Dawson City, Yukon Friday, January 9, 1998

Jeuille and Mark Favron roast a hot dog during the Dawson City Snowmobile Association's Fun Run held recently. Photo by Kevin Hastings

Feature Stories

CFYT Gears Up for Expansion
New Gertie Excited by Contract
Dump Hours Changing
Long Distance Cable Cut in Dawson Creek
3rd Annual YTG Christmas Gathering
Tidbits from Yukon's Past
Preserving the Lost Years of the Yukon
Uffish Thoughts: The Christmas Season in Dawson

CFYT Gears Up for Expansion

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

Two years after CFYT-fm's relocation to the Bonanza Centre the organization seems to be poised on the brink of a renaissance. Where it has been dragging along with one or two volunteers, and spending more and more of its air time rebroadcasting CKRW from Whitehorse, the volunteer radio station now has a full slate of local disc jockeys (10 to 12) and anywhere from six to ten hours of local programming per day.

It's quite a change, and Joe Magee, one of the stalwarts from the old guard, is excited about it. He got involved again to keep the station from fading away, but he's been pleased at the community response to the need for a local voice.

Listeners can expect a broader range of material over the next year. Magee says the new volunteers have a wider range of interests than in the past, when the station tended to be a bit overloaded with heavy metal. The new morning show host is playing a lighter, middle of the road fare which the group feels is more suited to that time of the day.

The new variety is an advantage, but it creates its own problems. Basically, the station needs to acquire broader spectrum of material.

That's why it will be holding a marathon fund-raising radio-a-thon event over the weekend of January 8 to 11. So far the crew plans to be on air for 55 hours straight, taking requests and pledges to build up its music fund.

Magee says a lot of the dj's bring in their own music collections to keep the station up to date, but the group does need to build up its collection again. Much of its archive consists of old vinyl lps. mix tapes and promotional cds from music companies.

CFYT has its own broadcasting schedule to follow and has to do a certain amount of home grown material in order to maintain its licence. That means that folks who are used to hearing Whitehorse based CKRW at that spot on the dial will have to live with interruptions to that service. CFYT runs on volunteer labour and the shows have to go on when there are people to create them.

"I've told the guys," Magee says, "if anybody phones (to complain) don't panic and quit and walk away. Just turn it over (to the CFYT feed) and continue on. I used to do a Friday night show. One night I went in and cut the bingo off. I got a phone call right away saying turn it back on. I said, 'No, no, no. Wait a minute here. We have schedules. We're all volunteers. If you want to listen to bingo, turn over the CHON-fm. It's on two stations.'"

The radio group will be meeting monthly now to discuss schedules and music purchases. But it does have other concerns.

The station has just ordered some new equipment to extend its range.

"Our plans are to move the antenna from the top of the building to the top of the hill and then to continue on to King Solomon's Dome," Magee says.

These changes should push the signal nearly as far as Stewart Crossing, though you will have to switch stations to pick it up that far. Presently it fades out about the airport, so that is where change would happen. This signal should also reach out on to the creeks - Hunker and Bonanza - and up to the Top of the World Highway.

Magee hopes the next move will be to go to stereo broadcasts within the city limits.

"We keep on trying to move forward and upgrade our equipment."

The other side of CFYT-fm is the channel 11 television service which everyone calls DCTV. While it is essentially a rolling ads/bulletin board service with the radio in the background, it is also used to broadcast the biweekly city council meetings, public debates and videotaped records of community events.

Presently the ads are brought up to date and changed twice a week. This is done by another group of volunteers, and it is one of the station's regular sources of revenue.

Council broadcasts have been a useful addition to the public life of the town, but have also been frustrating due to poor sound or picture quality. Magee says they are hoping to fix that by having an operator on site rather than just setting up the camera and leaving. Magee would like to have someone at the meeting to move the camera around during delegations so that the speakers can all be seen rather than having a static shot of the council replying to questions from unseen citizens.


New Gertie Excited by Contract

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

Lorraine Butler is an excited as she can be about her summer job. Butler is the principal voice and presence for Lone Wolf Entertainment, the Delta based production company that has sewed up the Klondike Visitors Association's entertainment contract for what could be a three year run at a cost of $365,000 for the first year.

Butler and Ian Pratt, her technical director, were here in November to take a look at both the Palace Grand Theatre and Diamond Tooth Gerties and see what they were getting into.

Butler is no stranger for the casino, of course, for she played the role of Gertie during the summer season in 1990, after a number of years spent in the role of Stella as part of the well known Fort Steele show near Cranbrook. The Steele show is, in fact, the opportunity which brought the major players in Lone Wolf together in the mid 1980's. It was there that Lorraine first worked with Joey Hollingsworth, the nationally known tap dancer whose credits over the years have included the Ed Sullivan Show and Mister Rogers as well as many stage appearances. Joey and his wife, Dolina, are partners with her in Lone Wolf.

It all fits together nicely. Sam Steele himself was assigned to the Cranbrook region before he came to Dawson to supervise law and order during the gold rush. When she was Gertie in 1990 she ran into the officer who had been in charge at Cranbrook.

"I had a good summer here," she says of her first stint. "I enjoyed it. So when the opportunity came up to apply again...why not?"

She happened to be in Dawson to visit her daughter, Julia, who had spent two years here by last summer. There was another reason, she confides. "I came...to see a Mountie in red serge. I have 'Scarlet Fever'. I'm so thrilled they got the horse Mountie. It's such a fabulous touch and it's so good for this town."

Lorraine says she didn't really set out to make a career out of turn of the century material, but it seems to come her way. She has a presence and a voice which seems to suit it naturally.

By late November Lone Wolf had already made a number of decisions about next summer's show. Butler herself will play the role of Gertie, though she also wants to figure out how to spend a bit of time on the other stage. Musicians Lloyd Nicholson and Eric Knight will be back at the casino show, but local talent Wendy Perry has been hired to tinkle the ivories for the early opening this year.

Hollingsworth, who has been busy in Atlanta in a production of the "Hot Mikado" this fall, will be producing the Gaslight Follies show. Norm Long will be the musician in residence there. He and Butler frequently work as a duo.

Contacted in Delta, where she has lived since immigrating to Canada from Australia in the 1970's, Butler indicated in late December that she had been spending a lot of time locked in the music room at major library in her area, researching turn of the century tunes. She and Hollingsworth hadn't pulled a cast together yet, but about 30 people were interested in auditioning and they expected to have something definite to say along those lines by the end of January.

There will be three shows nightly at Gerties', with Butler and the dancers singing together, This year the dancers will be on microphones.

The Palace Grand show will be what she calls a "book show", which is to say that it will have a story line. Arizona Charlie Meadows will be there to introduce the show. There will be "lots of music - lots of humour - audience participation - the same sort of thing, you know." She is aiming for a high energy production. She wants to take an audience of tired travellers and give them such a second wind that they'll all want to head off to Gertie's afterwards to work it off.

Another of her objectives is to have a really good time and to let the people working with her have a good time. Her idea of a good ensemble cast is one where the players like each other and enjoy their work.

Lone Wolf's contract is for one year with an option to renew up to three. Butler is hoping that's how it works out.



by Joyce Caley, Regent

"Christmas Cheer for Senoirs" is not a big booze party for the golden oldies! Indeed not! Since the 1920's I.O.D.E. has been doing up christmas parcels for the "old timers" currently known as "seniors". Back then the parcel were deliverd by the R.C.M.P. on their patrols around the creeks. Now they are delivered around town by the Dawson Firefighters Association.

This year fifty-four parcels were packed remembering sixty-five people. Some people have chosen for a donation to the Dawson Shelter Society to be made in their names in lieu of personal gifts, so in all, eighty seniors were remembered this chrismas. Our sincere thanks to: all those who baked cookies for the parcels; the local businesses who set out our Chrismas Cheer Tins and sold chrismas raffle tickets; Dawson Hardware; The C.I.B.C. and Van Every Inc. for calendars; Janet Leary and the Sparks for their donation of gift wrapped Girl Guide Cookies; the various people who donated gifts of goods with special thanks to Laurie Sutherland in Watson Lake; the Y.O.O.P.s; P.W.O.Y.s; Arctic Inland Resources and Marg Van Dusen for their generous donations; The Dawson City Fire Fighters for disributing the parcels.

Our Christmas Raffle was won this year by Sally Gaje of Dawson.

Happy New Year to everyone and thank you to the community of Dawson for your continued support.


Dump Hours Changing

Attention all residents of the Dawson Region:

Reduced hours at Quigley Landfill

To reduce operating costs at the Quigley Landfill, the hours of operation will be reduced. Starting January 12, 1998 the dump will be open to the Public the following hours: Monday to Wednesday, 7:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M., Thursday to Saturday 3:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. and Sunday 12:00 P.M. to 4:00 P. M. These operating hours will remain in effect until further notice. We apologize for any inconvenience. Please contact the City Office for further information at 993-7400.


Long Distance Cable Cut in Dawson Creek

Usually we get to read about an event only after it is over, with all the details summed up. The telephone disruption to the Yukon On January 1 and 2 provides with an opportunity to compare the spin doctors of two different services at work.

Here's the official version from NorthwesTel:

NorthwesTel technicians have repaired a problem which disrupted long distance service to customers in the western part of the company's operating area. The system was operational by 5 o'clock p.m. PST Friday afternoon.

Of course, people having trouble with their phone service responded by calling 611. They had to wait for the press release to determine what had happened. InterNet users took a more direct route, and one server, Internet Yukon,, quickly sent out the first of 4 reports and updates on the situation, each one reminding its customers that the people to complain to were at the other end of 611.

(January 1, 1998) It seems that at about 4:15 p.m. today (January 1, 1998) a back hoe dug up a chunk of Telco pipe in Dawson Creek, BC. Wow... somebody had a bad hangover!

At 9:00 p.m. it was reported to Internet Yukon management that the outage was expected to continue for another 6-8 hours. That'll put service resumption somewhere in the wee hours of tomorrow morning. Aren't you glad you rented that video now?

NorthwesTel continued by providing a journalistic summary of the event. Service was disrupted on New Year's Day at 4:30 p.m., PST, when a section of underground fibre optic cable in Dawson Creek, B.C., was cut. The cable appears to have been cut as a result of some excavation work done by another company. The service disruption was discovered immediately, but it s took several hours to isolate the cause and get technicians on site. The workers spent all day Friday repairing the cable.

Internet Yukon, true to its more chatty web style of communication, covered the same territory this way:

(January 2, 1998, 8:55 a.m.) NorthwesTel repair reports at this time that the Telco pipe in Dawson Creek is another two hours from repair. We are looking at a return to Internet service at 11 a.m.

(January 2, 11:03 a.m.) NorthwesTel Repair Centre (611) reports that the service outage will continue today until 4 p.m. They have given further details about yesterday's event, It seems it was B.C. Hydro's back hoe that dug up the cable in Dawson Creek, B.C.

(January 2, 4:18 p.m.) The latest from the NorthwesTel Repair Centre is that there were some technical hitches during the day, causing delays. They remain optimistic, however, that the circuit may return to service by 5 p.m. today. Keep yer fingers crossed.

(January 2, 4:48 p.m.) Looks like we're back on-line folks! For those of you wondering, all bank networks were also cut off (that's why Interac wasn't working), and, yes, all Internet service into the Yukon was down, not just Internet Yukon's!

Thanks for bearing with us through this difficult period, your patience is all greatly appreciated. Now, let's all hunker down and read our email...

NorthwesTel concluded with a ode to corporate cooperation...

During the period of the disruption, NorthwesTel worked cooperatively with BCTel and Telus to re-route long distance calls sin order to minimize problems for customers.

...and a commercial:

NorthwesTel brings high-value solutions for the advantage and enjoyment of 110,000 residents of the Northwest Territories, Yukon and northern British Columbia.


3rd Annual YTG Christmas Gathering

by Anne Saunders
Sun Staff

Anna Hanulik throws a rock during the YTG Maintenance Camp's 3rd Annual Christmas gathering. Photo by Anne Saunders

"Not a big crowd, but a good one," was said of the 25 or so employees who showed up for the 3rd Annual YTG Highway Maintenance Christmas Gathering. This event was held Friday December 19 at the Curling Club and included catered dinner, bar and "Turkey Shoot."

"Duff" Gary Felker made a short presentation in which he welcomed George Nagano and Anna Hanulik. At the same time, Felker presented a humorous "gag" certificate to Grant Halirewich of Eagle Plains who had, earlier this spring experienced a vehicular mishap with a herd of caribou on the Dempster Hwy.

Prime rib dinner included Caesar salad, herbed potato wedges and even Yorkshire pudding and was served by Broad Shoulders Catering, owned by Jayne Fraser. The bar was run by Edith Henry, a curling club member, with the proceeds going to the Club.

After dinner, the Turkey shoot was held on the ice with the highest curling scorers winning two turkeys and two hams. Winners were: Anna Hanulik, Jim Fisher and Gerry Crayford who won twice.

The Christmas Gathering was organized by Jim Fisher and Duff Felker.


Tidbits from Yukon's Past

by Ed Jones
Sun Correspondent

"The half dozen A-yan Indians that had visited us at Selkirk spoke to us of a larger village a little below, but from the appearance of those we had seen on the Yukon River above we were in no way prepared to see such a large camp as we met on the southern bank ... numbering from 175 to 200 souls and the largest ... we met on the whole length of the river. They had bright, intelligent faces and the superior workmanship of their light birch bark canoes was the finest on the river. The Hebrew cast of countenance was very noticeable in a great many of these Indians."

First Lieutenant Frederick Schwatka
"A Reconnaissance of the Yukon Valley, 1883"

Twice within a period of six months Dawson was devastated by fire. The first, on October 14, 1898 began in the Green Tree Hotel. Among the dozens of buildings consumed by the fire was the Post Office, the Worden Hotel, the Empire Bakery, the New England Saloon, and the Vancouver Hotel. At least 2,000 people fought the fire, deciding finally that if the entire city were not to be lost, several buildings would need to torn down or blown up. The total cost of buildings lost was estimated at $503,000. The second and most disastrous fire started on April 26, 1899 in the apartment of Helen Holden in the Bodega Saloon on First Avenue. Several blocks of buildings were burning at any one time. Among the at least 126 buildings lost were the Trivoli Theater, the Bazaar, the Library, the Aurora Restaurant, the Rutledge building, the Aurora Saloon, the Victoria Saloon, the Northwest Trading Co., the Madden House, a grocery store, the Ryan Boot and Shoe Store, the Graf Jewelry Store, the M & M Newsstand, the Arlington Saloon, the Montana Restaurant, the Board of Trade building, the Opera House, and the Central Market. Losses were estimated at over $1,000,000. An inquest failed to determine the cause of the fire.

Some early maps of Alaska and the Yukon show a place named "Reid" (or Reid's House) on or near the upper Stewart River. It was a shelter constructed for (and likely by), Hudson's Bay Co. fishermen on a small lake. A few furs may have been acquired there by trade or trapping, but it was not considered a trading post.

Early prospectors traveling from 40 Mile to Joseph Ladue's Ogilvie Island Post at the mouth of the 60 Mile River ascended the 40 Mile River for some distance, made a short portage to the 60 Mile River, floating down it to Ogilvie. The return trip to 40 Mile was an easy float down the Yukon.

The town of Cudahy (or Fort Cudahy), about 1/2 mile north of the mining camp at the mouth of the 40 Mile River was established by the North American Trading & Transportation Co. in 1892. It's competition with the Alaska Commercial Co. at 40 Mile greatly reduced the cost of food and supplies.

In 1963, Han "Chief", Charlie Isaac make the following statement to a visiting anthropologist about the training of young Han men before the arrival of the white man:

"The boys and young men were trained. Endurance, agility, speed and sure-footedness were very important--important not only to the man but sometimes to the whole tribe. A young man should not eat fish skin, especially the skin of the king salmon, because it is slippery and people though it would make him slip when chasing caribou. They should also not eat unborn calf of moose, caribou or sheep because it make them heavy and made them get old soon. They must not sleep with their legs stretched out, but always with their legs bent. If someone in the lodge noticed a boy sleeping with legs straight, they would take a little stick and hit his legs hard, until he curled them up. If he slept stiff-legged, he would be stiff-legged on snowshoes. When you are running on snowshoes, especially in deep snow and uphill, you have to be able to step high and bring your knees up in a good pace. Our people were very good runners, famous for it. They beat the Loucheux (Kutchin) in races."

Estimated Han settlement populations:

Eagle, 1910: 200
40 Mile, 1880: 106
Nuclaco, 1883, 150-200

The first white man to enter the Yukon by way of the southern mountain passes was George Holt. The actual year that he and at least two Indian men from the Sitka area somehow managed to get past the Chilkat Indians who had warned white men not to attempt such a passage. Sometime between 1875 and 1878 they did cross over either Chilkoot or White Pass to the headwaters of the Lewes River (since the early 1950s officially recognized as part of the Yukon River), and proceeded to Marsh Lake. From that point they followed an Indian trail to the Teslin-Too (Teslin) River. They returned that same year by the same route to the coast with their story that they had found coarse gold. Future prospectors were unable to verify Holt's story.

Nicknames have always been common among white men in the Yukon. From the early 1880s on the sandbars of the Stewart River to the 1890s at Forty Mile come names like Salt Water Jack, Big Dick, Jimmy the Pirate, Old Maiden, Pete the Pig, Buckskin Miller, and Cannibal Ike. Any eccentricity of character was likely to earn a man a nickname. In the 1960s some of the nicknames were Bombay Peggy, Garbage Joe, Montreal Mike, Black Mike, One-dollar Jones, Chickadee McDonald, Bubbles Moi, Spider Sidney and Happy Jack.

During the winter of 1966-67, Bill Gehring, Ed Jones, and Lena Christiansen succeeded in lifting a 400 lb. chunk of silver-lead ore from the floor to the bar in the Westminster Hotel. It was real work for Bill and Ed, but Lena thought it was fun, and would carry it around the room before placing it on the bar!

During the summer of 1962, a self-proclaimed "river man" arrived in Dawson with a fantastic cabin cruiser equipped with two 100 hp outboard engines. A couple of the local river types suggested to him before his departure upriver that he should take the main channel of the river to avoid the large gravel bar at the mouth of the Klondike River. "I don't see any problem", he responded, and with a mighty roar the craft streaked upriver, directly across the mouth of the Klondike. The roar suddenly turned into that metal on rock clatter that can make a true river man sick to his stomach. Almost simultaneously came the sound of crashing cruiser taking the entire transom with them. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured, but it was indeed a bad day for the gentleman's pride.

In 1964 Ed and Star Jones started Yukon Queen River Tours. For $2.50 and the willingness to be on the Yukon River in a 24 foot open river boat patrons got a 2 1/2 hour guided tour down river. Passengers heard the story of the Rush of '98, and about the Mary Graf, the Seattle No., 3, the Julia B. and the Schwatka that had been pulled up on the ways in West Dawson in 1928. From there they proceeded to Moosehide Village which was uninhabited at the time, except for Freddy Isaac who said he just liked to get away from the "noise of Dawson". After a visit to St. Barnabas Anglican Church (where Star frequently played hymns on the old pedal organ), and to the school (which closed in 1952), the tour crossed the river, floating down river at the same time to the north end of Sister's Island. Proceeding up the back channel to Ed and Star's fish wheel the passengers were frequently treated to the sight of a King or Dog salmon in the box, or, on occasion, one actually just being caught in one of the baskets. The next stop was at the island. After a short walk through the woods and a tour of a small museum in the barn, refreshments were served in the cabin, and guest were treated to stories of early days in the Yukon, river stories, life on Sisters' Island, and "bear" stories. The tours continued for several years, and the guest book has the names of hundreds of people from many parts of the world who saw a part of the Yukon that few tourists had the opportunity to experience during the 1960s.


Preserving the Lost Years of the Yukon

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

The cover of issue #5 of the Yukoner Magazine.

The Yukoner Magazine is just over a year and a half old now - six issues down and making a little bit of money. For editor Sam Holloway and publisher Dianne Green that's not the most ideal situation - it would be nice to makes lots of money - but it will do.

"The thing about the magazine," said Green in a recent interview, "is that if you're doing what you know how to do, and if it's what you like to do, if you have some flexibility with your time and if you can work at home, and call on nice people (my advertisers and writers) when you're in town... I mean, what could be better?"

"Our day to day routine would be a wonderful vacation for some people. The quality of life is great. I don't think that Sam and I will ever retire because we're having too much fun."

The two writers are not making bundles of money, but are living comfortably in an ever expanding three room cabin by the shore of Marsh Lake with two cats and a dog.

The headquarters of the Yukoner Magazine is not nearly as rustic as the photos in the magazine would lead one to believe. What you see is an isolated looking log cabin, usually with a truck beside it. What you don't see is the greenhouse, the rest of the property and the cozy green and red house where Sam Holloway and Diane Green live. (1988) The house is a lot bigger now than it was when Sam moved in ten years ago, having expanded room by room over the years. Green described the process in her publisher's essay in issue number 5 of the Yukoner.

The cabin, just a stone's throw from the house, is the nerve centre of the publishing operation. Just inside the door sits the hybrid computer system which is the foundation of GreenInk Publishing. Most people would buy a computer system whole, but Sam's an electrician by training, and his is a bit of this and bit of that, cobbled together over the years and coaxed into harmonious union by a man who likes to say that "trouble is my environment."

At the right of the room is the press, covered as a protection against dust and cat hairs. Neither of the two cats, Barf and Sneaky, are allowed in there, and yet he still finds cat hair in the press from time to time. Just one of life's little puzzles. Collation central and supplies storage can be found in a shallow addition at the rear of the cabin.

The printing press is a cantankerous little one person affair and Sam just loves to work with it. He obtained it in exchange for an old Dodge truck in the summer of 1995 from a friend who had once intended to be his printer but never found the time or determination to master the beast.

According to the printing history he wrote for the July 1996 premier edition of the Yukoner Magazine, it took a lot of ink and paper for him to get to the point where he could actually coax readable pages from the thing, but printing costs and schedules had been one of the downfalls of the Yukon Reader and Sam is what you'd have to call a determined individual.

Holloway and Green maintain that the press is the key to the current magazine's financial success. Printing costs, they say, killed The Yukon Reader, Sam's first venture into small magazine production. The Reader lasted four years, costing twice as much to create as it was able to bring back in revenue. For most of its life it was a 20 by 27 cm regular sized newsstand magazine, dipping down to the dimensions of the Yukoner for three issues when times were particularly rough.

Its manifesto is still interesting though, for it proclaims Holloway's interest in what he then called "The Lost Years of Yukon history, from 1930 to 1955".

Holloway's new magazine continues to concentrate on the middle history of the Yukon - not the Gold Rush, not up to date, but the period from the thirties to the early eighties. A piece of mine that he reprinted about musher Gene Dubois was triggered by Gene's 1997 death but focussed on his 1982 cross-Canada dog run. For Sam, that's current events.

The Yukoner has also added a nineties touch, with photos and stories about the experiences of everyday people living here now. Publisher Green sums it up this way:

"He's running stories about his contemporaries, but they're living a lifestyle of fifty years ago. It's not just those times, it's those values. Sam is a really old fashioned guy. He's like a really talkative Gary Cooper - but much shorter!"

Does the formula work? Well, it seems to. Green sounds a bit mystified when she sums up the feeling that surrounds Holloway's work, but she believes what she says. The Yukoner gets a lot of feedback, both from readers and from advertisers.

"Another thing about this business is the contact we have with our subscribers and all the mail we get. That kept Sam going on the Yukon Reader for a long time 'cause people loved it.

"I don't know if every other magazine is like that but the stuff that Sam does just seems to have a cult following ; people will buy anything that he does and just seem to hang on every word. They're still interested even though in this magazine he hasn't written an awful lot. He writes his editorial and his yarns and a story on Joe Boyle that kept him busy for awhile.

"I guess people buy into the fantasy of what we're doing - the fantasy of living in the Yukon."

At this point, after six issues, Green reports that "the subscriber's list is growing and advertising is healthy".

It's not enough to make a living on, though it currently covers their costs at their Army Beach property.

Green's personal business includes copy editing, freelance writing (a recent piece on mining in Up Here) and the preparation of advertising copy for various businesses and government. Her background includes time spent as a copywriter for the Disney corporation and years as field editor for a Los Angeles based outfit that handled about 16 magazines. She came back to Canada in 1984 after 12 years in the USA and put down her roots in the Yukon, freelancing for CBC, and in staff at NorthwesTel and YTG.. She has also written a corporate history of NorthwesTel, In Direct Touch With the Whole Wide World and the revised edition of Exploring Old Whitehorse for the Yukon Historical and Museums Association.

Holloway has been a jack of all trades for years. His tales tell of time spent on barges and river boats, of placer mining on the Stewart River and in the Klondike. He's an electrician by trade though, and spent a long time with the Northern Canada Power Commission, troubleshooting community power systems throughout the north. He's came to publication only in his late thirties. Since then he's been visible in both territorial newspapers, and in his own publications. He's published one novel (The Bushman, first serialized in the Yukon Reader), and has just begun another one (The Goldseeker) in the back pages of the The Yukoner.


Uffish Thoughts: The Christmas Season in Dawson

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

Dawson has a lot of seasonal traditions, some of which date back to the Gold Rush. Chief among these is the tradition of Open Houses. Originally held to give a bit of home life to the miners from the creeks when they came into town for the season, these events now stretch back into the month of November and involve just about every organization in the community. Good food and good fellowship are the rules of the season, and if we don't all gain uncountable kilograms during the month before the season comes to an end, then that must be another blessing.

My wife's school choir sang this year, as usual, at the Museum's Open House, which was one of the earliest of the season. In fact, I did a set of Christmas material as well. I seem to get asked to join in here about every other year, which suits me. Last time I lost my voice immediately after the event and had to struggle through two weeks of school after that with barely a whisper to my name. This year went much better.

The RCMP invite the community to their open house by issuing a general warrant. Several years ago the city council, chamber of commerce and Klondike Visitors Association decided they were duplicating their efforts and lumped their affairs together to make one big one, held at the Visitors' Reception Centre on Front Street. It's so sumptuous that our family used it for a supper outing on the night it was held.

This year the Tr'ondek Hwech'in first nation used open house season to give us all a first glimpse inside their new cultural centre. With its high-ceilinged foyer, spacious circular display centre and small theatre it will be a real addition to the facilities in the community when it is completed next spring. Even in rough form it is impressive.

This strange winter had given us only one day of minus 30 degree weather since the snow fell. (Well...up to New Years' Eve anyway - guess it coiuldn't last forever.) Wouldn't you know it would be on the one day we needed it warmer, the evening we held our school's outdoor carol sing. The intention had been to walk to Front Street preceded by whooping fire engines and singing all the way. Instead we trimmed our walkabout to a stroll around the block and sang on the school steps instead of at the more exposed Commissioner's Residence 5 blocks west on the river front. It worked out fine.

The Christmas Eve Pageant at Saint Paul's has sort of turned into the Christian community's open house. Even though there are three other church services on Christmas Eve, all the congregations come together for this one. The ecumenical choir begins its bi-weekly practices about a month before the event. The congregations conspire together early in the fall to produce a slide show version of the Christmas Story and that becomes the center piece of the service, which also includes lots of singing and officiating by both pastors (Christian Fellowship and Gospel Chapel) and both priests (Roman Catholic and Anglican).

Typically we follow the service with a visit to the home of a fellow teacher who has her own open house, and then come home to open one present each before the evening ends. And so we come to the end of the preparations and to the day itself. I hope your's was as pleasant as ours.



by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

Photo by Diane Marengere

In this crystal season,
the Old Dome Road
has become
a corridor of
snow shrouded boughs,
weighted by their load,
poised as if the tread
of footsteps,
or rumble of a car would be
enough to disturb their loads;
waiting for the wind
to shake off their chilly blankets
and set them free.
Meantime they frame the road,
frame the view of the valley below,
and capture the eye
with the beauty of winter.


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