Redcaps, Published 17 January 1946
'Cross Town With Austin F. Cross
It's pretty hard to get in or out of Ottawa by trains without seeing the Bertrand boys. Presidents come and presidents go, station masters are hired and station masters retire, but the Bertrand Boys go on forever. Reading from left to right, they are "Cap." who has a Christian name, Donald, and Sam. Cap joined the old Grand Trunk in 1912; Sam, a few weeks later.
Cap is quite a character. He has a friendly beaming face, and he likes to serve the public. Never bad humored, he takes a Christmas rush or a Dominion Day week-end in stride. It's all a day's work to him. and as far as anybody can see, a pleasant day's work.
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Cap got his nickname from the fact that he was the first red cap In Ottawa. Once th svelte new Central Station was built (later to become the Union Station when they closed Broad street) they decided that the time was right for these new.fangled red caps. Up till then, this town carried its own baggage. But the trouble was, there were literally no red caps in Ottawa. Finally, a white cap. of the style formerly used by Grand Trunk parlor car porters, was dug up and Cap started to carry baggage under his new white cap. Working with him was the late and lovable Jim Mullins, a mountain of a man hiding a simple soul, a fellow who behind his smile concealed a life of grief. Mullins died about a year ago.
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Cap and Mullins red-capped thrir way for a while, and then Cap went firing, when the war was on. When he got back to the station, after three years with the shovel, he had lost seniority around the station, even though it was still continuous with the railroad.
It would be impossible to recount all Cap's interesting forays into other realms. He used to manage hockey teams and take them down to Lake Placid. He was interested in sports. He had interests beyond keeping people from getting on wrong trains.
But it seems to me that Cap's big mission in life, like that of his brother Sam, was to please the public. Often overworked has been the phrase "Service with a smile." But not with Cap, nor with Sam.
What you write about Cap, you could write about Sam too. Both of them like serving the public, and now, flirting with fifty, they have no desire to do anything else.
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On a sub-zero January morning, you may see Cap Bertrand out with a little book, writing down the names or numbers of the coaches as the long Toronto train draws in. Or in the afternoon, it might be Sam, down the tracks to see how things are going.
Come in early and tired from the west, and one of the Bertrand Boys will greet you with a smile. Crawl in late at night from the east, and the Bertrand Boys will still be doing their stuff. East or west, no matter where bound, no matter where from, arriving in Ottawa is a disappointing performance if one of the Bertrand Boys is not down at the depot.