|The Fire Department battles the blaze at Arctic Drugs. Photo by Dan Davidson|
by Dan Davidson
Front Street lost another business last evening when the 20 year old Arctic Drugs building went up in a haze of smoke and fumes. The store, property of Fred Berger, was gutted by a fire hot enough to flash the vapours on the ground floor (1200 degrees) and melt the sheet metal on the roof above the attic crawl space.
Firefighters were called out around 6:05 when volunteer Chris Mayes noticed the smoke from the vents while he was at the Dawson Hardware Store across the back lane. By 8:03 PM the fire was declared under control, meaning that it would not spread to the vacant Orpheum Theatre on the left or the recently rebuilt Monte Carlo (which was itself consumed by fire in 1993) on the right.
Still, mopping up operations continued until well past 10:30 that night. By that time the crowds had dispersed and the firefighters were left to consider the mess by themselves, which is probably how they would have preferred to handle it a few hours earlier.
Fred Berger had just closed up shop a few minutes before the fire was noticed. He says he was heading home to Bear Creek when he realized he needed some groceries and turned back to the General Store on Front Street. Then he noticed Fire Chief Pat Cayen rushing down in the direction of his store, which is at the end of that same block. He followed along just in case to see what was happening.
Suddenly there was Cayen, yelling, "I want your keys! I want your keys!"
Cayen laughs when he hears this story later. "Yeah, he followed me right in. And I did need them."
The fire attracted a lot of interest from locals and tourists, who lined the streets and the back lane and had to be requested to move away fairly often. There was, after all, considerable danger from the fumes generated by the vapourizing chemicals, alcohol based preparations and photo developing supplies housed in the building.
Fire Chief Pat Cayen noted that his people had worn breathing apparatus as much as possible while battling the conflagration, but that it wouldn't surprise him at all if some of them felt a bit sick the day after.
Once again the add-on nature of a Dawson building combined with heavy smoke to frustrate efforts at containment. The central portion of Arctic Drugs was a fir constructed bunkhouse left over from the days of the Yukon Consolidated Gold Company. At the rear was a newer room added on for warehouse space and to house the photo-developing machine. At the front was a two metre deep entrance way once used for storing freight and containing the stairs up to the store from the boardwalk level entrance.
In their attempts to get at the fire which tenaciously raged in the crawlspace, firefighters cut out a section of the building's front and poured it full of water and foam, not realizing that there was a second wall to breach further in. Berger, who had told them to go ahead and make the cut, says that he totally forgot about the front as well until much later on. Eventually the roof was holed in several places and the water got where it needed to go.
There was nothing stored in the attic area, yet it burned fiercely, sending out dense clouds of brownish smoke. So far, Cayen speculates that it was simply the old fir timbers that created this effect in the relatively small space.
"Basically what happened is it became an oven in there. It just baked." Crews who attempted to break through the roof at the back of the building were initially unable to work there because it was so hot. The timbers were gone and the metal was starting to melt.
"There's no roof left. The ceiling is pretty much gone. It's really unfortunate. The guys did a heck of a job, but it's a classic building from the creeks...Take a look at any of the copper wiring that was up there. It's gone. It's got a real neat colour to it now."
The "flashover" from the vapours on the ground floor produced enough force to knock a couple of the volunteers off their feet.
The cause of the fire is as yet unknown. An investigation is continuing.
by Dan Davidson
If there are any lingering concerns about cyanide in the minds of folks in the Klondike, none of them were evident at the official opening ceremony for Viceroy Resource Corporation's Brewery Creek operation on June 12. The afternoon ceremony contained barely a hint of doubt about the future and was full of optimism for the mine itself and for Dawson, as well as the Yukon.
Company president Paul Saxton was himself master of ceremonies for the hour long event, introducing each of the presenters in turn and filling the spaces between with his own infectious air of competence and good will.
The Klondike connection to the enterprise was not lost on anyone, but Saxton himself underlined in early the ceremony.
"The great Klondike Gold Rush really began in 1896, and here we are, 100 years later, celebrating the opening of the largest lode gold mine in the Yukon Just think, 100 years ago, people arrived by dog sled and on horseback. Today we arrive by bus, cars and airplane and for the same purpose, the search for Klondike Gold. The Brewery Creek lode gold deposit was actually discovered just 10 years ago, and during these ten years enough work has been done to turn the Brewery Creek into a producing mine."
Thanks to the socio-economic accord between Viceroy and the local first nation, the Tr'on dek Hwech'in people were there in good numbers, and had pride of place in the ceremonies. Councillor Angie Joseph-Rear spoke for the first nation.
"I'd like to extend my welcome to all of you. On behalf of all ... of us, we welcome you to our traditional territory."
Following the traditional custom of the Han, elder Percy Henry took the podium and offered a prayer to the Creator in the name of Jesus, asking for guidance in the operation of the mine.
Joseph Rear concluded her remarks with the following observation: "Today in the Yukon we have economic development set before us, but also, on the other hand, we have to think about the sustainable development, the environment."
Mine manager Jim McCormick set the tone for much of the talk from mine officials.
"Today marks years of vision and dedication by company personnel, associated consultants, contractors and government agencies, and it has culminated in a successful startup and the operation of the largest lode gold mine every constructed in the Yukon and one of the northernmost heap leech operations in the world. Without the efforts of all those involved in the project this milestone would never have been achieved. In particular I would like the employees of the Brewery Creek mine for the commitment and professionalism during the past year."
Among the speakers was company chairman, Ron Netolitzky, who continued the team theme which pervaded many of the speeches.
"One of the things to remember is that many people are involved in creating a new mine; because mines aren't just found, they're created. We're very proud of our industry and its ability to create new wealth where it just looks like empty wilderness when you can wander around.
"The gold here is different than a lot of the gold we see in the rest of the Yukon, and that's why, 100 years ago, the prospectors did not find it. Ten years ago prospectors working for Noranda did find it, and I think it's very good for our industry that we were able to go from a discovery only ten years ago to a producing mine.
"I wish to acknowledge and thank the vast majority of Yukoners for their support of our venture. It's the support of the communities that allow us to continue and to develop in Canada. Viceroy will continue to explore and develop in Yukon, with the understanding that Canadians will continue to support responsible development.
"'Keep mining in Canada,' is a strong theme of our industry, and our industry requires the continuing support of everyone for its survival and prosperity. In Canada, this is very critical, because we have the ability to compete on a global basis, and Canadians do. But we also wish to have the wealth found in our back yard for the direct support of the country."
Maurice Albert, the Deputy Minister of Economic Development, spoke on behalf on the government.
"The Government Leader, Piers Macdonald, and the Minister of Economic Development, Trevor Harding, wish to extend their best wishes to Viceroy for the company's success here at Brewery Creek."
Both gentlemen had prior appointments on this day, but Albert noted that when they had visited the site about three weeks ago, they had been pleased to see so many Yukoners working at the mine.
"In addition," Albert said, "Viceroy has clearly proved that gold heap leech technology works successfully in a cold weather climate. By being the first, this company is paving the way for the discovery and development of other similar deposits in Yukon. Viceroy, I'm sure, will continue to lead the search.
"Another point that I wish to highlight here today is the importance of this operation to the Yukon economy. This year the gold produced by Viceroy will nearly double the total Yukon gold production. The company is providing much needed employment to Yukoners, this at a time of high unemployment. Through an impact agreement with the Tr'on dek Hwech'in, the company has provided training, contracting and employment opportunities to the (local) first nation."
Albert was quick to note the involvement of successive Yukon governments in the development of this mine.
"A successful mining operation involves many steps and many people. The Yukon government is proud of the role it played in this project. The original discovery in 1987 by Noranda was made using regional geochemical, geological and geophysical data funded and gathered by the Yukon geology program. In addition, Yukon government is pleased to have played a role in funding the reconstruction of the access road and the bridge over the South Klondike river. The vision and leadership shown by Viceroy has insured that Brewery Creek will not remain a remote and little known place in Yukon.
MLA Peter Jenkins was likewise a booster: "What you see here (today) is a viable operation contributing in an environmentally friendly way to the Yukon, providing jobs and opportunity for all. So we thank you, those of us in the Yukon, those of us specifically in Dawson City. Keep up the good work. If you do get bored there's more mines to uncover and I'm sure Ron can go out and find a couple more in the back of his pocket and put them into production because we need this kind of enthusiasm."
Eleanor Van Bibber, speaking as Deputy Mayor for the City of Dawson brought greetings: "This long awaited day has brought to our community jobs, economic stimulation and most importantly, a new technology. Viceroy has paved the way for new mining exploration in the Klondike."
by Dan Davidson
While concern about the environment was never far from anyone's lips during the official opening of the Brewery Creek Mine, the comments made by all concerned were about what a great job the mine was doing, not about the concerns that ripping up the hillsides and working with cyanide might prompt.
Tour guides on the five buses which made the rounds of the property after the opening ceremony were quick to point out the thickness of the membranes, the redundancies built into the safety features and the reseeding which has already begun on some parts of the property.
Indeed, environmental concerns were the thrust of the one negative comment that slipped into the otherwise positive ceremonies. Company president Paul Saxton couldn't resist talking about the Yukon News story of June 6 which indicated that an accidental "spill" of frozen leeching solutions had taken place last February.
"As a matter of interest," he said, "Viceroy has recently been announced one of Canada's top 50 corporate citizens, working to improve our countries social and environmental standards. This is done by the social investment organization of the Financial Post.
"And, contrary to to claims made in a recent, inaccurate article in the Yukon News," there was much laughter from the sympathetic audience at this point, "Viceroy has made every effort to design and manage the Brewery Creek Mine in an environmentally safe manner.
"We look forward to working together with the news media in the future to ensure that news are reported fairly, through our own communication policy with all levels of government, the media and all the people of the Yukon.
"As a matter of record, we have our environmental statement of policy with us today and if anybody would like a copy of that they're welcome to take it."
Government spokesperson Maurice Albert (Deputy Minister of Economic Development) indicated the government's satisfaction with the way things have gone so far.
"As most of you are aware, Trevor Harding (Minister of Ec. Dev.)is a strong advocate for environmentally responsible mining operations. As such he is really impressed with the modern processing facilities used by Viceroy here at Brewery Creek.
"This project was designed to meet some of the strictest environmental requirements ever imposed for this kind of operation.
"Yukon is a very beautiful and pristine country. It is important to Yukoners that all development be undertaken in an environmentally responsible manner. The importance Viceroy places on respecting the environment is, in our opinion, the key factor in making this project a success. The company's concerns for the environment was demonstrated during the design and construction phase of this project and it continues to be demonstrated during the operation of the mine.
"The usage of waste oil to heat the process solutions is an example of the company's respect for the environment. Viceroy are true pioneers."
While there is already speculation about how this technology could be applied to smaller mining operations in the Klondike to increase their effectiveness, most of them could not afford the massive capital outlay it would take to use this method effectively.
by Heather Caverhill
Despite the drizzling rain, the Commissioners Residence attracted a crowd to the Commissioners Tea, June 7th. Dressed in period costumes and carrying umbrellas, guests of the KNHS and the IODE hosted event enjoyed tea and cakes, brought to them by members of the IODE and Girl Guides, on the lawn of the restored building.
"We are celebrating 100 years of our fascinating history," Master of Ceremonies, Glenda Bolt kicked off the presentation "And I count myself fortunate and I am sure you will to, to be able to partake in the celebrations of that history."
The first tea was held as a companion event to the Commissioners Ball, June 13 1973 to commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Yukon. For years the Commissioners Tea was held at the Mac Donald Lodge but now that the Commissioners Residence has been refurbished the Tea will be held there.
"It is wonderful being able to be here again and to co-host the Tea with the KNHS" said Regent of the IODE, Joyce Caley. The IODE was formed by Martha Louise Black, who made history not only as the wife of Commissioner George Black but as the second woman to be elected to the House of Commons in Canada. Martha Black enjoyed giving teas and lawn parties at the Commissioners residence and sometimes used them as fund raising events.
"Progress, I think, is wonderful" Caley concluded," our Commissioner now, is a woman and she is a First Nations woman. I think that is something that we are totally proud of." Commissioner Judy Gingell was presented with a gift from the IODE.
Gingell welcomed the Governor General and his wife to the 24th Commissioners Tea and gave a brief history of the Governor General. LeBlanc, was sworn in as the Governor General of Canada on February 8 1995. He had previously served for many years in the Senate and House of Commons. He was the Minister of Fisheries for eight years and the Minister of Public works for two years. As The Governor General, LeBlanc is the Queen's representative in Canada and his duties deal with national identity and unity. Commissioner Gingell invited Mrs. Fowler LeBlanc to say a few words.
"It is very unusual for me to get the microphone when my husband is present" she joked and went on to speak about Martha Louise Black and her achievements. "She did most of her campaigning on foot, that makes her accomplishments all the more remarkable...especially in the mud, I think that would be difficult." Despite the mud in Dawson during their stay, Diana Fowler LeBlanc said she enjoyed her time in the Yukon and thanked the residents for their hospitality. The remainder of the afternoon was filled by local entertainers. Robert Service School Choir, accapella singers; Marjorie Logue, Myriam Wilson and Cythia Hunt, a male trio of Tim Coonen, Wally MacKinnon and Scott Burke and a duet with Dan Davidson and Tim Coonen, ended the damp afternoon on a musical note. A 'walk through' of the Commissioners Residence was given to the guests who had endured the rain, when the Tea came to a close.
by Leanne MacKenzie
The twenty-fifth Annual Commissioner's Ball was "a huge success," according to KVA Chairman Lambert Curzon. With distinguished guests including their excellencies the Right Honourable Romeo LeBlanc, Governor General of Canada and Mrs. Diana Fowler LeBlanc, her Worship the mayor of Whitehorse, Kathy Watson, Chief Pat VanBibber and Geraldine VanBibber, acting mayor of Dawson Eleanor VanBibber, and of course our host Commissioner Judy Gingell.
Speeches were short, sweet and generated quite a few laughs. They started off with KVA Director Denny Kobayashi welcoming everyone to the ball and adding a special welcome to the Governor General of Canada. "I know there are a number of placer miners here in the crowd today, and I can say sir that they have tried year after year to get a Minister of Fisheries to Dawson City and have finally been successful, so I welcome you on their behalf as well," said Denny Kobayashi.
Commissioner Judy Gingell welcomed the Right Honourable Romeo LeBlanc and Mrs. Diana Fowler. "Their excellencies presence in he Palace Grand and at the annual Commissioner's Ball is a great chance for them to witness an event that is organized each year in the spirit of times past. The parties and the fancy dress balls were the norm in Dawson City. This is part of our heritage and culture," said Commissioner Gingell. After giving a brief history of the Palace Grand Gingell encouraged everyone to enjoy the ball.
The Right Honourable Romeo LeBlanc had the most entertaining speech of the night. "Yes, Canadians do carry a picture in their minds of Dawson and of the Yukon but the reality is far stronger when you see the mountains and the forests and when you sense the immensity of this land on top of the world. It is exciting but I suspect during the long winter the land probably represents quite a challenge,"said the Right Honourable Romeo LeBlanc.
KVA chairman Lambert Curzon stepped up to the microphone and gave a push for the 1998 Commissioner's Ball which he would like to see as a Masquerade Ball however the plans are for a Masked Ball. One of the door prizes for 1998 is already confirmed, a cruise for two with Holland America.
Mr. Curzon proceeded to thank his volunteers and brought up the four core volunteers to hand out gifts to our honoured guests the Governor General, Mrs. Fowler LeBlanc, and Commissioner Judy Gingell.
Door prizes were drawn, an airline ticket from Gold City Tours, two Yukon Anniversaries Banners, golfing for four from the Top of the World Golfcourse, a gold wafer from Ton Of Gold and the locally sought after "Free water and sewer for 1998"(won by Lenore Calnan- although Downtown Dick was willing to pay big money for it.).
After a fabulous meal provided by the Downtown Hotel, followed by Joanne's famous cheesecakes, Hank Carr and accompaniament kept Mr. Curzon and Commissioner Gingell twistin' and turnin' til past midnight.
Tickets for the 1998 Comissioner's Ball are already being reserved. With the Prime Minister in 1996, the Governor General in 1997, we look forward to hearing who will be attending in 1998.
compiled by Dan Davidson
The local detachment of the RCM Police apprehended Phillipe Luc Lamarche on Tuesday, June 10, acting on an outstanding national parole warrant. It's related to a four-year sentence he began to serve in 1982 in connection with a robbery and an unrelated later assault.
The man known to many Dawsonites as Wade Simon worked at Klondike Kate's and was very popular with staff, customers and local business people. He is actually Josee Savard's unofficial partner, though the business is in her name.
Lamarche, now 36 years old, walked away from an Ottawa half-way house 13 years ago. He was on day parole and never showed up for curfew in May, 1984. He was half way through his sentence at that time. Officials are not saying how he came to be tracked down now, after all these years.
Police and parole board officials did not provide any details on the arrest for over a week until he appeared in territorial court on June 13. There, it was determined that the matter is not in the court's jurisdiction.
Jim Bartlett, the area director of the Correctional Services of Canada, was reluctant to release details about Lamarche for fear it would affect his life negatively.
"This guy should not be nailed to the cross," he said on June 17 from Kamloops, B.C. "Here's a guy who's living in the community, and he's doing well."
A national parole board will decide his fate in early July, said Bartlett, who is investigating the case. The board will take many things into account. They'll include what kind of person the man is and what he has done since walking away from the justice system before completing his sentence. Lamarche's parole was revoked after he disappeared.
The parole board may do several things, including:
Local opinion has generally been sympathetic to the man known here as Wade Simon. He has a good reputation in the community and his arrest has already inspired a number of testimonials on his behalf, including statements by Mayor Glenn Everitt and MLA Peter Jenkins.
One former employee, who declined to be identified, summed things up this way: "A lot of people want to know what he did. He was always very friendly and gave a lot of people work, when they needed it."
Savard, while shocked at this turn of events and running at full steam to keep the business going in Wade's absence, remains fully supportive of her partner. They have been together for 10 years and she says the person she knows so well has never shown any signs of being the person who was arrested when he was 21.
Rumours have circulated that she had left town, but this is not the case. She merely travelled to Whitehorse to see him and be supportive. Then she came back to Dawson and got back to work.
The pace has been hectic without her partner, but she says her staff has been wonderful and people in the town have been very positive. She appreciates the support she and Wade have received so far.
An example of this can be seen in the reluctance of locals to discuss the case with a reporter from the Ottawa Citizen, who has been phoning at random in the community.
"We're not going anywhere. We're just going to go through this together."
Note: This story is based on the official RCMP press release, items reported on CBC radio and a Whitehorse Star story by Yvette Brend which we were permitted to quote and adapt. Josee Savard contacted us with the wish to clarify a few things for the community at large.
by Leanne MacKenzie
"You gave me a royal welcome and I was deeply touched. The northern spirit is truly alive and well. God bless you all," said Elizabeth Williams also known as "Miss Betty".
Miss Betty was the former teacher of Gordie Caley, Chuck Haines, Corrina Flynn, Betty Jean McCormick and many others between the years of 1943 and 1953. She taught at the Dawson School for ten years before her husband was transferred to Whitehorse with the government.
She was the recipient of the Queen's Coronation Medal for the work she did in Dawson. Some of that work included assisting in the transferring of First Nation children off the reservations and putting them into the public school. The Dawson School was the first school on the British Columbia Curriculum to do this.
When questioned about the differences in teaching today as compared to in 1943 she commented, "We never had the discipline problem that you see today."
Miss Betty retired in 1990 and now lives in Parksville. Have no fear former students and friends, she will return to Dawson again. For the moment though she is off on an adventure up the Dempster Highway.
(Ed Note: Miss Betty stopped off after her Dempster adventure -- got trapped by a washed out road and spent 5 days at Eagle Plains, along with her trip to Inuvik.)
The social event of the season, the commissioner's Ball, was held on Saturday June 7. As usual, the sold-out event was highlighted by the presence of several VIPs, including representatives from the City of Dawson, the Yukon Government, Yukon and Alaska First Nations, as well as their Excellencies the Governor General and his wife. Despite the rain, a good time was had by all. Many men proved that chivalry is not dead in Dawson, evidences by the numerous ladies seen being carried across the boggy streets in their formal attire. Dominic would like to thank all the people who contributed to the Ball (and helped him retain his sanity), Lambert, Lori, Lenore & Dave, Shelley, Leanne, Juli, Paula, Anna, Melissa, Karen, Myrna, Janice, Dominique, Chris, Vera, Renee, as well as the crew from the Downtown, Percy de Wolfe, the Rangers, and Music Festival, and anyone else who might have been missed here.
The next big event will be the twentieth annual Yukon Goldpanning Championships, to be held at the North End on Canada Day. There are categories for every age and skill level, form the complete novice to the seasoned veteran, as well as the Corporate Challenge team event. Prizes will be awarded in all categories, and the winner of this year's Yukon Open will be eligible for the 1997 World Gold Panning championships in Vigevano, Italy in August, and the runner-up will get the chance to participate in the US Championships in California this fall. Registration will take place at the site from 11:00 am on July 1; entry fees are $2 for Youth events, $10 for Klondike Open, Senior Open, and Cheechako events, $30 for the Yukon Open, and the Corporate Challenge is $20 per team. To pre-register, call the KVA office, 993-5575. The day will warp up with the awards ceremony at 4:30 pm. See you at the North End on Canada Day!
by Dan Davidson
Down at the corner someone has decided to stage a mud derby. From the way it looks at the corner of 7th and Princess several vehicles with large wheels and outsized treads got together and churned to see who could dig the deepest holes.
I met those holes when I returned home last Tuesday evening after a three day odyssey of rainy driving. The pull of the puddles all along the 1000 kilometres of the Klondike Highway (Dawson to Whitehorse and return)had made me glad that I'd decided to take the truck instead of the car, but this set of ruts made me wonder if I would finally be stymied just a half a block from home.
Momentum saved me. I took the corner as straight on as I could and sort of slid through it, feeling it suck and squelch under my tires. It was days before it dried out enough to be practical for driving, walking or anything else.
I shouldn't have been surprised. The five days of rain since the Governor General's visit had reduced 5th Avenue to a pot-holed obstacle course that rattled my teeth in the early evening just minutes before, so the signs were clear.
The rain kept up at intervals all week after that. By Friday the folks at the Post Office had decided to get cute. They have a Gold Rush book on sale this summer. This day they had it open at the wicket, page turned to a particular picture from the turn of the century. A hand lettered card drew the attention of anyone in the line up: "The streets were paved with ... mud!"
Well, isn't that why we have boardwalks, you might ask. This is true, as far as it goes. Or maybe I should say, as far as the boardwalks go. That's the problem, really; they don't go everywhere, just in the downtown core. And even then they have their shortcomings.
Let's say you have mounted a boardwalk and have enjoyed mud-free progress down a block. When you reach the end what do you do next? In dry weather this isn't a problem. You step down, or walk down the gravel ramp, cross the street and carry on. After rain, this is problematical.
All of Dawson's downtown streets have two slopes to them. They appear to be graded to direct water to the storm drain grates at the intersections. These work fairly well, but are not perfect so we tend to end up with a mudflat or a puddle up to a metre or more in width at just about the place where you'd like to leave the boardwalk, and this tends to circle around the corner as if planned to trap you on the boardwalk.
The other factor is that our streets are slightly higher in the middle than at the edges. For drainage again , I suppose, but the result is that there may often be a muddy little creek along the edge of the boardwalk.
Any way you look at it, a dismount means a long step or an energetic hop. Pedestrians can often be seen bobbing and weaving at the corners, trying to figure out what to do next to avoid the mud.
I'm painting all this in fairly humorous terms, of course, but I'm not really exaggerating very much, and the scene I'm describing is particularly hard on seniors and the elderly.
What this adds up to is a lot of people who chose to walk in the middle of the road, the place where it's driest and least slippery.
This week's been worse than most, mind you. In sprucing up the place for the GG's visit, the town decided to give the streets a grading and calcium anti-dust treatment. Murphy's Law ("anything than can go wrong will") came into play immediately. It began to drizzle, then to rain, then to pour, and thus it continued for 5 or 6 days, with just enough sun to raise our hopes for dashing.
Those of you old enough to have travelled the Alcan or Klondike highways when regular grading, calcium treatments, and watering were the norm will know what water does to freshly treated dirt, will understand the greasy consistency of the goop that is created. When it dries out under the summer sun it forms a pretty nice surface, but it has to dry -- or else.
This week it didn't and, oh my, it's been such fun. We do hope for better things to come.
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