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Fort Smith Monitoring Station

Fort Smith, Northwest Territories

One of a few HF Monitoring Stations

operated by

 

the former Radio Branch of the Department of Transport (DOT)

from 1966 to 1969

 

and by

 

the former Department of Communications (DOC)

from 1969 to the 1990s

 

Submitted by Jeff Stanhope and Len Hooper

(see photos at the bottom of the page)

 

Back in the “Olden Days”, when we used to have many more district offices scattered around the land, we also had a few HF monitoring stations.  It seems a bit crazy now, but back then, this was a really big deal. In fact, when I first joined the department in 1989, we were still being taught HF signal analysis at Acton….. and our legacy was like that,  as we had also hired a lot of ex-radio operators, many of whom later became directors.

 

Even the armed forces had an important HF monitoring mandate at the time - I know since a historian in Whitehorse wrote a story about the so-called “Squirrel Cage” located there during the Cold War, which was a large restricted access HF monitoring compound south of town. It was where the West first learned of Gary Powers being shot down since they were tasked with monitoring Soviet HF comms. I went there once in the late 90’s, and the old buildings were still there, with acres of wooden antenna poles laying on the ground, overgrown with willow bushes.

 

Anyways, just by chance I happened to meet a retired DOC employee, Leonard Hooper, in the Parksville area where he is now retired.  Len  worked at our Ft Smith Monitoring Station in the NW Territories until his retirement in 1990, when they mothballed the facility and eventually closed it. Recently he sent me some of the pictures (attached) and a brief description of his life there. It was probably like being a Light Keeper.

 

Jeff Stanhope

February 2017

 

I left Fort Smith in late October 1989 using up my leave and retired in 1990. I don’t think the station was ever manned after that, I believe it was kept on line under the Grande Prairie field office for possible special projects for an unknown length of time but doubt that it saw much use.

 

When I arrived in 1965 they had just started construction of the building, in 1966/67 we started operation with a full 24 hour seven day a week staff.  This continued for many years but by the time we opened a field office in Yellowknife (don’t remember the date) it was down to pretty well a day shift only, or not monitoring at all as we were doing Inspection work as well. 

 

We lived in Crown housing in Fort Smith for many years and finally built our own house there which we were able to sell when we left. This was a government town, the Hudson Bay Co. had a grocery store as well as another privately owned general store so didn’t have far to go for groceries but it was a long 18 hour drive to Edmonton for holidays after the highway was completed from Ft Smith to Hay River!

 

LenHooper

February 2017

PHOTOS

 

 

This was a later update of the console. Cannot remember the year... Len

(Click on photo to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

This was the original console setup in 1965/66... Len

(Click on photo to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

An outside view... Len

(Click on photo to enlarge)

 

 

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