|The 25th Annual Percy DeWolfe dogsled race begins in Dawson City. Photo by Dan Davidson|
Welcome to the March 30, 2001 edition of the online Klondike Sun, which reproduces a selection of the 33 photographs and 30 articles which were in the 24 page March 27 hard copy edition.
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by Dan Davidson
How often does it happen that a musher wins both the rookie award and finds his name gong on the first place antler trophy in the Percy DeWolfe Memorial Mail Race. It may be a rare thing, but Yukon Quest veteran Peter Butteri of Tok, Alaska, made it look quite easy on Friday afternoon.
Butteri's team breezed into Dawson and pulled up at the Visitors' Reception Centre at 1400 (3 p.m. to us civilians) hours on Friday, twenty-five minutes ahead of second place runner Brian MacDougall, who usually wraps this race when he's in it.
The dogs stood there patiently, tails wagging and heads alert, waiting to be fed but not at all anxious about it. Butteri received a few congratulations from the crowd and then insisted that he had to get to his dogs. While he talked to them, petted them, led them to his truck and mixed up their food an water, there was one question that was waiting to be asked.
How did he do it?
"I wish I knew," said the pleased musher after the banquet on Saturday. "It's probably not something I could repeat. Everything just clicked this weekend."
Butteri scored his victory with an impressive run of twenty hours and fifty-one minutes, taking home the big $5,700 prize for his effort.
He was at pains to point out in his acceptance speech that not all of the trail was new to him. He's seen the Dawson to Forty Mile stretch 7 or 8 times now - sometimes, he said, at a very slow pace.
"You could have knocked me over with a feather," Butteri said. "I didn't come here expecting to win. I knew I had a strong team but I didn't think I had the front end to win this race. It was a big surprise.
"I wouldn't let myself even think that I might win the race until I came back through Forty Mile there."
Someone at the site told him that he might just win if he wasn't careful.
"I started thinking, 'Yeah, well, I haven't seen Brian all day' and that maybe I could, but up until then I wasn't going to let myself believe that it could happen."
Butteri said that he and his wife, Amy, have both been wanting to run this race for some time, but Yukon Quest burnout has kept them from it. Until his wife got a steady job recently, it was still a toss-up as to who would run it this year, but the Percy DeWolfe Main Race was on their agenda from the time they decided to take a year off the Quest.
As it turned out, Peter ran the race this year. Next year, he said, it may well be Amy's turn.
For Butteri the race was great. He was pleased with the route down the, which he said was about as good as it could get in his opinion, and he made it back before the wind began to pick up on Friday afternoon, so he didn't have that to contend with.
He ran the race on a sprint sled he owed from his sister, foregoing the use of his usual Quest equipment.
"It was really nice. It handled really well and was light. With the way the trail was I had worried about breaking it, but it was ideal for the trail we had."
Indeed the only problem he found along the way was that the handlebars one sled were also sized for his sister, and he was nursing a sore back on Saturday night.
by Dan Davidson
The first musher out of the gate for the annual Percy DeWolfe Memorial Mail Run was also the last of the pack to return this year.
Dave Wilson arrived just in time to collect the Red Lantern, right in the middle of the presentations at the awards banquet on Saturday night.
"I was gonna turn back at Fortymile 'cause I was having so much trouble, but John (Schandelmeier) was the one who said, 'You've gotta take the mail in. You've got the pouch.' It took me a while, but I got there."
The first musher out always wears the number two bib and carries the honorary mailbag to the U.S. Post Office in Eagle, where the stamps are ceremonially cancelled. These enveloped are later sold to collectors as a fund raiser for the race.
Wilson figures his lead dog turned around at least 200 times, "but she finally did bring me home - because they all quit down there, about 15 miles from home."
There were a lot of laughs at Wilson's expense, but his friends were laughing with him, too. Several had had problems with females in heat, and all of them have had trips where everything seemed to go wrong.
Lots of things went right for the race this year, and most of the mushers congratulated the race committee on organizing the biggest, most expensive race ever without having very many foul-ups.
With a record 27 teams on the trail this year the banquet, set for about 140 people, finally outgrew the Downtown Hotel conference room and had to be held at Diamond Tooth Gerties.
Wolfville, the Iron Man mail carrier's home town, sent along a special tribute plaque and letter in honour of the anniversary run. Newly re-elected Mayor Robert Stead had hoped to be able to attend the race himself, but had not been able to convince his new council of the need.
Carol McCauley, herself a one time Wolfville girl, acted in his stead (his choice of words) in making the presentation to Acting Mayor Aedes Scheer.
In addition, Percy DeWolfe junior, the 85 year old son of the race's founder, was on hand to present the awards to the top three mushers, with a little help from Joanne and Dick Van Nostrand, the owners of the Downtown Hotel, the race's lead sponsor.
Peter Butteri captured first spot on his rookie attempt (see accompanying interview) with a time of 20 hours and 51 minutes. His name will go on the moose antler trophy and his prize was $5700.
Brian MacDougall usually wins this race when he's in it, but this year he had to settle for second spot, bringing him $4,000, which is what he took home for first place last year. His time was 21:16.
Third place, and $2600, went to John Schandelmeier, another veteran of the race, who came in with a time of 21:27.
by Dan Davidson
Louise Profeit-LeBlanc was in Dawson recently to present her story, SHADA. The story is inspired by and somewhat based on the life of her grandfather Joe Henry, although "Shada," a word with an unknown meaning, was actually, she says, the name of Joe's father.
"SHADA" came out of a commission in 1999 from the Vancouver Storytelling Festival. The task was to tell tales of centenarians. Joe Henry was approaching 101 at the time.
"The conditions of this storytelling was to be such that we would capture memories of the individual, but to create our own story of those stories," she told her capacity audience in the Tr'on-dek Hwëch'in Cultural Centre on March 10.
So the story he has created has elements of Joe and Annie Henry in it, but it's not about them so much as informed by them.
The story she tells is of a elderly man reminiscing about some of the highlights of his 100 years. He recalls hunting in the days before the rifle. He remembers his first meeting with the girl who would become his wife, about whom he had dreamed before he met her. He remembers their early days together and the death of a child, which drives a wedge between them for a couple of years.
Impishly, he thinks about how people don't actually know what they think they know. How can they? No calendars in those days.
He remembers life in the Blackstone region, Fort McPherson, and finally the relocation to Moosehide, where many of their eventual 12 children were to grow up. He speaks of disease and hard times, and also of good ones, serious business enlivened by wry humour.
Profeit-LeBlanc relates the story in a quietly accented voice which seems to be talking directly to each member of her audience, encouraging each person to relate to the story.
Her narrator tells about working on the Dempster Highway, about finding and moving Jack London's cabin, about travelling with Dick North to California about coping with life outside of the Yukon.
In the end of course, her narrator falls prey to old age. Eyes go. Ears not so good. "Nothing good to hear anyway."
The audience is enthralled, but it is easy to see why there could be confusion about what parts of the story are real and what parts aren't.
This is a difficult distinction, and some members of the Henry family are not comfortable with it even now. There is, for instance, a scene in the story where a baby named Peter is accidentally killed in the night when his mother rolls on him. There was a man named Peter Henry, son of Joe and Annie, who is now deceased, but he did not die in childhood in this way, nor was he the firstborn of their union.
Profeit-LeBlanc was at pains before and after her telling of SHADA, to emphasize the role of artistic license in her story, but Percy Henry, himself an elder now, and his wife Mabel, still feel that the differences are not made clearly enough, and that people who do not know the actual family history may be confused by SHADA, just as some members of the family are confused.
These concerns do not take away from the charm of the story, which is undeniable, or the skills of its author and presenter, which are formidable. SHADA is a powerful tale, well worth the hearing, and greatly appreciated by the audience which heard it here in Dawson that evening.
by Dan Davidson
Eric Zalitas and Laurie McCrory were feeling pretty tired near the end of the third Trek Over the Top weekend when we sat down for coffee at the Downtown Hotel to talk about the past, present and future of Dawson's accidental winter tourism success.
