Dawson City, Yukon Friday, September 18, 1998

Robert Service School scheduled its part of the annual Terry Fox Run to take place on September 11 in the afternoon. For the last number of years the school has run and walked the dyke in two directions and asked each student to bring in a loonie as part of the effort to raise money for the Terry Fox Foundation. Here Grade 12's Alex Kormendy runs past the Front Street Gazebo. Photo by Ros Vijendren

Feature Stories

Hunting Black Gold at Eagle Plains
Break-ins Mar Holiday Weekend
Outhouse Race was a Gas!
Having a Grand Time at the Palace
The Keno Stabilization Project: Preserving a Piece of the Past
Festival Memories Still "Kicking Up Dust"
Editorial: What's Up at the Sun?

Welcome to the September 18 edition of the Klondike Sun online. We're late here due to personal commitments that kept the editor away from this task. The same problems with most of our staff meant that we also had to skip an issue. You can read about that in the editorial.

The hard copy edition of this paper contained 25 articles, including two reprint epics from other sources which we are not allowed to reproduce here. There were also 25 pictures. It was a busy month.

We welcome your contributions. Anyone out there got any reflections about autumn in the Yukon or particularly in Dawson?

Hunting Black Gold at Eagle Plains

by Dan Davidson


The company has been drilling on this site near Eagle Plains. Photo by Northern Cross

When Northern Cross (Yukon) Limited was incorporated in 1994, it was a company which was already pretty sure what it was getting into. Founders David Thompson and Richard Wyman weren't heading off into the unknown. They were heading to the Eagle Plains Basin, where a great deal of work had already been done on oil exploration.

Wells were first drilled there by a number of companies during the 1960's but, as the Northern Cross press kits notes, none ever achieved commercial production status. When Northern Cross purchased and decided to operate the three Significant Discovery Licenses (SDLs) in the region they weren't wondering what they would find - just how much.

"They're actually more gas-prone than they are oil," said Wyman in late August, "but one of those Significant Discovery Licenses does have oil in it and we're hoping to be able to develop that to serve regional markets - particularly the Yukon, but it may spill over into the NWT too."

He admitted that it's really too early to say yet. The wells they have were originally drilled between 1959 and 1968 and they've been in limbo ever since. So why the renewed interest now?

"One of the reasons is that...when they were drilled the Dempster Highway didn't exist so the logistics of gaining access to the area...was a daunting exercise. Today you can just about drive to the site in the winter time." The SDLs are 10 kilometres from the highway.

During the last winter work season Northern Cross was able to reactivate two of the three wells and extract some sample oil. This was part of what is known as an extended flow test, the objective of which is to gain a better idea of how much gas, oil and water is trapped in pockets in the sandstone layer. Since you can probably only extract a quarter of what's there, the reserves have to be healthy to make it pay.

Northern Cross's plan is to reactivate the third well this winter and take out between 1 and 1.5 million litres of the black gold. They would like to burn it in electrical generating equipment somewhere in the Yukon to see how well it works.

Dawson was their first choice, but the manufacturers of the generators at the Yukon Energy plant here are hesitant to approve the idea. They want to do more testing and will need several hundred litres to do this.

Wyman thinks it may happen yet and is personally convinced that the crude coming out of Eagle Plains is close enough to diesel fuel (which is distilled from this type of crude) to do the job. He says that it would actually be more energy efficient by a factor of about ten per cent.

"There are other pieces of equipment in the territory...engines in Whitehorse ...that will work fine and can be used for electrical generation."

Wyman says that ships also use a wide variety of oils, many of them far "worse" than the crude from Northern Cross.

"We're pretty confident that there's a market for it, but we don't want to waste it by burning it on the site. A production test in Alberta would just run it out to a fire pit and burn it. We'd like to use it."

The intended focus on local markets is easily explained. Northern Cross has a lovely paragraph in its press kit, which runs this way.

"The Yukon is an energy intensive region that relies on expensive imported energy to meet its energy needs.

"Northern Cross...is engaged in exploring and developing remote energy resources to serve the local and regional markets in the Yukon, thus reducing the Territory's dependence on expensive imported petroleum products."

This is all true, but it's also true that it would cost far too much to ship this oil anywhere else for use. Wyman calculates it would be about twice what they could sell it for.

"That's the other reason for focussing on the local markets. If all these tests work then we'll be committing to a permanent operation, developing an all-weather road and presumably developing the property a little further to obtain better penetration in the local market."

The only petroleum produced in the Yukon at present goes straight south, so this would make a significant change in the territory's resource picture.

Wyman hopes to bring the Yukon more than just a few royalty payments. Northern Cross would like to become a major supplier of oil here and believes this can be done at prices twenty to thirty percent below the prevailing market.

An unsophisticated refinery called a topping plant could produce diesel oil, heating oil, heavy fuel oil and perhaps some asphalt, Wyman says.

"That seems to fit fairly well with what the market here is capable of absorbing."

Aside from savings to individuals and existing businesses, Wyman figures that the availability of cheaper power in the territory could assist in opening up other areas of the economy which are currently marginal due to energy costs.

Not only could this development help to plug the annual $40 million leakage in energy purchases, but could also, he says, add value to the local economy.

Northern Cross couldn't handle all the market, but its capacity of 40 to 50,000 litres a day could make a significant dent in the Yukon's 320,000 litre a day appetite. Wyman speculates that they could do better than that - maybe over 200,000 - but admits that his partners don't know that yet.

At present 40,000 litres of this oil are stored at Callison, the result of a couple of day's production. There was more produced, but about a third of it had to be used to put the wells back in stasis at the end of the season.

Northern Cross is currently estimating a project life of at least 10 years, probably longer. Developing this resource could, Wyman says, be a big boon for local suppliers of services and equipment. Last year, of the 65 people working on the project, about 40 of them came from the north.

By August 1999 the company will know if it wants to return to the regulatory arena. Wyman figures they could be a seasonal operation for few years, but that 2001 might be a realistic date for seeing his oil on the market.

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Break-ins Mar Holiday Weekend

by Dan Davidson

It would be nice to think that the people and facilities which help to do so much for this community during special events and from day to day would be appreciated for what they are. Alas that is not the case.

Despite the general success of all the events which took place over the Labour Day Weekend, there will be a few people whose recollections of the weekend will be marred by the memory of crimes committed against them or against the community's facilities.

Dominic Lloyd, special events coordinator for the Klondike Visitors Association, spent the night before the Klondike International Outhouse Race on a couch in the concession building by the ball diamond in Minto Park. When he arrived there in the early hours of the morning it was clear that the place had already been entered and he contacted the RCMP.

When they left he settled down for the night and was awakened a few hours later by the sound of people moving in the next room. He challenged them and they ran, dropping a lot of beer and other things in the chase.

Lloyd was not able to identify anyone in the dark though he chased them out onto the field and beyond. After that he once more called the police. His own personal loss (aside from the sleep he didn't get before a busy Sunday) was a favorite rare CD, which he would happily pay a reward - no questions asked - to get back.

Over at the Youth Centre on 5th Avenue persons unknown entered the building by means that are yet unknown and made off with a substantial amount of audio equipment, including two speakers, a mixing board and a CD player. As all of these items were purchased with money raised by the kids in town who make use of the Youth Centre, the number of victims is fairly widely spread.

The equipment has often been loaned to organizations such as the Robert Service School to help make events a success, but the September 10th farewell sock-hop held by student's council for kids in grades 6 and 7 had to be content with music from the student DJ's personal home stereo, as there was nothing else available.

Recreation Direction Jason Barber and Youth Centre supervisor Andrea Mansell agree that whoever committed this particular burglary has done a great disservice to all the kids of Dawson City.

Mansell said it was hard for people who are community workers to keep their spirits up when things like this happen.

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Outhouse Race was a Gas!

by Dan Davidson


The Fallen Princesses were one of the most popular entries in this year's Outhouse Race. Photo by Dan Davidson

Despite grey skies and incipient drizzle it would be hard to categorize the 22nd running of the Klondike International Outhouse Race as being anything but a success.

You could say that the White Lightning team made a triumphant return to the hustings, having taken last year off, by reclaiming its lead position in a time of 10 minutes, 31 seconds and a bit. That's better than a minute and 20 seconds faster than last year's finish, and the boys even stopped to have a drink along the way. It's not a record, though. The team has been down around 9 minutes before and would have been faster this time if the server at their chosen bar had been quicker.

But this year's race wasn't about speed. There were even joking references about the "C" word (competition) at the awards ceremony that night, with Dirk Miller calling for more of it and special events coordinator Dominic Lloyd taking it all very lightly.

No, this year's race was about spirit, about having a good time, and giving the audience its full share of laughs.

There was a good audience too. Close to 200 people were unintimidated by the weather and lined Fifth Avenue by the Museum to see the start and finish of the race. The starting line is usually drawn across the street just about level with the RV sewer dump station that sits outside what used to be the YTG Highway compound. The ambiance is unmistakable if the lid is the least bit loose.

The field was strong this year too, ten teams out as opposed to the eight of the last two runnings. Even the slowest contenders finished in under an hour - and there have been some years when teams never did make it to the end.

The Midnight Sun sponsored the Men in Black, runners with attitude and nice vests, who looked good even if they didn't win the race with 14:59.

Ross Mining sponsored the fastest female team, sporting a Klondike Gold Rush theme and a duckish look in honour of Unca Scrooge. At 15:32 they were in the pack.

The Escapees from the Lounge Lizard Asylum were dressed in suits that hardly seemed the type to make the grade up Church Street to 7th Avenue, but the mixed team from the Palace Grand's Gaslight Follies cast was the fastest coed group with a time of 15:51.

The Gerties Girls in Training entry was exactly that; dancers in diapers who demonstrated their ability to conquer the run(s) in 18:52. They also assembled the best limerick and brought down the house at Gerties that night with a dance number.

The You Can Do it team from New Jersey (yes - that far) is the one that made the race an international event this year. Its members have been trying to make it to Dawson since 1991 and their matriarch, 84 year old Mary King, was the proud throne rider. Their entry in the limerick contest was more of an epic fantasy. It took them 25:11 to make their dream come true.

Would they do it again? Accepting the Judges Special award one of the men spoke for the group: "I'd come back in a minute."

As usual Linda Bierlmeier pulled together a team from among representatives of the CAA/AAA organizations. At 27:12 they didn't burn up the course, but they were well out of last place.

The Downtown Hotel hasn't had a speed winner since Chester Kelly hung up his toilet seat, but this year's Sheet Disturbers had a definite flair in their presentation and weren't afraid to let it all hang out (from the rear at least) as they mooned the audience during their limerick recitation at Gerties. Their time was 29:35.

The Girls Night Outhouse was sponsored by the Triple J Hotel. They were good sports and contributed a couple of poems to the awards ceremony, but were out of the money with a time of 34:41. A team of mixed transvestites was a novelty indeed.

Last, but by no means least, was the royal entry, the Fallen Princesses, who hoofed the course in heels and evening gowns, stopping to greet the little people along the route and display the grace for which royalty ought to be known. In spite of all this, the Princess Tours team took only 53 minutes and 32 seconds to run - er, cover - the course. They walked away with two prizes: Most Original and Most Humorous.

There were a few hitches. The race started about 15 minutes early. All the teams had shown up on time. The judges had been able to check out the entries. It was misting enough that some of the paint on the biffies was starting to run, and chilly enough that some of the costumes were a bit light to stand around in, so Dominic Lloyd sent them off instead of waiting for 3 o'clock.

Aside from that, it was a great race. Something to build on for next year.

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Having a Grand Time at the Palace

by Dan Davidson


Dan the Mountie Man explains his philosophy of Dawson law and order to an attentive audience. Photo by Kevin Hastings

After eight weeks of wrestling their twin productions at the Palace Grand and Diamond Tooth Gerties into shape, Joey and Dolina Hollingsworth had only just begun to look around Dawson as the summer began to fade in late August. Indeed, with just a month to go, Joey was already beginning to prepare for his return to "The Hot Mikado" in San José in October.

"Not that we've had problems at the theatre," Dolina hastens to add. "We've had standing ovations there from day one."

At the Gaslight Follies Joey Hollingsworth wanted to do things that Charlie Meadows might actually have had on stage 99 years ago: jugglers, melodrama, "buck & wing" (tap dancing), singing.

"I put a conglomeration of Klondike character names ("Three-inch" White, One-Eyed Reilly etc.) into a story, a zany comedy in a story form that has a nice ending."

