by Bill Poole
I first met Lefty McLeod when I opened up an RCMP detachment at Goldfields in June 1951. Given the activity in the area at that time, with numerous uranium mines, prospectors and service personnel, Goldfields-established in the 1930's but abandoned in later years-was given new life as the distribution centre of supplies for the area.
Hence, the province, the federal government and Eldorado Mining and Refining opted for a police presence. The occasional visit by the RCMP officer based at Stony Rapids was no longer adequate. The future Uranium City-located some 20 kms northwest of Goldfields was, in 1951, but a few surveyor blaze marks on trees.
Lefty was employed by Saskatchewan Government Airways and flew their Beaver aircraft based at Goldfields. He serviced the many uranium mining camps, prospectors, government personnel and RCMP of the region. Among the very few bush pilots working out of Goldfields, Lefty was considered to be top drawer.
Once, when in the Stony Rapids area, Lefty came across the beautiful waterfalls on the Grease River. He reported his finding. Subsequently, it was named Lefty's Falls, but much later this was changed to Hunt Falls.
On July 15, 1952, a radio message was received from Eldorado-the federal and largest uranium mine in the area-that an employee had been found dead in his bunk. The circumstances were suspicious and the RCMP was asked to attend.
Subsequent investigation suggested that a crime might have been committed. RCMP headquarters at Prince Albert was advised that an autopsy was needed. Arrangements were made to have an RCMP aircraft land on the dirt airstrip at Eldorado to pick up the body and take it to Regina. Unfortunately, a suitable aircraft from Edmonton would not be available for three days.
The weather was hot. What to do with the deceased? The use of the Eldorado's meat locker was quickly ruled out: It was thought that the 700 employees would be upset. Further inquiries revealed the presence of a mine tunnel on an island on Beaverlodge Lake. It would be quite cool inside, a good place to keep the deceased for three days.
A pine box was assembled and the dead miner placed inside. The box and its contents were taken in a freighter canoe to the island. My fellow constable and I struggled up the hill to the tunnel, opened the old wooden doors and deposited the box in the cool, dark interior.
Three days later, at my request, Lefty taxied his Beaver aircraft to the rocky island shoreline. But there was a problem. The pine box would not fit lengthwise into the cargo area. What to do? Lefty had the answer. Off came the cargo doors on both sides of the Beaver and the box was shoved in sideways. True, it extended beyond the aircraft's fuselage by a good twelve inches on both sides, but Lefty was not concerned.
He asked the junior constable to straddle the pine box-after all, he was wearing breeches, riding boots and spurs. From the comparative safety of the front passenger seat I began to explain that I, as the constable in charge, should occupy the more dangerous position. My protestations were drowned out in the roar of the Beaver's engine as we took off.
We were airborne but heading south. To reach the Eldorado dock on the lake, we had to go north.
At 900 feet above Beaverlodge Lake, Lefty banked the Beaver in a very tight turn. The junior constable dug in his spurs. I began writing my report to HQ in my head. How to explain the loss of the corpus delicti? How to explain the loss of government property, to wit: one barely used junior constable with spurs?
But, eventually, a very cool Lefty put the Beaver down and taxied to the dock. The pine box was quickly taken to the RCMP aircraft for the long ride to Regina.
For bush pilot Lefty McLeod, it was just another business day.
Stan Clark's lake trout
I am attaching a photo of Cpl Stan Clark a radio mechanic stationed at the transmitter site in Norman Wells during my TD there. During an off duty fishing trip he landed the lake trout pictured. I noticed that he was NOT listed in the nominal roll. Perhaps you may wish to add his name? He and Henry Oldcroft were very pleasant company.
Soup Campbell the resident radio mechanic left for a leave in Vancouver the day after we arrived. He lasted about a week in Vancouver and returned to the transmitter site for the remainder of his leave. Almost being run over crossing a street in Vancouver not paying attention to the traffic lights frightened him very badly. Forsaking family and whatever else that connected him to that city, he quickly returned to Norman Wells.
The System contracted a local aboriginal to supply 90 foot poles for the construction of a rhombic antenna at the town site station area. The poles were brought to a location just below the town radio station and were anchored slightly off shore. The temporary station manager (a corporal) signed for the poles and paid the native entrepreneur.
When Sgt Art Faulds the NCO/IC of the line crew had his men snake the poles on shore with the winch on the station 3/4 ton truck. He and the line crew were shocked to see that the native had removed the bark from only one side of the poles and grouped them so that they would not spin while under tow. Thus giving the illusion that they had been completely dressed.
This delayed construction of the antenna for a few days as the bark had to be removed by the line crew with spoke shaves and left to dry before the red and white aviation warning paint could be applied. The painting was done after the poles were erected.
The line crew were very impressed with the business acumen of the native and we split our guts laughing at this unexpected challenge.
As we were on TD, I'll hold all else.
Memories of the Ack Arr 88
your whole site! Fantastic stuff. I have a memory that came from your pages.
I was a radio operator trainee in the Royal Air Force in 1959. I did my basic
radio training at R.A.F Compton Bassett, Wiltshire, then to R.A.F Digby in Lincolnshire
to do advanced training, finally graduating in January 1960 as a Wop/A. (Could
receive the Morse code at 40 w.p.m. back then!)Then off to R.A. F. Butzweilerhof
in Cologne, Germany. The common thread to all of this was the Ack Arr 88, (AR88
in your story). we used this radio until sometime in the early 1960's, then I
had the distinction of using the replacement radio for the AR88, a 'Racal'1275?
receiver. Don't remember if it had a more military designation. Made in Bracknell,
Berkshire, as I remember. I do know, however, that I have the honor of being the
first intercept operator in the RAF to f**k -up a Racal!
If you recall,
and I am sure you do, to quickly change frequencies on an AR88, you could spin
the dial very quickly, as it had no stops on it, you simply changed the megacycles
separately. Not so the RACAL!! The Racal had a kilocycle range of only 1 Meg,
so to change ther frequency, you had to go back to the start of the band for the
next meg. I remember I spun the k/c band so fast that it came off the pegs on
the knob, and disintegrated into the bottom of the case.
I quickly convinced
the Seargant in charge of the 'set room' that I was used to the AR88, and forgot
about the different k/c control on the Racal. He bought it, but I don't think
the system was ever changed, it was considered to be superior to the AR88!
was moved to a different section shortly after!
Brian Brady, ex Wop/A,
RAF serial # 4248708, now living in Edmonton, Alberta.