It's accidental because it started that way in 1993 when 37 members of the Alaska Trailblazers hopped on snow machines and decided to cruise over here from Tok in the middle of the winter and see what was going on. It wasn't being done at the time. Since then it has become what the trek web site calls the "Yukon's Premiere Snowmobiling Event," now in its eighth year and going strong.
The next year Eric (who was stationed here as a Mountie) and his wife hooked up with Dawson's fire chief of that time, Pat Cayen, and tried to make sure that something was organized for the Trailblazers when they reached this end of the ride. One hundred of them took the bait and the Trek, soon to become an established business, was born.
Eric was transferred to Whitehorse, but the Trek connection remained. In 1999, Cayen left the territory for Ontario. leaving Eric and Laurie to carry on the business.
In the interim the trek had grown from one weekend to three, and a return trip to Tok had been added. Destination Dawson is now attracting an average of just over 200 visitors a trip during its three runs, while Destination Tok celebrated had its sixth birthday and took 37 riders to Alaska the day before the main event began.
The trip to Tok breaks the trail for the Dawson run and is intended for the hardier souls. This year they came for the ride from Inuvik and Yellowknife, with two groups from British Columbia and a contingent from Whitehorse and Dawson, including the deputy minister of tourism. Tok now handles the trekkers the same way Dawson does, offering a poker run ski-doo event, and other activities to keep people busy.
Eric is really happy to have the territorial government taking an active interest in winter tourism. It took awhile for the idea to catch on, but after eight years of continuous growth, the Trek can't be seen as just a temporary thing any more.
The first run this year was the largest, at 224. Then came 208 and finally 179. Bookings were a little higher than that, but there are always a few that don't show up.
"There were two that broke down (on the first run) and weren't able to make it," Laurie recalled. "Two guys actually went back to Fairbanks, got another machine and came over the following day."
The 320 kilometre trip is not for the faint at heart, or for people who can't stand the idea of spending 5 to 8 hours on a ski-doo. There are some years where the conditions on the trail have been fairly extreme, but this year was not one of those. In all, two snow machines were lost to the trail in 2001. They went over a steep slide and the riders had to bail out. No one was hurt.
On the Alaska side the trail is groomed, but the Canadian side is still rough. The Moose Mountain Ski Club was going to groom the trail on our side this year, but their equipment wasn't up to the job. They also set up a has depot about 30 miles out of town for those people whose gas tanks can't quite handle the run from Chicken to Dawson. It served the trekkers and became a fund-raiser for Moose Mountain, which is trying to buy a new groomer for the ski hill and for the helping the Trek.
"If we can get that trail groomed," said Eric, " we can increase our numbers to 250. That's our goal."
The Trek does fill most of the available hotel spaces during its run. Both the Eldorado and Downtown hotels open their annexes to accommodate the numbers and the Trek books space in a couple of bed and breakfast spots."
The growth in numbers made that possible. Laurie recalls the early days of the event, when it wasn't quite big enough to make it worthwhile for the hotels.
"In the old days we had lots of rooms with four people in them. They're much happier now."
There were a few changes that had to made for this year's trek. The ice bridge wasn't in its usual place and so the official greeting place ("meet the Mountie and the Fire Chief") had to be moved to Gerties. But then the usual large parking lot opposite Gerties was taken up with the recreation renovations project and so the machines had to be parked near where ever the trekkers were staying.
The Eldorado Hotel has an enclosed parking lot, which made for better security, but the street parking by the Downtown Hotel made for a more impressive picture.
"(The trekkers) love it here," said Eric, "because the people here just open up their arms. They have a great time here."
"Well, that's Dawson," Laurie said, nodding.
While the Trek has undertaken some advertising, its owners find that word of mouth is what has really caused it to grow.
"We have a lot of returns," Eric said. "There's been people who have been on every year since it started. And every return brings a new friend."
Laurie was talking with an airman from Elmendorf air base in Alaska, and he said he was planning to go home and "talk it up." Quite a few military personnel are rotated through Alaska on a regular basis, and many of them lie to make a Klondike experience part of their posting.
Besides that, some of the people who do the trek stay for more than the three or four days. The group from Inuvik arrived in Dawson early for the trek to Tok and left late. A group from British Columbia moved on to Haines Junction and continued their winter fun there.
There are more indirect spinoffs as well. One of the trekkers this year works for the ABC television network in Alaska, and he has expressed interest in doing a Klondike video aimed at the snowmobile market.
Another factor in the Trek's growth seems to be the dedication of its alumni.
"We were in Alaska a few years back in the summer," Laurie recalled. "We were in a restaurant in Fairbanks in July and there was a table of Ford workers, and they started talking about our poker run - in July.
"You go over there and you see them in the summer and they just can't wait. One guy told me, 'I get home and unpack my stuff and I'm thinkin' about next year.'"
With that kind of support, the Trek could go on for a long time.
by Dan Davidson
Half a dozen members of the Klondyke Centennials Society were at the most recent meeting of Dawson's council to announce that rumours of the society's demise were greatly exaggerated.
"We're not in ailing health," spokesman Jon Magnusson told the four members present. "We're fit as a fiddle."
Both Magnusson and senior member John Gould have had some health problems lately, but this should not be confused with the health of the KCS.
Magnusson complained specifically that Mayor Everitt
has been telling people that the KCS was dead or dying, and he reiterated that it's just not true.
Kelly Millar, the group's office manager, clearly resented council's acceptance of what she called a rumour. She said they should have called her office.
"You people were all mad about the Jim Kincaid rumours (when council and its former manager parted company) and you didn't pick up the phone."
Magnusson went through a brief history of the organization, demonstrating that, while the town has put about $300,000 into the operations of the KCS, the organization has brought over $3 million in additional funding into the community. Most if it has been spent here, and the visible evidence, including the Tribute to the Miner statue, the Trans-Canada Trail, landscaping and numerous other projects, can be found all over town.
In discussion, councillors Byrun Shandler and Wayne Potoroka confirmed that they had been led to the conclusion that the KCS was ailing. They were surprised to learn that the KCS had been waiting since last September for answers to letters written to council relating to several projects which the previous council had asked the association to undertake.
These include the completion of the time capsule which is supposed to be installed at the town hall; the placement of "Welcome to Dawson" signs, which have been created for the town; the creation of the first comprehensive Dawson website, which will include every aspect if the community.
Informed by Shandler that certain budget decisions have already been taken and that money is tight, Magnusson replied that this was exactly the sort of information his organization needed.
"If you don't have the money, we'll find it," he stated emphatically.
Magnusson went on to describe in some detail the current relationship, which he called "a triad," which exists among his group, the Klondike Visitors Association and the Dawson City Chamber of Commerce, by which the groups meet regularly and divide up the work which needs to be done to make special events and projects work.
He cited the organization and promotion of the recent spring carnival, "Thaw di Gras," as an example.
by John Tyrrell
After 2 and 1/2 weeks of demanding study and hands-on practice, seven people received certification from the BC Worker's Compensation Board as Level 3 Occupational First Aid Attendants. This is the first time that this course has been offered in Dawson City. OFA3 is an advanced course developed by the BC Worker's Compensation Board to train attendants for work in industry, and, in particular, in remote places and in hazardous occupations. It is the only course accepted for British Columbia and is recognized by the Yukon Worker's Compensation Health and Safety Board as meeting their highest requirements.
The graduates are Mary Henry, Keith Fairweather, Ed Lilley, Jim Van Dusen, Tanya Shuttleworth, Jake Duncan, and Ralph Nordling. The instructor was a local person, Fr. John Tyrrell, who also teaches first aid for the Red Cross and the Emergency Medical Responder course for the Ambulance service. Carol Cahoon, a WCB First Aid and Safety officer from Victoria, was the external examiner. Professional external examiners are used for the Level 3 course to guarantee a uniform standard of achievement is reached for all who are certified no matter where they take the course. The course was offered through the local Yukon College campus and another is anticipated for the same time frame next year here in Dawson.
by John Gould
I went to school in Dawson from 1925 to 1933. The winters were spent in Dawson, the summers we were out at our mine on Nugget Hill on Hunker Creek. The only time we were in Dawson during the summer was on the 17th of August, for the Discovery Day celebrations. If it rained the first part of August we wouldn't be in town as Dad had to work. Dad owned a 1914 Elgin car, which was kind of cranky and wouldn't always work, in that case we went to town by horse and buggy.
We lived in a small log cabin on Harper Street; the cabin is still there, between 7th Ave. and 8th Ave. There were 2 bed rooms, one upstairs in the dormer and one down for our parents and little sister. We lived there until 1930 then moved to a BIG house on the corner of Harper and 5th where the Aurora Inn is now. In this house there were four bedrooms up stairs. In these two houses there was electricity but the water was delivered and poured into a large 50 gallon drum in the kitchen. There was an out house at the back of the house. When we moved into the big house that was when we got skates. There was a big pile of them in the attic, so each of us managed to get a pair that fit. Mine were the long racing type skates.
In those days there was very little automotive traffic; I don't believe there were half a dozen cars operating during the winter months. Only the school bus from Bear Creek, Government, and the dredging company would have vehicles operating. The grocery stores made the winter deliveries with a horse and sleigh. In the evening or on weekends we would take our sleds or toboggans and coast on the street in front of the house or any other street We skated in the Dawson Amateur Athletic Association (D.A.A.A) rink or, if it was busy with a hockey game, some of us, Ronald McCuish, Pierre Berton and brother Bob, and others, would clean off a dredge pond out of town, where the new ball diamond is. There was also a small pond where the Westmark Hotel is on 5th Ave. that we could skate on. We often built a big bonfire and once in a while we roasted marshmallows or wieners. It was great fun.
I and one of my brothers used go up on the hillside and snare rabbits, which we sold to the F.&F. Cafe, where the Westminster beer parlour is now. We got two bits (25 cents) for each rabbit.
Occasionally we would go across the Klondike and hike up the hill, where there was a good trail. This was where an old timer named Charlie Farquarson, lived. He always had hot chocolate and cookies for any visiting youngsters. He only came into town once a week; some times he would take his big telescope and have a look at the movie bill board on the Family Theatre at the D3A, and see what was playing. If he thought he would like the show he went to town.
We also visited a man who lived at the top of the A.C. Trail (Mary McLeod Road now) Earnest Kemp. He was a taxidermist and there were small birds and small animals in his cabin that he had mounted. Rev Fleming, of St Andrews Presbyterian Church, would take a bunch of us on a hike over the river to Sunny Dale to visit the few old timers that lived over there.
At Christmas time my brother Bob and I would take our toboggan down to Winauts store. We would deliver Christmas parcels for him. For this we each got a dollar.
When Eaton's fall catalogue arrived, we perused the two pages of toys picking out what we would like for Christmas, and hoped that they would arrive in in time for Christmas. If it was a cold winter and the rivers froze over early enough so that the overland stages could bring the mail and other supplies from the outside, then maybe we would be lucky.
When spring came there were always lots of ponds around town, many of the streets had deep ditches along side the sidewalks. Also the slough behind St Andrews Church was full of water. We built rafts and would float from 5th Ave. To Front street next to St. Paul's church and then back again. This was the time of the year that all the ponds would have frogs in them; you could hear them croaking all over town.
When the ice went out of the river the fire whistle would blow. If we were in school, out we went and down to the river. The teacher didn't stop us; they also went to watch the ice go. Every once in a while the huge blocks of ice would wreck the White Pass docks.
Later, when the first steamer came round the bend up stream and was in sight of Dawson, the boat would blow its whistle several times. Again the school emptied. Every one in town went down to welcome the first steamer. The same in the fall of the year: every one was down to the docks to wave good by to the last boat, and the passengers that were leaving, many for the winter and some for good.
Many of us children would go and visit the cooks on any of the steamers that came in. There was always a piece of pie. The boats brought fresh fruit that we hadn't had all winter. "Apple" Jimmy Oglow, had a fruit stand across Front Street from the docks and there was fresh fruit of all kinds especially watermelon.
