Archives

The N.L. police officer who kept traffic moving in downtown St. John's

A Newfoundland police officer believed he had worked out the best way to keep traffic flowing. It involved a lot of arm movement.

'The faster you move, the faster traffic will go,' Frank Miller told CBC in 1988

In 1988, The National introduces viewers to an institution at a St. John's intersection. 2:42

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary's Frank Miller didn't want traffic to come to a standstill, which explained his colourful, characteristic and emphatic style of directing it.

In August 1988, The National profiled the man whose rapid, sweeping hand motions had kept traffic flowing at the intersection of Prescott and Duckworth streets in downtown St. John's for nearly a decade.

"The faster you move, the faster traffic will go and I've proven that, right?" said Miller, when talking about his technique with CBC News.

"And you exaggerate your movements and it seems to work every time."

Miller was part of a tradition of officers directing traffic at that intersection for a half-century. The practice continued through the 1980s, despite the availability of automatic traffic lights.

Traffic lights wouldn't work

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary's Frank Miller was doing his thing as The National's camera rolled in 1988. (The National/CBC Archives)

"There's [an officer] here only because the city says there's too much traffic on the steep, short hill coming up from the waterfront for [traffic] lights to handle properly," the CBC's Brian DuBreuil explained to viewers on The National.

Miller's antics seemed to put a smile on the face of most people The National captured on camera, whether they were driving by or merely observing the scene from the sidewalk.

Some drivers even had brief chats with the traffic conductor or asked him for directions.

This driver seemed to be enjoying the show Officer Frank Miller was putting on at the corner of Prescott and Duckworth streets in downtown St. John's in 1988. (The National/CBC Archives)

DuBreuil said most police officers who partnered with Miller for traffic duty tended to transfer to other assignments after a short time. 

But Miller was happy where he was, working the intersection he'd then been stationed at for eight years.

"I mean, there's a job for every man," Miller said. "Why quit and do something that you don't want to be doing if you enjoy what you're doing?"

Even the premier knew him

Brian DuBreuil reports on Frank Miller's retirement in March of 1991. 1:59

Miller would keep at it until 1991, when he retired.

His last day was an occasion, with many people stopping by to say farewell, including Premier Clyde Wells.

"I wanted to say good luck in your retirement," the premier said, after driving up to chat briefly with Miller while he was standing in the intersection.

In a recent interview with the Telegram newspaper, Miller recalled his days on the traffic beat fondly.

"I'd come back tomorrow if they wanted me to," he told the newspaper, adding that he still had his uniform from his working days. 

Frank Miller had spent eight years directing traffic in downtown St. John's when The National aired a profile about him in the summer of 1988. (The National/CBC Archives)