Dawson City, Yukon Friday, November 13, 1998

This photo shows most of the Dawsonites who went off to the World Gold Panning Championships this year. See story below. Photo courtesy of the Nordling family.

Feature Stories

Can Dawson Provide a Winter Tourism Experience?
World Gold-Panning Championships
100 Years Ago: Dawson Events of 1898
Bear Creek... and Other Things
Russian Visitors Love Jack London
Humane Society Home At Last
Klondyke Kountry Jamboree... Rocks
Berton House Author Feeling Inspired
Jim Robb Covers the Yukon Five Percent at a Time
Special Photo Feature: Klondyke Centennial Society 1996

Welcome to the online edition of the November 13 Klondike Sun. The hard copy edition was 16 pages in length, boasting 24 articles and 20 photos. We hope you enjoy this sampling of the highlights.

Can Dawson Provide a Winter Tourism Experience?

by Dan Davidson

Dawson's winter image is that of a summer tourist town taking a much deserved rest. After living through the onslaught of 60 to 70,000 visitors each summer the place settles down and gathers energy for the next season.

There are one or two major events during the winter, though nothing on the scale of the attractions which bring people here in the summer. Dawson is the half-way mark of the Yukon Quest, and the growing international reputation of that event is bringing more people here in February. Dawson is also the destination of choice for an expanding group of snow machine enthusiasts from Alaska, who arrive here each March for the Trek Over the Top.

Neither of these things happened because anyone in Dawson planned for them. The Quest came through here as a natural consequence of its international route. The Trek, as local organizers Pat and Dina Cayen will attest, began because the Alaskans decided they wanted to come here and simply started arriving. It has been developed and refined since, but it was born by accident.

Two events don't make a winter tourism plan, but a group of about 20 people sat down at city hall on November 3 to see if it wasn't time to talk about developing something on purpose. It was a very tentative meeting, though it involved city council and many of the people who have become movers and shakers in the tourism and promotion industry over the last decade.

Joe Castellarin, a long time member of the Klondike Visitors Association, admitted right off the top that there will be some people in the community who won't want to see an expanded winter season tacked onto the present structure. They want to rest. They want to be able to close up shop and go away for awhile. Castellarin didn't agree with this philosophy, but said it has to be acknowledged.

Mayor Glen Everitt, on the other hand, has been a proponent of winter tourism since he was a tyro councillor more than half a decade ago, and sees it as the future of the community as well as the key to its continued growth. He has been pushing for this meeting for a long time, but the increasing interest by Quest sponsor Fulda and recent nibbles of inquiry by a Japanese tour group have served to make the idea more topical now than it was.

There's not much doubt that the majority of the people at the televised meeting were in basic agreement with the mayor. Most of the discussion turned on how the deed could be done, not whether it ought to be.

Jon Magnusson of Dawson City Bed and Breakfast noted that the European tourist seems to be a hardy breed, and that they are probably looking for something other than what the summer visitors come to find.

"People from Germany keep driving in," he told the meeting. "I don't know why." More to the point, he doesn't know what to do with them once they get here. Klondike National Historic Sites has closed up shop by mid-September. The summer attractions and the tours are gone. Magnusson would like to give these people a good time so that their word of mouth advertising will bring in others but he's lost for product to market.

"Product" was the big word at the meeting and probably just the sort of word that those who aren't sure about the proposition wouldn't want to hear. Yet both Everitt and Downtown Hotel owner Dick Van Nostrand stressed that it doesn't have to be that complicated.

"If they're travelling in the winter," cracked Van Nostrand, "they're partly nuts and they've got lots of money." In winter, a product could be as simple as having people who were prepared to take visitors on dog sled or snow machine rides for a fee. If there is a dependable group prepared to assume that task, he and Pat Cayen were pretty sure that visitors from Europe and Alaska would be willing to part with enough money to make it worth while.

Cayen noted that he'd never met a Trekker who complained about the cost of something; they'd be far more likely to complain about the colour. His experience is that the Trek trips - which extend over a three week period now - work because of three things.

First, the organizers have a plan and they actually provide every activity they say they will provide. Second, they schedule to suit the timing of the guests, which can translate as having gaming every night and not starting anything for the next day before 11 a.m. Finally, they take their customers by the hand and keep than as busy as they want to be.

The Trek is perhaps even more organized than the general run of winter activity needs to be. There seems to be an attraction to Dawson which helps the place to sell itself. Everitt reported that after recent meetings out of town he knows of a small group coming here for the express purpose of participating in the community carol sing and outdoor Christmas tree lighting during the week before Christmas.

Magnusson indicated that he had bookings for people who simply wanted to have a Christmas dinner in the Klondike.

This meeting was just a beginning. But who knows what might come of it? Back in the 1950s a group of citizens decided to dress up to meet the steamboats as they arrived in town. That group became the Klondike Visitors Association, which is today one of the largest single summer employers in the community. No one at the meeting was dreaming of a winter season to equal the summer, but if even one-seventh of the summer traffic were maintained through the rest of the year, it would make a considerable difference to the town's economy.

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World Gold-Panning Championships

by Art Sailer

The World Gold-Panning Championships were held this year in Coloma, California, from Sept 28th - Oct. 4th. 1998. Coloma is 50 miles east of Sacramento and 10 miles north of Placerville. This year Coloma was celebrating 150 years since the discovery of gold at Sutters Mill on the banks of the American River in North Central California.

Panners from 20 countries around the world were represented. Representing Canada and the Yukon were Art & Noreen Sailer, Ralph, Bonnie, Axel and Monica Nordling, Murray and Donna Crockett, Ted and Nancy Paine, along with the following which were from the Lower Mainland of B.C. and Barkerville.

There were Dan Moore and his Mother Jackie, Mark Castagneli from the Lower Mainland. From Barkerville were Bob and Marsha Rea, daughter Brenda Rea, son Scott and his wife Candida. Canadians were entered in the following categories: Men's skilled, Women's skilled, Seniors, Youth, Children, Open Team (3 persons) and National Team (5 persons from the same country).

The competition was stiff and some of us were eliminated in the early rounds. Ralph Nordling and Noreen Sailer advanced to the finals in the Men's Skilled and Seniors respectively before being eliminated, but Canada ended up with two medals, a Silver, and a Bronze. Monica Nordling won 3rd in Children's, for a Bronze medal, and the Canadian National Team , (Art, Noreen, Donna, Dan and Ralph) won Second for a Silver medal.

Another event open to everyone was a nugget race which was a lot o fun. A good time was had by all. Many concessions were located on the grounds including many gold and jewelry displays, earrings, leather goods, food and drinks, and lots of music at various locations on the grounds, to entertain the panners and the visitors.

The Championships concluded on Sunday, and after the prize presentation the crowds dispersed and they started the journey home to their respective countries. A big thanks to the committees and volunteers who put on a super show for the World Gold Panning. Anyone interested in going to the World's next year, it is being held from August 23- 29, Kocaba Valley, Mala Lecice, central Bohemia, Czech Rep. in 1999. In the year 2000 it is in Zlotoryja, Poland; 2001 in Maryborough, Victoria, Australia; 2002 in Japan.

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100 Years Ago: Dawson Events of 1898

Complied by John A. Gould

The following material was taken from mainly the Klondike Nugget newspaper of July, 1898.

On the 14th day of July 1898 J.M. Walsh, Commander of the Yukon District, appointed the following people as the town committee for the town of Dawson. It was their job to govern the town, to see that the public street and river bank were kept clear of all obstructions, in the shape of buildings caches, tents, sale tables and stands, wood piles and obstacles of any kind. They were to have the street lines properly located and see that they are observed. They also had to take all steps necessary to enforce cleanliness and bring about suitable sanitary arrangements in town.

They were empowered to decide by majority vote on all steps to carry out his work, and call upon the North West Mounted Police for assistance where necessary.

* * * * *

The Klondike Nugget reported in the paper of July 20, 1898, that the committee consisting of Messrs. D.W. Davis; F.C. Wade; H.A. Bliss, and doctors W.E. Thompson and Richardson, Inspector Starnes of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police was also present at this first meeting.

It was moved by Mr. Wade and seconded by Inspector Starnes that Mr. Davis be appointed Chairman of the committee. (It would appear that Mr. Davis may have been the first Mayor.) Dr. Thompson was voted in as secretary.

It was moved by Mr. Wade and seconded by Mr. Bliss that steps be taken immediately to remove all the logs in the river from 3rd Street ( which is now Harper St.) to the Smith Addition at the north end of the town. This was to allow room for the steam boats to land along that portion of the water front. It was the job of the Police to see that this was done immediately. The logs in front of the Alaska Commercial .Co. and the N.A.T. and T. Co. were to be removed first, and all the scow and boat owners had to remove them from that portion of the water front. A copy of the committee's minutes were to be published in the papers, any complaints had to be made in writing and sent to Mr. Davis.

It was a few days after this that the Klondike Nugget spoke of action being taken to have Dawson incorporated as a city with a mayor and council to run city affairs rather than a Government appointed committee. The Klondike Nugget's headline of September 24th was "POLITICS ALREADY IN DAWSON".

"While Dawson has a population of nearly 20,000 people, she has not a superabundance of eligible material for political preferment. Dawson is largely an American town, and the oath of allegiance will be a qualification, which will debar many a good men from the political arena."

* * * * *

The Klondike Nugget of July 9,1898, had an editorial complaining on the conditions of the street.

OUR BAD STREETS

"It is becoming quite a common thing to see teams mired down on our main thoroughfares, some with and without loads. Some good work is being done by the teamsters in conjunction with the property owners; slabs are laid down and covered with sawdust and then you have a clean substantial piece of road for the summer. But the steps so improved are mostly on one side of the street and are separated by stretches of unimproved stretches which is a menace to both horse and teamsters alike."

The paper of September 17, 1898, reported that a large shipment of gold was on its way out on one of the N.A.T. and T. Co. boats. The shipment, from the Bank of British North America, consisted of $750,000 of Klondike gold (or 50,000 ounces) and was enclosed in eight strong wooden boxes. Later that day another shipment from the Canadian Bank of Commerce was loaded on to wagons for transporting to Steamer. This was 40,000 ounces or $600,000.

Notes on abbreviations: The A.C. Co. was the Alaska Commercial Co., located at the site that is now the Visitors' Reception Centre. The N.A.T. and T. Co. was the North American Trading and Transportation Co. and was located where the Tro Chu Tin Band Hall is to day.

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Bear Creek... and Other Things

by Palma Berger

The dry, dry summer is over and the warm Fall is extending into November. We were grateful to the Forestry and their water bombers flying over all the time, for the fires of summer were scary. So much ash settling on outdoor furniture and cars and the sun a red ball on the horizon was a bit too much this summer.

The first frog we saw this summer was a flattened one outside Garth and Julie's driveway. No reflection on their driving of course. But with the world's frog population diminishing we like to know that we still have them at Bear Creek. They did emerge and found moist undergrowth to thrive in. So for next year we will see frogs. Especially a treat as all the great tadpole holes in Dawson City have disappeared.

One tries to be environmentally responsible. Therefore in an attempt to save the small birds from diving into our windows this summer we pasted cut-outs of hawks on them. The theory is that hawks scare birds away. But not the little pine siskinds. They are a game little species. Rather than being scared of the hawk, they had to attack it. They dived at it and then swooped below it into what looked like foliage and blue sky, but was really the reflection in the window, where they knocked themselves out. So it was we were picking up stunned little yellow birds. But they have now gone south. They are replaced by gross beaks still, and ptarmigan who strut along the railings.

Being out of town we look forward to viewing the night sky on Nov. 18th as there is to be a meteor shower for a couple of days. May be great viewing, but there are so many particles in the shower that will be bombarding the sensitive parts of the satellites that we may lose some communications for a period - a short one hopefully. So now you are warned you will know why your T.V. etc are acting up,

The one thing we highway dwellers would love to see is a bicycle path to town, which would serve as a ski trail in winter also. The Klondike Valley Steering Committee, comprised of many different interest groups had recommended that one be developed along the Klondike River. This would be just great, and away from the traffic, and scenic, and peaceful and safe. In fact it sounded just so great that I guess the politicians ignored this section of the report.

One last item a big bouquet to the hitch-hikers and joggers who wear colorful clothing or fluorescent stripes on these dark nights as they use their side of the roads. And a Thank You as well.

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Russian Visitors Love Jack London

by Dan Davidson

They must produce a hardy breed of tourists in Russia. Mayor Glen Everitt says that something like this went through his mind in October when a group from the former Soviet Union turned up at Dawson's municipal offices looking for Mayor Art Webster.

The crew had just stepped out of their canoes down at the waterfront, and the Yukon River was by that time a bit of a challenge for even the most enthusiastic wilderness tourist.

More surprisingly, the visitors were a film crew from a Russian television station, bearing copies of letters sent a few years before, when Art Webster was the mayor of Dawson. He had agreed that the mayor would meet them and participate in a video they were shooting for their home audience.

There was nothing in the office to verify any of this, but the Russians had the letters to prove it, so Everitt and the town staff did their best to make them welcome and make their trip a success, including putting them up for a night at a hotel.

Dawson is of great interest to Russians because of the work of Jack London, whose socialist leanings made him something of a literary hero in the former U.S.S.R. and also made him a writer whose works are widely available in Russian translations. (This fact was a topic of discussion at the Jack London Festival which was held here in September 1997.)

The t.v. crew was filing a documentary to help promote a Jack London Festival which will be held in their part of Russia in 1999. To assist them Everitt learned to parrot about a paragraph of Russian and councillor Aedes Sheer contributed a brief greeting in Ukrainian.

Dawson will be provided with a copy of the video at a later date.

The mayor has been invited to attend the 1999 festival, but thinks it unlikely that he will be able to go.

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Humane Society Home At Last

by John Tyrrell
Humane Society Volunteer


Members and friends of the Humane Society gather to celebrate their opening. Photo courtesy of John Tyrell

On the 3rd of October the hopes and dreams of a faithful band of animal lovers came true when the doors were officially opened for the Dawson City Humane Society shelter. Almost 50 local residents and even a few guests from as far away as Whitehorse attended to see Society President Karen McWilliam and Vice-president Aedes Scheer cut the ribbon marking the official opening and the culmination of this five year project.

The shelter building is a converted YTG highways workshop which was made surplus by the move to their new quarters along the highway. Significant and generous support from local people and businesses along with a $35,000 grant from the Community Development Fund allowed this building to be relocated onto a corner of the City of Dawson's works yard in Callison and to be renovated into a functional animal shelter.

The land for the shelter is leased under an innovative agreement with the city and is linked to the Society operating the animal control functions for the town. The main contractor for the renovation, Jack Vogt, made the building safe and clad to the weather. Volunteers did the finishing work.

Every tradesman and business which worked on the project also donated a significant part of their time, materials, and expertise in addition to what they were paid for. A long list of benefactors is posted on the wall of the waiting room cum office in the new shelter.

Humane Society Treasurer, Fr. John Tyrrell, has calculated that the total value of the project with volunteer work and donations included tops $65,000.

In addition to the human supporters at the grand opening, about fifteen dogs and one cat came as well. The four footed supporters placed their paw prints on a section of wall alongside the names of the people they own.

In the future Humane Society Dawson plans to expand into boarding animals and is also exploring an arrangement to accommodate Dawson Veterinary Services within its facility. After more than five years of hard effort the shelter has become a reality of which the people of Dawson can be rightfully proud.

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Klondyke Kountry Jamboree... Rocks

by Sylvie Gammie

The Klondyke Kountry Jamboree recently held its Annual General Meeting, and several new faces have joined the ranks to keep this great event going.

The new Board of Directors consists of:

President: Joe Magee; Vice-President: Lambert Curzon; Treasurer: Lenore Calnan; Secretary: Sylvie Gammie; and Directors: Leanne MacKenzie, Gloria Baldwin-Schultz, Barry Graham, and Virginia Mahoney-LaJambe.

Plans are already underway to raise funds, to cover past debts as well as get a start on next year's event.

In addition to the country & Western night, we hope to include a Rock 'N Roll night at the '99 Jamboree.

If anyone is interested in helping out with any aspect of the jamboree, or if you have any helpful ideas or suggestions, please get in touch with any of our board members.

ALSO: Watch for our huge TV auction on DCTV on Sunday, December 6, 1998. Great deals will abound! Stay tuned!

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Berton House Author Feeling Inspired

by Dan Davidson


Julie Lawson and her Powerbook at work. Photo by Dan Davidson

Aside from a year spent teaching in France, Julie Lawson has spent most of her life on Vancouver Island and didn't have a long list of expectations coming into the Yukon. On Thanksgiving Monday she sipped hot tea and considered the question for a moment.

"Cold," she ventured. "I was expecting a different weather system. I really want to have an experience of a real winter, with cold and snow. I've only had two white Christmases in my life.

"I don't know how I'll cope once it gets really cold," she said, comfortable in a warm fleece track suit. "It feels cold now (it was -10 that day) but I want to have that experience."

She found it fascinating to watch the Yukon River slowly fill in with ice and had, at that point, been anxiously awaiting the first snowfall and for a sign of the Northern Lights.

"I really enjoyed seeing the change of all the tourists leaving and the shutters going up. I've really been enjoying the smallness of the community. You walk into town and everybody smiles, says hello even though they don't know you."

"The history is important too. So much happened with the Gold Rush here and that really appeals to me as a person who likes historical fiction. It's a gold mine of ideas here for stories."

Julie Lawson has been on a semi-permanent leave of absence from her teaching job for the last seven years, ever since 1991, when four of her picture books were bought by three different companies in the same year. There had already been a chapter book for young readers the year before and the total impact of having all four books sold in 1990 made her wonder if writing wasn't what she ought to be doing.

"It's something I always thought I would like to do, even as a kid. I used to write stories and I thought it would be the most wonderful thing in the world to be able to write a story that would turn into a book and would have my name on it, would be a in a library that people could check out.

"It finally go to the point where I thought, 'Ah - stop thinking about it and just do it. Give it a chance Give it a try.'"

Taking a six month leave of absence, she poured her energy into a children's book and managed to sell it. The nibbles of interest from that manuscript made her feel she had a chance to sell more, so she spent what spare time she could find during the next school year writing little stories that became four picture books and all sold in the same year.

"Even 7 years after the fact, I'm still amazed - honestly amazed. I never dreamed that I would actually be able to make a living from writing, but I am. I've been very fortunate. The travelling is just wonderful. I've seen so much of this country since I've become an author."

" And now...here I am," she bubbled, gesturing around the spare living room, "living in Pierre Berton's house and singing in the choir like his mother did!"

Has it influenced her work at all? Lawson is surprised that so few fictional books have been set here so far. She sees the place as a natural setting and the story as compelling. Only a handful of children's writers have touched it.

"I am working on a novel for kids that's set during the Gold Rush. In terms of creativity and feeling stimulated by a completely different environment, I'm feeling the same here as I did in China."

The complete change of setting during the China trip got her fiercely interested in the landscape and the local stories. "I sense the same thing happening here."

That trip produced a juvenile novel and two picture books, so it may be that we can expect a lot from this Berton House resident in the years to come.

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Jim Robb Covers the Yukon Five Percent at a Time


Jim Robb signs books at Maximilian's. Photo by Dan Davidson

It's been thirteen years since the last new edition of The Colourful 5% arrived in the stores. Volumes one and two were only a year apart but then Jim got involved in some other projects and the pace slowed to a crawl. As a result we never did find out the secret of the Incredible Dancing Light Machine from volume two.

He chuckles a bit when I ask him why it took 13 years to produce the next book. Really, he says, it took about six months.

'"I knew it was way overdue, so I had to get it out. I'm a terrible person for putting things off."

Volume three tries to make up for its tardiness by being almost twice as big as its predecessors, and by including a lot more material.

Robb first arrived in the Yukon from Montreal in the early 1960's, and did the usual mishmash of odd jobs in order to make ends meet. He was in Dawson doing some work when he was struck by the distinctive look of Dawson's buildings.

"Somebody was teaching a course from the University of Alberta - an extension course in water colours. I didn't have enough money to join the course, but I used to chum around with 'em, and I picked up the clues on how to do water colours from watching the students."

"My style for drawing buildings and things was very influenced by the leaning and tilting buildings. There were a lot more in the early sixties than now. My artwork...took on a lean. Now I call it the 'exaggerated truth'"

Around the same time he started accumulating the legendary collection of odd and ends that have gone into volume 3 of his series: old gambling tokens, letters salvaged from the dump, envelopes, bills of lading, deposit slips, theatre tickets, church announcements, old magazine articles about the Yukon.

I remind him of the evening we sat in a hotel room in Whitehorse in the late 1980's, poring over a manila folder of these goodies and wondering how they might be used to help make a book. I certainly didn't have a clue, and Jim admits that one of the things that slowed him down was trying to come up with a variation on the original concept that would let him use this material.

Computer layout helped a lot. Jim says he came up with the majority of the layout in sketched thumbnail pages but that production guru Mike Rice has to be credited for enabling him to put it altogether.

The results can be seen in items like the page dealing with Woodburn's Drugstore, which was located in Grand Forks. The page begins with a Robb watercolour and continues with an article partly culled from the 1902 Dawson Daily News. At the bottom of the page is a photograph of the actual establishment, while the centre is dominated by a much folded and handled invoice from the store. The total effect is that you have experienced the subject in a number of ways.

By 1971 Robb had begun to establish himself in the art world, had come up with his "Colourful 5%" tag for a column he was doing in the Star, and had tried painting on a variety of media. His claim was that the Yukon had a certain proportion of colourful figures that really helped to make it interesting. In the process, he has pretty much become one of them.

He also began taking a lot of pictures back in the 1960's. While he claims he's not much of a photographer, he has nevertheless managed to capture an interesting variety of buildings and faces over the years. Persistence counts for something. In addition, he was building up the network of people who would become the sources and inspiration for his stories.

Many of these tales, photos and drawings made it into the first two magazines, but there are many more, as volume 3 proves. Some of the items here are updates on previous stories, but most are new material.

While Jim Robb's work is the central theme of all three books, he has never hesitated to call on others to fill his pages. There are a number of other writers, photographers and artists on display in volume three, including Steve Shepherd, Halin DeRepentigny and François Chretien.

Jim Robb never stops collecting. While he claims to have enough material to produce 100 books, his promotional trip to Dawson was also a research trip. Before and after his signing at Maximilian's Jim was out meeting people and collecting stories for the next issue, which he says will focus very heavily on the buildings of Dawson, his original inspiration.

"I'm very much interested in Dawson's old buildings of the past and present and there will be a big section on them." Just like this time the Klondike had a heavy presence in order to tie in with the Gold Rush.

"The part of our history that's not covered very much is in the teens, twenties and thirties. I want to start working more on that type of thing.

The print run on this book was 10,000 copies, of which 65 were sold in Dawson on October 24. Maximilian's says that was very good for a Dawson signing. Jim hopes that the book will sell well for the Christmas season. Meantime, he's thinking about the next one.

"I'm going to try to get another book out every second or third year from now on. I'm 65 years of age now and I hope I have quite a few years left.

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Special Photo Feature: Klondyke Centennial Society 1996

The Klondike Centennial Society presents the following photo set, the second of a series showcasing the accomplishments of the centennial celebration years.

For information on any of these or other events, contact the KCS at 993-1996.


The Ridge Road hiking Trail was John Gould's brainchild, and he was most pleased when it opened for use that summer.

The February Centennial Ball was used to kick of the year of Discovery theme.

On Discovery Day in August, 1996, the action moved out to the creeks, to Discovery Claim, where it all began.

The Disney legend has it that Uncle Scrooge discovered the basis of his fortune at "White Agony Creek" during the Gold Rush. In 1996 the KCS began a successful marketing and promotions program using this association.

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