Let's take a quick walk down some of the streets of Downtown Whitehorse. There are a lot of memories here and a lot of interesting people whose names appear on the street signs.
When I was a boy growing up on Strickland Street, I - like other youngsters of a tender age - had no idea what the name meant. All I knew is that the street offered a safe and quiet haven for our nightly game of street hockey played under the light on a single pole at sixth avenue. With age, one needs to know more. Inspector D'Arcy Strickland came to the Yukon in 1894 and helped build Fort Constantine down river from Dawson. Later he commanded the NWMP post at the Summit of the White Pass enforcing as he did the strict rules for anyone who would enter the Yukon on their way to the Klondike. His entire story in the Yukon is much more detailed than can be told here.
The original Whitehorse townsite extended from the waterfront to the clay bluffs and from the alley behind Hawkins Street to the alley behind Strickland...which wasn't a street way back then. The first subdivision of Whitehorse created Strickland Street in 1945, the year my Dad bought a lot and built our small house, which offered much warmth after a hard night's game of street hockey.
The next street to the south is Jarvis. Here, some 30 years ago in the Stratford Motel, I interviewed A.Y. Jackson, the Group of Seven painter who, with his colleagues, immortalized the Canadian wilderness. He told me he loved the Yukon and found it an extreme contrast to his other love, the high Arctic. Jarvis Street is named for Inspector A.M. Jarvis of the NWMP, who was stationed at the Dalton Post customs office in 1898.
Another mountie street to the south is Wood. Here, in the mid-50s, Sammy McClimon built the Yukon Theatre, complete with cinemascope screen and high-tech sound. There we sat in the comfort of this modern marvel and revelled in Hollywood musicals like Brigadoon, Showboat, Oklahoma, the King and I, and more. NWMP Inspector Zachary Wood was in charge of customs duties during the Gold Rush and once went outside carrying 150 thousand dollars in gold - bound for the federal coffers in Victoria.
The last of the mountie streets to the south is named after the most famous mountie ever to work the north. Sam Steele was an original member of the force when it was formed in 1873. Such are his exploits that many articles and books have chronicled his life. He helped supervise police duties during the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway. In January of 1898, he was ordered by the federal government to move quickly north to establish a customs post and a police presence atop the Chilkoot and White Passes. Later that year, Steele moved to Dawson where the potential for crimes of every kind was seething not far under the surface. Steele is credited with setting up the policing and administrative systems which turned Dawson - a potentially lawless town like Skagway - into a relatively peaceful haven in a land of brutal extremes.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin