It wasn't the Yukon's first pipeline. The Canol line had been built in 1942, and included a line from Whitehorse to Skagway.
The eight-inch pipe-line, built in 1954 from Haines to Fairbanks, was a symbol, not of WWII, but of the cold war with Russia. It was designed to deliver low-cost quantities of jet fuel to Eielson Airforce Base in Alaska, used by the Strategic Air Command bombers. The 600-hundred mile line cost the American military 54 million dollars. Today, it would total about 400 million.
The pipeline was part of the American policy of deterrence during the frightening days of the Cold War.
Prior to 1955, fuel for Alaskan military bases was supplied by the Alaska Railroad at a delivery cost of ten cents a gallon from Anchorage to Fairbanks. Too expensive, said military planners. Fuel delivered by the eight-inch pipeline was a cent a gallon in shipping costs from Haines to Fairbanks.
The route from Haines to Fairbanks was selected because the Haines Highway provided a ready-made corridor. Haines had a deep-water, ice-free port, with docking facilities capable of handling large fuel tankers.
The pipe and construction materials began arriving in 1954, and were trucked to staging areas throughout Alaska, the Yukon and British Columbia. By the summer of 1955, the job was finished, and the first tanker arrived in Haines in June 1955.
The line ran from Haines, up the Chilkat River valley and paralleled the Haines Highway to Haines Junction. A pump station at 49 Mile lifted the fuel over the Chilkat Pass, the highest point on the entire line at 3600 feet. At Haines Junction, the line turned north along the Alaska Highway and headed for Eielson Air force Base.
The fuel was boosted over the summit and past Kluane Lake by a pump station ten miles north of Haines Junction. There was also a pump station at Destruction Bay and one south of the Donjek River.
The flow and pressure were constantly monitored at pump houses, in both the Yukon and Alaska, as the fuel ran to a terminal at Tok Junction to await a delivery to Eielson Air Force Base.
Storage facilities, at both Haines and Tok, could handle almost three hundred thousand barrels of fuel. The line carried a mixed bag of product at the same time including jet fuel, aviation gas, diesel and regular gasoline. Pressure inside the line prevented mixing of the different types of fuels.
The pipeline could deliver almost thirty thousand barrels of fuel per day. Well-trained American and Canadian professionals operated the system, including my brother Fred, who loved his work and the family life offered at the Destruction Bay pump house.
By the early 1970's, solid-fuel Minuteman missiles began replacing bombers and reduced the need for conventional fuel. The pipeline and pump stations were abandoned in 1971. The pipe was salvaged in 1991.
The Haines to Fairbanks pipeline had done its job. It was economical and safe. During sixteen years of operation, delivering milllions of barrels of fuel to the US Military in Alaska, not a single plane was lost because of bad fuel.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
The land is still here - listed as Group 2 in lot 243 - a nineteen-acre plot on the west bank of the Yukon River about three miles upstream from Dawson City. It is long way from Chicago, Illinois where in 1954, the Klondike Big Inch Land Caper began.
Bruce Baker was an advertising executive with Quaker Oats company. For years, through his ad campaigns, he told the children of North America that Quaker Oats cereal was shot from guns. But by the mid-fifties, other cereals gave away prizes in every box. Baker needed something new; something catchy and simple and related to the cereal's radio show about Sergeant Preston, a Mountie in the Yukon. Then he had a brain wave.
In each box of Puffed Rice and Puffed Wheat, he would give away a deed to a square inch of Yukon land exactly where Sergeant Preston and his trusty dog King carried out their adventures in radio land.
So began the Klondike Big Inch Land Caper, one of the most successful sales promotions in North American business history.
In October 1954, Baker, his brother John, and a Quaker Oats advertising executive chartered a plane and flew from Chicago to the Yukon, to look for land. In Whitehorse, the three introduced themselves to lawyer George Van Roggen who drove the men from Whitehorse to Dawson City. In the frigid early hours of Thursday, October 7, the three Chicago ad men set out in an open boat to inspect the land they would buy for 1000 dollars.
Their guide was Constable Paul LeCocq, a real-life Mountie stationed in Dawson. It was the most exciting day of Bruce Baker's life. The trip gave him a wooden leg to prove it. The Yukon river was choked with cakes of ice. The wake sprayed up over Constable LeCocq and froze. His leather jacket was soon completely covered with ice. Still they maneuvered upstream against the current for about 40 minutes and arrived at the land in question.
Paul turned in toward shore and suddenly - Crash!. The boat smashed up on a rock. Water poured over the stern and turned to ice in the bottom of the boat. They had to paddle about 50 yards to shore, made a hurried inspection of the Quaker Oats property and headed back, wet and cold, to Dawson, drifting with the current because the sheer pin of their outboard motor had broken off when they crashed.
When they got back to town, they headed straight for the hotel bar and got pickled on 180-proof rum. Bruce Baker's feet were badly frostbitten. Years later, complications resulted in the amputation of his right leg below the knee.
Back in Chicago, Quaker Oats formed a subsidiary called the Klondike Big Inch Land Co. to handle the promotion, so that deeds could be decorated with an official-looking corporate seal.
The promotion was first announced on the Sgt. Preston network radio show on January 27, 1955, and ads appeared in newspapers across North America: "You'll actually own one square inch of Yukon land in the famous Klondike gold country!"
The public response surpassed Baker's wildest dreams. Quaker Oats cereal sold as quickly as the deeds could be printed and stuffed into the boxes.Twenty-one million were issued in just a few years and resulted in Puffed Wheat and Rice taking control of the highly competitive cereal market.
The Sgt. Preston radio show went off the air in the late 1950s. The Klondike Big Inch Land Company was kept alive until 1966, to handle thousands of inquiries.
Then, the 19 wilderness acres of Yukon land were repossessed by the Canadian government for non-payment of $37.20 in taxes. Today, the deeds for the Klondike Big Inch Company are worth upwards of US $35 in the collectible's marketplace.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
I learned a new word today. It is difficult to pronounce, but it means a lot. The word is Paradoli. It was coined in 1994 and means mistaking something perceived as recognizable. Like shapes of angels in clouds. Or the man in the moon. Or the face on Mars. They don’t exist, but with paradoli, we are led to believe that they do. It is a psychological term for the mind's obsession with finding patterns in essentially random objects.
So why am I talking about this on Yukon Nuggets? Simply because of a five-dollar bill. The 1954 five-dollar bill was the first to have a likeness of Queen Elizabeth on the front. She had been crowned Queen in 1953 and, the following year, the Bank of Canada replaced the portrait of her late father King George with hers.
Well, it didn't take long for the conspiracy theorists to get in on the act. They saw the likeness of a devil’s head in her hair. Thus, the 1954 series of Canadian bank notes became known as the 'devil’s head series'. Of course, there was no devil in her hair. It was a mass case of paradoli, seeing something that does not exist.
A story made the rounds that a French Canadian, who designed the portrait, slipped a devil’s head past the scrutineers because he opposed the monarchy. Just to be on the safe side, the Bank of Canada had the plates (from which the notes were produced) darkened in 1956, so any chance of seeing a fictional devil’s head vanished.
Still, you are right to ask, "what does this have to do with the Yukon?"
In a round-about way, plenty. You see, the 1954 five-dollar bill, long out of circulation, has, on the back, a picture of Otter Falls, Yukon, where I often fished for rainbow trout with my brother-in-law.
I have been trying to find out why Otter Falls is on the "devil's head" bill? Who took the photo? How was it chosen? When was it taken? Questions, questions.
A Yukon friend from my distant past says it was taken by Blondie Hougen, late brother of Rolf Hougen. He says he was there when Blondie took the photo. There can be no doubt that my friend was with Blondie that day and that Blondie took a photo. But did his photo end up on the five-dollar bill? It is possible, but I could not confirm that from officials at the Bank of Canada’s museum.
They tell me that in preparing for the 1954 issue, officials at the Bank of Canada reviewed literally thousands of images of Canada, searching for examples that would capture the diverse nature of the Canadian landscape. Various firms, including the National Library, Canadian Pacific and several news agencies, supplied the images. They say that they have no specific information about the source of the photograph used to engrave the image of Otter Falls.
So it remains a mystery - for now - how or why Otter Falls came to grace the 1954 five-dollar bill. It is, of course, no longer in circulation and, as a collector’s item, it is not worth very much. To a Yukoner, however, who fished the falls and marvelled at their grandeur when the water raged over the rocks before they built the Aishihik dam in the mid-seventies, the sight of the falls living forever as a famous image on an historic piece of Canadian currency is reason enough to hope that Blondie Hougen took the photo, because it captured, for Yukoners everywhere, the magic and the mystery of the land.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
A visit to Otter Falls
Otter Falls, once featured on the back of the Canadian five dollar bill, is one of the many excellent Yukon places to visit for fishing and relaxation.
A Yukon video by Les McLaughlin
It was hot that Sunday in August back in 1954. By mid-day, the temperature had risen to 80° F. The quiet town was livelier than usual. The water truck, that would normally be parked in the city garage, was rushing up and down Fourth Avenue, pumping gallons of water on the dusty gravel streets. School teachers were handing out Red Ensign Flags. Alex Seely was pruning pansies in a 45-gallon oil drum. Shop-keepers were busy hanging red, white and blue bunting. The door to Sam McGee's cabin on Elliott Street was wide open. Taylor and Drury's mechanics were putting the final polish on a snazzy Oldsmobile. This was no normal Sunday.
Royalty was coming to Whitehorse. The imminent arrival of the dashing Duke of Edinburg would mark the first time a member of the Royal Family would visit the Yukon. Only a year earlier, Prince Phillip had wowed the world with his smashing good looks and courteous personality when his wife was crowned Queen Elizabeth II, ruler of the vast British Empire including the far-off Yukon.
The Duke arrived in Whitehorse at noon, August 8th on a four-hour, direct flight from Vancouver, where he had been the Royal representative at the British Empire Games, where he had witnessed fellow Brit Roger Bannister break the fabled four-minute mile. That was a special moment for Prince Phillip, who was now known around the globe as an avid sportsman, a man in love with the great outdoors, a fabulous horseman and strong swimmer. However, a deep gash on his royal nose proved that he could use some lessons in the art of Olympic diving. He had cut himself while plunging into the UBC swimming pool during the Vancouver games. Like everything with the Royals, that nose gash was big news.
Now this world figure was coming to tiny Whitehorse, where the streets were unpaved, wooden sidewalks creaked in winter and heaved in summer, and there were no traffic lights. There was no city sewer system, although a plebiscite in June had just approved the hotly debated topic of whether Whitehorse should rid itself of back-yard cesspools and open wells in favour of a modern system of running water carried in - of all things - underground pipes. What would they think of next!
The plebiscite was fiercely contested, since many taxpayers thought they could not afford such luxury. One of the ads in the paper that convinced the rate-payers to fork over the dough was a banner full-page, edged-in-black message claiming that the Queen, on a visit to Australia earlier in the year, had to wear rubber gloves to avoid contamination of her regal personage by foul water. The Yukon ad asked if Prince Phillip would have to wear rubber gloves to avoid contamination and the possibility of contracting polio from tainted water in the Yukon's capital. "If we don't get it - we've had it" blazed the headline. The plebiscite carried.
At noon on that idyllic August Sunday, Commissioner Wilfred Brown, Mayor Gordon Armstrong, and a bands from the RCAF base met the Duke's royal plane. They ushered him into a polished yellow Oldsmobile and drove down the winding, old Two Mile Hill to the newly constructed Whitehorse Elementary High-school on Fourth Avenue, for a meeting with the children of the Yukon, including Lena Tizya, to whom he was introduced as she had represented the Yukon Girl Guides at the Queen's Coronation in 1953.
The Fleet Street Press from London, a photographer from the world's most popular news magazine "LIFE" (on the cover of which appeared a photo of the Duke in front of WHS), and a contingent of Canadian cameramen and writers recorded the Duke's every move, so much so that an editorial in the Whitehorse Star a week later praised the visit, the Duke, the kids and Yukoners in general, but slammed the "outside" press, calling them rude, crude and impudent in pushing aside anyone who got in the way of their "photo-op."
Later that memorable Sunday, Prince Phillip embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime trip down the Yukon River a few miles, on board the newly renovated paddle-wheeler SS Klondike, that had just been put back into service by the White Pass and Yukon Route, who in co-operation with Canadian Pacific Airlines began an ill-fated and wildly expensive gamble to bring tourist dollars to the awakening, but still largely unknown Yukon tourist industry. On board the Klondike, Phillip observed a large painting depicting Cancan girls dancing up a storm, and asked Mayor Armstrong:
"Do you have any around here like this?" Diplomatically, the gracious mayor offered instead an ivory desk pen set that he had bought earlier in the day from the Yukon Gift and Ivory Shop.
That evening the RCAF mess was the location of a gala - or what in Yukon terms in the fifties could pass as a gala evening of food and conversation. The Duke talked at length with 88-year-old Martha Louise Black and her 81-year-old husband George, both of whom had spent some time in England when they were Members of the Canadian Parliament. George had been speaker of the House of Commons in the thirties, and when he fell ill prior to the 1940 general election, Martha ran for his Yukon seat and became only the second woman to sit in the House of Commons.
The Duke was fascinated by Martha's tale of her life as one of the few women who climbed the Chilkoot Pass on her way to the Klondike in 1898. With some irony, Prince Phillip also listened intently as aboriginal elder Patsy Henderson told him the story of his days as a young boy, back in 1898, in a camp with his uncle Skookum Jim, on the banks of the Klondike River when Jim, Tagish Charlie and George Carmack found the gold that made the Yukon famous, and drew Martha and her husband George to the Yukon.
Urban legend has it that a server during the evening meal advised Prince Phillip not to give up his fork so quickly after the main course, because "there's still pie coming, Duke."
Bright and early, Monday morning, August 9th, 1954, the royal visitor boarded his Canadian government plane and headed north to Coppermine, in the Northwest Territories, for a quick tour of the Arctic. Of the visit, Life Magazine noted "the Duke not only enjoyed himself hugely but brought back a winter's worth of dazzling tales of the wild north world to tell the queen, as well as a pair of Eskimo soapstone carvings for Princess Anne and Prince Charles."
Which leads me to wonder if Charles still has those carvings. Maybe someone should ask him. They'd be worth a fortune on eBay.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
He was as colourful as the characters he wrote about.
Harry J. Boyle was the editor and owner of the Whitehorse Star from 1954 to 1963. The office was in a shack on Main Street, but the editorial office was in a dilapidated, uninsulated garage in the lane out back. It was cold and crowded, housing Harry's desk, and an oil space-heater that stopped when the temperature outside dropped.
When they entered the editorial office, visitors were treated with a strange sight. A large banner on the wall read: "RESPECT OUR GIRLS." Next to the banner were three photos: Queen Elizabeth, Harry's mother, and Marilyn Monroe.
Harry was a character. He wrote many editorials, and often included a light piece at the end - just for laughs. However, one day he couldn't think of one. Rusty Erlam remembers that it was Rendezvous Week in Whitehorse. Then, Boyle had a brain-wave.
"I have got it!", Harry said, and came up with a story about a little boy dragging his dog into the Rendezvous office and asking to register him for the one-dog race.
"What is his name?" the lady asked.
"I don't know," the boy answered. "I just found him!"
Harry was responsible for hiring one of the most famous community correspondents in the Yukon. In 1962, he began printing Edith Josie's column, Old Crow News, thus preserving a history of this important Yukon community.
According to Bob Erlam, Harry had a knack for finding strange stuff. Once, he found a floor-length coonskin coat. Then someone gave him one of the first electric toothbrushes.
One day in the middle of winter, Harry and Bob took the coat and brush along with Helga, from the Star's stationary store, and headed for the Yukon River.
Helga liked to paint, so they set up her easel on the ice and Erlam took a picture of her "painting" with the electric toothbrush. The caption explained that it was too cold in the Yukon to use an ordinary paint-brush. It seems that electrical trade magazines used the picture for months afterwards.
Harry Boyle had little time for bureaucracy. Once when some federal officials were visiting from Ottawa, the Star's front-page headline read: "Better class of drinkers in town."
No wonder the Star's motto was Illegitimus non Carborundum, which means "don't let the bastards wear you down."
When the United States fired a chimpanzee named "Ham," into space, and safely brought the chimp home, it became an international celebrity. Harry sent a telegram to Ham the chimp, at Cape Canaveral.
"Can you type? If so, we offer you the presidency of the Sourdough Press Club."
Shortly, in the mail came a reply and a signed photo of Ham, who, it turns out, was a female.
Harry wasted no time putting the picture of Ham on the office wall along with the Queen, Harry's mother and Marilyn Monroe.
When he sold the Star to Bob Erlam, Harry Boyle moved to B.C. to study law, earned a degree and eventually sat as a judge of the B.C. Supreme Court.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin