While I plan to shift the focus over a wide range of my life’s experience in this blog, I need to stay in the moment or rather the year 1973 to introduce your Mom and the circumstance of our meeting, courtship and marriage.
Rural Manitoba in 1973 was very pro-police. That being true, the citizens of Whitemouth had stronger regard for the 3 working Members of Whitemouth Detachment. While RCMP Members in Whitemouth served the entire municipality, they were a stronger part of the community in which they physically lived. The Reeve of the Municipality coveted the regional police office and neighbouring towns within the municipality were envious of the in-town police presence, and while there was no requirement to live “in town”, it was certainly politically preferred.
Policing during this period was also less complex. With only three Members for the region and no paid overtime, shifts were structured but necessarily flexible. Members worked when they had to work. Someone was always “on-call” during quiet periods and invariably a police car was parked at someone’s home, the grocery store or the curling rink if social and “on-call” responsibilities intertwined. It was not uncommon to pull someone over for a traffic infraction while in curling garb or hockey pads. During working hours and especially at night, every car encountered was subject to scrutiny and often physically stopped and the occupants checked. Without the advantage of 24/7 police coverage, a strong community intelligence capability was paramount to ensure that the three interdependent law enforcement components of prevention, detection and, disruption were fully addressed.
The same held true of interactions with the community. There were no special guidelines in effect for either police community relations or neighbourhood watch programs. Coffee at Johnnie’s with a morning assemblage of business and community leaders was an opportunity to catch up on all the regional gossip and alert them to potential problems that we were following. Whitemouth was also the location of the regional high school. Our active involvement in school activities and as youth coaches kept us current on information pertaining to alcohol and drug use, vandalism and bullying throughout the region. We attended most community events and socials as citizens, but were often called to be peace-makers when alcohol-fuelled disputes arose between young adult participants.
Sir Robert Peel is well regarded as the father of modern policing through his success at reform in England (c. 1829). Whitemouth Detachment (c. 1973) epitomized this policing model and Peel’s 9 Principles of Law Enforcement (centred around community interaction and individual communication) for their regional police service delivery. For more information on Peel and his principles see https://www.ottawapolice.ca/en/about-us/Peel-s-Principles-.asp .
Lest you think I have strayed from the story of how I met your mother, the above background is relevant to give context to that chronology. Absent of this, and within the context of today’s cultural mores, I could be accused of or sanctioned for stalking your Mom, when in fact my intentions were honourable and anchored in acceptable and professional practice for that time period. Really, that’s true!
I saw her out of the corner of my eye as I passed Second Avenue heading East on Railway Street, Whitemouth’s main drag. She was in the driver’s seat of a blue car stopped at the stop sign, and while there was no hint of acknowledgement on her part nor observation of criminal activity on mine, I instinctively hit the brake. She made the turn and followed me; I took my foot off the brake. Within seconds she pulled off the road in front of the hotel. As casually as I could in a marked police car I turned left into the fire department parking lot and parked facing the hotel. She didn’t get out of the car at first, then she emerged from it; one of those slow motion moments that will be imprinted on my brain for all time. Even bundled up against the cold I could tell she was drop.dead.gorgeous. Long dark hair flowing out from under her knitted hat, high cheekbones flushed red from the cold and big eyes that subtly shifted and caught me at my not-so-surreptitious surveillance. She had a confident walk that I followed, step-by-step, all the way to the hotel entrance door.
Now it would have been easy to just follow her into the hotel and introduce myself. That had become my modus operandi with all of my social and business contacts since arriving in town. I considered a couple of scenarios, the adjacent booth approach, the front-on approach, even the blind-side approach that Joe so successfully pulled on me. In the end, I drove out of the lot and continued my patrol, more confident at the chance of confronting a bank robber than attempting infatuated social interaction with a beautiful stranger. Passing her car I did gain one bit of information; it had government plates, she worked for the provincial government.
Later that afternoon I went into the hotel for coffee and casually asked Pat, the owner, about the young woman that I saw.
“Ah, she’s a looker isn’t she? She’s the public health nurse. She’s from Pinawa but has an office in the town hall. She’s at the school today. Are you interested in her?”
“NO, no, not interested, just curious. I haven’t seen her around before. Besides she’s probably married or something.”
“No she’s not married, I know that. I think she’s in town tomorrow as well, she’ll be here for lunch if you want to meet her.”
