RCMP barracks, Blue River, 1960s, on a typical winter’s day. (Upper North Thompson Reflections photo)

Valley Voices From The Past: Early policing in the North Thompson Valley

By Nelson Hindle

The following is an excerpt from Upper North Thompson Reflections

Blue River detachment was a one-man detachment. I cannot recall the names of the constables that were stationed there over the years except for Constables Ian Hall, then Bob Crawford, myself, followed by George Hacking. I don’t recall when Clearwater detachment opened, but prior to that event, Blue River handled the North Thompson from Albreda, north of Blue River, to the bridge at Barriere. Barriere was policed from Kamloops. Red Pass handled north of Albreda. Blue River area included a large portion of Wells Gray Park and extended from Little Fort to Bridge Lake and across the North Thompson to Chu Chua.

I arrived at Blue River in the summer of 1952, with my wife and three children, plus Lassie, our fawn Alsatian. Salmon Arm had been my previous posting from 1948. It was quite an experience to be “on your own” with four years of service, but, all in all, I was pleased for such an opportunity. We lived “in quarters” in the “Big Brown Jug”, by far the largest home in Blue River.

Comstock was in the process of putting in the Trans Mountain pipeline, and Mannix was the main contractor. Campbell and Bennett were in the lead by clearing and preparing the pipeline right-of-way. There were approximately 1,500 pipeliners in “my” area. They were too busy to give me much trouble, but at times I had some matters to correct.

At that time my mode of transport was a black 1952 Ford half-tin pick-up with red light and siren! The road out of Blue River from the end of October was closed to just north of Vavenby owing to snow making it impassable.

I used to leave the police vehicle in the barn adjacent to Doug Masterson’s hotel at Birch Island and get back to Blue River by CN. It was usually necessary to patrol from Vavenby to Barriere once a week (two to three days duration). My mode of winter travel would be via CN passenger train, freights, caboose hops, or speeders. The CNR relied on my presence at Blue River to handle minor occurrences involving CNR.

The CNR used steam engines at that time. (Diesels came a little later). My first night in “quarters” at Blue River was an experience. I was not aware that the steam engines were serviced there, which included blowing off the steam. You can imagine my reaction when at about 2 a.m. such an event took place! The roar of the steam made me wonder if on my first night an engine was blowing up. Our bedroom overlooked the roundhouse and we got the full benefit of the noise.

When the snow was gone, there was only a narrow dirt road to patrol. Road conditions were not the greatest. I think of the Cottonwood Flats near Avola which would often flood, and the wet and slippery hill near Vavenby. During the frost breakup I was lucky to get through to Clearwater in less than four hours longer. I remember someone placed a sign on the roadside near Clearwater, “Choose your rut carefully, you’ll be in it for a long way!”

There was not too much serious crime in my area. A lot of my time was taken up on Game Patrol and government agency work, (i.e. vital statistics, paying bounty for coyote and cougar kills, conducting civil marriages, registration of traplines, and that sort of thing). One of my marriages did not go too well. The groom turned up at my office “bombed” and he wasn’t happy when I told the party to sober him up, and we would try again the next day. I wasn’t being difficult, but the Marriage Act made it impossible to proceed. However, they finally listened to Nels, and left to carry on with the wedding celebration, returning in a sober state the next day when I tied the knot.

My courts were located at the police office in Blue River, Reg Small’s at Clearwater, and Blackpool and Chu Chua before JPs. If the case called for a magistrate, then two JPs were brought together. Not always an easy task. The closest coroner was at Kamloops, which meant that I would contact him for instructions and carry them out. At times this meant putting the remains into the truck and going to Kamloops.

I hope that I have not rambled on, but what I have set out is just the tip of the iceberg. I could go on and on about my term at Blue River in the North Thompson. It was rewarding, and certainly, a learning experience, which increased my confidence for future responsibilities.

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