Hougen Group


Buzzsaw Jimmy

His real name was Jimmy Richards but I never knew anyone who called him anything but Buzzsaw Jimmy.

It’s a nickname he earned for the unsafe but effective contraption he used to cut cord wood.

By looking at Jimmy, you could tell the machine got the best of him – more than once.  He had hundreds of stitches on his body, a missing finger, and a missing leg that he lost – twice.

Jim Richards left home in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1898, bound for the Klondike Gold Fields.

The wonder is that he ever made it to the Yukon at all.  First, the train he was riding derailed on the Prairies killing two of his fellow passengers.  Then, the backup train derailed near Canmore, Alberta and the car he was riding in left the tracks.

When he reached Vancouver, he hired on as a deck-hand for passage on a steamer heading for Alaska.  During the voyage, the rickety ship was damaged in a storm.

He finally arrived in St. Michael, Alaska, near the mouth of the Yukon River, and boarded the paddlewheeler James Domville for the journey up the Yukon River to Dawson City.

Like others who arrived in 1898, he found all the gold-bearing claims taken so got back on the James Domville and worked for passage to Whitehorse by chopping wood along the way.

He still had gold fever when he arrived in Whitehorse in October, so he built a sleigh and headed for Atlin, where he spent the winter working for wages on small claims.

Thus, he began a career of doing odd jobs.  He worked on the Yukon River as a jack-of-all-trades, and then settled in Whitehorse where he built his strange, but effective, mobile woodcutting machine with parts salvaged from an old tractor and Model T Ford.

Wood cutting in a land of almost perpetual winter could be profitable.  With his homemade gizmo, Buzzsaw Jimmy could cut ten cords an hour.

He had regular contracts to cut wood for businesses like the Whitehorse Inn.  But it was dangerous work.  In 1911, he almost lost his right arm to the open buzzsaw.

Things got worse when, a few years later, he fell off the seat, caught his leg in the gears, and made a beeline for the hospital where the doctor amputated his leg.

Photo: Buzzsaw Jimmy with his unique wood cutting machine.
1942 photo by Odin Hougen,

Fitted with a wooden replacement, the irrepressible Buzzsaw Jimmy was quickly back on the job.  But accidents continued.  During his cutting career, he cut his arm, back and leg… again.  Buzzsaw was becoming a regular guest at the tiny Whitehorse hospital.

Then came his most famous accident when again he fell into the rotating saw blade and severed his right leg.

But this time, he picked up the leg, shook it at the wood sawing contraption and said: “Fooled you.”  He had severed his wooden leg.

Sometimes, if someone new happened to be watching him cut wood, Jimmy would deliberately pretend to cut through his wooden leg.  The ploy never failed to evoke gasps or worse… a fainting spell from the onlooker.

How much wood could  a woodcutter cut with a  wood-cutting machine like Buzzsaw Jimmy’s?  Good question.

Countless cords, I am sure, in a wood-cutting-career that lasted fifty years.

Sometime in the 1950s, he retired and his machine was dragged away to the dump.  Buzzsaw Jimmy left Whitehorse and his colourful career in 1963 when he moved to Vancouver, where he died at age 94.

A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin


Ralph "Buzz" Hudson and Jan Hudson at their daughter Lori's weddding August 1992.

Buzz Hudson

Ralph Hudson was at home on two courts. The basketball court and the court of law. Born and raised in Victoria, he was better known to his many friends as Buzz. On the basketball court, he played for the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, where he did his law degree and graduated in 1959.

Buzz moved to the Yukon in 1960 when he took his first job as a lawyer with Eric Nielsen's firm, where he practiced criminal, corporate and mining law. Hudson moved back to Vancouver in 1974 and joined a friend's law firm. However, he returned to the Yukon from time to time as a judge after he was appointed to the territorial court in 1976.

He was appointed to the B.C. provincial court in 1982 and sat as a judge in Vancouver and Victoria until he became the senior judge of the Supreme Court of the Yukon in 1993.

But Buzz always enjoyed sports. He was on the team that represented the Yukon in the first ever Canada Winter Games in 1967. Yukon athletes were badly outclassed by the more numerous contingents from the provinces and the Territory decided to stage a games of its own at home. These are now called the Arctic Winter Games.

During his Yukon basketball days, Hudson often travelled to Alaska for games. The Yukon teams travelled to Skagway by train to play the American game. Often on these trips, friends in Haines would pick up the team in a fishing boat and take them to parties. A great life, said Buzz.

In 1970, Hudson ran for the Whitehorse East seat on the Yukon territorial council, finishing third behind Norm Chamberlist and Don Branigan and ending a promising political career.

Throughout his legal career, Hudson was an active volunteer as the president of the Law Society of the Yukon and a director of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce. He also organized a number of continuing legal education seminars for Yukon lawyers.


Buzz Hudson loved jury trials because, he said, it was an opportunity for the public to be involved in the judicial process. He retired from law in 2003, after ten years as the Yukon's supreme court justice. He and his wife Jan moved to Salt Spring Island, a beautiful property with a magnificient view of the Pacific Ocean.


When Buzz Hudson passed away in January 2005, he was remembered as a fair-minded, active Yukoner who loved the quiet serenity of nature and made a valuable contribution to life in today's Yukon.

A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin


Hougens store 1968 to 2005.


Hougen Centre today 2005.

Hougen Centre

In 1968 Hougen’s constructed a 30,000 square foot steel and concrete building that joined with a 10,000 square foot building completed in 1961. This building of 40,000 square feet housed all of the varied merchandise of the Hougen Department Store. This included a men’s wear store, ladies’ wear department, children’s wear, shoe department, sewing supplies and sewing machines, toy store, kitchen and gourmet, photo and photo finishing, Sportslodge, furniture and appliances – everything except groceries.

In 2003 Hougen’s started extensive remodeling of the interior of the store, upstairs and downstairs, with the lower floor, 5000 square feet upgraded and air conditioned. It now is home to Arts Underground – an art, ceramics, photo workshop. One half is devoted to the Hougen Heritage Gallery that displays local artists’ work and photographic displays. There is no cost to the arts, cultural and heritage community.

With the coming to Whitehorse of the “big box” stores Hougens have been transforming their businesses. The centre now houses both family, Yukon and national tenants.

The exterior of the Centre was transformed to take on the appearance of “turn of the century” buildings. Overall Hougens invested over a million dollars in upgrading various properties.


A visit with a Chinese family in "old" Beijing - 90% has now been replaced by high rise apartments.


A few of over 8000 life size warriors so far excavated.


On the ship cruising the three gorges on the Yangtze.


A guide said "go left to walk the great wall, it's easier" so everyone went right.


Our ship the sapphire princess docked in Vladivostok, Russia - following a visit to Pusan, Korea.


Our final day in Osaka, Japan dining in a traditional Japanese Restaurant.

Hougen Family Orient Travels

The Hougen 32 person family all jumped out of bed a little higher on the morning of April 1st, 2005. Each family gathered their luggage by their respective front doors awaiting a school bus to pick them up. The bus was driven by a great family friend, Al Castagner and his wife Linnea, who took us all to the airport together for our 7:30 flight to Vancouver. A great start to an even greater trip.

After 15 hours of flying, we arrived in Beijing at 3:40 p.m. on April 2nd. In Beijing, the family stayed at the beautiful Hotel Beijing. Some of the many different sightseeing spots we visited included: the Red Theatre for an amazing show, riding on cycle rickshaws through the streets of Beijing, touring "old china" where we met a Chinese old couple who welcomed us into their home to talk about Chinese life. After 3 packed days in Beijing we flew Air China to Xian. While our time in Xian was short we packed much into the time we did have. The Terra Cotta Warriors was the main attraction and we spent a whole day there. It was incredible; most of us had seen pictures in books and studied about the warriors in school but here we were actually standing two feet away from the over 2000 year old soldiers! On April 5 th we headed for Chongqing to visit the famous zoo with the pandas and then on to board the ship where we were to begin our trip down the Yangtze River.

From April 5-8th the Hougen family was on the Yangtze River aboard the Victoria Star. The three days on the boat were packed with activities and stops. The main attraction was the Three Gorges Dam Project which, when completed, would raise the water 175m. Tens of thousands of people had to be re-located to higher ground. Some other interesting places we stopped were: Shibaozai, where we climbed a pagoda that was built on the side of a mountain without a single nail in the 1700's; Wushan, where we went down the Danning River; and of course passing through the huge beautiful gorges. We disembarked in Yichang after visiting the huge Dam Project. An amazing three days on the famous Yangtze River.

From Yichang the family bused 4.5 hours to Wuhan. This day also happened to be Sarah Hougen's birthday! (April 8th ). After a night in Wuttan we took a bus to the airport with a stop at an old farmhouse. The homes are very sparse but the people seemed very friendly. It was striking to see what little they have, how hard they have to work and they have to deal with this everyday. We flew 1.5 hours to Beijing to spend another fun-filled 3 days. During our days back in Beijing, the family went to the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square, and The Great Wall. Truly amazing! On April 11 we bused to board yet another ship, the Sapphire Princess. This is a huge cruise ship with many pools, hot tubs, clubs, etc. Room service was a favourite to the teenagers at 3:00 a.m.!

We left from Xing Xang and headed to our first stop, Dalian, China. On each stop each family had the choice of many different tours that were offered. In Dalian, most people went kite flying or on a walking tour. After a short stop we headed back to the boat and had a couple of days at sea. Next stop for our family was Shanghai, China for two days. The family went on a bus tour to the older parts of the city, stopped at the Yu Gardens created in the 1500's, went up the Jin Mao Building, which is the fourth tallest in the world - 88 floors in 35 seconds on the elevator with a Yao Ming tribute at the top! The whole family went to a mind-boggling acrobatic show one evening and to an outdoor market for some cheap clothes and fun bartering! After two days in Shanghai we had one day at sea before we arrived in Pusan, South Korea. We had only a short stop in the smaller city of Pusan but we went to the fish market and walked the streets. There was a huge difference between Pusan and cities in China; no bartering and more brand name stores, a little more western influence. After the quick stop in South Korea there was another two days on the boat until we reached Russia. It was colder and older and dirtier than what we had been used to in China but it was really interesting to see Russia. Vladivostok is just starting to open its doors and become a tourist spot.

It was two more days on the Sapphire Princess before we arrived in Nagasaki, Japan. It happened to be the 21st of April which was Erik Gray's 17th birthday. The people of Japan were so nice and calm for the most part with clean streets and nice little food shops and shopping centres. The family went to the Atomic Bomb Museum for most of the day. It left a profound effect on all of us even though we had learned of this in school it was something else to see it first hand. In Japan there was no bartering and things seemed to be more expensive. As we left the harbour a huge band played as we headed off for another couple of days at sea. We docked in Osaka and the cruise was over. There was a huge ferris wheel there which some of us went on. That night we dined on a traditional Japanese dinner with all of us sitting shoeless on the floor and eating things that we had no idea what they were! It was a perfect end to an incredible experience for us all.

Recollections by Erik Gray.


The newly remodelled Hougen Centre building where Arts Underground and the Hougen Heritage Gallery are located in 5,000 square feet on the lower floor.


Premier Fentie congratulating Rolf Hougen.


Chris Dray, executive director Yukon Arts Centre, speaking at the opening.


Rolf and Marg Hougen with the 93 year old Yukon artist Alice Patnode.


Marg Hougen drawing a prize from the box held by Michael Hougen, son of Craig and Mary-Jane.


Contributing to the Arts - Rolf Hougen makes a toast at the Yukon Arts Centre while attending the opening of an art exhibit.

Arts Underground

by Andrew Hoshkiw
originally published in: The Whitehorse Star, Wedesday, June 8, 2005

Once again, the Hougen group has done something great for the city of Whitehorse.

Last Thursday, the new Artspace North gallery, located in the basement of the Hougen Centre, opened its doors to the public. While initial planning estimated 70 people would attend the opening, in fact, well over 200 people were present.

The space for the gallery, along with the utility costs, were freely donated by the Hougen group. The money to renovate the space was raised by the Yukon Art Society.



"For the arts community, this will be the first time they'll have a permanent home to teach the arts in Whitehorse," said Rolf Hougen, president of the group. "This will be a major contribution to the development of young artists."

More than just a gallery, the space will also feature an art supply store and the Yukon's first art education centre.

"The learning centre is the exciting part," said Hougen. "We hope to be able to have the first class in about two weeks. There will be art classes here. Perhaps clay, photography, even a photo studio."



While the city does have arts teaching available through the schools, until now, Whitehorse lacked a permanent facility aimed specifically at art education.

There's no public art education space in the city that everyone can use," said Chris Dray of the Yukon Arts Centre. Dray spearheaded this initiative to bring the arts space to the downtown area.

"Most arts development has happened outside the downtown," said Dray. "After 30 years, we've finally arrived on Main Street."



The 5,000-square-foot facility took two months to prepare. As the preparations came down to the wire, the society began to panic when the lights did not arrive in time. To make sure the opening would happen, other arts facilities in the region lent out their lighting.

"The Klondike Gallery sent down, (last Thursday) morning on the plane, their lights for us to use," said Dray.

The goal of the Artspace North Society is to put a cultural space on every block on Main Street and along the waterfront within the next five years.



Said Dray: "There are not many open cultural spaces, and yet culture is one of the largest economic drivers. Culture and business need to go together for economic development."

Marlene Collins of the Yukon Art Society was thrilled by the turnout at the opening.

"We need a lot of space, and with this, we can display a greater range of art," said Collins. "We run workshops both for recreation and professional development, and this will help us with our mandate to foster arts in the north."



Meshelle Melvin, one of the artists with work on display at the opening, was excited about the project and glad to see it had so much support.

"I'm particulary excited about the teaching space," said Melvin. "It'll feature lots of mixed media. Figure drawing, printmaking, silkscreens of an emotional expressionist nature."

Dray stressed the notion that our economy is driven by creativity, and bringing cultural activity to the downtown sector will revitalize business.

"We need to use culture to increase economic activity downtown," said Dray. "With this facility, we're off to a good start."