Hougen Group

The Whitehorse Star in the 30s and 40s

Times were tough in the Yukon just before the outbreak of World War II. The territory had become a backwater, out of sight and out of mind, especially by the Federal Government. In 1937 the feds gleefully agreed to allow British Columbia to take over the administration of the territory, hardly anyone was living here anyway. In 1941 the population of the entire territory was about 4600 people. Two thirds were men, and many stayed to work in the summer, and left when freeze up came.

But small business plugged along. Over at the Whitehorse Star’s little shack on Main Street, owner Horace Moore was a one man show. Moore had bought the Star in 1938. He was trying to eke out a living publishing a six page paper once a week, and do some commercial printing jobs to keep the wolf from the door. Then in 1942 things changed for Moore, and the Yukon. The American Troops building the Alaska Highway hit the Yukon like a juggernaut. Things changed so much that Time magazine ran a story about, of all things, The Whitehorse Star. Time wrote: “Outside the tiny white-framed building a large sign simply says ‘printing’. That’s the headquarters of The Whitehorse Star in the Yukon Territory. Inside, another large sign pleads ‘don’t shoot, we're doing our best’. The first sign went up six years ago because Editor Horace Edward Moore wanted business. The second went up last week, because he had too much”. Time’s report was elegant. “A birdlike 63 year old Mr. Chipsy sort of man who immigrated long ago from England, Horace Moore had worked around Western Canada at various jobs before buying The Star. From the paper, and from what other printing jobs he could pick up, he hoped for a living and leisure. He acquired a linotype machine and an operator, increased his paper’s size from four to six pages, and turned out job printing for Whitehorse’s few stores. One year he won a Canadian Weekly Newspaper Association award for the best paper under 500 circulation. Best of all, he did all of this in an easy 5 day week.

But last year the Alaska Highway brought briskness to editor Moore’s idyllic retreat. Thousands of inflooding US Army Engineers and private construction workers transformed Whitehorse into something unreal. Job printing orders went up like a rocket. Officers and contractors now bang on The Star’s doors with orders for letterheads, record forms, tickets and contracts in the thousands. With the aid of a new automatic press and four assistants, two of which are army men who work part-time, pipe-smoking cap-wearing Horace Moore is doing the best he can. But gone are the five-day weeks and the life of Riley. Whitehorse’s frosty ink stained paradise has been invaded”. Yet another example of the impact the Alaska Highway had on the Yukon.

A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin