Bob Erlam belongs in the Yukon’s colourful five percent. As one time owner of the Whitehorse Star, he has to be. With Bob Erlam, the ideas just kept coming. More often than not, they were offbeat stories with a strange twist. More on that in a moment.
Bob and his wife Rusty arrived in the Yukon in 1947. He had been in the Canadian Army overseas during the Second World War. On a whim, he and Rusty decided to move to the Yukon. Whitehorse was a real frontier town then, and they shared a two-bedroom shack with two other couples in downtown Whitehorse. No running water, of course.
Bob got odd jobs - mainly as a handyman and electrician. The couple left the Yukon in 1957, but returned in the early 60s. Bob’s newspaper career began when he drew a cartoon featuring a dispute between a local resident and Yukon Electric and left it tacked to the door of the newspaper. The Star owner, Harry Boyle ran the cartoon on the front page. Bob became hooked on newspapers though his wife Rusty was the real writer in the family. Both were employed by Boyle at the Star.
In 1963, Bob arrived at work one day to find a note from Boyle saying he was now in charge since Harry was going back to school to study law. Bob became the publisher and then in 1967, the Erlam’s bought the Star.
Bob always carried his camera and shot many scenes of Yukon life during his 35 years as publisher of the paper.
In 1965, he was contracted by Time Magazine to take photos of Senator Robert Kennedy’s climb of the Yukon's Mount Kennedy,named for his brother, the late U.S. president. He was also a jack of all trades - fixing the printing presses and keeping the spartan offices of the Star on Main Street operational - often with duct tape. The one thing he didn’t do, though, was a lot of writing. He said he couldn’t spell so anything attributed to him as a writer had been checked by Rusty.
Bob always thought of the Star as the opposition to the government. He said it was the job of the newspaper to criticize and expose wrongdoing, and Bob was a champion of independent thinking.
Once, as the debate raged over whether parking meters should be located on Main Street, the City hired a meter maid to police the system and hand out tickets. Bob hired an anti-meter maid to feed nearly expired meters. That story made international headlines.
The Erlams sold the Whitehorse Star to Jackie Pierce in 2002. Bob Erlam, a true Yukon pioneer, passed away on March 26, 2009 at the age of 92.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
There’s something about long time Yukon families that remind me of that pleasant old song from the late forties. It was called Dear Hearts and Gentle People.
The Ryder family of Whitehorse were dear hearts - important members of Yukon society who contributed much to the vibrant life people enjoy in the territory today.
Lloyd Ryder was such a man. Born into a family of three boys and one girl, he lived a good life in the Yukon. His father George served with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces in Europe during the first world war where he managed to keep his sense of humour.
In a letter to his father sent from somewhere in France in February 1917, George Ryder wrote that he and his mates had been over the top of the trenches, through fields of frozen mud and into German trenches. George said they were quote - playing tag with Fritz with bayonets and bombs and - to quote George "we paid off a few debts we owed to Fritz."
In the same letter he thanked the ladies of the Yukon IODE for taking good care of the boys overseas with special parcels.
Back in the Yukon after the war, George started a family which included three sons - Lloyd, Howard and Gordon and a daughter Audrey. George also started an essential business called Ryder’s Fuel Service. The fuel was cord wood cut in the bushes near town and delivered first by horse drawn wagon and then by truck to houses like ours on Strickland Street that relied on wood for winter warmth.
I recall with mixed emotions, the arrival of the Ryder’s Wood truck. It meant the house would be warm, but it also meant I had a lot of chopping to do. Split cord wood was more expensive than uncut logs and money being tight - we bought logs.
He began flying commercially in 1962 with Whitehorse Flying Service. It later became Yukon Flying Service, a bush plane operation which specialised in going places in the Yukon that were hard to get to.
Lloyd Ryder flew many a mining prospector to remote camps and made sure they were well supplied and safe in their isolated environment. You could count on Lloyd Ryder and his ski and float equipped aircraft.
US Senator Robert Kennedy counted on Lloyd Ryder to deliver him to the ten thousand foot level of a St. Elias Mountain he was about to climb. That was in March of 1965 when Lloyd made sure the world famous expedition to honour the late US President John F. Kennedy was safe and sound and had all the supplies they needed for the amazing mountain climbing feat.
He also took part in the miraculous air search for Ralph Flores and Helen Klaben who survived for 49 winter days after their plane crashed near Watson Lake in 1963. In 2007, Lloyd was awarded the 'Order of Polaris' Aviation Award for his significant contribution to northern aviation.
Lloyd Ryder served as President and of the Yukon Order of Pioneers. He also spent a lot of time and energy in helping raise the standard of living for Yukon seniors. Lloyd Ryder passed away at the age of 87.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
The Ryder family began their Yukon saga in 1900 when Roland Ryder left his home in Chilliwack, B.C. and headed for Dawson City, where he hoped to make his fortune since he had a wife and eleven children to support back home. When he reached Whitehorse, Roland had travelled far enough and so he stayed. He began a water delivery service in the town of three hundred people.
His wife decided to stay in Chilliwack, but three of Roland’s boys followed him. In 1923, his son George carried on with the business, adding stove wood to the water delivery business. Through the years, George was an undertaker, fire chief, and on the city of Whitehorse’s first elected city council.
George married his wife Edith in 1919 and had three sons, Lloyd, Gordon and Howard, and a daughter, Audrey. The eldest, Lloyd, who was born in 1922, helped his father with the delivery services. Lloyd recalled feeding the family’s horses every morning where they were pastured near Main Street.
After graduating from high school, he trained as an aviation mechanic in Vancouver. In the early 1940s, he worked for White Pass Airways and took part in surveying the Aishihik road. He spent a brief period with the Canadian military in Holland, at the end of WWII.
When his father George died unexpectedly at age 59, Lloyd took over the fuel delivery business and ran it until it was sold to Les Murdoch in 1965.
Meanwhile, Lloyd had retained his keen interest in aviation which he had developed as a teenager. He began flying commercially in 1965 and continued in this career until he retired in 1994 at age 72. When Lloyd and several partners bought out Yukon Airways, he began flying full-time under the new company called Great Northern Airways. When this company folded in 1971, he spent the bulk of his flying career with Elvin’s Equipment in Whitehorse.
In 1969, on one of his many medivac trips, Lloyd met a young nurse from Ontario, Marny Prentice, and they were married later that year. They had two children, John, born in 1971, and Jennifer, born in 1974.
The family loved the outdoors, and spent as much time as possible, camping out at the various Yukon lakes in their trailer and at their beloved cabin at McClintock Bay.
In 1995, Lloyd and Marny were honoured as Mr. and Mrs. Yukon. Lloyd was also active as a community volunteer for more than sixty years. He devoted countless hours to the Whitehorse Lions Club, CPR Yukon, Yukon Order of Pioneers, Yukon Transportation Museum, and the Boy Scouts of Canada. He received the Whitehorse Volunteer of the Year award in 2001.
Lloyd was a pioneer member of the Canadian Owner’s and Pilot’s Association and an inaugural member of the Yukon Flying Club. He was inducted into the Yukon Transportation Hall of Fame in 1997 and in 2007, he was honored with the presentation of the Order of Polaris Award.
Lloyd Ryder passed away peacefully, surrounded by family, at his home in Whitehorse on December 7, 2009, at the age of 87.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin