Helen Lapka has worked at the Golden-Field RCMP detachment for more than 45 years, and doesn’t plan on retiring any time soon.
After graduating from Golden Secondary School in 1972, she went to college and after completion returned to Golden in January 1973. At the time, there was an advertisement in the Golden Star for the clerk position at the Golden-Field RCMP detachment, but the closing date had already passed.
“I was told I should phone and see if they would accept my late application,” she explained.
When she called, she was told that nobody had applied for the job, and she should come right down and start the paper work. After completing the necessary paper work, it was sent to headquarters for processing and security clearance, which she finally received at the end of March 1973. On April 9, she began her first day of work at the detachment, which was at 902 9th St. S., the old two-storey flat roof building, which was later purchased and moved to the 500-block of 11th St. S.
Lapka began her job as detachment clerk, and was at the CR-03 level at that point.
“When I was in high school, I was one of the few students who had a vehicle, and since I was driving, the usual teenage attitude was to watch out for cops. In my yearbook, there is a notation someone made, ‘watch out or the cops will get you,’” she recalled. “Since I was the only applicant for the job, I guess they didn’t really have any choice, but indeed they did ‘get me,’ and for 45 years after that. Could one call that a life sentence?”
A short time after she began work, the Golden detachment became a test detachment for the new Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC), and a computer was installed in the office.
“This was quite the technological equipment, considering that right beside it was a very large machine called a telex machine,” she said, adding that it was similar to a huge typewriter, but was connected to a phone line, where they could type messages back and forth between detachments. “It was time consuming, as no matter how fast the person could type, the machine had only one operating speed, which was slow. Aside from that, we were still using manual typewriters.”
The CIPC computer was a big advancement that enabled the officers to check plate numbers on vehicles to see if they were stolen, and check the names of people involved in incidents to see if they had any warrants for their arrest, she explained. In the first few months, the Golden detachment officers had recovered around 40 vehicles because of the access to the CPIC information.
In 1974, the head clerk transferred to Saskatchewan, and Lapka took her position, which moved her up to a CR-04 level. The Golden detachment was a busy office, and in 1975, they hired another clerk.
Plans were in the works to build a replacement office, and in 1976 they relocated to a building downtown, which no longer exists, but was situated near where the Golden Bakery is now.
The detachment was there for most of the year of 1976 while a new office was constructed at the 902 9th Street location, which remains today as the Alternate School. From 1977 to 2012, the RCMP occupied the building, and in October 2012, they moved to the current building at 1419 11th Ave. N.
“That means that in my 45 years of service all at the Golden detachment, I have worked in all four building,” Lapka said.
The office staff increased over the years, and Lapka became the supervisor. In 1998, she was promoted to a CR-05 level, and in October 2013, she was promoted to office manager and supervisor at a new classification level of AS-02.
As the office manager, she is in charge of administration and finances, as well as continuing to supervise two full time employees and two casual employees.
“Over the years, I have seen a lot of officers come and go, probably well over 150, including working with probably more than 15 bosses,” she said.
Lapka has had many memorable experiences throughout her years working for the RCMP, and recalls a time when all of the offices in one of the smaller buildings were in use, and a suspect pulled a knife on one of the officers. The actions resulted in a fight throughout the main office between the suspect and the officers.
There was another busy day when the police were in a high speed chase with an impaired driver, resulting in a fatal collision on the 5 Mile bridge, which backed up traffic for miles, and then a mudslide came down on top of the vehicles on 5 Mile Hill, resulting in a woman being crushed to death.
Another memorable experience in her history with the RCMP was having the opportunity to catch a ride in the RCMP helicopter for air patrols, and in the RCMP fixed wing plane for aerial photos of the area.
Lapka has worked with many people over the years at the RCMP detachment, and said she has enjoyed a lot of laughs, and a lot of proud moments working with them.
“The list goes on, and in reality, there is rarely a dull moment working in this office,” she said. “I’ve been asked what the favourite part of my jobs is. Every year there are new things, new programs that I must learn, and I find that I enjoy meeting those challenges enriching my own knowledge and ability, and sharing that with others as well. I find immense satisfaction in doing my job well.”
Lapka has been asked numerous times by many people when she thinks she will retire, but she is happy to stay at the same job in the same place for now.
”I have to say, I am never bored, and I have other interests outside this job, which provide a good life balance,” she said. “So, I really have no idea when my work time here will end. Perhaps the day when I’ve finally caught up with all the tasks that patiently wait for me to get them done.”