'Cal' Calcraft - A Mountie in the family

Son of Joseph Parnham Calcraft policing in the Canadian provinces

Bill Pinfold

Officer Cyril Calcraft in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police | Courtesy of Ms Susan Calcraft
Officer Cyril Calcraft in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Courtesy of Ms Susan Calcraft
Cyril "Cal" Calcraft 1961
Courtesy of Ms Susan Calcraft
Grave of Cyril Cal Calcraft | Courtesy Mr Joseph Healy
Grave of Cyril Cal Calcraft
Courtesy Mr Joseph Healy

Cyril “Cal” Calcraft (1907-1991)

Cyril Calcraft was born on the 10th August 1907 at Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan to Joseph and Emma Calcraft who had immigrated from England. Cyril was a tall, trim man with a commanding manner. He was widely known as “Cal” and joined the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on the 9 March 1929. After training in Regina, he worked with them for 22 years across Manitoba, based variously at Winnipeg, Springfield, Brandon and Minnedosa.

In 1935 Cal was living in an RCMP facility at 1091 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg – that location is the headquarters of the Manitoba RCMP today. By 1940 Cal was no longer single, as the voters directory shows him based at Springfield, MB and living with wife Pearl at Berens River. She was originally from Chatfield, Manitoba.

In April 1942 the Free Press included an article on its “Doings in the Radio World” concerning the sale of 54 lucky rabbit’s feet to raise money for the Red Cross. The sale was being organised by station CJRC and the proceeds were to be presented to Cpl. C Calcraft of the RCMP and Mrs Calcraft who were in charge of the Berens River, MB branch of the Red Cross.

In the 1945 voters register the Calcrafts are shown living at Appt. 4, 160 First Street in Brandon, around 150 miles west of Winnipeg. His duties covered a wide area, with news reports showing him involved in work in both the provincial capital and in the Brandon area. There is also a record of Cal Calcraft being permanently based at the village of Carberry, MB, around that time.

Alexander Cambridge, 1st Earl of Athlone, served as the Governor General of Canada from 1940 to 1946. In April 1945 he made an official visit to Winnipeg, travelling on a special CNR train with his wife, the Princess Alice. On the last morning of the visit they invited 13 members of the RCMP, one of whom was Cal Calcraft, aboard the train to each receive a leather billfold bearing the Athlone crest. (Winnipeg Free Press, 1 May 1945)

Corporal Calcraft was still working as far as Winnipeg in 1947, as the Winnipeg Free Press of 31 January that year reports him being involved in the investigation of a late night road incident in which a taxi ran down and killed a man who had been seen to be intoxicated shortly beforehand. At some stage he and Pearl moved to Minnedosa, a small town just north of Brandon, from where in 1949 he is reported by the Rapid City Reporter attending a Chamber of Commerce meeting in uniform to lead a discussion about the RCMP Youth Movement. (Rapid City Reporter, 31 March 1949)

From late 1950, Cal became police constable in Rivers and Marquette. Various press articles illustrate his career at that time:

“Jan. 4, 1951 Const. Harold Tyreman retired on Dec. 31 after being Rivers’ policeman for the last 12 years; Cal Calcraft succeeds him and will be paid a salary of $2,000 plus a $100 uniform fee.” (Rivers Gazette)

In fact Cal had already started the handover some time before, as the paper for the 19 October 1950 had in the “In Town … And Out” column that Const. and Mrs Calcroft (sic) have arrived in town from Minnedosa and will make their home in Rivers. Alongside that mention, the enterprising manager of the Alexandra Hotel, Mr T.E. Wright, took advertising space to offer “CONGRATULATIONS to… the Town of Rivers in securing the services of Police Constable C Calcraft of Minnedosa. Celebrate Your next big event at the Annex Dining Room”.

His official date for being struck from the service lists of the RCMP was 23 November 1950, but he had been able to cease a few weeks before.

Also, the 9 November 1950 edition of the Gazette tells of Cal dealing with a man reported to be asleep in the middle of the road by a passing motorist. “Const. C Calcraft drove to the spot indicated, saw the slumbering but unhurt form on the driveway, and hoisted the individual into his car. The sleep was finished in the lockup.

Now, the officer is a thorough man. As a regular procedure, he checked off the snoring senor’s miscellany of articles found in various pockets, among which was a lunch counter check. Officer Calcraft enquired, and learned from the lunchroom staff that a man had eaten a lunch there, and had given the waiting cashier the brush-off. He had headed for the wide open spaces; the roadway it appeared, proved tempting for a sojourn into snoozeland.

Justice of the peace W.T. Dyer heard the story in court. The accused, charged under the liquor Act, was fined $25 and costs.

Oh, yes, the lunch bill was also paid. Constable Calcraft looks after everybody”.

Cal was occasionally beset by motoring incidents of his own and immediately following the above article was an early one involving him:

“It was the same constable who last Friday unofficially opened the big game season – unofficially and unintentionally

A few miles east of Rivers, a six-point buck made a four-point landing. The constable’s car suffered damages to one fender, the grill, radiator and a headlight, after the buck charged the auto.

Hard-headed gent that he was, the buck’s cranium was filled with stars. He might have staggered away, had he not broken his two hind legs. His days were ended by the constable’s wrench.”

“Jan. 11, 1951 Cyclists in Rivers will have to buy bicycle licences for the very first time in history, the metal tags can be purchased from Const. Cal Calcraft, who says the advantage of licencing/registration is to help recover stolen property.”

Cal was soon extending his remit to the financial well-being of his new townspeople. In March he was warning the public that the Mexican “Skin Game” had reappeared in the area – a swindle involving a letter allegedly written by a prisoner in a Mexican jail to try to seek out gullible Canadians. (The Rivers Gazette, 1 March 1951)

“Sept. 20, 1951 Const. Cal Calcraft discovered missing property below the traffic bridge east of Rivers last week, the newly-installed speed limit signs in Rivers were ditched in the river by an unknown person(s).” (Rivers Gazette)

The Gazette’s reporting of a busy first year for Cal continued with two pieces in the 15 November 1951 edition:

“Peace Disturbers Paid Heavy Fines When Charged Here

… a tough hombre performed the rough-and-ready act in a place of business and on the street. He was rootin’, tootin’ mad, so much so he had to find someone better than himself before he went off, peacable-like, with Constable C Calcraft. The penalty meted out by W.T. Dyer, justice of the peace, was $25 and costs. By the way, things have improved a lot in the past year. Just a twelve-month ago, Constable Calcraft was appointed law officer in Rivers. The few who used to ‘do as I like’ and get away with it, suddenly found it wasn’t nice having to cough up a fine for turning their car in the middle of a block, turning without signals, using the streets for a race-track. The town coffers benefitted by these chummy citizens, who had to toil long to recoup their losses. A big hand for Cal!”.

The second article, entitled “Duel of Two Battling Bucks Ends When Winner Destroyed” described how Cal was called to the scene of a duel between two full-grown bucks. One killed the other but could not then free its antlers and had worn itself out but was still dangerous. Cal had to terminate the second buck and arrange for the carcasses to go to the Game Warden.

“Jan. 3, 1952 James White slipped while working on Christmas Eve and thus, both legs were severed below the knee and one hand was crushed as several box cars drove over him. Rushed to hospital, they amputated at a higher point on the 25-year-old man. Mrs. R. Lee also had an accident Christmas Eve, a slip then fall broke her wrist. The icy conditions also caused several accidents which Const. Cal Calcraft says amount to $100 or more for each vehicle.”

In 1953 Cal was tackling unwelcome and uncivil outsiders:

“Two strangers alighted from a train here. Lots of people do that every day. But these chappies detrained from a freight. They visited a number of places in Rivers, at each asking for a handout of food or money. Constable C. Calcraft noticed the gentlemen in question, stopping to enquire of a few things.

