Hougen Group


Burning riverboats, 1974.

The Riverboats Burn

The Yukon lost a little bit of its soul. That's the way a noted Yukon historian described the reaction on that Friday back in 1974, when the Whitehorse and the Casca were reduced to ashes.

Two grand old veterans of the riverboat days stood side by side where they were built in the shipyards overlooking the Yukon River. They had stood their since the early '50s, when their days as the workhorses of the Yukon came to an end. The Whitehorse was built here in 1901.

For years, local historians had called for action to ensure the safety of the wooden boats. A committee headed by Rolf Hougen was able to get government support to repaint the boats, put new decking in place and install a fence to keep out intruders. But trespassers were still able to dig under the fence and use the cabins on the boats as a temporary shelter.

At 10pm on Friday, June 21, 1974, smoke was seen billowing from one of the boats. The fire department raced the three blocks to the scene. But the dry wooden ships were now engulfed in flames. Smoke rose 100 feet into the air within minutes. The heat in the area was intense.

The fire-fighters sprayed thousands of gallons onto the burning pyre, but they knew it was far to late to save these priceless relics of a glorious past. Within hours, the Whitehorse and the Casca were reduced to a pile of crumpled steel. Barely a trace of the wooden slats and beams were left.

Hundreds of city residents stood by watching the devastation. Many held back tears. Many more could not.

What caused the tragedy? Well, shortly after the fire call went out, the police helped three young men from Ontario off the Casca where they had been living for a week. They were taken into custody and questioned before being released. No charges were laid.

The deaths of the Whitehorse and Casca meant that only three of those wonderful sternwheelers were still standing in decent shape in the Yukon. The Klondike in Whitehorse, the Keno in Dawson and the Tutshi in Carcross. In 1991, the Tutshi, which had been partially restored but had no sprinkler system on board, was set ablaze in Carcross. Its fate mirrored that of the Whitehorse and the Casca. Now only two boats from the remarkable fleet of 25 remain. Their value cannot be calculated in dollars.

A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin


Sands Store, Watson Lake, 1974.

Clarence M.

Clarence M. Sands operated a General Store in Atlin for many years. His son, Les, took it over but with the decline of Atlin, soon relocated to Watson Lake. In 1974, Hougens Limited acquired the business, the land and buildings.


Requiem for the “Whitehorse and the Casca”, 1974.

Ted Harrison

To Rolf from Ted Harrison - "With best wishes to one who actually did something positive for the Whitehorse and Casca." June 20th 1974

You served the Yukon well,
And in your prime,
Cleaved with burdened holds
Through treacherous shoals
Whose spruce lined shores
Embraced the skeletons of
Former barques.

Retirement was rich in
Ill neglect.
The sound of Yukon’s waters
Mocked your impotence
Until a painted façade
Brought back awhile the
Image of a former glory.

We passed you by, until
With awesome power
The crackling flames
Uplifted all our eyes and
Focused for a while your
Dying personalities.

Our tears, showing anguished last respect,
Some small atonement for our past neglect.

-Ted Harrison


Dubrovnik, Croatia, Yugoslavia.


The Blue Hosque - Instanbul, Turkey.

Travels to Yugoslavia

In September, 1974, Marg and Rolf traveled to Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia. This is the home city of John Bruk, Chairman of Cyprus Anvil Mine. He directed them to interesting places including a lamb roast dinner in the mountains. From Dubrovnik they flew to Istanbul, Turkey.

Top Photo: Dubrovnik, Croatia, Yugoslavia
Bottom Photo: The blue mosque in Istanbul, Turkey


60th Wedding Anniversary, 1974.

60th Wedding Anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Berent Hougen

A Hougen family gathering to celebrate the 60th Wedding Anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Berent Hougen.

Dog Team, 1974.

Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous

Hougen’s sponsored Philip Smith of Teslin (son of musher Andy Smith) for several years in the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous.

Seen here is Philip Smith with Marg and Rolf and his dog team, February of 1974.


Alaska Road Trip, 1974.

Alaska Road Trip

With a car and trailer, the Hougen family (except Craig and Kelly) traveled to Fairbanks, Anchorage, Valdez and Homer, Alaska. Fishing for salmon off the ‘spit’ was successful, digging for clams, likewise. Halibut fishing was too rough but shiploads of King Crab were offloaded on the docks. They feasted for several days.

Seen here is Greta, Karen and Maureen in Homer Alaska. Erik took the photo.

