Dawson City, Yukon Friday, August 7, 1998

The Tr'ondek Hwech'in celebrate their heritage with games and activities at Moosehide. More on this next issue. Photo by Kevin Hastings

Feature Stories

Music Festival Celebrates 20 Years
Reading Recovery Coming to a School near You
Seven Days of Discovery
Dawson Rates High with "On the Road Again"
The Robert Service Show: "Somehow the Gold Isn't All"
Dempster Stamp Launched in Dawson
Canada Post Gets Second Computer
New Record Set by Australian Runner in Dome Race
Palace Pianist Tickled to Be Here
Editorial: Where's There's Smoke
Farewell to the Sun and Dawson

Welcome to the online edition of the August 7, 1998 Klondike Sun. In hard copy we produced 20 pages, 7 photos, 28 articles and three (3!!!) pages of letters to the editor, some of which came from this posted edition. We hope you enjoy this sampling.

Music Festival Celebrates 20 Years

by Dan Davidson

At the Palace Grand Theatre on Tuesday night music festival director Glenda Bolt informed the audience that the board had decided, after attending many centennial events over the past few months, to make their 20th anniversary a "speech free" zone.

Big challenge. This is a MUSIC festival after all. Still, there wasn't a lot of oral back slapping during most of the six day extravaganza. This may have been because most of the directors and volunteers were too busy.

President Karen Dubois says that the festival set out to do a number of things differently this year. One of them was to involve more than just Dawson in the event. That was the inspiration for the kick-off concert in Whitehorse (not just to make them jealous) and the River of Gold Trip, along with the community concerts in Carmacks and Minto Landing.

The trip itself had something to do with determining a few of the artists who would be invited to perform, Dubois said. There had to be a basic core of people who could commit to making the trip.

Aside from that, the festival directors felt a bit more unrestrained this year in choosing their line-up.

Dubois says the process was a bit "self-indulgent" this year, without the attempts made in previous years to sample the whole of the musical spectrum. "We picked people who had bonded in some way with the Yukon."

They picked people with a good track record at the festival, favorites who lighted up the stage. In some cases, like Rawlins Cross, the group's repertoire was so well known that people could call out for favorites. Fittingly, they were chosen as the main stage dance band for the closing night of the festival.

Main stage was not, of course, the only place where music happened during the festival. It began in the Palace Grand Theatre, and that venue was used throughout the weekend whenever it didn't interfere with other functions which normally take place there.

Likewise, there were concerts and workshops in both Saint Paul's and Saint Mary's churches and, of course, at the Front Street Gazebo.

The four main stage evenings were supplemented by five concerts in the smaller venues, along with a dance for the younger set at the Youth Centre. Aside from that, there were 22 workshops and 2 kids' concerts. No one could have taken in everything that there was to be seen and heard. It was difficult even to see all the acts once apiece unless you had dedicated the weekend to the endeavor.

Speaking of dedicated, the DCMF struck 19 separate committees to coordinate the weekend, and drafted so many people that they wouldn't fit in the festival program.

The final indulgence was the creation of a commemorative double CD set containing work by 37 artists who have been friends of the festival over the years. Seventeen of these acts were actually at this year's festival, so it's an excellent package.

Early Sunday evening, Karen Dubois was feeling ebullient about the whole thing. The DCMF had managed to slay the dragon of the Liquor Corporation and continue to hold what she and fellow director John Steins had described as a family event right through the six month battle. You could see that aspect of the festival all around: kids playing in the park; parents dancing with babies strapped in snugglies and backpacks; tots curled up on the floor in the three joined tents while their parents listened to the music.

The fine weather throughout the weekend allowed people without passes to get a good earful of the party without going inside.

The final night has to run on a tight timetable. People wanting encores had to be disappointed. The community permits the festival to party into the wee hours on Friday (which is said to have wrapped up at 3:30 Saturday morning) and Saturday, but Sunday leads into Monday, another working day, and while they are just about all working days in Dawson this time of the year, there are a few people who want a decent night's sleep.


Reading Recovery Coming to a School near You

by Jocelyn Bell
Sun Reporter

Grade one can be a really difficult year for children who are struggling to learn to read. For kids who don't pick up basic concepts -- like the fact that the message in a story book comes from the text, not the pictures -- grade one can feel like huge and frustrating jigsaw puzzle.

But new help is on the way. A teaching method, developed in New Zealand 20 years ago, is making its official appearance in Yukon schools come September.

The program, called Reading Recovery, intervenes in a child's struggle to learn to read in the first grade, and research shows that an astounding 99 per cent of kids who go through the 20-week program never again require special help with fundamental reading and writing skills.

A few years ago, Whitehorse teacher Aileen McCorkell went to Ontario to be trained as a teacher leader for the Reading Recovery program. McCorkell spent last year passing her knowledge onto seven teachers in the Yukon, one of whom was Joann Vriend. Vriend is a teaching assistant at Robert Service School here in Dawson and started putting Reading Recovery to work last year as she was being trained.

She says that for the most part, Reading Recovery isn't a new method of helping a child learn to read, it just takes all the best methods and individualizes them for a student's particular needs.

Vriend has been working closely with the kindergarten teacher to spot all the children who are at risk of having reading difficulty in years to come. At risk students will be tested for letter and number recognition, phonemic awareness, and print concepts. Some may only know three or four letters of the alphabet, may or may not be able to print their own name, might not have realized that we read from left to right, or understand the connection between hearing a word and seeing it on the page.

In the group of 'at risk' students, those with the lowest test scores and who are the oldest will be first to qualify for the program.

Then, with the approval of the child's parents, Vriend will work one-on-one with the student for a half-hour each day for about 20 weeks. For their part, the parents have to agree to read with their child every night.

Every lesson is laid out in more or less the same way, Vriend said. It begins with reading the book from the day before, then moves on to writing and then a new book is read.

Many of these students already feel frustrated and don't want to read. So the first part of the program is about building up the child's confidence. "As soon as they realize I'm not going to demand the impossible, they're happy to read," Vriend said.

In the first two weeks of the program, the teacher and the student will spend time doing things the child already knows how to do.

"There's always a big concept of having the child practice what he already knows so he or she thinks of himself as a reader."

The reading books range from level one through 16. At level one, Vriend pointed out, it's pretty hard for a child to go wrong. The books are set up with a single word on one page and a corresponding picture on the opposite page. A book entitled "cr" has crayon, crane and a few more pages of 'cr' words with pictures. By level 16, it's a full-out story about duck-billed dinosaurs and a tyrannosaurus rex.

But more important than the words getting increasingly more difficult, is that students in the Reading Recovery program learn how to go about decoding unknown words on their own, making them independent learners.

Many children who have difficulty with reading will get in the habit of asking the student next to them or asking their parent for help. "We're teaching them ways of figuring out a word without having to go to someone else," said Vriend.

When Reading Recovery was initially researched, its founder, Marie Clay observed children who were successfully learning to read and watched their methods. Clay found that readers will figure out an unknown word using the context that the word is in, the structure of language surrounding the word and the sounds of the letters.

"It's pretty hard to be a good reader if you don't use all three," said Vriend.

Instead of just correcting a mistake, students are encouraged to read for meaning. "You're always asking them, 'Does this look right?' and 'Does it sound right?'," Vriend explained.

One part of the Reading Recovery method that Vriend hasn't seen in any other teaching method is what she calls 'phonemic awareness.' This is basically the step that has to come before a child look at an unknown word and 'sound it out.' Some kids have trouble breaking down the sounds that make up a word. For example, a child may not be able to say that the word 'cat' is made up of 'c', 'a' and 't' sounds. "For kids who can't sound it out, you teach them to first hear it so they can then sound it out," Vriend said.

To 'graduate' from Reading Recovery, children have to be able to read the books at level 16, print 40 words from memory, and have a processing system in place for attacking unfamiliar words.

Some kids may require another week or two of help, but Vriend says most will leave the program, be on par with their classmates and never look back.


Seven Days of Discovery

by Jocelyn Bell
Sun Reporter

One hundred years after the Klondike Gold Rush, this year's Discovery Festival organizers are promising seven days jam packed with celebratory events.

Starting Tuesday, August 11 and ending Monday, August 17, the festival is as long as it was in 1996, which was the centennial year of the discovery of gold at Bonanza Creek.

Bedecked in gold nugget jewelry, Discovery Festival Coordinator Jamie Wiltsey spoke excitedly of the festival.

This year, special emphasis will be put on the descendants of the Gold Rush.

"We treat the descendants like gold," she said, accidentally making a pun. Over 160 descendants have already confirmed their presence at the festival. Events for descendants only include a barbecue at the Triple J on August 14th and their own gold panning competition.

For the rest of the festival-goers, day one opens at 5 p.m. at the Palace Grand with a ceremony and a fashion extravaganza. Turn of the century fashion will be paraded down a catwalk for viewers' enjoyment and the descendants will arrive via a flotilla along the Yukon River.

Wednesday, August 12 has been dubbed "Klondyke Kids Day" and begins at 2 p.m. at Minto Park. "It's everything a kid could possibly want to do," said Wiltsey. All kinds of games, balloons, cotton candy, ice cream and prizes make up this day, as does the Great Chilkoot Climb, in which kids have to climb a mountain made out of plywood, run through a hose (simulating the river voyage), stake a claim and pan for gold.

Thursday at the museum is the "Silver Screen Film Festival." Films about Dawson and the Gold Rush will be shown from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Friday, the Red Feather Saloon will be reopened at 2 p.m. so festival goers can relive the excitement of an 1898 saloon (minus the alcoholic beverages).

"Saturday is the big day," promised Wiltsey.

The days kicks off with a Pancake breakfast at the Bonanza Centre starting at 8 a.m. for early risers and going till noon.

The Joe Boyle parade follows the breakfast at noon. Joe Boyle was one of the first people to bring dredges into the Klondike Valley in 1905. He also did a lot of work staging events in the community, many of which were for children. Wiltsey said that at the parade they'll be paving the streets with gold -- gold foil wrapped gum, that is. The prize for the best float is $1898. And kids who want to decorate their bikes and ride in the parade can meet at 10:30 a.m. in the parking lot behind the Fire Hall.

After the parade, there's a fair from 1 to 5 p.m. at the old YTG yard on 5th Ave. The fair will be set up to look like an 1898 town with wall tents and merchants, including a barber and a masseuse, will open their flaps for business. Other events going on Saturday afternoon are a Skateboard Competition, a Gold Pouring, a Horticultural Show and Quilt Display at the Commissioner's Residence, and a Pioneers Open House at the YOOP Hall at 4 p.m.

"We wanted lots of kids stuff because there's never enough for kids to do in this town," explained Wiltsey.

Saturday night is the time to get out your Stetson and cowboy boots for the Klondike Country Jamboree. Headlining the night is Jason McCoy, stopping in Dawson on his tour across Canada. Also performing that night are Dawson's own Pointer Brothers and Straight, Clean and Simple from Alberta. The show will be held at the Bonanza Centre, starting at 8 p.m.

Sunday begins with another pancake breakfast, again from 8 a.m. to noon. Going on at the same time is the Ridge Road Relay. Registration is at 9 a.m. and the race begins at 10 a.m.

Then the afternoon can be spent at the very popular Klondike Krunch. "This is fun. It's cool," said Wiltsey. This demolition derby is in its 7th year and prizes will be given out for most sportsman like, the best dressed car, best hit of the day, and so on. The smash up starts under the Moosehide Slide at Hospital Hill at 1 p.m. Also scheduled for Sunday are a dedication to the Lind Family at the museum and a Canoe Race at 11 a.m.

Monday is a statutory holiday and the party's moving out of town and onto Discovery Claim at Kilometre 15 up Bonanza Creek Road. A shuttle will depart hourly from the Visitor Reception Centre on Front Street for a return fee of $4. The day will include story telling from gold rush descendants, a gold pouring, live music, and barbecued salmon and moose burgers.

It'll be a big week for Dawson and its history, and a big week for Wiltsey, who's been hired for the summer to make it all happen. Luckily she's got a committee working on it with her. "We've got a good committee. "Everyone's helping out," she said, adding that volunteers are still needed.


Dawson Rates High with "On the Road Again"

by Dan Davidson

Wayne Rostad strikes a pose on Fifth Avenue. Photo by Dan Davidson

To hear Wayne Rostad tell the tale, one of the great ironies of his career in the entertainment business is contained in the name of his show. Nineteen years ago he took what was supposed to be a temporary job hosting a program called "Country Canada". It meant that he had to set aside his music career for a time, had to stop "going on the road", so to speak.

When that program shifted its focus from plants and livestock to the people who grow them, and then later simply to people, it got a name change and a face lift, and Rostad found himself "On the Road Again."

This week his hectic summer schedule has led him once again to Dawson and the Yukon, for the second year in a row, to pursue a number of stories that he and his producer feel will make good segments for the 1998/99 season.

"I don't know that we've been here any more than we've been anywhere else," he says over coffee in the common room of the posh Aurora Inn," but the sense is that we have been. The north is so tight that if you're in Dawson you talk to Whitehorse in the same breath as if it were a community just five minutes away. Whereas in Ontario Toronto's over there, Ottawa's over here and the two are forever miles apart."

Still, the team has been in territory four times in recent years and they do seem awfully fond of it. Last year they arrived in June, this year it's July.

"When it comes to going north," says Rostad, "there's almost a lobbying in the office as to who comes. Dawson still evokes that wonderful imagery that is Dawson. I don't care if it's the 1990's, the magic that Dawson had in its heyday just has a long standing aura. So when we say 'who wants to go to the Yukon?', it's almost a stampede.'"

Producer Jonathan Craven has it a little differently. This is his seventh trip to Dawson now and he gets to make two trips - an advance tour and the actual shooting tour - for every time they come here.

"I always line up stories for the next trip," he says, "and that keeps me one up on everybody."

Rostad says that locals may get blasé about Dawson, suffer from being unable to see the forest for the trees, but for him the magic starts even in the airplane.

"There's a little different attitude in the North," he says, searching for a way to describe it. "I feel here there are fewer pretenses than anywhere else. One of the things that turns my head when I come to the North is the strength of the characters that are here. It's very much like 'It doesn't matter what you think, this is who I am"."

Rostad didn't plan to be here for the Dawson City Music Festival. That's just an added bonus - that and the gorgeous weather that greeted him this morning. He got here in time to take in Tom Byrne's Robert Service Show at the 8th Avenue cabin. He says that between the show and their interview early in the afternoon he was quite blown away.

"You get a sense of two people sitting there," he says. It's Service's work, but it's Byrne's take on it, and you learn an awful lot about both of them. "It's a wonderful thing he does. He's a great ambassador for the Yukon. He is extolling the virtues of this territory. You listen to 90 minutes of that and you walk away with an attitude- a good one."

While in Dawson Rostad will also be playing a caribou antler duet with Whitehorse alderman Bernie Phillips and Craven is trying to talk him into sampling the joys of the Sourtoe Cocktail. Rostad screws up his face at the thought.

The show is bringing in the drink's originator, Cap'n Dick Stevenson, to film this segment, along with the current keeper of the toes.

Then it's off to Champagne, to a place called Long Ago People, a recreation of the Tutchone lifestyle of ages past. "I'm really looking forward to meeting them because they have such zeal for what they're doing."

Rostad has a lot of zeal for his production as well, and says that, in the end, it has given him the best of both worlds. He writes songs for the show, he gets to tell stories, he meets lots of interesting people and he gets to travel to marvelous places. Nineteen years after he took it on as a three month "temporary" gig, it's definitely a way of life.

Outside, Rostad mugs for the camera as the session comes to an end.

"Where'll we do this?" he asks saucily. "It's just so hard to find good background scenery here in Dawson." Hah!

The town, says Jonathan Craven, has made the four man crew very welcome, even supplying a municipal van for ferrying all its equipment around when it turned out that all the rental vans in the territory were booked up months in advance.

"City office has been just great," he says. That cooperation is part of what made the trip possible.


The Robert Service Show: "Somehow the Gold Isn't All"

by Dan Davidson

On the Road Again films the Tom Byrne Show. Photo by Dan Davidson

Tom Byrne holds his audience in the palm of his hand. Even with the added distraction of the television crew from "On the Road Again", the attention of the 75 or so people in the capacity audience on this hot July Monday is focused on the slightly rumpled figure in the bentwood rocker on the front lawn of Robert Service's cabin. The Robert Service Show is about to begin.

The Irish born Byrne is a natural at this role and has been doing it now since 1981, with a single year off when he stayed in Vancouver to present the same show at the Expo '86 Yukon Pavilion. His drawing power (and that of the man to whom he pays homage) seems to have been unaffected by the $7 attendance fee which Klondike National Historic Sites instituted a few years ago when federal budget cuts began.

Really there seem to have been only two obvious changes caused by that move. One is that guests now sit on tiered benches against the 8th Avenue fence and the other is that Byrne now uses a lapel microphone.

"We had to do that," he says after the show. It was one thing to ask people to strain against the background noise when the show was free, but quite another to watch seniors cupping their hands to their ears when they'd bought their ticket from a KNHS employee at the gate.

Even with a microphone, Byrne still has to compete with late arriving RVs, aircraft racketing along over the Yukon River and the staccato buzz of a weed-whacker several blocks distant. Usually, people would simply suffer these intrusions, but the t.v. show's microphones are sensitive and the producer wanders off to ask that the industrious landscaper lay off for a bit. The noise subsides.

The sound system is not obvious. At first it seems strange that Byrne's voice could be so immediate, but you forget it after a time, caught up in what the voice is saying and what the actor is doing to help it along. There's a sly glance over his shoulder as he indicates just where Dan McGrew was sitting in the Malamute saloon, a hearty heave-ho of the arms and shoulders as Sam McGee is boosted into the barge's boiler stove on Lake Laberge. Byrne ducks quickly as he relates the tale of Service being shot at by the guard in the Whitehorse branch of the Bank of Commerce, and spreads his arms wide to take in the territory as he recites "The Spell of the Yukon".

He's not just playing to the camera, either. Most of the time you'd swear he's forgotten it's there as he plays to the crowd. This show makes no concessions to the needs of the t.v. crew. They have to keep up with him. There are no retakes. But then, he doesn't need any.

The standard show presents Service's life much as it is recorded in his autobiography: his early exposure to reading, his training as a banker, his love of all things North American and his early attempts to become a cowboy, attempts which ended in a job as what he called a "juice jerker", milking cows on a B.C. ranch.

When the wanderlust seized him again he made his way to California, worked as a tutor in a house of ill repute, learned how to play the guitar, finally made his way back to Canada and took up with the CIBC. Ironically it was as a banker (which he hated) that he finally got to ride horses (which he loved). A series of transfers brought him to Whitehorse, where he began to write poetry, and then to Dawson, where he was when he learned that his early efforts were worth more than a vanity edition he had intended to publish for friends and family.

Wealth brought him the independence to quit the bank and write full time, and he did this in Edna Clark's little two room cabin on 8th Avenue, covering the walls with tacked up first drafts inscribed in charcoal on wallpaper before setting down final versions on his typewriter.

The audience taking all this in ranges from teenagers to seniors. At either end of the spectrum bodies lean forward and heads rest on hands in attitudes of concentration, faces lighting up with surprise and delight at some particularly good line. Even the blonde Labrador retriever stretched out before the lady in the front row seems content, rousing to "wuff" only once when the one-eyed monster from CBC comes a little too close to his mistress.

Wanderlust drew Service away from Dawson to report on the Balkan Wars of 1912, an historical curiosity which seems more immediate now in the wake of Yugoslavia's dissolution. That led into the Great War and many other books. When he found new things to write about, he followed them. Though he did return to the Klondike on paper, he never came back in person.

Somehow the prescience of Edna Clark, and the determination of organizations as various as the town council and the IODE, kept the prime real estate on which the cabin sat from falling into other hands. True, there was always a trickle of visitors over the years, but there was more good luck than good management in the preservation of the cabin between 1912 and the mid-1960's. Since then, of course, it has been in good hands, first those of the Klondike Visitors Association and later those of Klondike National Historic Sites.

As the performance concludes the audience troops up to the cabin, peeking in the front door and the windows at the side and rear. There was a time when you could go inside and look around, but those days are gone now. Many of the guests seem reluctant to leave. They chat with Byrne and quiz the t.v. crew about the probable air date of their Byrne profile (they don't know). Eventually they file away, the street barricades which block local traffic during the show come down, and life returns to normal on 8th Avenue.


Dempster Stamp Launched in Dawson

by Dan Davidson

Mounties look on as our top-hatted Postmaster, Lambert Curzon, passes a first day cover of the new Dempster Stamp to Diamond Tooth Gertie (Lorraine Butler). Photo by Dianne Marengere

Canada Post honoured the Dempster Highway on July 28, by issuing the second in its series of Scenic Highways stamp sets. The Dawson launch took place on the front steps of the historic Old Post Office, at the corner of King Street and Third Avenue, and was presided over by Postmaster Lambert Curzon and MLA Peter Jenkins.

A couple of hundred tourists and interested locals filled the benches at the intersection as well as lining the street between the Klondyke Centennials Society building and the Palace Grand Theatre. Many of the locals were in period costume, while Diamond Tooth Gertie and her dancers wore their performance attire.

"This is quite the event for our town," Jenkins said. It is the second such launching here during this centennial period.

"As I stand here today, I'm struck by how much Canada has changed, how much it has grown since 1898. Yukon today is celebrating its 100th anniversary of when it became a territory of Canada, and Canada Post is taking part in this by issuing the scenic highway stamp series.

"Our highways are the ribbons of asphalt which bind the cities and countries of this great country of ours, Canada, together." Canada, he noted, has enough highways to circle the world nearly 22 times.

"The four thoroughfares celebrated in this year's stamps give us some idea of the great variety of landscapes this nation has been blessed with."

In the publication Canada's Stamp Details, the corporation describes the Dempster Highway thus.

"The Dempster Highway traverses some of the most breathtaking terrain on this continent. It links southern Yukon with Inuvik and the MacKenzie Delta in the Northwest Territories. Along this route motorists can observe unique flora and fauna, including the Yukon's territorial flower, the brightly coloured fireweed, as well as Arctic poppies. lichens, cranberries and soapberries. The Dempster cuts through the Peel caribou migration route where grizzlies, foxes, wolverines, snowy owls and eagles join the migrating caribou in early spring and fall. It winds through two mountain ranges, the Ogilvie and the Richardson, and is the only public road in North America to cross the Arctic Circle."

Three other roads are depicted in this stamp set. The Blue Heron Scenic Route is along the north shore of Prince Edward Island and leads to the birthplace of Lucy Maude Montgomery. It is a 30 kilometre stretch.

The River Valley Scenic Drive follows the paths of the Madawaska and Saint John Rivers in New Brunswick from the Atlantic Ocean along to the Quebec border.

The Dinosaur Trail is a 48 kilometre loop in Alberta which passes through the badlands where Dr. J.B. Tyrell made the discoveries which led to the establishment of the Tyrell Museum of Palaeontology near Drumheller.

Stamp designer Lou Cable used photographs by Peter Timmermans, Brian Milne, Thaddeus Holownia and Chris Reardon, combined with an illustration by Mike Little in creating the four stamp block. Each stamp features a photograph of the area with a symbolic illustration in the foreground.

The Dempster stamp shows a picture of the highway winding along the flat lands before entering the mountains. To the left we see a Dempster Highway sign and a large caribou. Just behind the animal there is a map centered on the intersection point of the Klondike and Dempster Highways. The stamp will be on sale for one year, although its 45 cent value means that you will need to add a penny to use it after the rates go up in 1999.

Following Mr. Jenkins' remarks, the large poster of the stamp was unveiled by postal employee Lori Sprokkreeff and Acting-Mayor Aedes Scheer. First day cover sets of the stamp were presented to a number of individuals and organizations.

The ceremony presented an interesting problem for picture buffs. Many were struggling to compose a shot which would take in the can-can dancers, the stamp display, and Constable Anthony Pomero on his mount, Justin. Most ended up settling for separate pictures.

Following the formal program a reception was held at the Klondyke Centennials Society office.


Canada Post Gets Second Computer

by Dan Davidson

It took nearly two months, but Canada Post has responded to consumer protest and reduced parcel revenues by installing a second unit of its Retail Operating Support System (ROSS) in the Dawson City postal outlet.

"It's taken a lot of stress off of the employees," says Postmaster Lambert Curzon, "because we've prided ourselves in giving years of really good service and it bothered us to have to cut it down to one person on the counter.

The first unit - essentially a computer linked to a sophisticated accounting and service information package - was installed in early May, and was touted by officials at the corporation as a move which would put "Canada Post into the 21st century". Funnelling all the outlet's financial operations through the one computerized system was supposed to cut line-ups, speed transactions and more than make up for the fact that there would be only one clerk handling money where there used to be four.

Despite CP area manager Brian Page's predictions that ROSS would produce shorter line-up and waits, "because of the quickness and workability of the machine", the opposite happened. ROSS became a bottleneck and a source of frustration, particularly to the business community in town, which started to take its parcels elsewhere.

Before the introduction of ROSS, Dawson City Taxi and Courier service had already been launched, offering daily service to and from Whitehorse, and giving an alternative. Since ROSS, Curzon hears that more parcels have been going by the taxi, by the Norlines Bus service, and by at least one other courier.

Curzon recalls one local courier operator slapping him on the back in a store and saying, "Whatever Canada Post is up to, keep it up, 'cause it's sure good for my business." meanwhile merchants were telling him they just couldn't spare the staff time to wait in post office line-ups when there were other services prepared to come right to their doors.

The proof was in the revenue, and tracking revenue is one thing that ROSS is very good at. Curzon was able to demonstrate to his superiors in Ottawa that this outlet had lost revenue for the first time in years, during a centennial year which was expected to be one of its heaviest.

Since Dawson was initially picked as one of the 500 outlets to launch ROSS due to its position as a top revenue generator, this was a clear message.

"I talked to Ottawa about it and said that the revenue that we'd lost in the first month would have paid for another computer."

Official in Ottawa reached the decision to double the Dawson ROSS capacity quite quickly, actually notifying the local office before letting the area manager know about it. The new machine was installed at the end of the third week in July and Curzon says it's here to stay.

He also says there's been an immediate difference in how the post office looks and works.

"It's a lot smoother and the staff now feel a whole lot better about their jobs because they know they can give good service.

"Right now there's three and four of us, two floating on the counter and getting parcels, handing out bag mail, checking general delivery and leaving the other two just strictly on cash."

As a result the lines are moving faster once again. Curzon thinks the word will get out quickly.

"We're hoping to recoup a lot of those parcels again."


New Record Set by Australian Runner in Dome Race

by Dan Davidson

"The thing about the Dome Race," says Don White, "is that you're so glad when it's over." He sees it as a tough and rather painful run. That may be, but it didn't stop him from taking the hill in 36 minutes and 15 seconds to be the fastest man in the masters category.

Now that is fast, but it's not as fast as the winning time of Australia's Steven Page, who took the open men's division in a time of 31:31, setting a new course record.

Page, who uses running to keep himself in shape for his other favorite sports (like Australia rules football) was new to the race this year and ran the Dome for the first time a few days before the race.

As race organizer Steve Cash tells it, his chum picked the middle of the afternoon on a blistering hot day and really gave himself a workout.

Page says he's not used to running up hills like this one, and it was a challenge.

The actual event kicked off in front of the Palace Grand Theatre and the runners were able to take the first leg of the race before the heat of the day arrived. There was still some shade until they hit the far side of Mary McLeod Road and got onto the new Dome Road for the push to the top.

The contestants didn't waste much time at the starting line. Just a few minutes before the race, organizer Chris Gunther was wondering where on earth everyone could be.

"What was really funny was that five minutes before it looked like there was nobody there and then all of a sudden there was 165 people. Where did they all come from? The bathrooms?"

Then the horn sounded and they were off in a cloud of dust.

Cash says you have to pace yourself. He saw one young runner crash after just the first 400 metres, where King Street crosses 7th Avenue and heads up the hill. The result sheets later on would show that 157 people finished. There were 119 runners and 38 walkers, along with two infants, one of whom was carried and the other pushed in a stroller.

White says that he found it an inspiration to see Megan Gates and her father, Michael, working their way up the hill. Megan was involved in a near-fatal accident just a few years ago and walks with a leg brace. The Gates family took over three and a half hours to make the climb, but they were on hand to pick up their slowest family award at the barbecue later that day.

The top five finishers were Steven Page, Brent Langbokk (34:25), Stephen Wattereus (34:53), Don White, and Simon Palfrey (36:16). All but White were in the open men's category.

The other division winners were Kim Aschachen (junior female, 53:53), Brian Horton (junior male, 36:53), Blythe Pospisil (masters female, 44:44) and Tamara Goeppel (open women's, 38:31). Glenn Gabrielson was the fastest walker with a time of 59:07.

For the racers the event finished with an ample barbecue laid on at the Trans-North Helicopter pad at supper time. The race is sponsored by Canadian Airlines International and organized by Run Dawson.


Palace Pianist Tickled to Be Here

by Dan Davidson

Norman Long tickles the ivories at the Palace. Photo by Dan Davidson

Norman Long is having a great summer in Dawson City. In spite of fighting off the lingering effects of the pneumonia he contracted during his first few weeks here, the 73-year-old maestro at the Palace Grand is enjoying himself immensely.

What many members of his audience may not realize is that Norman has a long. long history with the Gaslight Follies, stretching back to the first Fran Dowie production of the show in the 1960s.

"I wrote the very first opening chorus called...oh call it 'Gaslight'," he mutters after singing the first couple of lines. After all, it was over 30 years ago.

He wasn't personally involved in the show that year, or ever, up until 1998, but he did get to play at the Palace Grand the next year, in 1967, when the Barkerville Show, in which he was the pianist, made a tour and stopped in Dawson.

"I love this theatre," he says. "I fell in love with it in '67 and thought that I'd love to play here again, so when the chance came, I seized it."

Some of that material that he wrote in his Barkerville days has made it into this year's production, including an instrumental number called "The Centennial Rag" and the show's rousing finale, "Take Your Pick". Norman also wrote another four songs for this year's show, in addition to arranging the renditions of several old standards which are given new twists by the cast.

"I love this show," he says. "It's a very quick show. Lots of comedy, lots of singing, lots of dancing."

Norman is very much a part of all that. Aside from playing for all the numbers, his nimble piano has signature tunes for several of the characters and provides the cues that tell the audience when to participate. One of the running gags in the story is the snatch of song that he plays any time someone says the words "Dan the Mountie Man". It gets to the point where everyone tries very hard to find other ways to refer to the scarlet clad lawman.

This year Norman plays on a raised piano which is a bit of a compromise for the production. They'd wanted to put him on stage, but there just wasn't room.

"This was the next best thing, which I thought was excellent, 'cause I yak at them all the time and say rude things and comment and show off and sulk and its works fine."

"It's a period show and I love doing that," Norman says. "I don't think I'll ever retire. I've kept my 'young at heart' feeling and I get on very well with younger people."

The only drawback to being in the show is the same one he's always faced during his career as a musician, and that is the long separations from his wife. Fortunately she was able to join him here from White Rock for six weeks this summer, so that has cut down on the time.

He's currently writing a song he calls "How Can I Live a Day Without You?", which is dedicated to his wife.

Dawson has been great, he says. It's been his first chance to really take a look at the place. In 1967 he stayed at the Flora Dora Hotel on Front Street and was only been in town one day.

Norman first worked with Lorraine Butler (this year's Gertie) in the 1960's in White Rock in a show called "The Grand Finale". They reunited in 1994 in a place called Three Valley Gap near Revelstoke. Since then they've been performing as a duo called "We Two", doing a few jobs here and there.

One of the ironies of this summer is that Butler and Long had auditioned to play the Holland-America Line cruise ships and didn't get picked for that. Now Holland-America customers get to see them anyway here, though not together.

Norman is happy to be recognized in the community and to contribute what he can while he's here. He will be playing at the Discovery Days festival as well.

"I feel I'm doing a good job and I'm very happy doing what I'm doing. I like the gold rush theme and the use of local characters. I like the music of that period - the 1860s onward. I'm a throwback, actually. I should have been around in those days. I always liked that old time music even when I was a kid."

The British born Long originally trained in the classical repertoire but decided dance music was his forté.

As a composer he has also written some of the material being used at Gerties this summer and was surprised last spring to discover that a song of his, "Gold Hearted Gertie," (from a 1973 show, "The Mounties Are Coming") has been used there in the past and was included on a cast recording audiotape which was produced a few years ago by LPV Productions, which ran the Palace Grand and Gerties shows in the three years prior to Lone Wolf Productions taking over.


Editorial: Where's There's Smoke

by Dan Davidson

The hills along the Klondike Highway don't look as bad as you might think they ought to after all the fires there have been this summer. Some of the damage along the road is still there from the last big fire, but the terrain down by Stewart Crossing and Moose Creek makes you wonder why the people there had to be evacuated.

Then you see the plumes rising on those distant hills and you realize that, if they really started to move, those lines of marching flames wouldn't take long to get to where you're standing.

The end result of that would be the devastation that begins shortly after you pass Braeburn Lodge heading south. Coming round a sharp bend at the north end of Fox Lake you are suddenly confronted with the entrance to Mordor from The Lord of the Rings.

Blackened poles lurch drunkenly into view, canted in so many different directions that the whole thing gives an illusion of movement. Beneath it all there's the underlying carpet of ash, grayish white in the pale evening sunlight which is filtering through the haze. It has been so hot here that the trees which aren't actually black from burning have turned orange-brown and died from the sheer heat of the conflagration.

There's a bitter taste at the back of your mouth and your eyes feel the twins strains of peering into the acrid fog and blinking overtime to wash it off.

It's on both sides of the road, making you wonder how it got across and puzzling about the validity of the concept of firebreaks. Surely two-lane blacktop would be enough to halt the march. But you realize there are culverts, bridges over dry creeks that go under the road; there is airborne flaming debris and there are sparks. And the land has been so dry here that it would take very little to get it burning.

The next puzzle is those areas of green that remain. When the fire got that close to the edge of the road, why did it leave that strip of vegetation right there? How can that circle of grass still exist in the middle of that burned field?

The experience makes you feel humble. It makes you grateful that Dawson has had so little trouble this year. We have experienced very few days of smoke haze. The fires in this area have been handled expeditiously. We no longer have the dump on the Dome hanging like a sword of Damocles over our heads. We have had enough regular rain to keep the danger to a minimum.

On the way north again, later in the week, it rains for most of the trip. You can only hope that it went where it would do the most good and not just on the highway.


Farewell to the Sun and Dawson

by Jocelyn Bell
Student Reporter

The beginning is always the toughest part. Whether it's the start of an article or the start of a job, it always takes a while to sort out all the new information and get it in order.

I felt a bit mixed up on my first day at the Klondike Sun. I was interviewing Tim Gunter about Circle Cycle when the blast of an air raid siren made us jump. Dogs howled, school kids left their classes and everyone within earshot of the sound ran down to the dike (or had a WWII flashback and high-tailed it for a bomb shelter). Tim and I ditched the interview, hopped on some really nice bikes, and raced to the river's edge.

The ice leaving the Yukon River marked the beginning of my summer internship with the Sun, one which would last until today, July 24.

Not every day matched the excitement of my first day, but I got to cover lots of other interesting stories, like low gold prices, Joe Henry's 100th birthday, the KVA's shows at Gertie's, Dyea to Dawson, the Music Festival, the Tr'ondek Hwech'in land claims agreement and a new treatment for Sabrina Frangetti.

I learned the most from the stories that frustrated me the most. Very exasperating was my story on the effects of low gold prices on local miners. Considering that mining is the number one industry in the Yukon, it's amazingly difficult to track down a placer miner in the summer. I spent much of two days phoning, leaving messages and phoning again with no success. Everyone was at camp, beyond the reaches of Northwestel. Finally, I decided to find me a miner the old fashioned way. I went to the Eldorado and told the bar tender that I needed a miner. She gave me an odd look, then offered up a construction worker and a fire fighter, but no miners. I went to the Claims Cafe and hit the jackpot. By some excellent fluke, there was Mike McDougall, the president of the Placer Miners Association. He gave me the inside scoop on mining over a cup of coffee and a muffin.

Equally exasperating and even more rewarding was the story I wrote on Joe Henry's 100th birthday. I spent the better part of a week trying to separate legend from fact, tall tale from truth. John Gould, Dick North and Percy and Mabel Henry helped me set the record straight. Then there was the problem of fitting 100 years of life into about 1,500 words. The whole ordeal was an exercise in fact checking and condensing and fact checking again. The final draft that went to print still had some mistakes, but none so big that they couldn't be corrected in the next issue.

Also thanks to this job, I got to be part of Dawson's unofficial welcome committee. Every time a new professional came to town I was knocking on their door, asking for an interview. The RCMP officer, the vet, the counsellor -- I had the privilege of being among the first to meet these wonderful people and of introducing them to our readers.

Speaking of wonderful people, I'm really going to miss those with whom I worked. Dan's always good for a conversation about the fourth estate, Johnny got me to clench my fists and hit a lot harder, Kevin brought in often needed comic relief, Paul was my partner in crime, Palma's always armed with a funny but unprintable story, and Chantal and Diane, collaborating on the kid's page were models of volunteer dedication. But the person I'll miss most of all is Anne Saunders, who really is the warmest and most generous person I've ever met.

And while I'm doing "thankyous", one should go to the Insider staff for being the competition. Every other Tuesday, when the Insider came out and the Klondike Sun didn't, I'd inevitably get scooped. But it was always the push I needed to keep me working hard through the week so they couldn't do it to me again.

Dawson was an amazing place to work and live this summer. I envy the people who get to stay here year round. As for me, it's back to crowds and concrete. I'm starting a graduate journalism degree at Ryerson in Toronto in September.

The beginning may be the toughest part but the end breathes down its neck in close second.

See ya in the funny papers.


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