For seven days they will have both food and lodging, in Brandon gaol. They were invited to go there by W.T. Dyer, justice of the peace”. (Rivers Gazette, 19 November 1953)

“Const. Calcraft is searching for the people responsible for gunplay at Rivers Cemetery where the shots have chipped pieces from several headstones. (Rivers Banner, 5 August 1954)

May 19, 1955 Const. Cal Calcraft and Cpl. Rene Ferguson suffered minor injuries when they had a head-on collision at Quebec Street and First Avenue in Rivers last Monday evening. Rivers’ policeman was treated for a cut leg here while the Shilo corporal was treated and transported to Brandon for head and face injuries. The police car was damaged extensively while Ferguson’s was demolished.

Perhaps it was all the publicity from the papers coupled with his hard-nosed nature that started to build up the need amongst Rivers youngsters to play tricks on their local officer, particularly when he was out patrolling on Halloween night. Tales are recalled today of the old classic ruse of shifting a privy shack in the dark so that the underlying hole is revealed. Cal got tricked into falling down such a hole in the dark behind a restaurant out at Wheatland one night. Another time he was roughed up a bit by some youths. These incidents may have contributed to his decision to move on for a while, though an ambition to progress up the ranks would have been a key motivation:

“Sept. 15, 1955 Const. Calcraft gave Rivers Town Council his resignation as town and municipal police officer, effective Oct. 15.” (Rivers Gazette-Reporter)

Oct. 6, 1955 Const. Cal Calcraft will spend his last day policing Rivers next weekend at which time he will become police chief at Sioux Lookout, Ont.

Cal became the Chief of Police at Sioux Lookout in Kent County, Ontario. That was a considerable move east, across the provincial border into Ontario and based in an area of fishing lakes and forests.

By 1965 Pearl appears to have been living apart from Cal at 412 Kennedy Street, Winnipeg, named on the voters’ lists as a housewife in a shared house, with two married couples and four other single people. She died in Winnipeg on the 16th December 1967 and her obituary, in the Winnipeg Free Press, noted that she had lived in the city for the last 15 years, which indicates that the couple had separated not long after Cal moved to the Rivers area.

After retiring from the Ontario police force Cal returned to Rivers, Manitoba and gained a taste for local politics.

The 5 Nov 1970 edition of the Gazette-Reporter said that the election race was very close for Councillor in Ward 5 of the RM of Daly, with Barry Madden beating Cyril Calcraft by just one vote, 58 to 57. (also in the Winnipeg Free Press, 29 October 1970)

Sometime after he returned to the Rivers area Cal met and married his second wife, Mary Lila. She may have been of Ukrainian stock as her original surname was Fedoruk. Mary Lila had been married before to a Donald Clifford Doucette, with whom she had a daughter and two sons. As the second Mrs Calcraft it seems to have been a tempestuous pairing and for the second time Cal ended up living apart from his wife. He moved back to the centre of Rivers, living in a small house on Main Street, whereas Mary stayed out at their house at Wheatland, about 3 miles to the west.

“May 20, 1981 Rivers fire department responded to three grass fire calls last week at the Seddon, Calcraft and Citulsky properties.”

“March 17, 1982 Manitoba’s Welfare Appeal Board has ordered Rivers Town Council to pay the monthly mortgage fees of the Clapper family, which bought a house in Rivers. The Clapper situation here has attracted much national news coverage during the past month, council continues to meet with provincial officials to have last week’s decision reversed. In die meantime, they must pay the original home owner, Mary Calcraft, $217 each month.”

In 1985 Cal would have been sad to lose an old friend, Earl H Gray, at the age of 78 after a long illness. Cal was noted as an honorary pallbearer at the funeral at the Zion Church in Rivers.

Cyril (Cal) Calcraft died aged 83 in Westwood Lodge, Rivers, on Jan. 28, 1991, his estranged wife Mary Lila having died three years previously. A memorial service for Cal was held at Rivers Personal Care Home. Interment was alongside his family in Indian Head, Saskatchewan, with a headstone shared with his brother Charles.

[ Many thanks to our friends in Canada for their input to this article: Susan Calcraft of Grenfell, SK for pictures and family history; Dora Irvine of Rivers, MB for several of the facts; and Joe Healy in British Columbia for the memorial stone photo ].

This page was added on 02/11/2017.

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