He’s written books on every Canadian subject you can imagine. Railways, churches, the west, the Arctic, and so much more. But it was the Yukon which made him a household name across Canada and around the world.
Pierre Berton was the son of a Klondike stampeder. Francis George Berton was trained as a civil engineer in St. John, New Brunswick. He, like a surprising number of men from eastern Canada, caught the goldbug early on, and headed to the Yukon via the Chilkoot Pass in 1898. Francis staked one claim which proved worthless, but he stayed in Dawson City for the next 34 years, working jobs both in the town and out in the gold fields. In 1912, he married Laura Berton, a school teacher who had come to Dawson in 1907.
Pierre Berton was born in Whitehorse in 1920. His first 12 years were spent in Dawson City, where the family lived in a small but pleasant little house across the street from Robert Service. Berton recalled living among the relics of that glorious age. Everything, it seemed, was rusty and old, yet he had no idea he was living in a ghost town of old saloons, and gambling halls and houses filled with the decaying riches of the Klondike Gold Rush.
The family moved to Victoria in 1932. Pierre attended Graigdorroch College here before enrolling in the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He joined the student staff of the Ubyssey newspaper and became a member of the University’s radio society. It was here that his interest in journalism flourished. For three summer seasons, beginning in 1938, Pierre Berton returned to the Klondike to work as a labourer with the Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation on Dominion Creek.
He joined the army in 1942 and contributed to military newspapers. He eventually worked for the Vancouver Sun and began writing radio scripts on the gold rush days. This work led to some serious research on the Klondike and resulted, in 1957, in his first major novel called, simply 'Klondike'. It was this book which catapulted him to national acclaim, and astounded both he and his publisher by selling ten thousand copies in the first three months after it was published.
With the publishing of 'Klondike', Pierre Berton began to realize this period was a large part of a much larger story. It led him to research and write about the epic Canadian story which began long before Canadian confederation in 1867, and has not ended yet. What might Pierre Berton have written about or done had he not been raised in the Klondike? It’s likely the Yukon story would be less well known and Dawson City might still be a decaying ghost town instead of a vital destination to many visitors from around the world.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
See also: A new biography of Pierre Berton
The Yukon's official bird is certainly not only found in the Yukon. It's found all across the circumpolar world and ranges as far south as the mountains of central America. Still, if you're going to choose a emblematic bird, it might as well be the smartest, funniest, coolest bird in the land.
Know anyone who doesn't have a raven story to tell? I don't. We had a German Shepherd in Whitehorse a long time ago. We tied him to the clothes line so he could range at will around the back yard without heading down the street or into the bush. How ravens would torment poor Rockey, who never came to realize that his chain would let him run only so far. But the ravens knew how far the chain would go, and would croak as they ate his stolen dog food just out of range. More than once he nearly choked to death as he came to a shuddering stop while the ravens, if they could show glee, did so.
Smart. These birds are smart. And gregarious. They know humans are good providers of nutrients - garbage cans, grocery bags left unattended in pickups, dog mash left in the backyard. Ravens know how to find this stuff, and that's why they hang around. Ravens are the largest of all songbirds. They are members of the crow family and thus related to magpies, jays and nutcrackers. As with much bird life, not a lot is known about their communication systems. But some researchers say they have the most complex vocalizations of all birds.
While most birds breed in the spring, the Raven breeds in winter. The young are hatched in winter, often in communal roosts. Most bird watchers say they have never seen a baby Raven. That's because when they leave the nest, the three-week-old chicks look as big as, if not bigger than, the adult. A lot of feathers on a tiny body.
Ravens are likely monogamous. They take one partner for life. Or so bird biologists believe. But then, anything about a bird as smart as the Raven is open for debate. For example, do birds play? Like kids? When you watch Ravens in groups of ten or more soaring and diving with the wind currents over some Yukon sidehill, it's hard to imagine anything at work but play. Nor, as one lucky photographer found out when he took a series of startling pictures, can it be anything but play.
The series of photographs show a solitary Raven on a snow-covered sidehill. At the top, it curled into a ball and rolled twenty or more feet down the hill. This happened six times before the playful bird quit - perhaps dizzy from all that rolling down the hill. The photos are proof that this is not another urban raven legend.
So it seems the Yukon's official bird is a gifted creature with a complex lifestyle suitable for the large range of options available in the Yukon. Now, if we could only find one complaining about the weather. Nah, they like the weather.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
You gotta hand it to the Klondike Gold Rush. It was much more than a rush to find the precious metal in the obscure hills around Rabbit Creek in the unknown Yukon. It helped propel Seattle into a world-class city. It had a huge impact on the early motion picture industry in Hollywood. And it saved a milk company from bankruptcy.
Today, Nestlé Foods own that milk company and is worth billions. Back in 1899, however, it was a fledgling business that had trouble selling its product.
The product was evaporated milk. A Seattle grocer named E.A. Stuart had a dream of making wholesome, good-tasting milk as available to consumers as sugar and salt. So in 1899, he co-founded the Pacific Coast Condensed Milk Company and spent $25,000 to buy the rights to a new process for producing canned evaporated milk.
At first, poorly sealed cans were spoiled, by the wagon load, after leaving Stuart's farm near Seattle. Even worse, local customers weren't convinced they needed his product because fresh milk flowed freely.
Nevertheless, Stuart perfected his milk evaporation process and improved canning procedures. The process was extraordinary because it took about 60% of the water content out of dairy milk, thus making it easy to transport and store without refrigeration. But buyers remained wary.
Then luck struck in the form of the Klondike Gold Rush. Demand for evaporated milk skyrocketed as Yukon-bound gold-seekers poured through Seattle. Prospectors bought evaporated milk as fast as Stuart could make it. Soon, the sale of cans of evaporated milk had grown from nothing to more than four million dollars a year.
As sales soared, Stuart searched for the perfect name for his product and stumbled across the answer while walking in downtown Seattle. As he passed a tobacconist's window with cigars on display, he saw a sign proclaiming their name — CARNATION.
Stuart thought it was a curious name for a cigar, but perfect for his new milk product. He also believed that quality milk came only from contented cows and eventually established his own breeding farm known as Carnation Farms.
In 1907, Stuart introduced the promotional phrase, "Carnation condensed milk, the milk from contented cows." Carnation used the slogan for decades on a radio variety program called "The Contented Hour," with entertainers like Dinah Shore and Burns and Allen.
In 1985, the descendants of E.A. Stuart hit pay dirt when the international food giant Nestlé bought Carnation for about $3 billion in cash. Today, Carnation Farms is just forty-five minutes outside Seattle and is still home to contented cows and the riches the Klondike Gold Rush brought.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
Each year the Vancouver Consular hosts a ball with invited guests and members of the Vancouver diplomatic community. Rolf Hougen as an Honorary Consul for France is a member.
|January 1, 1983
→ March 11, 1985
→ March 20, 1985
→ April 12, 1985
|Government Leader Chris Pearson - as announced - resigns from his job as Conservative party president. March 11, 1985 Williard Phelps is elected the new leader of the Yukon Progressive Conservative Party and takes over power as government leader March 20, 1985. April 12, 1985 Williard Phelps calls a generation election on May 13, 1985.|
|January 16, 1985||Irene and Will Crayford from Dawson City are chosen as Mr. and Mrs. Yukon.|
|January 16, 1985||Scottie Gold Mines is closing its mine near Stewart is northwestern B.C. due to lower gold prices.|
|January 20, 1985||Whitehorse is awarded the men's and women's national slowpitch championships for 1985.|
|January 25, 1985||Yukon's native radio station Chon-FM takes to the air after three years of preparation. At the end of the year, CHON-FM extends its programming to 12 hours per day.|
|January 30, 1985||Whitehorse City Council decides to close Chadburn Lake for commercial development|
|February 8, 1985||Yukon Electrical announces it will link Teslin into the Whitehorse Aishihik-Faro power grid.|
|February 11, 1985
→ May 17, 1985
→ October 2, 1985
→ October 28, 1985
→ November 25, 1985
|In the beginning of the year (February 11, 1985) Cyprus Anvil rules out a 1985 mine opening. May 17, 1985 Cyprus Anvil Mining Corporation decides to close its lead-zinc mine north of Faro. October 2, 1985 Curragh Resources Corporation Ltd. signs an agreement to buy the Faro lead-zinc mine from the Cyprus Anvil Mining Corporation. A few weeks later (October 28, 1985) Curragh, the Yukon, and the federal government announce to re-open the Cyprus Anvil mine. Curragh Resource Corporation takes officially possession of the mine November 25, 1985.|
|February 27, 1985||Erik Nielsen is named defence minister.|
|March 4, 1985||The first Whitehorse-to-Fairbanks Yukon Quest (in 1984 the Quest was run from Fairbanks to Whitehorse) starts in Whitehorse.|
|March 4, 1985||The Takhini arena officially opens.|
|March 15, 1985||The federal government announces an agreement with the United States according to which the Yukon will get four radar station as part of the North Warning Radar System.|
|March 29, 1985||The Yukon cabinet officially approves the conceptual design of the $40 million Yukon College complex to be finished in 1989.|
|April 1, 1985||A fire destroys the remains of the ghost town of Discovery, 8km east of Atlin. Another landmark of the goldrush area of Atlin and tourist attraction is lost.|
|April 19, 1985||Confidential cabinet documents leaking from a task force appointed by Erik Nielsen recommend spending cuts on native programs and the dissolution of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. This causes a storm of controversy: the CYI calls on Erik Nielsen to quit; the Jim Skookum Center closes its ports in protest. Nielsen denies these reports.|
|April 20, 1985||Roger Coles is acclaimed leader of the Yukon Liberal Party.|
|April 26, 1985||The Yukon governement decides to set up a pilot French instruction program for Grade 1 students in 3 Yukon schools. The governments also plans to ensure that Grades 5 and 6 French will be taught only by teachers proficient in the language.|
|May 1, 1985
→ June 28, 1985
|The 200-passenger cruise ship M.V. Klondike is on the way to Dawson to operate as a tourist boat between Dawson and Eagle. The boat makes its first tourist run to Eagle June 28, 1985.|
|May 8, 1985||Yukoner Ed Struzik and 3 team members are the first Canadians to reach the magnetic pole.|
|May 8, 1985||Canadian Satellite Communications Inc. (Cancom) announces it will apply to the federal government for permission to juggle share holdings to increase the share of British Columbia Television Broadcasting System Ltd. in Cancom.|
|May 15, 1985||The New Democratic Party wins the general elections, making Tony Penikett the new government leader (May 29, 1985) in a minority government situation.|
|May 29, 1985||Yukon artist Lillian Stephensen has one of her watercolour paintings accepted into the Queen's permanent collection.|
|May 31, 1985
→ October 9, 1985
|The city of Whitehorse is seeking money from Ottawa for an ambitious $30 million plan to upgrade downtown Whitehorse. October 9, 1985 the city announces it plans to rebuild Main Street from 1st to 4th. Details are revealed in January 1986 (January 14, 1986).|
|June 7, 1985||Whitehorse's first ATM machine is installed at Royal Bank.|
|June 10, 1985||Dome Petroleum signed a tentative agreement to sell all assets of the Cyprus Anvil lead-zinc mine in Faro to a group of financiers in Toronto.|
|June 17, 1985||The Yukon cabinet chooses the raven as the territory's official bird.|
|June 19, 1985||Celebration of the 60th anniversary of Mount Logan's first climb.|
|June 24, 1985||Sam Johnston, former chief of the Teslin band, is Yukon's first-ever Indian speaker of the legislature.|
|July 17, 1985||Two Calgary companies propose a $100 million commercial port at King Point on the Yukon's northern coast.|
|July 19, 1985||A law goes into effect that makes it illegal to drink liquor in moving motor vehicles in the Yukon.|
|July 26, 1985||85th anniversary of the Old Log Church in Whitehorse.|
|August 5, 1985||Canada's newest icebreaker is named after Yukoner Martha Louise Black. The $56 million icebreaker was launched in Vancouver by Flo Whyard.|
|August 23, 1985||Charles "Chappie" Chapman, one of the Yukon's most important pioneers, dies at the age of 83.|
|August 28, 1985||George Simmons, a Yukon aviation pioneer, dies at the age of 86.|
|August 30, 1985
→ September 11, 1985
|Rolf Hougen looks into possibilities to save the Jim Light arena which is threatened by demolition since the opening of the new Takhini arena (August 30, 1985). A few days later (September 11, 1985), the City Council approves the demolition of the arena which doesn't leave enough time for Rolf Hougen to pursue his proposal.|
|September 13, 1985||The 4th wheel at the Whitehorse power plant starts its work.|
|September 16, 1985||A 5.0 Richter scale earthquake rattles the Southern Yukon, including Whitehorse. The epicentre is 220km south of Whitehorse. No injuries or damages are reported.|
|September 16, 1985||MLA Andy Philipsen, cabinet minister in the former Conservative government, dies in a car accident.|
|September 18, 1985
→ September 25, 1985
|Government leader Tony Penikett fires all members of the Yukon Economic Council in order to "re-shape" the council. A new council is named a week later.|
|September 20, 1985||Governor General Jeane Sauve visits Whitehorse.|
|September 30, 1985||Yukon towns are considered by Universal Studios for shooting a movie about RCMP activities in the North, starring Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd.|
|October 4, 1985||The federal government announces it will put up money to start planning a new hospital for Whitehorse.|
|October 9, 1985||O.D. (Donald) Brown dies at the age of 67. Brown was an exclusive member of Jim Robb's "colorful five per cent" of unique characters.|
|November 1, 1985||Charlie Abel, chief of the Old Crow Indian band for 18 years, dies at the age of 69.|
|November 15, 1985||Don Branigan is elected mayor of Whitehorse.|
|November 20, 1985||The Alaskan government says it will put another $11 million into the Canadian Shakwak project.|
|November 25, 1985||Johnny Joe, one of the oldest people in the Yukon and Indian elder, dies in Whitehorse. He was believed to be over 100 years old.|
|November 27, 1985||The French language school in Whitehorse is named after Emily Tremblay.|
|December 6, 1985||The Yukon government and the Council for Yukon Indians sign a deal to re-start land claim talks.|
|December 9, 1985||The new airport terminal at Whitehorse airport is inaugurated.|
|December 13, 1985||Teslin is connected to the Whitehorse-Aishihik power grid.|
|December 31, 1985||Gulf Canada discovered a massive oil resources in the Beaufort sea.|