First crew of Drumheller In­sti­tu­tion guards mark 50 years

The Drumheller Mail - - NEWS - Pa­trick Ko­lafa mailphoto by Pa­trick Ko­lafa

The week of Oc­to­ber 18, 1966, was a busy time for the Val­ley. The front page of The Drumheller Mail fea­tured a ma­jor gas well strike near Car­bon, Oc­to­ber 18 was a civic elec­tion date and the Drumheller Miner’s itin­er­ary for their trip to Europe was re­leased.

The top story of the day, how­ever, was the swear­ing in of 15 cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers, the first to be ap­pointed to the Drumheller In­sti­tu­tion.

The ap­point­ment was held on Oc­to­ber 14, 1966, at the Ar­mories (now the Navy League Build­ing) and per­formed by first War­den, Pierre Ju­tras. 50 years later, five of those of­fi­cers gath­ered at a home in Drumheller to mark the oc­ca­sion last Fri­day. They in­cluded Dan Wor­man, Gordon Smith, John Macy, Ron Goruik and Gerry Hatt.

While 50 years have passed, the mem­o­ries of the oc­ca­sion are vivid. Wor­man re­calls that not long after the cer­e­mony, they headed up to the air­port and were sent out for train­ing, “It was prob­a­bly the first time that any of us had flown!” said Wor­man.

Ac­cord­ing to The Drumheller Mail ar­ti­cle that ap­peared in 1966, the re­cruits were all from the Drumheller area. Orig­i­nally from Man­i­toba, Smith re­calls that he was in the area work­ing on the rigs. His rig was shut down, so a friend en­cour­aged him to ap­ply. Through­out his ca­reer, he was ac­tive with the union and served as a rep.

For the next four months, the crew were in Bri­tish Columbia where they worked at the Bri­tish Columbia Pen­iten- tiary (BCP) in New West­min­ster for about a week be­fore they were sent to Mat­squi In­sti­tu­tion in Ab­bots­ford.

“When we walked into BCP, none of us knew any­thing about a jail. It was an old build­ing and when the gate closed be­hind us, that was pretty scary,” said Smith.

The new re­cruits soon found their way and learned the ropes. They were gungho to get to work at their own new fa­cil­ity in Fe­bru­ary when they ar­rived home in the val­ley. How­ever, it wasn’t quite as ready as it was planned.

“We went to work there, and we had to get to paint­ing and build­ing fences be­fore the in­mates came,” said Goruik.

It wasn’t un­til the sum­mer of 1967 when the Drumheller In­sti­tu­tion saw its first 25 in­mates. In­mate num­ber one was named Nes­bitt, who was serv­ing for mur­der.

“When we got back from train­ing, we were tiling, paint­ing, and fenc­ing. ‘ We are trained now, we want to be guards, let’s get some in­mates here!’ Well, as soon as the in­mates came we had to do shift work,” laughs Wor­man.

This launched the ca­reer of th­ese men. Over­all, the five com­bined have 149 years ex­pe­ri­ence.

At the time, Drumheller was a de­pressed re­gion and the goal of open­ing the in­sti­tu­tion was to spur the econ­omy. For the first crew, their start­ing wage was $3,100 a year. “I never had so much money,” laughs Wor­man.

At times, it was a tough job, and at times, it was a fun job. Wor­man said at first they were bring­ing in younger first-time of­fend­ers, but they soon re­al­ized they needed more force to keep them un­der con­trol, so they brought in some older con­victs to help keep things or­ga­nized.

“If you had a cou­ple tough in­mates, they made your job a lot eas­ier. They took care of a lot of the prob­lems so staff didn’t have to worry about,” said Goruik.

Over the years, the job got tougher, but Wor­man says that mir­rors so­ci­ety out­side the prison.

“It’s a true re­flec­tion of what is hap­pen­ing on the street, re­spect for au­thor­ity has re­ally gone down­hill,” said Wor­man.

“I hear peo­ple say, ‘ You work­ing at a pen­i­ten­tiary? It must be dan­ger­ous.’ Well, it is and it is not. You go for days without any­thing hap­pen­ing and we ac­tu­ally had fun do­ing our job on good days. But then you might earn all your pay in one night,” said Wor­man.

Smith adds that the abil­ity to laugh would help them through the stress.

“It helps to have a re­ally good sense of hu­mour, it kept us go­ing,” said Smith.

Goruik adds that sports were im­por­tant, in the sum­mer they played ball, and in the win­ter they played hockey.

Wor­man said if he was in the same po­si­tion he was in 50 years ago, and the job came up, he would do it all again.

“It was a good job, and it gave me a great life­style and a great re­tire­ment,” he said.

The first crew of Drumheller In­sti­tu­tion guards share their mem­o­ries. Pic­tured back (l-r), Dan Wor­man, Ron Goruik, with front (l-r), Gordon Smith, Gerry Hatt and John Macy.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.