to do it, no better equipped than I, prompted me to remain. But I thought I would never be warm again.
On the day shift, once we had finished with the morning traffic, Frank Dunham, a Commissionaire responsible for the metered parking, dished out a handful of tickets for cars that failed to put money in the meter. No other act could raise the ire of the public like getting a one dollar parking ticket. One such irate customer stormed into the police station, slammed the ticket on the counter along with a $100 dollar bill demanding the proper change.
That amounted to a large sum of money in those days; rarely, if ever, did we have anywhere near that in our cash drawer. The motorist knew this.
However, Paul O'Hara reached for his wallet, produced the $99 in change and politely asked if he could be of further service by perhaps breaking another $100 for him?
The motorist was so stunned, he left without another word.
Bill Walker, the Mayor, ran a clothing store on Queen Street, Walker's Men's Wear, when he wasn't tending to the city's business. He considered the metered parking space in front his personal spot.
Standing in the door, he watched me put a ticket under his wiper blade, then commented, "You have a fine writing hand today officer."
"Thank you, your Worship," " I replied. "And an endless supply of tickets and ink"
Bill only smiled. Apparently over the years he had amassed several hundred tickets, all unpaid.
Gordon Saunders gave a nurse a ticket and she promptly informed him should he ever attend the hospital for treatment, she would shove a needle the size of a knitting needle in his ass till it disappeared. Gordon didn't really believe her, but he did his best to stay healthy just in case.
The evening shift had a character all its own. Once the supper traffic snarl cleared away around 6 p.m., patrolling the beat became rather pleasant. Particularly during the summer. Young people cruised west on Queen Street, east on King Street making one loop after another. Or simply park at the curb. We knew most of them by name and recognized the car either by sound or sight. They caused us little concern although occasionally some would race from one light to another, or cause the tires to squeal loudly by rapid acceleration. Such commotion attracted a seven dollar fine unless they could talk their way out of it. The excuses were many and varied.
"My gas pedal stuck"
"My foot slipped off the clutch."
"I thought the car behind me was going to run into me."
A full block behind?
One fellow expressed his displeasure with his girlfriend by tearing off, tires squealing in protest. I pulled him over, listened to his anger now transferred to me, then wrote him up. He snorted his disgust and laid another black strip as he pulled away. That was good for another ticket. When I explained the driver's action in court, Judge Lloyd B Smith, looked shocked.
"He did it the second time, officer?"
The young driver left the court fourteen dollars poorer and somewhat chastened by the Judge's stem lecture.
It may seem strange that a policeman on foot could be in a position to issue traffic violations to motorists. Actually, the citizens were well trained to respond to the shrill whistle we all carried. One long blast to attract their attention, arm extended pointing to the vehicle usually resulted in the driver pulling over to the curb. When they ignored the signal, or chose not to stop, any one of the young drivers cruising the street was only too happy to give us a lift to catch the vehicle in question. They love to show off their driving skills and have an opportunity to speed a little under official sanction.
While chatting with a local one evening at the corner of King and Regent, a car came south on Regent at a high rate of speed, made a left turn east on King and sped away towards Lincoln. Bobby looked at me. "Wanna go get him?" he asked.
I climbed in the passenger's seat.
Bobby drove a '59 Plymouth fury, push button automatic, that had tremendous power and speed. But at that moment it refused to start. Small wonder the car protested. I had seen Bobby backing up at 15 to 20 miles per hour, shift into forward gear while still moving. The car would shudder to a halt, bouncing up and down as the rear wheels sought traction to change direction. How the transmission ever stood the abuse is beyond me.
However, in a few seconds the engine fired up and we took off after the speeding car now out of sight down Waterloo Row. As we passed beneath the Princess Margaret Bridge, we could see the car in question just starting up the Experimental Farm hill, probably a mile and half away.
"Let me go," Bobby pleaded. "We can catch him."
"Not on your life," I said. We were doing about 50 in a 30 then. "Turn this thing around. I'll see him another day."
Bobby reluctantly returned to town. I have no doubt we would have caught the speeding car or Bobby would have wrecked his trying. Frankly, I didn't want to explain any such event to the Chief.
As it turned out, I nailed the guy two weeks later on King Street. Turned out to be a young soldier from Gagetown.
Arresting someone while patrolling the beat posed a different problem. Normally, a nearby shopkeeper or taxi operator would call for the paddy wagon. Loading the offender in the back of a taxi for a quick trip to the station provided another option. So far as I know, these taxi trips were provided as good will gestures, because I never seen the driver get paid.
Physical confrontation occurred on occasion but with the locals it was part of the culture. They were not reluctant to try out the new kid on the block, or an old vet for that matter. But let a stranger come along and mix it up with the beat officer, every local appeared at the officer's side to help.
"It's okay for us to mix it up with these guys, but we don't allow outsiders to beat up our cops", they explained.
An incident on Westmorland Street illustrates this relationship. Walking by Lewis Arnoff's second hand store, he beckoned me in. A young local, obviously under the influence, wore out his welcome. Lewis wanted him removed. Everything went smoothly until we were on the sidewalk where he decided he was going no further. In the ensuing tussle, I drove him through the large plate glass window in front of Arnoff's store. Amidst the glass littered street, I handcuffed him and awaited the paddy wagon to cart him off to the drunk tank. Beyond a few scratches here and there, neither of us were worse for the wear and tear.
The next day, this same young man sought me out on the beat.
"Lewis," he complained, "is blaming me for breaking that window. He wants me to pay for it. Can you help me? After all, you threw me through it" A sheepish grin on his face.
We marched over to Arnoff s shop where I had a short and to the point conversation with Lewis who decided perhaps the young fellow shouldn't have to pay for the window after all.
The young man was effusive with his thanks and we parted with no rancor even though he had spent the night in the tank and coughed up ten dollars for his fine the next morning. That is the kind of rapport we had with people in those days.
Listening to war stories in Keye's Fruit Market over coffee and doughnuts, trading insults with John and Gus Mazzuca, swapping jokes with Mac Bongard, or Louie George, visiting the night DJ in the CFNB radio station over Neil's at the corner of Queen and York, meeting and chatting with scores of people every day, made life rather pleasant during those days of the late 50's and early 60's.
One of the more interesting characters about town was Sammy Satter. Sammy spent his day tending his scrap yard on King St., when he wasn't driving his horse and wagon around collecting empty bottles and such. His arch rival, Ab Levine, operated a similar establishment directly across from Sammy's place. Ab would often sit at the curb holding a sign to would-be customers that he was paying more than Sammy today. Sammy would simply reach out, lift his horse's tail, point at the oat hole and say, "Abie."We had never heard of the term "community relations" or "community policing" in those days but we practiced it continuously. Even today, some of the older merchants downtown gripe they never see an officer except going by in a car.
However, Chief Neely decried the interaction between the citizens and the officers. He lectured Gordon Saunders and I about spending all our time "gossiping" while ignoring the myriad of violations on our beat. This gossiping would cease immediately or we would be replaced by someone from those hundreds of applications in his office.
Gordon and I hit the beat at 4 p.m. on a warm, sunny, Saturday afternoon. No traffic duty, so we could apply our full attention to the imminent breakdown of law and order threatening our fair city. In two hours, we had issued a total of 34 citation. Everything from no front plate, to parking more than eighteen inches from the curb. It was during this blitz that Gordon's ass received the threat of the gigantic needle from the irate nurse.
Apparently Chief Neely received so many complaints that word quietly filtered down to us to lay off a bit. Smugly satisfied, we went back to our own form of "community policing".
Unlike today where the form of a traffic ticket not only sets out the infraction but also includes a court date and voluntary penalty scale, our system involved more steps. Pertinent details were entered in our notebooks (more frequently on a scrap piece of paper), then recorded in a hard covered ledger at the station. Ed Perley, the station clerk, reviewed this on a daily basis, drafting the proper charge and summons for future court action if necessary. Voluntary payments were accepted, recorded in the book and nothing more done.
While this may seem like a sloppy way of administration, it worked well most of the time. It gave the Chief/ Deputy Chief the opportunity to review the names to ensure friends or supporters did not suffer from the beat officer's mental moment of stupidity. Worked well, that is, until Ed or Deputy Barchard had a mental lapse of their own.
A man had been arrested on Carleton Street under the charge of loitering, lodged in the cells and duly recorded in the ledger. Loitering was, and probably still is, an offence under both the Criminal Code of Canada and the City Bylaws. The former carries with it the power to arrest, the latter procedure is by way of summons only. When the matter went before the court, the charge sheet cited a City Bylaw infraction (of course the administration knew better than the officer involved what took place).
Consequently, the case was dismissed and the subject sued the police and city for false arrest. This little fiasco so annoyed the crown prosecutor, he issued a directive that the police could henceforth lay no charge until it had been reviewed by his office.
It is my understanding this practice continues today in New Brunswick, in contrast to Ontario where the Crown may be consulted regarding a complex case, but it is the police who decide which charge to lay.
But at that time we were woefully untrained for minor details like legal proceedings. After all, if an officer arrested two people for slugging it out on the street, who cared what a lawyer thought. They were fighting, creating a disturbance, they were caught, they were guilty. End of case.
Bill Scott had a reputation for being a "hard" officer when it came to handing out traffic tickets. He enjoyed being "number one", taking it as a personal affront if another officer outdid him on a shift. Bill would get his chance when assigned to car patrol. The radio would be busy with him calling in violations for the desk officer to write up in the ledger. Just to keep Bill hopping, someone with access to a radio would start calling in violations also, always managing to stay one or two ahead of Scott. He would even stay out on his lunch break hunting for violators.
At the end of the shift, by his count, Bill would have one or two less than the other officer which fueled his discontent. When he reviewed the ledger, the stunned look on his face said it all. The only entries were his.
"What happened to all the others," he sputtered
"What are you talking about, Bill?", the desk officer asked innocently.
"Violations! The other officer. I heard him on the radio." " Bill was on the edge.
"Never heard a thing, Bill, except you calling in. Are you okay."
Bill didn't know whether to be pissed off for missing his lunch, or tickled pink his reputation for the most output remained intact.
"Buncha assholes," he muttered half-heartedly as he stomped off.
Complaints responded to by officers, simply known inside as "calls" were also duly recorded in a similar ledger. The date, time, nature of the call and action taken usually rounded out the entry. The ledger itself was approximately 8 x 14, bound with a hard cover, about 2 inches thick. Such books had been used from the time the City formed its own police force back in the last half of the 1800's. They were, in effect, a daily log of events and incidents in the life of the community. When the force moved to new quarters on York Street in the late 1960's, it is my understanding that Deputy Barchard felt they did not have room to store them, so he ordered them taken to the dump and burned. Only the last ten years or so survived. If so, material of historical significance are gone forever. Such a shame.
Checking for unlocked doors and open windows during the night hours occasionally produced unexpected results. As I approached the rear of an insurance office on Queen Street, I detected movement inside in the dim night light. With the thought of an intruder in mind, I crept closer to have a better look, to formulate a plan of action. All I could see were two sets of legs from the knees down, jutting from behind a desk, parallel to the floor. All sorts of thoughts flashed though my head: had the owner came upon a prowler and now locked in combat? Someone hurt? Or...? Quietly I tried the door. Locked. No sign of forced entry. No broken glass. So I did the only thing possible. I banged loudly on the door.
For a fraction of a second everything inside went deathly still. Then like a prairie dog popping out of its hole, the business owner's head popped up over the desk His eyes bulged at the view of me, now standing in full view at the door, his mouth opening and closing like a beached fish. He disappeared for a few seconds, then came to his feet arranging his clothes at the same time. When he came to the door, I inquired politely, "Are you okay sir?"
Obviously flustered and just a tad short of breath, he managed to squeeze out a half strangled, "Yes, yes, officer. Just working late. Almost ready to pack it in."
"I thought you were already packing it in, sir." With that I went on about my appointed rounds.
The Willett Fruit Company off Aberdeen Street, was notorious for leaving the place insecure. At least twice a week, a door would be found unlocked. While waiting for the owner to respond, the officer on the scene would help himself to a juicy apple from the baskets stored within. When advised the owner would wave his hand. No big deal, although I suppose upon reflection, the officer considered it his due and the owner considered it cheap payment.
It was always amusing when this place was found open during a particular Sergeant's tour of duty.
"Don't call anybody till I get there," he would yelp over the radio.
Seconds later he would come hustling into the yard, seek out the apples of choice, fill his pockets and be gone almost as fast. If apples were fattening, he would have weighed three hundred pounds. Needless to say, we never mentioned this to the owner. Nor to anyone else. For some reason we rationalized the act of stealing apples hinged on quantity. The sergeant stole. We didn't. Go figure.
Other times events were more hectic. Like, for instance, the morning the old Barker House caught fire.Gerry Laskey, a sergeant by this time, and I were cruising slowly along Queen Street when we noticed smoke billowing from the upper floors of the old room house and hotel. Calling for the fire department, we scrambled in the front door and up a wide set of steps to the second floor which housed the lobby area. It was around 5:30 a.m., so only a few people were starting to move about. Quickly ascertaining how many residents, we covered the upper most two floor beating and banging on doors, herding everyone down to the lobby and on outside. The smoke was getting more dense. Just as we were preparing to leave, the clerk advised us one more resident remained unaccounted for. Old Doc on the top floor, last room at the end of the hall.
Gerry took off in a flash, I not far behind albeit at a somewhat slower pace. I was not at all happy about penetrating that dark smoke when the exit beckoned so invitingly. However, we made our way to the room in question. Locked. We beat on the door. Muffled sounds from within indicated the occupant was moving about, but he would not unlock the door. Lowering his shoulder, Gerry hit the door with all the force of a battering ram. The lock shattered, one hinge came loose, leaving the door askew. Doc was fiddling with his pants, coughing a little.
"My wallet," " he said. "I need my wallet from under the pillow."
Gerry instructed me to get him down stairs while he looked for the wallet and something for the old man to wear.
As I was hustling him downstairs, I stepped on his bare foot causing a squawk of pain. "Holy Hell, young man," he gasped. "You're in a big hurry aren't you?"
You bet your sweet patooi I was in a hurry. I finally threw him over my shoulder in a fireman's carry to deposit him safely, if shaken, on a park bench across the street. For an 83 plus age, old Doc was remarkable cool.
Thank God, Gerry was seconds behind me, I didn't want to go back in there to look for him. The whole thing couldn't have lasted more than five minutes, but it was a life time to me. Both Gerry and I were more than happy to let the firemen do their thing when they came screaming around the corner.
Inclement weather nothwithstanding, walking the beat during the hours of darkness had a serenity all its own. There was something comforting about the shadows cast by the tall elms, the stillness of a sleeping city, the gradual dawning of a new day. We were on intimate terms with the business district. Dark alleys created no fear or threat; rather, they were warm, inviting. Much like being wrapped in the arms of a old familiar friend. Meeting a fellow officer at the corner of the adjacent beat always provided a few minutes to compare notes and discuss current events.
Art Fox and I were chatting around 3 a.m. one morning at the corner of Queen and Carleton when we noticed a car stop at the light. The entire driver's side appeared to be wrinkled and dented as if sideswiped by a tank. Approaching the car, I directed my flashlight on the driver who gave no reaction. He seemed dazed. When I grasped the door handle to open it, I was startled to have the entire door fall to the street. Secured only by the latch, the entire hinge arrangement had been ripped loose by whatever caused the extensive damage. It became quickly apparent the driver's intoxicated condition explained his dazed reaction to my light.