The Whitehorse Star Reports in 1974

January 2, 1974 Statistics about the Yukon reveal the following facts: 84% of the 3,255 Whitehorse households own cars, 6.2% more than the national average. A total of 83,5% households have television compared to the national average of 95.3%. 2.9% in Whitehorse own a colour TV. 41 % of the Whitehorse households own a freezer, the national average is 33.5%. The average of bedrooms per dwelling is 2.2 in Whitehorse, but 2.7 in the rest of the country.
January 9, 1974 Rolf Hougen announces the appointment of Bert Norrie to the position of General Manager of Hougen's Ltd.
January 14, 1974
 → April 5, 1974
Parliament adjourns January 11, 1974 without passing the bill that would give legal status to Kluane National Park. The reason given for the delay is that amendments will not be accepted by the northern development minister, Jean Chretien. After a third reading in the House of Commons, the bill establishing Kluane and seven other national parks is passed April 4, 1974.
January 21, 1974 The first native coroner appointed in Whitehorse starts his job. His name: Stanley Johnson.
January 25, 1974 Mr. And Mrs. David Johnston Sr. of Teslin are selected as Mr. And Mrs. Yukon of 1974.
February 8, 1974 Robert Sese films for the French national television network ORTF "Lost Patrol", the saga of the fatal RCMP patrol of Fitzgerald between Fort MacPherson and Dawson City in January of 1911.
February 27, 1974 The barge "Atlin" arrives in Whitehorse by truck and will take up permanent residence at the new site of the riverboat Klondike.
March 4, 1974 Phyllis Brennan is Rendezvous Queen 1974.
March 6, 1974 The number of permanent stoplights in the Yukon increases 50 per cent with a new installation at Fourth and Ogilvie.
March 6, 1974 The Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce learns that N.W.T is not interested in a Canol Road repair
March 11, 1974
 → June 17, 1974
Northern Affairs minister Jean Chretien introduces amendments to the Yukon Act according to which the Yukon territorial council will increase to 12 elected members. The bill will also set out a formula whereby the council can be increased by two members to a maximum of 20 every time the Yukon population increases by 5,000. Three months later, on June 17, 1974, territorial council approves the electoral boundaries commission report that calls for seven rural and five urban ridings for the expanded council of 12.
March 13, 1974
 → June 12, 1974
Amoco, a large Calgary based petroleum concern has been given permission to drill an oil well on Herschel Island during the winter of 1974/75. However, June 12, 1974, Amoco decides not to go ahead with the project. The drilling is curtailed because of federal legislation regarding royties and exploration.
March 29, 1974 Whitehorse North councillor Norman Chamberlist announces March 28, 1974 that he would not be seeking re-election in the next territorial council race.
April 1, 1974 Roy Minter, White Pass vice president for corporate communications, leaves the company.
April 10, 1974 Pierre Berton comes to an agreement with CBC to do a 13-week television series, based on his best-seller Klondike. One of the hurdles to be faced is finding a riverboat that can be used for the series.
April 10, 1974 A technical brief for television low-power re-broadcasting stations for six small northern communities (Haines Junction, Destruction Bay, Carmacks, Teslin, Atlin and Carcross) is presented to CBC by Total North Communications Ltd. Of Whitehorse.
April 10, 1974 The first piling goes down for the new state highway bridge over the Skagway River on March 28. Replacing an old single-lane bridge that is 35 or more years old, this new structure is part of the work that will be done in the coming 2 years to complete Alaska's portion of the Klondike International Highway joining Skagway with Carcross.
April 10, 1974 Preliminary steps are made throughout the territory toward introducing the metric system in the Yukon.
April 26, 1974 The Pelly Crossing school boycott is in its fifth day. The boycott, which started April 22, 1974, stems back to a Selkirk Indian band resolution passed March 14, 1974. The band says the teachers are prejudiced agains Indian people and children are mistreated.
April 26, 1974 Discrimination on the basis of sex and marital status is outlawed in the Yukon as amendments to the fair practices ordinance is given third reading in territorial council.
April 28, 1974 Elijah Smith is elected for his fifth time as the Yukon Native Brotherhood president.
May 3, 1974 A committee for a human rights and civil liberties association in the Yukon is formed May 2, 1974
May 8, 1974 The Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce votes in favour of applying for the setting aside of a small island in the vicinity of Robert Service Park as a memorial to Service.
May 10, 1974 Whitehorse voters give city council a "no" on the Mainsteele lots and Robert Campbell Bridge replacement issues. Voters cast their ballots May 9, 1974.
May 22, 1974 The Whitehorse Star issues a special for the 30th anniversary of Hougen's Ltd.
May 27, 1974 Paul White is acclaimed the candidate of the Yukon Liberal Association for the upcoming federal elections. The Yukon New Democratic Partly elects leader Tony Penikett.
