Hougen Group

Bowling in Whitehorse

The North Star Athletic Club building was the hub of Whitehorse recreational activity from 1900 until it burned down in 1943. This was the club in Robert Service’s poem about Bob Smart’s dream. It was the place where people met for social and athletic gatherings. So it was in July of 1908 when the newfangled sport of bowling came to Whitehorse. The alleys were located in a new annex of the North Star clubhouse that was located on Main Street between Third and Fourth Avenues, where the prospector statue now stands.

The first bowling match was held on July 1st 1908, and it must have been a doozey. It featured territorial councilor Robert Lowe against Whitehorse Star Editor E.J. “Stroller” White. Lowe was to become the first speaker of the first wholly elected territorial council, while White had already made a name for himself in the newspaper world with his colourful stories about the Yukon. Lowe won that first bowling match, and was then challenged by the Yukon Commissioner Henderson. Lowe again was the winner, and according to “Stroller” White’s front page story in the Whitehorse Star, Lowell was “very much inflated over his two victories”.

Women were offered free use of the club Wednesdays, and this proved so popular that they extended the offer to Friday afternoons. “Stroller” White did not miss an opportunity to have a little fun in his paper, complaining that the women didn’t keep score of their games, but “played by the half-day, during which time the pin-setters had plenty of time for leisure discussion”.

Bowling was big in the Yukon, and featured tournaments against Skagway teams every second week. The participants travelled by train between what the Whitehorse Star called the “windswept burg of the Skagwayans and the Rapid City”. After the matches dancing to a full orchestra then continued into the wee small hours of the night. The North Star Athletic Club, a hub of the Whitehorse Social Scene in the early days of the busy little town, a raging blaze consumed the building in the spring of 1943.

A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin