Dawson City, Yukon Friday, August 30, 2002

The Yukon Order of Pioneers marches past the Old Territorial Administration Building, home of the Dawson City Museum. Photo by Anne Tyrrell

Feature Stories

Discovery Days Provides Several Festivals in One
Second Yukon Arts Festival
Celebrating the Power of the Pen
Yukon Poet's Works Hardly Known in His French Home
St. Paul's Receives National Historic Site Designation
The Hammerstone Gallery Tells the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Tale
Adams Takes First again in the Bathtub Ring
A Certified Lunatic Plays the Palace
Between the Dream and the Reality
Spaldings are Retreat's First Writing Couple
Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Contributes to Dawson City Museum Gallery
Three Fords and Three Generations Trek to the North

Welcome to the August 30, 2002 edition of the online Klondike Sun, which reproduces a selection of the 35 photographs and 24 articles that were in the 28 page August 27 hard copy edition. This edition is late in getting posted because ye editor has now returned to teaching (part time this year) after his sabbatical year and is having trouble adjusting to the pace.

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, including the winning entries in the Authors on Eighth writing contest. 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 (37,333 since July 2000), and we'd love to be sending out that many more papers. See our home page for subscription information.

Discovery Days Provides Several Festivals in One

by Dan Davidson

There were several Discovery Day Festivals going on in Dawson over the weekend, and the avid festival fan could have taken his or her pick of one or more of them, but there's still no way a person could have done it all.

Those of an historical bent could have started as early as August 13, when the audience to hear local historian John Gould filled the Museum's AV room and spilled out into the gift shop. John provided a slide show and talk on his 80 plus years, most of which have been spent in the Klondike.

History was also a part of the Klondike Visitors Association's 50th birthday party, which filled up Wednesday afternoon and early evening at Diamond Tooth Gerties.

On Thursday the Authors on Eighth Event (of which there will be more later) took in the literary glories of London, Service and Berton and provided an outlet for some never talent, while the Museum offered a taste of Jack London on film in the evening.

Friday was the day it became impossible to do it all.

The key event of the days was probably the Homecoming, which attracted close to 100 former Dawsonites from all over the place. They met in a tent lined with photographs and chatted long into the evening to the music of Top Cover, the band from Elmendorf Air Base in Alaska.

At the same time the Men's Fastball Tournament, which would eventually be won by the home team two days later, was getting under way in Minto Park; the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Art Show was underway at the Dänòja Zho Cultural Centre and the Klondike Institute of Arts and Culture's Yukon Arts Festival was beginning in a series of tents along the common just inside the dyke.

So, you seem, there was the Nostalgic Discovery Days, the Sporty Discovery Days and the Artsy Discovery Days, all intertwined with the usual Dawson summer activities from the KVA and Parks Canada.

About the only time everything came together was during the grand parade on Saturday at noon, when all the elements were fused into one long snake that began at the Museum, trundled north on 5th Avenue, west on Queen Street and south on Front back to the Arts Festival area, after which nearly everything which has been mentioned already continued in high gear, including more music by Top Cover, a set by Skagway's Deering and Down and a local youth band, Eyelash Tea. The music continued into the night with two dances, one at the Youth Centre and the other at the Odd Hall, after the art auction fund raiser.

Sunday was a day with a focus on history in the morning and on sports in the afternoon. St. Paul's Anglican Church celebrated its 100th anniversary with a special service at 10:30 and then was further recognized by receiving a plaque from the federal Historic Sites and Monuments Board at noon, followed by a reception on the porch of the Commissioner's Residence.

While the arts festival continued, the speeding bathtubs from Whitehorse began to arrive along the waterfront, having begun their breakneck ride in Whitehorse the day before. Meanwhile, the mud was flying in the North End as the "mudbog" drew a crowd of several hundred to watch the weird assortment of contestants.

Throughout the weekend, Parks Canada kept up a steady stream of "street theatre" presentations, including the popular "Sin in the City" show.

Coordinators Kelly Miller and Celeste Michon, both with the Klondyke Centennials Society, were tired but content when tracked down for a comment on Sunday afternoon. Events were going as well as, and sometimes better than, they had hoped for, though the traffic on Front Street was so heavy they weren't sure how they were going to get back to see the end of the mud bug contest.

Now, the weather in Dawson over this weekend was not the best. It was cloudy, it was windy, at times it was downright cold. It also rained a few times, but not when it really mattered.

A pair of German kayakers returning for their second year remarked on the difference.

"Last year it was shorts and t-shirts," said Eika, "but this year it is winter almost." Her partner, Jürgen, nodded energetically, and then swore to be back again next year.


Second Yukon Arts Festival

by Palma Berger

This strange piece of moving sculpture was part of the art festival. Photo by Dan Davidson

Dawson's Front Street was adorned with tents of all shapes and sizes on the dike by the gazebo. There was a good flow of people in and out. This was the second Annual Yukon Arts Festival as put on by Klondike Institute of Arts and Culture and took place over the Discovery Days weekend.

It has added to the Discovery Days weekend, in that it brings a whole new range of interests to this special weekend as well as bringing many different artists and artisans and those curious about the arts.

Joanne Dyck, this year's organizer managed to fill the shoes left by last year's great organizer, Kendra Wallace.

Joanne explained that the artists were sent personal invitations to ensure that the Festival had a good diversity of arts and artisans, as well as having good regional representation. So there were creative people from Yukon places such as Carcross, Whitehorse, and in the North West Territories, Inuvik,. They were sculptors, printmakers, painters, workers with fabric, glass blowing, knife making, photography, beading, moose hair tufting, basket weavers, jewellery makers, blacksmithers, pottery makers and fibre artists; all housed in the fourteen tents, and bringing more diversity than was available at the first Arts Festival.

The chance to try an art discipline oneself produced line-ups at the participating tables. There was a special tent for the very young people to try various forms of art . The teens were interested in the soapstone sculptors, as well as knife making. The adults were everywhere.

One of the artisans included Gail Hodder who is the Artistic Director of The Great Northern Arts Festival in Inuvik, NT. Gail came not only to participate, but to share ideas in the great art of getting an Arts Festival to happen.

There was even a busker, in the form of Chris Luedecke with his banjo. The plan is to co-ordinate more buskers for next year, as this is well received.

This year, power was available in the tents which increased the range of work that could be done. Maybe there was a heater in the tent for the drawing class with a live model.

It was a cool weekend, with a very heavy rain storm on the Friday, but the enthusiasm of the attendees did not cool off.

The other events went well also. Jay Armitage's slide show of "My Dawson City", Joanne Vriend's demonstration of raku firing, the dance that lasted till 3:00 a.m. with the Deering & Down band from Skagway. The movies on the dike (16 mm) were shown in a tent, and went till 4:00 a.m. with 16 people staying for the final one. The biggest hit was "Curious George went to Hospital" and was a form of animation using clay figures. The 46 pieces donated to the Art Auction raised $3,600.00 for the Odd Gallery. The Art Market tent sold over $5,000.00 worth of the artists' works. There was even a tarot card reader available.

Organising this was a big job. Joanne explained that if you think of the event as one pie made up of various segments. Each segment was given to one good person to manage. Thus Mindy Duchnitski cooked, arranged, organized meals and replenished food for the artists. She was ably assisted by Wayne, Aedes, and the members of the Humane Society. Gwen Bell organized the advertising with the supporting businesses: Megan Waterman the Art Market tent: Kerry Byrne the Youth Tent. The Bull Gang of putting up and taking down tents was headed by Paul Derhak and Paul Henderson assisted by Jeremy and Jesse. This is where there was another segment needed. Joanne said, "We had the brains with so many good people helping, but we surely needed some more brawn." More muscle and vehicles were needed not only with the tents, but also moving heavy stuff such as John Steins printing press, the kiln, and Karen Dubois's pottery wheel.

There was also more interaction with the businesses of Dawson this year. More businesses put in their discount coupons in the programme itself. Plus many agreed to display the art work of various Yukon Artists. This was well advertised and brought many visitors into the businesses. Joanne said. "The whole town becomes involved. This is the whole idea of the Arts Festival, that is something that can benefit the whole town." The Riverside Yukon Arts Festival could become a marketing tool for the future, as businesses could get in specialty lines for that particular weekend.

The whole week-end was one of learning new things, marveling at others' creativity, learning what talents you have buried deep in you that you have never realized.

Art is part of one's life acknowledged or not. As Nathalie Parenteau said, "artists are the interpreters of life they are sensitive to moments and they glorify them by amplifying their intensity."


Celebrating the Power of the Pen

by Dan Davidson

About forty people followed the Authors on Eighth event, ending here on the lawn at Berton House. Photo by Dan Davidson

One of the better Discovery Days ideas to come along in recent years has been the Authors on Eighth Avenue program, during which interested visitors and locals spend the better part of an afternoon celebrating the power of the pen.

At the risk of repeating myself, I will write record once again my conviction that this town of mine has avoided the fate of most gold rush communities largely because some talented writers have found their inspiration here and have continued to make it known to the world long after the original rush turned into the relatively boring corporate mining years, and long after the companies pulled up stakes.

Authors on Eighth is an extension of the summer long readings and presentations at the Jack London Centre and Robert Service Cabin, a joining of the commitments made by the Klondike Visitors Association and Parks Canada.

The London Centre was the first stop, fitting since he was here first. In fact the centre celebrates two writers, Jack London and Dick North, the journalist who helped find the cabin and whose collection of memorabilia kick started the interpretive centre at Jack London Square.

Dawn Mitchell took the crowd of forty or so (standing room only) through London's and North's careers and challenged the group to indulge in a little exercise in progressive story telling, the fractured results of which were read at the end of the session.

On then, to the Robert Service Cabin, where Johnny Noonan and company held forth on the works of the Yukon's Bard, and shared the spotlight with guests come all the way from Lancieux, France, where Service ended his days and is buried.

Just across the street sits the Berton Home, now home to the Berton House Writer in Residence Program. Resident writers Andrea and David Spalding played host here, presenting readings from the works of Pierre and his mother, Laura, as well as some excerpts from their own work. There was even a reading by yours truly.

Then Justine McKellar and Johnny Noonan took over to present the winning and runner up entries in the second annual writing contest. The topic this year was "What Does the North Mean to You?" and the winners, neither of whom were on site to collect, were a pair of Northern enthusiasts.

Judith Murphy, of Fairbanks, wrote around 1300 words on the story of how she relocated from Seattle to Alaska after a childhood spent steeped in the works of London and Service. "Go North, Go Home" took the prose prize.

Ken Blacklock, of Alberta, submitted a Service-like paean of praise to the works of both writers. "The Spell of the Northland" took the poetry prize.

Runners up were Barry Rempel of Glennallen, AK, with "What is the North to Me? and Bernd Walker, of Dawson, with "The Repentance of Whiskey Joe".

The crowd stayed pretty constant at between 35 and 40 people for the whole afternoon. The judges indicated that they thought the material was better (and more on topic) than last year's submissions. Those interested in entering next summer should start sharpening their pencils now.


Yukon Poet's Works Hardly Known in His French Home

by Dan Davidson

The Lancieux delegation poses with a large photograph of Robert Service's Brittany home, Dream Haven, in front of the Service Cabin in Dawson. Yann Herry, of the Society Franco-Yukonnaise, and Andre Gilbert, the Mayor of Lancieux, are flanking the group here. Marie Conan is the woman holding the left side of the house photo. The others are the students. Photo by Dan Davidson

This week in Dawson former students of the Robert Service Primary School in Lancieux are getting to see another Robert Service School, as well as getting a look at the other home that was such a key influence in the life of one of their home town's most famous citizens.

It's one of the ironies of literary history that Robert W. Service is not well known for his poetry in the town where he spent much of his life after leaving the Yukon. From 1914 on, his home base was a house he called Dream Haven, in Lancieux, a small town in Brittany, on the west side of France. There, he became known for his philanthropy, and people gradually became aware that this man was, as Mayor Andre Gilbert puts it, "famous in the Ango-Saxon world."

According to Yann Herry of the Association Franco-Yukonnaise, only one of Service's books, a novel called The Trail of Ninety-Eight, had been translated into French until fairly recently. It's a project that's being undertaken now, but it's a tough chore. Service's work is heavily dependent upon the rhythms and rhymes of English, and such poetry is notoriously hard to translate well.

Still, Lancieux is starting to appreciate its world famous former resident, and several events over the last few years have caused locals to sit up and take notice. Since the town has an economy which is largely based on tourism, it is not surprising residents would appreciate anything that might increase interest in the area. Service may not be mentioned in the town's official website yet, but it's only a matter of time.

One of the first steps was to rename the local elementary school after the poet in May, 2002.

Marie Conan is the vice-president of an organization called Rivage (Shores) de Lancieux and she, along with the mayor, is heading up this little pilgrimage to the Yukon, returning a visit that Herry and a group of Whitehorse students made the year before. Jean-Baptiste Bia, Edwidge Cavan, Elise Dagorne and Margaux Renault are quite obviously no longer elementary school students, but they used to attend Robert Service.

Service lived in Lancieux for about four months of each year (the rest spent travelling or in Monaco) and is buried there. He immortalized Dream Haven in a poem which has been translated into French and bears some thematic resemblance to the poem he wrote in honour of the little cabin he inhabited in Dawson City.

In Lancieux, Conan said, Service was known primarily for his good works.

"He helped with the electricity. He helped poor people. He helped the church. He helped with a war memorial in front of the church and also with the school.

"So the mayor had the idea to name it Robert Service School.,"

The push for more interest in Service's life and work has come from a lady named Marie Dagorne, who was a childhood friend of his daughter, Iris (Service) Davis. She has been instrumental in promoting an awareness of Service and his poetry.

"It's thanks to her that people in Lancieux know about him."

The exchange trips have also raised awareness of his work, as have celebrations that took place there in 1990 and 2000. The latter of these was attended by a large group of Yukoners, including Mayor Glen Everitt.

Conan was happy with the fine weather on Friday, and not put off by prospects of rain.

"I think we have some of the same weather," she said, adding that this was something else the two places had in common.

Lancieux has a year round population of about 1200, actually smaller than Dawson but it balloons to around 7,000 in the summer, due to tourism, which is its major economic activity.

Conan thinks its a minor scandal that more people in Lancieux don't know about Service's work, but understands it.

"In order to understand his poetry I think you have to visit the country. I've read many of his poems, but now, I think I understand more and I will read more."

The Lancieux delegation took place in the Authors On Eighth event during the Discovery Days weekend, visiting the Jack London, Robert Service and Pierre Berton sites during the afternoon, listening to readings, and contributing their own verse to the presentation at the Service cabin.


St. Paul's Receives National Historic Site Designation

by Dan Davidson

Bishop Terry Buckle and Archdeacon John Tyrrell unveil the dedication plaque, along with MP Larry Bagnell. Photo by Dan Davidson

Saint Paul's Anglican Church celebrated its centennial on Sunday, August 19, bringing to an end a week of events which commenced with an old-fashioned Book of Common Prayer service the previous Sunday, and included the congregation's active participation in the Discovery Days parade, in which one of their floats won first prize.

The special Sunday service was a two part affair, one spiritual, one secular. Inside the building, Bishop Terry Buckle presided over the 10:30 Communion Service before a larger than usual crowd. The service was noteworthy for the presentation of two special anthems by the ecumenical community choir, which received a spontaneous ovation from the congregation after its second hymn.

Outside, a 140 pound bronze plaque awaited its turn to be the centre of attention.

Saint Paul's was first designated a National Historic Site back in the 1960s, but the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada didn't get the plaque made until prompted by the incumbent priest, the Venerable John Tyrrell, to help the congregation mark its anniversary.

The building, which had become quite decrepit over the years, has benefited from a renovation program which restored it to fuller use in time for the town's gold rush centennial years on the mid-1990s. It is actually the third church building on the site, the first having been a log structure erected during the tenure of the Reverend J. Bowen which the congregation outgrew at the turn of the century. That building was doubled in size, but still didn't meet the need.

The Reverend J.R.H. Warren oversaw the planning and construction of the new building, which was financed by local money, including an especially large donation from the miners of the day, in 1902. The building is described by HSMBC as "as significant example of frontier mission architecture. Its simple design blends Gothic Revival Style, including stained glass windows and well-crafted woodwork, with other stylistic details." It cost $15,000 at the time.

The ceremony was led by Gerald Isaac, a former member of the congregation and the Yukon's member of the HSMBC. He introduced retired Archdeacon Ken Snider, who led in prayer, and Michael Davidson, who led in the singing of "O Canada".

Isaac said, "I am particularly proud to be here in Dawson City for this celebration as Dawson City is my home community."

The Board has been responsible for the placement of more than 1,000 such plaques over the 80 years of its existence, most of them a result of a recommendation by the public at large.

"This church, from its construction, symbolized something very specific and important - the presence of God among the people. It began and continues to be a place of worship," Bishop Buckle told the audience.

Archdeacon John Tyrrell spoke of the history of the church, which actually was first used in late June of 1902, and fully finished for use in late August of that year.

"This building has had a lot done to it. It's been picked up; parked out in the road; its foundation has been restored; it's been put back; the interior has been gutted restored and rewired and restored to look almost the same as it did when it was first used in services in 1902."

St. Paul's was the original cathedral of the diocese, but lost that status when the capital city and the centre of the church were relocated to Whitehorse. This is why the building is now technically known as the "pro-cathedral."

Yukon's M.P. Larry Bagnell, in Dawson for a brief visit before heading off to a special federal caucus meeting early in the week, spoke next. Bagnell, himself an Anglican, often attends this church when he is able to be in town on a Sunday.

Bagnell delivered a speech on behalf of the Honourable Sheila Copps, the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

"Our national historic sites contribute to our Canadian identity in many ways. They tell us about our history but they also do much more. They depict the diversity of our cultures and experiences that have made Canada what it is today."

Bagnell noted that the building was first recognized as being significant in 1967 and said that "it is appropriate that it is going to be "plaqued" on the 100th anniversary of its establishment ... (It) has ministered to first nations and people of this area and the hundreds of miners and settlers who settled here."

Bagnell then joined Bishop Buckle and Archdeacon Tyrrell in the unveiling of the plaque.

The choir followed this with the singing of all three verses of "God Save the Queen".

A reception on the front porch of the Commissioner's concluded the afternoon's events.


The Hammerstone Gallery Tells the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Tale

by Dan Davidson

The fish camp tableau is an attempt to represent how the Hn might have used the Tr'ochk site, often known in Goldrush histories as Klondike City or Lousetown. Photo by Dan Davidson

The Dänòja Zho (Long Time Ago House) Cultural Centre has become a keystone in the interpretive history of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in people during the last few months. While there were earlier cultural displays in the circular room at the north end of the building, they lacked focus.

Glenda Bolt, on loan to the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in from Parks Canada, has been instrumental in helping the first nation's cultural planners get the new site up and running.

During late April and early May a work crew from Birds Eye Designs transformed the circular display room at the south end of the building into a first nation's interpretive site.

The gallery now opens to the sight of a set of benches in the center of the room, framed by artificial trees, a good place to sit and take in the room.

Beginning at the right of the entrance, the room contains a series of three dimensional tableaux and photo displays that commemorate the history of the Han people, beginning with the fish camp at the Tr'ochëk site (recently declared a national historic landmark by the Department of Canadian Heritage).

Past the tent frame, drying rack and canoe, the room continues with a set of themed photo panels. The first commemorates the life and times of Chief Isaac, who guided the Han people from before the gold rush until well into the 1930s. He was instrumental in cooperating with the Anglican Reverend Flewelling in relocating the Hän to Moosehide, where they lived for nearly 60 years.

The Moosehide years and what Bolt calls "a tiny part on the dark days that followed" are dealt with briefly, but a large portion of the eastern side of the circle is given over to a celebration of the revival of native culture, using the costumes from the readers' play "Beat of the Drum", and a display on the politics that led to the land claims settlement of a few years ago.

All of these segments, cultural and political, are seen as different ways of addressing the hard issues from the century long association between the two cultures in this region.

Finally, the circle closes with an account of the law suits and settlements that finally reclaimed the Tr'ochëk site for the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in, ending with the former Klondike City and Lousetown becoming a national historic site. Some of the archeological finds from the several seasons of work on the site are on display.

Outside the gallery, the main room next to the gift shop contains displays on the history of the biannual Moosehide Gatherings, the latest of which has just occurred, as well as an extensive photo display on the work of the Canadian Rangers.


Adams Takes First again in the Bathtub Ring

by Dan Davidson

Holding the plaques are Dave Fowler (left) and Travis Adams (right), the winners of the two classes in the NMI Mobility Bathtub Race. They are surrounded by their crews. Photo by Dan Davidson

Travis Adams made it two in a row and picked up a $1400 cash prize for himself and his team in the 2002 running of the NMI Mobility bathtub Race. His total time for the race was 13 hour, 58 minutes and 46 seconds. It was a comfortable distance ahead of his brother, Jason, who arrived in Dawson with a total time of about 27 minutes longer.

Third place in the B Class (8 horsepower motors) went to the team of Roy Adair.

Travis, a bit of a joker, enlivened the race by spending part of it dressed as Bathtub Man.

The classes in the bathtub race are determined by the size of the engine and the craft. Dave Fowler, from Chilliwack, was first in the C class with a time of 14:33:21, for a prize of $1,000.

Young Tom Eschak came in second, but set a record at the awards ceremony for being the only racer not to be on the receiving end of some slightly suggestive comment by the emcee, who happened to be his mother, the ever buoyant Marj Eschak.

It was a Tom who almost achieved a boyhood dream on the river when the silhouette he was approaching turned out to be a black bear. The impulse to reach out and pat it as he floated by was only quashed when he looked back to see that his support boat was nowhere in sight.

Bill Bloor picked up third place in that class.

Two of the eleven starters did not finish the race, which was pursued under much colder conditions than in other recent years.

Some of the most concise comments came from the slower boats, who spent the most time in the cold Yukon River under rather chilly conditions this year.

For Mike Murphy the best moment was simple: "We got here. I rang the bell. I did better 'n last year."

Bill Bloor's thoughts were similar: "We made it. It's a lot of fun and we'll do it again next year."

Bloor was also the person who came closest to danger, having been whacked by his own support boat. It was quite a blow, as he told the story.

"It could have hurt more for sure. It was a good impact, I guess, He coulda run over me and he just pushed me off to the side.

"I was skipping already in the rocks and when he hit me - he'd powered up 'cause he could see he was gonna hit me, and he was trying to come out of it - he kicked me with his (rear) end with the bow. I'm amazed that the bow didn't kick down into those rocks and just split her right apart, but it bounced right away from it. We're lucky I guess.

"I just wanted to go faster after that to keep away from him."

Marj Eschak was full of praise for the support boats and the sweepers who helped to keep the race safe. When a tub was in trouble, she said, the sweepers were there "just like clockwork" until the support boat could catch up.

The full house at the Downtown Hotel was entertained by the Kapital Kickers, who mounted a Red Monty dance (that's tripping down to the red long Johns) and also made life miserable - er - fun for the last place tub pilot, Collin Varga, a young man who made his craft in shop class at school. He had to don the uniform and dance a can-can with them.


A Certified Lunatic Plays the Palace

by Dan Davidson

Kubinek was standing with the glass (between his knees) on his forehead when this began. At the end of this maneuver he drinks the wine without touching it with his hands. Note that he is playing the banjo while all this goes on.

It takes an incredibly talented performer to show you a bungled version of a slight of hand trick, explain to you how another one was performed and still manage to take you in with both of them later in the same show.

Again, one cannot help but be impressed by the physical ability of a fellow who describes a seemingly impossible feat of contortion and manipulation in terms that seem quite over the top, and then does pretty close to what he described, in slow motion, right in front of you.

Tomas Kubinek dazzled his Palace Grand audience with both these feats and a number of others during his show here on August 10.

The self-billed "Certified Lunatic" arrived on stage as a charming and self-effacing old world type who was just going to tell you a few stories about his life. The mere sight of his beaming face, ridiculous hair and theatrical manner had the audience giggling in anticipation before he had actually done anything.

The show was an almost seamless assemblage of stage tricks, silly jokes, and physical humour, all fastened together by Kubinek's ongoing patter and the clear invitation to simply join in the fun. Do not resist me, he seemed to say, you WILL enjoy yourself.

Kubinek didn't need a lot of props. He was his own best asset. Nevertheless, we were treated to the delightful six-footed prosthetic dance, a whirl about the stage on a unicycle (with wings!), a variety of tricks with handkerchiefs, eggs, adjustable (and disappearing) body parts and even a bit of audience participation.

It was, in short, a delightful afternoon.


Between the Dream and the Reality

by Dan Davidson

Is Francesca casting a spell on the audience or on herself? Photo by Dan Davidson

There's something about the world of show business that makes fools of us all - wonderful fools, perhaps, but fools nonetheless. That's certainly the case with young Francesca, who is willing to do almost anything to escape the tedium of a high school classroom and the tyranny of Miss Marguerite.

We meet her in that classroom in a school for wayward girls, outwardly compliant, while in her mind she is "marchin' to the beat of my own drum" and playing it as loudly as she can to drown out the world. Shortly after we meet her she is in trouble, and not long after that she is running away to anywhere other than that place and time, to a destiny she has loosely fashioned in her head.

We spend quite a bit of time in her head, and we quickly realize that she sees the world naively through a pair of rose coloured glasses. That's why it's so easy for her to join the circus, and become part of its girlie show without actually realizing what she is doing.

For Francesca, the circus is simply a place where "something beautiful is lurking in the air ... and beautiful lies are spun into a web of reality".

Actually, she's not all that anchored to reality, and sometimes we get an entire dream sequence played out before she interrupts it to tell us the events didn't really happen that way.

We watch her learn how to do an act, under the instruction of Madame Eva ("eyes and teeth, dahlink") and see her progress from terrible to not very good, knowing, as she does not, that there is a worm in the apple of her pleasure, just waiting for her to bite it.

When it comes, we are actually a little surprised at how she handles the situation. It appears she is not willing to do "anything" to be part of the show after all. It also appears that she is far from totally crushed by her new understanding, and we leave her on the threshold of a new dream.

All of this comes to us in the form of a play called "Not Yet, Not at All", which graced the stage of the Palace Grand Theatre on August 12. Francesca and all the other parts were played by Edith Tankus, who developed the piece with her partner, Tomas Kubinek.

Edith quite dazzles the audience as she switches from character to character. She is a skilled physical comedian who can project a lot of different moods and emotions with her body language and her facial expressions.

There are no costume changes to speak of during the play and only one or two props, used in very different ways depending on the person. This, along with a change of stance and voice, is enough to populate the stage with a sadistic nun, a carnival barker, a sleazy dancer and, of course, wide-eyed Francesca.

The major piece of scenery is a curtain, which serves as a curtain, window, blackboard, tent and all purpose backdrop. It's hooked to a trapeze swing, which performs a very essential function in the story.

According to the program notes, "Not Yet, Not at All" is Edith Tankus first solo piece. Chances are it will not be her last.


Spaldings are Retreat's First Writing Couple

by Dan Davidson

David and Andrea Spalding at Berton House. They will be leaving Dawson at the end of the month and doing a couple of readings in Whitehorse as they go. Photo by Dan Davidson

Ask Andrea and David Spalding how they feel about Dawson City and two pairs of eyes light up. When they were accepted as applicants for the Berton House Writers Retreat their only disappointment was that they were going to have to wait a year. When it turned out that a few of the people in front of them couldn't make it this summer and that there was an opening, they jumped at it.

It happens that Laura Berton's I Married the Klondike was one of the first Canadian books they read when they moved here from England in 1967.

"I remember saying to David, 'Oh, I'd love to go up to the Yukon.' And here we are," Andrea said.

The only problem they could see was that the fourth volume of their joint Adventure.net series was supposed to take place in Prince Edward Island.

"We couldn't see coming to Dawson and not writing about the Klondike," Andrea said, so they contacted their publisher, Whitecap Books, and suggested that they relocate the book. Not a problem.

For Andrea, being in a place is an essential precondition to writing about it.

"You want authentic background, and when you go to a place it's all the incidental things that you find out that matter. When you describe a place most people don't know whether you've got the trees right, but the people living there sure do."

"We came with just the germ of an idea," David said, "and spent a month going around doing things and seeing things."

The Adventure.net books tell the adventures of Willow and Rick, two siblings who travel around a lot with their parents. Strange things happen where ever they go and there are always mysteries to solve that are connected with the history of the places they've been.

At a summer camp in Ontario they find an old sketch made by a member of the Group of Seven. In Kaslo, B.C., there's a treasure map and a ghost ship. In Alberta there are mysterious events at a paleontological dig.

And in Dawson there will be? Well, that would be telling too much, and neither of them like to talk much about works in progress, but there are some broad hints. It will deal with the present and the past, and will be set in both Dawson City and Klondike City, as the Tr'ochëk site was once known.

Said Andrea, "We felt there was a plethora of books about the gold rush, but not many set in what Dawson is now."

The books usually deal with a lost something or other, and this one will feature an unpublished poem by Robert Service, which the Spaldings have set themselves the task of writing in pastiche.

"This meant," said David, "that we had to find a subject that was like one he would have used, but for some mysterious reason he didn't."

They thought of a number of fairly gross topics, but the series is aimed at 7 to 14 year olds and they don't want it banned from schools.

"The Bishop (Stringer) who ate his boots seemed a likely topic," David said, "so we've got a couple of rough drafts that we're tossing back and forth now."

"It's causing us great hilarity; we're having such fun with it," Andrea added.

The Spaldings are the first writing couple to set up housekeeping in Berton House. Some writers have had spouses visit for part of the residency and one brought both wife and child, but a working partnership is a new thing.

There weren't enough chairs in the living room, nor were there two writing chairs or two actual desks. Fortunately their matching orange iBooks don't take up a lot of room and living room chairs were donated shortly after they arrived.

The Spaldings write individually as well as together. David has specialized in non-fiction books (Into the Dinosaur Graveyard and Whales of the West Coast), but has joined Andrea for the Adventure.Net series. She has been a prolific author of children's picture books (Me and Mr. Mah, It's Raining, It's Pouring) and young adult novels (Finders, Keepers and An Island of My Own).

Her latest novel, The White Horse Talisman, appeared in paperback just before they came to Dawson, and a picture book, Solomon's Tree, has been issued since they arrived. The project she brought with her was to finish a draft of the second volume of the Summer of Magic Quartet, which she has completed.

David also has several projects under way, including some articles about aspects of life in Dawson. His particular interest is in geology and paleontology. When they lived in Alberta, he was instrumental in the establishment of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Drumheller.

They have often worked as a team. Andrea wrote and they both acted and sang in a nationally broadcast kids' television program called Storytime for about four years.

Between the two of them they often have a dozen or more projects on the go from their home on Pender Island. David characterizes himself as a researcher and planner kind of a writer, while Andrea sees herself as working from her intuition.

"The delight about coming to a place like this," said Andrea, "is that you get the body of information. We've been trying to write half days and then go out and do the research. Then that body of research stays with you and things surface for years after."

The Spaldings certainly plan to promote the retreat now that they've experienced it. They knew about it personally from Julie Lawson, who was here a few years ago and is still turning out Klondike influenced books for toddlers and teens. David and Andrea plan to put an article in the Writers' Union of Canada newsletter, but even without that, they predict that the profile of Berton House is only going to get bigger.

"There's nothing like it in Canada," David said.


Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Contributes to Dawson City Museum Gallery

Chief Darren Taylor and Museum Director Paul Thistle. Photo submitted by the Tr'ondk Hwch'in

The Board of the Dawson City Museum & Historical Society is pleased to announce that it has received a contribution totalling $5,000 from the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Chief and Council in support of the work done to create the Museum's new exhibit gallery focussing on the pre-gold rush history of the Klondike region.

The new exhibits deal in part with pre-contact winter and summer camps of the Haan people who inhabited this region long before the arrival of non-Natives. The winter camp displays a dog pack that the Museum was extremely pleased to receive from elder Annie Henry. The summer camp focuses on the importance of the mouth of the Klondike river as a prominent fishing location. Also on exhibit inside the new John G. Lind Gallery are the trade goods that were part of the extensive pre-contact exchange system between the Athapaskans of the Yukon interior and the Tlingit groups from the Northwest Pacific coast. A diorama in the Lind gallery portrays the significant event surrounding the production of the Kohklux map that symbolizes the invaluable knowledge provided by First Nations peoples allowing the newcomers to make effective use of all the transportation routes in the region.

All those associated with the Dawson City Museum wish to express our sincere appreciation for the financial support from the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in and cooperation in our efforts to interpret the entire history of this important region.

Everyone is invited to come out and view the new exhibits funded in part by the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in. The Dawson City Museum is open from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. seven days a week. Museum members are admitted free of charge.


Three Fords and Three Generations Trek to the North

by Dan Davidson

James Ahearn, Shawn Mills, Arthur Mills and John Mills pose with their vintage Ford trucks in front of the Third Avenue Complex. Photo by Dan Davidson

Three generations of the Mills family are on their way home from Inuvik this week, making the return trip to Andover, New York, after a 5,000 mile trek to the North. They passed through Dawson City on August 2.

High school graduate Shawn Mills was accompanied by his father, John, his grandfather, Arthur, and his other grandfather, James Ahearn.

They made the trip in three ancient Ford pick-up trucks, two from 1948 and one from 1939, which look like they have seen better days, but are still running on their original engines.

These old beaters are working trucks on the Mills' New York farm, so they have never been beautified, though they have been maintained in working mechanical order.

"This is still the original paint on it - what's left of it" said John, gesturing to the rusty, reddish 1939 model, the smallest of the three vehicles.

Andover is in western New York state, south of Buffalo. The family runs a trucking business and dairy farm there.

Ahearn, who has been to Dawson a couple of times in the past (1969 and 1999) has a couple of Model A Fords and had been planning to make the trip in one of those, but John and the others talked him into using the trucks instead. They've been camping along the way - each truck has a small canopy on the back - and staying in motels about every third night to give themselves a break and get cleaned up.

"The fella I was going to come with, his wife had minor surgery and he didn't think he should travel," Ahearn said. So when John suggested the truck trek, he was game, but he had to wait for them to get the '39 running. It had to be wired, needed new seats, a gas tank, and a few other necessities, but it was all easily done.

John Mills said the '39 Ford hadn't been run in at least 30 years, maybe 40, while the two '48s have just been used around Andover, mostly for just entertainment. They all passed a state mechanical inspection before the trip. James said the insurance company was a bit stickier about it, "but we didn't tell them everything about where we were going."

The men expect to have been on the road about a month by the time they get home again, having begun on July 27.


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