Royal Canadian Mounted Police
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My life as a wife to an RCMP Member
Stan Edmondson (Thomas Stanley)

by Sophie Edmondson

Goodsoil, Saskatchewan, 1954-1960

We were stationed at Foam Lake, Saskatchewan, when we were informed that we would be transferred to a one-man RCMP detachment in Goodsoil, northern Saskatchewan. I received a four-page letter from Mrs. Rugles, the wife of the RCMP member currently stationed in Goodsoil. She emphasized “how terrible it was…” at this detachment –

  • living quarters were awful,
  • there were six Indian reserves nearby,
  • water had to be carried from the well and was the colour of rust,
  • flies were bad,
  • mice were in the cellar, and
  • there were only space heaters – one for the home and one for the office.

I was determined not to let her letter get me down. “I will just have to adjust,” I told myself.

When we arrived, I realized that her complaints were true. I also found that –

  • the living quarters were a mud-plastered building with rags stuffed around
    the window sills;
  • the door didn’t fit, so in the winter snow piled high inside the door frame;
  • we did not have a bath tub;
  • the space heaters were a possible safety hazard to small children; and
  • the RCMP office was in the same building as our home, just off the living room!

Shortly after we moved in, Inspector McCombe came to the detachment for his inspection. He brought along a big boxer dog. While he and I were having lunch, our two-year-old son Tom was playing with the dog. Tom may have stepped on the dog’s foot or hurt him with a bone accidentally while playing. The dog grabbed Tom on the arm – not injuring him – but it frightened me badly! To my dismay, the inspector decided to leave the boxer for us.

Shortly after the inspection, Stan, my husband, had to go to Foam Lake for a court case. I was left with a two-year-old, a big dog, and I was pregnant. I was afraid of the dog and that it might bite Tom again. It was a tragedy though when this beautiful big dog eventually got into some poison. We tried our best to save him but he died anyway. This affected me terribly.

To improve our living quarters Inspector McCombe continued to advocate diligently for a new bungalow and a separate building for the office to be built. So, in a few years we moved into our new home. Everything was so much better, except for the uncovered well. The thought of our three-year old drowning in the well was a big worry – I had seen it before. The stress of a colicky three-month-old baby and the stress of the open well finally caught up with me and I had a heart attack!

I was taken to the hospital where the doctor, upon hearing that I was a registered nurse, asked if I had been nursing in the past few years. The current matron nurse was leaving. She had many children and was planning on helping her husband with his mink ranch. At the time, I could not even feed myself. I asked myself, “How could I do it – raise my children, help my husband with his police work, and, be the matron at the hospital?” After taking into account my family and the community’s safety, I accepted the doctor’s proposal. It was important for all to have a qualified registered nurse in town. To cope I arranged for live-in students to act as sitters for the children, this giving me more flexibility with work.

Nursing . . .

The hospital in Goodsoil was a house – totally inadequate for a hospital, I was aware, so I wrote a letter to the local hospital board –

  • the nursery in the newborn ward had only one exit creating a safety issue,
  • the electric space heaters were a fire hazard, and
  • the doctors scrubbed in unsanitary conditions.

The health board supported me in rectifying these issues by –

  • putting in another door in the nursery,
  • installing a hot air furnace for heating from near the floor, and
  • connecting running water so that the doctors could scrub, making operations more sterile.

As the hospital matron on 24-hour call, my duties were –

  • take reports from the night aide,
  • organize the day aide about mediations and treatments,
  • do lab work and x-rays,
  • sterilize packs for the operating room,
  • check equipment for surgeries (oxygen was trucked in),
  • prepare for emergencies, surgeries and maternity cases,
  • assist the doctor during surgeries while acting as the instrument nurse, and
  • assist the doctor during surgeries as assistant surgeon.

I was still recovering from my heart attack so the doctor suggested that I come in the morning to do my duties, then take one hour rest at the nurses’ residence, then go back to work. I was then to go home after my shift to family duties and help at the police station. At times the doctor was away at his cabin in a remote location and was not available. This meant it was up to me to deal with the medical emergencies in the community as well as all my other duties.

53% of the province’s tuberculosis cases were in our area. I decided that all admissions to the hospital would have to have a chest x-ray as well as urine test and blood work. I called Dr. Stuckler at the sanatorium in Prince Albert and told him how we had a problem with our hospital power being erratic and spoiling the x-ray films. He replied back that he was going to send us more x-ray films, pay for our power and read the x-ray films, relaying back the results. “This was great!” I thought.

At times a contagious patient would escape from the sanatorium and the public health nurse, in Meadow Lake close by, would have to find them and return them. We helped look out for her and her patients, sometimes in -50 below winters.

For a hospital that was only a house, we saved many lives! A mother of eleven children came to Goodsoil Hospital. She said she had been in labour all day. The doctor started an intravenous with medication to contract the uterus (called a Pitocin drip). This was to speed up the delivery. There was no progress, so after a while, the doctor delivered the baby manually. It was a still born child. Lack of movement in the uterus leads to lack of contractions, therefore labour with no results.

The next morning I checked the patient and realized she was going into shock! We operated and found that her uterus had ruptured and she was hemorrhaging.  The uterus was removed. She had a rare blood type – AB negative. We needed a lot of blood for transfusions to save her life. And, we needed it now!

Stan was a universal donor, always willing to donate blood, so he helped. Then, with a shovel in my trunk (it was winter), I drove out to the farms and asked everyone to donate blood. We exhausted all the blood we could get and still we needed more to keep this mother alive.

I remembered something that might help – As a young nurse I used to vacation at Waskesiu Lake resort. I remembered that the Red Cross used to transport blood by helicopter to hard-to-reach areas. I called the Red Cross and told them our problem. Would they please fly us some AB negative blood? I warned them that because the landing strip was covered in snow they would have to parachute the blood. At that time, blood was stored in glass containers. They parachuted the blood – four containers broke and the other four saved our mother-of-eleven’s life. Thank you God!

Call to duty . . .

We heard about an RCMP member’s wife who had saved her husband’s life by striking his assailant on the head with a milk bottle! This made me think that I should be ready for these incidents in our detachment. So to prepare, I took out the ‘black jack’ (a heavy cane used for defence) and placed it on my dresser. Stan laughed at me – a one-man, and, one-woman detachment.

Pierceland, about 30 miles west of Goodsoil, was known to be a ‘tough place’. Stan and Ken Ross, another RCMP member stationed in Loon Lake nearby, drove to Pierceland to check on things when several men jumped the police car they were driving. Luckily Stan had Ken with him as it was confrontational.

Another day, the police car was in the shop for repairs so Stan was driving our personal car. He left it running and went to talk to someone, and, when he returned, the car was gone! A young native man had taken it, and because he didn’t know how to drive, ditched and wrecked it. I was not happy with this young man for wrecking our car. But, I had to feed him lunch. Often I fed prisoners, usually the same meals I made for my ever-increasing family.

One year on Palm Sunday, Tom (4 years old at the time) and I returned from church. There was a local man in the cell. He had come to the police detachment and asked them to “Lock me up!” He explained that his wife was cheating on him with another man and he might kill her! He was released when he cooled down. I fed him Easter dinner with a kolach (Ukrainian Easter bread). He enjoyed that.

I recall when Stan was notified that two men went kayaking on Lac Des Isles (Big Island Lake) but did not arrive at their destination on the other side. “They may have drowned,” was discussed. Stan loaded a boat with heavy chains and we went dragging the lake for bodies. It was not pleasant at all except the beauty of this northern lake . . . where we heard the loon calls and saw them with their chicks all black, white and like puff balls running on the water. Now when I hear the loon call on TV it starts me reminiscing. During the time we were stationed in Goodsoil the missing men were never found. Some people thought they had abandoned their wives and ran away?

I remember when there was a shooting accident during hunting season. One day a man brought a young lad to the hospital draped over his tractor and said, “I accidentally shot him!” Death comes quickly if the veins and arteries collapse from hemorrhaging. Before I called the doctor, or even took his pulse, I started an intravenous (seconds may count!). Unfortunately, the lad was dead. It was sad that this family had so much tragedy – one brother had died of a heart attack, another brother had a tractor roll over him – lived but with much therapy – and now, this lad gets shot and dies.

Stan was called to pick up a psychotic female prisoner who had a reputation for shooting at the police. I went along. When she saw us she got very agitated. I had worn civilian clothes and was able to calm her down and get her into the police car’s back seat. When we arrived at the Psychiatric Hospital she was upset again. She had recognized the hospital and refused to get out of the car. I offered her my hand and she dug her nails into my arm. I remember her well, as the bruises took a long time to heal.

Hafford, Saskatchewan, 1960-1964

Call to duty . . .

In 1960 we moved to Hafford Saskatchewan. The RCMP detachment was an office and residence in a red brick building typical of the RCMP offices in small towns, even today. The residence was two stories high and the attached office one story. There were windows in the entrance doors of both units.

One day when Stan was away, a liquor store manager called to speak to him. He told me two men in the liquor store had been drinking wine all day and were talking about blowing up the safe in the bank in the evening. As I hung up the phone, a man fitting the wine drinker’s description walked into our living quarters. “I must be cautious.” I thought, “He may be armed!” The children and I were having lunch so I invited him to join us – acting friendly and trying not to show him how nervous I was. He was so drunk he couldn’t get the food to his mouth. He then got up and sat in the living room. The thought of him having a gun and it going off worried me! I asked him if he was tired and he replied, “Yes mam.” I told him I’d show him a bed he could lay down on and have a rest. I lead him through the office and showed him the bunk in the cell. He lay down willingly. I got on the police radio and called David, the policeman in Bordon. He put on his siren and drove at great speed to Hafford, about 30 miles from Bordon, because he thought I was in big danger. When he arrived, the man was sleeping peacefully in the cell with the door locked and me guarding him. David frisked him. It was a relief that he did not have a gun. After this man sobered up, I had given him some lunch (he ate it this time). I packed more food to go, we gave him pocket money and he left quite happy.

Another time, I heard a woman’s cry at the RCMP entrance door. I saw a woman with a bloodied face crying and screaming. She was closely followed by a man. At the time, I was in eight months pregnant and not really feeling up to dealing with this. I opened the door, grabbed the woman’s arm and quickly locked the door behind her, locking the man out! Later we learnt that the man was her husband and he used to also beat his mother. One time, working as a nurse in the Hafford Hospital, I was doing charts and I saw this man come visit his mother. I thought he would remember me from the detachment and there may be an unpleasant scene so I tried to ignore him and carry on with my business. He began to stare at me and I continued to ignore him. He says, “Nurse, nurse, how come you are so cute.” Guess he did not recognize me, thank goodness.

Nursing . . .

It was said that about 85% of RCMP members had married nurses. When the community of Hafford heard of the RCMP transfer, they thought that most likely his wife may be a nurse. Yes, I was a nurse and before too long, I was asked to be the matron of the Hafford Hospital. I accepted this duty.

Every Monday the doctor drove to Saskatoon for flying lessons. If a maternity case came in I was to call a doctor in from North Battleford. The baby often could not wait, so I delivered several babies. I told the doctor that I should have a sign on my door that read “I deliver!” And, I should get paid for it. But, he took it as a joke and said, “Sophie, you love it!” I never did get paid for delivering those babies.

Surgical nursing is highly specialized. Some RNs (registered nurses) don’t feel qualified after they graduate to work in the operating room. I came to Hafford with experience in the operating room. At the time that I was a student in training school at Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, my brother (who was a doctor) returned from Italy after serving during the Second World War. When he was operating he had me assisting, instead of another doctor, so I acquired valuable expertise. In Hafford the doctor and I did an appendectomy in thirteen minutes without saying a word. I knew when and what he needed.

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 1964-1971

My husband was then transferred to the GIS (General Investigation Squad) in Saskatoon. He worked there, as an RCMP officer, until retirement in 1971. As this was a much bigger detachment my involvement helping with police work was not required.

I worked part-time work as a nurse in Saskatoon, occasionally relieving other nurses at the University Hospital. I also specialed very ill patients. One of my very ill patients was a 300 lb. man who had been burnt on 75% of his body from a gas explosion. He was extremely ill and we had to observed the ‘reverse technique’ – using a sterile cap, mask and gloves. There was no air conditioning and no nursing relief so I could get something to eat. In three weeks I lost twenty pounds to take care of this man.

At Stan’s Retirement Party the stars and stripes were mounted on a plaque. The plaque was not presented to Stan, but to me! It was done as a joke, but I realized that it was a way to show appreciation for the things I did to help my husband with his RCMP work.
My duties had included –

  • acting as the answering service for the phone and police radio;
  • escorting female prisoners to court and mental institutions;
  • feeding prisoners, magistrates, inspectors and many RCMP members;
  • interpreting for the Ukrainian community members that could not speak English;
  • sometimes acting as the jailer; and, on top of that –
  • I was matron nurse for hospitals in both Goodsoil and Hafford, Saskatchewan, helping the community, and
  • wife and mother for my family.

My time as a wife of an RCMP officer in a small town was not always easy. I am grateful that I could help not only my husband with his work, but also the people in the community.