by Dan Davidson
While the scent of wood smoke in the air can be soothing on an evening in late August, there was nothing comfortable about that smell on August 30, for it signalled the passing of a local first nation landmark, the Chief Isaac Memorial Centre.
The Front Street Dawson building has been a striking presence on the corner of Front and Duke streets for a number of years, and has grown in that time. The first addition to the Tr'ondek Hwech'in's holdings there was the Tr'ondek Heritage Centre, and then, later, the two structures were joined by a bridging building that came to include the increasing need of the first nation for office space and to provide much needed office rental space in the community.
The original building and the most recent addition are gone now, shattered timbers and trusses mark the south end of Chief Isaac, while the interior structure is a gaping cavity ending at the fire wall of the Tr'ondek Centre, a fire wall which, mercifully, held back the conflagration which swept through the linked attic spaces from its origin in the older building.
Dawson fire chief pat Cayen says the call came in about 7:45 on Friday night, reported by Glenn Everitt, owner of the MT Bellies restaurant in the Chief Isaac Centre.
Everitt says that Shirley Moi thought she smelled smoke from the area of the building's laundromat while they were cashing out the till. Everitt said he checked it out and smelt nothing, but looking between the buildings he could see black smoke in the crawlspace.
Cayen says this is where the fire began, in a space designed to give access to some piping. By Sunday afternoon the fire marshall had determined that a faulty heat trace tape was the most likely cause of the fire. The fire chief speculates that it smouldered for a long time before it was detected without activating any smoke alarm. When it finally caught, however, it surged up the wall space between Chief Isaac and the the interior offices. The fire retarding material there was not effective in keeping the flames at bay.
Once in the attic, the fire was free to burn in any one of several directions. A fire fighter on duty on Friday night indicated that there were flames in four different levels of the complex at one point.
Crews worked hard for several hours while the evening light held, augmenting the twilight with halogen lanterns in their efforts to make sense of the foundation.
"Due to the floor structure of the building," said Cayen, "with multi-layered floors, it was difficult for us to get from one layer to another. Some we basically chased the fire around in two separate buildings, preventing it from getting to a third."
They tried a technique called trenching to get ahead of the fire, but that failed. About an hour and a half into the fight, the fire department and the first nation council faced a hard decision. The only way to save the Tr'ondek Heritage Centre was to physically separate it from the fire.
A large mobile power shovel was used to chew through and collapse the north end of the Chief Isaac building, but it wasn't enough, and it was eventually necessary to level the entire centre section before the fire was brought under control.
"It was a tough decision to make because it was such an aggressive move," Cayen said, "but we all felt that this was the only choice we had...There were obvious signs throughout the two buildings that the fire was very well seated."
Hundreds of people lined the dyke and the surrounding area while the cat toe into the building from the front. At the rear of the building fire fighters were keeping flames and heat from the propane tank and furnace fuel.
The first nation has lost its council chambers, social programs offices, band managers's office, and the offices of its financial arm, Chief Isaac Inc. The Land Claims offices, which are located above the relatively undamaged Tr'ondek Heritage Centre, are intact.
Ironically, M T Bellies, whose owner detected the fire, was spared much of the fire damage. On Saturday, Glenn Everitt was able to recover his tables, chairs and grill, along with many other items from the restaurant.
Less lucky was the Dawson City Music Festival, whose offices lay directly in the path of the cat on its route through the building and in the area where the fire seemed to be strongest. Two decades worth of memorabilia and archives have been lost.
Other tenants in the complex included Klondike Outreach, the local employment office, and the privately run laundromat above the place where the fire began.
The firefighters put in about 11 hours on this effort, wrapping up about 7 AM. Cayen and some others caught a few hours sleep and then were back at it later in the day, trying to answer the many questions raised by such a tragedy. All Saturday people were sifting through the rubble trying to find causes and remains. By Sunday the fire marshall had reached his preliminary conclusions.
At this writing the Tr'ondek Hwech'in Council has not released any information about the disaster, so the value of the building and the contents, which must certainly be measured in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Chief Steve Taylor is not in the territory as of Sunday night, and official statements can be expected from him. One can speculate that the first nation, which does own other property and buildings in the community, is deep into deciding how to transfer their operations to other centers and keep their housing, educations, cultural and social programs going without any more loss of time than is humanly possible.
by the Discovery Days Committee
As many historians have stated, the streets of Dawson are paved with gold. This being the Centennial Celebration of the Discovery of Gold, Lambert Curzon had an idea, an idea that became reality thanks to the following people, which was to do as much as possible to actually re-pave the streets with gold on the big day.
Many thanks go to Earl and Lynne MacKenzie (MacKenzie Petroleum), Bill and Fran Hakonson (Top of the World Golf Course), Lenore Calnan (Raven's Nook, Cranberry Cottage & Motherlode), Dave Calnan (Midnight Sun Landscaping), Greg & Shelly Hakonson (Eldorado Placers) for making it work.
Lambert called several local stores and also some in Whitehorse, who put him in contact with Rudy Myers, salesman for the Pauline Johnson Confectionery in Vancouver. He offered the first ray of hope.
The product Lambert wanted was bubble gun coins wrapped in gold foil. None was available in Canada. There was chocolate but not bubble gum.
However, the pink stuff could be made in Brazil and air freighted to Vancouver. Lambert said yes, and his friends agreed to assist with the cost.
When in Whitehorse, Lambert spoke with Mae Gudmundson. Brian was a sergeant with the RCMP here a few years back and Mae taught various grades at the Robert Service School. She wanted to be part of the Gold Project, so she arranged for Lloyd Anderson. owner of Matco Trucking out of Edmonton, to pick up the gum in Vancouver and deliver it to Dawson.
Lots of comments were made by young and old alike as they were pelted with gold coins during the August 16th parade. Almost 13,000 coins were tossed on the street. As well, almost all the floats were tossing coins. Great souvenirs for the locals and visitors alike.
Lambert wishes to acknowledge and say a very special thank you to all of the following people who assisted him as Parade Marshall in making the parade such a huge success.
Prize money this year totalled $3500 in gift certificates and cash. The credit for all the prizes goes to the following sponsors: City of Dawson, Viceroy Corporation (Brewery Creek Operation), Dawson City General Store, Farmer's Market, Melody Caywood (Massage Therapist), Maximilian's Goldrush Emporium, Klondike Visitors Association, Downtown Hotel, Eldorado Hotel, Westmark Hotel, Marina' Restaurant, Midnight Sun Hotel, Dawson Trading Post, Canada Post Corporation, Triple "J" Hotel, White Ram Bed and Breakfast, Bonanza Shell, The Gold Poke, Klondike River Lodge.
Parade observers will have noticed that this year it worked much better keeping the horses together, as the pooper scooper supplied by Midnight Sun Landscaping was able to keep up with the droppings and no one had to walk through it.
The Best Overall Discovery Theme Float was the Parks Canada entry, "Motherlode". The First Place Business award went to Hoofbeats Equestrian Centre and Second Place to Donny Wilson & Bert and Ernie.
First Place Corporate and Government went to the Mining Recorders Office, and second to the Whitehorse Anniversaries Commission.
First Place Non-Profit was awarded to the Humane Society of Dawson, while Trinke Zho Daycare took second.
First Place Best Dressed Individual was Janet Leary, while the 2nd Place Best Dressed Car went to Henry Gulch Placers.
The First Place Best Dressed Children's Award went to Natasha, Ashley and Jessica, and 2nd place to the "The Dragon", Daniel Naef. Honorable Mention was given to Daniel, "The Mad Trapper".
The Best First Nation Group award was given to the Tr'ondek Hwech'in, with second place awarded to Paula Farr & friend.
The Best Family Award went to the Belcher family from Pennsylvania, Florida, California, Alaska and the Yukon.
Best Vintage Vehicle: Joe Ladue Fire Truck
Most Comical Float: Public Service Alliance of Canada and "Ruby's Place".
Most Comical People: Canada Post's Lorie, Cameron and Jasper.
First Place Bicycle: Lowe's Laundry; 2nd place: "Cupid's Bow", by Charmain Christiansen. All bikes present received $5 each.
The Yukon Order of Pioneers received a Participation Prize of $375 for their continued dedication and efforts for the Discovery Day Parade each year.
A very special person, who is truly a dashing fellow and always does a fine job is Bill Jackson, who proudly led the Pioneers with his bagpipes.
The Dawson Ambulance Service not only led the parade, but also made sure, via radio, of the progress of the parade and kept the crowd back as well, so that the large floats had room to maneuver the corners.
A very special thanks goes to the City of Dawson for their generous donation and to the city crews, especially Peter Menzies, who once again helped us to pull off the biggest and best parade ever.
Maureen Shenk and sixteen family members were here for Discovery Days. Maureen was born here in 1948 and was a school chum of Lenore Calnan.
Maureen's dad and two uncles were born here. Ages 88 and 95 the latter were both here for the celebrations, along with two of her aunts, both doctors in Michigan, who flew in for the festivities.
Maureen's grandfather was among those on the spot in 1896.
Also of note was the presence of the German couple who won the Treasure Hunt ten years ago and have returned to Dawson every year since then. They are presently hoping to buy a home here.
Dawson City resident Madeleine Gould was first in line to buy the new 14-karat gold coin commemorating the Centennial of Discovery of Gold in the Klondike. Photo by Ken Spotswood
One hundred years ago the discovery of gold in the Klondike helped create the Royal Canadian Mint.
This year the mint has commemorated the historic event by striking a new 14-karat gold coin.
The coin contains 58.33 percent gold and 41.67 percent silver. Its face value is $100 and portrays a dramatic interpretation of the first major discovery of gold on Rabbit Creek, later renamed Bonanza Creek.
The obverse, or flip side, shows a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II.
The mint has produced 35,000 of the gold coins for world-wide distribution.
Here in Dawson City the Klondyke Centennial Society (KCS) has exclusive rights to sell the coin. It has acquired 200 of the coins and sales have been steady.
KCS administrative officer Kathy Donnelly says 25 coins have been sold so far.
"An American tourist was in our office a few weeks ago and really wanted the coin, but he didn't have his VISA card with him," Donnelly said.
"The other day he phoned from his home in Elmwood Park, Illinois, and ordered one. We're shipping it to him by mail," she said.
During the Aug. 17 Discovery Day 'Honour the Miner' gala out at Discovery Claim, a special presentation was made by Barbara Steele, communications advisor of the Royal Canadian Mint which was one of the corporate sponsors of the event.
"Many of you know the Royal Canadian Mint for the pocket change that we make, the coins that you spend every day," Steele said. "But the mint also makes commemorative coins that you won't see in daily circulation.
"One of the coins that we make every year is a 14-karat gold coin. This series is specifically designated to honour milestones in Canadian achievement, so it's no surprise that this year's coin is dedicated to the one hundredth anniversary of the discovery of gold in the Klondike," she said.
"This particular theme is really relevant to the mint, more than most people realize. Back at the turn of the century people in Canada were realizing that we wanted a national mint, to mint our own coins.
"It was also thought that it would be a good idea to make gold sovereigns because we were producing a lot of gold locally at the time. One of the reasons the mint was built was because we had such a large, local supply of gold which, of course, came from the Klondike."
At the turn of the century the first coins produced for the Dominion of Canada were manufactured at the Royal Mint in London, England.
These consisted of silver five, ten, twenty-five and fifty-cent coins.
Copper tokens were also issued by provincial governments, banks and anonymous individuals. The coppers passed as halfpennies and pennies in the old currency system.
Banks later began issuing their own paper notes in various denominations while the government issued its treasury notes, called Dominion notes.
Initial efforts to create a Canadian mint began in British Columbia in 1890, but they were thwarted by federal government officials and politicians who didn't see the need for one.
It's no coincidence that the first proposals were from B.C. Most of Canada's gold then came from B.C., but its miners were very unhappy with the existing situation.
Every ounce they dug out of the ground and panned from the creeks had to be sent to the United States to be sold. Transportation from the remote mining districts was primitive and expensive.
Besides the shipping costs, there were insurance premiums to pay and added costs for middlemen to do the handling--costs that could not be recovered during selling.
It took the Klondike Gold Rush to bring the matter to a head.
The sight of formerly poor men arriving in San Francisco and Seattle with sacks of gold had a compelling quality.
Newspapers ran headlines that screamed: "A Ton of Gold!" and "Farmer Has Largest Nugget Yet."
They knew the miners would spend their fortunes in the U.S.
Now not only the miners but also merchants across the country complained about the lack of a domestic market for Canada's gold. The Canadian coinage of 1907 was the last manufactured in England. The Ottawa branch of the Royal Mint began operations the following year.
"The Royal Canadian Mint might not be around today, or at least would not be the mint we know, if it weren't for Skookum Jim and the others who made that historic discovery of gold 100 years ago," Steele said at Discovery Claim.
During earlier speeches it was pointed out that Skookum Jim's legacy still benefits others today through the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre in Whitehorse.
In recognition of Skookum Jim's contribution to the mint and to the friendship centre, Steele presented a plaque featuring the art work for the new 14-karat gold coin to Edith Bohmer of the friendship centre. The plaque also contained a gold coin in an elegant black velvet case.
Steele also paid recognition to Dawson City residents who contributed to the final design of the coin--Paula Hassard, of Klondike National Historic Sites, Sally Robinson of the Dawson City Museum, and Mac Swackhammer, curator of the museum.
by Dan Davidson
Fired with enthusiasm and impelled by the August 28th announcement of the impending territorial election, the Klondike Riding of the New Democratic Party has elected Tim Gerberding to be its standard bearer for the coming contest.
It was a close vote at the curling rink, with Gerberding taking the position over former MLA and current mayor Art Webster by just one vote. The tally was 23 to 22.
There were 37 people at the nomination meeting this evening, though not all of them voted and there were 9 votes in the advance poll. This showing would seem to indicate that the membership, which actually numbers 60 at this point, would have been comfortable with either candidate, both of whom have strong backgrounds in municipal politics here in Dawson.
Clearly the party sees the Yukon Party candidacy of Peter Jenkins as being its main obstacle to power, and both men referred to him in their speeches, indicating that they would challenge him on his record and that of his party rather than descending to personal attacks.
"He never had a good word to say about 'Johnny Zero' when he was mayor," said Gerberding, who served on two city councils with Jenkins.
It was a fairly chummy set of nomination speeches, with both men being nominated by their current spouse or partner. Neither had a bad word to say about the other. Gerberding simply noted that Webster might still be carrying some of the "mud" that was slung by the Yukon Party during the last election, whether he deserved it or not.
"And besides," he concluded, "we need to keep this man as our mayor."
Webster admitted that mistakes had been made in the past, but pointed to what he said was the impressive record of decentralization and capital spending that brought jobs and money to Dawson during the former NDP government.
Dawson has actually, he noted, declined in population under the Yukon Party which has, he said, cut spending in rural areas and transferred at least 6 key managerial positions back to the capital during their time in office.
Neither man saw the "hot" issue of the bridge as being a priority here at this time, not when the need for new health, education and recreation facilities was so acute. Gerberding said that a revised bridge plan might be acceptable, but indicated that he believed that all plans discussed to date had been designed to be impractical and too expensive, not to mention environmentally questionable.
NDP leader Piers McDonald was present for the evening's voting and indicated both before and after the polling that he would be proud to work with either man. During the ballot counting McDonald ripped into the Yukon Party record, citing it as one of fiscal mismanagement, confrontation and arrogance.
He was warming up to the details of his critique when polling officer Palma Berger returned with the news of Gerberding's selection, adding, "So we have an NDP mayor and and NDP MLA."
Party stalwart Byrun Shandler warmed to the battle immediately, exhorting his colleagues to get out there and register voters, and make sure that no one got to beat them on proxy votes this time around.
The triumphant Gerberding repeated this theme and indicated that the core of his strategy will be to have several campaign lieutenants who could represent the party message in the various camps around the town: government workers, First Nations, business, miners, trappers and fishermen.
Webster counselled the entire party to "get behind behind Tim" and work to defeat the government, which was, he felt, by far the most important goal the party faced at the moment. He urged them to get out and sign up members.
"Our record is much superior to the Yukon party's record and our platform's a hell of a lot better than the Yukon Party's platform...Thanks for coming out tonight, and we've got it."
A scene from the World Goldpanning Championships. Photo by Dale Wellspring
Members of the contingent from the Czech Republic dominated the awards ceremonies at the close of the week long World Goldpanning Championships held in Dawson City last week. They captured the men's and women's open categories and the junior youth category.
The team got here the long way, hiking the Chilkoot Trail from Dyea and canoeing down the water route to Dawson, full of energy and ready to compete.
Veronika Sterda, the women's champion, spoke of their quest to the packed audience in the Bonanza Centre arena on Sunday night.
"We came from Czech Republic to follow traces of old prospectors. We made part of Alaska, we crossed Chilkoot, we canoed down the Yukon and came to Dawson City. I must say that this stay here--our nine days in Dawson City--it was really golden point of the whole trip. We believe that all our friends from other countries, they enjoyed their stay also."
Sterda recovered the 8 gold flakes in her pan in 3 minutes and nine seconds to take the gold medallion. Next in line were Celeice Stockman of the United States and Ulla Kalander from Sweden. Former world champion Dawn Mitchell was the closest Yukoner in this category, placing fourteenth.
Her team mate, Frantisek Hrala captured the men's medal in 2:18, recovering all four of his flakes. He was followed by Nicola Pirchner of Austria and Walter Stadler of Switzerland. Ralph Nordling, the closest Yukoner, and a leader in the contest until this final heat, lost one flake of gold to come in sixteenth, his actual panning time being about a minute and 20 seconds behind the winner.
The atmosphere in the Bonanza Arena was festive on Sunday night, to say the least. While some competitors maintained their panning gear for the closing banquet, others dressed in their festive regional costumes to brighten the event. Each winner was greeted with wild cheers and marched up to the stage followed by another team member carrying their national flag. The Czech team had by far the largest flag in the room.
In the Beginner Men's category Germany's Robert Rolle was the lead panner, recovering all five flakes in 5:49. Finland's Martti Makela and Italy's Giovanni Pagogna took the silver and bronze medals.
Canada and the Yukon finally got into the medals in the Beginner Ladies' contest. This was won by Beate Gliese of Germany in 6:07, but Dawson's Brenda Donic took the silver spot, recovering all 4 flakes in 7:52. Anja Scoenfeld of the USA took the bronze.
In the Senior Men's category France's Joseph Billard, who was celebrating his 66th birthday as well, found his 7 flakes in 4:54 to win the category. Pollari Kauno of Poland and Erich Baron or Austria were next in line.
The Senior Ladies event produced another Yukon medal. Six pieces of gold were found by Finland's Anita Patala in 4:13, and Sweden's Katrina Hlilkkonen came second, but Dawson's Irene Crayford captured the bronze medal in the category.
Tomas Morysek of the Czech Republic was the fastest junior panner in the Youth 11 and Under event, taking 9:07 to recover 4 of the 7 gold flakes in his bucket of dirt. Sebastian Ploner of Austria and Matt Droz-Bartholet of France were second and third.
Yukon's individual gold came in the Youth 12-15 event when Sam Olynyk recovered 6 of his 7 flakes in 3:34. He was chased, but not very closely, by the Australian siblings Shannon and Jon Olsson.
The national team panning event was won by the group from Austria, followed by teams from Finland and Sweden.
There was also an open team competition, consisting of pick-up challenge teams made up during the event. Dawson's Pete Erickson was lucky enough to be a member of the gold medal team in the category.
by Dan Davidson
"I've been mining here for 25 years and I've never taken a week off to go to the panning," Norm Ross told the audience on Sunday night, sounding a lot like he'd learned his lesson. Ross had been drafted to MC the event, which meant spending a good deal of the week at the new panning venue in the North End under the Moosehide Slide, as well as handling the chores on stage at the closing banquet.
The new competition area is linear, stretched out along the bank overlooking the Yukon River. Thirty panning stations face the officials' stand, while the judge's tent is off to the right. This year they'd even managed to round up a scoreboard style time clock from the arena, though the bright sunlight made it useless on most days.
Two sets of audience stands face the competitors, allowing a good view of the contest. The advantage of this set up is quite clear from the spectators' point of view, and also better for the spotters and judges, who previously have had their attention split between the two sides of the venue.
When it all works, it's a dream.
"It's like a symphony with all the instruments in place," said head judge Michael Gates on Saturday afternoon in the midst of the semi-final heats.
Mind you, Gates had faced a tough decision the day before, when it appeared that a bucket of paydirt supplied to one of the German contestants--their national champion--had not been properly salted. As head of the judge's jury, which also included Klondike World Gold Panning Committee chair Giovanni Castellarin, World Goldpanning Association president Kauko Launonen, and one of the contestants, Gates faced the daunting decision to cancel that heat and do it over.
Castellarin recalls that it wasn't a popular decision with the Italians, some of whom withdrew from the competition in protest.
"I think they were silly," he said the day after the contests were all over. "We gave the panners the best chance to have the best ones win." Still, at the Sunday night banquet, he offered apologies for any bruised feelings.
That same night Norm Ross told the audience that they themselves were the link between this event and the discovery of gold a century ago.
"The people from all over the world--that's what the link is--the people that came here, came to the Klondike 100 years ago to find their riches, the people that came here to this competition from all over the world. Not only to find riches--yes, riches--but to find their friends. We hope you go home with many great, great memories and that these friendships last forever."
Certainly some of these panners seem to have been on the circuit for a long time, many of them attending a fair number of the 19 annual competitions there have been.
And many of those people come from the crowded environs of central Europe. There were 325 people registered to pan, and another set of visitors from Japan who just came to watch. The 18 countries represented were Italy, Austria, Sweden, Poland, Hungary, Germany, Finland, France, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Spain, the Slovak Republic, Luxembourg, Great Britain, the United States of America, Australia and Canada.
Film crews from the Czech Republic, Germany and France as well as two from Alaska were here to record the event, though it scarcely rated a mention on the Canadian sporting scene. The 335 registered was more than double the number from 1990 when this event was last here.
Next year's championships will be in Italy and 1998's will be in California, but folks here hope that the association can be coaxed back for the year 2002, to help mark the centennial of Dawson's incorporation.
Listening to women's open winner Veronika Stedra, that might not be a problem. She praised those "who organized this excellent event for us...who helped us and enabled us to feel the smell of gold fever from 100 years ago."
Kauko Launonen, the WGA president, was equally effusive in his remarks.
"We have been having very nice happening here," he told the crowd, which cheered its agreement. "I would like to thank you people of Klondike and Yukon and Dawson City. You have done very good work for us. We have had here this world famous Yukon hospitality. We have had here this very original feeling - here gold rush feeling. As hundred years ago here to Dawson rushed many people from all over the world I think the feeling here is now almost same. We can hear here many different languages, but we can understand each other and it's very important thing. It's more than to find gold.
"As I said 6 years ago, 'I left my heart in Dawson City', and now I must say that it's impossible to take back from here. It stays here. I don't know how far, but it has good place here."
The proposal for the re-naming of the Dempster Highway, reported in the last 2 editions of the Sun, is the cause of great concern to me.
The location of the Dempster Highway is known worldwide and was co-named to honor a man who was very deserving. RCMP Sgt. (later Inspector) Dempster was in charge of the patrol from Dawson to Fort McPherson that located the remains of the patrol by Fitzgerald. For several more years Dempster continued to make that patrol.
I would like to take the opportunity to send my best wishes and congratulations to my friends Joe and Annie Henry on the occasion of their anniversary. They are truly deserving of recognition, and the suggestion made by Fred Berger and Fred Cook--the naming of The Tombstone Park, a new project--would be worthy of them.
What about the Maps of the Yukon, the Yukon Tourism pamphlets and advertising, and the travel agents' brochures--all listing the Dempster Highway?
Dawson Is where I was born and lived most of my life, and it will always be home to me. The thoughts I have expressed are not only my for myself but for many other ex-Dawsonites, as well as some of today's Yukoners. I sincerely hope some second thoughts will be given to a name-change, and beg all residents, past and present, to reflect on the proposal.
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