Dawson City, Yukon Friday, March 5, 1999

Peter Ledwidge was Dawson's entry in this year's Yukon Quest. As a rookie, he ran a tough race and managed to come in last, but he had a great time. More news on Peter next issue. Photo by Jennie Kershaw

Feature Stories

Airport Needs Changes Spark Debate at Meeting
Water Board Asks Dawson to Carry Out Environmental Monitoring Program
Asian Tourists Could Be New Gold Rush says Taiwan Promoter
Almost 300,000 Visited Last Year
Taking Time for a Story
DeWolfe Race on Schedule
Olson Obituary
100 Years Ago
Photos from the mid-February Hootenany

Welcome to the March 6 edition of the online Klondike Sun. The news stand edition was 20 pages long, contained 14 photographs, 16 stories, our bi-weekly television guide, a photo spread on the Hootenanny and the cartoon strips Paws and Mukluk & Honisukle.

Airport Needs Changes Spark Debate at Meeting

by Wayne Potoroka

Dawson City has a wish list as long as the 10 arms of town council combined. Included are a recreation centre, a bridge to span the Yukon river, a sewer system that appeases everyone and a new school.

Add one more to the number.

An up-to-date airport.

It has been apparent for some time that the Dawson City airport is unable to accommodate the traffic that air traffic controller, Helen Keedwell, sees each year, especially in the summer. Keedwell has probably lost count of the numerous times she has had to squeeze out every inch of available airplane parking legally allowed her by federal regulations only to find it wasn't enough. She sometimes steers them to the apron of the runway but that too poses problems.

"There they get stuck in the holes." All manner of vehicle has been enlisted to serve as an impromptu tow truck.

But, there is also something to be said about the traffic Helen doesn't see each year. The landing strip is made of gravel, and according to Helen, this discourages any of the jet engined flyers, many of which belong to lucrative Alaskan charter companies, to land at the airport. If a jet engine sucks in even one small piece of gravel, that's one hooped engine and one big repair bill.

"Most jets won't come in without gravel packs (specially designed rigs to protect against gravel runways). But those are really expensive".

So expensive, in fact, that most jets avoid the airport altogether, effectively snuffing out any chance this town has to get it's hands on Alaskan charter cash.

(Just so you know, I'm not talking about 747's or even 737's here either. There isn't a sane person alive that thinks we'll ever see one of those monsters land up here. I promise here and now, if I ever live to see a jet that size land in Dawson City I'll eat the paper this is written on.).

But Dawson City has hoped for things before only to have the wind torn out of its sails by a government snafu of one kind or another. Is Dawson City once again getting into a flap over something no one will be able to deliver?

If the fifty plus people that showed up to a public meeting on the matter have any say in the matter, absolutely not.

The Director of Yukon Aviation and Marine, Marc Tremblay, and his team of Bill Blahitka and Peggy Godson, were in town last Tuesday night to address the community and fill everyone in on possible alternatives to the existing airport and the chances of either of them becoming a reality.

"We come every year to touch base with airport users, maintenance workers and airport workers... We also have to get up to inspect the airport for certification and just to talk to the people."

But this time , for the first time in over fifteen years, Tremblay's office has had a bit more to say.

"We've been asked by Piers to assess the potential of proceeding with trying to get access to funding for airport improvements... Unless any work is done potential certification could be lost."

In fact, if this airport was to be built today, well, let's just say it wouldn't. The narrow valley with its vertical impediments on either side fly directly in the face of all the safety regulations transport Canada has recently laid out. The reason Dawson is allowed to remain open at all is because of Transport Canada's grandfather laws. In other words, no one has the heart to ditch the old codger.

Odds are, whoever makes the call on certifying airports won't board up Dawson City's. After all, no one wants to see Dawson's flying farmers (AKA miners) landing on front street. And believe me, they would. So what are the options?

According to Tremblay, it comes down to this, "pave or relocate."

One possible relocation site that's been bandied about is somewhere up the Dempster Highway. Huh? It would take some of the more fortunate miners who own a plane longer to drive into town from a Dempster location than it would to drive all the way from their camp. Just one reason. Next suggestion please.

Build a new airport closer to town. Bzzz. No good. Blahitka says that the Klondike Valley is a mile at its widest point. Too narrow to comply with current Transport Canada standards that call for basically flat land for a 5 X 10 mile radius to ensure proper airstrip visibility for instrument flight rated pilots who can't land in Dawson now because of the airports penned in location.

The bottom line? You won't gain a thing by moving down the valley. Actually, we'd lose our grandfather clause that allows us to flaunt federal regulations in the first place. Never a good thing to give up.

So what is the poor old rickety Dawson City airport left with? Fix what we got now by paving the airstrip and expanding parking. But how?

"If we can get someone else to fund it, then we can renovate it," says Tremblay.

And that someone else is the federal government.

"If they know that it's going to have the full support of community and governments then they'll see it as being popular and it will help in getting the money for it."

"The government leader (Piers McDonald) and the mayor (Glen Everitt) are talking," says Tremblay, so that's one step.

And from the sounds of the proceedings last Tuesday night, the community is behind it as well.

What remains to be seen is whether it's enough to convince the right people. And convince the skeptics that this just isn't another positive community project that doesn't swing from the highest yardarm in red tape.

Now if someone would just decide to build us a detox centre.


Water Board Asks Dawson to Carry Out Environmental Monitoring Program

by Dan Davidson

In a move which may actually extend the life of Dawson's water license still further without a final judgment from the Yukon Territorial Water Board, the board has taken the unusual step of asking the City of Dawson to supply it with additional information.

In a February 19, 1999 letter addressed to City manager Jim Kincaid Water Board chair Dale Eftoda admits that "...this is a departure from usual procedures" and notes that "there will be some costs to the City of Dawson and some delays to the decision at hand."

The decision on Dawson's application for a amendment to Water use Application MN98-021 has been under way since that contentious weekend of December 12-13, 1998, when federal officials from DIAND and Fisheries and Oceans walked out of a hearing they had earlier attempted to derail when the Water Board requested its first piece of additional information.

DIAND may well raise additional objections to the board's latest move, but Eftoda believes that Section 16(2) of the Yukon Waters Act gives his board the authority to act in this case.

In addition, the recent announcements related to devolution of federal authority to the territory have further shifted the political balance which once guaranteed DIAND officials full sway in these matters.

The board's directive to Dawson is that the city mount a full scale study of the effectiveness of the 96 hour LC50 bioassay test to see if it is an accurate measure of toxicity levels in the Yukon River.

Dawson's consultants at McLeay Environmental Ltd. surprised everyone including the community last spring when they announced that the biggest danger to fish in the river was from naturally occurring suspended solids (silt) and that Dawson's effluent posed no risk at all.

Why were fish dying during the government's standard toxicity test? Dr. Don McLeay said it was because of factors that were insufficiently controlled for in the test regime. Primarily this involved the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water samples, a fairly small amount which was reduced still further as the sample temperatures rose during the long trip from the Yukon River to the testing labs.

While the samples were injected with fresh air during the testing. McLeay said it wasn't enough. The fish were not being poisoned by effluent, they were drowning.

McLeay admitted that this was conjecture on his part, but that it was supported by the evidence that had been collected so far, by the observations of lab technicians and by the logic of the situation.

In his letter, Eftoda notes, "The Water Board believes there is insufficient information to establish the veracity of this contentions and notes that evidence presented at the sharing was to the effect that no testing had been done to substantiate the theory."

The board apparently finds the notion compelling, and wants it tested. In attached terms of reference the Board has laid out a schedule of summer testing which will measure levels of oxygen in the samples as they are pulled from the river and then test their lethality at seven levels of oxygenation. The behavior of fish in these seven samples will be compared to the behavior of fish in a control group handled in the usual manner.

In addition the samples will be tested for levels of ammonia-nitrogen, nitrates and MBAS (anionic surfactant - the residue from most household cleaners). McLeahy's study group had recommended testing for these substances and had noted that it was not currently being done.

A cursory comparison of the Board's directive and the Environmental Effects Monitoring program put forward on behalf of Dawson by Enkon Environmental Ltd. shows considerable similarity as far as the Water Board directive goes.

Sampling and testing will be carried out once in April , once in May, weekly in June and July and weekly in August until the week of August 27. Data from the tests and analysis of the results will be presented to the Board "and to all other parties by September 24, 1999".

An official at the Water Board agreed on Feb. 25 that this would delay the board's decision on the amendment until at least the middle of October, 1999. At that point it would be difficult for Dawson to meet its license-imposed deadline of January 2000 for the implementation of a plan for secondary sewage treatment.

Does it matter? DIAND officials have gone out of their way at every stage of this hearing - before, during and after - to indicate that the only acceptable outcome in the Dawson situation is a secondary sewage treatment plant and that the agency plans to invoke the full weight of its regulatory authority once the deadline given in the existing water license has expired.

It may be expected that the war of words will continue.


Asian Tourists Could Be New Gold Rush says Taiwan Promoter

by Dan Davidson

The next big boom in the Yukon's economy could come from the East, in spite of the Asian Economic Flu and the general decline in the business climate there over the last year. Asia still has lots of potential travellers, and the DAPA group, a vacation package company from Taiwan, would like to direct some of them to the Yukon.

That was the general thrust of a weekend meeting held in Dawson in early February. Three principals of the DAPA Group were in the Klondike capital for several days over the Valentine's weekend to test the climate and scenery and pass on the message that tourists from Taiwan and Southern China could be sold on the Yukon if the territory played its cards right.

Steady numbers are already arriving in Watson Lake from the same tour group, drawn there by the attraction of the Northern Lights Centre and the wilderness. Whitehorse consultant David Leverton was on hand as their guide and to help them get their message across.

People from Taiwan, he said, are among the highest spenders of all Asian tourists and the amount they spend in Canada is increasing annually. They like to travel and have travelled to a lot of the easier to reach places in North America. In that sense it means they are ready to experience the Yukon. The downside of that is that they hardly know it exists, so there is a lot of promoting to do, a lot of scheduling ad massaging of programs.

Leverton said it will take all the resources of the Yukon and a good many from Taiwan and China to make this work. Yukon tourism operators have to be prepared to cooperate with Canadian carriers, who must try to attract Taiwanese tour operators and the Taiwan travelling public.

Kirk Kung of DAPA was quick to clear up any misconceptions people might have about the role of his company.

"We don't bring in suitcases full of money and build hotels," he said. They are talking about providing a high quality experience for their travelling customers, one tour group at a time, as many as they can manage to book.

Alan Chang talked about the advantages of tapping the population base of Taiwan, where 22 million people are crowded into a pace less than on tenth the area of the Yukon. This could be a very healthy market for his company. Even better could be South China, Guangdong province, where over seventy million people live in a region studded with nine cities which have over a million each in population.

"The Chinese market could be like second Gold Rush," Chang said.

But, once again, he emphasized that the Chinese know little about the Yukon and that Yukoners don't know much about this new market. Asian people have an average of 10 days to take their vacation, so they have to travel fast, do a lot of things and take very little time on each experience.

Chang compared them with European visitors, who will be happy to take a week experiencing the joys of dog mushing.

Asians want that experience to, but they want it in about 15 minutes.

Selling the Yukon will be a special challenge, he said, because so little is known about it. So the DAPA people were here to work on that problem.

"We are not here to tell everything," said Chang. " We are here to learn everything."

Colleague Dave Chau also spoke to the situation in China.

The group listening at the Downtown Hotel conference room was made up of Dawsonites, of course, but there were also people from just about every town north of Whitehorse, including Faro, Mayo and Carmacks. Representatives from these communities were eager but cautious.

Mayor Glen Everitt indicated that his town had no interest in stealing Watson Lakes' thunder, but hoped to extend the Yukon experience for Asians so as to make it more of a draw that would benefit everyone. One of things that is so attractive about this Asian market is that these people are interested in a winter tourism experience. They want to see the Northern Lights, ride dog sleds, look off the Midnight Dome in the middle of the winter, and get the feel of a real Yukon winter.

From Dawson's point of view, this ties in wonderfully with its business community's desire to expand into the winter tourism market.


Almost 300,000 Visited Last Year

Strait's Auction House, often called the "Gun 'n' Ammo Shop" from the signs that used to hang around its perimeter, is surviving another winter. Seeing it, one can only wonder how. Photo by Dan Davidson

(Whitehorse) Tourism minister Dave Keenan was please to announce on February 25 that 1998 was the best year for tourism in the Yukon.

"I just love what it says, 'Yukon smashes all records for tourism for 1998'," the minister told reporters, pointing to a release on the new numbers.

In 1998 the Yukon had the highest level of visitation since records were first kept in 1987. Border crossing numbers from Canada Customs state that almost 300,000 non-resident visitors entered the Yukon last year.

That is up 12.1 per cent, or 32,000 people, from 1997.

There was a 13.9-per-cent jump in American tourists, and a 7.3-per-cent hike in overseas tourists.

The increase of 32,000 visitors meant an extra $7.1 million injected into the Yukon economy.

"I think that clearly defines that we are heading in the right direction in what we're doing as an industry," Keenan said.


Taking Time for a Story

by Dan Davidson

Setting aside for the moment the usual answer to the question of what is the world's oldest profession, it would be nice to think that it involved something more than that sort of gratification, and that we haven't always been so Freudian as to believe that everything revolves around sex.

It would be preferable to believe that life is at least partly a quest for meaning and that, through all of history, story telling has been one of the ways this happens. After all, the word "bard" has an ancient lineage going back to the Celtic tribes and the ideas associated with it can be traced to the same ones as the word "poet", which comes from an ancient Greek word meaning "maker".

The Welsh variation of "bard" is "bardd". Daniel Morden likes to think of himself as coming from that tradition. Meeting with a group of students from grades 10 to 12 on the morning of Friday, Feb. 19, Morden explained a bit of the storyteller's art and what he saw as his place in it.

The revival of interest in the oral tradition all around the world has been one of the driving forces behind the creation of the successful Yukon International Storytelling Festival, held each year in Whitehorse. This year, two storytellers brought in to participate at Frostbite were also dispatched to the rural communities to spread the word there. Morden visited several communities north of Whitehorse, including Dawson.

Working in the oral tradition, he told the students, involves a great deal of sitting and listening. Not an old man himself, Morden's need to collect stories leaves him sitting at the feet of a good many elders, soaking it all in and figuring out how he can retell those stories in his own fashion.

Some of the storytellers he has listened to know thousands of tales. He decided some years ago to try to make a living out of this skill so that he could devote more time to it.

One of his personal goals for this trip was to soak up some of the local stories.

He is fascinated with all types of stories but has a particular fondness for those from his own Welsh heritage. When he sends them out again, they have been transformed by his own understanding of them and by the needs of his audience.

At Robert Service School the morning session was in the Ancillary Room, a good space to work in unless there happens to be a noisy gym class right next door. Morden adjusted his delivery, telling tales that didn't need a lot of audience response and that were just slightly on the edge of dangerous. The story of the travelling piper contained a nasty punch line that was some time in coming and was set up so far in advance that it caught its audience by surprise.

The tale of the man who was given a story to tell involved an involuntary gender swap. The legend of the Welsh bard Taliesan told of still more shape changing and a mysterious birth. Senior high students are notoriously blasé about this sort of thing, but Morden made their hour pass swiftly.

The Dawson Community Library provided a cozier setting for the afternoon group of younger students, and here Morden was able to work a different kind of magic. He drew them out with riddles, silly conundrums in which the discussion related to the various attempts to solve them were probably more important than the answers.

Then he took them through an unexpurgated version of one of the tales collected by the Brothers Grimm. In his hands the story became one that caught them up in the mystery and the horror of the time, drawing forth echoed responses and letting them take over the story sometimes when the wording was repeated.

The younger group really got into the spirit of the event.

Morden concluded his Dawson visit the next day with a session at the MacDonald Lodge seniors facility.


DeWolfe Race on Schedule

This year the 23rd annual Percy DeWolfe Memorial Mail Race takes place on Thursday, March 18 at 10 a.m. at the Old Post Office.

The mandatory mushers meeting is Wed Mar 17 at 7 p.m. at the Downtown Hotel. Entry fee before March 3 is $250, from Mar, 4 to 17 it becomes $300.

This year for the first time, there will be two additional races. There will be a maximum 6 dog, dog sled for 10 miles and an open class Skijor race, also 10 miles. Entry fees are $50 for the Skijor race. Races should meet on the ice bridge on Sat Mar 20 at 11 a.m..

Our Race banquet is on Sat Mar 20 at the Downtown Hotel. For more info - leave a message at 993-6851 or write to Box 133, Dawson City Y0B 1G0.


Olson Obituary

OLSON, Marline Yeiko of Salmon Arm, BC slipped peacefully into the loving arms of her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the evening of February 6, 1999. Her loving family was by her side.

Marline was born in Vancouver, BC, on December 1, 1912 to Masuyei and Kanako Tamagi recent immigrants from Japan. She was the eldest of nine children, three sisters and six brothers. At the ripe age of four years old she accompanied her pregnant mother and her two-year-old sister Winnie back to Okinsawa, Japan to live with her maternal grandparents. Her younger brother Ken was born there some time later. Her mother returned to Canada and left the three children with their maternal grandparents.

At the age of 11 she returned to Canada to join her parents in Diamond City, AB. Her sister Winnie later joined her and they celebrated their reunion by buying two eggs, eggs were a luxury in Japan. She and Winnie went to school for three years (Grade 3) and then father decided they knew enough English to learn a trade and start working. They went to Barber School and opened a shop in Lethbridge. They were making almost $75 a week, which was pretty incredible for the times.

When the Depression hit in 1932 they were forced to close their shop. Her father told Marline and her sister that their future husbands weren't born yet so they wouldn't be able to marry until they were at least 25. They took turns praying for their daily needs and finally after two years their mother told them that they had done their duty to their father and it was now time to prepare for getting married and raising a family.

They moved to Vancouver and got jobs as housekeepers. In 1934 they moved back to Alberta and started a small business, a fruit stall in the City Hall Market. Marline insisted they pack the best fruit on the bottom of the basket so that their customers would always know what they were buying.

In 1939 Marline and her sister were off to the wilds of the north to Dawson City, Yukon. When the war broke out they were both put on parole and had to report to the RCMP on a weekly basis. They eventually started a Beauty and Barbershop, Marline was the Barber and Winnie the Beautician, She met Jack Olson while he was in the Army Reserves. After his discharge he returned to Dawson City and they were married March 21, 1946.

In 1952 they adopted their daughter Jacqueline and in 1954 they adopted their son, Marvin. They purchased a retail jewelry business. Marline was also selling fine china, historic books, and ladies clothing. She did all of her ordering over the phone and managed to clothe the ladies of Dawson in the latest fashions from Montreal and Vancouver. She had the reputation that she could sell a freezer to an Eskimo. Jack and Marline and their two children lived in the back part of the store, so often customers were invited to the back for coffee, tea and also full course meals.

Marline entertained people from all over the world in the back of their store. Every New Years she would do a marathon of Oriental cooking and invite all the single people to come and enjoy a great meal and great fellowship. Marline was always active in her church and her faith was quiet but strong.

In 1976 Jack and Marline retired to the Shuswap at Blind Bay. March 23, 1983 her beloved husband and best friend went home to glory. After some time Marline and her sister Winnie decided to move to Kelowna to live together. They enjoyed each other and looked forward to retiring together. After some health problems Marline moved to Salmon Arm in 1993 to live with her daughter Jacquie and son in law Colin and family. She spent the last two and a half years in Pioneer Lodge.

Marline will be sadly missed by her daughter Jacquie & (Colin) Mayes, son Marvin & (Susan) Olson, grandchildren Bev & (Kendall Kauffeldt), Daron & (Kimberley) Mayes, Yeiko Mayes and Daryl, Kristin & Sherri Olson. Her wonderful, loving sister Winnie Nakano, younger sister Shirley Williams and numerous nieces and nephews, also survive her.


100 Years Ago

Compiled by John Gould

Last issue I told about a Stampede down river to 12 Mile instigated by Jim Doughtry, better known as "Nigger Jim". The following is a poem on the stampede taken for the Klondike Nugget of January.


'Twas the hour of midnight
When the moon was hanging low;
The northern light was flashing bright
On the mountains deep with snow,
That a cautious word went through the town
And was whispered over each bar
That a Dawson man had a two ounce pan
Way down on Cassiar.
'Twas a stampede to coal creek
And down to Cassiar
And "Nigger Jim" was in the swim
was the guiding star.
'Twas a stampede to Twelve Mile;
Did you get in with the push?
With a whispered tip from a cautious lip
And a malamute to rush.
The Eldorado Kings were there...
With Stanley mushing on;
And little Ramps, with Eagle lamps,
Saw the way the crowd had gone.
He harnessed all the dogs in town,
And got the push in trim;
And with a five foot stride, he scorned a ride,
Took after "Nigger Jim".
Some said Coal creek was the place,
And some said Cassiar,
And the word went round that the richest ground
Beat Eldorado far.
And all who had a malamute,
And grub and grid and speed
At the dead of night, by the pale moonlight,
Went on the big Stampede.


Photos from the mid-February Hootenany

Vi and Harry Campbell, along with Miss Yukon and Const. Dan Parlee, keep track of the ticket sales at the Hootenanny.

Dancers had a great time at this year's version of the Centennial Ball.


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