June 3, 1974 Erik Nielsen is nominated as the Yukon Progressive Conservative candidate.
June 7, 1974 Yukon Inn becomes the first hotel in the territory to sign an agreement with a union.
June 21, 1974 "Hundreds of people [stand] on the banks of the Yukon River [June 20, 1974] and cry as the riverboats Casca and Whitehorse [are] engulfed by flames." The Whitehorse Star dedicates a 4 page special issue to this tragedy.
July 8, 1974 CBC announces "timberline television" will not be installed in the five small Yukon communities.
July 10, 1974 Progressive Conservative Erik Nielsen is once again elected Yukon MP - for the ninth straight time.
July 17, 1974 Dawson City re-activates its curfew for young people. Youngsters under the age of 17 years have to be off the streets by 11 p.m.
July 26, 1974 July 21, 1974, Max Fuerstner pulls one of the largest gold nuggets to be found since the Gold Rush out of his sluice box on Livingstone Creek. The nugget weighs 20.5 ounces.
July 31, 1974 Another era in the history of the Yukon ends when Charlie Taylor closes for good the doors of Taylor's & Drury's store at First and Main.
August 9, 1974 Judd Buchanan is appointed as new Indian Affairs and Development minister August 8, 1974.
August 21, 1974 Dismantling crews take down old communications wire up to Mile 80 on the Canol Road.
September 9, 1974 The mail service to and from Carcross is upgraded: now mail is received three times a week instead of twice a week.
September 13, 1974 Mayor Paul Lucier announces on September 12, 1974 that the referendum scheduled for October 3, 1974 to gain the opinion of Whitehorse taxpayers on whether the city should continue negotiations with Yukon Electrical to take over the city franchise, is cancelled. The reason for the cancellation is that there is no provision in the territorial municipal ordinance for the city to run its own electrical system.
September 13, 1974 Alderman Chuck Hankins announces on September 12, 1974 that he resigns from city council.
September 13, 1974 Taking suggestions from the Yukon Native Brotherhood and the Geological Survey of Canada into account, the Canadian Permanent Committee on Geographical Names names mountains and lakes in the Yukon. Other names honour Yukon pioneers. Britton Ridge is named after J.C. Britton, Mount Erickson after John Erickson. Mount Forrest is named after Emil Forrest and Mount Laderoute is named for a pioneer farmer. Other mountains are named after William Langham, Archie MacIennan, William Hough. Massa Sakata is honoured with Sakata Lake. Other names inclues Castellata Peakes, Gorge Creek, Incised Creek, Lake Terrace Creek, Malemute Mountain, Porphyry Peak, Red Granite Mountain, Sceptre Lake, Szoosinlinum Lake, Tahgah River and Thulsoo Mountain.
September 27, 1974 The Dawson City council passes the first building by-law to restrict the standard of buildings going up in the city.
October 7, 1974 The territorial government announces a $40,000 pilot television project which could mean installation of regular television programming to Yukon communities of less than 500 people.
October 16, 1974 The Yukon CAF recruits the first local woman as 19 year old Laurie Briggs of Whitehorse swears an oath of allegiance to Queen and country.
October 16, 1974 According to Yukon Territorial Council's figures the Yukon's population is 20,600.
October 18, 1974 The territorial government announces a 7-year, $33 million program for Yukon communities.
October 21, 1974 In a move to increase security at the Whitehorse Airport, an eight-foot fence goes up around the airport, and plans are made to start using scanners to check passengers boarding planes.
November 2, 1974 In the territorial election of November 18, 1974, Yukon voters chose 10 Independents and two NDP members and reject all nine Yukon Provincial Liberal Party candidates.
November 22, 1974 Magnus Hougen passes away November 19, 1974 in Whitehorse following a lengthy illness. He was 54.
November 29, 1974 CNT announces the completion of a new microwave system connecting Dawson with its main system. The system carries all long-distance telephone traffic to and from Dawson as well as Telex and CBC radio transmissions.
December 2, 1974 A CP Air plane on its way from Montreal to Vancouver with Commissioner James Smith as passenger is hijacked. Fortunately, the situation was solved and the plane landed in Saskatoon.
December 13, 1974 Ken McKinnon, Gordon McIntyre and Hilda Watson are named the three "ministers" in the new "Yukon Legislative Assembly". (see also January 13, 1975)
December 20, 1974 Hougen's Ltd. opens a third Hougen's Department Store in the Yukon taking over Sands Store in Watson Lake in January 1975.
December 30, 1974 Don Branigan files a petition in Supreme Court defeating the election of Willard Phelps in November 18 territorial council election. Branigan states that Willard Phelps should not have been elected because he is renting liquor store premises to the territorial government. (see also June 13, 1975)
January 3, 1974 The Yukon's mineral production revenues are up by 23 per cent in 1974 compared to 1973. Statistics Canada reports an estimated $185,194,000 of revenues. The total of all Yukon mineral production revenues since 1886 is now $1,167,000,000.