Station Master Bertrand Retires After Career Of Almost 50 Years, Published 3 May 1961
By Austin Cross Citizen Staff Writer
Hermas (Sam) Bertrand. Station Master of Ottawa Union Station, is retiring after almost a half century in the service of the railway.
A longtime resident of Hull, Mr. Bertrand has worked his way up from a newsy on the old Grand Trunk Railway to station master of the capital's historic Union Station. He became station master on March 1, 1955. Officially he retires on June 30, 1961, but will be leaving the station on special leave this month.
Station Master Bertrand has in his day been an educationist and carried out a million dollar school improvement scheme when he was Chairman of the Hull Catholic School Board.
Though officially he has been mum in recent years, he was active in the Union Nationale and sat on the platform with Premier Maurice Duplessis when he came to Hull.
He also had a private audience with Governor-General Massey when His Excellency called in Station Master "Sam" at Rideau Hall to say goodbye and thank him.
He takes with him into retirement the honor of being a Justice of the Peace.
Hermas Bertrand was born on June 27, 1896, and thus has lived through the modern era of railroading. When he was born, the air brake was a novelty, trains were switching from oil lamps to new fangled gas light. Air conditioning was unknown. The world had neither seen nor smelt a diesel train. Railway stations were jammed and it was hard to find a seat on a train on weekends. The public either took the train or stayed home.
When Hermas Bertrand started the risky life of a news "butcher" for the Canada Railway News on the beloved old G.T.R., he had to cross open vestibules on icy platforms and in blizzards on trains going at 50 miles an hour. Many brakemen had lost thumbs and fingers making couplings with the old link and pin.
The remarkable thing about this slim blond railroader is that he found time to do many things outside his railroading. He was active in First Aid in the early days and he holds a letter from the first aid examiners citing his "special aptitude".
Bertrand was created a Justice of the Peace on October 25, 1951, the order being signed by His Honor Gaspard Fauteux, the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec. In the District of Hull, he is still entitled to sign "JP".
Mr. Bertrand is proud of his 11 point education manifesto which was adopted during his tenure as Hull Catholic School Board chairman He is specially gratified that he saw built the English Catholic School, Our Lady of the Annunciation.
Although an active U.N. party worker, his brother "Cap" Bertrand, with whom he worked every day of his life at Union Station, was an equally staunch Liberal! Election day they voted together, but separately!
It takes the Hull Armories to accommodate all the Bertrands when they get together. At the last reunion 454 assembled there.
The railroading Bertrands were famous and had been publicised in national magazines. They were Donald (Cap), at the station; Arthur, in the government; Lucien at the station; Edgar, who worked at the depot before he died; and Hermas (Sam) himself.
Sam in his turn has five sisters; Anna, Mrs. Frank Bilodeau; Sarah, Mrs. Hector Renaud; Julia, Mrs. Alphonse Roger; Grace, Mrs. Henri Cadieux; and Irene, Mrs. Jules Mongeon. Mr. and Mrs. Hermas Bertrand have five children; Mrs. Frank Galipeau; Giles, Claude, Mrs. Madeleine Lajeunesse; and Jacques. Among his children, in contrast to his brothers, there are no Canadian National employees.
The station master had plenty of friends. These varied all the way from Governor General Massey to a little kindergarten child from Lower Town. His Excellency gave the stationmaster a private audience on September 14, 1959, before he left Government House The little girl sent Sam kisses crooked X's written on kindergarten paper.
Scrap books show Bertrand with Churchill and a plethora of celebrities.
Greeting George VI and Queen Elizabeth when they came to Ottawa in 1939, he regards as the highlight of his career.
In all his working days, Sam has never lost a day's work through illness.