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Book commemorating 70 years of the RCMP in Newfoundland and Labrador released Friday

Retired RCMP superintendent George Powell stands with Helen C. Escott at the book launch for "In Search of Adventure — 70 Years of the RCMP in Newfoundland and Labrador." The painting between them is by Darrin Martin. – Andrew Waterman/The Telegram
Retired RCMP superintendent George Powell stands with Helen C. Escott at the book launch for "In Search of Adventure — 70 Years of the RCMP in Newfoundland and Labrador." The painting between them is by Darrin Martin. – Andrew Waterman/The Telegram
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Andrew Waterman

The Telegram

andrew.waterman@thetelegram.com

@AndrewLWaterman

When George Powell joined the RCMP in 1953, the new officer from Ontario found himself in Newfoundland and Labrador, working with members of the former Newfoundland Ranger Force.

“Some of the people would call the office and they’d want to know, are you a Canadian Mountie or are you one of ours?” Powell said.

The RCMP had taken over and absorbed the Rangers on Aug. 1, 1950, a year after Newfoundland joined Confederation.

Compared to now, those days were pretty rudimentary, Powell says.

“It was a different atmosphere, a different life,” he said.

Prisoner escorts were all done by rail, and there was no calling for backup on a two-way radio. Sometimes, especially in rural parts of the province, the single officer who manned a rural detachment might be gone for almost a week. Their wives would take over, despite women not officially being allowed to join the RCMP until 1974.

“She would look after everything, taking the phone calls, helping people, even looking after prisoners,” Powell said.

Powell finished his career as a chief superintendent in British Columbia, but moved back to Newfoundland soon after he retired 32 years ago.

On Friday, Powell was back at RCMP headquarters in St. John’s to celebrate the release of a book called "In Search of Adventure — 70 Years of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Newfoundland and Labrador," by Helen C. Escott and published by Flanker Press.

Escott, a retired civilian member of the RCMP, compiled the history through interviews with veterans of the force.

“The safety practices and the privileges we have today were built on the backs of these veterans,” she said.

Some stories are about simple things, such as the friendships and fond memories made.

But there are also stories of riots, rescues, deaths and lessons learned.

“Policing, I’ve often heard it said, is 95 per cent boredom and five per cent sheer terror,” Escott said. “You could go to the most innocent of calls and it could switch on a dime and you could be in a life-changing situation where you are fighting for your life.”

At first, it was difficult to get veterans to talk about their experiences, she said.

“They take an oath that they’re never going to talk about these situations, so in the beginning they had to warm up to me,” she said. “But once they (did) … I’d say, 'Are you sure you want that in the book?' They would say, ‘Absolutely. I want to tell my story. I don’t want this to be forgotten.’”

Because of Alzheimer’s disease, some of the veterans couldn’t remember where they lived, but could recall specific details about incidents that happened years ago, like the file number, the weather that day or who was with them.

“I’d go back and check historical records and they will be spot on,” she said.

The book was written over the past two years, and Escott says it couldn’t have come at a better time.

“These are the people that run towards danger. These are the people who would give their life for your life. Let’s not forget that,” she said.

RCMP Assistant Commissioner Ches Parsons was at the event Friday and said it’s outstanding to have these stories as written history.

“Many of these stories would have been passed on orally and eventually would have been forgotten,” Parsons said.

George Noseworthy, vice-president of the RCMP Veterans Association, is a retired staff sergeant who began his career in 1976. He spent the first 11 years on the Great Northern Peninsula.

“Being from St. John’s, I had never been past Springdale,” he said. “I had no idea. It was like going to another world.”

One story Noseworthy remembers well involves former Staff Sgt. Lou Stuckless, who is in his 90s now and had been one of the original Newfoundland Rangers.

For 2 1/2 years, Noseworthy worked under Stuckless on the investigative team. One day, his superior looked at him and said, “Noseworthy, come here. I want to talk to you.”

When Noseworthy entered his office, Stuckless told him that he didn’t know what he was going to do with him.

“You go out and you solve crime, but you got to remember, police work is like going to the bathroom — the job ain’t finished til the paperwork is done,” Stuckless said to him.

And while he figures that particular story is not in the book, he says being able to read the stories of other members is phenomenal.

“It’s the right time,” he said.

"In Search of Adventure — 70 Years of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Newfoundland and Labrador" is available at Costco, Chapters, Coles and online.

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