“No, no, I was just asking, thanks.”
The next day, I just happened to be passing the hotel around noon and saw her car parked outside. Ok, I thought, this is it! I parked the police car in front of her car and walked up the walk to the main restaurant door. Unknown to me, Pat, the owner of the hotel had mentioned to Terry that I had been asking questions about her, and that I seemed interested in meeting her. So as I was walking toward the door, Terry was sitting at a restaurant table surrounded by teenage school kids at other tables in the room. Then, as I’m half-way up the walk to the door Pat announces to the room, “Here he comes!!!!”
Bedlam ensued, the kids started looking around wildly, perhaps thinking that “he” might be Elton John or some other idol walking through the door, Terry started fidgeting; Pat was in her glory. As I walked through the door the kids looked shocked and disappointed and Terry got up and bolted out. Same shyness issue as me I expect, or common good sense to get out of the line of fire!
Well, this was a setback! I spent considerable time that day trying to orchestrate a random meeting with the public health nurse, but couldn’t think of a mutual reason for us to be in the same place at the same time. The hotel was out of the question. Regardless, my quest was derailed by my boss who called me into the office to advise that the RCMP headquarters Section NCO was coming out to inspect the detachment the next morning and he wanted to meet me. John suggested that I might want to freshen up my already short hair for this meeting.
“Oh, OK, is there a barber in town?”
“No he died last year and his widow is trying to rent out the shop, but no luck yet. Why don’t you go and see Ruth at her shop?”
My visit to Ruth’s beauty salon was a short one. Walking in I was scrutinized by several sets of eyes peering out at me from under brown conical hair dryers, their shoulders and torsos covered by grey plastic sheets. Female clients only, older female clients who were more than interested in having me stay but smirked at the improbability of Ruthie cutting my hair. I was referred down the road to Peter’s place.
Standing on Peter’s back porch and knocking on his obviously private back door, I was doubtful that I had come to the right place, but when the door opened I saw a barber’s chair in the corner of the interior room and observed Peter’s willingness to accept me as a customer. I walked in and sat down.
Now at the RCMP Training Academy, humour had it that the full time professional barbers were actually retired farriers, and given that, their expertise at crafting horseshoes on horses and their bedside manner in doing so did not transition well to cutting hair for RCMP recruits. Peter was a graduate from that same old school and if he didn’t use a bowl as a clipping outline on me that day, he accomplished the same result from memory. I was shorn to the bone!
Naked and exposed from the ears up and two dollars poorer, I retreated meekly from Peter’s domain with a mental wish that he would some day wander into mine.
Two days later, I had a plan. I knew that the nurse was in town and I knew her route home at the end of the day. Near that time, I drove out to a crossroads and waited, ready and more confident to engage with her on my turf. Predictably, she arrived, passed me, and carried on down the highway. I pulled in behind her as the realization of a new problem dawned. The highway was under construction; there was really no place to pull her over safely so I continued to follow her for the next 7 miles. Once onto clear pavement, I activate my emergency lights, indicating for to her to pull over. She did, right in the middle of the intersection!
Pulling my RCMP uniform fur hat down over my ears to hide my whitewall head I emerged and approached the driver. She rolled down her window.
“Ah hi, you shouldn’t have stopped here, it’s not safe.”
“Well, you shouldn’t have pulled me over here then.”
Ok, not a good opening, try again. “ Ah, yeah, sorry but I wanted to meet you and figured this was the best way.”
“You figured that stopping me on the highway was the best way to meet me?”
Ok, strike two, dig deeper. “Yeah well I thought I might ask you out for a drink some night or something?’
“You’re asking me out on a date on the side of the highway and it’s 20 below?”
Strike three; indignation, rejection, flame out and crash! “Yeah, that was the plan.”
“When do you want to go? she asks.
“How about Wednesday?” I reply
“OK,” she says.
We set the time and date and I got back into my warm patrol car, sitting quietly as she pulled away and thinking, “All right, that went well! Thankfully she didn’t see my haircut. That could have been a deal-breaker.”
Our courtship was rife with my numerous and varied attempts to impress her mind and engage her heart. These attempts, while moderately insightful to her, served more to ignite the strongest traits of her personality for me to see, her compassion, her humour, her tolerance, her flexibility, her patience and eventually, her love.
We were married within the year.