The first Hougen's store was an agency selling Rawleigh products and Fuller brushes. It was located on the corner of 2nd Avenue and Wood Street where the Justice Building is today. After several years of sailing around the world in square-rigger sailing ships, Berent Hougen walked and rafted to Dawson City, Yukon. After three years in Dawson City, he migrated to the gold fields at Cripple Creek and Ophir in Alaska. He returned to Norway in 1913 where he met and married Margrethe. In 1914, Berent and Margrethe Hougen immigrated to Canada.
In 1942, Odin Hougen was a cook with a survey crew working on the Alaska Highway. Subsequently, he operated the door to door Rawleigh Products Agency. When he left Whitehorse in early 1944 to join the Canadian navy, his father Berent Hougen took over the Agency.
Many American school students were sons and daughters of people who worked for Standard Oil of California. Standard Oil of California built the oil refinery in Whitehorse which opened on April 30th and quickly closed as the oil was no longer needed for the war efforts. The refinery was dismantled and trucked to the newly discovered oil field near Leduc, Alberta. The four inch pipeline which ran from Norman Wells, NWT to Whitehorse, Yukon was also dismantled and shipped to Alberta.
In 1944, the Lambert Street School at Third Avenue and Lambert Street is no longer large enough to accommodate the growing enrollment. High school students are moved to a two-story wartime building. It was previously used by Dowell Construction, one of the contractors that built the Alaska Highway, as office space. The Lambert Street School was built in 1902 at a cost of $2740.
The '98' Hotel building is visible in the background of this scene at Second Avenue and Wood Street. The building had many lives. It was a nightclub, a roller skating rink and eventually a hotel and bar. Across the street was the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals offices and single residence. The R.C.C.S. provided communication throughout the North.
Rolf Hougen's father arrived in the Yukon in the summer of 1906 via the White Pass railroad. Not inside a rail car mind you. Rather, Berent Hougen walked along the tracks from Skagway with a pack on his back. It took him five days to reach Whitehorse. He had gone to sea at age 14 on a square rigger ship and sailed around the world twice with a two-year stop in Australia before heading for the Klondike.
In Whitehorse, he built a log raft and headed down the Yukon river to Dawson where he got work with the big dredging companies. Berent stayed in the Klondike three years, and then moved to Cripple Creek, Alaska where he and a partner operated a hotel for a few years.
In 1913, he sold out and returned to Norway. There, he met and married his wife Margrethe and the following year, they emigrated to Canada. The dream of the Yukon stayed with Berent and in 1944, he returned with Margrethe and the youngest of his seven children, a fourteen-year old boy named Rolf.
With the arrival of the Alaska Highway, the Yukon was once again booming. In 1944, the Hougen's opened a small store selling Rawleigh products and photographic supplies.
Berent worked on the highway, while Margrethe, with young Rolf's help after school, ran the store. In 1946, they moved from Wood Street and Second Avenue to the White Pass Hotel building.
In 1947, grade twelve graduate Rolf took over the full-time management of the company and in 1949, Hougens became a real department store with the acquisition of a much larger building on Main Street.
In 1952, fire raged through the building which was partially destroyed. Undaunted, the resourceful Hougens bought the bowling alley next door and built a larger store.
Still, it wasn't all work and no play for young Rolf in the early days. He was one of the founders of the Young People's Association. He had an interest in photography and took pride in photographing, among other things, the YPA soft ball team of which I was once bat boy.
In 1955, Rolf married Margaret Van Dyke of Edmonton and the couple embarked on a four-month honeymoon to Europe. Back in Whitehorse, they began a family that grew to six children and eighteen grandchildren.
True to his civic spirit, Hougens sponsored junior hockey teams. In the mid-fifties, I was a member of the Hougens team that won the juvenile championship. Yes, there is a Hougen photo to prove.
The fifties were a time of change. The isolated Yukon began to take on modern amenities such as cable television with Rolf Hougen as a member of the founding fathers of WHTV. It was a primitive television operation by any standards; broadcasting on just one black and white channel for four hours a day. The prerecorded programs were six months old. By 1965, the programs delivered on tape by truck, were only a week old.
Over the next twenty years, the forward thinking Hougen put his money into the Yukon. He developed the Klondike Broadcasting Company, owned the local Ford dealership, and the Arctic Investment Corporation, one of the few investment firms that my older brother, a devout family man without a big income, would trust because, he said, it was owned by Rolf Hougen.
In 1976 Margaret and Rolf took the family to France to live for a year in order for the children to experience the Cultures of Europe and to learn the French language. Not long after returning, Rolf was asked to serve as the Honourary French Consul for the Yukon for which, subsequently, the President of France appointed him an "Officer of the Ordre National du Merite".
In 1978, Rolf was the driving force behind Cancom, the Canadian Satellite Communications system that delivers multi-channel radio and television signals to more than two thousand remote communities in Canada. It may have been the most involved and time-consuming endeavour of his illustrious career.
At the time, his proposal to the CRTC involved a whooping thirty eight-million dollars to set up and operate and the system would not make a profit for the first four years. While it almost sent him to the poor house, it worked and Rolf became a recognized visionary on the national scene.
But Rolf Hougen's life is measured in more than business success. His Yukon first attitude helped insure the SS Klondike was moved from its shipyard location to Rotary Park in 1966. He also helped to make sure the White Pass railway's Yukon sector was not sold for scrap when the company ceased operations in the early 1980s.
He was president and founding member of the Whitehorse Board of Trade; chairman and founding member of the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous; the Founding Chairman of the Yukon Foundation, and is a member of the Yukon Order of Pioneers.
Nationally, he has served on the board of directors of many large corporations and is former Chairman of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
Little wonder Rolf Hougen is an Officer of the Order of Canada.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin