Dawson City, Yukon Friday, August 20, 1999

Piper Bill Jackson leads the YOOP marchers in the Discovery Day Parade. Photo by Dan Davidson

Feature Stories

Han Cultural Centre Completes Second Season
Dawson Wildfire Committee Stands Down
Dawson City Hillside Archaeology Project
Mansel Robinson: Writing for the Marketplace of Ideas
Bookends: Another Berton House Writer Produces a Blockbuster
Sainted Sourdough Ministered to Dawson Miners in Gold Rush
High Tea with Commissioner and Mrs. Black
Outhouse Race to Run Again!
Talent Night at Women's Shelter
Letter: The Fair Family Gives Thanks

Han Cultural Centre Completes Second Season

by Tara McCauley

The Han Cultural Centre is just finishing up its second season in operation. Although there have been a few glitches from the administrative point of view, the centre seems to off to a good start.

The beautifully constructed cultural centre, which celebrated its grand opening on July 9th, 1998, is located on Front Street. It is hard to miss as its unique architectural style stands out among the Edwardian style buildings of Dawson.

The design is comprised of three main sections: the Gathering Room, the Hut & the Theatre. It's meant to represent the lifestyle of the Han First Nation and the type of dwellings during the summer and winter months.

It is obvious that much thought and consideration went into the planning of this building in order for it to so accurately represent the Han First Nation way of life. In fact, earlier this year, the cultural centre was recognized with the Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia Medal in Architecture from the Architectural Institute of British Columbia for its excellent lay-out and unique structure.

The Gathering Room is the room which represents a lean-to summer dwelling. It has several large windows which allows lots of light into the room. The wooden slats that cross the exterior horizontally represent drying racks for salmon, a main staple of Han diet.

The Hut is a large circular room, with low lighting, which represents a typical winter dwelling. In the middle of the room is where they would have had a fire pit. The hole in the top of the hut, where the smoke would escape is represented by a skylight in the centre of the room.

The theatre, which seats 90 people, is the venue for daily presentations and slide shows. In the summer months the youth of Tron'dek Hwech'in put on theatrical performances including legends, singing, drumming and dancing.

The Han Cultural Centre employs approximately six interpreters and 15 youth performers. Visitors are free to explore the building or can take a tour. The interpreters are enthusiastic and eager to share their knowledge of the history and lifestyle of the Han First Nation.

Throughout the building, they are various exhibits including a birch bark canoe and baskets, traditional clothing and drums among other things and more displays in the works.

By the time this article comes to print, the Han Cultural Centre will be closed for the season, but stay tuned for next year. As the centre and its programs grow and develop, it is sure to only get better.

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Dawson Wildfire Committee Stands Down

by Dan Davidson


Even after a sunny day, the smoke could still roll in on August 11. This overview is from Mary McLeod Road. Photo by Dan Davidson

After a month and a half of regular meetings ranging from twice daily to once a week, the committee set up in June to monitor the wildfire situation in Dawson decided to stand down on August 2. This date marked the end of the first week during which no new fires had begun in the area, leaving the total, to that date, of twenty-nine fires since June 12. Fourteen of those fires began in about 3 hours of that afternoon.

Representatives of the City of Dawson, the Tr'ondek Hwech'in first nation, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, the R.C.M.P. and the Yukon Territorial Government all had people at these meetings on a rotating basis.

Until August 2, most of the detailed fire reports were delivered by fire bosses from overhead teams imported from B.C. and Ontario. Those crews have now returned to their home provinces, leaving only Yukon firefighters and local resources in place. At the peak of the fire season over 200 personnel were involved in the efforts here. That has now been scaled back to 50, as the operation moves into more of a mop-up routine.

Acting area fire control officer Chris Boland reported that the last two weeks of chilly, damp, and sometimes rainy weather have had the desired effect on the fires being "actioned" or monitored. Fire #7, the greatest threat to Dawson, has registered cold on all the monitoring done up to Monday of this week.

Fire #2 has been active on the northeast end, in the direction of the old North Fork power dam, and on the west end, but this activity has been within previously established cat lines, as has the activity on fire #11 and fire #3. Both of the latter two fires are moving away from anything classified as a "value" (habitation, fish wheels, historic sites, etc) under the fire management regime now in place.

Shane Petry, also with DIAND, described fire #6, up river from Dawson, as looking "really good" presently and fire #4, near Sulphur Creek, was reported quiet, as it had been for the previous two weeks.

Monitored but not actioned fires are numbers 3 and 13, which are not threatening anything.

The B.C. fire camp unit trailers set up at Strachan's Farm near the airport have been retained for the time being, in case the hot weather predicted for this week should start anything new. So far, it has caused renewed activity inside the perimeters of several fires, and sent a bit of smoke into town, but nothing like what was experienced 5 weeks ago.

This late in the fire season, Petry and Boland don't expect to be doing anything other than mop-up and reclamation work, but they would like to be careful. The heat of the day, climbing to over 40 degrees in direct sunlight around reflective surfaces, creates such a warming effect that it doesn't really get cool, even after the sun sets past midnight. This is a big change from last week, where crews in the field were worrying about wet equipment and hypothermia when temperatures dipped to 0?C and frost formed on the high ground.

Under conditions which have prevailed since last Saturday, there is little opportunity for what the experts call "recovery", which is the term they use to describe the restoration of the relative humidity index after the heat of the day. The RH factor is one of the critical elements in preventing the start of new fires and the spread of the old ones.

Intensely hot days make for convection currents in the air later in the day, leading to a possibility of thunderhead buildup and lightning strikes. They also produce unpredictable wind patterns and strengths, which make it harder to deal with fires.

Still, things have been quiet and fairly routine here now for three weeks, with the result that the local base has loaned equipment for initial attack on fire starts in Beaver Creek and Carmacks during this period. Five helicopters and the the summer complement of bombers remain here to support crews in their field work. Cats are being moved about the fire complex as needed.

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Dawson City Hillside Archaeology Project

by Mike Brand

Bright yellow aspen leaves filtered through a clear, blue, August sky around my field assistant Jesse Koeller and I, as we sat on the hillside examining a human tooth Jesse had just found in a rusting tin can.

More than any of the 3000 artifacts we have recorded, this tooth provides us with a glimpse into a personal experience of the gold rush.

We know that its former owner was between 15 and 18 years of age. We also know that their trip to the Klondike must have been somewhat painful, as evidenced by a cavity which takes up half the tooth's surface. Its presence in a refuse midden on the hillside suggests that the tooth was pulled at home, but we are undecided as to the method used to extract the offending tusk.

The Dawson City Hillside Archaeology Project is part of my Ph.D. program at Simon Fraser University, and begins where a small Parks Canada project, conducted by Dr. David Burley and Brian Ross, on the Dawson hillside left off twenty years ago. The goals of the project are to examine the daily lives of the transient individuals living on the hillsides and develop an understanding of how these people participated in the development of the community. During the summer of 1998, in association with the Tr'o-Ju-Wech'in Archaeology Project directed by T.J. Hammer, and with the assistance of Shane Christiansen, Andy Crowther, Spruce Gerberding, Brendan Hogan, Jesse Koeller, Alex Kormendy, James MacDonald, R.J. Nagano and Chris Thomas, I surveyed the steep hillside behind Klondike City and portions of the scarp east of Dawson. During the gold rush these hills were covered by tents and small cabins.

The lack of suitable construction sites and high real estate prices in town, made these marginal areas appealing to the countless would-be gold seekers arriving with the stampede.

Locating a residence on these steep slopes was not an easy task. Before one could think about erecting a tent or cabin, a flat construction surface had to be created. This generally took the form of a platform, made by digging into the hillside and pushing the removed material forward to create a level area.

These platforms were the focus of the first part of last summer's survey. Walking back and forth across the hills, we recorded over 180 platforms. Hiking up and down the steep slopes has allowed us an appreciation of what the platforms inhabitants had to do everytime they went into town.

The majority of these sites are relatively small, averaging 30 square meters. Many have stone retaining walls, constructed with locally available rock, along the front. There are those which stand out, however, with retaining walls up to 30m long, and stone stairs leading down from the platform, but they are definitely in the minority.

That types of artifacts found around these platforms, such as the tooth noted above, will allow us to increase our understanding of what the gold rush was like for the ordinary stampeder. But the tooth was a stroke of luck; as it stands now we have a ratio of one tooth to 2500 tin cans, and tin cans are by far the most commonly occurring artifacts associated with these platforms. Embossing on cans and fragments of labels indicate that diet on the hillside included: condensed milk, evaporated cream, baking powder, sardines, oysters, Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce, butter, lard, honey, coffee, tea, and Log Cabin Syrup.

The presence of butchered animal bones indicate that these people also had fresh meat in their diet. Various fragments of broken liquor and medicinal bottles, and a number of household objects were also recorded, such as a frying pan, pot lids, baking pans, metal plates, spoons, forks, and a wash tub. While none of these artifacts is in very good condition, they all contribute to our picture of daily life during the gold rush.

The Investigations continue this summer.

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Mansel Robinson: Writing for the Marketplace of Ideas

by Dan Davidson


Mansel Robinson on the back porch at Berton House. Photo by Dan Davidson

Mansel Robinson has done a few things for a living. He's been in a lumber mill, fought fires, ran a blast furnace and, since 1980, done a lot of backstage work at theatres - lights, construction, lifting and lugging. Though his father, a long time railway man, swore his son would never work the rails, he's even done a bit of that. He hasn't done much teaching, which is a somewhat more traditional route for a writer to take, but he has done some prison tutoring and even got a writers' circle going there.

Just writing is, he says, "the best job I've ever had". But it's still a job, he hastens to add. You get up, figure out what you're going to do, do it and then, when it's over, you take the rest of the day off and watch "ER" or "Law and Order", or go to the pub.

It's the kind of answer he's given quite a few times lately, for he's found that quite few people in Dawson wonder about it.

"I don't know how many times I've heard, 'Oh, I've never met a writer before.' They want to know how the job goes."

Robinson comes from a working class background, and still marvels at the fact his family has gone from illiteracy to actually having books published in just three generations. Some of his drive came from his parents, who always seemed to assume that the Robinson kids would get an education and move on. Mansel's father, himself a railway worker, indignantly rejected the railway choice for his 12 year old son when a friend of the family teased that Mansel might follow in his footsteps. Family was important.

"I grew up listening to my father tell stories, and his father and great uncles and stuff. Even as a kid I could sit and listen to my mother and her friends have a coffee and chit chat." As we speak, we are sitting at the kitchen table in Pierre Berton House, the place that Mansel chose for this interview.

"I really liked hearing about the bush and the people they knew. I admired their skill at doing that. I never really learned to talk that way.

"I've always been a reader. My father was ... a history freak. His trick was to send me to the library to find him some history books that he hadn't read. But he'd read everything - this was the day when your name would be in the back on the card." He was amazed by the stuff his father had read.

He liked detective stories, Kipling, Service and had a conservative taste in poetry. Where his father liked to read about kings and queens of England, Robinson likes the 20th century, the issues that emerge in discussions between ideas and situations.

It took him some time to learn that he could join the discussion in a more active way.

"One of the problems with growing up in a small place is that you don't have models. It's not easy to make the leap between reading and writing. For me it took awhile to know that there was a link. It took till university for me to do that."

Now, he is very much into the discussion of social meaning, of theories about how things should be done, what is just and what isn't.

"Theatre is the place for social debate in the arts. Historically it's always been ... for the last 2,000 years. It is a kind of marketplace of ideas and if you don't have that, you don't have anything. You have entertainment - that's all you've got left."

Robinson doesn't see himself as a heavy handed polemicist: "I try to create characters that have these ideas and then put them in situations where they bump up against other ideas. That's what I'm interested in."

Only one of his plays, Downsizing Democracy, has an obvious political point to make, an agenda which is clear even in the title. The other works are about people in stressful situations, often prompted by the same kinds of concerns.

He has written about the effects of one industry towns on families, about the "On to Ottawa Trek" of the 30's and about teen crime in the 90's. He's interested in why people do things.

"I'm interested in characters, especially characters that I don't agree with, and finding out the strongest argument that they can make."

In Slag there's a character named Floyd, whose story, extracted for the stage as "Spitting Slag" actually got Robinson fired from a writers' workshop in Toronto while he was developing the play. One of the movers and shakers of the operation found Floyd too unsettling.

Robinson was offended by that. First of all, it was the character who was talking, not him, and he doesn't like people to mix the two things up. But, secondly, it shouldn't have mattered any way.

"If I believed that, it's really fine; as long as I tell a good story that's my only real job."

He's not at all apologetic about any grant money he may happen to win or perks like the Berton House Writers' Retreat. The notion that only private enterprise - BIG BUSINESS - generates wealth is offensive to him.

Of any income he makes his assessment is simple: "My landlord gets a third of it. Safeway gets ... whatever. The phone company gets whatever. The computer store gets whatever and the rest goes on beer taxes. I'm using the money and it's circulating in the community."

Getting to Dawson and into Berton House was the result of seeing an ad in a trade publication.

"It was a complete fluke. I've always wanted to come here just to see it." He made the short list on his second application and considers himself lucky.

"It's a great way to live in a community and see another part of the country. It's a great way to get away from the center, the cities. There's something about keeping people and myself aware that it's not just about five or six major metropolitan centers that's important."

His characters are as peripheral as his settings and that sometimes makes it harrder for actors to respond to his material.

"The theatre is essentially a middle class operation," he says.

"This program works for me ... it's more of a retreat, a chance to get away. It's long enough. Some residencies are great for making notes, but by the time you get warmed up it's time to go. This is actually long enough to do a couple of things. I've done a revision of one play, worked on the main project. Let it sit for awhile, and started another one."

The main project was to adapt a portion of Slag as a play to be called "Ghost Trains". Another portion is already adapted as "Spitting Slag." The two will be companion pieces, part of something called "Rock and Rail".

He's not working on a Klondike related project at the moment, though the place itself is helping him recapture some of the small town feeling that is evident in a lot of his work.

Still, you never know. Slag, you see, is the residue of mining, waste ore. Where it links up with Robinson's background is that this hard, abrasive, sharp edged material is often used as the covering of the road bed on railways.

There are other sorts of slag, though, and Robinson's been looking around the Klondike for a month or so now.

"I'm really quite surprised by the tailings in this area," he muses. "They're quite fascinating." Indeed.

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Bookends: Another Berton House Writer Produces a Blockbuster

by Dan Davidson

Lost Girls
by Andrew Pyper
HarperFlamingo Canada
357 pages
$27.00

The Dawson connection to this first novel by Andrew Pyper is that some of it was written here. While he was Berton House Writer-in-residence in 1997 Pyper was at work on this manuscript. Was Dawson part of the small town atmosphere that he soaked up? Did ghostly echoes of the Pit make it into some of the bars that Bart visits in the novel? We'll never know for sure, I suppose, but Berton House is mentioned prominently on the jacket flap and in the acknowledgements at the back of the book, so that's' good news for the writers' program.

The good news for Andrew Pyper is that the Canadian publication of this book, just months ago, was followed almost immediately by 1/2 million dollar sale of U.S. publication and film rights.

I can see why the movie folks would be interested in this novel. It has that eccentric "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" tone that was so successful in the Clint Eastwood directed film of that name.

I hope they keep the setting in Canada when they film it. There are all kinds of mid-sized Ontario towns that have the look Pyper conjures up for Murdoch. Lots of places that were founded with Reformation zeal have seen themselves sinking slowly into depression. Lots of places have that blurry line where town becomes country and side roads lead out to abandoned buildings in cottage country.

That's where the two girls went missing, apparently taken out there by their English teacher as part of a trip for their literary club and then .... well, that's the thing. No one knows. No bodies. No real proof. Just a whole lot of supposition and a suspect who seems hell-bound either for jail or the booby-hatch.

Enter Bartholomew Christian Crane, who is decidedly not one of your typical, fresh, young John Grisham types who is about to become disgusted by the underside of the legal profession. Bart doesn't mind the underside. It keeps his thermos full of cocaine and allows him to live as he pleases - alone.

We meet Bart in court, in a setting that seems something like Jim Carry's first turn in "Liar, Liar", or Keano Reeves' in "The Devil's Advocate". By this I mean that Bart has a client he knows damn well to be guilty and he gets him off by sheer bombast.

"...you need not trouble yourself with 'principles,' however you may understand such a prickly term. So too can you stay well off the foggy moors of 'honour,' 'mercy,' 'responsibility,' 'justice,' whatever.

"All you need to know is this: I won."

These are not the words of a hero, just a protagonist. Can he make something better of himself? This is what we are here to learn.

Bart's victory in this nasty little sexual harassment case is the signal to his seniors at Lyle, Gedorov and Associate (Lie, Get 'em off, and Associate) that he is ready for the big time up in Murdoch. They don't know, because Bart himself doesn't know, just how this case will scour his soul and dig up bits of a past he had long kept buried.

In Murdoch he is alone with himself in a particularly destructive way, with nothing but the contents of his thermos between him and his memories.

His client, Tripp, who started becoming weird after his divorce and the loss of access to his daughter, is of very little help. He hears voices. He is apparently obsessed with the local legend of the Lady in the Lake. Before his arrest he had pasted pictures of barely pubescent girls in underwear all over his bedroom wall and had cut himself off from the company of his peers.

Bart would just like to be able to cast reasonable doubt on the circumstantial evidence and go home. He's out of place here. He can't deal with the self-righteous father who threatens him with biblical hellfire, or the down-at-the heels single parent who nevertheless seems to have a private dignity about him. The notion that the fat crown attorney should be more concerned about Bart's mental and physical health than he is with the holes in his case is totally mystifying.

Then there are the dreams, the encounters with the local legend and with his own buried traumas. Yes, poor Bart has enough on his plate to keep him busy through the many depressing weeks of fall that he spends in Murdoch.

The film will probably tighten the time frame up a bit, make the supernatural element less ambiguous, and take us outside of the musings in Bart's head, if only because it won't be able to sit in there and make the picture work, but it should still manage to be a pretty good film. There's lots to work with and even the parts that are familiar have a neat little twist to them.

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Sainted Sourdough Ministered to Dawson Miners in Gold Rush

by John Richthammer


Father Judge. Photo courtesy of the Yukon Archives

Father William Henry Judge was a Jesuit priest who built the first Catholic church and hospital in Dawson City. With only a rudimentary knowledge of medicine, he saved the lives of many miners during the Klondike Gold Rush before succumbing to exhaustion-related pneumonia 100 years ago.

The inspiring story of Judge's venerable life has never slipped into eclipse. Interest has been revived and maintained in many ways over the past century, including by the hope of his order and family that he may eventually be beatified.

Margaret Mary (Marty) Peterson, 76, of San Jose, California, is one of the hopeful. Her abiding interest has led Judge's great-niece to present his missionary crucifix to St. Mary's, the church in Dawson City Judge founded. From about 1890 when he set off for his first mission in Alaska until his death in Dawson City, the crucifix hung from a cord around his neck and was partially tucked into the cincture, a rope around the waist of his cassock.

Peterson's presentation took place June 5, 1999 at the Commissioner's Ball in Dawson City. "After my trip to Dawson City a year ago, it all just seemed much closer...the missionary cross didn't belong in my bedroom, it needed to go home to St. Mary's," she told CBC North Radio. Peterson - named after a nun who nursed in her great-uncle's hospital - explained that following Judge's death the crucifix was sent to his brother Paul, her maternal grandfather. Upon her mother's death 26 years ago, the crucifix became Peterson's. Since then, it has been displayed on her bedroom wall in Baltimore, the city where both Peterson and Judge himself were born.

Will, as he was known to his family, was born into a fervently religious home in 1850. His father was a well-established organ builder and musician. A brother was a priest and three sisters were nuns.

While working for 10 years as a clerk in a large Baltimore wood-planing mill, Judge gleaned invaluable knowledge of building and woodworking ñ skills he later utilized at his missions. At 25 Judge entered the Society of Jesus and following his novitiate, taught at Gonzaga and Georgetown colleges in Washington.

Ordination in 1886 concluded 11 years of study. He was superintendent and mathematics professor at his theological alma mater, Woodstock College in Maryland, until receiving a posting he requested in the mountainous regions of Idaho and Washington in 1889.

There, he learned of the need for priests in Alaska, and volunteered. In 1890 he was posted to Nulato and St. Michael along the lower Yukon River. Enroute by steamer, he read voraciously and played his flute as the vessel wheeled into colder, more remote country.

Shortly after his arrival, Judge began learning First Nations languages so he could begin teaching the children and relating to the adults. Because his countenance was usually serious or pensive, Judge especially delighted them when, in acting as Santa Claus, his light-hearted side emerged.

During his first winter in Alaska, Judge lived in a tent, subsisting mainly on rabbits and crushed ice. By summer he was cultivating a large garden and building a church and residence. He slept on a large bearskin, the travelling bed of Alaskan Archbishop Charles Seghers, who had been murdered on it by a deranged travelling companion.

In 1895 Judge was sent to Circle City and Forty-Mile, an old fur trading area and booming mining settlement. As the lone missionary within 1,600 kilometres, he traversed uncharted, inhospitable terrain, and began building an altar and log chapel. With one dog and a sleigh, he travelled a 160-kilometre radius in numbing cold through heavy snow to men mining on outlying creeks. On one occasion, his hands and feet froze so badly near his camp that Judge crawled the last distance to his cabin.

The discovery of gold near Dawson City caused an exodus from Forty-Mile. Sensing the unusual importance of the impending Klondike Gold Rush, Judge and his one dog pulled a sleigh heavily laden with medical supplies, a mass kit and not enough food for even a week, all the way to Dawson City in March 1897. Undoubtedly, he was one of the few who did not dream of monetary gain.

With hundreds of miners arriving daily and Dawson City a bustling mass of humanity, Judge immediately saw the double need for a church and hospital. He secured three acres of land in the north end of town near the base of a long-dormant slide. He wasted no time in gathering men to cut logs, float them from the Upper Yukon River, clear ground and begin construction of the two-storey buildings.

Judge supervised every detail from architectural design to keeping accounts and filling medical prescriptions, all while living and celebrating mass in a tent. Seats in the church were comprised of rough boards placed on tree stumps. Judge built the altar and with a pen-knife adorned it with ornamental carving. He made mattresses for the hospital with grass obtained from the hillside. Herbs found on the same grassy knolls supplemented his cache of medicines.

Judge sought to ameliorate the distress of the sick even though some of them were actually less ill than he. Christians and non-Christians alike were accepted into the hospital. Victims of frostbite, scurvy and typhoid filled the wards. He found it considerably more difficult to save them spiritually. Amazed by the effort Klondikers expended in their mining, Judge wrote to his brother, "Oh, if men would only work for the kingdom of heaven with a little of that wonderful energy, how many saints would we have!"

When no one else was available or cared, he also buried inexperienced miners, some of whom had travelled around the world to reach the Klondike. Miners recalled encountering Judge trying to dig a grave out of the winter's frozen earth while the corpse of a miner lay nearby on the priest's little sleigh. Judge was also known to clothe deceased, penniless males from his own scant wardrobe.

In June 1898, Judge, in hastening to a dangerously ill patient, inadvertently left a candle burning. Flames soon ignited and destroyed the church while the weary priest and heartbroken citizenry stood helpless. With no time to bemoan fate, he set about building another church. Ten weeks later, a new church, three times larger than the first one, stood in the ashes. Largely because of his esteem for Judge's unflinching devotion, Alex McDonald, a wealthy miner, assumed the entire $25,000 cost.

Later that summer the church was turned over to the Oblates while Sisters of St. Ann arrived to administer the hospital. Within the first two months of operation, 695 bed patients were treated at the hospital. Judge, who planned to begin a mission at Eagle, Alaska, was hospital superintendent, chaplain and part-time celebrant.

Judge had long been accustomed to the self-sacrifice, daily privations and worry he grappled with in his apostolic life. Though usually sleep-deprived and often ill, he sat up all night with patients who wanted his comfort, and though usually malnourished, he cooked and baked not only for the large crews building the hospital and church, but also for his patients. It was, however, not a case of the people of Dawson City taking advantage of the altruism Judge radiated. John Mattler wrote, "He could not be prevailed upon to spare himself in the least."

On his last Christmas, Judge was accorded a thunderous ovation at a town meeting; he contracted a cold, however, in the unheated room. On Jan. 7, 1899, Judge dressed for mass, went to the altar but was too ill to begin. He took to his rough-hewn lumber bed where he died nine days later from pneumonia of the right lung, pleurisy and fever. In the end his strong spirit could no longer prevail over his weakened body.

His last three days were painful, but he would not abide tears ñ his or anyone else's. Indeed he comforted those who came to bring him solace. Lucid until his last breath, Judge noted on the day he died that it was the 33rd anniversary of his mother's death. She died when he was just 15 years old.

The populace of both Dawson City and surrounding communities plunged into unprecedented mourning, the priest's demise being of the magnitude of a public calamity.

Men sat vigil over the body at night while Judge's friend Mattler excavated the grave to the howls of wolves and dogs resonating throughout the bitterly cold nights before the funeral. Businesses and homes in Dawson City were swathed in black and closed on the day of the funeral. The parish register was signed by 231 witnesses, though hundreds more had attended. Judge's body was entombed under the chancel of the church, on the spot to the right of the altar where he preached the Gospel.

As the post-gold rush population of Dawson City decreased, Judge's second church was then only used in summer or at Christmas; a third church/school had been built in 1904 and was used full-time. In 1923, when the old church was taken down, Judge's gravesite and white Italian marble monument stood alone, high on the banks of the Yukon River, for the first time in 24 years.

Collectively, Judge's detailed letters to his siblings formed the basis of an edifying biographical portrait of the man who was, even in life, referred to as the "saint of Dawson City." Written by his brother, Rev. Charles Judge, An American Missionary, went through at least four reprintings between 1904 and 1907. Proceeds went to missionary societies.

William Judge, who never saw his 49th birthday, lives on in myriad ways. A Dawson City street was named in his memory. His crucifix and portrait are in St. Mary's Church. Paper records exist in repositories in Canada and the United States. Plaques stand at his grave and outside St. Mary's Church, and his oil portrait hangs in the Fr. William Judge Memorial Nursing Station in Dawson City, so named in 1970.

Ed Note: John Richthammer, an author, journalist, and former Klondike History Library archivist at Dawson City Museum, is assistant government records archivist at Yukon Archives.

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High Tea with Commissioner and Mrs. Black

by Dan Davidson


Employees of Klondike National Historic Sites take the parts of historical figures at a tea party. Photo by Dan Davidson

The Commissioners' Residence is, without a doubt, one of the most physically impressive buildings in Dawson. Set on Front Street, amidst the splendour of Martha Black's gardens, the residence was one of the big projects Klondike National Historic Sites whipped into shape to help celebrate the Gold Rush centennials of 1996-98, and it is now a major draw for tours.

One of the special events that goes on there three times a week is the Black's Farewell Tea Party. Held on the buildings spacious porch, the tea is a chance for visitors and locals to indulge in the customs of years gone by, enjoy a great cup of tea, some lemonade, sandwiches and cakes, and also get a tour of the building. There are other tours, but this is the deluxe version.

This was what KNHS refers to as an animated tour, with Parks employees filling the roles of historical characters. Your host is the Black's maid, while others take on the roles of George and Martha Black, Madame Emilie Tremblay and, for the last time this summer. Mrs. Stringer, on loan from Saint Paul's Anglican Church where she has been giving tours.

The scenario for the Tea is that the Blacks are about to leave the Yukon for Vancouver and, eventually, England. The year is 1916, and George has assembled a troop of Yukoners to take part in the Great War.

As the goodies are served and the guests partake of the afternoon's cheer, the characters circulate and pose the challenge of trying to have a conversation with a "ghost" of a bygone era. Eventually, though, they settle down to their presentations.

Framed as a conversation among old friends, each relates something of the life they have led, how they came to the Yukon and what they have made of themselves here.

All this is followed by a tour of the impressive mansion which was the home of the territorial commissioner for a number of years before the office was combined with that of the Gold Commissioner. In later years the building served as a hospital, and some of the upstairs rooms have been left in the condition of those years, but the ground floor public rooms are decked out in the highest style of the early century, the reconstruction assisted by the copious photographs which the Blacks had taken during their time in residence.

Regular tours of the Commissioner's Residence take place on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 2 p.m. The cost is $12.50 for a family, $5 for adults and $2.50 for youth.

The Blacks' Tea takes place on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 2 p.m. and the cost is $20 each.

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Outhouse Race to Run Again!

The 1999 running of the Great Klondike International Outhouse Race will take place in Dawson City on September 5. The Klondike Visitors Association sponsors this Labour Day Weekend event, which challenges competitors to create the craziest contraption they can come up with, and then careen around the three kilometre course.

Teams of five people build an outhouse (yes, a real outhouse!) and decorate it to their liking. Some past racers have come up with memorable themes, like NWT Air, (a mixed team of three women and two men) whose outhouse had a wing span of ten feet or more. Two of the male team members were dressed stewardesses in skirts, heels and lipstick and passed out candy to the crowd of spectators while the women were dressed like World War II fighter pilots. The Space Cadets made their outhouse look like a spaceship by using sheets spray-painted silver and the participants were dressed like Martians. There has also been The Whizzer of Oz, The Mad Crapper of Rat River and even the Elton John. Who could possibly forget the group of Anglican ministers visiting Dawson who entered their Devouthouse?

Costumed and decorated, the racers line up at the start. Four people push each craft, while the fifth team member is enthroned to enjoy the ride. You can riders along the way but there has to be someone on the throne at all times. At the sound of the gun, racers make their way around the course. This takes them uphill, downhill, over gravel, and pavement, and through the heart of town. Of course, pushing an outhouse is hard work, and some team have been known to stop for a quick refresher of the local taverns. These facilities are conveniently placed along the course for participants to quench their thirst and show off their costumes.

"The object of the event is to get people into the fun of it," says Celeste Michon, the KVA Special Events Co-ordinator who has been in the race herself with team Pizza Slice, where they pulled up in front of the race starting line in a twelve foot pizza box on a flat bed truck. The chef from Marina's restaurant, their sponsor, opened the lid and out jumped the five slices of pizza. National Geographic was there, and did a story on the Outhouse Rave and their team picture was published in National Geographic Traveler. "In recent years there has been some decline in interest due to more competitive teams and not enough humorous ones which make the race much more interesting. We will be focusing more on the costumes and team concepts that people come up with. It will always be a race, but we want to ensure first and foremost that the people who get involved with the Outhouse Race have fun.

Celeste suggests that now is a good time to start thinking about how to put your Outhouse together. "It doesn't take that much effort, and if you want to rent one of our ready-to-decorate outhouse shells, it requires even less." The KVA still has a few available on a first come, first served basis.

There are awards for the fastest team as well as for costumes. Entries can be male, female, or mixed. The cost for a team of five is $75 and cheques maybe made payable to the Klondike Visitors Association, Box 389, Dawson City, Yukon, Y0B 1G0. A full set of rules is available in Dawson City from the KVA office, and in Whitehorse at the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Office. For further information call the KVA office in Dawson at (867) 993-5575, by fax at (867) 993-6415 or by e-mail at Kva@dawson.net

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Talent Night at Women's Shelter

by Tara McCauley


Jo-Anna and Betty Davidson perform at the Talent Show. Photo by Tara McCauley

Dawsonites, summer workers and visitors alike were treated to a special evening of entertainment on July 30th. About 25-30 people came out for the Dawson City Women's Shelter Talent Night hosted at Sammi's Place Restaurant on Front Street. Organized by Special Events Co-ordinator Jo-Anna Davidson, this event was one of many fundraisers hosted by the Women's Shelter in order to generate money for their programs.

The evening, emceed by the often hilarious Kim Adams started shortly after 8 p.m. Eleven acts in all, the evening began with Jo-Anna Davidson, accompanied by Betty Davidson, singing "Can't help lovin' dat man" from Showboat. Second on the roster was a dramatic reading from Bonnie Nordling from the play, "The Occupation of Heather Rose". Dan Davidson played his guitar and sang a song about the coal mines of Nova Scotia.

Next came an original series of short readings from Mancell Robinson, the current writer-in-residence at the Pierre Berton House. Following him was local songstress and actress Pat Henman, singing "When I Fall in Love", accompanied by Shelley O'Brien. O'Brien, who is a singer/actress based in Victoria, proceeded to sing two original compositions, accompanied at the piano by herself.

After a short intermission, Manon Audette wowed the audience with her acapella singing. Then the crowd was treated to the musical improvisations of Michael John Howe III and Jo-Anna Davidson. Dan Davidson returned to the platform with a humorous collection of original poetry, followed by songs from Linda Moore and Betty Davidson. The final act of the evening was by Pascale Roy-Leveillee who recited the poem, "Je suis l'homme" and then finished with two original songs on her trumpet.

Following the scheduled presentations there was an open mike and several performers came back to the platform.

All in all it was highly entertaining evening. And although it started out with a small crowd, numbers grew larger as passersby were drawn in by the wealth of talent. There was no admission fee but the people was encouraged to donate generously. That they did and $103 plus $14 American was raised.

The Dawson's Women Shelter is a not-for-profit organization and is open 24 hours a day/ seven days a week. It provides a healthy and safe environment as well as assistance and support for women and children in times of need. For more information on their programs and fundraising events, please call 993-5086.

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Letter: The Fair Family Gives Thanks

To the people of Dawson:

Carrie, her parents, Ian and Leslie, and her brother Robbie wish to say a "huge thank you" for all the love, prayers and best wishes extended to Carrie and her family during this traumatic time. We know that all of the outpouring of compassion and love extended to us has helped speed up all of our "healing". The residents of Dawson and surrounding areas have helped renew our belief in the basic goodness of people. To have taken our brave and courageous daughter, Carrie, into your hearts after her being with you for such a short time has made Carrie feel very special during this difficult experience.

An extra special thank you to Dave Calnan for his heroic efforts in removing Carrie from further danger. He will be forever in Carrie's and her family's hearts. Not everyone could (or would) have acted as bravely as he did. Also a special thanks to all the staff at the Nursing Station as well as the ambulance attendants who first took care of our daughter. Words cannot explain how forever emotionally indebted we are to you all.

Special thanks also goes out to Scott Mount, Jen Vinton, Suzie and Sarah at Ruby's, Duncan Spriggs, Cathy Wood and the Dawson City Pool Staff for their priceless energy put into organizing the numerous local fundraisers. As well thanks is also extended to each and every Dawsonite who graciously donated their efforts, auction items, and dollars to assist in Carrie's rehabilitation.

Carrie and her parents hope to return to Dawson sometime in the future and meet its caring residents.

Carrie will be recovering in hospital back in Halifax, Nova Scotia, hopefully by mid-August. She is doing as well as expected under the circumstances. She is a strong young woman who hopes to return to University at some point this year. Anyone wishing to communicate with Carrie may reach her at 26 Lake Charles Drive, Dartmouth, NS, B2X 2T2 , ph#902-462-5511

Once again, God Bless.

Leslie Fair

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