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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - March 9, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta Saturday, March LETHBRIOQE People of the South By Chris Stewart Fort Macleod's man of the Arctic THE VOICE OF ONE By Dr. Frank S. Morlev Today's occupational forces could learn from ex-Mountie Paul Dersch's success in securing the Arctic for Canada. Throughout his entire 25-year career with the RCMP this calm, calculating officer .never fired a shot. He simply counted to ten "to allow time for things to he says. And they usually did. Perhaps some of the Eskimo's characteristics rubbed off on him. They never showed anger and felt those who did were possessed by devils. His philosophy was successful, wherever he ac- quired it. The 10-second interlude spelled the difference between hasty, rash judgments and a calm, wise decision, which he credits with often saving his life when impetuousness would have spelled disaster. "We were sent to the Arctic to establish sovereignty to claim the islands for Canada, in a day when either the Norwegians or the Danes could have done the he said. "Both countries had sponsored expeditions to the North Pole with the Danes already claiming nearby Greenland. They could have easily taken the Arctic, but perhaps it was the Canadian red-coats stationed at strategic locations who dissuaded he laughed. Reputed to be the oldest ex- Mountie in Southern Alberta, Dersch's 80th birthday coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Moun ties' arrival in Fort Macleod where he will celebrate his important milestone at an "open house" at his residence on Sunday, March 10 (to which all his friends are As well as congratulating him guests will be able to view his valuable Arctic artifacts gathered during his seven years in the frozen north a collection so extensive this ex- manager of the Fort museum could open his own exhibition. His carpentry and riding skills learned on the Crystal Springs ranch on Cotton Wood Creek in the Procupine Hills, northeast of Fort Macleod equipped him for Arctic service. His father, Otto Dersch (deceased in 1942 at the ripe age of 92) had acquir- ed the homestead in 1901 before returning to Griswold, North Dakota, for his family. and settler's effects. He brought them north by train to Haney Ville (two miles south of Macleod, as it was known then) the following year. The devastating Frank slide, just west of them, struck the following year, followed by a severe four-foot snowstorm. Most of the 200 head of cattle Dersch and his neighbor Jack Byer of Leavings had purchased from "Hippo" Johnson of Waterton (a nickname derived from the 0 brand on his cattle's hips) wandered back to their home range in the heavy storm there were no fences in those days) with the new owners working feverishly to retrieve them. Byer had arrived in Leavings (now in 1902. Its name originated from the old bull-team freighters stopping there for water before "leaving" for the next available water stop northeast along the prairie trail. "It was a do or starve existence in those Dersch recalls. "You could sell your wheat but you couldn't give your stock away. Feed was scarce and the deep, long, cold winter of 1906-07 killed off lots of cattle. Dad wanted me to stay with the ranch but I had decided to join the Mounties whom I had learned to admire." At age 29 he was sworn in in Lethbridge in December. 1923 and left immediately to train in Regina. Assigned to the world's most northerly detachment at Ellesmere Island's Craig Harbor, in Jones Sound. 800 miles from the North Pole (parallel with the northern Up of Greenland he sailed from Quebec in July on the wooden, three-masted. coal-fired "Arctic" built in 1910. His mission was to secure this vast, cold, virtually uninhabited region for Canadians. It was a treacherous voyage from the start They foolishly cast off against an incoming tide, the motor balked and they drifted into a moored vessel. "Arctic" finally reached Craig Harbor on August 9 (a month after leaving Quebec? only to find the detachment was levelled by fire the previous February, They steamed north to Kara Basin, preferring to build a new detachment there, but discovered the site nestled beneath a foreboding glacier so returned to Craig Harbor where Dersch and his partner Corporal Bob "Mitch" Mitchelson rebuilt -the headquarters with lumber available. They found enough nails in the ashes to finish the job. A kitchen coal stove provided heating but when stiff winds and 50 below zero temperatures froze the blankets to the walls, they garrisoned their quarters with snow blocks and crawled deeper into their eiderdowns. The Mountie's duties included taking temperatures, checking weather conditions, conducting regular patrols (by dog team in winter and row boat in mapping the coastline, checking game and studying land and ice conditions all without a compass. They depended on the Eskimo's instinct and familiar land markings for their bearings. There was no radio or newspaper and mail only yearly, with the annual supply ship. The sun's brief arrival after the long, dark winter (broken only by the occasional full moon) was generally on February 4, if the weather was good. Dersch recalls the 35-mile crossing of Jones Sound from Cape Sapiro to Devon Island when the bright, moon glow resembled the day. They became oblivious to time the day their clock stopped in mid-winter. ''What did we do Paul queried while entering in his diary? "When was yesterday? When did it start or Neither of them knew. Day and night had been for weeks. With the supply ship's summer arrival they were delighted to discover they had only miscalculated the date by 10 days slightly better than the shipper who botched up their order of one case of yeast (24 boxes to a case) and instead sent them 24 cases enough to last them a quarter of a century. Paul jokes that when the tide was too low to moor his boat he just threw in a handful of extra yeast to make the tide rise. Mitch left with the supply ship with Mounties Arthur Joy and Bill Baine joining Dersch for his second year. Patrol cooking became an art. They poured pork and beans on cookie sheets, froze them, chopped and sacked them. "All we had to do was scoop some snow into our frying pan, set it on our kudlik (stove) toss in a few frozen chunks (resembling peanut brittle) and presto our meal was ready." They built igloos on patrol by sawing six by 18- inch blocks, piled them in circles, tapering them into domes with a roof vent-hole and equipped them with wall to wall bearskins. When they crawled into their sleeping bags they were as cozy as if in a heated hotel room. They iiever travelled in buz- zards or rode long distances without getting off regularly to run alongside their komatick (dog sled) to aid their circulation. They always wore sun glasses, sealskin jackets, leggings, parkas and matching fur-lined komiks (boots) and smeared soot on their upper cheeks to cut down the sun's glare. Their kimicks (dogs) wore mocassins too when their feet were soft from travelling over frozen fresh water (salt water toughened their feet pads, whereas fresh water softened Hell never forget the night on the ice flow while hauling in dog food (walruses weighing up to 1.600 pounds) when a sudden storm with accompanying eerie, cracking ice sent him racing for shore. The slightest delay would have trapped him on the ice flow. Dersch returned to Lethbridge in 1926. did federal work at Cardston that winter and volunteered for another Arctic stint this time at Lake Harbor, on the southermost tip of Baffin Island, 1.000 miles south of his first assignment. Unlike lonely Craig Harbor it had a Hudson Bay Trading post and an Anglican mission. He and Sergeant Bill White were the first Mounties sent in there to build a detachment. They tented on the perma-frosl while constructing the five main buildings, connected them with walks edged with white-washed rocks and fronted it with an attractive arched gate made from old packing cases. "It was really Paul reports. They had a motor boat (rather than a rowboat) and in 1926 received their first battery radio-sets and earphones. Paul recalls the thrill at hearing radio station KDKA Pittsburgh (one of the strongest stations in the world at that time) and KSL, Salt Lake City, bringing them news of the outside world plus messages and Christmas greetings from family and friends. The announcer's warm "good evening" to lighthouse keepers and those in remote regions added a personal touch for these Arctic Mounties whose only link with humanity was the little voice-box on their table. As a token of their deep appreciation White and Dersch sent the Pittsburgh station a polar bear rug they had dressed in Montreal. When stationed at Dundas Harbor on his third Arctic assignment he recalls seeing a mirage three figures at different altitudes, while crossing the Devon Island ice cape. It was here, on the southern tip of the island, he lost one of his huskies' in the deep ice crevices trenches generating heat and a vapor which covered the crevice opening with a light, deceptive crust. "There was a hollow sound to the Dersch remembers, "when we tested it with harpoons and ice chisels." He and his Eskimo guide, secured together at their waists with long rawhide ropes, stepped carefully as the ice cracked beneath them. His husky, venturing too far, crashed through. Paul left the Arctic to take a refresher course at Regina before being posted to Cumberland House on the Saskatchewan River, near The Pas. He was transferred in the spring of 1935 to the Cree Indian settlement of Ille a La Crosse at the headwaters of the Church- ill (a 6Vz year as- signment his longest) He'll never forget the'Chnstmas night when the whole sky was ablaze with most spectacular aurora borealis he has ever seen. It appeared like a raging fire in the eastern horizon rising and rolling across the sky for a full half hour. He refutes any suggestion such a phenomena results from the sun shining on the northern ice. "It can't he claims. "I saw that display when the sun was on the other side of the world. I'm certain there's a lot man doesn't understand about creation." He was chosen in 1941 to re- open historic Fort -Walsh in the Cypress Hills, established by Inspector James Walsh in 1875, and the.site of the confrontation between Sitting Bull and the Sioux in 1877 when they fled to Canada following the Custer massacre. Dersch took down a carload of brood mares and had begun peeling logs preparatory to re- opening the fort when in '42 he learned he was named to another northern post this time to Whitehorse. He constructed a log detachment at Teslin on the Alaska Highway in '43 and found the Yukon, like the Arctic, shared the same perma-frost problem. It made building railway and roadbeds difficult when the frozen ground thawed the base caved in. He advised contractors to lay corduroy (logs) beneath the roadbeds to give them body and when they heeded him the problem was corrected. He was transferred to Watson Lake in '45, to Fort Liard in '47 and North Battleford and Meadow Lake in '48. He would be away 10 long days at a time patrolling by canoe in summer and dog team in winter and would return weary to his accumulated office work. "Some nights I never had my shoes he said. When in 1948 he learned of a proposed transfer to Esqui- malt he decided it was time to quit, returned to the Fort Macleod area, married Mrs. Fern Wocknitz in 1957 and has since retired. He is convinced the Eskimos and Indians migrated to America from Asia with the Eskimos heading east from the Bering Straits while the Indians went south. He fears for the social and economic future of the Eskimo people as the big companies move in. "The Eskimo has fared for himself for centuries and now he is being introduced to city life electricity, furnaces, apartments and luxuries, but hasn't the money to pay for it. The result? An increasing number will go on welfare." He fears the resulting idleness (a problem in any society) will be greater in the Arctic wastes and says the shallow top soil covering the perma- frost can't handle large communities. Fort Macleod residents named him parade marshall for the town's celebrations last July. He rode in a polished, horse-drawn buggy while crowds clapped and cheered. When he rode his komatik over Arctic ice fifty years ago no one was there to wave, or even realized, for that matter, that his lonely vigil was for Canada. But Canadians today are beginning to appreciate Dersch and his brave comrades (many now dead) who braved the solitude, endless ice and constant sameness to secure this stronghold for. their Our children and their offspring will be doubly glad they did. Paul Dersch photo by Jean Swihart Book review The damaging sensitivity group "The Tyranny of the Group" by Andrew Malcolm (Clarke, Irwin Company Ltd., 199 "Beyond Words: The Story of Sensitivity Training and the Encounter Movement" by Kurt W. Back (Pelican paperback. 266 paxes, distributed by Longman Canada Both authors agree that the human potential movement under its various guises, has passed its peak. This enables Kurt Back to take a fairly dispassionaU. view of the whole phenomenon but does not cause- Andrew Malcolm to soften his polemic. Anyone who has experienced the supercilious attitude of devotees of encounter groups when doubts have been raised about the value of participation will appreciate the annoyance expressed by Dr. Malcolm. Not being a faddist or cultist myself, and sharing Dr. Malcolm's appreciation of "individuality, intelligence, dignity and I enjoyed the lancing against the enccunterists found in The Tyranny of the Group. Concern about the damage encounter groups can do to individuals is not as pronounced in Kurt Back's book as it is in Dr. Malcolm's book although the casualty rate is acknowledged as being higher than most studies have shown, based as they usually are on reports of the sensitivity group themselves. The results from sensitivity training do not appear to