Dawson City, Yukon Friday, December 8, 2000

Santa poses with the children of Dawson durng the annual craft Bazaar at the Robert Service School. Photo by Dan Davidson

Feature Stories

Robbers Left a Wild and Wooly Mess
The Bridge Discussion Continues
Accused Spousal Killer Is Released
Percy Race Gears Up for 25th Anniversary
Culture Bubbles Up from the Permafrost
Rousing Reading to Mark the Season
Five writers Chosen for Berton House in 2001
Seasonal Touch Enlivens Recital at KIAC
Dawson Swimming

Welcome to the December 8th on-line edition of the Klondike Sun. This is the abridged version of our 24 page Dec. 5th hard copy edition which contained 38 photographs and 28 news stories, a short story and a poem. 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 500 people viewed our last on-line issue.

Robbers Left a Wild and Wooly Mess

by Dan Davidson


This shop was the victim of a recent break-in. Photo by Dan Davidson

There's a sheet of plywood in the middle of the shop floor at Romy Jansen's Wild and Wooly clothing store on Third Avenue. The rest of the store is a tribute to the work that Romy and her staff have put into restoring order and getting back to business, but the plywood, strategically located between the racks of clothing, is a mute testament to the violation which occurred here sometime during the wee hours of Monday night and Tuesday morning.

For 12 years Romy has been establishing her store as THE place to shop in the Yukon for high end, brand name clothing. Folks from Whitehorse make trips here to see what she's carrying this season - and most of them walk out with more than they intended, for Romy Jansen is one persuasive saleslady.

This is the second time now the store has been broken into, and this time it's not just a $25,000 nuisance. Jansen estimates she's lost over $100,000 this time, much of that value in hard to trace gold jewelry secured in a goldbuyer's quality safe which weighed several thousand pounds and would have been a tough nut to crack.

Getting in the doors at the store would also have been tough after the last break-in, and the only vulnerable windows are the bay windows that look onto the street. The thieves didn't try any of those routes. They took advantage of the flood proofing which causes many Dawson buildings to be built on stilts and came up through the floor after getting under the store via the crawl space.

"Then," she says, "they most likely just unbolted the front door and let their partners in."

Jansen said the RCMP feel it was a job with a crew from outside of town, and they had their forensic team here within two hours of the discovery on Tuesday. On Wednesday night Jansen, her husband Rene, son Nicolaas and store staff were all fingerprinted to eliminate their signs from the evidence.

The store had been closed around 7 p.m. Monday night and Romy arrived to find the mess on Tuesday at noon. That means the break-in probably took place during the night, which makes it odd that no one heard anything. The RCMP would be interested in any odd sounds that might pinpoint the time.

Sound carries during the night in Dawson. You can hear a raven fly by, a dog sneezing three blocks away, a house party from six. But the thieves apparently hammered and chiseled their way through the layers of the floor undetected, tipped over and forced the safe, rifled the contents of the store and made away with the gold and thousands of dollars worth of brand name clothing, a trail of which was left all the way to the back of the crawl space, where they had boxes full of garbage bags waiting in which to stow the swag.

"It is unbelievable, the mess," she said on Thursday. "They got all my gold. They took away anything (in clothing) that has a label - a brand name: Nike, Kat boots and runners, every item of FUBU wear, pants and t-shirts, sweatshirts, anything to do with Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfigger - shirts, pants, underwear - anything with those names on it.

"They took all the Oakley sunglasses, silver jewelry, silver watches, Swatches from Switzerland." Strangely, they left behind knives that were worth several hundred dollars each.

Worse, it's Jansen's impression that the burglars really weren't happy with their haul and trashed the place as well to show their displeasure, upending filing cabinets and store records and generally making a fine mess all over, in both sides of the building, even though the bulk of the clothing was taken from the men's half of the operation.

"I think they weren't happy with what was in the safe. They thrashed my back room, my filing cabinets - they went berserk."

Insurance will cover her losses in merchandise, but from the gold jewelry, much of it crafted by her, she says she is not likely to see more than 10% of its value unless it is recovered. Wild and Wooly is not a jewelry store, does not have the metal floor and window bars which an insurance company would want in order to cover its contents for full value.

There was a store camera in place, used during the day to tray to catch shoplifters. That was ripped off its mounting and opened to check for film.

"It will take me two years of hard work to get back what I have lost," she says, the anger rising in her voice. "This is a big one."

"When I bought the safe from Alex Seely I remember him saying, 'Romy, no one will ever get through this.' And whoever did it didn't even use power tools."

For Jansen, who has gone from waitressing to merchandising in about 15 years, the sense of violation has been devastating.

"It's gone. I tell you , I cried all last night. I didn't sleep."

To add to the crush of the week, the Jansen's were just about to embark on a winter vacation to Europe. All week they've been rushing to get things in order and get ready to go.

The one bright spot in the whole affair is that no one was injured. It was Nicolaas Jansen, a grade 7 student, who pointed out to his mother that people have been killed for a lot less money than this. She said she had to agree.

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The Bridge Discussion Continues

by Dan Davidson


As of November 25, the Yukon River has shown little sign of closing over, though the drifting ice was more than a boat could handle. Photo by Dan Davidson

While the general discussion about the pros and cons of bridge building in Dawson City continues, there is one strong voice that wants to make sure the present debate is not directed by the dead hand of the past.

"I want us to be able to pass a resolution which says that THIS council has no policy on a bridge," Councillor Byrun Shandler said at the November 20 meeting of Dawson's council, "(that) we are not bound by any existing resolutions on a bridge policy. We are still gathering information and that we will take a position only after a fully consultative process that is being designed now."

"I will tell you that if you pass (such a) motion I will live with it - but I do not agree with it," said Mayor Glen Everitt.

"I want a clear-cut view right now which says that this community has not spoken clearly," Shandler said later. "They were never clearly involved in any process that said we wanted a bridge."

"I will disagree with that," Everitt said.

Shandler proposed drafting a resolution to the effect of his proposal at that meeting, but Councillor Aedes Scheer recommended that a vote on this topic should wait for the return of Councillor Joann Van Nostrand, who was absent with council approval, but who has very strong views on this subject.

Councillor Wayne Potoroka has already stated that a bridge is probably an idea whose time has just about come, but he is happy to spend some time on consultation, since this is not an urgent matter.

"Can I also have an agreement that we are not going to run off and start believing with the old council motion that the old council was in favour and the community has spoken," Shandler continued. "I'm directing that to you, Glen, 'cause we aren't going to say that."

"It came out last time," Everitt responded, "because it was in the paper - so ask him (directed to the press) not to say it."

Shandler doesn't want the discussion to be that there are council members against the bridge and council members that are for the bridge. His position appears to be that this is an issue which has never been properly surveyed as far as the general public is concerned and that such a survey needs to be done before council takes a definitive position.

On the other hand, Shandler voted with two other councillors against a previous motion to support the report of the Bridge Committee in an open, public meeting on November 6 and insisted that his position be recorded in the minutes. One can't have it both ways.

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Accused Spousal Killer Is Released

by Michael Hale
Used by permission of the writer and the
Whitehorse Star

The Crown has set aside murder proceedings against a Dawson City woman after new evidence came to light from a psychological assessment.

"It's not that the doctor came to any conclusion," Crown prosecutor Sue Bogle said today. "It's that new evidence came to light after he did some interviews."

Patricia Chudy, 30, was arrested last March 25 for allegedly stabbing her common-law husband, David Lawrence DeWolfe, in the back.

DeWolfe, 37, was taken to the local nursing station just after 9 p.m. on March 24, but died early the next morning.

Chudy has been held at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre since her arrest, and was scheduled to go to trial before a judge and jury in Dawson next week. This morning, after the case was set aside in Yukon Supreme Court, Chudy was released.

Because the charge was stayed, not dropped, there is the possibility for the Crown to revisit the case if new evidence comes to life. As such, the publication ban on evidence remains in effect.

Pierre Rousseau, head of the federal Crown's office in the Yukon, Bogle, Ludovic Gouaillier, another Crown prosecutor, and victim witness workers were in Dawson on Tuesday to sit down and discuss the decision to set aside proceedings with DeWolfe's family.

"Clearly, it's a tragedy for them, losing a loved one, but we did our best to help them understand that from a technical legal point of view, a conviction was unlikely," Bogle said outside the courtroom today.

