Hougen Group

Fast Pitch

Let George do it. That’s a motto that seems to symbolize the history of fastball in Whitehorse. When I was playing the sport back in sixties, we counted on George -Kolkind, that is. The elderly gentleman was always there for the players and the fans. George Kolkind made sure the fastball diamond on Fourth Avenue, where the Sport Yukon office now stands, was ready for the cry ‘play ball’. The field had been covered with crushed granite delivered from somewhere on the Fish Lake road.

To make sure the field was smooth, Kolkind invented a unique system that involved dragging an old bed spring, attached to ropes, around the infield. Pulling the contraption, he looked like a harnessed plough horse, but it worked. He also invented a chalk dispenser that consisted of a single wheel and a funnel to mark the foul lines and the on-deck circle. On the few occasions when we had tournament play with out-of-town teams, George Kolkind set up a primitive but workable PA system. He was our go-to guy and fastball was never the same without him.

Fast forward forty years and the go-to guy is still George, as in George Arcand. The longtime player and member of Softball Yukon has helped organize softball tournaments of all kinds since the late seventies. He was instrumental in the creation of the Pepsi Softball Centre 25 years ago. Arcand has played a major role as the executive Director of Softball Yukon for the past fifteen years.

He was inducted to the Sport Yukon Hall of Fame in 1998 and continues to be involved with various committees. Born in New Westminister, George’s Yukon softball career started in 1975 when he was first elected President of Softball Yukon. He was named Sport Yukon Administrator of the year in both 1983 and 1984. In 1989, he coached the Yukon Senior Men’s Fast-Pitch team to a Silver Medal at the Canadian Championships.

This week George Arcand’s dream of putting Whitehorse and the Yukon on the international fastball stage has been emphasized by the ISF Junior Men’s World Fastball Championships. The tournament features the largest number of teams since it was first held thirteen years ago.

George Arcand deserves much of the credit and that has been recognized as he was just named to the Canadian Softball Hall of Fame.

George Arcand is a passionate advocate for sport in the Yukon just as George Kolkind was four decades ago. I guess the only difference is that today’s George doesn’t have to drag a bedspring across the infield at the Pepsi centre to smooth the surface, but he’d probably do it if he had to.

A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin

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Photo1: Former Mayor Bill Weigand is hosted by Vice-Mayor Lan Tizhou of Beihai, China. Other guests were Marg and Rolf Hougen, Bob and Joyce Choate, Dr. Des Morrow, Jim and Karen Bell and of course, Jeri.

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Photo2: Jeri and Bill Weigand in front of a mural of the Karst Mountains along the Li River.

Bill Weigand, Former Mayor of Whitehorse

Following Bill Weigand’s term as Mayor of Whitehorse in 1991 to 1994, he and Jeri volunteered their services to the Chinese government and were assigned to Qinghai province in Western China. After one year there, the next assignment was to Beihai in Southeast China in the year 1997-1998. For these services they were honoured in Beijing on October 1, 1998 – National Day – in the Great Hall of the People. This “Friendship Award” presented by the Vice Premier of Foreign Affairs, is the highest honour bestowed on foreigners. Bill and Jeri were one of 46 foreign experts recognized that year out of 80,000 volunteers in China that year. They then had a photo taken with Premier Shu Rongji.

Beihai is the Pearl Capital of China, a beautiful coastal city on the Bay of Tonkin, 40 miles from the Vietnam border.  The climate is sub tropical.

Assigned to the Beihai Bureau of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation, the main task for Bill was to connect Canadian companies with Chinese corporations and instruct the Foreign Trade staff in communications and to help improve their English.  Jeri was seconded to work with the president and office staff of Brothers Pyrotechnics Corporation, one of the largest in China.  Jeri’s work extended to teaching English to the middle management of the new Beihai Shangri-La hotel and then for a period of working with the teachers and students of Beihai No. 1 Middle School.
The highlight of the year was the visit of the Hougen Group bringing news from home and a suitcase filled with goodies.

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Marg and Rolf Hougen and all their grandchildren ages 2-10, 1998.

Hougen Family Picture