Good old days, way things were

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By the time you get to read this, I will have celebrated my 74th birthday. Perhaps celebrated is too strong a word, so let’s just say that I am still involved in the human aging process.

I must be getting old because, like many other folks my own age, I find myself reflecting on the ‘good old days’ with increasing frequency.

Recently, while attending my weekly wisdom acquisition class at the Stag Barbershop, a young member of the RCMP was getting his hair trimmed. I’m not sure the young Mountie’s presence sparked the conversation, but I recounted some of those halcyon days of my youth that now seem so long ago and far away.

Many old-time residents will recall Al Millhouse, a Mountie who served here for many years in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Al even married Jeanie Nelson, a local girl.

During a chaotic episode of flooding on the Alouette River, Al was commended for his heroic actions in rescuing stranded people from the rampaging waters.

In those days, Maple Ridge’s population was probably not more than 15,000 or 20,000 people, so pretty well everyone knew everyone else and, even though some of us got into a lot of trouble, our local Mounties were almost like friends, and Al fit that role to a tee.

On one occasion, on a bright sunny early Sunday morning in August, myself and two other young fellows were hitchhiking to Hammond. Al stopped his cruiser and offered us a lift from just next to the Baptist church.

As we rode along, Al inquired, “When are you guys going to settle down and get jobs?”

One of us responded, “What could we do?”

Al’s reply, “Have you ever thought of being a Mountie?” to which one of us answered, “I don’t have the smarts to be a Mountie.”

Al said, “You don’t have to be that smart to be a Mountie.” And one of us replied, “That’s for damned sure.”

Al quickly pulled his cruiser over and ordered us out of the car and told us we could walk to Hammond.

On another occasion, we were in a westbound car on the Lougheed Highway approaching Laity Street when Al pulled us over. It appeared that someone had been throwing beer bottles from a moving vehicle and smashing them on road signs and, thus, creating a mess on the shoulder of the road.

Al was convinced that we were the culprits and ordered us to clean up the mess. He even opened the trunk of his cruiser and produced a broom and dustpan. It never occurred to us to refuse to do the work.

Perhaps the funniest incident of all was the occasion of a dance in the old Hammond hall. We had been drinking far too much beer (we were probably still too young to drink legally) and we were horsing around a little too boisterously for Al’s liking. At some point in the silliness, Al struck me across the back of  my head, causing irreparable damage to his five-cell flashlight, but not too much injury to my thick skull.

The incident ended with no real harm done other than to Al’s flashlight.

Al later asked me to pay for the damage, but then relented and life went on as usual.

I know it was a kinder and gentler time and Al was a more kind and gentle Mountie than many of today’s police because that’s the way things were back in the ‘good old days’.


– Sandy Macdougall is a retired journalist and former district councillor.


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