First female clerk in Alberta courts

From our April 2012 issue

By Bertha Johnson – Red Deer, Alta.

One of our District Court judges (known now as Court of Queen’s Bench), told me I had a distinction within the court system in Alberta. I was the first female court clerk.

I did everything from counter service to jury trials and completed my employment into retirement as Clerk of the Court/Administrator of Small Claims Provincial Division.

During my time in the 1970s at Red Deer, we had applications with which to procure a marriage license. One day while working the counter, a bride and groom arrived in full wedding attire.

They wondered about the paper that they handed to me and said they thought it was the marriage license. I explained it was the application by which to procure a license.

They said they gave it to the minister at the church but he explained that they must get a license before he could marry them. I could hardly keep from smiling at this point and told them the cost after they had completed the required information.

The bride didn’t have her purse with her and the groom was short a dollar. The bride was almost in tears.

Ran from building

I went into my own purse and gave them the required amount so they could be on their way back to the church. They practically ran from the building for the return to their ceremony.

I never heard from them again but often wondered how the rest of their day and lives went after that experience.

After I transferred to Calgary, we were often working with jury trials. One day when polling a jury—which is calling names out of a hat (so to speak) from the many that were named to serve—one lady was selected twice and was agreed to by both lawyers.

The rule was to be polled three times if no rejection twice before. By this time, she had listened to all kinds of excuses and reasons from folks as to why they couldn’t serve on the jury.

After I had called her name a third time with no response, the judge repeated her name very loudly. A person next to her nudged her.

She looked up to the bench, the judge called her name again, she cupped her hand to her ear and said “Aye?” His Honor said “dismissed”.

Retirement plans

Before I began my career, I worked as a secretary/stenographer for a lawyer in a small town. This gentleman was eventually appointed to the Court of Queen’s Bench and became a respected judge.

I was one of many who was offered early retirement so I accepted and set a final working date. I then received an invitation to attend my former boss/judge’s retirement celebration.

My celebration was at noon in Calgary and his was scheduled for mid-afternoon in Red Deer the same day. His was a planned surprise so we had a good chuckle when I told him upon my arrival.

Bertha Johnson heading into court in 1978.