The Force in the North

Radio Rascals

The face of the RCMP presented by radio depended a great deal on the radio show's country of origin and the era of production. Blair of the Mounted was a Canadian WWI production that covered a variety of topics including murder, drugs and even some spy drama. Sergeant Blair was sent to England and France in some of the programs, although most of the drama took place in Saskatchewan. The serious Men in Scarlet was produced for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation during the equally-serious time of WWII. One of the most famous and lively Royal Canadian Mounted Police radio dramas was aired in 1936 by American broadcaster CBS. Renfrew of the Mounted was a 30-minute serial and the basis for a television series of the same name.

Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, with his dog Yukon King, maintained law and order for the North-West Mounted Police during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898. The character, William Preston, joined the Mounted Police to capture his father’s killer – twice. His re-capture of the convicted murderer earns Preston his sergeant stripes. Preston was played at various times by Jay Michael, Paul Sutton and Bruce Beemer. The first broadcast, "Challenge of the Yukon," was heard over WXYZ in Detroit in 1939. The creators of this radio drama also wrote the script for the Lone Ranger and the heroes bear some resemblance. In the episode “The Man with the Red Coat," a young girl understandably mistakes Preston for Santa Claus.

Geography and history are bent to fiction in “The Case of the Indian Rebellion." An outpost fort is under attack and Sergeant Preston sends his dog, Yukon King, to fetch the Canadian Field Force. Although the Canadian military was in the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush in the form of the Yukon Field Force, there never was an attack on a fort. Some prominent members of the First Nation population were concerned about the number of stampeders invading their hunting and fishing territory but they petitioned the King for help and went to the newspapers with their views instead of physically attacking. Forts that were built, including Fort Constantine, were there to represent Canadian sovereignty in face of the overwhelmingly American nature of the Klondike Stampede.

Even natural history is bent to the whims of the drama writers. Sergeant Preston finds his dog, Yukon King, when the pup is being raised by wolves. Although this is not impossible, the actual rescue involves an unlikely attack upon the dog and his adopted wolf mother by a lynx, and the wolf dies. 

The Royal Canadian Air Farce has the final word on the Canadian Mounted Police radio drama with a skit that was regularly included in their comedy half hour aired on the Canadian Broadcasting Company. Sergeant Renfrew, played by Dave Broadfoot, was usually found sitting in his “lonely log cabin on the fourteenth floor of Mountie headquarters, with [his] incredible dog Cuddles." Sergeant Renfrew could be counted on to run into a burning building and emerge two minutes later with the fire insurance policy wrapped in a wet towel.” The skits were commentaries on the state of Canadian affairs and they always employed the common view of the Mounties as the product of seventy years of media dramas about the RCMP.