|1967: An entertainment show for personnel stationed in Alert and Thule, was staged in the Fall of 1967. It was produced by Radio Canada (French Network) who taped the show on location and broadcast it at Christmas time of that year. The program brochure was mainly in English because there were only a few Francophones in Alert and none in Thule. It was a good show with good looking performers. (Images courtesy Ray White)|
|Decades ago, a scroll was issued to those personnel who completed their normal tour at Alert which was six months. SHWAILETS is/was an abbreviation for Shit, Water, Oil, etc, and in earlier times the handling of this waste was a chore that everyone had to undertake on a rotational basis. (Image provided by Ray White)|
The Shwailets certificate is also a testimony to the careless handling of waste. In the early years at Alert, all sewage was just pumped over a cliff and solid waste was treated in much the same way. There was no attempt to treat garbage. In the earliest period of the base, the toilet system was of the "honey bucket" type and once or twice a week the contents were pumped into a large oil drum type of container which was hauled away from the main station area and dumped. By the mid 1960's, it had been changed to a less odorous piping system but with much the same end result. Today, there a completely different and eco-friendly approach for the disposal of waste.
IHTFP Certificate. The acronym IHTFP means "I Hate This Frigid Place". It was an expression that everyone used in Alert but generally another word beginning with 'F' replaced frigid. (Image courtesy Roland Fell)
Ray White expands on the IHTFP certificate, explains another one and adds an anecdote to all this. "The IHTFP certificate was on the scene more or less at the same time as the SHWAILETS certificate, and certainly goes back to the early days of Alert's existence. During my short tenure as replacement SWO (Station Warrant
Officer) in late 1967, the CO called me into his office and asked me what the significance of the the certificate was. When I told him it meant I Hate This F***ing Place, he suggested that steps be taken to remove them. This was easier said than done. Although the certificate went under cover, the five-letter expression could be heard in all areas of the station. When the CO heard "IHTFP!!" being shouted all over the place he gave up on his efforts to suppress it.
There was also a FIGMO colouring sheet that anyone could have and many kept up it up to date. It meant F*** it I've Got My Orders. The colouring sheet consisted of a drawing of a woman with 183 numbered segments which were to be coloured in sequence until the final one, numbered 183, in a sexually explicit area, was arrived at. Number 183 was significant because that was the was the number of days in a normal tour of duty in Alert. When the magic number was hit, it was occasion for great celebration and anticipation of the trip to the "outside".
One Friday, while doing the weekly inspection of the barracks, the CO observed that there were too many nude pinups in the lockers and sleeping quarters. He said that maybe 50% of them could be removed. This was passed on to the senior NCO in each barracks. The following week it was apparent that his concern had been acted upon - all the pinups now had no heads and no legs, but the remainder was still there". Such was life in Alert.
Alert Depature Certificate. (Image courtesy Roland Fell)
This bottle of booze, home made in Alert during the mid 1960's, is still drinkable in 2006. It's very potent and burns with a pale blue flame.
The drawing of the Muskox just above the North Pole was a common logo around Alert in those days. Alert itself is centred on the star on the stylized map. The text reads as follows:
Distilled aged & bottled under the supervision of the Royal Canadian Engineers
Blended and bottled in Alert N.W.T
Filtered through a Mountain of
Leaves you Breathless!
Guaranteed one week old
On the right side of the label is the legend: “Next to the North Pole – Alert” and on the left side:
“World’s Most Northern Distillery Co.” (Image courtesy Ray White)
Back in the 1960's and earlier, Alert ordered all its food and other housekeeping supplies from the Army Service Corps supply depot at Griesbach Barracks in Edmonton. Alert received a message from Griesbach to the effect that the recent food order included an inordinate quantity of raisins and would we confirm the order. Alert replied something to the effect “My boys like raisin pie”. The order arrived sometime later and, ostensibly, the Engineers could resume the raisinable operation of the still producing Crystal Mountain White Lightning. No one sure if this is an "Alert urban legend" or not.
Maurice Drew expands on the consumption of White Lightening. "I was in Alert on July 1, 1967, Dominion Day. Several of the military had secretly been making what they called "White Lightening" from a still they built in the garage. It was pure alcohol. Believe this or not, a fire engine had been shipped to Alert complete with hoses and ladders and a siren. So, on July 1st, 1967 there was a party. The fire truck was driven around and around the camp with the siren blazing away. Before long, many of the revellers were stupid-drunk. One of them got into a bulldozer and decided he was going to plow the antenna field down. Another decided that he would stop the bulldozer. The military had issued rifles, helmets and ammunition! Shots were fired and I hid under my bed for hours wrapped in a red blanket. When the dust settled some hours later I was one of only a few in the mess that night for dinner".
This plaque is awarded to DJ's serving a predetermined amount of hours on the air.
Alert also has its own cable TV (CATV) station on Channel 3. (Photo by Jerry Proc)
The "Frozen Chosen" moniker on this T-shirt is applied to all personnel who serve at Alert. An Alert ligher can be seen in the upper right of the photo. (Photo by Jerry Proc)
The original Alert crest designed by the crew that built the Alert Weather Station during the the spring , summer and fall of 1950. It was inspired from the story of the Ki-Ki bird that sits on the North Pole and utters it's mournful cry "Ki-Ki...Krist it's cold". (Photo and copy courtesy Griff's Slides)
Alert jacket patch. (Image via Jim Thoreson) Jacket patch (Photo by Jerry Proc) Ray White received this jacket patch for having put in some time as a news reader at the AM station with the unofficial call sign ARS (Alert Radio Station) At the time , they did not have a news reader jacket patch. Instead, he received this disc jockey's patch. (Image courtesy Ray White)
This image was imprinted on "Alert envelopes" which were slightly smaller than # 10 envelope. The years of useage for this envelope are not known at this time, however this example is postmarked March 20, 1962. (Image provided by David Smith).
Alert scrip 1961. Scrip is any substitute for currency which is not legal tender and is often a form of credit. Current evidence suggests that scrip was used in Alert starting around 1960-61 and lasted perhaps until the mid 60's. The white coupon was 1 cent, pink 5 cents, yellow 10 cents and blue 25 cents. All coupons were perforated. Each time a purchase was made, the appropriate number of coupons were detached from the booklet. The large holes punched into the coupons meant that the unspent money was refunded. The sample booklet appears to contain $3.90 worth of coupons. If inflation is factored in, that same booklet would cost $27.72 in 2007 according to the Bank of Canada inflation calculator. As "isolation pay" in those days, a bonus of $100 per month was paid for serving in Alert. Click to enlarge. (Image courtesy Maurice Drew)
Some comments from those who used scrip at Alert:
Jim Thoreson "You could buy as much as you wanted, but since we had no cash there, the funds in the amount of the book(s) of script that you bought would come out your bank account back at your base. You would then use this script to buy your beer, nuts, chips, toothpaste etc at the canteen. It was also used to play liars dice, which was very active in my days there".
Lynn Wortman. "I used this scrip in 1960 in Alert. It was issued at a fixed rate per week which was then deducted at your home base. Scrip was OK unless you were playing poker and someone fanned the cards while shuffling".
Maurice Drew. "The scrip could only be spent at the canteen. By Christmas time, the shelves were usually bare except for shaving cream and razor blades. Since most personnel sported beards in Alert, it's no wonder there was lots of shaving material available.
Isolation pay and was offered to civilians as well as military personnel. Trouble with being a civilian at Alert at that time was the cost of $65 a month for room and board! To compensate for this steep charge, civilians were permitted to claim overtime so they ended up working long hours. What else was there to do? "
David Smith. "Script worked just fine as our "liar's dice" legal tender and as some of us were better liars than others, there was little need to buy scrip for weeks (or months) at a time. Liar's dice was good preparation for those who went on to other branches of the government!
I believe the canteen also sold writing material, pens and chocolate bars as well. The amount of beer one could buy was restricted to so many cans per week/month. No liquor was available except for those wiley individuals who had a bottle shipped up in a hollowed out loaf of bread - or of course smuggled in from a trip to Thule where a 64 oz bottle was probably a couple of bucks. I recall bringing some Thule supplied liquids home for the wedding of a friend of mine along with a huge bottle of Champagne - only in the US forces - sigh".
|Alert Flight Bulletin (1961?). Maurice Drew, who provided a copy of this flight bulletin comments. "The image is of an in-flight passenger bulletin to keep passengers informed of progress. I was the only passenger aboard the C130 at the time headed to Resolute Bay from Churchill, Manitoba when we lost an engine more than half way into the flight. We obviously made it safely but I had to spend nine days in Resolute in the nurse's quarters waiting for a replacement aircraft. In the 1961 time frame, the RCAF had only three C130 Herc's. They were numbered C01, C02 and C03. I rode in all three".|
Drew provides this Strategic Air Command logo printed on the corner
of a napkin. "Although Thule, Greenland is not part of Alert's history,
I spent quite a bit of time there either in transit or on temporary assignment.
The first time I flew with the US Air Force we were treated to a box lunch
on our way to Washington. The box lunch consisted of delicate sandwiches,
crusts removed, with decorated toothpicks holding them together, chewing
gum, an apple, orange, coke, orange juice, Hershey bar, pudding, a small
pack of cigarettes (Camels, I believe) and a fine napkin with the Strategic
Air Command emblem. I guess it was a reminder of the difference between
the not-so-good Canadian lunches we used to get on Canadian flights.
On our way from Resolute to Alert, in one of my many trips in a Herc, we hit turbulence. I was just given a very hot cup of instant coffee in a thin plastic cup. I had to hold it by the edges. When we fell a few hundred feet the coffee floated for a moment in front of me and wound up all over my white shirt and tie (we used to travel that way back in the old days). The burn I received hurt me for days afterwards.
In contrast to what we had to endure in Alert, the Officers' Mess in Thule had a stage, red carpeting, elegant furniture and meals that would rate five stars in France. We were served wine, too! As time went on the cooks in Alert served excellent meals but the early days were a challenge.
2008: This hand carved Alert crest (above) was made from one solid block of white pine in July 2008. It was raffled off in conjunction with the Alert 50th celebration held in September 2008. The only power tool used in its construction was a scroll saw to cut out the basic shape. All the carving was done by hand using a small "Warren" carving set. No Dremmel type tool was used and no sand paper. The crest itself is 12 inches tall and 7 inches wide when mounted on its stand. (Photo via Butch Whitlaw)
|CFS Alert souvenir lighter/ (Photo by Lisa Clements)|
Credits and References:
1) Ray White <legerwhite(at)rogers.com>
2) Griffs Slides http://members.platinum.ca/toolemg/
3) Rowland E. Fell <refell(at)sympatico.ca>
4) Mike Harvey <HARVIE.MC(at)forces.gc.ca>
5) Jim Thoreson < jimthoreson(at)shaw.ca>
6) David Smith <drdee(at)sympatico.ca>
7) Maurice Drew <maurice0404(at)rogers.com>
8) Lynn Wortman <email@example.com>
9) Butch Whitlaw <whitlawb13(at)rogers.com>
10) Lisa Clements <lundcottage(at)gmail.com>
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