He didn't really know what happened to his car. But bit by bit, we managed to learn he had had left the road on his way home from Harvey, scraping by a hydro pole or tree.
Such incidents added to the allure of the beat. Always something unexpected to be dropped in the officer's lap.
Drinking and driving seemed more prevalent in those days. For some reason, society viewed with less serious detachment than today, although the consequences were no less damaging.
Early one morning I responded to a call from a concerned citizen reporting smoke coming from a car in a nearby parking lot. On arrival, I discovered a car, engine running, driver slumped over the steering wheel and a small fire around the rear tires. Sometime during the night, the driver, well under the influence, had entered his car and attempted to drive away. Because of the ice and snow covered lot, he had trouble moving forward, so reversed to gain some traction. Unfortunately, his rear bumper slid over the steel guard rail along the rear of the lot, securely locking him in place. Not realizing this, the driver put the car in forward drive, then promptly fell asleep his foot still on the accelerator. The rear tires continued to rotate, burning their way through the ice to the pavement beneath, and on to a depth of 6 inches through the pavement. The resulting heat caused the tires to break into flames. Only for the alertness of the nearby resident, did the driver suffer nothing more than a day in court.
And yet there seem to be a strong emphasis on drinking in a public place. The alleys beside the dance hall were littered with empty bottles where individuals and little groups gathered for a round or two between dances. We usually made our presence felt in these places, taking no little pleasure in seeing a part bottle of beer or rye hurriedly flung away and the scattering of people who suddenly decided they needed to be elsewhere.
Coming across one of these individuals during a pass through the alley, instead of throwing the bottle away, he snapped it at me, then bolted out the mouth of the alley. Outraged at this lack of civility, I gave chase. As the fugitive crossed Carleton Street, I threw my heavy three celled flashlight striking him on the back of his head. He went to his knees, but by the time I recovered the light, he was up and making like a jackrabbit again. He ran to King street, headed west, angling across the street in front of the old firehall, continued west to York Street, left towards Brunswick, through J Clark's car lot, then east on Brunswick Street with me in hot pursuit. Finally near the old cemetery, I stopped to catch my breath. He continued on, speed unabated.
The Paddy wagon with the sergeant and an army provost happened by at that moment. I quickly explained the situation. As they drove along the street, the subject of the chase jumped from behind a tree and took off again. The provost leaped from the wagon and yelled, "Halt!"
The runner immediately came to a standstill, stiffly at attention to await further orders.
Doesn't that take the cake, I thought.
The runner turned out to be a soldier who panicked when he saw me back in the alley, so his first thought said run. I had really nothing to hold him on, so more than willing to let the provost take care of him.
The military police patrolled with us on weekends to assist with the ever growing number of soldiers on pass from Gagetown. Unless a soldier became involved in a really serious offence, he would simply be turned over to the military for whatever punishment they deemed appropriate. We weren't just being nice. Military punishment applied far more penalties then we could dream of. No wonder the soldier took flight from me.
Another encounter with a soldier in Devon late one Saturday night. Assigned to car patrol, I came off Water Street onto Bridge Street near the end of the old Carleton Street Bridge. Standing next to the Bank of Commerce were a couple, obviously having an exchange of words. The female seemed to be quite agitated.
Watching this for a moment from the car, now pulled into the curb next to them, I stepped out. "Are you having trouble?" I asked of her.
They both stopped for a moment, then went back to their argument ignoring me. Sensing him to be the aggressor, I stepped between them.
"Where do you live?" I directed the question to the male.
"Over there." Vaguely waving across the street.
Knowing the occupants of the house, I knew he didn't, but suggested in a tone of voice brooking no negotiation that he be on his way home.
"I'm not going anywhere until I get goddamn good and ready," he responded defiantly. Equal to the challenge, I snarled, "Well, buddy, you just happened to be `goddamn good and ready'." I grabbed his arm.
Mistake number one.
I'd seen cats with less spit and fire than this dude.
Nonetheless, I managed to get him flat on the sidewalk on his back, with his right arm around behind his head pulling on the wrist toward my chest, my left knee across his throat. I had him under control, but the problem of applying the handcuffs remained. It took both hands and a leg to keep this character immobile. While I mentally pondered the situation, he gasped, "Okay, okay. I give up. Let me up and I'll go with you."
Mistake number two.
He was still full of fight with a mind for flight. Becoming a bit winded from all this exertion, getting him in a controllable position the second time used up about all the energy I had left. He still had enough left, however, to squirm out from my lock on him and gain his feet. No strength left in my arms, my only chance to hold him was to wrap my legs around his waist, ankles locked together. All that walking on the beat created muscles in my legs hard as iron. Although I had him in a solid grip with my legs, my position left a lot to be desired. With him on his feet, my shoulders were on the sidewalk, my legs elevated to his waist level. All I could do was hold on and fend off the swings he was taking at my head.
Not a good situation. Cars idling by paused to look the scene over, but not a driver offered any assistance. Finally, a man ran over and asked if he could help?
Does a bear shit in the woods, I thought bleakly. Instead, I directed him to my cruiser. "Pick up the mike and say 'Car 4, come to the end of the bridge'."
Within minutes, the paddy wagon arrived. We loaded my prisoner in for a trip over town. He turned out to be a soldier, so simply passed him along to the provost for disposition. One more situation where I was too quick to jump to conclusions and too quick to act. As I gained experience and a bit more wisdom, those kind of incidents dwindle considerably.
As an interesting side note to this, some years later, long after I had left the force and moved to Ontario, I came back to Fredericton on vacation. My young son had injured himself resulting in a trip to the Victoria Public Hospital. While waiting for x-rays, I noticed a man cleaning the corridor. He looked familiar, but I couldn't place a name with the face. Finally, I approached him.
"You look familiar," I said. "Have we met somewhere before?"
"I was thinking the same," he replied. After a moment, he said, "Are you a policeman?" After comparing notes, it turned out this man was the same one I had grabbed onto that night.
According to him, the night in question he and his girlfriend had been to a party and were ontheir way to her home. He wanted to attend another party but she felt it time to call it a night.
"That is what we had been discussing when you pulled up," he explained. "I was annoyed ather for wanting to go home. You just made matters worse."
I agreed. Hindsight has wonderful vision.
"I wasn't trying to hurt you that night, but I knew if the provost got their hands on me, I faced time in custody."
"So what happened when you got back to Gagetown?" I asked.
"Thirty days in the digger."
It was probably one of the few remorseful moments I felt about my actions as a police officer. He had done nothing to really deserve the military punishment except fighting with me, which I initiated. But, to my knowledge, even God has never put a scrambled egg back in its original condition. So mote it be.
Parties and pastimes
The old expression, Wine, Women and Song, may well have originated with the police department. With all the drink related activities connected with the job, one would think police officer would be the model of sobriety. We saw no connection between our own off duty shenanigans and those of the citizens we policed. Or at least we didn't look too closely for any similarity. For the most part, we partied together so it really didn't seem feasible to cut too fine a line when it came to another officer's morality.
When I first went to Fredericton, Smythe Street ended at Priestman. Beyond that nothing but the forest of the UNB wood lot interlaced with access roads. Perfect location for a warm summer afternoon of driving around and killing a few beer. Many a loud debate over the ills of the department, the worries of the world and life in general occurred on these outings with only the wildlife to express the occasional snort of disgust before loping off to find more civilized creatures.
Safety specialists continually preach on the dangers of drinking and driving. Of course, that message only applies to the other person, not me. I can handle my booze. I'm a better driver when I have had a few.
I've heard it said and said it myself. How easily we deceive ourselves.
Driving the back roads one Saturday afternoon, John King and I were once again scoffing back a few beer. As we popped around a curve, there stood Chief Neely in the middle of the road waving us to stop. We looked at each other. What in the name of common sense was he doing out here in the middle of nowhere?
As I pulled to a stop, he leaned toward the window to say something, saw who it was and exclaimed, "A policeman." It was more of a question than statement.
"Yessir," " I said. "Two of us."
"Good, good," he said. "pull over there. We need your help."
A young fellow had been shot in a hunting accident about 1/2 mile off the road. A few people were milling around making arrangements for bringing the body out while waiting for the arrival of the Coroner. Chief Neely ordered me to keep the roadway open for the hearse and John was to accompany the Coroner back to the body. I quickly complied, moving my car out of the way so the chief wouldn't notice all the beer in the back seat. Besides, both John & I must have smelled like a brewery. So, keeping a safe distance seem a wise move.
Time dragged by with all the speed of a two legged turtle. Keeping one eye on Neely and one eye on my car, the end of an hour had me a nervous wreck. Finally, they brought the body to the road and the Coroner gave thumbs up for the hearse to take over. As John and I prepared to make our departure, Neely came over to us.
Uh oh, I thought. Now comes the reckoning.
"Say, guys," he said. "thanks for the hand. Would you give the Coroner a lift back to town?" Good grief! In my car; with all that beer? What could I say?
"Sure chief. Be glad to."
The Coroner Emmett Lyons, climbed in the back, propped his feet up on the cases of beer, and leaned back with a twinkle in his eye.
"Uh, care for a beer?" John asked.
"Sure, why not?" he said. "That's a damn hot tramp way back in there."
So far as I know, Neely was never the wiser; at least on that occasion.
John and I were forever getting into situations that defied explanation, and, at the same time as demanding one.
Sitting in the car at the end of an evening shift finishing off a couple bottles of wine left over from some previous excursion, we thought to remain safe we would not move from in front of the police station. Or only move enough to avoid Sergeant Ward, patrolling around in the paddy wagon. Two or three other officers had joined us.
For some reason we ended up on Rookwood Avenue, near the park. John was feeling a bit feisty so I suggested he settle down of I would slap him around a bit. He took up the challenge immediately. Not really serious, we nonetheless, got out of the car and squared off. He reached out a little flick sending my glasses flying into the snow alongside the street. Just "pfffft" and they were gone.
We spent twenty minutes, between bursts of laughter, searching for those damn glasses. Unless somebody came across them in the spring, they are probably still there.
A week or so later, John, became a participant in another round of drinking from which I was absent. All was not well that time. Somehow John ended up with a gash on top of his head, serious enough to require a doctor's attention. Len Gillis and Walter Phair took him to the Hospital in the paddy wagon, but at the ambulance entrance, John threw a stubborn fit. He didn't feel the need to see any doctor, bleeding head or no.
Somehow the Chief got wind of this, probably from the report Gillis and Phair were required to make. He called me into the office a week later.
