When I was a school kid growing up on Strickland Street, colourful characters were the norm. It was not unusual to find my Dad and Wigwam Harry sharing a story or two at our kitchen table.
Andy Hooper could be seen hauling another old building to some new lot with this American army lift truck. BuzzSaw Jimmy was always around cutting trees with his homemade wood sawing contraption.
Tuffy Cyr roamed the back alleys collecting the contents of the ubiquitous honey buckets and dumping them into a home-built container made of 45-gallon drums. Characters were...well, to me they were normal. Nothing out of the ordinary.
And at the end of Strickland, near the hill leading to the airport, in a tiny shack, lived an old lady I seldom saw.
Her name was Lucille Hunter. Born in Michigan, she married Charles Hunter when she was just 16. In 1897, when she was 19, the couple joined the Klondike Gold Rush, travelling to the Yukon via the Stikine Trail.
The journey was remarkable for two reasons: she and her husband were among a handful of African-American stampeders who came to the Klondike, and Lucille was nine months pregnant at the time. In Teslin, Mrs. Hunter gave birth to a baby girl whom she named...Teslin.
For the local Native people, the hoard of white prospectors in their midst was an unusual sight, but never before had they seen a black person. Not quite sure what to call the Hunters, they simply described them as "just another kind of white person".
Charles and Lucille travelled by dog team to the Klondike. To undertake this journey in winter, Charles may have had experience as a trapper or miner.
Without survival skills, the young couple would have perished in the -60° temperatures over hundreds of miles of wilderness. They arrived in Bonanza Creek in February 1898, well before the main throng of stampeders arrived. Here they staked three claims. Lucille worked alongside her husband digging for gold, while raising daughter Teslin in extremely primitive conditions.
A few years later, the Hunters moved to Mayo where Charles staked and worked some silver claims. In June 1939, Charles died at age 65, leaving Lucille alone with her grandson, Buster, to carry on mining. Her daughter Teslin had died earlier, leaving Lucille to raiseBuster.
In 1942, when Alaska Highway construction began, Lucille and Buster moved to Whitehorse. Lucille set up a laundry business while Buster made the deliveries around town.
A few years later, Lucille moved to the tiny clapboard house on 8th Avenue, where she lived alone. As kids, we used to ride our toboggans down the nearby hill and we could hear the sound of the radio coming from inside as we slid silently past her home.
Mrs. Hunter had gone blind, but kept up with the world and local affairs through the constant playing of her radio.
The small home, her many visitors said, was filled with stacks of newspapers, magazines, and other flammable stuff stored dangerously close to her wood stove, and friends worried about the danger of fire.
One fateful night the house caught fire. Firefighters had a difficult job breaking through the security locks to rescue Lucille whose clothes were ablaze when she was rescued.
She recovered from minor burns, but her little house on Strickland Street was gone so she moved to a small basement apartment downtown, where she continued to entertain guests with her fascinating stories and, of course, listened to the radio until her death in 1972 at the age of 93.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
The year was 1967. Everyone in the country was celebrating a big birthday. Canada was 100 years old. It seemed a fine time for giving, and sharing the bounties of the big land. In Whitehorse, City council was not so much in the mood for sharing as for taking. It seems that parking was becoming a problem in the growing frontier town of about ten thousand. Taking a page from really big cities, the city council decided to install parking meters on Main Street. What would they think of next? Traffic lights, no doubt.
By the spring of 1968, the meters were ready to accept a nickel for a half-hour stay. The meters did not produce much revenue until 1972, when Whitehorse hired an energetic local woman, Valerie Matechuk, to patrol the meters and hand out two-dollar tickets to overtime parkers.
Hot-footing it around her circuit at least twice an hour, Valerie issued thousands of dollar's worth of citations. Soon downtown merchants were crying foul - that the meters would drive business to the boondocks, wherever they were. The dreaded meters were here to stay, and the complaints rolled in.
The meter controversy seemed as endless as ice fog at fifty below. So in 1972, Bob Erlam, publisher of the Whitehorse Star, whose storefront was on Main Street, decided to take matters into his own hands.
He said the city's meter maid was being over-zealous. Erlam claimed that the meters had already paid for themselves, were driving away business and were no longer needed to solve over-parking and traffic problems. Maybe he was right. City income from the meters during the first nine months of 1972 was more than $ 40,000.
Bob took an ad out in his paper. It was for a job. Twelve people applied for the position of "anti-meter maid", who would make the same circuit as Valerie, the meter maid, and feed the "almost expired meters" with nickels, instead of issuing tickets. The salary of $ 90 per week, plus expenses, would be paid by Erlam, and Hougen's Ltd., along with contributions from grateful non-ticketed motorists.
Twenty-year-old Joanne Schrioch got the job and soon became the town's newest heroine. She started work on November 8, 1972, armed with a supply of nickels and leaflets explaining her job to vehicle owners, and suggesting donations. At one point in her career, she had put coins in 900 nearly-expired meters. To avoid any conflict with the law, she didn't touch the fully expired ones, leaving those to Valerie's mercy.
Joanne's anti-meter activity got a warm reception in frosty Whitehorse. She even got along well with Meter Maid Matechuk. Often the meter and anti-meter maids were seen having lunch together.
How much was accomplished in this meter stage may never be known, but Whitehorse did get a lot of outside publicity, including a lengthy story in Time Magazine in the summer of 1973.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
No one is quite sure when he arrived in the Yukon, or how he got here for that matter. Some say he came over the Chilkoot Pass at the beginning of the Klondike rush. What is certain is that he got no further than Carcross, and there he lived out his days. He also spent some time at Conrad City on Tagish Lake with Captain James Alexander, who owned the Engineer Mine. But poor Captain Alexander was a victim of bad timing when he chose to leave the Yukon on the last boat of the year in October 1918. That boat out of Skagway was the S.S. Sophia, the CPR liner that hit a rock and sank in the Lynn Canal, carrying all 353 people to their deaths.
Luckily, Captain Alexander had left Polly at the Caribou Hotel in Carcross before embarking on his fateful final voyage. Alexander called him Polly, no one know why, or how old Polly was when he arrived at the Caribou hotel, but some guessed as old as fifty years. Now Polly isn’t much of a name for a male, kind of like a boy named Sue. But like the song, Alexander had prepared a boy named Polly for the rough life to come. From 1918 to 1972, Polly lived at the Caribou, the most famous hotel in the Yukon. There he survived blizzards, fires, drunks and insults for almost fifty-five years. In the hotel, Polly sang opera, spewed profanity, and bummed drinks for half a century. That wasn’t hard to do since he usually stayed in the restaurant, which was just outside the tavern door. He liked Scotch, but would take a beer if that was going around. Lord knows he never paid for a drink, and would spout some pretty foul language if a tavern patron passed him by.
When I knew Polly in the 1960s he showed no signs of his age, nor of his unhealthy habits. By then he had come to dislike alcohol, and even the smell of beer coming from the nearby tavern would sometimes result in a flow of foul language. That’s why Polly was a major attraction at the old Caribou. He was even featured in major national Canadian Press news story, which resulted in hoards of journalists arriving at the Caribou to see if Polly really existed. They found, to their delight, that he did. And so when Polly died at the hotel in November of 1972 it became a story of international significance. A funeral train from Whitehorse to Carcross carried many Yukon dignitaries, while carloads of Polly fans arrived from all over the territory. Johnnie Johns, the famous hunting guide from Carcross performed the eulogy, and sang ‘I love you truly’. Then, with special dispensation from the territorial government, Polly was laid to rest in the Pioneer Carcross Cemetery where Skookum Jim, Dawson Charlie, and others are buried. You see, Polly needed special permission because it’s not usual for a parrot to be considered a Yukon Pioneer.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
Top Photo: Marg with fish trap in the background
Bottom Photo: Rolf with Barracuda caught in Bermuda waters
Top Photo: A scene in Tokyo
Bottom: On the Great Wall, Marg and Rolf on the left, Peoples Liberation Army soldiers, right.
|January 13, 1972||The University of Manitoba studies life in Whitehorse. A preliminary report shows that 18 per cent would not leave the Yukon under any circumstances.|
|February 3, 1972||Chappie and Marrie Chapman of Watson Lake are chosen as Mr. and Mrs. Yukon.|
|February 10, 1972||The U.S. government abandons its plans to join Canada in reconstruction of the Alaska Highway between Dawson Creek and the Alaska border.|
|February 14, 1972||The Yukon Territory joins the 10 provinces and the N.W.T. in the possession of a mace symbol. The Governor-General of Canada Roland Michener presents the mase to the Council of the Yukon Territory on March 6, 1972. Gov. Egan of Alaska & Commissioner Stu Hodgson of NWT attend along with Commissioner Smith and Jean Chretien. The design of the mace was created by Corporal Jim Ballentyne of the RCMP. His was the only one submitted. The competition for the design was talked about in territorial council for about three years and the prize awarding the design was made in 1964.|
|February 21, 1972||Dr. Don Branigan is elected the Liberal party candidate for the upcoming federal election.|
|February 21, 1972||One telephone circuit via microwave established a phone service to Old Crow by Canadian National Telecommunications (CNT). The first circuit was turned up February 16, 1972 and the first phone call was made from Old Crow at 11:30 a.m. Previous to this time there was radio service only.|
|March 9, 1972||The Arctic Winter Games take place in Whitehorse.|
|March 16, 1972||The Yukon mining industry want to swap 800 square miles for 625 square miles within the border of the park.|
|March 27, 1972||A motion is to dissolve the territorial council is defeated. Speaker Ron Rivett split the vote. Councillors Don Taylor, Mike Stutter and Ken McKinnon voted in favour of the motion while Councillors Norm Chamberlist, Clive Tanner and Hilda Watson voted against it.|
|March 30, 1972||The Northern Canada Power Commission makes application to the Yukon Water Board for construction of $12 million hydro project at Aishihik River. (see also April 25, 1973)|
|March 30, 1972
→ May 1, 1972
→ June 16, 1972
|It is announced that CBC will be responsible for any expansion of live television service in the Yukon once the Telsat satellite has gone into operation. The satellite will be launched in November 1972. Receiving stations are built in Whitehorse, Dawson, Faro, Watson Lake, Elsa and Clinton Creek. As of May 1, 1972, the first of Telesat Canada's Remote Television Earth Stations are rolling northwest across Canada. In June, Telesat Canada invites proposals for the provision of Thin-Route earth stations. The Thin-Route stations are designed to provide low volume telephone service via satellite to small, isolated communities in Canada's North.|
|April 17, 1972||It is announced that YWCA at Whitehorse is facing financial crisis and may have to close.|
|April 20, 1972||Jack Bredin, "Yukon's friend of Indians", dies at the age of 53.|
|April 26, 1972||Whitehorse has its first oil spill incident to cause the death of wildlife. A small pond near the White Pass highway division garage in the Marwell area has a layer of oil on it that kills ducks. The source of the oil is an oil tank that sank to the bottom of the lake.|
|May 19, 1972||Rolf Hougen, who has served on the board of Yukon Electrical Co. Ltd., is elected to the parent Board of Directors of Alberta Power Ltd. on April 21, 1972.|
|June 2, 1972||The Village of Faro is officially given town status, effective as of June 1, 1972. There are no other communities in the Territory under town status. Town status allows Faro an additional alderman. Faro was started in 1968 in conjunction with the Anvil mines.|
|June 5, 1972||Alan Innes-Taylor is awarded a $600 grant to write his autobiography.|
|June 23, 1972||Work has begun on the new $1.5 million 30 room Sandman Motor Inn on Fourth Avenue in Whitehorse.|
|June 23, 1972||June 17, 1972, Yukon Commissioner visits the 6 permanent residents on Herschel Island, "the only Eskimo residents of the territory".|
|July 3, 1972||Sam McGee Main Street Carnival is the name selected for the carnival to be held each Friday night on Main Street.|
|July 3, 1972
→ September 15, 1972
|Northern Television Systems receives complete approval to amend its cable TV licence. It means that Whitehorse will have five video channels, one radio and one background music channel by the end of 1972. (see also October 25, 1971 and December 2, 1971). On September 15, 1972, WHTV announces its cable program amendment for October 1972.|
|July 3, 1972||The official total population of the Yukon is 18,388. There are 9,920 males and 8,468 females.|
|July 10, 1972||A sun eclipse is seen in Canada. In Whitehorse the sky noticeably darkened, "but they were no dramatics". Inuvik has a 99% coverage of the sun by the moon, and Tuktoyuktuk total coverage.|
|July 12, 1972||Joe Ladue, the son of Dawson City founder Joe Ladue, makes his first visit to the Yukon.|
|July 14, 1972||Pavement is laid in Faro on all town streets and parking lots.|
|July 28, 1972||The first wedding ever to be held in the 74-year history of the Bennett Church on the White Pass & Yukon Route takes place August 2, 1972.|
|September 13, 1972||According to Statistics Canada, English is the mother tongue of 83.6 per cent of Yukon residents. "Indian" is second, used by 5.6 per cent and German is third at 3 per cent. French is used by 2.4 per cent.|
|September 15, 1972||As the first step in the establishment of Kluane National Park, two officers of the National Resource Conservation section arrive in Haines Junction.|
|September 18, 1972||The Yukon Progressive Conservatives nominate Erik Nielsen, the New Democrative Party nominates William Harvey Kent for the upcoming federal election.|
|September 20, 1972||A new Canadian national union for mine workers is formed at Clinton Creek. It will be known as the Canadian Mine Worker's Union.|
|September 22, 1972
→ December 1, 1972
|The Whitehorse Recreation Centre closes for public use for the first time. Reason is the unsecure future use of the centre. At the end of the year, $10,000 repairs begin at the Recreation Centre.|
|October 4, 1972||The Yukon territorial government game branch established corridors along the Dempster Highway in which hunting is illegal. The areas are set aside because of the large numbers of caribou that cross the highway at those points.|
|October 20, 1972||Whitehorse General Hospital regains its full accreditation, after it lost accreditation in 1971. (see also September 27, 1971)|
|November 1, 1972||On October 30, 1972, Progressive Conservative candidate Erik Nielsen is re-elected as the Yukon's MP for the eighth straight time. He receives 4332 votes against Don Branigan Liberal 2633 & Harvey Kent, NDP with 951.|
|November 6, 1972||A special charter flight flies into Old Crow November 4, 1972 to deliver 20 deep freezers and 2 fridges to replace the single community freezer.|
|November 8, 1972||Telesat Canada's Anik 1 is launched into space.|
|November 27, 1972||A total of 177 Direct Distance Dialing phone calls are placed in Whitehorse on November 26, 1972 during the first day of the service's operation.|
|November 29, 1972||The city of Leningrad expresses its interest in becoming Whitehorse's sister city. Both cities lie near the 60th Parallel.|
|December 4, 1972||The National and Historic Parks Branch proposes the restoration of some sections of Dawson City.|
- The Yukon Legislature established the Yukon Housing Corp.
- Frank Mooney, manager of NCPC explains the Aishihik Power Project to the Chamber of Commerce.
- Councillor Mike Stutter replaces Don Taylor on the Yukon Financial Advisory Committee.
- Captain Bromley, retired skipper of the S.S. Klondike attends the Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony. He retired 17 years ago after 32 years on the Yukon River.
- Jetair, owned by Dr. Allard of Edmonton announced a second Electra aircraft would be added to the Inuvik, Whitehorse, Calgary route.
- The Whitehorse Lions Swimming Pool has installed a building over the pool.
- Inspector W.J. Hunter, RCMP, has been named to succeed Inspector Guy Marcoux who has been transferred to Montreal.
- A plane piloted by Dr. Darrell Bellinger crashed in the mountains between Whitehorse and Skagway. 3 youths were with the pilot.
- John Holmes replaces Frank Levin as superintendent of schools.
- Lilias Farley, artist & art school teacher, is honoured on her retirement after 25 years.
- Otto Lang, Minister of Justice visits the Yukon.
- Wellgreen Mine, owned by Hudson Bay Mining near Burwash announced its copper-nickel mine will close down after only a few weeks of operation.
- Don Jamieson, Minister of Transport announced a rail - road plan for Northern BC & the Yukon. Rail would be extended to the Yukon and the Skagway - Carcross road would be built.
- The US announced a plan to pave the highway from Haines, Alaska to the US/Canada border at mile 1202
- Mr. & Mrs. Yukon, the Chappie Chapmans, attend Discovery Days in Dawson
- Pierre Berton & family travel from Whitehorse, where he was born, to Dawson City, where he lived to age 12, by boat, they arrived on Discovery Day.
- Executive Committee members, Hilda Watson (Education), Norm Chamberlist (Health & Welfare) & Keith Fleming (Ass't Commissioner) travel to Australia.
- Kluane National Park is under study
- Darrel Johnson, Manager of Hougen's Faro Store reported extensive damage from a fire that started outside at the rear of the store.
- Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau returned to power but with a minority government
- Polly, the hundred (?) year old parrot at the Caribou Hotel in Carcross, died
- Prem. Barrett of B.C. removes opposition to construction of the Skagway Road.
- Cassiar Asbestos mine laid off 60 of the 450 workers due to softening world demand for asbestos and about one third of the 280 employees of the Clinton mines near Dawson. Also affected was 17 of the 60 Cassiar Transport workers.
- Yukon Housing manager Al Williams announced that all 43 units of the low rental housing project in the south part of Whitehorse will be occupied by year end.
- City manager Bob Byron accepts the resignation of City Engineer Dick Fletcher
- Yukon library has expanded by 15000 sq. ft. making way for the Yukon Archives - building is on 2nd Avenue and Hawkins St.
- John Bruk, President of Whitehorse Copper Mines, announces mill production will resume following over a years closure due to low copper prices & a shortage of ore. Little Chief and Middle Chief ore bodies are now operated underground
- Yukon Hootch rum is introduced to the Yukon