Evening entertainment at home was listening to an Edison gramophone, there was a stack of old cylinder Edison records, with all types of music: hymns, songs like "A Wee Deock and Doris" by Harry Lauder, "the Preacher and the Bear", "Old folks at Home". We also had books. I remember two English ones, Boys Own Annual and Chum.
Dawson's population wasn't that big in those days, possibly 800 plus, but there were 6 hotels open year round, four cafes, two butcher shops, 2 grocery stores, 2 theatres, the Orpheum on Front street and the Family theatre on Queen street in the D3A building. There were also 2 doctors at St Mary's Hospital at the north end of Front Street run by the Sisters of St. Anne.
Of course at that time there were lots of people living out around the creeks at places like Bear Creek, the Arlington, at the mouth of Hunker Creek, Gold Bottom up Hunker, Paris on Dominion, Granville at the junction of Sulphur and Dominion creek, and Grand Forks, on Bonanza ,as well as those who were living along the creeks. There were also a number of Road houses around the creeks: Gene Fournier's at Bear Creek, Skistad's at the Arlington, one at Gold Bottom, Joe Fournier's at the Hunker Summit, one at Paris, down Dominion Creek and at least one at Granville, to name a few.
Every one and every business plus the Government buildings were heated with wood. As a result there were thousands of cords of wood that came into town every fall. Huge rafts would come down the Yukon river and be hauled out on the beach in front of town. There also were a number of wood dealers operating in Dawson, such as Henry LePine, John Sipkus, and "Little" Dave Godin. Wood sold for 12 to 18 dollars a cord, depending on the length. In the fall of the year the buzz saws could be heard cutting wood around town. The average home owner probably needed 10 cords for heating and cooking to see them through the year. The federal building used 100 cords or more; the hotels would use at least 50 cords depending on the size of the hotel. The school also used a lot of wood in its two big boilers
There have been tremendous changes in Dawson over the years, better housing, great improvement to the streets, no more deep ditches full of water a good part of the summer. There have been many bad floods over the years that have done a lot of damage to many of the homes and business establishments, as well as the White Pass steam boat docks. The dyke has helped to control the river, keeping the water out of town. The area on the city side of the dyke is becoming a wonderful area with trees, lawns and flower beds. The streets are nowhere as muddy as it they once were. I like the Dawson of today. The new recreation centre is going to be a great asset to the community. There wasn't one in Dawson when I was a youngster. There was curling, but only for adults. There was no gym in our school. During the summer there was baseball, not the slow pitch, not the softball, but baseball or hard ball as we called it. So it is great to see a rec centre and a swimming pool
With the increase in Dawson's population, with people living across the Yukon, a considerable number of placer mines in the Sixty Mile area, and tourist visitors on the increase it is time that a bridge was built across the river. This winter the river is wide open as it has been a few times in the past number of years.
by Dan Davidson
For many years one of the large display cases in the long hallway called the Bonanza Way outside the gym at the Robert Service School has been home to a display of Yukon birds and animals, mostly provided by Renewable Resources.
This week, thanks to the Physical Education department's share of the profits from the pop machines in the school, the stuffed creatures have gained a backdrop suitable to their homes in life.
Artist Halin deRepentigny spent two days this week creating an impressive mural to help showcase the display, which will be further developed as a diorama with appropriate material on the floor in front of the wall mural.
DeRepentigny provided the mural at a cost of $1,000, which is considerably less than one would pay for a piece of artwork of comparable size. The mural is approximately 20 feet by 8 feet and shows the topography along the Dempster Highway route, painted in autumn colours.
This particular area of the school noted for its art. Ted Harrison's large portrait of the school, painted twelve years ago when the building was new, hangs just around the corner from the display case.
by Dan Davidson
February 1-11, 2001
The sun is returning;
impatience is burning
in each of our hearts, young and old.
It lights up the hills
with a spirit that thrills
and seems, to our eyes, rather bold.
It is almost a shock
on those cliffs, once so dark,
to see that infusion of gold.
From tree and from rock
with each hour of the clock
new, sun brightened details unfold.
"It's coming, it's coming!"
the whole world is humming
as news of the sunlight is told.
From my window it's clear
that it soon will be here
chasing chances of deep winter cold.
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