Dawson City, Yukon Friday, July 7, 2000

All the Attaches rushed to get individual photos taken with Diamond Tooth Gertie and her Girls. See story below. Photo by Dan Davidson

Feature Stories

KVA to Restructure Annual Commissioner's Ball
New Dock Regulations to be Discussed
Military Attaches Seek the Spirit of the Country
Ranger Sergeant Receives (Another) Award
The Real Deal on the Mushroom Biz
Quick Action by Resident Helps Save Historic Building
Rafting the Yukon River - German Style
"Big Things" Hits the ODD Gallery
RVing into Canada's Arctic
Dawson Business Profiles: Fifth Avenue Bed and Breakfast
Dawson Business Profiles: A Ray of Sunshine
Uffish Thoughts: On the Streets of Dawson

Welcome to the July 7th on-line edition of the Klondike Sun. This is the abridged version of our 28 page July 5th hard copy edition. Getting a subscription (see our home page) is the only way you'll ever see it all.

KVA to Restructure Annual Commissioner's Ball

On June 27th Board of Directors of the Klondike Visitors Association met with Commissioner Judy Gingell to discuss the future of the Commissioner's Ball and the prior decision to cancel the event

At last month's Board meeting low ticket sales and financial constraints prompted the Board to decide that, after 28 years, 2000 would be the final year for the Klondike Visitors Association to host the Commissioner's Ball.

Following this decision, the Klondike Visitors Association received a substantial number of suggestions from Dawson and Yukon residents who all wanted to see the Commissioner's Ball continue in some format. These suggestions were tabled in our discussion with, Commissioner Gingell, and as a result the Klondike Visitors Association is pleased to announce that plans are now underway to incorporate a restructured Commissioner's Ball in a huge Yukon Territory birthday celebration in June 2001. Steve Touchie, Chairman of the Klondike Visitors Association said,, "We want residents from all over the Yukon to celebrate the birthday of the Territory In the place it all started, Dawson City!"

Due to the proposed scope of this event the Klondike Visitors Association and the Office of the Commissioner are looking for partners from around the Yukon to assist with planning and implementation. Interested parties are asked to contact the Klondike Visitors Association prior to the end of September.

Contact Justine MacKellar, Special Events Coordinator or Valerie Anderson, Executive Director, Klondike Visitors Association at 876-993-5576. (ph) or 876-993-6415 (fax).

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New Dock Regulations to be Discussed

by Dan Davidson


New regulations are under study for the Dawson docks. Photo by Dan Davidson

For the last 104 years or so, as long as there has been a Dawson waterfront, things have been fairly open for the operators of small boats. There was a time, of course, when the river was dominated by large sternwheelers and the bank was lined by wharves and warehouses, but those days came to an end with the building of the Alaska Highway, and the major waterfront action since the 1960s has been individual fishermen, the George Black Ferry, a tramline (during the Clinton Creek mine years) and, more recently, a succession of tour boats, including the current Yukon Queen.

That hasn't been enough traffic to make life complicated, but that may be about to change.

Yukon Riverboat Family is the brainchild of John Turnbull, an entrepreneur who has recently raised a lot of public concern about the state of how the City of Dawson's dock, which was put in as a centennial project, is run and who should be able to use it.

Turnbull runs riverboat tours and dinners aboard the Jolly Kanuck, and uses a smaller boat for hauling passengers and freight. he has been jousting with a succession of city councils and territorial governments for some years over a grand plan to develop a piece of the waterfront, but so far his operation is limited in size.

Turnbull had his operators license lifted for a week in mid-June due to infractions related to payments and business descriptions, and came out shooting at the June 17 special hearing at which members of council evaluated whether he should be allowed to continue his operations. While there was nothing on his list of complaints that really had any bearing on his suspension, they were issues which the three council members present at the hearing thought would have to be addressed.

Turnbull's business license was reinstated less than a week after the hearing, once arrangements had been made to settle certain problems.

At the June 26th meeting of council, Mayor Glen Everitt brought forward the concerns which Turnbull had raised. These will become part of a general discussion toward the development of a dock policy for the Dawson waterfront, which will begin with a public meeting in early July.

Items under consideration will include the following:

A related issue, but not part of a docking policy as such, will be discussions about a "no wake" policy for the river near the dock.

Council also discussed the possibility of extending some sort of non-commercial docking further north toward the ferry landing. While it has been the custom simply to haul boats ashore along the bank there, council is thinking it might be advisable to set up something a little more formal.

At this point, however, no decisions have been made and it's all open for discussion.

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Military Attaches Seek the Spirit of the Country

by Dan Davidson

Dawson plays host to a couple of international gatherings each June. The first is usually the Ambassadors' Barbecue, which took place in the ballroom of the Oddfellows Hall on June 17.

The second event, which refused to be drizzled inside, was the Military Attachés' Barbecue, which was staged on June 20 at the Yukon Goldpanning site beneath the Moosehide Slide.

Attaches from sixteen countries were present this year for the 5th annual event, which was inaugurated when Sgt. John Mitchell of the Canadian Rangers was a member of Dawson's municipal council a few years back.

The City of Dawson, the Rangers and the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in cooperate in funding and managing the event, which has at its core a wild game barbecue.

After a quick visit and photo opportunity with Diamond Tooth Gertie and her girls, Mayor Glen Everitt addressed the assembly in the big Fort McPherson tent, out of the rain, and welcomed them to Dawson.

"Our arms are open to everybody. We look forward to this event every year. I remember when Sgt. Mitchell ... spoke to council about hosting this event, and ever since then it's been a line item within our budget.

"It one of the first things everyone remembers when we're doing the budget: the military attaches, then the Yukon Quest... and you start going down - down the list, I mean; I don't mean it in a negative way - and to the Ambassadors' Barbecue.

"We're very very proud to have everybody in this community. We look forward to people coming all the time, and we hope that when you leave here you'll take memories back home with you and you'll tell people that we're here."

Everitt also praised the organizations which had pooled their efforts to put the evening together.

The Dean of the Attaches' tour was Col. Prezeszlowski from Poland, who picked up the congratulatory themes of the evening.

"I am amazed by this place," the Colonel said. He indicated that the purpose of their tour across the country so far was "just to have a taste of real Canada." He said the spirit of a country was not in its capital - the attaches serve in Ottawa and Washington - but "in somewhere like Dawson."

Col. Prezeszlowski presented plaques of recognition to both the City of Dawson and the Dawson Rangers, referring to the Rangers as "the best soldiers in the world."

Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Chief Darren Taylor continued the theme of praise for the Rangers, noting that this multi-racial group was instrumental in assisting with many of the first nation's programs.

"They help us with things we do with our children, like the First Hunt, spring camp. Their expertise is very valuable to us. They teach our children map reading, gun safety, winter survival and things like that. I'm really proud of the Rangers."

The tour, headed up Col. Pierre Boucher, included Ottawa based representatives from China, Greece, Italy, New Zealand, Poland, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, Venezuela. From staff based in Washington the following nations were on hand: Australia, Finland, India, Norway, Portugal and Switzerland.

The tour was actually booked to spend a full day, including two nights, in the Klondike.

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Ranger Sergeant Receives (Another) Award

by Dan Davidson


John Mitchell receives his plaque and medal from Glen Everitt. Photo by Dan Davidson

There's nothing Sergeant John Mitchell of the Canadian Rangers hates like being the centre of attention, but he was unable to avoid it before an international audience at the Military Attaches' barbecue on June 20.

Mitchell, whose Ranger company helps to organize this event each year, was trapped by his brother-in-law, Mayor Glen Everitt, into standing before several dozen people to receive another award.

Just over two years ago Mitchell rescued a young boy from a pair of dogs which would probably have killed the boy if he had not intervened and driven them off.

"He's been given many awards for this," said Everitt. "He received an award from the Commissioner. He was recognized by the City of Dawson and was given the first Bravery Award issued by the city. It's something that none of us forgot.

"I was just this evening given this award and asked to present it to him.

The awarding body was the Royal Canadian Humane Association.

The citation reads as follows: "John Mitchell has been awarded the Association's Bronze medal for Bravery in recognition of his heroism and presence of mind involving life saving efforts on April 10, 1998."

"Mitchell's actions meant a lot to this community," Everitt said, "and that's one thing about Dawson: People don't forget."

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The Real Deal on the Mushroom Biz

by Tara McCauley


The mighty morel - a mushroom in the hand is worth a dozen in the forest. Photo by Maud Vincent

Due to the high number of fires in the Dawson area last summer, Dawson has become an excellent base for mushroom pickers and buyers this season.

Although stories circulate about the bonanza to be made picking mushrooms, the reality can be quite different. Not entirely unlike the thousands of gold seekers who came north over one hundred years ago in the hopes of striking it rich. Few struck it rich, many more wound up penniless despite their toil.

Mushroom picking follows a similar story line. You hear of people making up to $1000 a day picking mushrooms. However, this sum in most cases is grossly exaggerated, and if true is not without backbreaking work involved.

Maud Vincent, a mushroom buyer for a B.C. based mushroom company, Alpac, has been the business for 8 years says that, in this business, an average sum is impossible to determine. "If you calculate all the numbers, you'd come up with an amount that nobody makes."

"There are a few who can make $500 a day. The best guys average $200 a day, but there are many more who make $30 a day."

The overhead costs can reduce the amount you take home drastically. "You can make decent money but you spend a lot to make it." The high costs of transportation to the remote and sometimes inaccessible sites, fuel, and gear add up.

Not to mention the preliminary work it takes to find good picking spots taking into consideration access, elevation and exposure.

"It's a hard lifestyle. Morel picking is grunt work. You are in the bush, camping, and faced with the elements. It's also an expensive lifestyle, like gypsies, you are always traveling." She doesn't want to discourage people from mushroom picking but thinks it's important that they know the realities of the business.

Those who do make money are generally the people who have made mushroom picking a lifestyle. Vincent won't go into detail about the number of pickers her company engages and says, "it's a secretive game, people are very protective of their spots." With good reason as mushroom picking is a gamble. "Magic or tragic" is how she puts it.

The ones who stick with it are generally between the ages of 35 and 50, a "rough group" but have "hearts of gold."

What attracts Vincent to the business if the lifestyle more than the money. Although she works for a boss, she still maintains much independence. She also likes dealing with people and finds mushroom pickers to be very "real".

Vincent, originally from Quebec now makes her home on Vancouver Island. As the mushroom season lasts for 4-6 months, she goes tree planting in the spring and also runs an import jewelry business to supplement her income. She sells jewelry from Thailand at a booth on Front Street.

As a buyer, Vincent is responsible for quality control, doing the weigh ins and pay outs and drying. Her company also transports pickers into the sites by helicopter or boat. Buyers do recruit people to pick, but many people pick independently as well.

After being dried on racks, these mushrooms are shipped to Europe and some to the USA where they are considered delicacies.

Pierre Brulot, a buyer, originally from France, deals exclusively with morels. "In Europe mushrooms are very popular. There about 30 to 40 types of wild mushrooms, but with the lack of natural areas, they need to be shipped in." Morels are the best for drying and thus conserve excellently. For cooking, they are reconstituted in milk and water and accompany several European dishes, mostly meats. They are most popular in France, Switzerland and Germany.

Morels not only grow in Canada. The most reputed come from Turkey. Most come from China, India and Afghanistan. However, unlike in Canada and Turkey they are smoked over campfires to dry and have a different taste. Canadian morels rank second in quality but that depends on the season. So far, Vincent says that it has a been a good season.

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Quick Action by Resident Helps Save Historic Building

by Dan Davidson


Firefighters tackle the blaze at Milne House. Photo by Tara McCauley

A minor Dawson landmark was badly damaged by fire on the evening of Wednesday, June 21, proving once again that fire is the most dangerous enemy of many of the Yukon's heritage buildings.

The prompt actions of two local women may have helped save the building and certainly prevented the situation from being worse.

The 7th Avenue building known to many as the Telegraph Office or the Milne House was discovered burning by Carol Boschman around 6 o'clock. Fire crews responded promptly to the alarm and took four hours to put out the blaze completely.

It was an accidental ignition and no foul play of any kind was suspected according to Dawson Fire Chief Chris Mayes.

The fire apparently began in the wood and tar paper at a rear corner of the building on the ground floor, but it spread to the second floor and up into the attic, according to Mayes.

Because the building is insulated with sawdust it got up inside the walls and moved quickly. Soon there were flames coming out of the upper part of the wall in the rear southeast corner.

"The problem with these older buildings," says Mayes, "is that half the time the sawdust has compressed in the bottom of the wall between the shiprock and [outer] wall creating an air chamber, which acts like a chimney."

While most of the building is a single story, the central section is two stories.

Jeff Hunston, with the YTG's Heritage Branch, arrived on the scene just as the fire crews were cleaning up. His department owns the building and has been slowly restoring it over the last few years, having completed a new foundation. This year was to have seen a paint job, for which preparation work had just begun. The eventual plan, he said, was to put the house into service as a staff house for the director of the Dawson City Museum.

"Historically," Hunston said, "it's a very important building because it was designed by Thomas Fuller, who was the architect for the old territorial administration building and the old post office."

As Dominion Architect, Fuller's major public buildings, including the Old Court now used for YTG offices and Yukon College, were constructed to enhance the image of the new territory's capital city, and are considered anchor structures for the overall historical period that modern downtown Dawson attempts to reflect.

The house, residential in size and quite attractive in exterior design, was built early in the 1900s. It became known as Milne House, after a federal customs officer who was based in Dawson in the mid to late 1960s. At first, however, it was used as a telegraph office.

Like many Dawson buildings its present location is not where it started its life. Local historian John Gould believes it was originally erected across the street from the Old Court on Front Street, though he says that it has been a residence for as long as he can remember. At some point it was relocated from Front Street to 7th Avenue, and the telegraph office was combined with the Old Post Office on King Street, across from the Palace Grand Theatre.

"This fire," Jeff Hunston said, "just illustrates one of the fundamental problems of trying to preserve our past in the territory. Fire is probably the number one threat, without a doubt. Most of it is human, but there are natural fires to boot that add to it."

Hunston recalled the original Dawson Museum, which was lost to fire in the late 1950s, and others such as the Yukon Order of Pioneers building, and the Bonanza Hotel.

"The list just goes on and on."

For Carol Boschman, awareness of the fire came with a plume of smoke and a smell of something burning, just after a work crew left the site for the day.

"They were gone about five minutes when suddenly I smelled what seemed like burning tar paper. So I ran over here and I said to Sue Campbell (another neighbour), 'Phone the fire department.'"

Rounding the building she could see smoke coming from the corner, dense, brownish, toxic looking smoke.

"I ran around the corner and yelled 'Fire, fire!'. Then we went and grabbed a garden hose."

They hooked that up to the outdoor faucet of the log cabin next to the burning building, and took turns hosing down what they could get to until the fire department arrived.

"The smoke was getting pretty dense so we did it in shifts. It was really penetrating. My bronchials are still burning from it.

"Had we not been sitting right there, who knows ... it would have been much more advanced."

Jeff Hunston, speaking a few days later, indicated that the damage was recoverable and that insurance claims were going ahead. Apparently sparks from a grinding device being used to prepare the wood surface for painting got into the sawdust insulation between the walls and smoldered into flame.

Ironically, Heritage Branch was aware of the problem and had planned to remove the sawdust, a common turn of the century insulating material (often along with old newspapers) before the summer was over.

"I don't think there will be any problem repairing it," Hunston said. The building is a T shape, with three wings extending from a central core. One corner of the T is charred and the second floor of the center section was pretty badly cooked. As the fire was in the walls and the firefighters needed to get through using axes and chain saws, there is some structural damage but the building is definitely savable. The fire was extinguished by 10:00 p.m. The dollar value of the damage has not yet been assessed.

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Rafting the Yukon River - German Style

by Tara McCauley


The boys on their raft. Photo by Tara McCauley

For Gerhard, Gottfried, Jurgen (Scampi) and Milosch (Camillo), four fun-loving Germans from Munich, the ideal Yukon River trip is by raft.

They built their raft in Carmacks and are floating down the Yukon River. They stopped in Dawson for five days before continuing to Circle City, Alaska.

Gerhard and Scampi canoed down the Yukon River in 1992 from Whitehorse and this time brought two friends along. Gerhard says, "rafting is a fun and relaxing way to travel. We wanted to raft because it is the traditional way of the gold seekers."

They figure it probably cost them about $50 to build their raft, paying only for nails and rope. They bought 11 logs for one dollar from a wood cutting friend of theirs and the rest was all scrap that they picked up for free, like the old telegraph wire that holds their contraption together. "It was very economical. If you rent two canoes it would cost $700, that's 300 beers!"

Because of the dry nature of the fire killed spruce, which came from a burn near Carmacks, it has excellent buoyancy. Whereas the oars were made from green wood because of their elasticity. The raft is 3 x 7 metres. There is a small platform on the raft, which holds a small silver tent. When asked how all four of them sleep in it, Gerhard replied, "Oh no, we don't sleep in there. That's our kitchen and storage. We sleep outside."

On a raft you can only steer side to side so speed depends how fast the river is flowing. Gerhard says that they probably average 7-8 km/hour. "Landing in Dawson was a little work with the Klondike flowing into the Yukon, it pushes the raft into the middle of the river and it's hard to get to the side."

On the river, they saw moose, bald eagles, falcons and met many other fellow travelers. "We have to steer a lot because the river is high and the little islands are hidden, so we have to watch out. But you know, it's very relaxing to sit there and smoke, drink some beers, and shoot our potato gun!" Then he bursts into laughter.

The potato gun, which was a gift from a friend at Takhini is more like a mini-cannon. "You stuff a potato down the plastic plumbing tubing, spray some hair spray in the opposite end and then in the same end light it with a fire starter." Suddenly there is a loud popping noise and a potato is launched nearly half-way across the river. They all burst into laughter. After a demonstration it is understandably very fun.

When asked what they shoot at, Gerhard says, "the other travelers in their canoes, but you know, they are our friends, so it's okay." More laughter.

They relish in the Yukon. "I love traveling, meeting people and seeing different cultures. It is interesting. I love that." They love the people too. "In a big city you walk down the street and nobody talks to anybody. Here, everyone is so friendly and people say 'hi' even if they don't know you. It's nice."

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"Big Things" Hits the ODD Gallery

by Dan Davidson


Mike Yuhasz stands beside his painting, "Monitor". Photo by Dan Davidson

At the risk of being just a little bit precious, it is still safe to say that there are Big Things happening at the ODD Gallery in the Oddfellows Hall in Dawson City.

"Big Things", you see, is the name of the latest exhibition of local art to fill the walls of the gallery, the second exhibition of thematic work by Mike Yuhasz.

In his last exhibition, "Crossings", Mike showed a strong interest in large, sparse creations in which the materials used in the works showed their origins quite clearly.

"Big Things" continues his focus on communications towers, bridges and oil derricks, but adds images of water monitors, cats, cranes and drill rigs. These paintings are smaller, each being done on a 24" by 24" board (Mike does not work in the metric system), and their composition is less stark.

As before, Mike writes, "My approach is to reduce the image down to two elements the structure/industrial implement and the environment/landscape."

There is a difference though, in that the central image is now surrounded by a swirling, tarrish substance which overlays the main body of the painting. This is a glazing of liquid asphaltum, which reinforces the industrial theme of the exhibition.

"I am presenting iconic images that contrast sharply with the familiar romantic images of the north that run through popular culture," says Yuhasz. "Big Things focuses on the instruments and structures that mediate our experience with the natural world."

Big Things opened at the ODD Gallery on June 18 and will be happening there until July 19.

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RVing into Canada's Arctic

by Tara McCauley


John and Liz Plaxton. Photo by Tara McCauley

In the summer of 1998, John and Liz Plaxton visited Dawson while researching their book RVing into Canada's Arctic. They only planned to stay a couple of days but ended up staying for two weeks. Upon returning this summer for a couple days, they had the overwhelming sensation that they had "come home".