Dolina wasn't so sure, thinking that it would need more of a Follies approach, but, in the end, Joey's instinct seems to have been a hit with the production's biggest target audience, the tour bus and RV crowd.

To a large extent his planning was based on the work he did with Tink and Judy Robinson at Fort Steele in the Kooteneys. Joey had initially gone to that show as a break from his regular routine, not with the idea of repeating the experience. But it was so much fun he went back for 7 more summers. That was where the Hollingsworths first met Lorraine Butler, who played Stella in that show.

Robinson always gave each of the performers in his show a chance to dominate the spotlight for a time, and the Hollingsworths wanted to put together the kind of cast which could do that.

Space in this interview would hardly do justice to the amount of time Joey is willing to spend talking about his the members of his Palace Grand troupe.

"God smiled on me when I got my cast," he says.

Both he and Dolina positively gush as they catalogue the virtues of Jeff Bowen (Dan the Mountie Man), Krista Konkin (Sweet Tooth Fannie), Nicole Fitzgerald (Lovette Dolittle), Sara Jeanne Hosie (Rosemary Raspberry), Jason Campbell (Arizona Charlie and Jimmy "3 inch) White) and especially pianist and composer Norman Long.

While he didn't want the show to downplay the history of the Klondike, he also didn't want to present a show which retold the history.

"Not a history lesson," says Dolina. When they started doing that at Fort Steele, she says numbers dropped off from 60,000 to almost nothing. Locals loved it but visitors didn't.

"There's living history on these streets," she says, listing off the walking tours from Klondike National Historic Sites, the Dawson City Museum's street theatre presentations, the Museum itself and the various KNHS venues, including the Palace Grand Theatre tour.

"In the evening," Joey says, "I think people want to be entertained."

That was his instinctive reaction to the getting the contract, and he admits that even he has been surprised at how successful Lone Wolf's presentation has been. Aside from the evening show 6 nights a week, there were periods in the summer where they played up to four extra matinees a week, something which their employer, the Klondike Visitors Association, says hasn't happened for years.

While pleasantly surprised, Lone Wolf people are quick to explain what happened.

Says Joey, "We weren't competing with Whitehorse any more because we had a completely different type of show. That show has been high tuned to perfection and running for 20 years. You can't bring in a show, rehearse it for two weeks and get the same results with a smaller cast. And charge more money to get in."

Some of the best things that happen on the Palace Stage are accidents, and Joey lays a lot of them at the feet of Jeff Bowen, who plays Constable Dan Toolate as a sort of stunned Dudley Doright. He can stand around in his red underwear and never bat an eye, but suddenly come all over modest when he gets to the point where he's about to fasten his trousers.

Faced with an audience which wasn't responding to its cues one night, Bowen mused, "You all look like an oil painting." and brought down the house. He's been plagued by loose bits of thread in his costume, suspenders twisted between his legs and boots that came apart one night when he clicked his heels, but he's taken it all in stride.

The biggest problem at the theatre is scheduling. In slightly over two hours the cast has to present the show, have an intermission, allow time to sign autographs and meet the public and still hope to herd some of the people in the general direction of Diamond Tooth Gerties.

Some of the Palace audience arrives at the show fresh off the boat from the Yukon Lou's Pleasure Island cruise. Some come from other places. If any of these reserved blocks of seats are late arriving, then the show's starting time has to be set back and it gets that much harder to keep it within the 8 to 10:20 time slot.

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The Keno Stabilization Project: Preserving a Piece of the Past

by Dan Davidson


The entire front end of the boat had to be rebuilt. Photo by Dan Davidson

Klondike National Historic Sites has obviously been missing a bet for the last several years. Instead of paying ship wright Wayne Loiselle to mastermind the reconstruction of the S.S. Keno, they should have been paying him to talk about it. The man is a veritable fount of information and kept a roving crowd of over forty people hanging on his every word for well over on hour during the Discovery Day weekend.

Loiselle, a ship wright from the Gulf Islands, is wrapping up the fourth year of his contract on the stabilization project, a project that ran for three years before he was hired. In the early stages Klondike National Historic Sites was concerned to get the ship off the ground and away from the dampness which was helping to destroy it.

It used to rest on wooden supports, but now it sits on a metal drainage grate which carries water away and actually allows workers to get under the boat. This is great for preventing new damage, but it is also difficult to work around as the crew rebuilds the ship.

