Wearing the noble red uniforms of the Northwest Mounted Police wasn’t everything the hopeful heroes of the west thought it would be, as families and history-seekers learned yesterday while visiting Fort Calgary to celebrate the 135th birthday of the RCMP.
“They (Mounties) had a very romantic idea of what the west would be like,” said Royce Pettyjohn of Parks Canada, visiting Calgary for the celebration.
“You always imagined the Northwest Mounted Police riding around enforcing the law,” he said, adding their notions of marrying “native princesses” were soon replaced by the realities of doing stable duty or repairing boots.
Pettyjohn, who works at Fort Walsh, said that a typical day included eating breakfast in shifts, drill inspections and maintenance around the fort.
“It wasn’t extremely exciting or glamorous,” he said. But while they kept house, since originally only unmarried men were recruited, they did catch some bad guys and are credited with running the whiskey trade out.
The first party six years ago had only cake, but has grown to a full-day, family event, with carriage rides, face-painting, crafts, and lessons on how to march and dress like Mounties.