Dawson City, Yukon Friday, November 24, 2000

The Rangers and the Legion complete the wreath laying at the cenotaph in Victory Gardens. Photo by Dan Davidson

Feature Stories

Dawson Remembers Those Who Died
Council Delays Voting in Favour of a Bridge
Dawson in the Dark
Poetry Reading Marks Literacy Week
Luanne Armstrong: Doing a Little Bit of Everything at Berton House
(Don't Step On These) Blue Suede Paws
What's Up at DCMF Central?
Splish! Splash! and We're into the Pool
On the Dark Side

Welcome to the November 24th on-line edition of the Klondike Sun. This is the abridged version of our 24 page Nov. 21st hard copy edition which contained 30 photographs and 33 stories. Wish we could share everything, but getting a subscription (see our home page for details) is the only way you'll ever see it all. Approximately 588 people viewed our last on-line issue.

Dawson Remembers Those Who Died

by Dan Davidson

Remembrance Day events stretch over two days here, as the Robert Service School Always holds its own event the day before the holiday.

Two ceremonies were held in the school on November 10, with the elementary school meeting in the Ancillary Room and the rest of the school meeting in the main gymnasium. Special guests from the Legion assisted in the services, and the choir rushed back and forth to sing an anthem at both events.

In addition to the laying of wreaths, the poem "In Flanders Fields" was recited Charles Bruner & Mary Fraughton and Leah Adam & Georgia Fraser. In the gym Rhiannon Juniper also read Robert Service's "Carry On".

The town ceremony on November 11 drew a fairly large crowd and began with the arrival of the colour party of RCMP and Rangers at 10:45. Mitchell Strid provided the trumpet calls for "The Last Post" and "Reveille" during the service, while the Rev. Canon John Tyrell lead in the prayers.

Laying of wreaths by various service and government organizations took up quite a bit of the service. John Gould provided a short history of some of the local involvement in Canada's military history, dating back to the Boer War.

After the indoor service, all the wreaths were packed up and transferred to the cenotaph in Victory Gardens, where the Rangers and Legion conducted some brief formalities on this fine, sunny November morning. A reception in the classroom at Saint Mary's Roman Catholic Church closed off the day's events.


Council Delays Voting in Favour of a Bridge

by Dan Davidson

We still seem to be some distance from any complete freeze-up of the Yukon River. Photo by Ludger Borste

A resolution intended to lend support to the urgency for discussions leading to the construction of a bridge across the Yukon River at Dawson City was defeated by a three to two vote of council on November 6, though all councillors wanted it know that this was actually the beginning rather than the end, of their deliberations on the subject.

The resolution proposed by Mayor Glen Everitt did not specifically mention a bridge. Just as the resolution passed by the last council, it endorsed the establishment of "permanent year round access across the Yukon River at Dawson".

The vote followed a lengthy presentation by Dick Van Nostrand, serving in his capacity as chair of the Bridge Committee which the Liberal government had requested the previous Dawson council to form just after the territorial election in April.

Van Nostrand said his committee had set out on its task with the notion that there were still a number of tests and studies - particularly an environmental study - which remained to be done. The group quickly found out that this was not the case. All the necessary background work had been completed in 1995, before the fall of the Ostashek Yukon Party Coalition government, but the full report, he said, had never been released to the local government.

Everitt confirmed that the bridge study which had been unearthed for the committee's work was, in fact, several centimetres thicker than the one which he had seen some years before as a councillor.

Among the missing portions of the document, Van Nostrand said, was the environmental study recommendations which came out strongly in favour of a bridge, citing the damage to the Yukon River habitat created annually by the tons of earth which have to be used to make the ferry landing on either side of the river.

Van Nostrand also indicated that, in spite of rumours to the contrary, there never had been a plan to replace the ferry with a larger boat. The ferry is about as large as it can be, and already has problems with its draught, problems partly caused by the same annual addition of dirt to the channels it follows on either side of the river.

What will need to be done, sometime in the next five years, is a major refit of the George Black ferry, at a cost estimated to be between $3.5 and $7.5 million.

Van Nostrand stated that the estimated cost of a bridge is right now between $20 and $23 million for a structure which would last more than 25 years. The continued operating costs of the ferry over the same period would be in the order of $31 and $33 million, which he said made part of the economic argument for a bridge pretty compelling.

The committee does not envisage year round travel on the Top of the World Highway at this time, but its report does indicate that most years should see a season running from April until November, rather than the mid-May until mid-October season currently in force.

This, Van Nostrand said, would have an immediate impact on the tourist season, but it would also save the Klondike region something like $475,000 in annual fuel costs, since it would be possible to truck fuel to the community by this cheaper route for that much longer each year. The impact on living costs and costs to miners could be considerable.

The committee also believes that any loss of local employment on the George Black Ferry would be more than offset by the increased work force which would be needed to maintain the highway over this extended season.

This report will be forwarded to the Yukon government with a letter of support from the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in first nation. Everitt's proposed resolution was intended to accompany it, but it looks like that will take a bit more time to produce.

New councillors Byrun Shandler and Wayne Potoroka voted against the resolution for different reasons.

Shandler has indicated during the election that he was not sold on the idea of a bridge, but he also said he could be convinced. At the meeting he indicated that he wanted more time to think about the report and review the evidence and that he had some issues he needed to discuss before casting a positive vote.

Potoroka stated that he sees a bridge as an idea whose time has just about come but he, too, wasn't prepared to rush into a vote of support as his second meeting. He simply wanted more time to think about it.

Councillor Aedes Scheer voted with the new members out what she called a need to support their concerns about rushing, while she herself expressed a firm support for the bridge. She did not feel it would hurt to have a few more internal discussion on the issue before passing a resolution.

Mayor Everitt and Joanne Van Nostrand (who was attending this discussion via a speakerphone hookup from her hotel in Whitehorse) voted in favour of the resolution.

Something like it will surface again within the next month, and next time it seems likely it will be ratified.


Dawson in the Dark

by Dan Davidson

Dawson City was completely in the dark for over an hour early on Nov. 6 after the diesel generators at Yukon Energy shut down at 7:50 a.m.

At the evening city council meeting Mayor Glen Everitt informed the group that it appeared that Yukon Energy had neglected to shift to the use of winter weight fuel with the arrival of the cold weather.

As a result the fuel in the lines jelled and shut down the station..

Everitt was dismayed to discover that the backup generator, which he fought to bring to the town a couple of years ago, was hooked up to the same fuel tank, and therefore would not work either.

Eventually the utility brought in a fresh tank of fuel and hooked a generator directly to the fuel truck, thus reestablishing power just over an hour after the system shut down.

Everitt told council that there seemed to be a number of issues which arose out of this incident.

Why, he asked, had the fuel not been changed? Why would a backup system not be completely independent?

In spite of those problems, Everitt praised the workers at Yukon Energy, who he said had worked quickly and efficiently to turn on the lights, a move appreciated everywhere but at the school, where classes had begun in the dark and students had begun to dream of at least getting the morning off.

Councillor Byrun Shandler raised the issue of emergency communication under such conditions. C.B.C. radio depends on the Yukon Energy power as much as the rest of the town, so that there is no way to make a general announcement to the community.

On this particular day city manager Jim Kincaid visited the school and other public agencies to let them know what was going on.

One of the other quirks of Dawson's situation is that most of the public buildings have switchboard systems that also don't work when the power is out. At the Robert Service School, for instance, the only phone that works in a black-out is the stand-alone set in the Dawson Community Library, which shares space with the school.


Poetry Reading Marks Literacy Week

by Dan Davidson

Sue Wheeler and Barbara Nickel were Dawson's latest literary visitors. Photo by Dan Davidson

Sue Wheeler says she is used to attentive audiences back on Lasqueti Island, but the B.C. poet ventured to say that her audience in Dawson City might just have established a new benchmark.

Wheeler and fellow poet, Barbara Nickel, were in Dawson as joint guests of the Dawson City Arts Society and the Dawson City Community Library to help the community celebrate Yukon Literacy Week.

The reading took place in the ODD Gallery, surrounded by the images from the Shipyards photo exhibit.

Nickel led off the evening, reading selections from her published verses for both adults and children, as well as some new, unpublished works.

Nickel's adult material included several pieces from her 1997 collection, The Gladys Elegies, the centrepiece of which is a series of sonnets written back and forth between twin sisters.

"I dreamt us back inside our mother's womb
our veins arranged like doilies of point lace
around our hearts enclosed in one cocoon
your toes, like drops of rain against my face,
tapped messages - begin - swim to the light."

In addition she read from some of the children's material she had shared with classes at the school earlier in the day. Had the audience not been told these poems were for kids, they might not have noticed, as they seemed to work quite well at any level.

Wheeler's work seemed to be the more personal of the two: poems about her father, her husband's heart attack, and what it is like to deal with grieving.

"My Father Drops By" dealt with the accidental discovery of some letters her father had written and her realization that parent love crosses the generations.

"I was seventeen. Hadn't a clue how parent love
rents one of the heart's red rooms and never moves out.
I didn't recognize a chain letter or know that I'd be bound to send it on."

In addition, there were some verses which were simply whimsical, like 'Rain Stops and Starts", which closes:

"....You come in the other door
just as the radio tells us the monarchs
are back in power. Good! you say. I like it
when the butterflies are in charge."

The ODD Gallery once again proved its use as a multi-purpose room and the sponsors laid on some goodies for munching between poetry sets. Departing Community Librarian Kim Adams took the opportunity to say good-bye and introduce Suzanne Gagnon, who is now taking up the position.


Luanne Armstrong: Doing a Little Bit of Everything at Berton House

by Dan Davidson

Luanne Armstrong and her trusty Powerbooks are ready for another day's work at Berton House. Photo by Dan Davidson

Luanne Armstrong started off wanting to write poetry, but got side-tracked into prose on the advice of teacher/poet Robin Skelton. Since that time she has written four novels and several young adult novels, or chapter books, as they are often called in the industry and many newspaper and magazine articles. You might think that would have been enough to convince her that Skelton was right, but you'd be wrong.

During her stint at Berton House she is hard at work on a novel, a book of essays and ... yup! ... a collection of poetry. During her first month as the Berton House writer-in-residence she has found time to work on all of these things, blessed time without the usual interruptions that inevitably occur when people can get hold of you easily.

She did have to take a short trip to Vancouver to attend the launching of Hodgepog Books fall lineup of four young adult novels. Yes, she is a fledgling publisher in partnership with one of her daughters as well as everything else that she is doing.

Luanne has spent most of her life farming in south-eastern British Columbia. Creative Writing was her degree program at the University of Victoria and it was there that Skelton told her she should write prose. That seemed to mean novels, which were too daunting for her to start with - took too much time.

"I did a lot of journalism mostly after I got out of U. Vic. and some teaching. I was teaching at a Native college in Merit and had a summer off and I thought, 'Oh well, I'll just write a book.'"

She laughs now at the sheer audacity of this simple decision and continues.

"Also, my kids had all finally left home, so there was this incredible silence. You had to do something to fill it after they'd all packed and gone.

"I sat down and started telling myself a story. I actually wasn't taking it very seriously, and then I finished it in about six months. The first publisher I sent it to grabbed it - in fact, two publishers wanted it, so that was good.

"I sat down and wrote another one - and that got published as well, so I thought, 'Well, maybe I'm a novelist'."

A third novel followed a couple of years ago and the fourth one is still in the writing stage, slightly stalled but still moving.

Last year, however, she decided to polish off her Masters in Fine Arts.

"I'd always wanted to do that but having four kids and way too many jobs and a farm, well ...."

A new set of instructors set her off in a new direction. Suddenly well known poet George McWhirter was telling her she ought to be publishing her verse.

"I was going to fall on the floor. I was flabbergasted. But I thought that if George liked my poetry I should take it a bit more seriously. So he's got me working on a poetry manuscript."

To top that off she won the Earle Birney Award, which is a scholarship for budding poets. The final confirmation of that award arrived by phone during the course her residency here.

Then Andreas Schroeder thought she did good essays. The fact that one of her class assignments won a national award didn't hurt either.

"So Andreas asked me if he could work with me on a book of essays.

"That's why I'm here. I have the novel which I am rewriting, but I'm also working on a book of essays with Andreas and a book of poetry with George. And next year, when things settle down, I'll do another kid's book."

With all this to do you might think she'd be hibernating at Berton House, but instead she's offering two writing courses while here in Dawson, one for the local campus of Yukon College and another with the Klondike Institute of Arts and Crafts.

She has established a pretty strict regimen for her own personal work though.

"I work on the novel in the morning. I write poetry on weekends. I'm very organized about it actually. Then I work on the essays after I go for a walk at noon, pick up some groceries and have a cup of coffee."

The essays are of a type known as creative non-fiction - a kind of reflective memoir style which requires a bit of digging for material as well as a strong attempt to be literary. One of her early forays into this format, a personal essay called "With Enough Aspirin: Living for Now in Pain's Company," was published in the on-line magazine Salon (at "http://www.salon.com/health/books/1999/04/22/pain") last year, and has been critiqued favourably in another on-line journal called Creative Non-Fiction, for which she has also done work. It deals with the adjustments that having rheumatoid arthritis has forced her to make in her formally physically active life.

She says this type of work, a blending of issues and personal reaction, has become very popular lately, and one of the courses she is teaching in Dawson deals with the production of such essays.

"I've been here a month, and I must say that I'm probably grateful every single day for this space in time. I think this is a wonderful idea.

"The people of Dawson are very good ... very careful about intruding on my time. but quite friendly and welcoming if I want to show up and have a coffee or whatever. It's phenomenal and I really enjoy it."


(Don't Step On These) Blue Suede Paws

by Dan Davidson

Rupert the werewolf leads the gang at the teen cafe in his signature tune. Photo by Dan Davidson

The annual musical is a long-standing tradition at Robert Service School, and this year, even without a drama class, was no exception.

November's production, anchored by Betty Davidson's and Gwen Bell's school choir, was a post-Hallowe'en rock'n'roll farce called "Blue Suede Paws" by Tim Kelly and Bill Francoeur and published by Pioneer Drama Services.

Briefly, it is the tale of Rupert Lydecker, a studious and stuffy young man who wants to change his life. Inspired by the rocking antics of Riverdale High's resident rocker, Chet Lumpcrass, Rupert decides he needs a change of personality and seeks the aid of the local mad scientist, Dr. Murdoch Dangerfield.

The doctor's only really successful potion is the one which makes the 96 year old man look like a 16 year old boy - and this is not an advantage when you are trying to impress people. Dangerfield is not so much mad as just a bit loopy. He has a menagerie of misconceived biological experiments. (One of his favorite lines is, "He didn't turn out too well, did he?") He also seems to have many potions which look alike, which is how Rupert gets turned into a werewolf instead of just an ordinary extrovert.

It works out well. With his long hair and blue suede paws Rupert is a real hit with the kids. He even wins the approval of Chet Lumpcrass and, more importantly, of Claudia Dalton, who, as it turns out, has always thought he was quite nice.

Armed with this knowledge, Rupert is able to maintain his new cool even after the potion wears off, winning a sweetheart, a recording contract, and a new sense of self-esteem.

With a cast of 34 players, mostly from the elementary grades, it is not possible to mention all the great performances here, but there were a few highlights.

Randi Procee was a truly obnoxious Chet. Sean Domingue provided a dryly daffy doctor. Ashley Graham's hunchbacked Boris was servile enough to make you squirm. Danielle Mayes was sweet as Claudia. Sydney Larson did a fine job as both mousy Rupert and his lupine alter-ego. Axel Nordling's robot, Cornelius, got progressively goofier as the shoe went on.

All of this was enabled by Gwen Bell's rocking piano, and Clive Betts' timekeeping on drums. Richard Halliday gave his time to man the sound board, lighting and special effects.

As always, community members, teachers and parents put in the time needed to create costumes, design makeup and ensure the success of the three performances. Attendance was good and most of the laughs cam in the right places.

Videotapes were made and the show will eventually be broadcast on DCTV.


What's Up at DCMF Central?

by Dominic Lloyd

Things are hopping around the office these days. Currently we are gearing up for our AGM, getting ready for the Christmas Bazaar, thinking about next year's festival, and getting our winter concert series together.

Last year was somewhat of a record-breaking year; we staged four concerts in addition to Lip Sync. This year we are planning to do even more - we are teaming up with some different organizations around town to put on a wide variety of entertainment and hopefully we will be able to stage five different concerts featuring national touring acts throughout the winter. No matter what your musical taste, we are lining up some great acts - jazz, blues, folk roots, world beat, and some really top-quality family entertainment. We're still working out the details on some shows, but here's some info to whet your appetite:

One of Dawson City's favourite entertainers, AL SIMMONS, returns to Dawson in the new year. He will be here for two shows at the Odd Fellows Hall on January 14: a family show in the afternoon and a grown-up show in the evening. If you've never seen Al, you've been missing out. Not only is he a Juno winner for best kids album, 1997, but he's one of the greatest comic minds Canada has ever produced.

Al was the Festival MC in 1993 and 1998, and he also came up for Gold Show in 1996. He combines crazy gadgets and costumes with music and comedy to make for a gut-bustin'? good time. Al has charmed crowds throughout the world, and has earned a loyal following in our fair town. Tickets will go on sale at the end of the month, so be sure and get yours quickly, as both of these shows are bound to sell out. This show is being produced through the combined energy of the Music Festival and the Klondike Institute of Art & Culture.

More immediately, we are putting on a concert featuring DON ROSS in conjunction with the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation in just two weeks.

