Dawson City, Yukon Friday, October 4, 1996


Scenes from renovated St. Paul's Church ...From left to right: single window still in need of funds to renovate (to donate, please contact Pat Reid at St. Paul's parish); regimental flags; tryptich window over the altar.  Photos by Dan Davidson

Feature Stories

Saint Paul's Celebrates Renewal
The Long Road to Restoration
Who Does Live in the Klondike?
And the Klondike Winner is ... Peter Jenkins!
Uffish Thoughts: The Real Problem with Jack London Blvd.
Mail from the Net

Saint Paul's Celebrates Renewal

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

Since the message of the Christian church in general, and the Anglican Church in particular, is one of renewal, it seems fitting that the Parish of Saint Paul's has managed to generate a bit of renewal of its own.

The service of General Thanksgiving to celebrate the end of the summer's long renovation project was held on Sunday evening, September 22. About 93 people came out to see the refurbished interior of the church, to view the new walls, the restored stain glass windows and the refinished interior woodwork. While there is still some work to do on the exterior of the building, the inside looks as good as new.

The service followed the pattern of the Prayer of General Thanksgiving from the Book of Common Prayer, a prayer written by the Bishop of Norwich for the 1662 revision of the book.

As Reverend Don Sax explained to the assembly, "It has been regarded ever since as the epitome of what the Anglican faith tends to stand for, and that is, a stance of gratitude for all of life."

As the service progressed, the Reverend Don Sax and Deacon Lee Sax led the congregation in the assembling of a memorial book which commemorated the work and some of the history that accompanied it. The first item was a set of vestry minutes from 1989, in which the group, most of whom are still in Dawson, noted the completion of the foundation project and began to discuss what steps to take next.

"When Lee and I came here from Old Crow," said Sax, "we were just passing through, and that's still the case. When the vestry and the congregation were faced with the rather awesome decision...to go ahead with this building...It's a pretty momentous step. The amount of money involved is...approximately a quarter of a million dollars. It's a lot easier to decide to do nothing than it is to do nothing. So I want to honour the congregation. As I said the night that they made the motion to proceed, you guys got a lot of nerve."

The second section of the book was to honour the contractors who did the structural work, primarily Han Housing Ltd. the Log Cabin Gift Shop, Caspar Painting and Springbank Electric; the suppliers, Beaver Lumber, Arctic Inland Resources, the Monte Carlo Ltd., and Kluane Freight Lines, Frontier Freightlines, Woodward Industries and Griffith's Heating. Read into the record for the book by church warden Ken Smith were the names of the actual crafts persons who made the event happen.

"I think their excellence...will always be remembered by their craftsmanship," Smith said. There was a round of applause.

"It was a pleasure working with them. They all not only fulfilled their contracts but much more," said Don Sax, a former engineer who entered the ministry after his previous career.

"I have an inclination to think to myself that as the churches go so goes Dawson," Sax said. "Churches, whether you attend them or not, tend to be symbols of the community, and when the churches are falling down, it doesn't say very much for the community."

These days, ore than in the past, the churches and congregations of Dawson tend to cooperate and respect each others efforts, and Sax said he felt that, as well as the facelifts that three of the four buildings have had this summer, boded well for the future.

Many donors made possible the work that led to this evening's celebration. Lay minister Shirley Pennell read the list of donors to the structural work, which included the Anglican Foundation, the Diocese of Yukon and the Council of the North, the Heritage Branch of the Department of Tourism and the Vancouver Foundation. In addition there were many private donations and contributions from from numerous individuals, families and organizations from across the country. Of this year's total budget of $120,000, all but $18,000 has been covered in this way.

Private and group donations also when into the restoration of the 17 stained glass windows which line the walls and grace the chancel of the building. The work was done locally by Sally Pederson and Betty Wells at a cost of $2,000 per window.

A major portion of the service was given to the reinstallation of the regimental flags which had hung in the chancel for many decades. In determining where to put them it was determined that they had never been hung properly in the first place. Military regulations place such hangings in the main sanctuary, so the flags are now displayed on the north rear wall of the building.

Most of the remaining renovations--window frames, wainscotting, pews, doors and flooring--were stripped, refinished and varnished by a small squad of volunteers, who met regularly in the old highway compound garage of Fifth Avenue which the Dept. of Community and Transportation Services made available as a work area during the summer.

There were a number of volunteers but, as church warden Pat Reid told the congregation, Don and Lee Sax were the driving force behind the entire project.

"If it hadn't been for these two very special people, I don't think that we would have had the courage to begin this whole enormous thing." Reid presented them with a certificate which read, "In appreciation for your vision, for without the vision we never would have begun."

Music for the service included the anthems"Sing a Jubilant Song", "If the Lord Does Not Build a House" and "Give Thanks", sung by a choir directed by Betty Davidson and accompanied by Joyce Caley on piano and Dan Davidson on guitar.

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The Long Road to Restoration

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

The first Anglican Church in the Klondike was a log cabin erected in the gold fields by the Reverend F.F. Flewelling in 1896. This was moved the next year to a site on the northwest corner of the NWMP reserve and Saint Paul's Parish was begun.

By 1902 it was clear that this building was inadequate, and the present frame structure was built at a cost of $15,000, $12,000 of which came from the mining community.

That Saint Paul's Church is the same one which stands today and has served the community in some fashion for 94 years, though it has been some decades since it was the full time church. For many years the congregation has spent a good deal of its year in chapels. The Good Samaritan Hall which once existed between the Dawson Daycare and the parish hall was one chapel site.

After the Clinton Creek mine closed in the late 1970s, the buildings which make up the Thrift Shop and Richard Martin Memorial Chapel were purchased from that company (for $1) and moved here (for $10,000), eventually to become the main focus of the community's worship.

Saint Paul's, which had been the first cathedral in the Yukon, came to be called the Pro-cathedral after the territorial capital was relocated to Whitehorse in the early 1950s. The building was used when weather permitted, was sometimes heated by a wood furnace, and later by a furnace that could be channeled to heat either the chapel or the church. Since the mid-1980s, though, it has been warmed up out of season only for such special events as Christmas, New Years, Easter, and major weddings or funerals.

During all that time it remained a tourist attraction, once serving as a site for showings of Klondike films, and a favorite venue for the Dawson City Music Festival. The building was damaged in the 1979 flood, which accelerated its decline and led to the reconstruction of the foundation in 1989.

The main focus of the congregation's worship life remained the Richard Martin Chapel, and so that was the building that got the most attention, Renovations to the chapel and to the rectory, Stringer House, were completed in 1995. Most of this work was done by volunteer labour.

The Saint Paul's Project required a great deal more funding. The1996 summer works were budgeted at $120,000. Some money came from within the Anglican Church itself and some from outside agencies in government and elsewhere. Other donations came from churches and individuals across Canada who have connections here or are prayer partners with this congregation.

The sponsorship program for the windows drew in even more of a response, from churches in Ontario, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan, as well as the City of Dawson itself and various families and businesses within the community. Even the Dawson City Music Festival, which has used the church for years during its annual event, chipped in part of the cost for a window.

At the end of the project the cracked and falling pink plaster and lathe walls have been refurbished in a cheerful yellow that offsets the darker sheen of the reconditioned woodwork. The floor was stripped, sanded and cleaned right down to the cracks between the planks and has been treated with the same finish that seems to stand up so well at Diamond Tooth Gerties.

One of the most welcome additions is a large wood stove, purchased at the insistence of Bishop Terry Buckle, who discovered last winter how cheerful it can be to attempt to hold a service in the building when it is -35 outside.

One of the surprises along the way was revealed when the pipe organ was moved from its alcove. The supports which held it up had shifted and it was just inches from ending up in the crawlspace. The new alcove is much more secure and the organ, though it sticks a bit, is working.

It's been a lot of work, and there are still challenges ahead. In 1997 the congregation hopes to insulate the roof and replace the sheet metal roofing, repair the bell tower and paint the exterior, as well as complete the railings for the new, wider front steps and install a wheelchair ramp off the south end of that platform.

In the meantime, the essential work has been completed and Saint Paul's is able this weekend to host the first Diocesan to be held in Dawson City since 1915. Those who haven't been inside the old place in a while will be in for a pleasant surprise.

The finished project will work to fulfil the words of verse two from hymn number 339 in the The Book of Common Praise:

"When the years had wrought their changes,
He, our own unchanging God,
Thought upon his habitation,
Looked on his decayed abode;
Heard our prayer, and helped our councils,
Blessed the silver and the gold,
Till once more his house is standing
Firm and stately as of old"

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Who Does Live in the Klondike?

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

Just how many people are there in Dawson City and in the Klondike Riding? The question may seem to be a strange one, but it came up for considerable discussion during the recent election forum here. How can the list here suddenly have jumped from under 1000 to over 1300 in just four years?

It's no surprise when voters lists come into question by the various political parties. Usually one or more will make the claim that some other party is taking unfair advantage of the rules. What is surprising is when all parties are willing to question it.

Asked what the criteria for voting in a territorial election were, Yukon Party candidate Peter Jenkins explained that "you have to be a Canadian citizen, 18 years of age or older and you have to be a resident in the Yukon for the past year."

"I'm amazed at the number of people that I've met that have been here 4, 5 or 6 years and I've never seen them. It's quite amazing. There might be irregularities. I don't know, but you have to swear an oath and... there is due process."

"I am concerned." said Liberal Glen Everitt, "about the amount of new people on the voter's list. I can't say they don't have a right to be there," the city councillor continued, "but we have seen the stats on a quarterly basis...that have shown a decrease in our population. Yet our voter's list has went up by two and three hundred people."

"If that's how much it went up ... and that's how they're basing our (block grant) funding, then why has the government been telling us it's been decreasing. We have not had two or three hundred students that were 17 and turned 18 eligible to vote."

There was much laughter at this comment from the audience.

Everitt challenged his opponents to look at the list closely and remove "anybody that really shouldn't be there." He indicated that he felt proxy voters were the cause of the anomaly.

"I live here. I raise my children here. I pay taxes here. I don't send my money 'home'. I don't make statements like 'I need to vote proxy because I'm going home' because this is my home and I have a right to vote here. To me that is the basic criteria for voting in the territorial election."

The NDP's Tim Gerberding agreed pretty closely with Everitt's statement, saying that seasonal people who "do not meet all the criteria are getting on to our voter's list. As a full time resident that bothers me. I would be willing to work with Glen and the others to make sure that only qualified voters are on that list."

Independent John Cramp also saw a problem, but he was much stronger in his opposition to proxy voting. In his view there were enough chances to vote, counting advance polls and special polls, that no one should need to use a proxy. If the vote was so unimportant to you that it didn't bother you to allow someone else to cast it, then you shouldn't use it at all.

The outcome of all this may have been in doubt at the forum but if most of the list stands, and it turns out that a community that is supposed to be about 2100 residents has 62% of them counted as voters, you can bet that the City of Dawson will be asking whatever party forms the next government to take a different look at its population statistics and its grant funding.

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And the Klondike Winner is ... Peter Jenkins!

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

A hard fought election campaign has come to an end with Peter Jenkins, previously the mayor of Dawson for 14 years, advancing to the territorial level of government as the Klondike's new MLA, carrying the seat for the Yukon Party in spite of its generally poor showing on the territorial level. Results from the local returning officer show Jenkins winning handily over Tim Gerberding (NDP), Glen Everitt (Lib.) and John Cramp (Ind.).

Jenkins took three of the four polls in the community, as well as the advance and mail-in polls.

Jenkins captured 702 of the 1191 votes cast. Gerberding was second with 372. Everitt had 96 and Cramp 21. There were 5 rejected ballots, though there must have been over 100 registered voters who did not vote. The major increase in voters was in the fourth poll, up the Klondike Valley, where the numbers nearly doubled.

Despite a fairly lacklustre performance during the candidates' forum. Jenkins pulled off and impressive victory, showing that the majority of the voters in Dawson still see him as the fellow who can get the job done.

Jenkins' campaign focussed on the following issues, with his own reputation as a "strong voice" way up front: health care, education, recreation facilities and a Yukon River Bridge at Dawson City.

Unfortunately for Jenkins, being a member of the rump Yukon Party in opposition may make it all but impossible for him to achieve any of the items on his list of campaign promises. The veteran politician will have his hands full wringing Klondike concessions out of a governing party that was so flatly rejected by voters in the Klondike riding.

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Uffish Thoughts: The Real Problem with Jack London Blvd.

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

I've been watching the debate over the fate of Whitehorse's Two Mile Hill with some interest since the new signs first went up. The real problem is not the fact that someone decided to change the name to honour Jack London. No. The problem is that they changed the name at all.

Two Mile Hill may not have any literary resonance, but it got that way by means of an organic process that makes a lot of sense given what it is. That is to say: a hill that seems to be about two miles long.

There's really nothing wrong with a name like that. It shows the spirit of the place. It is both plain and symbolic at the same time. It begs to be explained and yet it explains itself at the same time. It has always seemed to me to be a most appropriate name for that particular road.

I wonder if anyone would have thought of changing it if it hadn't been reconstructed. I grant that Two Mile Hill fit the old road maybe a little better than it fits the new one. Maybe the inspiration to rename the thing came with all the fancy concrete and the extra lanes.

The point though, is that people really didn't like the idea of the change. Their first reaction was to cover it up--politely--and get on with life. When it appeared, however, that no one was going to take the hint, no matter how many times it was repeated, stronger measures were deemed to be necessary.

If you can't change someone's mind just on common sense and community opinion, then you have to find something wrong with the new thing they want to do. So, says the collective unconsciousness, if they're set on Jack London, what can we find that is wrong with him.

Oh, what an easy target. No one ever said that a famous literary name had to be a nice person or even a politically correct one. Most of them aren't. London has fleas. He was a drunk (John Barleycorn); he was, after the manner of his day, a bit of a racist, contemptuous, as were many of our grandparents, of the so-called "lesser breeds"; he was a proto-fascist (The Iron Heel), maybe a bit of a proto-hippie (The Valley of the Moon), and a socialist by upbringing (The People of the Abyss and various essays). He was a walking bundle of contradictions, and, like many another successful entertainer (from Elvis to Kurt Cobain) he didn't handle fame very well.

But he was famous. He had an enormous influence on the way stories were written after he became active. He did put the Yukon on the map almost as surely as the Gold Rush itself and way ahead of anyone else. For these things we remember him, warts and all. It seems perfectly fair to name something after him.

We did in Dawson. Three new streets were created up on the Dome when the subdivision went in. We named then after Jack London, Pierre Berton and Robert Service. They did immortalize the place after all. I'd be happy if we could stop call it the Dome subdivision and re-christen the whole thing "Literary Heights" but I can't get anyone to agree with me about that. If we have another street up there, though, we should name it after the renowned Czech storyteller, Jan Welzl, who ended his days here and has had such an influence on the people of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire.

By clinging to the London plan in Whitehorse, his supporters made him a target. As has been suggested, it would be better now to name something new after him. He does deserve commemoration after all. It's just a question of where and when.

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Mail from the Net

E-mail from Vancouver Loves Net Sun

Dear Folks:

Just wanted to express how much I appreciate being able to read highlights from The Sun on the Internet here in New Westminster, B. C. It is good to be able to keep up with the happenings in Dawson. Thanks for your efforts in putting each edition up on 'the Net'.

I also wanted to tell you how impressed I was with how Dawson looks these days. My wife and I and some friends had the opportunity to spend a couple of days in your fair city during August. The last time I was in Dawson previous to this was in 1975 so the change was very noticeable. My hats off to those who have had the foresight to preserve the 'old' look amongst the 'new'.

Though I have lived down here on the 'outside' for 30 years, my roots are still in the Yukon, and since Dawson City is my birthplace, there is a special tie which keeps me coming back to the City of Gold on occasion. I hope it will be a bit more frequently in the future.

I enjoy your 'newsy' reporting style. Keep up the good work!

Have a Nice Day!

Harvey J. Burian
New Westminster, BC Canada
AOL - HBurian@aol.com

PS. In case you are wondering...yes I am related to Ivan Burian. We are cousins.

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