Dawson City, Yukon Friday, January 21, 2000

An ice bridge to cross the Yukon River at Dawson City is slow in coming this year. Photo by Dan Davidson

Feature Stories

No Ice Bridge in Sight Yet
Dawson Must Build Treatment Plant, says Water Board
Dawson Not Finished with Sewage Issues
Dawson Still Seeking Water Licence Changes
Christmas Eve Draws a Big Crowd
Love Meets Adventure: The Tale of a First Christmas in Dawson
Odd Fellows Hall Comes Alive New Year's Eve
A Fly on the Wall or New Year's Eve 2000 in Dawson
Old Fashioned Hospitality Welcomes Berton House Writer To Town
Oliver Is Coming!
Winter Events 1999 - 2000

Welcome to the January 21st on-line edition of the Klondike Sun. This is the abridged version of our Jan. 18th hardcopy edition, which was 24 pages long, containing 31 photographs and 26 news stories, the cartoon strips "Paws", and "City Snickers", and our regular homemade Klondike Krossword puzzle. Getting a subscription (see the home page) is the only way you'll ever see it all.

Darlene St. Pierre

Dawson's weather dipped into the minus 45-50 range right before New Years and stayed there for a week, but we have since returned to relative mildness and much more snow than usual.

Our issue off was enjoyed by all and, in the interim, we have added a "Ready, Aim, Hire!" funded office employee, Betty Purington.

We should note that our current Berton House writer-in-residence, Darlene St. Pierre, is a working journalist who contributed three items to this edition of the paper.

No Ice Bridge in Sight Yet

by Dan Davidson

The open water at the ferry landing is a subject of some conversation in town. Well, the news is that it's still open as of the day this photo was taken on Jan. 15, 2000. While the Yukon River seems to be closing up south of the bend of the river, appearing to be only open for a few meters from the windows of the Klondike Sun office, the situation at the landing is another story. The little black dot at the right of the picture is a person on a snow machine, which indicates a pretty substantial gap where the ice bridge would normally begin.

In spite of a week of temperatures below -45¡C, the river remains open, and the steam rising from it is so intense as to appear like dirty smoke in real life, though it appears as grey in this picture.

It is possible to get across the river. West Dawsonites are skirting around the open areas on snowmobiles and making their way back and forth, but it's a longer trek, it's not open to safe use by larger vehicles, and it's inconvenient.

There have been alternate routes for the ice bridge in other years, but there has been no word as yet as to what the future may hold.


Dawson Must Build Treatment Plant, says Water Board

by Dan Davidson

In a decision which probably won't please anybody, the Yukon Territory Water Board has determined that (a) the City of Dawson does have to build a secondary sewage treatment plant and (b) it can have until December 1, 2002, to complete the job.

The decision, faxed Thursday, December 30, to media outlets throughout the territory and forwarded the day before to the offices of the Minister and Indian and Northern Affairs, the Hon. Robert D. Nault, is contained in a 16 page document.

Central to the Board's decision is the document's statement of principle that "the Board does not believe that the discharge of a toxic effluent into a river should be sanctioned, nor that dilution should by considered to be an appropriate method for managing and disposing of toxic wastewater.

"In the case of the City of Dawson, it appears that both of these situations could be readily taken care of by the construction and operation of a secondary-level wastewater treatment facility.

"The Board is of the opinion that secondary treatment of municipal wastewater is a reasonable minimum level of expectation in this day and age."

The long history of Dawson's struggle with its sewage system goes back decades, but the secondary treatment phase did not come to the fore until after the period when the community had arranged to replace the final portions of the faulty underground pipe installation which tied up most of its annual capital works funding from 1979 until the early 1990s.

The town's current water licence, #MN96-004, was issued in December 1996, and it required the community to begin working toward meeting "certain effluent quality standards by January 29, 2000." That meant the building of some kind of secondary treatment plant.

In May, 1998, the City of Dawson applied for an amendment to this licence, based largely on the grounds that there were no funds to build or, particularly, to operate, such a system within the city's tax base or within the money available in transfers from the senior levels of government.

With time and study, however, this application evolved into a challenge to the very assumptions behind the requirement, a challenge to the monitoring procedure, to the scientific rigor of DIAND and to the actual toxic danger posed by the town's discharge.

When these arguments were presented to the Water Board hearing in December, 1998, the Board, over the strenuous objections of DIAND and the Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans, elected to have Dawson do further investigation of its claims and carry out a study of several month's duration to determine if, in fact, the testing procedure was at fault in causing the city to fail to meet its licence requirements.

The representatives from the federal agencies, which had mounted a strong attempt to have the hearing itself cancelled, argued against even considering this material during the hearings, and walked out of the meeting when the Water Board over ruled their objections.

The outcome of these new studies indicated, in the view of the town's consulting specialists, that there was no danger posed to the environment by any of Dawson's effluent. However, the "grab samples" continued to fail the majority of the required LC50 tests, during which live trout are exposed to varying concentrations of effluent mix over a period of 96 hours, during the peak use summer months.

The Water Board felt it was "presented with evidence that the effluent is frequently toxic as measured by the 96 hour LC50 bioassay."

In its cover letter the Board does note that the Dawson studies provided a wealth of additional information related to effluent plume modeling, dilution effects and rapid mixing, which tended to show that Dawson's effluent would "result in no significant environmental impacts."

But, the letter goes on to say, "This additional information went well beyond the Board's request, and accordingly, and in fairness to interveners, the Board placed little weight on it."

In addition, the Board rejected the City's proposal to undertake a $100,000 per year Environmental Effects Monitoring Program for up to 9 years to determine the hazard potential of the discharge. While it okayed the use of the main features of this program for the 1999 supplementary study, it did not feel that it "represents a cautious and conservative approach towards the mitigating of environmental impacts."

The City of Dawson was, however, commended "for the high level of scientific effort and detail presented in the application and in the supplementary information', this is spite of public complaints by DIAND and others a month ago that the town should "stop doing science" and get on with the building of the plant.

Federal officials have issued a variety of pronouncements during the past twelve months to the effect that Dawson was originally scheduled to have a plant in operation by January, 2000, and that the town can expect legal action to be taken after that date.

The Water Board, however, states clearly that such an expectation "is impossible" and recognizes that any new requirements should take into account at least the year during which the town has been waiting for this ruling and the time it took to gather the extra data the board had requested.

"Moreover, the City will need to provide water and dispose of sewage after January 29, 2000, regardless of licence status, and it would serve no good purpose to allow this to happen in the absence of a water use licence."

The amended licence, #MN98-021, would have the town provide a detailed building plant by January 1, 2002, and to have the plant in operation by the end of the same year. After that time, the Board wishes to have the plant run for three years before Dawson comes up for re-licencing.

The cover letter emphasizes that the City of Dawson's licence, which will be now extend until December 1, 2005, will not be valid until signed by the minister, and it also serves notice to all parties that "the Board has disposed of the matter and will not entertain any further discussion."

Initial indications here are that the City of Dawson will, in fact, oppose this ruling. Interviews are scheduled for Friday (today) and a report will appear in our next issue.


Dawson Not Finished with Sewage Issues

by Dan Davidson

In handing down its decision in the matter of the City of Dawson's water use licence (MN98-021) last week, the Yukon Territory Water Board ruled that the town would have to build secondary sewage treatment facilities by January 31, 2002.

In the cover letter to the Hon. Robert Nault, Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, YTWB chair Dale Eftoda remarked that "We are confident that the City of Dawson will be satisfied that we have listened, and that they will accept our decision and move on to the next step."

That was perhaps wishful thinking.

While the media and interveners received notice of the decision on December 29, mayor and council here had the documents on December 23, and had already met several times to consider strategy before the news became public.

In an interview on December 31 Mayor Glen Everitt said that in spite of the Board's clear statement that it has "disposed of this matter and will not entertain any further discussion" the town does not consider the matter closed.

"You can bet that there will be further discussion."

He said there were three responses the town could make at this point.

One of the them would be to accept the ruling, acquiesce when the minister signed it into law, and begin to negotiate a time table for construction of the sewage treatment plant.

That would be the response the Water Board would like to see, no doubt, but it isn't certain it will go that way.

Either of the other responses involve challenges to the ruling, set forth in either the legal or political arenas.

Dawson's council is unhappy with several aspects of the Water Board's report. One aspect in particular is that it relies heavily on the results of the DIAND's screening of Dawson's amendment proposal under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the main argument with which federal officials walked into the contentious December 1998 hearings here in Dawson.

The CEAA screening was never directly contested or questioned during the hearing, Everitt noted, because federal officials walked out of the meeting while the town was still presenting its case on the second day of the hearing. While Dawson's environmental studies regarding fish habitat, rates of dilution and toxicity were grilled during those hearings, the CEAA report was never examined in depth.

It was, on the other hand, the subject of much crosstalk during rebuttals to federal questions. In particular, it came under assault by the territory's Medical Health Officer, Dr. Frank Timmermans, and by Dawson's consultants. Timmermans, especially, questioned the science and the conclusions of the CEAA report in his own submission to the board and professed to be unhappy at not having had an opportunity to question its authors directly when they abandoned the meeting.

In addition, Everitt and his council are disappointed that the Board chose to place little emphasis on the details of the environmental study which was carried out over the last summer season at the Board's request, focussing only on those matters which had been part of the initial discussion at the hearing.

Everitt says that the studies show that Dawson's waste water does so little damage as to be intangible, that the major toxicity comes from detergents and cleaners, not the human waste cited in the CEAA screening, and that there are other ways to deal with that kind of a problem without wasting money on a multimillion dollar sewage treatment plant, the operating cost of which will wipe out the reduction that Dawsonites were finally able to see in their utility bills last spring.

"I'm disappointed," Everitt said, "very disappointed. It wasn't much of a Christmas present.

"I find it disturbing that the Water Board would take its decision, which is not law, and forward it to the media and interveners. It's almost like this is a big campaign in the public.

"In conversation with DIAND staff in Ottawa, they're a little surprised by this as well, that a Water Board would just take its decision and send it everywhere. Now the City has to field calls on something that hasn't actually happened yet and the minister hasn't even signed it."

Everitt said that the town's current capital projects - notably the new swimming pool, the relocation of the municipal office/fire hall project and the arena preparation at the recreation centre - will be able to continue. Funding for these projects is already in place from the territorial government and was untied from the "recreation or sewage" restraints which originally restricted the distribution of the money.

There are positive aspects to the situation, and Everitt was quick to admit those. He believes that the two year extension (the town had asked for ten) was made in part to give the community time to spend capital money on something other than the sewage and water, which had tied up the bulk of Dawson's available capital finding from 1979 until the mid 1990's. The resulting decay of the municipal infrastructure in other areas has been partially offset by the opportunity to negotiate territorial funding and begin work on some new projects.

For this much relief, the Mayor says the town is grateful, but a few more years would have been even better.


Dawson Still Seeking Water Licence Changes

by Dan Davidson

While the Yukon Territorial Water Board has ruled that Dawson City must build a secondary sewage treatment plant within the next two years, our town council is still hoping to influence the timing of that decision.

In his initial reaction to the ruling Mayor Glen Everitt indicated that the council felt it had three alternatives: compliance, political action and legal action. It turns out that the town is proceeding on all three fronts.

Everitt has just returned from a whirlwind trip to Ottawa, where he met with federal officials in a bid to convince them that the water board's decision was flawed by its failure to consider all of the scientific evidence collected by the community over the last several years.

Everitt reported to his council in a meeting which extended from the evening of January 11 to the afternoon of January 12 and told them that it will be several weeks yet before the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, Bob Nault, puts his signature on the December 23, 1999 report. Even then, it may be a document with changes made to it.

The town is not the only party objecting to the licence as it stands. Everitt was told in Ottawa that the Yukon Conservation Society has already filed a protest over the water board's ruling, saying the Dawson should be taken to court for having failed to comply with the deadline date in the original version of its water licence, which was granted in 1996 and specified this month as the time by which secondary sewage treatment had to be in place.

The water board extended the time line in part because of delays in their own reporting brought on by the December 1998 public hearing and the board's request that Dawson provide it with more technical information as a result of its application for an amendment and extension.

In his turn Everitt has also indicated to federal officials that they can expect a legal challenge from the city if they simply sign the document the way it is. His council is firm that a deadline of December 2002 is one that it is not prepared to meet.

At the same time, council is also exploring the steps needed to comply with the water board's decision. This includes an examination of alternative methods of providing secondary treatment of its effluent and the possibility that it might consider having a plant of some type constructed and operated by private enterprise. There have been some nibbles of interest in this prospect by some firms from Outside.

At the heart of the town's reluctance are three things that come through quite clearly in their discussion.

Aedes Scheer has always expressed an interest in environmental and humane concerns on council, yet she is one of the most firmly convinced that the arguments behind the demands for secondary sewage treatment will not stand up to scientific scrutiny. She is convinced by the work of the city's consulting firm, McLeay Environmental Ltd., that the town's effluent poses no danger to fish or fish habitat.

She is further convinced by the assessment of Dr. Frank Timmermans, the Yukon's Medical Health Officer, that there is no public health hazard.

The other members of council share this conviction, which is stronger now than when they first began to fight this battle, that there is no crisis which requires the multi-millions of dollars of expense needed to construct the plant and the hundreds of thousands it would cost to run it annually.

So the second issue is that they believe the money would be badly spent.

The third big issue for the council is its strong desire to spend what funds it can tap on things which will actually improve the quality of life in Dawson, particularly recreational facilities.


Christmas Eve Draws a Big Crowd

by Dan Davidson

The light of Christ is passed among the congregation from the Advent Wreath as tiny candles light the darkness for the length of a hymn. Photo by Dan Davidson

If the winter population guesstimate of 2100 is correct then about 14% of the Klondike community squeezed into Saint Paul's Anglican Church on Christmas Eve for the annual ecumenical service. If the actual number of residents is smaller, then 300 people would make the percentage even higher.

Preparations for this evening begin way back in the fall, when a group of kids and parents get together to organize the photo shot that eventually turns into the Christmas Pageant, a retelling of the Gospel story which avoids all the pitfalls of a love performance by turning the production into a slide show.

No concerns about not being able to see the tableaux when they are projected on a large screen above everyones' heads, with the narrative punctuated by the singing of seasonal hymns.

The clergy all played their parts as well. Father John Tyrell kept things moving as the host, assisted by Deacon Carol Tyrell. The Reverend Robert Thompson (Dawson Christian Fellowship) assisted in the reading of the scriptures, along with members of the other congregations. The Reverend Ian Nyland (Dawson City Community Gospel Chapel) drew the due of delivering the homily this year. Father Tim Coonen (Saint Mary's Catholic Catholic Church) led the congregational singing and directed one of the three choir presentations.

This choir, now nearly 40 strong, is another of those things that took some preparation and it has been in rehearsal for some six weeks by the time Christmas arrives. Father Tim and Betty Davidson shared the director's duties, while Joyce Caley and Maria Nyland accompanied on the piano.

As a change of pace, the congregational hymns during the offering were spirituals, led by Father Tim and Dan Davidson on guitars.

There was lots of other singing for the congregation in addition to these numbers

On leaving the church after the service people were able to stop and admire the ice sculpture work by Archdeacon Ken Snider and his wife, . Shepherds, sheep and a manger scene adorned the front lawn, illumined from within by electric lights.

Each church also held its own late service closer to midnight.


Love Meets Adventure: The Tale of a First Christmas in Dawson

by Darlene St. Pierre

From an inspiring candlelight Christmas Eve service to the wilds of a place called The Pit to a truly outdoorsy Yukon romance, this awesome little town presented this wandering lass with a breath-taking, mind-boggling, soul-searing adventure she'll never forget. And all in one night!

Actually, it's been quite the caper since stepping off the bus that frosty mid-week morning when this winter writer-in-residence at Berton House first rolled into this postcard town.

Had I stepped back in time? Should this not be 1899?

Driver Wayne Fischer did a quick tour as my jaw dropped to the van floor in a most unlady-like fashion. Passing turn-of-the century buildings dressed in Christmas decorations was a study in contradiction. Heritage with an edge. History stepping into the new millennia without a second glance back.

There was the opulent, brightly decorated Commissioner's Residence, almost whorehouse garish in modern-day electric.

The celestial Anglican Church with its holy ice sculptures cast over coat hanger wire.

The Downtown Hotel, home of the Sour Toe. The Westminster Hotel, home of The Pit.

And that fearsome Yukon River, yet to fully freeze up, swirling in an icy fog mist.

The latter were of much discussion during the six-hour drive that twisted and turned along the Klondike Highway through the frosty night from Whitehorse to Dawson.

The former for its infamous grisly cocktail of amputated extremities, the latter hotel for serving the city's "colorful five per cent," and the river, ah, the river. Scary tales indeed, the flow reportedly guaranteed to take at least one life a year.

The bus finally came to a stop at The Eldorado, our drop-off destination. This funky hotel, constructed partially from the Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation's original bunkhouses and the first to offer private baths and telephones in each room, was where Kim Adams, the local librarian, was to meet me, with keys to the little house where Pierre Berton spent his boyhood years and I will call home for a few months.

But there was no one.

At 1 a.m. and in 30-below temperatures, with a chill north wind tossing snow from drifts and off rooftops with mischievous abundance, I couldn't help but feel a bit apprehensive. The only other passenger, a former tugboat captain from Vancouver Island here to visit his daughter for Christmas, also showed signs of anxiety as he himself was swiftly escorted off into the dark of the night by her husband on a snowmobile, challenging the partially hardened Yukon River to their cabin on the west side.

Mr. Fischer was gallant in offering a ride to the house, more likely wishing to get home himself, but within minutes a lone figure bundled in scarves, hoods and mittens was seen trudging in the middle of deserted Third Avenue.

A huge smile as bright as the Cheshire Cat greeted this bewildered Alice in Wonderland and we were soon off to Berton House, without her car I might add, stuck firmly in the snow of a nearby parking lot.

Once inside, a look around found all in order; furnace puffing and grunting, lights shining brightly, a big old wood desk to write at and cold beer in the fridge left by predecessor Carmine Starnino. What more could a scribe ask for?

Well, for one thing, an explanation as to what or who kept knocking at the door all night.

Hello? Anybody there? No one. Just a whiff of north wind.

Kim shrugged and left, after explaining other odd noises - burbling and gurgling (bleeder pipes), the huge inferno whoosh (furnace), the creaking and crashing in the walls still yet to be fully explained but considered to be part of the heating system.

Or perhaps the three feet of snow on the roof stressing the rafters?

I had my suspicions. So before tucking in for my first sleep, I said hello to Laura Beatrice Berton. Who else could it be knocking about? That over, I slept like a rock and didn't wake until noon.

My first full day in the town was spent hiding behind closed doors, unpacking and peeking out windows at the foreign view of hoarfrost-covered tree limbs and a town blanketed in white, a stark contrast to my balmy Vancouver Island paradise.

That eerie ice fog still floated over the river and there was still that bloody unexplained knock knock.

Day Two found me on tour, Ms. Adams leading the walkabout, showing where to buy food and booze, pick up mail and off-sales and making introductions to everyone and anyone who cared to be curious to the new face following in her wake.

And ever since I've found it hard to sit at this desk. Such a social little town. But I like it! And dare I say already I'm falling head over heels. If these first few weeks are to judge, likely I'll never want to leave and they'll be dragging me by my fur-flapped covered ears when the next writer comes in the spring.

Here's why. (As if you didn't know already.)

I've been captured. As so many. All you folks who came for a year and stayed 20, you know what I'm talking about.

It's The Spell, as the famous Scottish writer who once abided in the tiny cabin directly across from this house so eloquently put it. And the enchantment has shown itself in many ways.

Particularly Christmas Eve.

How magical to be in a church built at the turn-of-the-century just as a new one is about to unfold. Old traditions mixed with new during this special service held at St. Paul's Anglican Church; an old woodstove-heated high-vaulted ceilings as street lights shone through antique stained-glass windows; the story of the birth of the Saviour was told in slides depicted by the children of the town, so many of whom were present, giggling at their antics photographed in the sunny summer days of August, as they all sat on the floor at the front. A large choir sang tunes ranging from Go Tell It On the Mountain to Come All Ye Faithful. And they did.

Six of the city's clergy and their flock swelled to 300, all singing Silent Night by candlelight to end the magical evening.

But there aborted the pretty side of things. Shortly after we took a walk on the wild side. The gentleman who came in on the bus with me was at the service with his beautiful daughter and her husband, all three having crossed that frightful river by snowmobile earlier, the same snowmobile that was now in pieces, a ball bearing being passed around for observation of their dilemma.

St. Mary's Father Tim so graciously offered them the use of one of his sleds. So until these arrangements could be put in place, it was suggested we head to The Pit.

All right! Finally. A first-hand look at this notorious place. But all the time a spooky premonition clawed at my very innards and I almost had to choke back the dread swarming in.

The images of a dark-haired person trapped under ice and flowing down river as I ran along a snowy bank screaming that silent scream known of dreams presented itself more than once in the past. And now was playing in vivid color as I stood looking at my co-passenger's lovely daughter.

She was a raven-haired beauty, a spunky young lass fresh from England barely nine-months in this town. Shiver me timbers. What to do, what to do? As we waited patiently in The Pit for her husband to return from driving his father-in-law back to their cabin across river, I debated my line of action as we swilled a few Alexander Keith and danced to the beat of the excellent Pointer Brothers band, surrounded by Dawson City's colorful five per cent.

This is a place where even the owner himself has been tossed out for being too rowdy. Gotta love it. However, no matter how much fun we were having, after two hours of waiting, there was no more detaining the lass.

The trip should only have taken 45 minutes at max. The worry showed in her face and it was easy to see trepidation setting in.

Now after midnight, and she ready to face the 30-below temperature in search of him - and with no hat yet - it was I who let panic set in. There was no way I was going to let this dark-haired girl cross that icy river. For fear of sounding crazy, I said nothing yet of my premonition and suggested we instead head to Berton House for warmer clothes and a plan of action.

First, a stop at the river to holler out across the mist, the Super Moon peeking through with aloof disregard.

But no response except for the groan of the flow itself, so we carried on uptown, three gals crunching along frozen deserted Princess Street, trying to make light of a heavy situation.

Second, a call to the RCMP. Diverted to Whitehorse detachment, a distant voice relaying only that they would do no searching until at least 12 hours passed increased our anxiety. We chatted, as women do so well, about lovers and babies and life in general but still her angst could not be quelled.

At 2 a.m., a call to a friend found that her man had just been there. Not 10 minutes before! Cold and haunted, he'd trudged four hours back and forth from the cabin several times and then across the river to The Pit and through the streets of town looking for his bride.

The second snowmobile had broke down, this time the arm of the heavy winter army surplus coat he was bringing back for her slipped over and got caught in the track, stopping the machine dead. And the bartender who we'd left direction of our whereabouts had stepped away for just a few minutes when he'd tramped in and glanced around.

It's easy to tell now I wasn't the only one keeping her off the river this night.

Barely able to hold her down long enough to force her into my parka which at least had a hood to cover that jet-black hair, she ran out into the early Christmas morning streets of the sleepy town and raced straight to the river calling his name, Kim slipping and sliding behind her, telling me to stay by the phone in case the RCMP called back.

They never did. But Kim did. Said the last she'd seen they were yelling across to each other, and to the best of our romantic imaginations, met in the middle of the frozen river in a bone-crushing embrace.

I know she made it because the next day the parka was hanging on the shovel by the door.

And that bloody knock knock? The shovel all the time. The north wind tapping it against the side of the house.

And if this Christmas tale intrigued you, wait until you hear about New Year's Eve! As the Brits are so fond of saying when raising a glass: Bash on regardless.


(Ed Note: This item first appeared in the Yukon News.)


Odd Fellows Hall Comes Alive New Year's Eve

by Darlene St. Pierre

What better way for an old building that once hosted social gatherings to come alive again by being the centre of activities on the eve of a new millennium?

That is exactly what Dawson City's Sovereign Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows did New Years Eve.

Over 200 people attended the grand opening of the freshly-renovated old heritage hall, dressed in all manner of attire from the past 2000 years. And they partied hearty indeed, loudly counting down the clock as the seconds ticked closer to midnight, when a stream of colourful balloons descended from the high ceiling, popping and bursting their loads of sparkles, sprinkling glitter over one and all.

Champagne flowed as fast as the Yukon River, elegantly passed around on trays with blow horns and silver party crackers that, when snapped, let loose even more glitter and paper crowns for any who cared place the decoration on their giddy heads.

As in the tradition of years past, photographer Janice Cliff set up on the balcony over looking the ballroom floor and called to all below to gather in a tight crowd, and raise their glasses to toast the New Year.

The playful bunch needed little encouragement, letting out such a boisterous cheer surely any slumbering apparitions, humbug or not, couldn't have resisted in taking part in bringing the old building back to life.

"I definitely felt the ghost of New Years Eve pasts on my back, " says Karen Dubois, programs manager for the New Arts Centre, the organization now utilizing the building.

"The toast was meant to be an historic re-enactment. If you look at the old photos from this place it was a tradition. It sounds bizarre, I know, but I felt a tapping on my shoulder when we did the toast at midnight."

How lucky for her to have experienced this great honour. To be touched by the past as we step into the future is certainly an earned privilege.

Knowing that Ms. Dubois was born and raised in this town, it comes as no surprise something, or someone, from Dawson's colourful heritage was smiling over her, surely with great approval of the efforts made by the many who have taken part with the restoration project.

(It is interesting that this mysterious feeling was not restricted to New Year's Eve. Karen recalled another while sitting down at the old piano during the rejuvenation period, trying to tune the antique by playing an old ragtime song. A shiver ran up her back bone as her fingers flew over the keys, giving yet another example of being touched by the other world.)

Now almost completely restored to its former glory, the 1910-built hall has had the good fortune to have the expertise of several of the city's finest carpenters including Ron Bramadat, Jim Williams, Paul Derhak and David Curtis, the latter also on the Board of Directors, along with many volunteers.

But the title of Prime Mover and Shaker through the whole project is given to Greg Hakonson.

Without his countless hours in all aspects, from acquiring the hall and securing it as an arts centre to getting down and dirty with re-plumbing and other odd jobs, the $750,000 restoration of the Odd Fellows Hall would still be just a dream.

So to Mr. Hakonson, a special applause. Job well done, sir!

Other kudos with regards to the spectacular New Year's Eve Ball go to organizers Mindy Duchnitski and Josee Savard and the great group of people who put on the food - Dawson Donuts' Guy Chan, Klondike Kate's Wade LaMarsh and Brian Phelan, Tintina Bakery's Jayne Fraser, and Shelley Hakonson and Gail Calder for their delicious desserts, as well as St. Mary's Church and Megan A la Mode for use of their kitchens.

Many volunteers and donations came from organizations such as Top of the World Golf Course, Beaver Lumber, Monte Carlo, Finning, Bonanza Market, KVA, City of Dawson and YTG Millennium Fund, Raven's Nook, The Golden Thimble, Frontier Freight, Peabody's Photography, The Eldorado Hotel, River West, Klondike Centennial Society, Parks Canada; and many MANY others who all helped to make this event happen and run so smoothly.

For someone like myself who has attended hundreds of social functions in the Big City of Vancouver (hey, it was part of the job - somebody had to do it!) I must say I am totally impressed with the professionalism of this event, right down to the well-run coat check with its smartly-dressed young attendants to the two Tina's who served up the beverages.

And how about that Chocolate Martini?

Dawson City, you are so far ahead of your time, it makes my head spin. I can't think of any place I would rather have been but here with you all. Happy Year 2000! May you enjoy fun, friendship, love and prosperity in those still yet to come.


A Fly on the Wall or New Year's Eve 2000 in Dawson

by Laura Massey

The Elizabethan couple. Photo by Joann Vriend

I'd often walked by the stately Oddfellow's building and watched curiously as it was undergoing renovations for the Dawson City Arts Society (now known as the Klondike Institute of Arts and Culture, or KIAC). Having toured through the gutted building I witnessed the seasoned lumber being stacked outside it.

Rumour has it an old timer met his wife in there up on the second floor in the Grand Ballroom. Not much of a dancer, she had picked him out from those holding up the north wall. That was almost fifty years ago. Still married to the same woman, he walks daily, occasionally passing the old building. "Sprung floor, solid construction, been levelled and has a good foundation," he comments as we saunter past.

Last summer a tourist stopped me on the street to ask where they could find the "Old-fellows hall. I smiled and directed them to the building with three interlocking rings on its face pointing toward the street corner two blocks over.

During the second week of December, I'd purchased my New Year's Oddball ticket from Riley at River West. Researched and created by John Steins, it is attractive and framable with a grand image surrounded by rather odd logos. A couple evenings before the event I put together my costume collage. Reconstructing suede boots, and utilizing a western shirt with sequined dangles and adding feathers using a needle and thread, I created a hat for my ensemble. These materials were purchased at the local thrift shop. A Christmas parcel from my brother-in-commonlaw provided me with a spiffy noise maker. Possessing the specified prerequisites i still hadn't decided if I'd attend the Ball yet.

During my errands about town I stopped individuals and asked if they'd be attending the event of the season, for hype of the New Millennium was mounting. Posters stated traditional dress, including historical figures from the past 2000 years, while prizes would be awarded for costumes and the most original noise-maker. Most people respond that they are working until 5:00 p.m. and if not celebrating with family and children would consider going. Indecision seems to be a Dawson tradition.

Preparations take place long before the evening. Good smells emanated from St. Mary's kitchen where chefs cooked with garlic and spices and buffet preparations lasted two days. Ice pot candle holders with swirls of colour, preparations unique to the frozen North. Inside the building people hung on ladders as tin foil garlands and swags were swung into place. Balloons wrapped in Saran were attached to the ceiling. Nothing appeared out of place.

It was well past 8:00 p.m. when my companions arrive. Decorative garments hide under snow machine suits, colourful leggings and sorrels. Long past nine we park outside the hall. Having driven past white smoldering candles, decadent lighting and formal decoration we nip next door for a "quickie" at the old brothel first. Yes, just a quick picture of skin, zippers and legs among the deep rose quartz splendor and opulence of Bombay Peggy's. "Off to the Ball!" we shout.

Once in the entrance foyer our hands are stamped and our invitations imprinted with an old-fashioned seal. A young man sporting a funky mushroom hat is informative and courteous. We enter names for the artist created and donated door prizes while I purchase a half and half ticket.

Upstairs the elegance of the time period envelopes us. Painted detailing is everywhere. A raised gallery, historic replica light fixtures and theatre accessories are the focal point of the room. Green, gold, cream, black and medallion motifs. Northwestern empire decoration at it's best. How can anyone not enjoy this old building brought back to life? Dawson's vibrant hope for the future stems from its colourful, historical past.

Important guests are arriving while applause precedes any announcements. The Elizabethan couple. Greg and Shelley Hakonson. Shelley in a beautiful tailored outfit designed by Debbie Winston and complete with flair pen lined panty-hose. Greg looks like Lil' Abner wearing cut offs and hayseed vogue. A rather eclectic costume follows, comprised of a form of skirt with elaborate light bulb and kitchen apparatus headdress; he is known throughout the evening as "egg beater man". Most took prizes.

I look through the window and witness a streetscape at 50 below. Snow mounds, drift covered cars and there's absolutely no movement. My view of the New Millennium. Indoor celebrations seem to heat up inversely proportionate to outdoor's dropping temperature.

At one point Downtown Dick takes the microphone and announces that, at an affair earlier that evening, Sharon Edmunds had proposed to Boyd Gillis. He said "yes" and walks around the whole evening with a big grin on his face.

"Fabulous" is the one word used by many to describe how they felt about the Ball. Year 2000 glasses and wearing black were the most notable trends of the evening. It was a young crowd, different from the other regalias I'd attended in the past. When asked what she thought of the party, Bonnie Nordling labeled it a "Ball Mall" as there was a variety of excellent stations or stops just like one would find in a real mail or mercantile.

Me, well, I left around 3:00 a.m. Having way too much fun I went from the dance floor to the New Millennium. I returned to my temporary Dawson residence. In my infinite wisdom I decided I'd walk the two barking dogs that greeted me. The large black Afghan bolted as soon as she saw the open door. The small, well behaved, Lhasa Apsa and I went by foot through the snow covered streets chasing after what appeared to be a small pony. She was one step ahead of us most of the way. Finally I lost sight of her as she headed north along Eighth Avenue. My furry companion and started home. We rounded the corner to discover one big, black dog sitting at the top of the stairs waiting for us. "I'm glad she had her Millennium Run," said Roz, the owner of both dogs. Me, well I'd had an aerobic workout at 50 below. This had been a New Year's Eve that I'd always remember. '`Only in Dawson!"


Old Fashioned Hospitality Welcomes Berton House Writer To Town

by Darlene St. Pierre

Some times it's hard being a stranger in a strange town.

But not this town.

Within the first week of my arrival as the winter writer-in-residence at Berton House in Dawson City, the two people who immediately made me feel right at home included the local librarian Kim Adams and the Tr'ondek Hwech'in.

Firstly, it is always special to find anywhere in this cold world people who open their arms and hearts without expecting anything in return.

As a volunteer to the Berton House Committee Kim Adams extends not only her precious time but friendship to every writer fortunate to be chosen to ply their craft from the 1901-built heritage house once the boyhood home of Canada's most prominent writer/historian, Pierre Berton.

This I'm certain has presented both the good, the bad and the ugly side of literary types, as writers often need solitude but can still be needy things. It takes a certain amount of grace and great deal of class to be able to smile and put up with the different personalities that come through this house every three months.

Her duties include meeting the writer in the dead of night at the Eldorado in order to hand over keys to the little house as well as be certain the person is settled in and comfortable with the peculiarities of the new abode. For me, she even made sure there was fresh bread and milk in the fridge so a first breakfast was readily available.

Kim gave a delightful tour of the town to show where food can be purchased and mail picked up, cheerful even in frigid 45-below weather, and consistently makes herself available in an assortment of ways including various escorting efforts to a diverse selection of activities ranging from Sunday church services to local dining and drinking establishments.

Ms. Adams has also gone above and beyond the call of duty by offering her computer knowledge and local connections with regards to assisting with household appliances and also spearheads the call for donations to make the house even more accommodating.

She even makes a dandy moose meat dish, and since I've never tried the beast, this was also a real treat.

When one realizes this is all done on her own time and with no expectations of anything in return, it is easy to see a woman like this in the following paraphrase of the words of the late great Audrey Hepburn.

"The beauty of a person is not in the clothes they wear, the figure they carry or the way they comb their hair. The beauty of a person is seen in their eyes, because that is the doorway to the heart, where love resides"

And this goes for a people on a whole as well.

The Tr'ondek Hwech'in First Nation proved this four days after I arrived in town by hosting their annual awards dinner and inviting all in the community to attend.

Over 400 people filled the Heritage Hall Saturday December 18, 1999 and nothing could have been sweeter then the warmth that exuded as I walked through the door accompanied by Ms. Adams, Gloria Baldwin-Schultz and by a swirl of ice fog.

Especially appealing was the smell of the traditional Christmas fixings!

I had yet to find the energy to make myself a healthy full-course home-cooked meal and a growling stomach was letting me know this in no uncertain terms.

So my eyes must have been the size of the Super Moon at the sight of hot roast turkey and ham coupled with peas and carrots and stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, but I waited patiently as the young first served their elders, a wonderful tradition, than bee-lined it to food tables as soon as I got the signal from Kim.

Next came the awards which honoured Elder of the Year Edward Roberts, Youth Tish Lindgren, Member Nancy Van Fleet, Employee Georgette McLeod, and Volunteer Karen Farr with the Employee Achievement Award going to Kim Joseph for "training and going the extra mile".

Special recognition was also made to Ronald Johnson, Issac Juneby and Jason Van Fleet of the Land Use Planning Team as well as Martha and Brian Kates for opening their home in Edmonton to Dawson City travellers and for being big time volunteers while in town.

And to Ian Nyland for giving his Friday afternoons to help with the lunch and Meals on Wheels and other assorted efforts. A very exceptional man indeed.

For me, the real pleasure of the night was not the mouth-watering supper or delectable desserts that followed, but introductions made to a Three-Century Man, or soon to be one as the clock ticked closer to Year 2000.

The 1898-born Mr. Joe Henry and wife Annie make a remarkable and very handsome couple. Both gave me wide, toothy smiles and the honour and pleasure of a shake of their hand.

I felt a tingle at their touch and knew I was graced with something very extraordinary as there are not many who can say they've met someone who has had their feet in three such distinctive time warps.

Sometimes we take things for granted. You of this town are more fortunate than you know. Give back where you can. Happy New Year.


Oliver Is Coming!

by Dan Davidson

Students rehearse for RSS's upcoming production of "Oliver!". Photo by Dan Davidson

The Robert Service School's production of "Oliver!" has been postponed until the first weekend in February. It was on schedule for the third weekend in January, but the weather hasn't been cooperating at all. Extreme cold temperatures in the -45 range have reduced attendance at practices and created the prospect of three performances with no audience and a diminished cast.

There are over 50 people involved in this production and they have been working hard to mount this production, the first major school event to take place in Diamond Tooth Gerties in a long time. Students, teachers, parents and community volunteers have been organized into a drama company under the supervision of teacher Betty Davidson.

The postponement means a little extra waiting for the Acting 11 class, for whom participation in this production is their final assignment. First semester has ended, and with it their class, but the students will have to wait a little linger for their final marks.


Winter Events 1999 - 2000

Wednesday Bingo's Klondike Jamboree & YOOP Bingo's
January 28Stange Family Benefit & Radio (CFYT) Bingo 7:00 pm - YOOP Hall Details 993-5724, Pkg's at Post Office $15.00 Sponsor: KVFFA
February 4 & 5Oliver - Robert Service School Play 993-5435
February 111st Casino Night of New Millennium - KCS 993-1996
February 12Klondyke Millennium Ball - KCS 993-1996
February 12Quest Leaves Fairbanks
February 18International Bonspiel & Casino Night
February 19Destination Tok & Casino Night
February 21 - March 5Trek Over the Top - Eric 633-5154 - Trek Casino's - Feb 21,22,23; Feb 26,27,28; March 2,3,4
February 24- 25Trans Canada Trail Relay 2000 - Dawson City greets and sends off Arctic Water
March 2-12, 2000Arctic Winter Games - Whitehorse
March 16 - 18, 2000Percy De Wolfe Memorial Sled Dog Race 993-6851
March 16 - 19, 2000Thaw De Graw Spring Carnival - KVA 993-5575
April 28, 2000Deadline for Winter Photo Contest Entries 993-1996

Winter Photo Contest

The Klondyke Centennial Society and it's sponsors invite Klondike Region residents to submit winter theme photos or slides for judging. Deadline for entries: 4:00 p.m. Friday, April 28, 2000

Categories: Landscape, Streetscape, Winter Event/Activity Rules: available at Klondyke Centennial Society. Prizes to be announced.

Time Capsule

The KCS is putting together a time capsule for Discovery Days 2000 Celebrations in conjunction with the Tribute to the Miner Monument. If you suggestions or donations of time capsule items please contact KCS.

For more information contact the Klondyke Centennial Society, Monday to Friday, 9:00am to 5:00pm at 1082 3rd Avenue, Bag 1996, Dawson City, YT, Y0B 1G0 Tel: 993-1996 Fax 993-2002 Email: kcs@dawsoncity.net Web Site: www.klondike.com/gold.

Congratulations Christmas Lights Winners
Commercial Winner - Gold City Travel
Prize $100.00 - Sponsored by Yukon Energy


1st Prize - John Bierlmeier - $100.00 KCS Gift Certificate
2nd Prize - Denny Kobayashi - $75.00 KCS Gift Certificate
3rd Prize - Richard Nagano - $50.00 KCS Gift Certificate

A Special Thank You to All Participants, Yukon Energy and the McDade's



by Dan Davidson

Puffed up on a street lamp,
picking at the garbage bags,
finding warmth and food near
the dwelling place of man.

Out there on the highway,
black against the winter snow,
bound to beat this frozen season
any way they can.

Hard not to admire them
even while you're cleaning up.
Wonder how they ever
got the lid off of the can?

Hardiest of feathered friends,
no fair weather visitor,
scavenge somewhere else,
go make your living off the land.


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