His version had me and John in a drunken brawl. John had punched me in the face and broke my glasses; I had hit him over the head with a bottle causing a deep cut in his scalp. Of course, I denied any knowledge in a very respectful way.
"What the hell are you talking about?" I said. "I have no idea how John cut his head, I wasn't with him. And my glasses were simply lost. No fight. No brawl. What's your problem?"
"Well, I knew if I asked you, I would get the truth," he said.
Of course, chief. Of course.
Not all our party time company involved only male colleagues. Females often played an integral part in our escapades. For some reason, women were attracted to the uniform like a preacher to a free meal. For single officers this attraction posed little threat. For those who were married and still liked to party, things got a little hairy at times.
John had a thing going with a redhead who lived on Union Street. When her soldier husband had to spend time in the field on training exercises, she would get the word to John.
At ten past midnight, we had finished the afternoon shift, changed from our uniforms and jumped in the car. John wanted a ride to Union St. Normally, I would have come off the Devon end of the bridge, hung a right turn and drove directly to the apartment. For some unknown reason that night, I continued on across Union, followed McLaren down into the "Dobie", a residential area. A roundabout way to the destination. Dropping John, I returned to police station for an article I had forgot. Returning from my locker, I met John's wife in the doorway.
"Where did you leave him tonight, you bastard," she yelled.
Oops! I tried to explain I had not seen John since the end of the shift.
She was not buying that bullshit. She had been sitting at a service station at the end of the bridge when we went by earlier. Because their car wouldn't start right away, they lost sight of my car in the side streets. Now I knew why I didn't follow the usual route.
No story, no matter how well concocted would have calmed her. With a final threat that neither John, I or the Chief had heard the last of this matter, she stormed out the door with a slam that rattled every window in the city hall.
The station officer had a silly grin on his face as I used the telephone to pass on a timely warning to the subjects of her wrath. Oh, she went to the chief with her complaint, but he wasn't ready to become embroiled in any domestic dispute. He brushed it off.
The matter had a rather humorous twist to it. The affair had run its course, as affairs usually did, and John's behaviour improved considerably. Entering his house one afternoon, John's wife called from the kitchen.
"Johnny, I want you to meet a friend of mine."
There at the table calmly sipping a cup of tea sat the redhead. "Hi Johnny," she said with a smile. "So nice to meet you."
John had a sudden urge to visit the bathroom.
Lee Libby took his dallying more serious. Finishing the afternoon shift, he drove home to Silverwood, picked up his suitcase, tiptoed out the door so as not to wake his wife, and came back to town where a young lady patiently waited with her valise also packed. At two a.m. they turned their backs on the City of Fredericton and headed west. Two or three months later, they surfaced in Toronto. Someone remarked on Lee's absence: "She must have been one helluva lay."
Being single during the first couple of years on the force allowed me to freely check the fruits of the thriving orchards in and around the city. My biggest problem stemmed from lack of sleep. Many mornings I entered the boarding house in time to shave, changed into my uniform and head downtown. Falling asleep propped against a parking meter didn't exactly present the kind of image Neeley wanted.
Marie was a nice young French lady, who had left her husband back in Buctouche, or some such locale. I very much enjoyed her company although Ronnie S, a taxi driver, warned she is reputed to have venereal disease. Ronnie didn't know venereal disease from hazelnuts. He called it the clap. I didn't put much faith in that kind of gossip.
It didn't matter much anyway. We just simply had a good time in each other's company, Until the time came when too much booze, coupled with opportunity (Johnny's wife away visiting her parents, he had the apartment to himself) led us down the garden path. It turned out Ronnie S didn't know jack-shit. Still, I paid close attention to myself for a week or so.
Unfortunately, that affliction came from a totally unexpected source; a married women living next door to my boarding house. When the doctor confirmed my suspicion, he asked if I knew where I got it.
"Don't worry, Doc," I grated. "I fully plan to slowly roast her over an open barbecue pit."
She was absolutely stunned when I informed her of our little secret. Then she nearly had a heart attack thinking about her husband. I grinned. She had enough to worry about without me laying more guilt on her shoulders. I don't know if the husband ever contacted the disease; it wasn't something we discussed over the backyard fence.
Stopping by the dance hall, I spied John, who was doing extra duty that evening, chatting with an attractive brunette. Mustering all my charm, I sauntered up and in my most winning manner said, "Who's this gorgeous babe?"
I could tell she was really impressed after she gave me the once over then went back to dancing. Oh well, win a few, lose a few.
However, over time I learned she, Shirley McDougall, worked as a nurse at the hospital. Her attractive roommate, Colleen Kelly, attended Teacher's College. Shirley and I began dating on a regular basis. We likely would have eventually married except for her being leery of my carousing nature. She accused me of drinking too much. I shrugged it off. She took strong exception to Ron S and I picking up two of her Teacher's College friends in front of the hospital one afternoon while she watched out the window. Trying to explain a trip to the liquor store followed by a party on the sands of Killarney Lake fell on deaf ears. Shirley was not aware that her roommate, Colleen, and I dated when Shirley went home to Bath, New Brunswick, for an occasional weekend.
Colleen (everyone called her Kelly) was a beautiful lass of Irish descent with a temper all out of keeping with her looks. Kelly and I had some lovely times made all the more bitter sweet when I learned of her death. She had graduated from Teacher's College and accepted a teaching position out west. On the way, she had a car accident. A beautiful life snuffed out in an instant at age twenty-one.
