Dawson City, Yukon Friday, September 19, 1997

Dawson from the air in the late 1940s. Photo by Bill Bushell

Feature Stories

Vandalism Under Assault in Dawson
Dawson Council Fed Up with Vandals
Ski Chalet Trashed by Friday Night Party
Kobayashi Steps Down as Dawson Readies for Fall Elections
"Jaws of Life" Street Theatre Provides Liberating Insights
Horse Show a Success in Dawson
Agreements Struck at Palmer Summit
Klondike Valley Placer-Occupant Review -- Update
Smoky Landings in Dawson City
Mush On, Gene Dubois
The Persistence of Vision
Net Mail: It's Been a Long Time

Vandalism Under Assault in Dawson

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

Taking its thinking a step beyond mere debate, the City of Dawson has decided to become pro-active in dealing with what it calls "the increase in senseless vandalism" in the community. To that end it has sent out to all media a press release detailing the philosophical thrust of what it intends to enshrine in a vandalism bylaw.

The bylaw will be the first of three social weapons which the city intends to bring into the struggle to clean up the problem here. It will identify "vandalism as an unacceptable act in the City of Dawson", levy "a fine or surcharge on fines on persons convicted of vandalism", and "require restitution in full to made from the perpetrator to the victim".

There will be teeth in this bylaw. Anyone convicted of a vandalism offence (youth or adult) will be banned from the use of city owned or operated facilities for at least six months for each conviction and until restitution has been made.

The proposal also addresses possible uses of the "C -word", curfew. Anyone under the age of 18 convicted of vandalism will be subject to "an 8 p.m. curfew for a minimum of three months" and again until full restitution has been made.

Accepting that parents have to have some say in the governance of their offspring, the bylaw hands responsibility back to the family. Parents can expect to be held accountable in some as yet undefined manner for the actions of their children.

Finally, the bylaw will provide for the posting of the names of all persons who are banned from using municipal facilities.

The second major weapon Dawson council would like to create is "TIPS" type of fund to reward people whose reports "lead to the conviction of persons involved in acts of vandalism." This would be underwritten by the collection of fines.

The third and final social thrust by the city will be an attempt to encourage anyone who has suffered from vandalism "to use the full measure of the law in both criminal and civil courts to ensure that vandals are held accountable for their actions."

The general outline of this press release was assembled at the council's regular planning meeting a week after this issue was first raised in the public meeting on September 2. At that time council engaged in a heated but unanimous condemnation of the situation that has been developing here during the summer.

As the press release indicates, council is aware that not all of the damage being caused is being done by juveniles. Nor does it involve a large number of people.

"The perpetrators are few in number but they are influencing a wider circle of friends...to follow their lead. While the bulk of the vandals are juveniles, adults over the age of eighteen are known to be involved."

The debate on September 2 identified this as being more than a police problem. Councillors spoke of the need to form a community consensus on this issue and to proceed along every avenue of action which local power might identify.

All the interventions envisioned in the proposed bylaw are intended to hit primarily those persons who are actually doing the damage. So the curfew, for instance, is not a blanket proposal aimed at all youth, but instead aimed at specific targets.

It remains to be seen whether the names of offenders can be published by the backdoor route of posting lists of individuals banned from city property, but this idea is clearly an attempt to get around certain protective provisions in the Young Offenders Act.

Making a proposal is fairly easy. Getting it into secure legal language is more of a challenge. It might be difficult to get this legislation ready before this council reaches the end of its life on October 16, after the municipal elections. In that case, supporting or defending this bylaw might be high profile election issue.

This press release does, however, clearly indicate the thrust of public debate on this issue in this community. People are, it would seem, fed up, and they are prepared to become a lot less patient.

A public forum on this issue will be held here in the near future.

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Dawson Council Fed Up with Vandals

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

"I'm sure that some of you are aware that particularly in the last few weeks, our community has been hit by numerous incidents of vandalism."

With those words city councillor Denny Kobayashi launched into a sweeping condemnation of the plague many people in Dawson are describing as teen vandalism.

Among the incidents: cars spray painted, visitors' and locals' tires slashed, a local woman with all the windows smashed out of her car, a ballpark concession stand break-in, public washrooms trashed at the same facility, destruction to Parks Canada properties, an attempted theft at one of the local daycares, and a break in at the Richard Martin Chapel of Saint Paul's Anglican Church. All of this during the last few weeks.

"That's the talk on the street," Kobayashi continued. "It's all people are talking about. I'm tired ... as a taxpayer and a citizen here .... of this occurring, and I think it's time that the city took a very strong stance.

"I feel we should proceed to what I'm going to call zero tolerance for vandalism in this city."

Kobayashi's proposal would see the city laying charges against the parents of any children apprehended as a result of vandalism or theft on their part.

"We will sue them. We will lobby the police for prosecutions."

He maintained that the city has an alcohol and drug problem among youth of fairly substantial proportions: "It's never been worse."

Kids, said the councillor, believe there are no consequences that can befall them as a result of their actions, and they have to learn that this is not the case. "It's time to pay the piper. People have to be accountable."

John Mitchell was in full agreement with Kobayashi, indicating that the construction site of the new Tr'ondek Hwech'in Cultural Centre has been attacked enough times to cause Han Construction to hire and post night security guards.

Shirley Pennell is also the vice-principal at the Robert Service School. She cited the example of a junior high student who was suspended that same week for attempting to set fire to one of the new benches placed outside the building.

With regard to general problems caused by late roving youth, Pennell said, "Surely to goodness it's the parents responsibility to look in their bedrooms and see that they're not wandering around at 3 o'clock in the morning."

Councillor Eleanor Van Bibber was equally grim in her pronouncements. She recalled that in her youth there was a more no nonsense attitude towards youth vandalism. There was a curfew and those who broke it were picked up. Those who broke laws spent the night in a cell. She suggested that this might be a possible solution to the current mess, with parents being tapped to pay whatever extra costs might be incurred by way of guard's salaries and overtime.

All members indicated that they were getting a lot of calls and street talk on this subject. Kobayashi added that more and more people seemed fed up to the point of taking the law into their own hands, and that he wanted to see a legal solution to the mess before vigilantism took place.

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Ski Chalet Trashed by Friday Night Party

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

On the day after the Big Party at the ski hill, the place is a mess. Broken glass litters the inside of the concession building where the window had been broken in order to gain access. The stench of stale beer, cheesies and cigarettes permeates the building.

Outside, dozens of beer and pop cans are scattered about, along with several empty bottles of whiskey, Crown Royal and Wisser's Deluxe.

By Saturday afternoon the door is back on the building, but fire department volunteers indicate that it wasn't when they got there shortly after 11:30 on Friday night.

Fresh signs of a bonfire can be seen in the flat area alongside the building. A stiff breeze rattles the beer cans on the picnic table and scatters them around the grounds.

It was the fire that got the official attention of the authorities in Dawson. Someone spotted it and telephoned the fire department, which sent a couple of volunteers up to check things out. They also called on the RCMP, who were aware of the party, but not, according to Corporal Bain, of the underage drinking.

Fire department volunteers indicate that the fire had been made safely enough, but there was no one there to manage it when they arrived. The fire pit shows the signs of the retardant they used to put it out.

There's no good tally of how many teens were gathered at the base of the Moose Mountain run on Friday night (September 5), but the tins hint at substantial numbers.

Volunteers who have worked to make the ski hill a winter recreation alternative for the last 10 years were not impressed with the damage to the concession building. First reactions from members who preferred not to be quoted were along the lines of "Why should we bother to create this place and try to improve it if it's going to be used this way?"

Corporal Bain says that several liquor tickets were given to minors and that the detachment would have moved move quickly had the people who tipped them about the party been definite about the party's alcohol content.

"If it comes to light that there's youngsters up there drinking...then certainly we're not going to wait. We were aware of the party and patrols were taking place, but until we got the call from the fire department it didn't appear to be a problem."

Bain suggests that people offering information should provide as much as possible and not try to be too diplomatic about it.

"We're investigating the damage to the ski lodge up there."

One suggestion circulating around ski hill devotees is that the people who attended the party should take the lead in cleaning up the mess. This is endorsed by city counsellor Denny Kobayashi, who viewed the damage for himself on Saturday and was distressed to see it.

For Kobayashi, this just provides further proof that the community needs to get tougher with a certain group of teens who are getting out of control. This is not just a re-election ploy for the fall municipal elections either, since the president of the Klondike Visitors Association is not planning to seek another term on the local council.

Kobayashi has been hearing a lot of anger in the community in recent weeks and says he fears that someone's "going to get his chimes rung" when some fed-up citizen goes it alone without waiting for the authorities.

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Kobayashi Steps Down as Dawson Readies for Fall Elections

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

With the passage of two bylaws on September 2 Dawson's municipal council set into motion the process which will culminate in an election on October 16, 1997. The first bylaw waives the need for voter registration at this time and will allow new voters to be sworn in on polling day in the foyer of the Bonanza Centre Arena.

The second bylaw provides that nominations will be held on September 25, 1997 and that the advance poll will be held on October 9, along with setting the election date 7 days later. The passage of these bylaws bring to a close a process which began on August 19 when they received first reading.

While not everyone on Dawson council has indicated whether they will be seeking additional terms, one councillor has indicated that he will not. Veteran council member Denny Kobayashi is pulling the plug after the better part of one full term, citing time pressures as the biggest factor.

He admits that the board of the Klondike Visitors Association is less than enthusiastic about him being a member of council. There was some concern about the heavy toll local politics takes on a person's time. As president of the KVA, Kobayashi already has heavy commitments to meet.

"They were supportive of my being there and said that it was my decision. I told them that I would not run in October, so I've known about this for some time." Kobayashi became the KVA's executive director in the spring of 1996, after spending several years managing the Dawson City General Store, taking a run at the position of City Manager and working as the head of the local YTG Liquor Store. He is also part owner of the Dawson City Video Store.

His commitment to council has been such that, after he stepped down to apply unsuccessfully for the city manager's job, he personally absorbed the cost to the municipality of the byelection which returned him to his council seat.

While he enjoyed the level of participation and decision making which council involved, he also found that his dual positions held him back in expressing his opinions.

The KVA and the City of Dawson collaborate in a number of areas, notably in that the city owns the building in which the KVA operates Diamond Tooth Gerties, and Kobayashi says the potential for conflict of interest accusations has sometimes made him a less effective advocate for the KVA than he could have been.

"There's just too many things that I can't speak to at the council table that I would like to," he says. He says a councillor without his restraints would be able to champion more causes and hints that he might do more talking from the gallery on occasion.

He says the current council has always been very good about allowing him to have his say when he felt he needed to, even on sensitive subjects, but that he has had to abstain or remove himself from some issues.

Finally, the number of evenings required by both of his positions have just meant too many nights away from his wife and three girls. The KVA board nearly always meets in the evening, and council business chews up at least one long night a week, if not a lot more.

Other than that, Kobayashi says that his desire to do service for his community is actually being fulfilled by his role in the KVA, which takes a very active role in promoting Dawson, boosting the economy and running special events for both locals and visitors.

"There are opportunities to do many things for the community through the KVA."

Finally, Kobayashi says that his kids are just getting to the ages where he is needed more at home. "Every time I have an evening council meeting that's an evening I don't have an opportunity to be with my family."

Summing up the three years of his term, Kobayashi gets reflective.

"I would like to think we made a difference. There's number of things that have been on the council agenda for a long time -- like recreation. We're close now to making that centre a reality."

Council style was definitely changed during the last three years. "In spite of some conflicts, information was shared by every member of council, from the mayor throughout council. Decisions were always made with all of council involved and appraised."

While this has meant that some decisions have taken longer to carry out, and some have not happened at all, Kobayashi feels this is a better way to get things done. No one will leave this council feeling that they weren't appreciated or involved.

The councillor will remain active in community life. He is an avid sportsman with seasonal interests in softball and volleyball and is generally involved in the bi-annual Arctic Winter Games. With teens and preteens in his family, he is keenly concerned about some of the problems that Dawson youth have been getting into in the last while, and will certainly be among those seeking solutions as time goes on.

But that will be another story.

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"Jaws of Life" Street Theatre Provides Liberating Insights

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff


Ambulance and fire crews stage an accident for practice. Photo by Dan Davidson

The weekly practice session of the Dawson Volunteer Fire Department became an entertaining and timely piece of street theatre on September 3, when the department combined with the volunteer ambulance service to stage a demonstration of the "jaws of life".

Spectators arrived to find two vehicles in a simulated accident just behind the fire hall. A green van was rolled half over, leaning its weight on a pink and white sedan, a survivor of the recent Klondike Krunch demolition derby held on Discovery Days weekend.

In the van victim Winston LaJambe lay slumped out the broken window on the passengers's side. City councillor Shirley Pennell was pinned behind the wheel of the sedan.

Ambulance volunteer Father Tim Coonen gave the Code 3 accident call, activating the two rescue services. The fire fighters were first on the scene, foaming the area around the vehicles and checking for any fuel leaks. Then they stabilized the two wrecks, bracing the van in one direction and chaining it to the car in the other so they could work in and around them without further danger.

While ambulance attendants fitted Pennell for a neck brace, the two teams determined that Lajambe was the more critical of the two cases, with two broken legs and chest injuries. Covering the victim and attendants in the van with safety hats and blankets, the firefighters used a power saw and the jaws of life cutting tool to pry back the roof of the van like an opened can around its occupant and extract him on a stretcher.

A similar operation was performed on the car, slicing away the roof supports and doors until the top could be peeled right back. Then the passenger door was removed using the jaws of life pliers attachment. Pennell was then fitted with a back brace and transferred to a stretcher for removal through that door. The other one had been welded shut for the demo derby, but it was best to avoid the steering wheel anyway.

The entire operation took about an hour from start to finish.

Considering the relatively easy circumstances of the exercise and the fact that there were only two reporters (and assorted other spectators and visitors) darting around taking pictures, it wasn't that hard for anyone, but it did require patience and skills which have been acquired through long practice sessions.

One could not help but think of the severely mangled limousine in that Paris tunnel from which two bodies and two critically injured passengers were removed just four days prior to this demonstration. Watching our local people at work gave everyone a deeper appreciation of just what happens in situations like this one.

The victims were none the worse for wear, though Pennell noted that the ever-present evening bugs were by far the worst part of the experience in her opinion.

For the fire fighters it provided the opportunity for newer members to get some practical experience with the jaws tool, while the ambulance people also got to practice emergency procedures.

Both organizations are constantly on the lookout for volunteers. Both Fire Chief Pat Cayen and ambulance trainer Barry Kidd hope that this glimpse of what it's like to be in action might get some people interested in giving this work a try.

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Horse Show a Success in Dawson

by Julia Fellers


Waiting for the next event at the recent horseshow at Henderson's Corner. Photo by Julia Fellers

The First Annual Klondike Classic Horse Show took Place on August 30th and 31st. Approximately 40 competitors competed in a variety of different classes on the weekend and quite a few spectators made the drive to HoofBeats Equestrian Center at Henderson Corner to show their support.

The show gave out some special awards at the end, each ribbon won during the show was worth points, for example a first place was worth 5 points a second place was worth 4 etc.. The High Point earning Pee Wee, sponsored by Nugget Hill Placers was won by Katlyn Reynolds on Ole Imperial Bar. The Reserve High Point Pee Wee sponsored by MacKenzie Petroleum was won by Caitlin Sumanik on Bobbi.

The High Point Junior Rider sponsored by the Eldorado Hotel was won by Leah Adam on Shadow Of A Doubt. The Reserve High Point Junior, sponsored by Bill and Fran Hackonson was won by Georgia Fraser on Miss Classy Klondike. The High Point Senior, sponsored by Murray and Donna Crockett was won by Julia Fellers on Ole Imperial Bar. The Reserve High Point Senior, sponsored by The Top of The World Golf Course was won by Cas Blattler on her horse Fire.

All the 4-H members that showed were placed into teams of three and the Highest point earning team won prizes sponsored by Judy Freeburn of Bear Paw Farm And Hay Sales. The winning team was Caitlin Sumanik, Georgia Fraser and Erin Woods. Joe and Wendy Fellers Of Fell-Hawk Placers donated an ounce of Gold that was used for a draw that all our sponsors, competitors and volunteers names were put into, the winner of the draw was Peter Gould of Nugget Hill Placers who very generously donated the ounce back to the club to be used next year at our show.

Congratulations and thank you to all the riders who had never shown before but were willing to come out and give it a try, we hope that you had a great first show experience and we look forward to seeing you next year.

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Agreements Struck at Palmer Summit

Recently due to miscommunication, the City of Dawson and the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Society (YSRS) had a disagreement over the 1997 Discovery Days Festival and parade in Whitehorse.

Wile in Palmer, Alaska, representing Yukon Tourism at the Alaska State Fair, Mayor Glen Everitt of Dawson City, Paula Pawlovich of the Klondike Visitors Association and Derek Charlton & Marj Eschak of the YSRS had discussions over the recent disagreement as well as future projects. At this time Mayor Everitt and Derek Charlton are pleased to announce the following agreement/understanding:

  1. The YSRS is a volunteer organization, with one full time employee and over 400 volunteers working to promote the Yukon as a whole.
  2. The YSRS will once again implement "Associate Directors" who will represent communities outside of Whitehorse and the YSRS.
  3. The involvement of the City of Dawson in the upcoming YSRS festival to be held from February 17 to 22, 1998 in Whitehorse.
  4. The participation of YSRS in the "Thaw-Di-Gras" Festival to be held March 27 to 29, 1998 in Dawson City.

Further details of future partnerships between the City of Dawson and the YSRS will be announced after both the City Council for Dawson City and the Board of Directors of the YSRS have been consulted, as well as the various boards and councils involved in all jurisdictions.

This future partnership will be beneficial to Yukon as a whole and should be viewed by all as a positive step forward for winter tourism in Yukon.

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Klondike Valley Placer-Occupant Review -- Update

Dawson City -- The Yukon and federal governments are assisting placer claim holders in the Klondike Valley to legitimize improvements on their sites, in exchange for sub-surface rights. The placer -- occupant review is entering one of its final stages and letter of offer have been mailed to all applicants.

The Department of Community and Transportation Services and DIAND hired an independent appraiser to estimate the site value of each application that was approved for sale by the Placer -- Occupant Review Panel. An Offer to Purchase letter has now been sent to each applicant.

The Klondike Valley Placer Occupant Review policy states that applicants will be offered their sites at the fair market value for unimproved land. The independent appraiser visited each site to evaluate site improvements made and provide a sale price estimate. The policy takes into account site improvements completed at claim holder's expense including; leveling tailings and hauling fill to stabilize the site pad and road access, installation of power to the site and actual legal survey work performed. Adjustments for these improvements were made to the current market value of the site to arrive at an unimproved raw land value.

The Klondike Valley Placer -- Occupant Review policy was the result of three years of discussions with the Tr'ondek Hwech'in First Nation, the City of Dawson, and the federal and territorial governments. The policy is a voluntary application process to allow placer claim holders in the Klondike Valley, who never have or are no longer actively mining their claims, a one-time only opportunity to legitimize land tenure in exchange for extinguishing sub-surface rights. The policy was developed to handle a unique situation in the Klondike Valley where there are a number of permanent residents established on placer claims, and considerable land use and development pressures.

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Smoky Landings in Dawson City

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

It's not every year that the Governor General comes to Dawson City. Though we've seen visits by two of them in the last 5 years, that's not the normal state of affairs in a place this size. Governor General Ray Hnatyshyn visited in 1992 to help celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Commissioner's Ball and plant 12 trees for peace in the late, lamented San Cho Park.

This year, Governor General Roméo LeBlanc helped to mark one of our Centennial Years. It would be odd if we saw another GG before the turn of the century.

But this is Dawson, where anything can happen and frequently does.

Half a century ago there was another visit by a Governor General, and that's the one that Bill Bushell recalled one fine afternoon last June, just after the Ton of Gold weekend.

Bushell lived in Dawson from 1946-50 as a signalman with the Royal Canadian Signals Corp., operating out of a radio station on Front Street, just across from the present offices on the Klondike Sun. He had served with the armed forces in the Italian campaign and later in central Europe. The Yukon beckoned just after the war, and he reenlisted with the express intention of being sent to one of the oldest signals offices in western Canada, the one here in Dawson.

By coincidence, Lord Alexander, who had been in charge of Bushell's unit in Italy was appointed as the last non-Canadian Governor General of Canada in 1946. In 1948 or 49 he decided it was time to hold a Northern Tour.

Bushell, as the most recently active member of the corps here, was tagged to be in charge of the military end of the visit. Other members at the station had been with the corps longer, but only he had seen active service overseas during the war.

While the preparations for the visit led to a lot of frayed nerves, no one had counted on that summer being a major fire season. Alexander was to travel to Dawson by air, and this is where the trouble began.

It wasn't that planes couldn't land at the airport that summer; it's just that finding it was a bit tricky and required the pilots to have some faith in the members of the signal corps.

