|The Mad Bombers got the crowd hopping at the 24th Dawson City Music Festival. Photo by Dan Davidson|
Welcome to the August 2, 2002 edition of the online Klondike Sun, which reproduces a selection of the 40 photographs and 33 articles that were in the 28-page July 30 hard copy edition.
This issue Heather Pauls continues as our summer intern. Her Diary of a a Music Festival Junkie makes more sense when you realize that Heather is also an accomplished pianist (playing in the Westmark Lounge when not working for us) and a harpist (something she couldn't fit into her tent. Sadly, she's only with us for one more issue.
The hard copy also contains Doug Urquhart's famous "Paws" cartoon strip, our homegrown crossword puzzle, Diane O'Brien's "Camp Life" cartoon, and obviously, all the other material you won't find here. You are missing a lot if you're just reading the on-line edition.
We encourage viewers of this website to consider subscribing to the Sun. It would help us financially and you would get to see everything closer to when it's actually news. About 600 people read each issue of this paper online (35,700 since July 2000), and we'd love to be sending out that many more papers. See our home page for subscription information.
by Dan Davidson
As the 2002 edition of the Dawson City Music Festival (24th annual) wrapped up very early on Monday morning, the audience was encouraged to participate in a rousing rendition of "I Saw the Light", led by the closing act, the hyper-energetic Farrell Brothers.
In truth, the sun hardly seemed to set on the music over the weekend. In spite of at least two short downpours every day, the weather smiled on the festival and things dried out very quickly in the July sunshine. Only those at the Front Street Gazebo got wet, and most of the four events there were still successful.
Most other events, big concerts, mini-concerts, and workshops, were well under cover.
There was mainstage, the big striped tent in Minto Park, home to the evening dance concerts and ten workshops of various descriptions during the days.
The Palace Grand was busy in the afternoons with workshops on 'women and song', "axes to grind", "Odd-ditties" and "Fiddle and keys".
Saint Mary's Catholic Church hosted four workshop sessions (jazz, , an afternoon concert by Geoff Berner and one eclectic evening concert.
Saint Paul's Anglican Church was also busy, with an evening concert and four workshops.
Finally there was the Oddfellows' Hall, home the Friday night youth dance on Friday, a popular jazz concert on Saturday and a completely packed folk/blues line-up on Sunday night.
Friday began with the organizers wandering around saying things like, "Gee, this packed for a Friday night" which is usually the lightest night of the weekend.
By Saturday night the trend was definite and the security team was having to do regular head counts for both the beer garden and the tent as both were in danger of going over their limit. For a time on Saturday there was a long line-up of frustrated folks waiting for people to leave so they could get in.
The Sunday crowd is often diminished, but there still seemed to be many hundreds in the crowd of people on the dance floor as the Mad Bombers and the Farrell Brothers brought the evening to a close during their sets.
This year's festival even had a song written for it, a little bluegrass ditty called "I'm Leaving You For Dawson City", the chorus of which ran:
"You've been dredging up the past too many times,
"Panning for excuses and sifting through the lies.
"It's a big mistake to stake a claim on this old heart
"You want the truth - it's sh***y -
"I'm leavin' you for Dawson City."
Closing down the tent is always a challenge. This year worked out quite well. The evening concluded with a live telephone call to former stage manager Craig Moddle, who will doubtless be very puzzled to hear the roaring crowd leave a message on his answering machine in Victoria, B.C. That catharsis of that call seemed to satisfy everyone.
by Dan Davidson
There have been years when it was possible to say "this was a Latin festival", "this was a blues festival" or "this was a cajun festival". That wouldn't be the case when you sat down to figure out what the 24th Dawson City Music Festival was all about.
This was a festival with a lot of variety. There's a lot more going on than one person can pay attention to (and still file stories and pictures for Monday).
The Bill Hilly Band was on hand from Victoria to provide a blue grass bottom to the jams.
Guy Davis came from New York to bring us the blues.
Kris Demeanor and friends came from Calgary to bring us his peculiar outlook on live, tales of trapping geese in German parks and ruminations on Mosquitoes. Kris''s dramatic style tended to light up the room - any room.
The Farrell Brothers seemed determined to play slightly familiar rock and roll tunes at breakneck speed. Lots of energy released by these guys.
The Weakerthans (weaker than what or who, one might ask) offer a melancholy sort of punk/alternative voice, but what can you expect from a group that uses a poem by Alden Nowlan as the dedication of their last CD.
Amanda Leslie and the Cobalt Connection explored jazz history, while the Lawrence Graff Trio came closer to the present and Thom Gossage's Other Voices went out to the edge.
Anne Louise Genest and Manfred Jansen provided a link to the folkier tradition which started this annual party in the first place, while North of Nowhere and the Pointer Brothers continued the tradition of proving that Dawson can always manage to contribute its own talents to the festival.
With workshops on musical types such as jazz, rock & roll, belly dancing, blues, bluegrass, or instrument types such as guitars, keyboards, fiddles, horns and percussion, there were many opportunities for the players from the various bands to showcase their talents.
If I haven't mentioned every flavour or performer in this review, it's because it just isn't possible for one person to catch everything. These are the performers I heard enough of to form an opinion.
by Heather Pauls
The Bill Hilly Band launched the 24th annual Dawson City Music Festival with so much energy that I thought I would explode if I didn't get up and dance. With their "flight of the bumble-bee" style chromatic improvisations, they sounded Celtic one minute, bluegrass the next, then suddenly like they were playing Jewish wedding music. The band had the skill of appearing to have the time of their lives playing for us, and hopefully they were. After a broken string, a personal ad for the talented, cute and single Bill Fiddle and a set which seemed all to short, they had to get offstage for the next performer.
One cob short of a stalk were the "Corn Sisters," as the other half of the duo, Neko, was experiencing traveling problems. With more vintage girlie dresses than a Value Village, the other half, Carolyn Mark, made do with a solo act, dubbing it "Children of a Lesser Corn." Her soulful confident voice coupled with a flirty humorous stage presence was music candy, especially when she jumped and strummed the last cord to make it more than obvious that the song was over for those playing with. Also heartwarming were all the five year old girls playing ring around that rosy or uncoordinated motor skills dancing. (I couldn't tell the difference.)
After such lighthearted fun it was digressive to hear the very talented Geoff Berner sing his tune "Maginot Line," the subject of which concerned failed war tactics. It was a well-written song but felt a little out of context; however, any negative vibes it caused were instantly replaced with adrenaline the moment the Farrell Bros. graced the stage.
Described as "psycho-billy," these Manitoba brothers Gordie Farrell, Shawn Farrell and Mike Reid (who really are two brothers and another member said to be from Whitesands, Mexico), rocked the house, or rather tent, with their mile a minute tempos. The biggest shock for me was that the passionate voice came from the upright bassist's mouth, whose facial expressions were generally subdued. The guitarist's voice, from a face scrunched up with emotion, carried less zeal although was still extremely energetic in comparison to the average bloke. They had everyone dancing on the smooth plywood makeshift dance floor as their jumpy energy was extremely contagious.
Tragically, after the Farrell Bros.' set I was much too overheated from flailing around in wild bohemian dancing to catch the Barbara Chamberlain and Kris Demeanor sets, although I must admit that the latter's band name is quite witty.
I did catch the Weakerthans, in theory, although after my brief stint amongst friends in the beer garden my memory wasn't as trustworthy as before. Additionally, when you're truly involved in experiencing the music for what it's worth and not analyzing it moment by moment, the subtle nuances go unobserved. To me they seemed like an average popular band with a tight set and the all too crucial addition of eloquent lyrics. With the warm lighting and perfect sound system, the Weakerthans' music surged through the crowd and got everyone grooving.
Those are the band reviews, but what made them all truly sound fantastic was the sound system. Words cannot express how impressed I was with the tech crew doing sound and lights, but this paragraph will certainly attempt to. After a summer of junky old amplifiers in smoky bars, crisp, pure, and exacting sound quality nearly put me in a trance. I would even venture to say that the quality of the sound system is what I cherished the most from the whole event. Thank you sound techies! Thank you so much!
by Heather Pauls
KidsFEST ShmidsFEST! This event was geared for everyone. There were fun childish shows for the younger crowd with naughty jokes that only the adults understood spliced in intermittently, mainly from the clever members of Hawaii-Two-O.
Once again the Bill Hilly Band started my day of music with the talent, charm and a cohesive sound. I'm always amazed when bands can be running around, improvising, and still remain completely in syncopation.
Floyd Favel Star, the MC of the event, was happy to be in Dawson for the first time and in the Yukon for his second.
Hawaii-Two-O had the chance to really show off their crowd-pleasing skills with their fire-juggling, cabbage launching, and bowling ball trampoline bouncing. The ingenuity of these sketches was mostly attributed to the three years spent in first year engineering, or in reality, the degree in mine engineering one of the members is in the process of completing.
Finally, Skye & the Killer Sheep performed although they were missing some band members. Skye, a twelve-year-old with a voice that surpasses her age, sang strongly with her father on the keyboards.
After KidsFEST had petered off I mounted the company vehicle, an aging bike lovingly referred to as "Purple Thunder," and headed out for St. Paul's Anglican Church to catch the workshop "Sibling Rivalry." I probably should have seen performers I hadn't yet but I just couldn't help but want a repeat of the entertainment I'd had the previous night.
The theme of the workshop was siblings working in music together and included a repertoire of covered songs by such groups as the Everly Brothers, Luevin Brothers, and the Flying Burrito Brothers. These were performed by members of the Farrell Bros. and one member of The Corn Sisters, who expressed her loneliness without her makeshift sister.
The Farrell Bros. commented on the formation of the band as it now exists, telling the tale of the Tim Horton's abandonment. The original upright bassist, "Big Daddy" Bo Morgan, reportedly ditched the tour unexpectedly in the parking lot of the first pit stop of their tour, a Tim Horton's restaurant in Winnipeg. Gordie Farrell has replaced the other guy and has only been playing the instrument for six months, much to the admiration of his audiences.
The next venture I dabbled in was an attempt at learning the basics of belly dancing from Laariah of the Rembetika Hipsters. Despite the efforts, instead of resembling the slithery snakelike or flowing mercury style movements of the instructor, most of us looked like a bunch of door hinges. She was very reassuring and helpful and was geared to fast learners as she taught every move quickly and then built on it.
My second chance to see the Rembetika Hipsters was at the opening set of the Saturday evening concert. They play a sort of Greek blues and folk, and if you have no concept of what that sounds like, just think of music you could belly dance to.
Guy Davis' talent had me floored! I was stunned into the inability to dance because I thought it would be sacrilegious or heretical to taint such talent with my awkward movements. Amongst the more famous performers, Davis is on a mission of spreading acoustic blues and finger picking wherever he goes. Having recently fallen in love with this style of music, I was in seventh heaven. Such were also the sentiments of the crowd who were left howling for an encore from this self-taught solo act.
Next in line were the Pointer Brothers, Dawson's own bar house band. I've seen them play on many a night at the Pit as they send tunes through crackling amplifiers. Imagine my surprise when they appeared on stage, sober, and paired with an amazing sound system. Their raw talent shone through like I've never seen before. The songs I've had stuck in my head since the first time I heard them flowed out of the speakers like water from a spring.
After dancing to the Weakerthans for the second time and absorbing a bit more about what they are like, I left for outside, as per habit. I missed Alex Murdoch and Aylie Sparkes. Here's hoping that Dan Davidson covered those concerts. (Yup.)
The Mad Bomber Society was a favorite of many including myself, an alumni of a ska phase. When the brass gleamed its way on stage, a flood of "skank" dancing memories (not a particularly promiscuous dance despite the name) came rushing back to me at full force, and I relived it like there was no tomorrow, only a yesterday. The entire crowd was in a constant groove, heads bopping and legs kicking up doing the twist, swing dancing, and just plain old quaking and shaking. The band looked quite swanky in their black suits and shades and hammed up the dance moves all over the stage, using their instruments almost as props. The band left its audience all revved up with nothing to do but party, and party they did.
by Heather Pauls
After the last night's festivities I indulged in a morning of sleeping in, resulting in having no comments whatsoever about anything that happened before noon.
To spice up my life a tad I attended a show at the Palace Grand entitled "Fiddles & Keys", hoping to hear an exclusive pizzicato jam. (Pizzicato is when violins, violas, or cellos are played without the bow by plucking the strings sharply.) This didn't happen, of course, as it was just some wishful thinking. The weekend had been one big overdose of Celtic fiddling but hearing even more was still enjoyable.
The Sunday night mainstage concert began at 7:30 and only went until midnight, a much shorter set than the previous ones. I wish I had remembered this as I missed my last chance to hear Thom Gossage Other Voices.
Sandy Scofield's siren song voice rang through the tent with sharp exuberance, piercing my ears and mind with intense lyrics of a serious subject. In the words of the handy dandy DCMF program, "Her song writing reflects her social and political views on her heritage" as she is a Saulteaux and Cree. The drums and background singers were the perfect accompaniment.
Dawson locals North of Nowhere shook the house with some classically rockin' songs to get the body moving.
The Mad Bomber Society and the Farrell Bros. yet again pleased the crowd during their respective sets. The reason I don't elaborate on their style and sound is because their performances were repeats of the ones before.
The Dawson City Music Festival is quite possibly the highlight of my summer in the great sunny north, and I will remember it for years. I'd like to personally thank Dom for once again putting on an incredibly well organized event and being so helpful in my quest to attend the festival. Of course the festivities could not have been possible without the volunteers, sponsors, the Board of Directors, and everyone who contributed to make this happening happen.
Submitted by the Klondike Visitors Association
Where did the years go? Can you believe that the Klondike Visitors Association is celebration its 50th Anniversary this August 14th? In honor of the past 50 years, the Klondike Visitors Association is throwing a huge family day party to recognize all aspects of the organization.
The year was 1952 and Dawson City was at an all time low, in both morale and population. The title "capital of the Territory" was about to be taken away, gold mining was in a slump and resident numbers were dwindling. Something had to be done to restore the glory and wonder of this beautiful isolated community.
That "something" was the fortunate timing of the S.S. Klondike as it sailed into Dawson City carrying the first flock of curious tourists. To acknowledge this new potential source of income, locals donned historic garb and greeted the boat as it docked along the Yukon River banks. Thus marked the beginning of tourism in the Yukon, specifically Dawson City, with the small group known as the "Klondike Tourist Bureau" welcoming tourists. This first tourist initiative was later named the Klondike Visitors Association.
Today, the Klondike Visitors Association offers services year round to both visitors and locals alike. The KVA offers community support, funding opportunities, international marketing strategies, plus tourism representation with Claim #6, Jack London Cabin, the Pierre Berton House, Canada's first gambling hall, Diamond Tooth Gerties and the Gaslight Follies. We also offer local events including the World Gold Panning Championships, Commissioner's Day, the International, Outhouse Race, Authors on 8th Event, Thaw di Gras, Community Christmas and other timely occasions.
To celebrate the continuation of this organization, we are inviting everyone to Diamond Tooth Gerties at 3pm for mini-shows of Gertie & her Girls, the Palace Grand Crew and a Jack London presentation. Admission is free, with a $5 BBQ outside the doors at 5pm. Please contact Justine at 993-5575, if you have any questions regarding the event. See you at the party...
Thank you to Ken Spotswood for supplying the research for this article.
by Dan Davidson
If the twenty-five folks in Dawson were looking for promises from Premier Pat Duncan at the July 11 pre-budget meeting, they were doomed to be disappointed. Duncan listened, while her two aides took notes, and she was quite able to sum up the crowd's concerns at the end of the two hour session, but she repeated several times that this was not a trip for making promises.
"I'm not going to sit here and give you a commitment - and I haven't given them in any community to a specific response on any community request. This is a listen-to-what-the-requests-are (trip)."
The major issue on which people were looking for a commitment was the building of a bridge. The largely business oriented crowd at the Downtown Hotel was quite vocally in favour of such a development, by whatever means.
Lenore Calnan (The Raven's Nook) spoke of potential health issues caused by the inaccessibility of West Dawson by emergency services for months before the ice bridge can go in and weeks after it becomes unsafe.
Bill Hakonson (Top of the World Golf Club) proposed that the territorial government borrow the money to build a bridge from the federal government and then pay them back for the next 25 years out of what it would have cost to run and replace the George Black Ferry. Others agreed.
Duncan said it was probable that any request of this type would end up in front of the two billion dollar infrastructure program committee. A bridge across the Yukon River at Dawson is on the list of projects that has been compiled by the Association of Yukon Communities with the help of the YTG, and people would just have to wait and see how that turned out.
Tombstone Park access provided another lengthy exchange between miner Shawn Ryan and the Premier. Ryan contends that the territory needs to use its veto power on the plans of the Tombstone Park Steering Committee to open up the possibility of land access through the park to areas on the other side of it. He mentioned gold, of course, and the recently announced possibility of diamond deposits in Alaska in a rock body that extends into the Yukon.
Ryan protested that the current draft management plan makes it necessary to travel over 100 kilometres north of Dawson just to be able to access land 10 kilometres to the west.
Duncan said that there have been many other Tombstone related issues up to this point and that she is not aware that anyone else has looked at an access corridor other than the Dempster Highway. She did commit to initiate an access corridor study to see what the possibilities might be.
There were some issues Duncan didn't want to talk about at all. When it came to problems with the Dawson Recreation Centre or questions about City of Dawson finances, Duncan said these were municipal matters and that the place to address them was at the local level.
She repeated her government's assurances that the supervisor who was appointed to assist the town council in developing a long range financial plan had not been put in place to control, veto, or approve any manner of local council decisions.
From her point of view that would be as unlikely as the federal government trying to micro-manage how the Yukon spent its federal transfer funds.
Dick Van Nostrand (Downtown Hotel) wanted to know if there was a plan for getting some money and some activity out to the rural areas after all the funding that has been supplied to Whitehorse to help it stage the 2007 Canada Winter Games.
Duncan responded that community wellness was of major importance to her government: "Nobody gets left out, nobody gets left behind."
While it will not be possible to spread the games all over the territory, it will, she said, be possible for all Yukoners to be involved in some way. The experience itself may later make it possible to host other events, such as the Indigenous Games and the Seniors Games.
"There has to be a clear, concerted effort to spin-off to other communities," Duncan said. "The cultural discussion has been for Dawson - there's been discussion about cultural events here."
The discussion veered into devolution and the possibility of decentralizing some aspects of government after 2003, with an indication that the government is thinking along those lines, trying to find functions that would fit particular places.
The audience generally felt that it was the bureaucracy in Whitehorse that worked hard to claw back all the positions that were decentralized in the late 1980s. Positions distributed to communities under the Penikett NDP government generally returned to the city under the Ostashek Yukon Party/Independent Alliance coalition.
Duncan came under some criticism for the lack of publicity attendant to the July 11 meeting.
"It scares the hell out of me," said Van Nostrand, "that our local chamber of commerce finds out about this meeting a day and a half ahead of time.
"Even though it was booked in our hotel ... I found out about this meeting yesterday by accident, from somebody else that had heard about it ... by the grapevine."
The whole experience, he said, raised the strong suspicion that someone in Whitehorse really didn't want anyone to come to this meeting.
Duncan was also frustrated with the process, having announced the meeting in the legislature and having said that the advertising should begin.
"Since then, several editorials have pointed out that the ads were not placed and those things weren't done. It doesn't matter. I can't stand here and say that was some official, 'cause y'know what, the bottom line is I wear it.
"So - this isn't a secret meeting. This is the second public meeting in Dawson ... This is not the one and only opportunity. If you want to spend six weeks advertising and invite me to come back in September, I'll come back in September."
Use the budget brochures, she urged her audience. Lambert Curzon, the postmaster, agreed that these had been in every post box earlier in the month.
The other big picture item under discussion was the Permanent Fund, a $10 million account that the government is trying to figure out how to make use of in the best way. Suggestions have included making part of the interest available through the Yukon Fund grants, sending an annual cheque to every Yukoner, and leaving the fund alone until it grows by investment to $50 million and then working with it.
by Dan Davidson
Dawson council affirmed a direction it has been discussing for several months now by passing a resolution that places the Secondary Sewage Treatment Delivery (SSTD) project firmly in the tender/bid arena.
Originally, as Joanne Van Nostrand pointed out, there had been some talk of sole sourcing the project to Edmonton's EPCOR, but that was several years ago, when the project was put forward as a private-public partnership and EPCOR was actually going to invest capital in it.
The final details of the town's capital funding agreement with the territorial government killed that plan some eighteen months ago , though EPCOR was retained to prepare the town's latest water license application and to oversee the water meter/bleeder installations which are a precondition to the larger project.
Councillor Byrun Shandler used the discussion on the resolution to challenge Klondike M.L.A. Peter Jenkins to come to the office and look over the paperwork connected with the project, so that he would actually know something about it.
Shandler and the rest of council were quite steamed over an "expose" of Dawson's finances which appeared in the Yukon News last week, a piece which echoed the many comments which Jenkins had made in the legislature during the spring sitting.
"Lies," said Shandler, raising his voice for the camera.
"We've done our due diligence on this project," he stated.
He and Wayne Potoroka sit on the project management team for the SSTD project and it was the PMT, composed of them, Dawson staff and YTG advisors, which determined that leaving the entire designing and building of the treatment plant in the hands of one company was not the best, or the most economical, way to go.
by Loire Passmore
An impressive show of motorcycles arrived in Dawson City for this year's 4th Annual Klondike Run. Although a hundred were expected, the sixty five or so who did make it had an awesome event-filled weekend!! Walter Hennek of Dawson City won the 3/4 oz gold nugget prize on the Poker Run Saturday afternoon with Guy Petitclerc of Whitehorse winning a 1/2 oz nugget at a close second place.
The bike games were a big hit with the locals who lined the streets downtown Saturday evening to watch or even participate. Our long distance rider, Don Seelyr, rode his Harley all the way from Sadler, Texas...WOW!! IT was good to see riders from all over Alaska, Canada and the southern US states as well. A huge thank you to all of this years sponsors who helped to make this all possible; a lot of really cool prizes were donated for the games and show n' shine.
I am giving myself a pat on the back, and a big hi five to those members of the Dawson City Motorcycle Association who helped to organize and coordinate a well organized run! Cheers!!
Next year's 5th Annual, July 11-13, 2003 will be bigger and better still. See you there. Until then...rubber side down, be aware, and ride safe!
Dawson City Motorcycle Association
by Dick North
I was talking with Bill Ford the other day. He worked with the late Joe Henry when the first cat trains ran up what would later be called the Dempster Highway.
Bill's in good shape. He's upwards of 77 years old and still plays hockey. He and Joe put many a tough hour with the cat train. Through all of their travails Bill said Joe was the most cheerful guy he ever met and the easiest to get along with.
I say ditto to that.
When Joe's number came up, which by coincidence was near my birthday, and the Big Guy called, he got the best.
Joe had managed to last it out and see three centuries in his lifetime. I was talking with his son, Percy, the other day and he said Joe was born when the first gold seekers appeared in the country before the '98 Gold Rush which places his DOB somewhere between 1896 and 1900. Even if he was born in 1900, it still would have been in the 19th century which did not end until 1901. (Contrary to all of the celebrations, for example, that occurred in the year 2000 - the numbers may have changed but the century did not until 2001).
I don't know where various sources came up with the information that Joe was paired up with Annie Mitchell when she was 13. She was born in 1904. The reason I know it was that year is that it is the same year as my mother. However, Annie beat my mother to the alter by two years marrying Joe in 1921 at the age of 17, not 13.
The first person I ever met in the Henry family was Percy, who was named after his uncle Percy who has murdered by a fox farmer across the river circa 1913.
Percy, accompanied by Constable Frank Dunn dropped by my room at the old Occidental Hotel. He was going to go with me on the search for Jack London's cabin but got hurt working for Proctor's logging show at McQuesten. Victor took his place and did a fine job driving the dogs on our lengthy trip.
Other places Joe and I went during our friendship included Partridge Creek where sho stole our grub. Sho, otherwise known in my language as "bear," reduced Joe to shooting ptarmigan with a 30-60. We'd pick off the feathers and put the remaining "mush" in the pot for grub.
We were actually looking for oil properties. More interesting from a historical standpoint was the shack that an old trapper had built on the crest of a small cliff above a hot spring. The trapper had fled from a Georgia chain gang after being picked up as an illegal entry into the USA. From his perch on the cliff he could see anyone coming for many miles. He was a good man and lived there and in Mayo until his death. I can thank Si Mason-Wood for that information.
Joe and I and Robin Burian tool the "other half" of Jack London's cabin to Oakland, California. I took Joe over to the University of California Department of Anthropology to visit one of my old profs. by the name of Bob Heizer. He happened to be holding a lab class at the time and invited us in. Joe had a papoose belt with him and the class and prof were quite impressed with that. Then I asked Joe if he would start a fire with his flint and steel apparatus. He said sure, than was given some paper by one of the students. It took Joe about two seconds to start a fire on one of their "coated" lab tables.
A native graduate student form Arizona than asked him if the "fire making" implement was a product of Athabaskan culture, and Joe said, "No, tourist gave me in Dawson City," which was true.
We went to a major league baseball game in the Giant's ball park in San Francisco. I advised Joe he was now going to see the best baseball players in the world playing the game. In the very first inning the hometown tool to the field with the opposition at bat. Out of the first four players who hit the ball, the Giants made three errors. Joe said, "Just like Dawson!" For once I was speechless. I've never seen such rotten fielding in the majors before or since! They're not even that bad in Dawson City!
One time Joe and I were talking along the Blackstone River, and Joe said, "We go fishing." I said, "Sure, but how can we catch fish without a fishing pole, line, or hook?" Joe says, "Him easy." Then he walked into the bush and came out with fishing pole, line, and hook. He had them stashed everywhere.
Joe's wonderful wife is still going strong at 98. I recall one family yarn where Joe and some other hunters were gone all day. They came back to find a grizzly Annie had killed after they had left. Annie has forgotten more about herbs and roots more than most people know.
The Henry family has had its good times and bad times. All told, it has been a privilege to have know them for the last 40 years.
by Dan Davidson
Vicki Gabereau made her first brief pilgrimage to Berton House several years ago, before it officially became a writer's retreat.
"I came up here with my daughter. I'd driven by. But it wasn't being used as a retreat then ... I just knew that it was the house."
Having spent her late teen years actually living with Pierre and Janet Berton and their brood in Kleinberg, Ontario, it was inevitable that Vicki would have imbibed some of the Berton legend, which had to include a healthy helping of Dawson lore.
It wasn't entirely a surprise then, when Pierre suggested to her that it she might be invited to join the Yukon Arts Council committee which supervises the Berton House Writers' Retreat.
"Pierre said that maybe I could be useful."
Her connection to the Bertons is practically prehistoric, but comes in part from having spent her late teens living with them. It wasn't a voluntary move.
"I was shipped off like a remittance man, because I was poorly behaved. I'd quit school. Because Janet and Pierre were friends of my parents he said, 'Oh ho ho ho, I'll take her.'"
"I cried for three days.
"I've known Pierre and Janet all my life. In fact, my mother was pregnant with me at their wedding. That's why she's not in any of the pictures."
Pierre still offers her advice from time to time, thus the call about perhaps joining the committee. She shifts into a more forceful voice, an echo of the man who had helped to raise her from the age of 18.
"Why don't you do something useful? Why don't you make something of yourself?" A fine thing to say to a successful radio (12 years on CBC) and television (7 years on CTV) interview host.
"He said, 'They might ask you.' So when they did, I accepted." This made her the closest thing to a relative on the committee.
She'd intended to get back to look at the place again a little sooner, but her daughter's wedding set back her plans after she had bought the ticket last summer.
The week before her mid-July trip to the Yukon she found out that the ticket had to be used up by July 11.
It was $500 dollar plane ticket that she wasn't going to let it go to waste. The airline originally attempted to triple the fee for the ticket change, but reckoned without Gabereau's ability to make a fuss.
Steve Robertson heads up the Berton House Committee, and he took the weekend, with lady friend Patricia Holder, to show the group's latest member the scene of the action. The house is currently occupied by David and Andrea Spaulding, a writing couple from British Columbia.
"I found it very emotional to go in that house. I knew Pierre's mother, Mama (accent on the second syllable) we called her. The grandchildren all called her Grandmama - she was very old fashioned. I never knew Frank Berton. But I found it very touching to go in that house - where they were brought up."
She is very keen on the retreat.
"I think it's great. I love the idea that writers are going to be in there for a long time."
Vicki is absolutely devoted to the Bertons and to Pierre in particular.
"He was my father's best friend in the whole world. They were extremely funny together. That's what I saw, these two idiots, and it was just one funny story after another."
As for Berton's professional standing, she relates a conversation she had with Ken Burns, the American director who has produced highly acclaimed television works on the history of jazz and baseball. He told her that "City of Gold", the film Berton wrote and narrated for the National Film Board in 1957, working with directors Wolf Koenig and Colin Low , was had a tremendous influence on him.
"(Ken Burns) says that the reason he shoots film the way he does is because of 'City of Gold'. It was the first documentary he ever saw and he still says it's one of the best."
Having now seen Berton House inside and out for the first time, Vicki has decided that one thing it really needs is a couple of comfortable writing chairs, which she plans to donate.
by Dan Davidson
Ian Wallace freely admits that the subject of a severed toe is an odd topic for a children's book, but the author/illustrator of The True Story of Trapper Jack's Left Big Toe (Groundwood Books) says he's been wrestling with this idea since 1980.
That's when Wallace, who was touring the Yukon as part of the Children's Book Festival, first encountered the infamous Sourtoe Cocktail in Dawson City.