(A ship, by the way is a boat that is too big to be picked up and carried by another boat. So the Keno, like most of its one-time sisters of the rivers, is a ship.)

"I'm told," Loiselle says, "that when the boat was let back down on its new cradle, there were some sections that were 8 to 12 inches out of alignment and there was a lot of settling. It was a fortunate things that they chose to do that early on."

During the third working season, the Keno was fitted out with a complete dry sprinkler system.

"Fire has been the worst enemy of paddle wheelers here over the last 20 years. Out of five that existed in the seventies, three have been burnt to the ground. There's only two left."

The Keno's been the site of many activities in the years since she was hauled up on the banks of the Yukon. The earliest incarnation of the Klondike Visitors Association used to greet people there. In the days before Diamond Tooth Gerties, there was gambling on the cargo deck, along with a floor show.

One of the women on the tour recalled leading tours on the Keno when she was younger. In those days, she said, there were conducted tours and others where people just wandered around. That came to an abrupt halt after the fire which took two of the stern wheelers that had been stored in Whitehorse. Loiselle noted that the general opinion about both that fire and the later one which wiped out the Tutshi in Carcross was that they had been set deliberately.

Here is Dawson it became clear in the late eighties that the Keno was in trouble and it was taken out of touring service soon after that. Once the drainage problem and the keel supports had been dealt with it became time to see just how bad things were.

The answer which emerged was that things were pretty bad indeed. Over the last four summers Loiselle's crews have replaced 95% of the bow from the freight deck bulkhead to the stem.

"As we were working on the inside," he said, "we were stepping through the planking, which was 2 1/2 inches thick, it was that rotten. You had to watch where you stepped or you'd have fallen right through."

The Keno's major problem is dry rot, a virus which takes hold in damp wood and spreads through the structure like any other disease. Rooting it out is a matter of testing the wood, trying to determine where it stops, going a little bit further to be sure, and then removing the infected structures. It's a painstaking job.

That the Keno still exists is probably due to it being where it is. Rot, Loiselle explains, is a spore borne fungus that doesn't spread in cold weather and the Keno is frozen solid much of the year.

"Had this boat been in the south there would have been nothing left of it."

Some protective work had been done in the past, which kept it from falling apart like those in the ship graveyard just down river from Dawson. Those are a prime example of what can happen without intervention.

Says Loiselle, "We got to the Keno just in the nick of time and it's back to a point now where it's gonna be here for awhile."

The location of the ship, up next to the dyke, is an advantage and a disadvantage, and really provides workers with a laboratory example of rot at work. The starboard side of the ship starts getting the sun fairly early in the spring and gets it regularly during the summer. As a result it has tended to dry out well and was in much better shape when the work crew got to it.

The port side, shaded by the dyke, and exposed to much less sun, has remained both frozen and damp longer each season. On that side of the Keno you can tear off whole sections of the original board and crumble it in your hands, as Loiselle demonstrates.

It has never been possible to tell very far in advance just how much work would have to be done in a particular area. Nevertheless, Loiselle projects that he part of the job will be complete at the end of next summer's four month working season.

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Festival Memories Still "Kicking Up Dust"

by Dan Davidson

The Dawson City Music Festival is never without its share of spin-offs: the mugs, T-shirts and sweaters by which devotees of the event show that they have to the show once again. This year's festival, however, left us with a little something extra.

"Kicking Up Dust" is the name of a double CD compilation highlighting the work of thirty-seven artists and bands which have performed at the festival over its 20 year span.

The CD was the brainchild of Festival coordinator Jennifer Edwards, who spent what little spare time she had over the last full year of her job selecting material and obtaining rights. It was a massive job.

"Right after last year's festival, when we were thinking about ideas for the 20th, I thought that it would be great to get a CD together. Right after that I started in on it."

Getting artists to contribute a song for this project was no problem at all. Tracking down rights and dealing with their managers, now that was another matter.

"There are so many channels to go through to get the various rights. Sometimes in trying to get a variety of artists from all the different years, trying to find all of the bands that had disbanded proved to be a bit difficult.

"When you only had to deal with the artists themselves to get the rights, they were really gung-ho."

The project didn't come cheap. The actual physical cost of the package isn't high, but Edwards says there are two separate sets of rights that you have to get, the right to use the original song (master rights) and the publishing rights (the mechanicals). This means two sets of fees.

The price of the finished product, a round $30, is intended to pay off the costs and also generate some revenue for the festival. Only 1,000 copies of the set were pressed, meaning that it will raise only $30,000.

"It was an incredible amount of work to track everyone down and do all the paperwork."

It was especially hard to get material from B.B. Gabor, who had been here in 1983. He had died about 5 years ago and it was hard to track him down. While the InterNet was helpful in finding such groups as the Crash Test Dummies, there was nothing there for him.

His music publishing company had been devoured by several larger entertainment groups along the way, but following that trail finally brought her the rights.

The Razorbacks have also folded since they were here and had to be found by searching for individuals. It was quite a detective job.

"It was a really neat project for me and for some of the others (on the committee). I got Karen (Dubois) and John (Steins) to get all of their old vinyl together, so we actually got a chance to listen to some of those artists from '79, '80, '81 and discovered some real gems.

Sales were good during the festival and Edwards said that the DCMF phone lines and e-mail have been busy since. By mid-August there were still a few hundred left, but they are going steadily.

What's in the package? A complete listing of the artists would be tedious, but there are some big names on here: Bruce Cockburn, Quartette, the Barenaked Ladies, the Skydiggers, Crash Test Dummies, Rawlins Cross, Ian Tamblyn and Lennie Gallant, just to name a few. There's a wide variety of styles: Bourne & McLeod, Ferron, Natalie McMaster, David Essig, Lynn Miles, Ray Condo. There are quite a few local names: Dave Haddock, Scott Sheerin & John Steins, Manfred Janssen, Jerry Alfred & the Medicine Beat, Daniel Janke. I haven't mentioned them all, but I've come close.

The case comes with track listings on the back, including times, which is something I miss on a lot of albums these days. John Steins' cover painting is an active, swirling invitation to fun. Inside there's a twelve page booklet with complete notes for each song, memories from Bill Bourne, David Essig, Jane Siberry and Wyckham Porteous as well as lots of little photos and a two page spread in the middle. In short, there's everything you might need to jog your DCMF memories for years to come.

Jen is packing up her coordinator's skills and heading south after five years, but when she speaks almost eagerly of working on a similar compilation for the 25th anniversary, you can't help but wonder if she really means to move on for good.

Orders for this item can be made by phoning 993-5584, faxing 993-5510, e-mailing dcmf@dawson.net, visiting the festival home page at www.dcmf.com, or checking in at the festival office.

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Editorial: What's Up at the Sun?

by Dan Davidson

Much as we dislike a steady diet of confessional type editorials, sometimes we have to inform you of what we are doing, in line with our commitment to be a community newspaper.

We held our AGM in between issues, on August 31, and while the numbers were small, all the existing directors agreed to continue and volunteer Mike Gates helped us through an organizing process to begin planning our next fund-raising event.

"Next event?" you ask. Well you might, since the last one was slightly over three years ago. While we are a volunteer non-profit organization, we try to pay our own way by the business we do in order to cover our bills. Well, we can pay the operating costs, but some of the equipment we use to do that is starting to show its age after many hundreds of hours of use.

We don't have the deep pockets we need to replace some of our hardware and add a bit more. Specifically, our printer is no longer manufactured and will be hard to repair when it breaks down. One of our cameras has played out and we need to replace it. In addition, we'd like to get a digital camera to help us deal with some of those last minute items when it's too late in our production cycle to reactivate the darkroom after all the other printing has been done. And then there's our scanner...You get the idea, right?

You'll be hearing more about our event in the next couple of issues. Sun volunteers and Literary Society board members (not necessarily the same people) will be contacting you.

A Slight Hiatus

One of the problems with this bi-weekly schedule of ours is that it sometimes provides us with three issues in one month. This would have happened in September. Looking ahead, and discovering that neither Dan nor Ann will be available to work on the September 24-26 production days, we have decided to drop the September 29th issue this fall. There will already have been two Suns in September and we'll pick up the beat again in October, coming out on October 13. Sorry for the inconvenience, but when our two main Pagemaker specialists are both going to be out of town, we don't have a lot of choice.

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