It’s gone now. The three-story clapboard building on the corner of Second and Main harboured many a Yukon legend. Some were true. Some were almost true. In its day, it was the focal point of the Whitehorse business and social circuit, as was the owner, T.C. Richards.
Today, it’s hard to imagine a place like the Whitehorse Inn. In its heyday, it had everything. The owner, T.C. Richards had a lot to do with that. Thomas Cecil Richards came to the Yukon in 1915 from Vancouver. He was sent by the Burns Meat Packing plant to operate a butcher shop and slaughter house. The historic Burns building was just a few doors down from the Inn on Main Street. The slaughter house was located near the river end of Strickland Street. Hard to believe, but T.C. shipped cattle from Vancouver via the inside passage, and then on board cattle cars on the White Pass. There was never a shortage of fresh meat while T.C. Richards was running Burns.
One year, he even led a cattle drive over the winter road to Mayo and supplied the local T and D’s Store there with Burns meat products. T.C. was no stranger to the overland trail. He operated cat trains on the trail to Dawson in partnership with Deacon Phelps, a lawyer who was the first leader of the elected territorial government back in 1911. Mail and groceries were delivered to the isolated Klondike city by T.C. and his horses.
It was the Whitehorse Inn, however, where Richards conducted his many legendary business affairs - even before he owned it. It was in the snake pit, a small room just off the main floor, in a poker game in the late 40s, that the legend of T.C. Richards really took hold. The stakes were high in the game that night. So high that the owners of the Inn bet the building on a single hand. T.C. called the bet. With his winning poker hand, he became the owner of the Whitehorse Inn. Actually the situation was a little more complicated. T.C. did now own the Inn, but there were other debts to cover. His daughter, Babe, says a loan from the White Pass took care of that.
The Whitehorse Inn, controlled by Richards, had everything… a restaurant, the Blue Owl café, the Inn ballroom, the Blue Room, Yellow Cabs, the beer parlour, a laundry and of course, the snake pit where legendary characters played poker long into the night. The rooms in the Inn were not much by today’s hotel standards, but that didn’t bother T.C. He’d laugh when he said it was his job to give tourists hardships - with modern plumbing.
In his later years, T.C. was rarely seen around town without his big cigar, a white Stetson and, of course, shirt and tie. When he died in November of 1961, his 46 years of service to the growing Yukon Territory came to an end.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
It's not often you get to meet a legendary character who was cremated and lived to tell the tale, but one day, years ago in Whitehorse, I did.
When Sam McGee came to the Yukon around 1898, he had no idea he'd end up a famous Klondike character. Sam came from eastern Ontario to prospect. He lived around Whitehorse and had an account in the Bank of Commerce. One winter's night in Whitehorse, a bank clerk named Robert Service heard some oldtimers telling a strange yarn about a man who was cremated in the boiler of a riverboat locked in the ice of Lake Laberge. Service raced home and feverishly began to write. "There are strange things done in the midnight sun" ... "now Sam McGee was from Tennessee."
With the Cremation of Sam McGee, a legend was born.
Service reportedly took the name Sam McGee from the bank ledger and used it because it rhymed with Tennessee. The steamer trapped in the ice at Lake Lebarge was called the Olive May. Service changed the name to the Alice May.
After living ten years in the Yukon, the real McGee left the Yukon, but he occasionally came back for a visit. In the spring of 1949, as I walked home from the Lambert Street School, I saw an old man sitting on a rocking chair in front of a small cabin on Elliott Street, between Third and Fourth avenues. He was dressed in a tweed jacket, broad brimmed hat and tie. He looked like a friendly gentleman. He also looked right at home at the cabin. It seemed to me that he had been there all of his life.
As I passed by the cabin, the old man said, "Hello what's your name lad?" "Leslie," I said. "Pleased to meet you", he said, "my name is Sam McGee." Here, I thought, sat the man who was never cremated, but instead brought fame and fortune to the bard of the Yukon, Robert Service. But it could not have been the real Sam McGee because he died in Beiseker, Alberta in 1940. His daughter, Mrs Ethel Gramms, said his fame as a man, so sour on the Yukon's cold that he wanted to be cremated, amused him. But he didn't dwell on or try to capitize on that lifelong fame. She also said that her father was never sour on the Yukon.
So who was this man that I met in front of Sam McGee's cabin on that sunny spring day in 1949?
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
See also: The Real Sam McGee
If there ever was a cowboy town in the Yukon, Champagne was it. After all, the community had horses, fences, log buildings like the American west had in the movies - and most importantly - a rodeo.
In the 1950s, Champagne's summer rodeo days were the place to be. I fondly recall my older brother Fred loading up the Chevy with a picnic basket and we’d be off to the rodeo.
No doubt Alex Van Bibber was there - riding the broncos, as he had all his life. The Chambers boys would be there too. Like everyone else, they were competing for something more than prize money. They were competing for the honour of being the best Yukon cowboy. On the rodeo grounds, we kids of the fifties could savor the smell of frying onions ready to be laced on hefty hamburgers. These were the smells of an earlier time that mingled with genuine horse sweat, dust and other delights of a rodeo ground.
Our annual family summer trip to Champagne in the fifties, over the narrow dusty Alaska Highway, was a thing of beauty. I only asked brother Fred if we were there yet, because I wanted to be there as fast as possible. What kid wouldn’t? Champagne has been associated with horses and the cowboy lifestyle since the gold rush when Jack Dalton established his famed Dalton Trail from Haines Alaska to the Klondike.
Dalton wintered his horses at Champagne as well as at his permanent station, called Dalton Post, on the Haines Road. Champagne also figured in a famous Klondike cattle drive.
In 1897, a cowboy named Gordon Bounds drove a herd of about forty cattle to Dawson. He was probably working for Jack Dalton at the time.
When Bounds and his men reached this location with their unruly herd, they thought the worst of their cattle drive to the Klondike was over. So, it is said, they broke open a case of French Champagne and had a rousing party.
But the importance of the stopping place on the Dezadeash River was just beginning. In 1902, Shorty Chambers built a road house and trading post here to serve the prospectors who were heading for the new mining country around Silver City and Burwash Landing on Lake Kluane.
Then in 1942, when the American military was building the Alaska Highway, they followed the old Kluane Wagon road from Whitehorse to Champagne and briefly set up an operations centre for construction north of Whitehorse. At that time, the Alaska Highway ran right through the community.
But in the 1990s, the realignment of the highway meant that it would bypass some distance northeast of the community. So today, if you want to visit Champagne, you can only get there over the old Alaska Highway and the even older Kluane Wagon road.
Hopefully when you go there’ll be a rodeo underway.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
A fire destroys part of the Hougen Store. Fortunately the next door building, a bowling alley operated by Harry Johannes, was recently purchased. The second photo shows people lined up for the fire sale.
The official opening of the Whitehorse High School on 4th Avenue. In attendance: Allen McGregor, Gordon Lee, Commissioner Fred Fraser, Mayor Gordon Armstrong, Brigadier Meuser, Wing Commander Olson, and Aubrey Simmons.
Whitehorse had several gambling establishments. One operated in the Legion on the 2nd floor, one was in the basement of the Capital Theatre and another was behind the Whitehorse Inn. The principle game was a dice game called "Ace Away" introduced from Texas by the U.S. Army. In 1952, after a national media report about these establishments, they were closed down.
A scene on the W.P. & Y.R. Narrow Gauge Railroad at Carcross. The paddlewheeler Tutshi that ran to Ben My Cree every summer is at the docks. The water tower on the left was no longer in use with the introduction of diesel locomotives.
The official opening of the Whitehorse Civic Centre built on property formerly used as a Radio Antenna site. White Pass donated the large tract of land to the city provided it was used for recreational purposes. The 1950 winter carnival raised $12, 000 toward the cost. John Phelps and John Scott designed the arena.
|January 18, 1952
→ January 25, 1952
→ February 8, 1952
|Gordon Armstrong is re-elected Mayor of Whitehorse by acclamation. He takes office April 1, 1952. Aldermen, elected on January 25, 1952, are William Drury, William Hamilton, James Norrington and Thomas Bain. The Council is sworn in by Commissioner Fred Fraser January 31, 1952.|
|January 25, 1952||The King approved the appointment of Vincent Massey as the first Canadian Governor General of Canada. He succeeded Field Marshall Viscount Alexander of Tunis.|
|February 1, 1952||The Kiwanis Club elected the following 1952 officers: President - Keith Johnson; Vice President - J. Hanna; Treasurer - A. Mackay; Secretary - D. Busby; Board of Directors - A. Jones, G. Lines, Wm. Stewart, F. Arnot, J. Gentleman, O. Tingle, and D. White.|
|February 8, 1952||King George VI passes away in his sleep February 6th at Sandringham, the Royal Estate in Norfolk where he was born fifty-six years ago. Princess Elizabeth is proclaimed Queen.|
|February 15, 1952||The annual meeting of the I.O.D.E. elects the following officers: Honorary Regent - Mrs. George Black; Immediate Past Regent - Mrs. L. H. Dennison; Regent - Mrs. H. Seaholm; 1st Vice Regent - Mrs. S. J. McClimon; 2nd Vice Regent - Mrs. L. H. Dennison; Secretary - Mrs. A. McGregor; Treasurer - Mrs. A. McKay; Echoes Secretary - Mrs. O.Tingle; Standard Bearer - Mrs. A. M. Borland.|
|February 22, 1952||Thomas Dickson, the first to patrol the Yukon, passes away at the age of 96.|
|February 22, 1952||It is announced that a branch of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets will be organized in Whitehorse and sponsored by the Lions Club.|
|February 29, 1952||The Junior Chamber of Commerce is presented with a charter.|
|March 21, 1952||The '98 Hotel owned by Harold Dennison, Bob Swanson and Bill Lunde changes hands. The new owner is Henning Madsen of Yellowknife.|
|March 28, 1952||The Civic Centre Association elected the following: President - Mr. Arthur E. Yeulet; Vice President - Mr. James Hanna; Treasurer - Mr. Dave Porter. Mr. Ron Greenslade is the retiring President.|
|April 18, 1952||Brigadier H.W. Love, Canadian Army Commander of the Northwest Highway System, said that as the Alaska Highway reached its 10th anniversary this month it has become, "one of the best gravel roads in the world."|
|May 9, 1952||The Whitehorse Board of Trade elects the following officers for 1952: President - James Smith; Vice President - Rolf Hougen; Secretary - Robert Rowan; Treasurer - Arthur McKay; Executive Officers are George Van Roggen, Mat Nelson, Gordon Lee, Ernie Theed, Arthur Jones, Howard Braden, Bill MacBride and Bob Cousins.|
|May 16, 1952||The Whitehorse Bowling Alley is sold this week to Hougen's Limited. The firm purchased the alley to expand their present store. The 4000 square foot building now features an expanded selection of merchandise. The sporting goods department becomes the "Sports Lodge,” photo products and services are enlarged along with stationery and greeting cards, drug sundries and children's wear to age fourteen.|
|May 16, 1952||Officers elected by the Whitehorse Lions Club are as follows: Past President, Bob Campbell; President, Harold McDonald; Secretary, Odin Hougen; Treasurer, Bert Boyd; 1st Vice President, Leo Lortie; 2nd Vice President, Lawrence Seely; 3rd Vice President, Dick Carswell; Lion Tamer, Owen Williams; Tail Twister, Vic Chapman; Directors: Bill Gordon, Gordon Tubman, Ernie Theed, Matt Nelson.|
|May 23, 1952
→ May 30, 1952
|Young People's Association Sports Day. Yvonne Russell, Janet Bottomley, Sylvia Williams are Queen candidates. Yvonne Russell is elected Queen of the Y.P.A. Sports Day.|
|May 30, 1952||The Junior Chamber of Commerce elects the following officers for the coming year: President, Mr. Charlie Blishen; Vice President, Burnie Moore; Secretary, Ron Sauder; Treasurer, Eric Small.|
|June 13, 1952||Gordon Armstrong and T.C. Richards buy into Atlin mineral claims.|
|June 20, 1952||The President of the W.D. MacBride Museum states that the Museum has been redecorated and that exhibits are being placed therein and will soon be open to the public.|
|June 20, 1952||After four years of construction, the Donjek Bridge is officially opened June 15, 1952. It is the most northerly bridge to be built by the Canadian Army.|
|July 4, 1952||Yellow Cabs is starting a city bus service on July 7. The bus will serve Upper Whitehorse, RCAF areas, airport and D.O.T. houses. Stops will eventually operate throughout the city.|
|July 4, 1952||Work on construction of the Dawson Road starts.|
|July 11, 1952||Tourists Services opens an ultra-modern cocktail bar on July 9th. Tourists’ Services Ltd. have quickly expanded their business ventures in Whitehorse the last couple of years, providing the only tourist camp and trailer facilities in the city. The company has continually tried to cater to the general public, offering services in all branches of their operation. Cal Miller is Manager of the cocktail bar.|
|July 18, 1952||The Hougen's Store is gutted by fire. The building had to be partially pulled down and rebuilt.|
|July 18, 1952||A new drug store was to be opened in the former quarters of the College of Commerce on Main Street, next to the Capital Hotel.|
|July 18, 1952||Magistrate A.H. Gibson, former Commissioner of the Yukon, takes over the Magistrate position formerly held by J. Kerr.|
|July 18, 1952||The Federal Government confirms that Indians do not have "the privilege of voting in the Territorial Election".|
|August 15, 1952||The Whitehorse High School is officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony at the main entrance of the school. The school was acclaimed on a par with new schools being opened in larger cities. The building was constructed by Marwell Construction Co. Ltd., using subcontractors in Whitehorse.|
|August 22, 1952||The Territorial Council for the coming term will be as follows: A.R. Hayes, Carmacks; Alex Berry, Mayo; James Mellor, Dawson; John Phelps, Whitehorse; Fred Locke, Whitehorse.|
|September 12, 1952||The City Council voted to take over the assets of the existing Civic Center Association. It is expected that a committee will be appointed by the city to manage the project.|
|September 12, 1952||The Yukon Mining Company Ltd. elects four Whitehorse men at their annual meeting. They are as follows: Mr. Harold Koffman, Mr. A.J.H. Litzengberger, Mr. Albert Koffman, and Mr. Erik Nielsen.|
|September 12, 1952||A meeting between the new officials of the Yukon Brewery Company and city officials reveals the possibility of the brewery building a million and a half dollar plant in Whitehorse in the next year.|
|September 12, 1952||The sidewalk from Steele Street to the school on Fourth Avenue is paved.|
|September 12, 1952||The City of Whitehorse signs a 20 year exclusive franchise with the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd.|
|September 19, 1952||The Board of Trade set October 27 to November 1 as radio week in Whitehorse. Goal is to raise money for the radio station.|
|September 26, 1952||The Whitehorse Inn opens one of Canada's most modern cocktail lounges. They call it the Rainbow Cocktail Lounge. All equipment and decor were of the latest, modern in every respect.|
|September 26, 1952||The Whitehorse Star is available in Mayo and Keno.|
|October 17, 1952||Chapman's Shoe Store moves their present store from Main Street near Fourth Avenue to Fourth and Wood Street.|
|October 17, 1952||A group of citizens organize the S.P.C.A. in Whitehorse to establish an animal care facility in the city.|
|October 24, 1952||On October 10, 1952, the Whitehorse Rifle and Pistol Club elected the following officers for the year: President, re-elected Mr. G. I. Cameron; Vice President, "Kit" Squirechuk; Secretary, Charlie Rosenberg; Treasurer, Ione Cameron.|
|October 24, 1952||Harold Koffman is elected president by acclamation of the Whitehorse Liberal Association on October 21, 1952.|
|October 31, 1952||An Order-in-Council, passed by the Government of Canada on May 14, 1952, creates the "Eagle Plain and Peel Plateau Reservation".|
|November 14, 1952||Mr. W.G. Brown, former Administrator for the Northwest Territories, has been appointed as Commissioner for the Yukon replacing Fred Fraser.|
|November 14, 1952||G.I. Cameron is appointed Sanitary Inspector of the Yukon.|
|November 14, 1952||The Yukon Ski Runners elect the following officers for the coming year: President, Odin Hougen; Vice-President, Emie Viegel; Secretary, Barbara Mamen; Treasurer, Maisie Stegelman.|
|November 21, 1952||On November 10, 1952, the newly formed Humane Society elects the following officers for the coming year: President, Mrs. B. Craig; First Vice-President, Jean Mutch; Second Vice-President, R. J. Friend; Treasurer - Mrs. G. Dickson; Secretary - Mrs. Wilson.|
|November 21, 1952||Mr. Bert Boyd, President of the Whitehorse Curling Club, announces that, except for the installation of the lights in the clubroom, this year's work on the new curling club is completed. A caretaker was hired and flooding operations on the rink have started.|
|November 28, 1952||The B.C.-Yukon chamber of Mines held their annual meeting. Forty members were present. President, Mr. Gordon Lee; First Vice-President, Gordon Dickson; Second Vice-President, Pete Versluce; Secretary-Treasurer, A.K. Farley.|
|November 28, 1952||The Morley River Lodge and Filling Station, at Mile 777, Alaska Highway, is destroyed by fire on November 27, 1952. Clyde Wann owned the lodge and it was partially covered by insurance.|
|December 13, 1952||Santa arrives at Hougen's Toyland.|
|December 19, 1952||The Whitehorse Lodge B.P.O. Elks, No. 306, hold their annual installation meeting at the Elks Hall and the following officers were elected: Exalted Ruler - Leo Lortie; Immediate Past Exalted Ruler - Frank Mikusch; Leading Knight - Dick Carswell; Loyal Knight - Jack Connelly; Lecturing Knight - Don MacPhail; Esquire - George Webber; Historian - Reg Brynlund; Chaplain - Andy Borland; Inner Guard - Frank Dodsworth; Tyler- Chuck Schram; Trustees - Hugo Seaholm, J. J. Elliot, H. Brunlees.|
- The "Eager Beaver", a U.S. and Canadian military exercise is staged at Silver Creek, north of Haines Junction.
- Yukon Government imposes a twenty-five cents a bottle tax on liquor. Funds are used for recreational purposes.
- Gambling clubs in Whitehorse are closed down.
- A nickel discovery at Quill Creek near Burwash is announced.
- Captain George Black proposes building a Yukon brewery.
- Hougen's Limited sponsors a children's fashion show in the ballroom of the Whitehorse Inn.
- Them Kjar is Director of Game and Publicity of the Yukon
- Hougen's Sports Lodge sells Peterborough Boats and Martin Outboards.
- W.D. (Bill) MacBride is elected President of the Yukon Historical Society.
- The Lions Club sponsors the formation of Air Cadets.
- Reverend Harold Lee is killed in a car accident. He had founded the Baptist Indian Mission School.
- The new Whitehorse Civic Centre opens.
- “Yukon Gold” another Hollywood motion picture featuring the Yukon as a supposed background. “Savage thrills in the lawless Klondike! Snarling Vengeance unleashed! Thrill-fanged adventure sprawled in the bitter, brawling Yukon.”
- In 1952, the Yukon license plate introduces the miner panning for gold, complete with a gold nugget in the pan. It is white on sky blue. The gold miner is on the left side and the slogan "Land of the Midnight Sun" on the top strip. This was also the first Yukon plate to have "Canada" on the bottom under "Yukon YT.”