Two summers ago, the Plaxtons spent five months RVing from Lac La Hache up the Stewart Cassiar Highway to Whitehorse. They visited Haines and Skagway, Alaska then following to the Alaska Highway to Tok and over to Dawson via the Top of the World Highway. Then it was up the Dempster to Inuvik before traveling to Mayo, Keno, Carmacks, Faro, Ross River, Watson Lake and down to Liard Hot Springs, then up to Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. They've covered 97% of the roads in the Yukon and all the roads in the NWT.

Although the mail goes to Kelowna, they have been "full-timing" for the past seven years. That's to say that they've sold their house and have been living in their RV all this time. They have a limited travel budget but lots of time and freedom, which is most important for them.

They wanted to write this book to encourage people to visit Canada's north. "Usually when you say you're going north people assume that you're going to Alaska, but Canada has a huge gorgeous north [and we want] to encourage people to go, " says Liz Plaxton.

RVing into Canada's Arctic is complete with a summary of the areas visited, a detailed travelogue of their journey and several appendix's including: Liz's journal, and charts recording food costs, fuel prices, other articles, letters, and trivia. It also has several black and white photos, 8 pages of coloured photos, illustrations and some fun things like John's Sourtoe Cocktail Membership card and their certificate for crossing the Arctic Circle.

This isn't the first book they've written. Their first travelogue is entitled RVing in Mexico, Central America & Panama. They spent 8 months in Mexico and 9 months in Central America and contrary to what one might think they had "a wonderful time." They ran into no problems whatsoever. "It gives you a new appreciation of your own country. You realize how rich we are here. I think that if people could spend a week in a country like this, people would complain less," speculates Liz.

Their next project is to cover the rest of Canada. Over a period of five years, they plan to spend 2.5 to 3 months each summer to explore in detail 2 provinces. Assuming that they are in good health, they want to "take advantage of things while they still can."

They are currently revisiting the Alaska, the Yukon and the NWT and for the 1st of July are doing a cruise up the Mackenzie River from Inuvik to Yellowknife on the ship, Norweta. This is the only place in Canada where you can cruise across the Arctic Circle. They'll be back in Dawson on July 17, 2000 for a book signing at Max's. The book signing will be from 4 to 7 p.m.

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Dawson Business Profiles: Fifth Avenue Bed and Breakfast

by Tara McCauley


Tracey Horbacheuk and Steve Nordick in their home and business. Photo by Tara McCauley

Steve Nordick and Tracy Horbacheuk, owners of the 5th Ave. Bed & Breakfast, plan to stay in Dawson for a very long time.

Nordick has been coming to Dawson to work for the past ten years, but last year was his first full winter in Dawson. He has normally spent 7-8 months here a year, skiing in B.C. in the winter months. However, he enjoyed the winter and looks forward to more. "Dawson is not a hard place to spend the winter." Originally from Saskatchewan, Nordick first came to Dawson to manage the swimming pool. He has worked for Gold City Tours for several years and has also managed several restaurants and bars in Dawson.

He met his partner, Tracy Horbacheuk, in Dawson. This is her third year here. From Vancouver, she came up as a dancer at Diamond Tooth Gertie's. She still is, as well as being the swing Gertie and also works at River West.

There are 8 rooms in total at the 5th Ave. Bed & Breakfast. Single, double, and triple rooms are available with private or shared bathrooms. Breakfast consists of a hearty all-you-can-eat meal served in their spacious dining area. They do everything themselves to ensure their high standard of quality is met.

Their clients are from all over: many Alaskans, Europeans, Whitehorse residents and visitors from the Lower 48. They have many repeat clients.

Since taking ownership of the B&B, Steve and Tracy have been very content. "It's been great. We've met lots of good people."

Steve finds that running a business in Dawson is not difficult. "It's simple really. People are helpful and easy to deal with. Business is good."

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Dawson Business Profiles: A Ray of Sunshine

by Tara McCauley


Kelly Taylor at the drug store. Photo by Tara McCauley

In the beginning, Ray of Sunshine sold uniquely cosmetics and was run out of a bookkeeping office. It is now a "non-prescription drugstore," as Kelly Taylor puts it.

Ray of Sunshine offers an immense selection of merchandise including: beauty products, cleaning supplies, baby stuff, personal hygiene products, pantyhose, reading glasses, souvenirs, cards, candles, party supplies, office/school supplies, film. toys, juice and pop, and non-prescription drugs.

Taylor who together with Darlene Kormendy runs the store says, "we built the business by community interest. People kept asking us to bring things in. If enough people would request it, we'd order it. We try to add new products every month or so."

The two, who are both long-time Dawson residents also run the separate Sears pick-up point out of their store. Taking over from the previous people, "we do it more as a service to the community than for ourselves." She enjoys doing business in a small town and finds people friendly. For that, she'll go the extra step.

This isn't the first business for either of them. Kormendy runs Caley Business Service and Taylor used to run a day home for children out of her house. Taylor enjoys the independence of running her own business and likes "not having to answer to anyone."

Taylor, who is married with two children, finds that juggling family and business can sometimes be difficult. However, her family is very supportive.

This September will mark the 4th year anniversary of being in their location on Second Ave. and Princess St.

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Uffish Thoughts: On the Streets of Dawson

by Dan Davidson

There are days in Dawson when we talk about pavement. Days like most of last week, when 22 inches of rain in 9 days had turned the top few inches of our streets and avenues to greasy muck. When the previous week's careful filling in of all the potholes had just slid away, like ice cream escaping over the lip of a cone.

Those are the days when it seems impossible to avoid the mud, when just getting in and out of your vehicle is an adventure in avoidance, and when riding a bicycle without fenders along any street guarantees a kind of reverse skunk effect up the back of your jacket.

The other side of living here is a day like today. It only takes 24 hours without rain to make the streets forget that it ever existed. Then that soupy layer of top dirt dries out and falls apart into dust.

About an hour ago I could see that dust all over the town. Our summer climate means that a nice day will usually produce some sort of cloud formation at some point in the afternoon, often about 4 o'clock in this weather. Along with that will come a wind, not a simple breeze, but a small slice of chaos composed of little dust devils and strong gusts that keep all the flags on the Monte Carlo of Front Street flapping straight out to the North.

When the wind came up this afternoon it threatened to topple the outdoor table on my second floor deck. In fact, it would have If I hadn't been sitting there and put out a hand to steady it, and later on it did, when I went downstairs to finish mowing the front lawn.

On Front Street - easily the dustiest street in town - a veritable wall of dust could be seen making its way to the Moosehide Slide. Billowing as high as it did, it looked like a heat haze suddenly wafting across my vision, making the sight of the mountains across the Yukon River a shimmering mirage.

The dust on Front Street doesn't really originate there, but accumulates from the rest of the town. It becomes a daily drama there because it's sitting on the pavement of Dawson's only hard surfaced street. In the rest of the town, it's less dramatic, one might almost say, "insidious". There are days when it seems to be everywhere, when you turn on the windshield wipers of your vehicle after it has been sitting for a few hours just to clear it away before you drive off.

We are told constantly that our streets are "charming". The Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, Robert Nault, told me this as part of an interview when he was here in May. Members of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board had the same reaction a few weeks later.

I'm not sure that we couldn't manage to be quaint and attractive without them.

That we still have them is due to accidents of engineering and finance, not to some deliberate attempt to be historical. From the late 1970s to the early 1990s Dawson's sewage system was in a constant state of major rebuilding, due to improper design and installation. While there was a paved test section done at the south end of Fifth Avenue, there was no point in doing anything permanent to streets that were being excavated annually.

After that, well, there were other things to spend money on, and the streets seemed less of a priority than those.

Mind you, gravel streets are not such a bad thing. The mud does dry up as quickly as it forms. The little dust storms last perhaps half an hour. And people who are visiting seem to think they're just the neatest thing.

It's funny how the things that you don't plan are the ones that catch everyone's attention.

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