Roy Alto






from June 2002 personal conversation and help from Ernie Brown

Laval, nov. 2009


Roy Alto joined the DOT and was assigned to Sioux Lookout Radio Range, but after two weeks was transferred to Ottawa, arriving at the station the same time as Walter McCurdy . . They reported to the new station on arrival in Nov. 1941.


He remembers the walk from the end of the bus line to the station on the Merivale Rd. and the threatened strike for there were no public transportation to the station, some operators had to walk to their work place and sometimes would be an hour and a half late. The boss posted a note saying that strikers would loose their ticket. The next day, there was Army transportation.


Using HRO receivers, there were 21 operators per shift.


He monitored RXU which was very busy and he recalls up to 20 ‘mobiles’ on a shift. One Submarine operator had the habit of tuning up his transmitter before sending his message, with the result that good bearings were obtained, often before he started his message. Roy recalls monitoring the BISMARK when the ship lost its rudder.


One night, very strong signals were received, D/F bearings showed those signals came from around Quebec city but the then government never said so, maybe not to cause an uproar or because the québecois were against conscription ... In those days, stories down the St Lawrence were that U-boat crews would disembark and come to shore and returned with no hassle ... CBC even did a short story about that.


He left Ottawa in June 1943 on assignment to Chesterfield Inlet where he remained 13 months, with Art Bambrick during which time they got mail three times, 2 by dog team and one air drop.


About 1950, after a few months down south, he returned to Chesterfield Inlet with his wife and two young kids, They were living in a 2 stories shack that once belonged to the RCMP, a very poor accommodation, getting their electricity from a 32 volts battery coupled to a wind charger. The department gave him 240 bags of cement and, with 8 Inuits, he built a better and stronger house.


He was paid $1,25 an hour, fed... 1963 saw him in Coral Harbour for 13 months, 21 of a crew doing met reports and international morse code. He had to learn terrestrial morse code for he had to communicate with both, passing messages back and forth. He got his 2nd Class certificate after his exam in Winnipeg with Inspector Gray.


Remembering a guy in Repulse Bay with a code so poor that one would think that he was using his foot ...  Roy did not know the Q code QLF for ' use your left foot ' ...


Roy always loved the north and some of his off-duty period were spent on his trap line. He was a Judge of peace and took part in a trial where an Inuit had forgotten to visit all his traps, the police had suggested that Roy give hell to the trapper for not doing so ...  he does not know what the RCMP did with the fox skin that was brought in for the trial ...


He saved the son of an Inuit from drowning, that man had capsized while cranking his outboard, it was difficult to find him in the water for his parka was the same color as the sea weeds. Got him back to land and gave him artificial respiration with the Holger-Nielsen method.  Some time later, the son's father came to him with two arctic chars to thank him for having saved his son.


Roy's other postings with Air Services saw him in Winnipeg, Regina, Chilicotte , Nakina , his last tour was in Thunder Bay, Ont. where he retired.


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