Shirley and I finally went our separate ways, not to meet again for several years. I had married, moved to Oakville, Ontario, losing track of her altogether. Walking across the parking lot of the Oakville-Trafalgar Memorial hospital, I heard someone call my name. To my surprise, it turned out to be Shirley. On staff at the hospital, she had married and moved around the same time I did. We continued to be friends although I haven't seen her now for a number of years.
Many officers, once they married, settled down to domestic bliss. Many more didn't. Two Fredericton officers, Phil Booker and Al McLean, both middle aged men with families, thought it their sworn duty to bed as many women as possible. Al kept a running tally. "Yessir," he boasted. "I've had over a hundred of 'ern." We absorbed this information with all the skepticism of hearing the Pope turned Baptist.
Phil, on the other hand, went for quality as well as quantity. Listening to him describe his latest conquest, I wanted a close look at his veritable goddess from fantasyland. Spotting Phil's car in front of Henry Ricker's Hamburger joint on night, I pulled alongside. Cuddled up next to him, her jaw attacking a wad of gum with all the vigor of an overwrought tomcat, sat this skinny female. I nodded and pulled away.
"Well," Phil explained later. "She's not much to look at, but she's great in bed."
She'd have to be. As far as I could see, that would be her only asset. But I didn't say that to Phil.
Ralph P, a short order cook at Bill's Lunch on Carleton Street, and I frequently teamed up in our search for female entertainment. Usually accompanied by a quart of white star rum and a case of Moosehead beer. Geraldine (Jerry) , a waitress at a small cafe on Regent Street and her friend, Connie, a dental receptionist from across the street formed part of our group. They were merely a fun couple not meant for serious attachment. Just as well, too.
Although I paired off with Connie, she didn't show any particularly attraction to me. I enjoyed her company all the same. Taking one last swing around King and Queen Streets about two a.m., Ralph and I noticed Connie and Jerry walking home. Accepting our offer for a lift, Ralph moved to the rear seat with Jerry leaving Connie to join me in front. They were cool to the idea of further play; it being late. Connie was adamant about going home. Just to tease her, I headed in the opposite direction towards Lincoln."Where are you going?" she demanded.
"To the Wilsey Road," I said with an impish grin on my face. "We are going to watch the sun come up." An event still four hours in the future.
She pouted. She sat with arms folded scowling. She laughed at the silliness of it all.
At sunup we all went for a coffee before turning in to our respective beds for much needed sleep.
Forty years later, I met her daughter, a spitting image of a younger Connie. "You knew my mother?" she exclaimed.
I laughed. "Ask your mother about watching the sun come up over Wilsey Road."
Contrary to what children believe, their parents really did have a life before them.
The Fredericton Exhibition was in full swing in September, 1960, when Ralph and I took a quick tour of the grounds shortly after midnight. Spotting three girls with whom Ralph had a passing acquaintance, we stopped to chat. After a wild ride on the "Bullet", we offered them a drive home. Since they all roomed together, one stop would do it. But an hour or so of parking first for proper introductions. Unfortunately, there were three of them, two of us, so one poor girl huddled in the corner trying to look inconspicuous.
One thing led to another with the one I paired with, with the result that a year later we marched down the aisle. Shirley White and I were married on September 9,1961 in Nashwaaksis. The next fifteen years produced four sons and a tempestuous relationship finally culminating in divorce. I adhered strongly to fidelity but the drinking forays continued albeit not so often.
It takes a strong woman to be the wife of a policeman. Not only must she cope with his moodiness and long silences, his cynical outbursts, she must understand and accept the close bonding between fellow officers. The police officer spends almost as much time with colleagues as he does with family; in effect, they are considered family too. A strong, dedicated wife learns to deal with the effects of shift work, how to turn down social engagements because her husband is working the night shift, how to run a household centered around his working life. She knows when to comfort him, when to remain at arms length. She encourages him to talk, but respects his silent moods. Quick to forgive, slow to wrath. In short, she must have the patience of Job, the wisdom of Solomon and the heart of an angel.
He needs her. He needs the security and sanity she represents in a world of chaos. After a shift of listening to a litany of complaints and intervening in the problems of others, the one thing he doesn't need is to be hit with a barrage of complaints the minute he steps through the door. This is his oasis. His refuge. He only wants to be held and assured he is alright. That the world is alright.
When this is lacking at home, he will turn to his buddies for support. They understand. Female companionship is as available as jelly beans in a candy store. He is not looking for any long term commitment in these extra marital trysts, simply acceptance for what he is. All too frequently these situations create additional problems at home. The result is another broken marriage in a long list. The average policeman can cure everyone's problems except his own.
By the time 1966 rolled around, I had spent nearly seven years patrolling the streets of Fredericton. I began to get restless. I needed change. Never having had any formal training, I felt strongly I had developed as far as I could under the tutelage of fellow officers since they had no formal training either.
Although not particularly desirous of attaining rank, the seniority based system of promotion within the Fredericton Force simply meant I only had to wait until those ahead of me either retired, died or resigned. While I still loved the job itself, I couldn't see another twenty-five years under these conditions.I began seeking another position. An RCAF recruiter encouraged me to submit an application for re-enlistment. The aspect of military policing appealed to me, so I entered into the selection process. Everything went well until a medical examination revealed a hearing loss sufficient to bar going any further.
With that avenue for change closed, I turned my attention elsewhere. Since Ontario appeared to be the province of opportunity, I set my sights in that direction. At the end of May, I tendered my resignation from the Force, stepping nimbly to one side as Chief Neeley turned handsprings in the hallway, and on the 6th of June I headed for Toronto. Beyond that, I had no idea where I was going, what I was going to do. I simply told my wife I would be back when I got back.
Although the previous paragraph may lead one to believe that I simply departed Fredericton without any forethought. Not so. A couple of months earlier, in a conversation with a young chap I stopped for a traffic violation that the OPP were on a hiring kick. According to him a patrol had stopped him for speeding, then tried to recruit him. This set me to thinking about possibilities.
I decided to call a couple of people. Don Fletcher, former Fredericton PD officer, was then Chief of Police in Streetsville (now part of Mississauga). He did not have any openings, but felt it would be no trouble to get hired on in some of the surrounding communities. The salary, starting out, amounted to at least $500 more per year. I also had a chat with Lee Libby (remember the guy who took off at midnight?) in Toronto. Both he and Don encouraged me to come out.
So, in April, I took a week's vacation and Shirley and I headed for Ontario. As luck would have it, Don had made a flying trip to Fredericton and Lee was away too. Without knowing a soul, we sort of stumbled around like a drunk in the park. I did drop in to the OPP detachment in Brockville to inquire about recruitment. The officer told me to forget it; they did not accept anyone wearing glasses. Well! Wasn't that crappy.
Finally, we said the hell with it and headed for home.
But the restlessness did not go away. I had further conversations with Lee and Don and made up my mind; I was going to join a police department in Ontario. Where, I had no idea.
Libby, along with his concubine, at that time, had an apartment on Keele Avenue with an extra bed that he generously provided during my job search. First stop, Fletcher's in Streetsville.
We spent two or three days traveling around to various communities: Vaughn Township, Maple, and one or two others. Dropped off applications, but things did not look encouraging. Don suggested we drive to Niagara Falls; they were in the middle of a recruitment program. As we boogied along the QEW heading west, he suddenly turned off at Oakville saying he just remembered they had advertised earlier for police officers. Might as well try them before we go to Niagara.
The old Oakville police station, located on Lakeshore Road, proved to be a bit a cramped, dingy place, not at all attractive in appearance or workplace. The Deputy Chief, Len Brown, took the time to chat with Donnie and I. Yes, indeed, he said, they were looking to hire several new constables. If I could come back tomorrow, they would put me through the tests, etc.
Could I come back tomorrow? I mean, is a pig's ass pork?
As I recall, it was a Tuesday when I presented myself at the appointed time. (Learning from my earlier experience with the OPP, my glasses were securely tucked inside a pocket). We went through a series of paper exercises and an oral examination. Finally Brown said for me to go for a medical - giving me the name of the clinic and doctor. A little alarm went off, considering my need for glasses. Actually, I could see quite well up close; distance created a sort of double vision. Ah well....
As expected the examination went well. No mention of an eye test. Just as I was about to leave, the good doctor said, "Oh, I almost forgot. Eye test."
He pointed at a chart on the wall. "Read the bottom line", he said.
The bottom line? Hell, I couldn't even read the top line. Putting on my glasses, I could read any letter on the chart.
"Hmmm", mumbled the good doctor. "Not so good without them are you?"
"Doc", I pleaded, "I desperately want to pass this test. You hold my future in your hands at this moment."
"Really?" he said, lifting an eyebrow. He pondered for a few moments, then asked, "Can you see the road signs when you are driving?
"Well", I hedged, "I haven't got lost yet."
"Good enough for me", he said, and signed me as perfectly fit to be a police officer in Oakville.
With a spring in my step, I headed back to the police station. Although I had no idea at this point whether or not I had made the grade, I felt the biggest hurdle had been passed. Yeah. Right. Always expect the unexpected.
Brown greeted me warmly again. He was a big, jovial man with a smile as broad as the street. He told me that it would be a few days before the results were all in, but they would be in touch. Thank you very much.
Oh great! Now what do I do? Hand around the phone at Libby's waiting for the call? Try Niagara Falls? Sheeeee-it!
In the final analysis, I decided to await the call. Besides, there were some pretty good movies on during the day. I chewed my fingernailes. I called my wife several times. I really missed her and the three boys; even though it had been just over a couple of weeks, I desperately wanted to be with them.
At last, on Thursday, Brown called. Could I drop by the office for one more interview with the Chief on Friday morning? Oh sure. Like I am going to hum and haw about the matter. I was there before sun up I think.
Fred Oliver, portly Chief of Police, scowled at me as he bade me sit. No "how tall are you, how much do you weigh" bullshit on this interview. He meant business. The only thing I can remember about that conversation is the end of it.
"If I were to hire you, when could you start?" Fred asked.
"Well, I need to get a place to live, go back and get my wife and kids....." A quick calculation. "At least three weeks," I said.
A big smile broke across his face. "Great! I'll expect you to report here on July 11th. Welcome to the Oakville Police Force."
Damn. Just like that. Start packing, momma. We's a moving to Ontario.