Features Rockies

Jasper Treasures: Danny Berry

From following a cougar with his brother when he was about 12, to packing supplies to wardens’ cabins, Danny Berry’s life in Jasper has been an adventure.

Berry was born in Jasper in 1952 to Charlie and Mary Berry, and shared his childhood with siblings Chuck, Wade, Leah and Noel.

“Being raised in Jasper was a dream,” Berry said, remembering the freedom of living in Jasper National Park back then.

He said Jasper Elementary School was “excellent” and remembered a time when students were not allowed to play outside in the fall, when the mountain sheep were rutting. 

That was also the time, “When we sang, God Save the Queen, O Canada and said the Lord’s Prayer, every day,” Berry said.

Now retired, Danny Berry worked with Bighorn Wildlife Technologies as a field specialist for three years, putting tracking devices on harlequin ducks and doing game counts. He is pictured with a harlequin duck in the Cadomin area in 2017.( Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)

In later years, Berry said, Gordon Bride was contracted to build a new school, which became Jasper Junior/Senior High School. 

Berry said Bride owned the Palisades, the old Swift homestead, and Parks Canada purchased it in the late 1960s. It was the last privately-owned property in the park.

In the late 50s and 60s along Pyramid Road, the west end of town hadn’t been developed much yet, Berry said, and there were a number of stables and barns, government corrals, a blacksmith shop along the road, including the Berry family’s barn.

“There used to be about 400 head of horses in the Jasper area,” Berry said. 

“They were used by outfitters who were helping with construction of roads, and transporting outdoor enthusiasts to the backcountry. 

“The warden service had about 75 head of horses they used in their duties.”

He said some of the wardens were Second World War veterans, and did warden work, not administration. 

There were wardens year-round in the districts in the park. They would come into Jasper on horseback or snowshoes or skidoos to get supplies. 

“They were my mentors, they were wonderful people,” he said.

There was a set-up of another kind on the west side of town in the area of the underpass. 

“It was called Sleepy Hollow. That’s where a lot of hobos slept. They had a camp in the bush,” Berry said.

“It was people travelling through, riding the rails.” 

That community within the community stayed set up into the early 1960s.

Berry and his siblings would hitchhike to Athabasca Falls sometimes, carrying a loaf of bread and a roll of garlic sausage for lunch, and stopping at the side creeks to go fishing. Then they would hitchhike home.

Berry recalled when he, at the age of 12 and his brother, Wade, age nine or ten, tracked a cougar. 

“We had dog food on the front step. It was disappearing,” he said.

They figured it was a cougar after they saw its tracks in the snow and went searching for it behind Mina Lake, on the Pyramid Bench. 

“The dog had the cougar treed,” Berry said.

“Wade and I discovered a cougar den with two kittens in it and I had a look at them. 

“We took off, then the dog caught up with us.”

 Berry and his brother told their mom and dad what they had done. 

“It was just part of the deal,” Berry said.

Berry and four or five classmates were given Duke of Edinburgh Awards in about 1968 in Calgary. It was given to participants of a program that encouraged young people to achieve outdoor accomplishments. 

“In 18 months, I hiked, skied, rode horses, over 2,700 miles,” Berry said. 

Prince Phillip presented the awards. 

“He was an excellent man, he was very friendly,” Berry said. “We had lunch together. I remember shaking his hand, and him saying ‘Well done.'”

When he was 16 or 17, Berry was tasked with guiding then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau on a trip to the Valley of Five Lakes on horseback. 

Trudeau had an entourage with him including a friend, an MLA and two bodyguards. Berry and another guide, Pat McDermott, spent all day with the group.

Berry graduated from high school in 1972. That summer he worked for Parks Canada as a packer – packing supplies into the backcountry for Parks Canada employees.

Berry also worked for Bar F Ranch in 1972, for Art Allan, Myles Moberly and his brother Wade, working on a log building. He worked for Sustainable Resources, building log cabins and doing carpentry with Wade. 

“Wade was the boss,” Berry noted. 

He was hired by the provincial government to track cougars who had become problematic. “There’d be an attack on a dog or a horse. There’s nothing more stealthy than a cougar,” he said.

In the 60s and 70s, Berry said Jasper had a population of about 2,000. 

“There was more staff in hotels and other businesses in the summer time than there were Jasper residents,” he said. “People came from all over the world to Jasper.”

Back when Berry was growing up in Jasper, “You knew everybody. If you were around town causing trouble, somebody would grab you by the scruff of the neck and say, ‘Next time I’ll be telling your dad,’ and you were immediately trained.” 

This is where the saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ fits in, he said.

These days, Berry enjoys retirement with his wife Frances. They live close to Hinton.  He also spends time with his son Preston, daughter Christine and grandsons, Draden and Cole. 

Life has changed a lot since his childhood, when he “thought every town had a golf course, tennis courts and visits from movie stars like Jasper did”.

By Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Jasper Fitzhugh