On Dec 21, 2013 the RCMP in Newfoundland and Labrador honoured twenty-two women in recognition of their support and unpaid services while they were stationed with their RCMP officer husbands in rural and remote locations.
The women were ultimately unpaid members who answered phones, searched female prisoners, and provided prisoner meals. They often used their homes as a hotel for visiting senior officers, court judges, doctors and nurses to whom they also provided meals and entertainment.
All of this done in very remote locations with inadequate housing and growing families of their own to which they had to tend. They provided these services out of loyalty to their husbands who were stationed by the RCMP to various areas of the country, each location bringing their own unique challenges.
"I was doing everything," said Ethel Jarvis, one of the recipients of the Second Man Award. Jarvis and her family lived in many communities on the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador. Her husband, Dick Jarvis, first a Newfoundland Ranger then an RCMP officer, who was transferred from post to post.
Ethel Jarvis often worked alongside her husband, Newfoundland Ranger and RCMP officer Dick Jarvis, in his many postings. Jarvis said in each community, the family always lived in the same building where her husband worked. While her husband was away from the detachment, Jarvis answered phones, hosted visiting police officers, and cooked for whoever was in the detachment, and sometimes even acted as a guard.
"People who used to give us trouble, there was no cell, you used to put them in the office and stay up all night with them.”
Occasionally it was scary Jarvis said doing work at the detachment was often enjoyable but sometimes frightening. She recalled a day in Burgeo, “Dick was out on a call, and he had to leave me with a rambunctious, mentally ill patient. The man kept calling Dick, and when I went to check on him, the prisoner had escaped his holding area, and was pacing in the RCMP office, with a knife on a desk.”
Jarvis said she spoke to the prisoner through a thin sheet of glass. "I said, 'What do you need, anyway?' he said, 'I need a razor,' and I said, 'What do you need that for?' And he said, 'So I can cut my throat.'"
Jarvis responded, “Just a minute, I'll see if I can help you.” Ethel and Dick Jarvis were married for 65 years, and he passed away in May 2013. Jarvis said she will wear her Second Man badge in honour of her husband and policing partner.
Barbara Daye also received the award. She recalls her days in Battle Harbour, “When the commanding officer and other big shots came down to Battle Harbour to do inspections of the detachment, I had to feed them. I had four frozen turkey when I went down there. I had to feed them with my last one. There was nowhere else for them to go. But they said thank-you when they were leaving.”
Barbara’s husband, Art Daye, originally from Nova Scotia joined the RCMP in 1957. His first posting was to Corner Brook in November 1958. He spent his entire twenty-five-year career policing in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Art Daye was the last RCMP officer to be stationed at Battle Harbour off Labrador’s southeast coast. Barbara uprooted with her husband wherever he was sent. Their two children were just babies when they arrived in Battle Harbour. “The winter we were there, there were only 39 people in the community. Four of them were me, Art and our two kids. There was a special constable and his wife and three kids. So that made up nine of the 39 people there.”
While Art patrolled by boat in summer and snowmobile in winter, Barb was left holding down the fort and caring for their two young children. “I’d take all the notes when Artie was away. I’d answer the police radio and pass the message along to him when he got home,” Barbara said.
“He could be gone for two days or if the weather was bad, he could be gone for a week. Bobbie was two-and-a half. Leslie was seven months.”
As the RCMP Officers wife she took on many jobs. “It wasn’t unusual for people to call to ask what it was like on the island, I’d look out the window and I’d say well, I can see down to Mrs. Luther’s house so it must be okay for about a quarter of a mile,” Barbara laughed.
The nights in Battle Harbour were extremely cold. “I would take our little girl and go in one bed and Artie would take our son in the other sleeping bag and go in the other bed. I used to say to Artie, make sure his hands are not outside the sleeping bag. It was a hard go for a girl from Grand Falls… I wasn’t used to that.”
Retired Chief Superintendent George Powell says, “The men were married to the force first and to their wife second. They faithfully supported the Mounties. When the Mountie was away the citizens still came to the office or to your living quarters. They expected the Mountie’s wife to do everything the Mountie would do if he were there. Sometimes, the women would come to the Mounties’ wife because they were uncomfortable discussing personal things with a man.” While the Mountie’s wife has no official status, Powell said, she was a full-fledged member of the detachment and played a leading role in the community.
“Visiting government officials expected to be welcomed and fed at the Mounties’ house. After all it was a government building even if it was upstairs over the post office or courthouse or over the jail,” Powell said.
In October 2010, RCMP Commissioner William Elliott, approved the creation of a recognition for the wives of RCMP members who served from the 1900's to the 1970's, and whose contributions are chronicled in a book entitled, "When the Second Man was a Woman" by Ruth Lee-Knight. The Second Man Award was presented to 468 women across the country who were the wives of RCMP members working in one or two-man detachments from the 1940's to the 1970's.
Find this and more RCMP stories in: In Search of Adventure – 70 years of the RCMP in Newfoundland and Labrador by Helen C. Escott available at: Chapters, and Coles. Also, online at indigo.ca Apple – iTunes, Nook – (Barnes & Noble), Amazon, and Kobo. National and international orders can be placed by calling 1-866-739-4420 ext. #22 or you can send e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org