The pilots of Canadian Pacific Airlines had that kind of faith and were willing to take their directions from the ground. Bill Bushell describes the rather unorthodox process in this manner.

"I'd go out onto the boardwalk. The aircraft would fly overhead and I would see them through the smoke. Generally they couldn't see the ground and would ask for direction."

Bushell would say, "I have you in sight. Continue to fly on course." Then he would watch until the plane moved north over Moosehide and tell the pilot to make a 180? turn left.

"Come sharp and come back. Drop down quickly. I can see you."

Following these directions, the commercial planes would end up dropping down over the Yukon River to the point where they could at last see Dawson and the river. They could also see the mouth of the Klondike and it was easy then to follow that south to where they could see the airport and land.

"C.P. Air pilots would do this all the time and land pretty much on schedule," Bushell recalls. So he was surprised when the air force pilots checking out the approach in the smoky weather balked at his suggestions.

Rather than come in blind they would head back to Whitehorse. There were perhaps three practice runs to see if they could bring the Governor General to the Dawson, and the first two times the landing was aborted. Air force pilots had a regulation that told them not to land when they couldn't see the ground. Sensible enough if there was no one to assist, but in this case it was getting in the way of the trip.

On the final run there was a senior officer on the plane and he took responsibility for bending the regulations. As Bushell heard it later, "Some of the big shots were upset that their pilots wouldn't land when commercial pilots were doing it all the time."

In the event, the visit went off without a hitch. Lord Alexander reviewed the local Legion and the Signal Corp in front of the Royal Alexander Hotel and all went well.

(DD Note: Anyone who can nail down the year of this event, please let us know. Neither John Gould nor Flo Whyard was able to come closer than that, even though Flo was in charge of a tea for him in Yellowknife on that same swing across the Arctic. None of the federal information services were able to add to this.)

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Mush On, Gene Dubois

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

Friends and family were saddened to hear, in early August, that one of Dawson's truly unique characters, Gene Dubois, had taken his own life in his cabin at Granville. He was just 56 years old.

Dubois was raised in St. Paul, Alberta and came from a mixture of French, Irish and Mohawk ancestry. He blamed the latter strain for his love of wild places. "It's given me ... my genetic instinct for going back to the bush. For me it's always been the wilderness..."

That helps to explain how Gene uprooted himself and moved to the Yukon, coming first in the winter of 1966 to work on the building of the Clinton Creek asbestos mine, and returning in the summer 11 years later via the Yukon River "in a 7 man airforce survival raft with no equipment and almost no money."

The wanderlust that took him from place to place also resulted in a plethora of jobs: cowboy, farmer, logger, sawmill operator, blaster, truck driver and oil rig swamper, to name a few. Settling into Dawson Gene became a trapper/fisherman, with a reputation for singing a mean tune in the local bars (and music festivals in Dawson and Whitehorse) and partying hard.

He once characterized himself as being the fellow who arrived at the bar broke and sang for his drinks. In the 1990s he would turn his battles with alcohol into a rather stark play, "Whiskey", a meditation on the damage which alcohol has done to aboriginal peoples. He produced this with the assistance of the Tr'ondek Hwech'in First Nation.

Over the years here he added butcher, tour guide, ferry operator and writer to his resumé. In 1983 he became nationally famous while living up to his local nickname of "Crazy Gene" by mushing the mail from Dawson to Quebec City.

It was a 5,000 mile cross-Canada ordeal that took him from Dawson City to the side door of the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City. It took him from August 20, 1982 until February 23, 1983. He started out with rubber tires on his sled but ended up on regular runners, carrying 500 specially stamped envelopes to help celebrate Dawson City's 80th anniversary.

"It was the longest one man mail run carrying the mail the full distance with the same dogs," Gene recalled during our interviews in 1993. "I made it with 9 of the 10 dogs I left the Yukon with and 8 of the 12 I left Dawson with."

It was in that same interview that he revealed his deeper motivation for doing the run.

"I came back here with the idea of makin' big tracks, so my kids would know what I'd done, 'cause I was divorced already. Mainly that mail run was done for my children, which I never told the news media, 'cause I didn't want 'em to be bothered. This was kept a secret for a long time, but is out now. Just the kids knew about it then and they had their own newspaper clippings and everything else. I met 'em 2 years ago (fourteen years after the separation) and they did have that memory, so it worked."

"When he found his kids it was just the greatest thing," ex-wife Marie Gogo recalled in a recent interview from Toronto.

His son, Jeff, subsequently moved to the Yukon, where he has now lived for about 5 years.

Gene's yearning to make big tracks also had something to do with a need to be accepted by people, to prove himself. Gogo and good friend Lee Woodley agree that Gene lived his life plagued by the memories and fears brought on by a rough childhood. He did not like to be alone, except in the bush, and later on, not even there, really.

Gene's death inspired a lot of inquiries both in Dawson and at the Whitehorse Star. When would there be an obituary? Why were we taking so long to celebrate his life? Probably because it was so hard to believe that this life was over.

Aside from from his music, his cross-Canada mushing, his writing (the play and a number of humorous short stories that went under the heading, "My Granpa Said So"), Gene touched people in a number of personal ways.

Tom Naughton, a former employee at Klondike National Historic Sites, e-mailed the following from Winnipeg.

"Since I left Dawson it has taken me a number of years to find and develop a friendship where I can talk about anything. It is curious that Gene and I could talk like that 5 minutes after we first met."

I found him the same. I first interviewed Gene when he was starting the annual kids' ice fishing derby, which has gone on to become a tradition here under the sponsorship of the Yukon Order of Pioneers. It was a lot of work to get the thing under way and run it for the first several years until it proved itself, but he did it because he thought it would be good for people.

After that, Gene and I seemed to be able to talk about nearly anything. We discussed our pasts, our totally different lifestyles, our enjoyment of writing and music. When it came time to do a 20th anniversary piece on his cross-Canada run, he was the soul of cooperation.

I last spoke to him at Klondike Kate's, probably a week before he died. He was happy to be working with heavy equipment on the highway crew, doing something with a challenge to it.

He had a big heart. Lee Woodley speaks of his special affinity for the young, and how he had all the time in the world for them.

Tom Naughton writes of his generosity: "All the time I knew Gene he had money troubles. Every time he got money someone else needed it and he always helped them out. So many people owed him money and so few paid him back. But he never worried about it. If a friend was in need THAT was most important."

Gene suffered from chronic back problems after being hit by a tree years ago while logging, and had had knee troubles more recently. He lived with a lot of pain, both physical and emotional, that he rarely showed people. One can only surmise that it finally got to be too much for him on that sad day, August 2, 1997.

Yukon artist and publisher Jim Robb, was one of those who pushed for this piece to get written. He saw Gene as being one of the special people that help make the Yukon stand out.

"He's clearly one of the Colourful 5%," Robb said. "They broke the mould when they made Gene. His mush from Dawson to Quebec City was a one-of-a-kind thing. It was epic. Who else but Gene would do it?"

Who but Gene would have done a lot of things? Who indeed?

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The Persistence of Vision

by Dan Davidson
Sun Staff

Bill Bushell was a dedicated amateur photographer who shot extensively in and around the Dawson area during his four years here.

Bill and his son, Kerry, came back last summer to renew a lot of old memories. Among the things they hoped to see was the sight at the left, the final resting place of the Yukon River paddle wheelers. Much to their surprise they couldn't seem to spot it.

Current residents will see the difficulty immediately. The boats have collapsed in upon themselves a bit more each year, while the surrounding brush has grown ever taller and thicker.

Small wonder they could not see now what was once so evident. It has now been nearly 20 years since I first saw the graveyard, and it is no very little like it was in 1978. Small wonder that it is even less like it was in 1950.

Bill's Dawson photos are now a part of the Dawson City Museum collection, where he felt they belonged for the community to see.

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Net Mail: It's Been a Long Time

Dear Editor:

Just wanted to drop a line to say that I enjoy reading the articles in the Klondike electronic paper. It's one of only a few connections I have in my links with my past life.

The last time I was in Dawson was in Spring 1961 (twas a bit ago) and I have never forgotten that week. We took in the play there (2 nights in a row just to make sure we didn't miss anything). Visited all the gold mines and rode up and down the Yukon on the Klondike (I believe that was her name). We had been to Dawson before that -- but that week was special -- it was our honeymoon.. Keep on publishing.

Regards,

Bill Pitt
Baltimore, Maryland
pitcrew@clark.net

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