So Rick, what in your opinion is the purpose of the Honour Guard?
I think the Honour Guard should be a well maintained, good looking group, because they’re representing everyone on the Fire Department, so they should look their very best that they can.
Why did you join the Honour Guard?
I was recently out of the Army before getting on to the Fire Department, and when the call came out for an Honour Guard, I was, knew marching quite well, that was drilled into me in the army, and I thought maybe I could contribute somewhat to the Honour Guard because it was, they were just starting out in, I think it was October or November of 72, so I was one of the first ones on the Honour Guard. I just thought I could help out because of my Army training.
How did participation in the Honour Guard affect you?
I got to know quite a few of the people on the Fire Department, it was a little tough a few times, because we’d do retired Firefighter’s funerals and a few on duty deaths from fire, and police. So some of it’s quite emotional, but it was good to contribute to the welfare of everyone, you’re displaying yourself in front of citizens, so you want to do it the very best you can.
Is there a specific event or ceremony that holds special meaning for you?
It was, I think it was July of 1992, the Forest Lawn Hotel Fire, and Morley James died in that. And, represented, the Honour Guard represented the Fire Department at the funeral, and it was kind of a tough one to do, but it was nice to see the, in the procession that we went to, the citizens stepped aside and stopped, and kind of paid their respects somewhat to Morley. So that was one that affected me.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
There was some really neat stuff we did. Like, we were the Guard at the Stanley Cup at City Hall, and there was, I think it was that year that the Blue Jays won the Cup, it appeared at City Hall and we kind of stood Guard by it. And… One other thing that happened in 1992, along with Morley, was we stood guard for the Queen. It was, I believe, during Stampede in 92. I think she came, I’m not sure if it was the Stampede, but it seems like it was July or somewhere in there. We just lined up, and she pulled up in her limousine and got out, and like I said before, she’s quite a presence. She certainly does have an aura about her.
As we were talking before, the statue downtown, at the Fallen Firefighter Memorial area there, that statue is an absolute, direct off copy from me. I had dental floss. Not dental floss. Dental, I don’t know what, kind of a fine plaster. Ray Arnett was the artist, and the Calgary Firefighters Union, they wanted some statues for the Fire /Police, for the 1997 World Police Fire Games which was held in Calgary. One day I was in the Union hall, and Bill Weisenburger, who I knew, was one of the Union guys, he said ‘Rick, would you like, would you volunteer as the model for this statue. And I went, ‘Sure, I guess’. So anyways, I went out to Ray Arnett’s on a number of occasions because he did it in stages, and one of the stages was they put plaster directly on your face. And they give you a little straw to breathe through, you know. I was telling you about my daughter, she was saying ‘Rick, you even smoked during that’, and i said ‘It’s not for smoking, it’s for breathing!’. You have to breathe through something because your whole face is covered with plaster. I had mentioned this before, too, I said that it seems that you almost have to be a firefighter because you’re used to having a mask on, and zero visibility, and things like that, where it wouldn’t bother you. But, that statute is an absolute direct copy of me. I’m sure there’s every little, every little dimple or pimple, or if you got close to it it’s there. I’m glad it’s a dark colour and in bronze, because like I say it’s a direct copy. I remember him doing the hands. He did the hands separately with gloves on, and he explained to me when they put that plaster all over the gloves, when it was done, if you look at it you can see every thread in those gloves, every little thread. It’s such a precise system that he uses. One other thing, my uniform was destroyed, because he copied it while it was on me, and as soon as you copy it with plaster, it’s what he wants but it wrecks the… And during this process of duplicating everything, my Honour Guard uniform was wrecked because he had to take a direct copy of that. Once he put the plaster on that of course, it copies it precisely, and then he had to cut it so I could get out of it. But the uniform is ruined. At that time, I think I’d been in the Honour Guard for probably 26 years or so, and glad to do it the whole time. Vern Stuart was the Deputy Chief at 16. He had heard that my uniform was ruined, and he says ‘we’ll get you another one’. Well, at that time I thought 26 years is just about enough, I told him ‘if you’re getting a chit for a new uniform, give it to a new guy that they’re going to recruit, I said, I’m kind of, this is a good stepping off point, getting a little too old for it’ or whatever. Yeah, I wrecked the uniform, but well worth it because hopefully that statue will represent the Fire Department for a long time to come. And the artist was Ray Arnett. One of things that Bill Weisenburger and the union was involved in… Bill Weisenburger was a firefighter in the Union. They had about 6 or 8 submissions, and a lot of them were Firefighters in duty gear, but our union decided we should go more formal, and have the Honour Guard formal dress. And also, the police officer in his number one dress would be a better representation of the department. And I’m glad they did, because I got involved in it. While my mum was still alive, she was proud of it. To look at the statue, I don’t think you can see it’s me, unless you’re my mother or my sister, so that’s kind of a good thing too. Thanks for that.