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SLOBODIAN: Winnipeg teen earned reputation as female Indiana Jones

She slept at the foot of a sphinx in Egypt’s Valley of Kings; almost died of thirst in East Africa; faced fascists, bandits and bubonic plague; survived being kidnapped in China; and visited places no westerner stepped foot in before.

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The thrilling globe-trotting adventures of Winnipeg-born Idris Galicia Hall earned her the title of the female Indiana Jones.

She slept at the foot of a sphinx in Egypt’s Valley of Kings; almost died of thirst in East Africa; faced fascists, bandits and bubonic plague; survived being kidnapped in China; and visited places no westerner stepped foot in before.

Hall was only 16 in 1922 when she answered a newspaper ad seeking someone with ‘Beauty, Brains and Breeches – World Tour Offer For Lucky Young Woman…Wanted to join an expedition.’ 

Her honey-blond hair, good looks and adventurous spirit landed her the job and the stage name Aloha Wanderwell. 

She set off to see the world “decked out in riding breeches and dad’s slightly altered tunic.”

Aloha travelled 120,000 km through 43 countries in Ford Model T’s, becoming the first woman to drive around the world while still a teenager.

The ad was placed by Captain Walter Wanderwell, who wasn’t a captain at all, but embarked on an ambitious global expedition in 1919 to promote world peace. 

Courtesy Bettmann Archives

Walter, a Polish soldier whose real name was Valerian Johannes Piecynski, was an accused rumrunner once jailed in the U.S. on suspicion of being a German spy. 

He was on the radar of J. Edgar Hoover’s Bureau of Investigation (now FBI) which held an extensive file on him.

Love blossomed between the sturdy, stocky Walter and Aloha somewhere between India and Egypt. 

He divorced his estranged American wife and they married. He was 29, Aloha, 18.

They had two children and carried on covering 610,000 km and 80 countries from 1922-27.

Their adventures ended one fateful day in 1932.

Walter was shot dead on their luxurious yacht, the Carma, docked in Long Beach, California. 

Witnesses described a ‘man in grey’ peering through a porthole.

A jury acquitted the prime suspect. The murder remains unsolved.  

Aloha remarried the following year and carried on exploring the world.

She passed away in 1996.

But what a trail this explorer, aviator, filmmaker, vaudevillian, and author blazed.

Aloha was born in Winnipeg October 13, 1906, to Margaret and Herbert Hall, a British Army reservist.

Her thirst for adventure was kindled at an early age by reading her father’s books. She dreamed of travelling the world.

Aloha and one of her children, Valri. Courtesy Bettmann Archive

When her father accepted a commission as lieutenant in the Durham Light Infantry, her mother moved Aloha and her younger sister to England, then later Belgium and France, to be closer to him behind the lines. 

He was killed in action in Ypres in 1917.

Aloha’s mother eventually sent her to a convent in Nice, France to knock the attitude and tomboy tendencies out of her.

That’s when Aloha responded to Walter’s ad, hoping to secure a position as secretary and driver.

His idea for a world tour came about after seeing “boys leaving college and wasting two or three years in making up their minds about what they wanted to do,” reported the Daily Mail in 1930. He figured travel was the solution. 

Aloha became the star of the Wanderwell Expedition, a travelling circus – about travelling – that filled theatres to capacity.

They made silent films and gained international recognition when they released a documentary titled With Car and Camera Around the World.

The expedition was funded by selling leaflets, paid speaking engagements and showing their films.

He spoke 10 languages, Aloha four.

At some point, Aloha became a pilot.

Aloha and Walter survived numerous scrapes, including his frequent misadventures with other women.

Walter had a habit of impersonating military officers and upsetting missionaries in exotic locals because of his alleged communist subversive activities.

They sometimes used kerosene for gasoline in the Ford Model Ts, crushed bananas for grease in the differential, and elephant fat for engine oil.  

In India, oxen often towed the vehicles across mudflats and rivers.

In China, when civil war raged making it impossible to buy fuel, labourers pulled the car 128 km.

They visited the Amazon basin where Aloha made another film, the earliest recorded, about the Bororo tribe in Brazil.

In China, when captured by bandits, Aloha was released after she taught them to set up and fire machine guns.

The couple survived typhoons, bitter cold, and hellish roads.

But Walter didn’t survive the bullet in his back when someone crept into his cabin while the yacht lay at anchor in the Long Beach harbour.

Aloha told investigators the culprit was William James Guy, who joined them on a boat trip to South America but was turfed ashore for trying to start a mutiny. She said he surfaced in California and tried to strangle her husband.

Others on the boat identified him as the man in grey.

Guy, also on J. Edgar’s radar, was acquitted after jurors decided he couldn’t be positively identified. A witness testified Guy was visiting 48 km away at the time of the murder.

Aloha later married a former cameraman, Walter Baker, and carried on as explorer and filmmaker.

She learned to fly a floatplane. Her plane went down in the Brazilian jungle near the Rio des Mortes (River of Death). She lived with a local tribe for months before being rescued.

Aloha continued to promote the 1920’s expedition before getting involved in journalism.

When she died, the ashes of the girl from The Peg, were buried at sea.

Some exerpts from Aloha’s journals:

Italy: Garish headlines: ‘Flamboyant saviour Mussolini’s Black Shirts appeared ready for the stupendous takeover.’ All terribly exciting.

Toulon Air Base: Rooms were like ice…We slept in our uniforms, fought blood-thirsty bedbugs all night in an unfair wrestling match. 

Madrid: We had not been able to earn a penny. Funds were disappearing fast…We were reduced to fusty rental quarters with budgeted food allowance. Outlook dismal. 

Portugal: Warned against brigades in these lonely mountains. O, yes. Hair-raising stories of bands sweeping down on city travelers, robbing or holding for ransom…In the driving rain I looked into the muzzle of a gun! I dropped pistol down my breeches.

Barcelona: Such poverty! Donkey dung mud villages since the days of the Moors. Women appeared dehydrated like old apples.

Carpathians: #3’s radiator froze, #2 pulled up behind and stalled. Drifting white flakes settled as we five worked like demons. Nothing in the engines moved and the cars rapidly became white mounds in the vast white landscape. We were snowbound in the Carpathians!

Egypt: We drove onto the desert sands, their encampment on the rump of the crouching Sphinx…Overhead trillions of stars; below, the Nile, oasis’ palms, distant hazy glow of Cairo – my feet on the colossal Sphinx, half-ridden in sand; above, the mighty Nemes headdress framed those sightless eyes. 

Yemen: Devoured by mosquitoes, unable to sleep; about 4 a.m. camel riders stealthy approach! Bedouins? Wahabis? I was afraid to call out to Cap—might set off an attack. 

India: I was off to maelstrom Bombay…In and out between bullock carts; missing buffalo by the skin of my teeth…Crews of near-naked coolies loading the weighty ingots made steering hazardous… Fourth day, we were unable to cross a broad river… Eager to earn a few annas, peasants hitched three pairs of oxen to #3.

Central India: Weaving our way through town, several people stopped us to warn about the bubonic plague…If you see a crew of Untouchables whitewashing a ring encircling a dead body on the street, that is bubonic. Below us, the cremation terrace, greasy blue smoke rising from funeral pyres. Other shrouded corpses lashed to pole stretchers lying ready on ghats. The stench was foul.

Bengal: Final forty-eight hours of driving, no sleep, no dry rags, I ached with wracking shivers; fingers were seized to the wood steering.

China: We put in at Shan Hai Kwan to be bathed, deloused and fed…Our main anxiety was how to avoid that week’s bloody war zone. Corpses lay half covered, some bolt upright in ditches, hideous fly-blown limbs scattered by explosions. Sometimes we heard the boom of artillery… 

Santa Barbara: CAP AND ALOHA ARRESTED FOR IMPERSONATING MILITARY OFFICERS – $200 FINES APIECE. 

Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard

lslobodian@westernstandardonline.com

Linda Slobodian is the Manitoba Senior Columnist for the Western Standard. She has been an investigative columnist with the Calgary Herald, Calgary Sun, Edmonton Sun, and Alberta Report. lslobodian@westernstandardonline.com

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Dennis

    September 6, 2021 at 8:54 am

    Yes, Great story, and not about a virus or more government or freak mongering.

  2. Left Coast

    August 8, 2021 at 4:21 pm

    Great story Linda . . .
    I grew up in Winnipeg in the 50s & 60s don’t ever recall hearing about this lady.
    Worked for the Tribune till 69 then moved West.

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Features

Timeline of Kenney’s seesaw COVID-19 protocols

Kenney announces Alberta returns to a state of emergency. After many promises from the premier that Alberta will not introduce a vaccine passport, proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test will now be mandatory for participating businesses and social events.

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On the heels of new lockdown measures in Alberta, The Western Standard reviews Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s seesaw approach to dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

March 20, 2020 – Four days after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, Alberta cities including Calgary declared local states of emergency and shut down most non-essential businesses and serviced. Alberta also declared a provincial public state of emergency and closed all schools.

May 13, 2020 – Alberta enters a Stage 1 re-opening plan allowing businesses, like restaurants and retailers, to reopen with social distancing restrictions.

June 12, 2020 – Stage 2 is introduced earlier than expected, allowing theatres, massage therapists and hair salons as well as libraries to open. Alberta’s state of emergency ends after nearly three months.

August 4, 2020 – The province mandates back-to-school mask use for students in grades four to 12.

October 26, 2020 – Alberta introduces a limit of no more than 15 people for social gatherings.

November 12, 2020 – Tighter restrictions are introduced in restaurants and bars, including an earlier last call for alcohol.

November 24, 2020 – The province announces new and even tighter restrictions banning social gatherings, limits attendance numbers in churches and funerals and closes Alberta high schools.

November 25, 2020 – A Facebook post from Kenney states “We decided not to proceed with a lockdown because of the profound damage it would cause to Albertans, thereby deepening the mental health crisis and leaving many to despair. We will not let political pressure or ideological approaches cause indiscriminate damage to people’s lives and livelihoods.”

December 8, 2020 – Despite Kenney’s announcement less than two weeks earlier, the province is plunged into another full lockdown. All indoor and outdoor social gatherings are banned and non-essential businesses are forced to close including restaurants.

January 14, 2021 – Restrictions on outdoor gatherings are eased and personal service businesses, including massage and hair salons, are allowed to reopen.

January 29, 2021 – Premier Jason Kenney announces “The Path Forward” framework, allowing for an incremental easing of restrictions over three stages. Benchmark metrics were set based on hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients and a minimum wait period of three weeks between each phase.

February 8, 2021 – “Step 1” of The Path Forward plan begins with Alberta easing some restrictions on restaurants, kids sports and indoor fitness.

March 1, 2021 – Kenney announces “Step 2” phasing in low-intensity fitness classes; however, earlier benchmarks were ignored and the remainder of Phase 2 was delayed until March 8 when libraries, retailers, banquets, etc. were permitted to resume at varied levels of capacity. Sports programs were also allowed to resume with limits on participants and social-distancing measures.

March 22, 2021 – Again ignoring previously-set benchmarks, the province announces, due to a surge in COVID cases brought on by variants of concern, “Step 3” would be paused until COVID patients are under 300 and declining.

April 6, 2021 – Premier Kenney rolls Alberta back to “Step 1” until further notice moving the goalposts yet again, stating restaurants in the province were only allowed to offer outdoor dining service.

April 29, 2021 – Kenney announces targeted heath measures specific to regions where there were higher numbers of COVID cases. Schools in those regions were to switch to online learning, indoor gyms were to close and all indoor sports activity were to be suspended. This would last for two weeks.

May 4, 2021 – New restrictions are announced again province-wide. All schools including post-secondary institutions were moved to online learning, indoor recreation activities were shut down and in-person dining was prohibited as of May 10. In those areas with high case counts, gatherings were limited to 5, retail stores went to 10% capacity, personal care services were closed and outdoor gatherings were limited to immediate family members only. 

May 25, 2021 – Students were permitted to return to in-person learning. The next day, Kenney announced he was replacing his “Plan Forward” strategy with the “Open for Summer” plan, based on vaccination progress and hospitalization numbers.

June 18, 2021 – Kenney announces “Step 3” would be implemented July 1.

July 1, 2021 – Kenney announces Alberta is “Open for Summer” and nearly all remaining public heath orders are lifted including mask mandates, self-isolation requirements, scaled back testing and contact tracing.

July, 2021 – Kenney, while attending a Calgary Stampede pancake breakfast, is recorded saying he swears to God the province is “open for good.”

July 29, 2021 – The province announces major changes to the COVID-19 protocols on testing, self-isolation and contact tracing. Testing would now only be for the symptomatic; self-isolating is no longer mandatory and AHS would stop close-contact contact tracing.

Sept 4, 2021 – Alberta brings back mandatory masking for all indoor public spaces and work places. Restaurants are ordered to end alcohol service at 10 p.m.

Sept 15, 2021 – Kenney announces Alberta returns to a state of emergency. After many promises from the premier Alberta will not introduce a vaccine passport, proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test will now be mandatory for participating businesses and social events. As of September 20, restaurants will have to shut their dining rooms and only provide service on their patios or take-out meals until they have a vaccine passport system in place which will then offer them exemptions. The province will also continue a curfew of 10 p.m. for liquor sales. Forced social distancing returns and it will be illegal for unvaccinated people to attend social functions in homes. Vaccinated families can have friends come over from one other vaccinated house to a total of 10 people. Along with other restrictions, mandatory work from home orders are also back in place.

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Features

MAKICHUK: TOP SECRET – Meet the real-life James Bonds

“We haven’t had a female Bond in the films, but there are already lots in real life.”

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Like James Bond, they cross borders with fake identities and passports.

They operate in small isolated teams and have access to the full array of 007 gadgets designed by the spies’ Q section.

Its members are famed for not always looking like soldiers. Some speak different languages and can pass as foreign nationals.

The standing joke is that they could fit in at an embassy party or a whorehouse in Istanbul.

And just like Bond, they are all highly trained in firearms and hand-to-hand combat.

In fact, their training is considered “amazing even by SAS standards.”

But unlike the fictional 007 character, these assets don’t work for MI6, the famed British Secret Intelligence Service.

They are an elite section of the SAS, known as “The Increment.”

According to a report in the UK’s The Sun, the existence of the secret unit, “E Squadron,” was inadvertently confirmed this week when bungling Army top brass leaked the personal details of more than 70 Special Forces troops.

Buried deep in a spreadsheet of 1,200 soldiers’ names, trades and military units was a single reference to “22 SAS E SQN.”

It was the first written proof that the unit exists.

E Squadron is the fifth and newest limb of 22 SAS, the world’s most famous Special Forces regiment, whose motto is Who Dares Wins.

But its work is so secret that its troops are kept apart from the other four Sabre Squadrons, A, B, D and G, at their headquarters in Hereford, the Sun report said.

The squadron’s main task is to work with MI6 on top missions all over the globe.

SAS legend Andy McNab spent three years with the unit from 1991 to 1993, after his patrol in the first Gulf War which he wrote about in his book Bravo Two Zero.

He said the unit — which was hand-picked from the SAS — was “the closest to what James Bond does” of any British secret service.

But almost 30 years after he left, he said his work was still too secret to reveal, the Sun report said.

Another former member, who asked not to be named, said: “We were moving in and out of countries on different passports. Always in civvies, overseas all the time. It was busy.

“It was the James Bond stuff — use your imagination.”

The ex-member added: “You had to be able to blend in. People were picked for their ability to do undercover work.”

While some MI6 officers are firearms trained, it is never to the same level as their counterparts in E Squadron.

The former soldier said: “MI6 and MI5 are always distancing themselves from James Bond, saying they aren’t really like that. It’s true — spies aren’t like James Bond, they’re eggheads. Give them a gun, they wouldn’t know what to do with it.

“E Squadron solves that problem but they do a lot more as well.”

The places where they often have to work, using civilian cover identities, make it impossible to be armed, so they are all trained in deadly hand-to-hand combat, the Sun report said.

SAS author Chris Ryan served with Andy McNab on the 1991 Bravo Two Zero mission, in which a SAS patrol was deployed into Iraq during the first Gulf War to destabilize Saddam Hussein’s war strategy.

Says Ryan: “To be in the Increment is to be the best of the best.”

According to SOFREP.com, The Increment are strictly black ops — deniable missions that would be disavowed by the British government if compromised.

These could include:

  • Secret military assistance to foreign powers
  • Clandestine insertion and extraction of intelligence agents
  • Covert reconnaissance/intelligence gathering

Today E Squadron’s members are drawn from the three Tier One Special Forces units — the SAS, the SBS and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, the Sun report said.

The SBS provides specialist frogmen and mini-submersibles which can be used to insert teams undetected on foreign shores.

The SRR, whose soldiers specialize in plain-clothes surveillance operations around the world, provides a large number of women.

The unit was formed out of 14 Intelligence Company, which was known as the Det, and operated undercover in Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles.

A source said: “Women are often the best at this sort of work. If a group of blokes turns up, it always looks suspicious.

“We haven’t had a female Bond in the films, but there are already lots in real life.”

The Increment’s troops were among the first British soldiers in Afghanistan, ahead of the US invasion in 2001.

They were also involved in the 2011 uprising in Libya which toppled Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the Sun said.

A former E Squadron soldier said the unit was heavily involved in Iraq in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.

He said: “E Squadron are military people. They have rules of engagement.

“Is it a licence to kill? It is certainly not carte blanche. But the nature of soldiering means it’s sometimes necessary to take life. Everyone is trained in deadly force.”

Dave Makichuk is a Western Standard contributor
He has worked in the media for decades, including as an editor for the Calgary Herald. He is also the military editor for the Asia Times.
makichukd@gmail.com

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Features

Why does this BC area have the rudest postal code in Canada?

The area of Canada that easily takes the title for most unfortunate postcode has to be a street in Delta East Central: V4G1N4 (VAGINA). 

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A U.K. online business — apparently with buckets of time on its hands — has researched and unveiled what it calls “Canada’s rudest” postal codes.

Research by Money.co.uk shows the most unusual and awkward postal codes (the wacky Brits called it a “postcode”) in Canada and the UK and looked at the potential it can have on house prices.

As every maple-syrup blooded Canuck knows, Canadian postal codes contain a six-digit string of numbers and letters to create the final outcome, if one ignores the hyphen that splits the codes 

Using numeronyms —words where a number is used to form an abbreviation — the Brits discovered some odd pairings.

For example, in Timmins, Ont. you’ll find the postcode P4N-1C5. Nothing too eye-popping there until you dissolve the hyphen and are left with P4N1C5 (PANICS).

M4X1M5  (MAXIM) is more associated with a mens’ mag, not a vibrant area of downtown Toronto.

In another example, one area of Winnipeg sports the R3L1C5 (RELICS) code. 

However, the area of Canada that easily takes the title for most unfortunate postcode has to be a street in Delta East Central: V4G1N4 (VAGINA). 

The Brit release noted with the average Canadian house price currently around $716,828, living in a postcode such as V4G1N4 may actually effect your house price. However, no proof of the claim was offered.

Here are the top 21 most unusual/amusing postcodes in Canada:
• B3G1N5 (begins) Eastern Passage, NS;

• B4N4N4 (banana) Kentville, NS;

• L1V1N6 (living) Pickering Southwest, ON:

• L3C3L5 (levels) Orilla, ON:

• L4G3R5 (lagers) Aurora, ON;

• M4G1C5 (magics) East York (Leaside), ON;

• M4L1C3 (malice) East Toronto (India Bazaar / The Beaches West), ON;

• M4R1N3 (marine) Central Toronto (North Toronto West), ON;

• P3N1L3 (penile) Greater Sudbury (Val Caron), ON;

• P4N1C5 (panics) Timmins Southeast, ON;

• R3J3C7 (reject) Winnipeg (St. James-Assiniboia SE), MB;

• R3L1C5 (relics) Winnipeg (River Heights East), MB;

• R3M0V3 (remove) Winnipeg (River Heights Central), MB;

• R3T1R3 (retire) Winnipeg (Fort Garry NE / University of Manitoba), MB;

• S3N1L3 (senile) Yorkton, SK;

• S7R0K3 (stroke) Saskatoon Northwest, SK;

• T1R1N6 (tiring) Brooks, AB;

• V1C4R5 (vicars) Cranbrook, BC;

• V1K1N6 (Viking) Merritt, BC;

• V1X3N5 (vixens) Kelowna East Central, BC;

V4G1N4 (vagina) Delta East Central, BC.

Mike D’Amour is the British Columbia Bureau Chief for the Western Standard.
mdamour@westernstandardonline.com

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