"At the end of a day of school visits the teachers very generously invited me to the Sourdough Saloon for drinks in the early evening. During the course of the evening someone asked me if I wanted to be a member of the Sourtoe Cocktail Club.
"Not knowing what it was I, of course, inquired.. But I also realized that I was in the Yukon, the home of tall tales and all things magical and mythic, and I realized that I probably just wasn't going to be invited to join the club and they'd say, 'Here you are' and shake my hand. There was probably a test behind this membership.
"I asked, what do I have to do?"
When they told him he didn't believe it. When he saw the toe, he was impressed.
"The toe was brought out and the tin was cracked open and out came the ugliest thing I have ever seen. A little bit of wizened human anatomy, black as tar with a bit of bone sticking out one end and the nail out the other.
"I wish," he said wistfully, "that I could say I was totally brave and I became a member ... but the wuss in me overcame the brave man and I didn't let them drop the toe into my drink."
Back home in Toronto a few weeks later he tuned in to Morningside to hear Peter Gzowski talking with a CBC reporter from Whitehorse about the fact that the toe had gone missing.
"I thought it hysterically funny and gross and amazing, and I listened religiously for weeks as this call went across the Yukon: if you've suffered frostbite to a big toe would you please donate it to the Sourdough Saloon? My memory is that it was several months before a new digit was found."
Wallace was smitten. he may not have touched the toe, but it had touched him.
"I thought it was a wonderful story, one that, if I could ever find a way in, would be a great story for kids."
Trapper Jack was not his first attempt to put this tale on paper. He's been coming back to it for years,, but couldn't quite find a connection with the tale. Not too many people were aware of this pet project, and it wasn't the sort of thing he was known for. His other books - such as Boy of the Deeps, Duncan's Way, Sarah and the People of the Sand - are certainly regional in setting, but a bit more serious in tone.
It was a conversation with his American editor, Neil Porter, which pushed him to finish the project. Porter said, "I've known you for a long time and all your books are pretty serious, but I also know that you have this wicked sense of humour. I think it may be time for you to write something funny."
Wallace thought immediately of the Sourtoe, and Porter agreed that it was wickedly gross.
Now Wallace still had to "find" the story. One problem was that the toe itself was housed where his target audience and viewpoint characters could never go, in a saloon. Another was that the original owner of the toe was long gone and anonymous.
The solution was the fictional Trapper Jack character, the man who lost the toe and who could explain the whole thing to young Josh, the narrator of the story. Josh is the new kid in town who gets introduced to the idea of the toe by Gabe, a local boy who has taken him in hand.
Josh doesn't believe the story and Gabe sets out to enlighten him. When they meet him, Old Jake dares them to actually come and get a look at the thing the next day.
"I'm thinkin' you boys ain't got the stomach fer an amputated toe. I'm thinkin' yer bellies are soft 'n' yeller as these runny yolks."
Things go badly from there, and the toe in the story becomes as lost as its original, stolen by a three-legged dog and a pesky raven. We catch the briefest glimpse of it on page 23.
Wallace said he was shooting for a tall tale feel, and even has a final surprise at the end of the book, just for those who might think they know it all.
"It took me some time before I actually got to that point.. When I begin a story, I begin with an image or an idea, and I never quite know where the story is going to end. It may start going off in one direction but can take a completely different turn."
Wallace didn't get to return to Dawson on his next Children's Book Festival tour in the fall of 2001. He was told there was too great a chance of him being stranded there in the uncertain late fall weather if he flew in. He says he would have liked to redeem himself and meet the toe again.
The book is full of delightful renditions of Dawson buildings, some of them rearranged as to location in order to put several interesting places - like the original Red Feather Saloon and the Guns 'n' Ammo Building - on the same street. Some shots are as fictitious as Trapper Jack, but the renderings of the Downtown Hotel and the entrance to the Sourdough Saloon are quite true to life, much to the delight of Dick and Joanne Van Nostrand, who now own the place.
"I remember that 20 years ago there were a lot of leaning buildings in Dawson," Wallace said, "and I loved that architectural reality. If it's a tall tale and kind of a quirky one, then this toe going off on this wild adventure with buildings leaning all over - I thought it added some character to the story."
Wallace has had a lot of good responses to the story, and they started when it was still in embryonic form. While he was in Cape Breton on the book tour for Boy of the Deeps, which s set there, the kids asked him what he was working on for his next project.
"So I began to tell them the story about this toe. Well, there was absolute stunned silence from both the adults and the kids, and at the end they just cheered and clapped. After the program was over, books were for sale and I was autographing them. I was about to leave when a young girl came running through the door with her mother. She had gone home to get her 'cause she wanted her to buy a book.
"This little girl, who must have weighed sixty pounds dripping wet, said to me, 'I'm buying this book, but I really want that toe book. How long do I have to wait?'
"I figured right then that I had a story that was going to be a winner."
The True Story of Trapper Jack's Left Big Toe is on sale at the Dawson City Museum, and the Downtown Hotel plans to stock it as well.
by Heather Pauls
"It's a fun, affordable way to make quality wine," says Gloria Starkell, manager of Greg Hakonson's you-brewery, Klondyke Wine Makers. The location of the year-round business, open since December 15th, 2001, was formerly a grocery store and then changed to Arctic Cotton, and is now shelved with dozens of large plastic containers full of wine anywhere from one day to eight weeks old.
Selling a variety of different red and white wine kits, customers choose which box of all the necessities for making wine they want to make from their large selection. The box contains all the ingredients, like the grape juice concentrate, yeast, and stabilizing agents. It doesn't take long to mix it and put it into the standard 23 litre plastic carboys. While the concoction ferments, Gloria, who learned the trade at The U-Brewery in Whitehorse, takes care of it by stirring in the additives and making sure that it remains sealed from oxygen and bacteria, thanks to nifty valves which let out carbon dioxide but won't let anything in. The water she turns into wine first travels through an elaborate filtration system to omit any traces of chlorine, particles or bacteria. Temperature is also important as the store has to maintain an atmosphere of 73 to 75 degrees.
After the designated time has elapsed, she filters it in readiness for bottling. This phase of wine making is the responsibility of the customer, who fills the bottles (27 to 29 per kit) using a special gadget that fills them to an exact level. The bottling stage of wine-making is apparently a fun endeavor, according to customers who were involved in the various stages of filling and corking and labeling their bottles while I interviewed Gloria. Together with the manager, they happily demonstrated how the new bottle filling device works, and ran through the drill of how to use the corking apparatus and the heater that shrinks the plastic cover over the top. Labels come with the kits, or can be purchased for the different wines or even designed by the customer using a program on the store's computer. After all is said and done, the cost of the wine rounds out to $4 to $6 a bottle which is a fraction of the cost of purchasing a bottle of wine from a liquor store.
Klondyke Wine Makers, which for some reason has the best mood lighting I've seen in Dawson, also has a small selection of retail items like wine knickknacks and supplies for people in town who brew their own wine from their home. Paper name tags for glasses, printed wine labels, blank wine labels to personalize on their computer label-making program, wine carrying bags, home carbonation supplies, and decorative wine holders fill the shelves. What at first appears to be a display of wine and grape theme earrings prove to be adornments for wine glasses on closer inspection. These little charms, when hung around the stem of a wine glass, personalize the drink and make it easy to decipher which wine glass is yours on a crowded cluttered party table.
Klondyke Wine Makers, located in the same building as Dancing Moose Gifts near the hardware store, is open from noon till six on Tuesday-Saturday. These times are to cater to locals who work during the other regular business hours.
Adapted from an article which originally appeared in the Spring 2002 edition of Northern Lights
From his See of Yukon at Forty Mile, Bishop Bompas sent the Rev. E.P. Flewelling to the mouth of the Klondike River in 1896 to serve the needs of the gold miners arriving there. He first built a church at Lousetown (then called Klondike City) and then went on a tour of the creeks. When he came back, he found the ground under his church had been staked by miners and the land expropriated, so he moved to Moosehide and purchased 40 acres of titled land which he offered as a refuge for the local native people, the Han.
The Rev. J. Bowen was then sent to the new Dawson City and began services in a tent on the corner of the government reserve. A small log cabin replaced the tent until 1902 when the Rev. J R.H. Warren constructed the existing church which became the cathedral in 1905 with the consecration of Bishop Stringer who remained in Dawson until 1931.
The large church, now called the pro-cathedral since the See was moved to Whitehorse in 1953, was built for $15,000 over a four month period, opening for worship in August of 1902. It has been in continuous use ever since. The parish has seen the "boom' of 30,000 people in town and the "bust" of less than 1000. It now serves a town with a permanent winter population of about 2000, and a summer population of about 4,000 and welcomes 65,000 tourists in the five months of summer. The small group of present day regular faithful struggle to maintain a number of old and historic, and thus expensive to run, buildings.
St. Paul's is celebrating the 100th anniversary of worship in the big church with a number of centennial[ projects: a limited edition sterling silver broach shaped like the church has been crafted by local silversmith Sharon Edmunds; a limited edition print of an oil painting was commissioned from Yukon artist Anne Doyle; the a short history of the parish has been prepared by freelance writer Ken Spotswood; the parish hosted the diocesan Youth Conference over Victoria Day weekend, the construction of a special parade float, and a week of celebration from the 11th to 18th of August.
We will begin the week with a 1902 style service and end with a celebration on the 18th which is followed by a plaquing ceremony and a tea. The church was declared "a building of national historic importance" in 1967 but never received a plaque from the Historic Sites and Monument Board of Heritage Canada. All past rectors, bishops, and members of the church have been invited to come celebrate with us this summer and in particular during that week.
In June and July, the grounds received considerable attention. A new meditation area with benches was created at the north side of the front entrance. As noted last issue the new flagpole went up, shortly followed by the raising of the official flag. In addition, parish members created a huge centennial banner which was hung over the front door.
In addition, Saint Paul's has continued its summer tradition of having a tour guide on duty daily to greet visitors. The building is open from 1-8 p.m. (Tuesday and Wednesday) and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Thursday to Saturday).
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