Don Ross is one of the country's most acclaimed guitarists and has gained notoriety winning competitions all over the globe. Son of a Scottish immigrant father and a Mikm'aq aboriginal mother, Don was born in 1960 into a musical family. He first started experimenting with the solo possibilities of the acoustic guitar when he was eight. By age ten he was playing in alternate tunings and exploring "fingerstyle" technique, a right hand discipline similar to classical guitar playing. The result is an unclassifiable musical style that borrows from jazz, folk, rock and classical music. When asked, Don usually pigeonholes his music as "Heavy Wood"!

Don's new CD, recorded in Berlin's Passionskirche ("Church of the Passion"), was released in March 1999 on Narada/Virgin Records as part of their "Masters of the acoustic guitar" series. Titled Passion Session, the new CD brings Don back to his roots as a solo fingerstyle guitarist. The eleven tracks on Passion Session comprise some of the best pieces for solo guitar that Don has composed, and he is currently on tour across Canada to support this recording.

The opening act for this concert will be one of Dawson City's newest treasures, the acoustic combo Johnny Drumstick & The Hash Browns. Paul Marceau, Brock Turner, and Sandy Silver will be playing a few of their favourites as well as some of their own compositions, so make sure you get your tickets soon because there are only 90 available and once they're gone, they're gone! Help support Dawson's burgeoning musical talents!

The doors open at 7:00 and tickets are only $10. You can pick them up at the DCMF office (the little green cabin at 3rd & Harper) or from Wayne Potoroka at the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in offices.

Don't forget about our AGM, which takes place on Wednesday November 29 at 7:30 pm at the Downtown Hotel conference room. We will be electing new board members as well as starting to plan for the upcoming year. If you want to be involved in the festival or in any of our year-round activities, here's where you can do it!

There are lots more concerts in the works as well, and well let you know about them as soon as we have everything in place. For more information about these or any other DCMF activities, please drop by or call the office at 993-5584.


Splish! Splash! and We're into the Pool

by Dan Davidson

A whole group of people, young and old, lined up to cut the ribbon opening the pool. Photo by Dan Davidson

Dawson's brand new pool opened on November 5 for what will undoubtedly be the shortest swimming season on record, but it's brevity just seems to have made it sweeter for those who enjoyed the four short days which began at 12:30 on Sunday.

The ribbon cutting ceremony presided over by Mayor Glen Everitt was somewhat unusual in that there were 8 or 9 pairs of scissors in evidence, being wielded by politicians, the young, city staff, rec. volunteers, a member of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in council and some community elders.

Present for the event was Pam Buckway in her role as the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, while there were letters of congratulations from the official opposition. The only unexpected absence was that of Peter Jenkins, leader of the Yukon Party and MLA for the Klondike.

The new pool is a $2.2 million structure with four swimming lanes, a hot tub, and lots of deck space for parents and the general public and a sloped entrance ramp for unsteady feet of all ages.

While the expansion to four lanes came at the expense of a really deep diving end, the pool does vary from 1 metre to 1.8 meters in depth. (That's 3 feet to 6 feet for most folks.)

The real expansion will be in the length of the swimming season, which should now run from early May until October. In recent years, what with problems in the structure of the old, outdoor pool, swimming usually got going in early June and pool users were driven away by mites, mosquitoes and inclement weather by the Discovery Days weekend.

The pool was not constructed to be used year round. The building would do for that, but a heating system to handle the chill would cost an extra quarter of a million. Besides, Everitt told the crowd of about 200 at the noontime event, the town couldn't afford to run a year round pool at this time. When it can, that will be the time to add the extra heating capacity. Almost doubling the available season will have to do for now.

People in the crowd could easily see for themselves that most of the rumours surrounding the actual pool building had been false. Gossip had it being smaller than the old pool with no more than a four foot depth throughout. Gossip even went so far as to say that the city was going to have to leave the water in the pool all winter since no drain had been installed.

Several hundred people, young and old, got to see the drain for themselves on Sunday evening, when the pool opened for the first two hour swim.

School students, who got to enjoy two days of swimming classes for physical education on Tuesday and Wednesday, might have wished that last rumour had been true, but it wasn't, and the water was scheduled to begin draining away on Thursday as the pool was buttoned up for the winter.

Everitt noted at the opening that there was a list of about forty construction deficiencies of various kinds that would have to be sorted out before the building reopened in the spring, but these were, he said, minor and routine matters which should not detract from congratulating the contractor on a job well done.


On the Dark Side

Front Street South. Photo by Dan Davidson

Northern Sun in late October
casts a shadow on the land;
shocks the eye and flares the lens
and dazzles with its bright command.

Strange that it should be so painful;
strange how it should make its mark;
strange that such a glaring orb
should make a day seem quite so dark.

Nov 12, 2000


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