A witness victim worker will be available to those who need help dealing with the fall-out from the decision to set aside the charges.

She explained that a B.C. forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Stan Semrau, interviewed Chudy and another witness along with all the evidence the Crown had and presented a final report last Friday.

"Basically, it all fit," said Bogle. "Everything she said was consistent with our evidence."

Because the evidence gathered by the RCMP and Chudy's statements did not contradict each other, the Crown would have extreme difficulty arguing against a claim of self-defence, continued Bogle.

A preliminary hearing was held in July. At that time, Chudy was committed to trial based on available evidence, but at that stage, Chudy had not given her version of events.

The Crown does not get to interview the accused after it's prepared its case, except by consent.

The interview with Semrau and his report was the first chance the Crown had to see how Chudy's version of events fit with the evidence. Bogle said the Crown moved the case forward from the scheduled start this coming Monday to avoid bringing all the witnesses and potential jurors into the courtroom.

The Crown was not aware of any community reaction in Dawson yet, as officials did not make their decision public until this morning.

"We wanted the DeWolfe family to know before anyone else, obviously, and the public will find out today," said Bogle last Thursday.

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Percy Race Gears Up for 25th Anniversary

Submitted by Christine McDonald

The year 2001 will mark the 25th anniversary of the Percy DeWolfe Memorial Mail Race and the 50th anniversary of Percy DeWolfe's death. "The Percy" started back in 1976 as a 'fun run' to commemorate the memory of Percy DeWolfe who was a mail carrier from 1915 to 1950 between Dawson City and Eagle, Alaska. He became known as 'The Iron Man of the North' because he never failed to get the mail through, even though he risked his own life many times. A couple years after the first fun run, it became an official dog sled race. Today the race still uses most of the same trail that Percy himself used. Back in his day, it took about 6-7 days to do a round trip to Eagle, today the race record is 20 hours and 7 minutes (total distance is 210 miles).

The Race Committee has some special events planned to celebrate our 25th race. This year's race will have a special purse of $25,000 for the first time, to be given out to 30 mushers. For the past three years, we have had a purse of $10,000. Due to a lot of fundraising and a lot of hard work by committee members and many volunteers, we have been able to put money away over the past few years in order to make 2001 extra special.

The Race Committee is also happy to announce the creation of our new website. Check us out at "http://www.thepercy.com". You may also email us at "mailto:info@thepercy.com" . Mushers are able to download race information, race rules, dog care guidelines and entry forms from our website.

Race day is Thursday, March 15, 2001 at 10 am in front of the Old Post Office, where Percy picked up his mail. The first musher usually returns Friday afternoon. Awards Banquet is Saturday, March 17 (location to be announced later).

We have a couple more fundraising activities before race day. Our annual membership drive is in January and we run the food concession at the Yukon Quest checkpoint in February. If you are interested in becoming a member or a volunteer you can contact us at 993-6483 or leave a message at 993-6851 or email us at "mailto:info@thepercy.com".

We look forward once again to putting on another great dog sled race for our mushers, sponsors, volunteers and especially the people of Dawson City.

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Culture Bubbles Up from the Permafrost

by Dan Davidson


The crowd views part of the original artwork for the new book, Up From the Permafrost. Photo by Dan Davidson

As one who would have liked to have been in the pages of Up from the Permafrost, I find myself tempted to call the book the best kept secret in the Yukon. That's not true, though. I do remember seeing the ads for a meeting related to this book on our layout sheets here. So I knew that the good people at Yukon Learn were putting a book together.

What is true is that I didn't realize until much later on that they might be looking for people like me to make a contribution. My impression of the book was that it was going to be a collection of material from people involved in the program.

I didn't find out otherwise until I attended a fall meeting of the Dawson writers group and found out that a couple of these people, Jack Fraser and Helen Winton, had had work accepted for the collection.

Then coincidence took me to Whitehorse on October 14 for work related to my professional duties in teaching, and coincidence bumped me into Larry Bagnell, who was then busily gathering the support needed to help him become our new MP six weeks later. We were discussing photos for his series in the Sun when Larry, who is a big Yukon Learn booster, asked if I was planning to attend the book launching, which (more coincidence) was happening in the hotel where I was staying, in the same room where I'd just spent my whole Saturday.

As a writer, reporter, teacher and all round nosy person, how could I resist?

The folks responsible for this great piece of work decided to celebrate its release in fine style with two launchings, one at a Whitehorse book store and the other at the High Country Inn. The big conference room there was expanded to full size and packed of people when I got there.

A jazz band was grooving away in the corner while people milled about. At one end of the L shaped room there was a display of full sized versions of some of the original art in the book, mounted on dividers. More was affixed to the walls. The book itself was displayed on a table to the right of the art.

All around interested guests were nibbling from the tables of goodies and chatting about everything from the book itself to the upcoming election.

Yukon Learn's Executive Director Liesel Briggs finally took to the podium to introduce the book and set the agenda for the evening.

What better way to celebrate a book than to read from it, to distribute it and to talk about it? That's what happened for the next while.

Half a dozen of the adult writers in the book presented their material, which ranged over a wide variety of subjects.

Eve D'aeth talked about learning the social power of education and reading while she was living in South Africa.

Dianne Homan spoke of the need for a total education which included the arts as well as the just the usual subjects.

Peter Steele ruminated about the fears of a writer and the process of learning to be one.

Erling Friis-Baastad contributed a poem about the social lives of the early miners.

Cookie Morgan read Isobel Johnson's contribution about sewing.

Patricia Robertson reflected on the need to keep the imaginative element in the reading that we do with children.

There followed a roll call of the writers in the book, during which each of the 90 or more contributors - those who has managed to attend the gala - received a copy of the book in recognition of their work.

Leisel Briggs described the book as a "lasting tribute, not only to learning in the territory but to the millennium." Part of the funding for this 18 month odyssey in creation came from the designation of the book as Yukon Learn's Millennium project.

Beth Molloy, who managed the project to its conclusion, spoke of the joy of "travelling around to all the Yukon communities and uncover hidden sources of talent."

"I've often been at the other end, trying to find work as a writer, so it was wonderful to be able to offer all this work to so many people."

Laurel Parry, with YTG's Arts Branch, said that she was quite impressed, not to mention blown away, by the original proposal for this book, which had a massive scope, especially considering that it was all carried out in a mere 56 pages.

The final readings of the evening, looking off into the future, were by two the younger writers in the book, Ariel Meynen and Nicole Simard, who had been waiting very patiently all evening of it to be their turn.

It was left to Larry Bagnell, the president of Yukon Learn, to go though the long list of thank yous. By just the length of that list it would have been impossible to leave the room that night without taking away the notion that something significant and far reaching had just happened.

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Rousing Reading to Mark the Season

by Suzanne Gagnon


Local writer Dawne Mitchell entertains her peers at the Berton House Open House. Photo by Madeleine Gould

The recent Berton House Open House was a rousing success. Between 30 and 35 people attended to hear Writer in Residence, Luanne Armstrong, recite several poems and read a chapter from her novel in progress, The Bone House. The reading was enjoyed by all and it provided an opportunity for the residents of Dawson to meet Luanne, visit Berton House, and get to know some local talent.

Luanne started off the evening with a selection of poems which were written at Berton House. She had many in the audience nodding in agreement with her description of the idiosyncrasies of a Dawson winter in her poem "Weather Again". She then recited a poem about hiding entitled "Retreat", and followed that with "October North." Luanne's final poem, "Waiting It Out", was a beautiful poem about waiting for her grandchild to be born.

We were then entertained with stories by local writers. Dawne Mitchell regaled us with a prairie girls take on a southern Ontario winter. Joanne Dyk related a story about a good friend, Ione, and the joys of dog mushing. A tear was brought to his eye as Paul Marcotte recited a story about a Christmas morning from his youth. We learned of the perils of keeping livestock in a cabin in the cold northern winter from Helen Winton. And finally, Jack Fraser told a poignant tale about receiving help from a lost love. Luanne finished off the evening with a reading of the first chapter of her new novel. The Bone House is about a hermit who builds a house out of the bones of animals. The reading was stirring and we look forward to the publication of the novel.

The evening began with wonderful music being provided by local musicians Saskia Robbins, Sandy Silver, and Steve Carem, who each sang a song and provided harmonies for each other. We were treated to a second set after a brief intermission.

Delicious snacks, and hot beverages, provided by Library Board members and local writers, were consumed before the reading began and during an intermission. There were savouries and sweets, hot apple cider, hot chocolate, and punch.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who contributed to the evening beginning with Luanne Armstrong and the Canadian Arts Council, the Library Board and the local writers who contributed the food and beverages, Diane Roy of River West for providing the hot apple cider and some baked treats, Guy Chan of Dawson Donuts for the use of an urn, Cheryl Laing, of Community Group Conferencing and KVA for the use of chairs.

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Five writers Chosen for Berton House in 2001

Five established Canadian writers have been chosen for the Berton House Writer's Retreat in Dawson City next year, organizers said Thursday. Each will spend several months at the retreat pursuing their craft.

"There are more writers than ever before scheduled for Berton House due to the growing popularity of the retreat, and the desire by the host organization to create opportunities for as many writers as possible," organizers said in a statement.

The writers are:

  1. Rachel Manley, the author of two critically acclaimed memoirs. The first, Drumblair: Memories of a Jamaican Childhood, won the Governor General's Award for non-fiction in 1997.
    Her second, Slipstream: A Daughter's Remembrance, was recently published. It deals with the life of her late father, Michael Manley, former prime minister of Jamaica. The author of three highly-praised books of poetry, she spends her time between Toronto and Jamaica. She will be at Berton House next July 15-Aug. 31.
  2. Steven Heighton of Kingston, Ont., author of seven books, described by poet Al Purdy as "one of the best writers of his generation, maybe the best." His residency will be September and October.
  3. Suzanne Harnois of Montreal, artist, printmaker, and author of two novels, one of them The Perfect Woman, recently translated into English. The first francophone at Berton House, Harnois will be in Dawson next March and April.
  4. Maureen Hull of Pictou Island, N.S., whose recent collection of short stories, Righteous Living, was published to critical acclaim in 1999. Hull will be the first writer at Berton House from Atlantic Canada, and also the first to bring along a spouse. She will take up residence in January.
  5. Benj Gallander, author of five produced plays, a Globe and Mail columnist, and well-known also for his book The Common Investor and other work dealing with the world of finance. He'll be here May 1 through July 15.

The Berton House is the boyhood home of writer Pierre Berton, whose generous donation in 1989 made possible the unique program for writers, in cooperation with the Yukon Arts Council and the Klondike Visitors Association. Writers are brought to Dawson by the Berton House Writer's Retreat Society with funding provided by the Canada Council. They live free at the home and are given a small stipend to cover their expenses.

Each writer performs readings of their work in Dawson and Whitehorse. The house itself is a two-bedroom bungalow at Eighth Avenue and Hanson Street that forms part of a literary corner of the Gold Rush town: Robert Service's cabin is just across the street and Jack London's is only a block away.

The Dawson Community Library acts as literary host, guide and friend to visiting writers.

Since August 1996, the retreat has been home to some 15 Canadian poets, playwrights, novelists, essayists and non-fiction writers; many have had work published that was written while at Berton House.

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Seasonal Touch Enlivens Recital at KIAC

by Dan Davidson


Gwen Bell's junior piano students entertained family and friends at their recital. Left to right: Monica Fras, Robyn Touchie, Hailey Wallace, Hailey Reimer, Galilee Thompson, Ted Hunter, Luke Hunter, Sonny Parker, Caitlin Gammie, Heather Touchie, Tatiana Fras, Gwen Bell (teacher). Photo by Dan Davidson

Parents and musical friends gathered in the ODD Gallery on November 29 to hear the results of teacher Gwen Bell's work with her junior piano students. Eleven students, ranging in school age from grade 2 to grade 10, impressed their audience with tunes that were as simple as elementary finger pieces and as complex as adaptations of works by Tchaikovsky and J.S. Bach.

There were a few false starts and some nerves showing, but the young ladies and gentlemen performed very creditably.

Then they did something harder - they accompanied their audience in a short round of Christmas carols. Playing for people to sing along is much harder than just setting your own pace. There are so many distractions that come into play then, that it's a skill some talented instrumentalists never really master.

Ten of the eleven young people gave it a serious try, playing one verse of the carol just to set the pace and then playing it again to be sung to. Again, the level of difficulty varied with the student, from "Jingle Bells" (in several different arrangements) to "Angels We Have Heard on High".

Audiences usually just get to sit and listen, so this was quite an innovation, as well as being a challenge for the young musicians.

Gwen Bell, who teaches half-time at the Robert Service School and the other half at the Klondike Institute of Arts and Culture, also has a list of adults taking lessons, but they preferred to play just for each other and not let the community in on their progress until a later date. Mayhap they lack a little Klondike courage?

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Dawson Swimming

by John Gould


This 1997 shows the last incarnation of Dawson's outdoor pool. For a look at the new pool on the same site, see last issue's files. Photo by Mike & Kathy Gates

The history of swimming pools in Dawson may have begun with Oak Hall. According to the history of Oak Hall, the building that Parks Canada now has its offices in was once called the Standard Library. When it was the Standard library there was a "natatorium" in the building, but no one has been able to prove this.

Webster's Dictionary tells us that a "natatorium" is a place for swimming, pertaining to swimming or a bath, so it is possible there was a bath in the Standard Library. It is also possible that Oak Hall was larger in those days.

When the Dawson Amateur Athletic Association building, the D.A.A.A. (known by everyone as the D3A building), was opened in 1902 there was a natatorium in it. It was 80 feet by 35 feet with an average depth of 7 feet. This swimming pool was used until some time in the 1920s. The pool would be covered over in the fall of the year and ice was made for the hockey players and skaters during the winter months, but the covering of the pool would create a hump in the rink. So in 1928 it was decided to fill it in. By this time the pool was in bad shape anyhow. The hockey association started to fill it with gravel.

The Dawson theatres, there were two of them - the Orpheum on Front St. and the Family theatre which was part of the D3A - provided some of the fill. Dawson was the end of the line for the films for these theatres. Once they were shown they were stored in the Carnegie Library, and the theatres could draw on them if they so wished. The storage space for these films was getting crowded and the film companies in California didn't want them, so it was decided to toss them into the natatorium to help fill it.

(Years later this impromptu storage hole became the site of the Dawson Film Find, stuffed with dozens of old celluloid prints which existed nowhere else.)

The only place left for the children to swim was in the dredge ponds. These ponds were very cold; only the top foot of water was warm enough to use for swimming. There was one pond that wasn't bad, located where the new baseball field is today just out of town around Crocus Bluff. We called it the Mill Pond.

In the early 1940s a child was drowned while swimming in one of the ponds. A committee was formed in 1943 and plans were made to build a swimming pool for the children of Dawson. It was the first of the pools to be located where our swimming pool is now.

The construction of the pool was started in the summer of 1943. The flood in the spring of 1944 badly damaged the work that had been done the previous summer. It took the summer of 1944 and a good part of the summer of 1945 to finish the job.

Bill Strathie, the local tinsmith, and a helper put a metal lining on the pool. The pool finally opened on August 5th. By August 29th the pool was completed with a concrete wading pool for the young ones. In 1946 the original pool committee resigned and the operation of the pool was turned over to the Chamber of Mines.

In May 1950 extensive repairs had to be made to the lining of the pool before it could be filled with water for swimming. The pool was usually opened between May 24th and the first week in June.

In 1962 a Kiwanis Club was organized in Dawson then about 1965 the Kiwanis took on the job of operating the pool. The Kiwanis removed the old metal tank and put on a steel tank and also installed a filtering system. When the Kiwanis Club folded in the 1970s the operation of the pool went to the City who have operated it ever since.

That pool began to come under continual threat of closure of a variety of reasons, and by the early-1990s it was becoming an annual trick to see if yet another patch up job would satisfy the health department.

At around the same time various plans for pool replacement began to surface. These included a stand-alone building on the lot behind the Eldorado Hotel and renovated Bonanza Centre which would include a pool. The idea of a new facility constantly topped the survey lists of needed improvements when the community was asked what it wanted.

Now the new pool is done, continuing a 55 year tradition of Fifth Avenue swimming pools.

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