The streets of Whitehorse are paved with stories...stories which go back long before the streets were paved. Those dusty, sometimes muddy, often frozen streets today yield nuggets about Lowe, Hoge, Jeckell, Taylor and Drury.
Last time, we walked the White Pass streets of Whitehorse, mostly located south of Main. Robert Lowe's Street is just two blocks long facing, as it does, on fourth avenue, the site of the last old ball diamond in the downtown core. The ball diamond where kids of the 50s held their annual spring track meet, and where the boys of summer knew George Kolkind would have the grounds scraped, the stands clean and lines chalked before each and every ball game during the endless summer. Robert Lowe was a businessman and politician at the turn of the century, and the Speaker of the first wholly elected territorial council in 1909.
To the south, Hoge Street honours an American general who was the first to command the building of the Alaska Highway. Brigadier General William Hoge soon discovered, in 1942, that this vital highway project was too big for one man, and later became commander of the Northern section out of Whitehorse. In an interview in the 70s, I asked General Hoge for his version of why the highway was so crooked. "Because we didn't have a lot of time for surveying", he told me, "so I'd just order one of my men to walk through the bush, find the tallest tree and give it a good shake. Then I'd tell the bulldozer operators to head for that tree."
George Jeckell came to the Yukon in 1902, to teach in Dawson City. He must have liked the country a lot because he stayed on for 50 years. He was chief executive officer for the Yukon government from 1932 until 1947, and held about as much political power during that time as any unelected public servant ever could. With his teaching background, he oversaw the rapid growth of the Yukon's education system. Jeckell Street, south of Hoge, is named for George, the teacher.
The final two streets downtown fittingly join together at fifth avenue. Isaac Taylor and William Drury met in Atlin in 1898, when both were heading north to see what kind of business opportunities were available in this bustling land. Before they finished, the pair operated 13 department stores throughout the Yukon, supplied many of them with their own riverboats, and left the Taylor and Drury mark forever stamped on the face of the Yukon.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin