There was always a lot of action at Clarke Stadium in Edmonton when the Eskimos faced their opponents in the CFL. Not surprisingly, the action on the field reflected that of the stadium's namesake, Joe Clarke.
Joe Clarke was born and educated in Ontario. He was not the Joe who at one time was Canada's Prime Minister. No, the Joe Clarke I speak of was a much wilder guy, but no less a politician. Clarke left Ontario in 1892 to join the Northwest Mounted Police in Regina.
He didn't last long as a Mountie, deserting the force and high-tailing it back to Ontario a few months after his initation. The force charged him with desertion and only the fact that his uncle was the magistrate hearing his desertion case prevented jail time. He was fined 100 dollars.
From that episode, it seems Clarke got a quick lesson in law and enrolled at the Osgood Hall law school in Toronto. On graduation, he joined the Klondike Gold Rush. In June 1898, the Yukon was created as a district separate from the Northwest Territories, and politics immediately became a favourite sport of locals - after boxing and hockey, of course.
In 1902, the first election for the Yukon's member of parliament took place. Joe Clarke ran as a Conservative against the Liberal, James Ross, who had been the Yukon's Commissioner.
In his first election attempt, Clarke was supported by a local lawyer, George Black, who would go on in later years to glory in the House of Commons as the Yukon MP, for 22 years. He was not supported, however, by the Whitehorse Star. The paper vilified Clarke for announcing in Whitehorse that he supported a smelter near the town, only to say back in Dawson City that a smelter near Whitehorse was impractical and more likely to succeed "on the moon". In a headline, the Star claimed there were three kinds of liars, and Joe Clarke is the greatest.
Clarke lost the federal election but he was far from finished on the Yukon's political scene. The following year - 1903 - he ran for and won a seat on the first elected Territorial council, and was also admitted to the Yukon bar as a practicing lawyer.
By 1908, Clarke was finished in the Yukon. The Star even hinted that he had been run out of the Territory. His running stopped in Edmonton, where his colourful Yukon past had not changed his political outlook very much.
In 1912, Clarke became an Edmonton City Alderman and quickly earned the title "Fightin' Joe Clarke" because of his quick temper. Always one to fight for the underdog, he was not above using his fists to make a point. On August 6, 1914, he and the Mayor Billy McNamara, rolled down the city hall steps and out onto the street, and eventually battled to a draw.
Fighting didn't seem to deter Joe's electoral chances. He was elected alderman eight times and mayor five. In 1930, Joe was instrumental in getting his long-time friend Prime Minister MacKenzie King to lease the city an old federal penitentiary site for ninety-nine years at a dollar a year, to be used as an athletic park.
In 1937, when a 3000-seat stadium was built on the site, the city called it Clarke Stadium.
The stadium eventually gained Canada-wide renown as home of the Edmonton Eskimos, and when the original Clarke Stadium was torn down and replaced with the ultra-modern Commonwealth Stadium in 1978, the entire area was called Clarke Park.
A fitting memorial to a politician who survived Yukon political woes, at the turn of the century, to enter the history books as one of Edmonton's most popular mayors.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
Christopher William Pearson arrived in the Yukon in 1957. He worked for the Territorial government until 1973, and then went into private business. In 1978, Chris became a politician and was elected to the Yukon Legislature. For the first time, the election was run along party lines, fielding candidates from the three major political parties. The Yukon Conservative party won the general election with eleven of 16 seats.
Party leader Hilda Watson, however, lost her seat, and Chris Pearson was then chosen to lead the party. Thus, in his first attempt in Territorial politics, he became Yukon government leader and took the reigns on the road to Yukon self-government.
On October 9, 1979, Jake Epp, Minister of Indian Affairs, answered Chris Pearson's letter of June 18th by issuing new instructions to Commissioner Ione Christensen. The famous Epp letter effectively removed the office of Commissioner from day to day governing of the Yukon, and allowed the government leader to call him- or herself, Premier.
The long and winding road to full Yukon autonomy got a little smoother that day. Under Chris Pearson, the Yukon government successfully obtained the transfer of many powers from the federally appointed commissioner to the Territorial government.
The Pearson government also battled for more responsible government and more control over resources. They also argued for the Yukon’s place as a full participant in federal-provincial conferences rather than just an observer.
In 1982, Pearson’s government was re-elected with a majority. But it now had to deal with an economic recession, which was worsened by the collapse of the mining industry and the closure of the Faro Mine.
Pearson left politics in 1985, but his successor, Willard Phelps, was not able to turn the government's fortunes around, and the New Democratic Party won that year's election.
During his years in the Yukon, Chris Pearson served as the President of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and was actively involved in the Rotary Club, as well as in many sports organizations.
After elective politics, he entered the Canadian diplomatic service and served in the Canadian Consulate in Dallas, Texas, for a number of years. Chris Pearson is now retired and lives in Radford, Virginia.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
The Clinton Creek asbestos mine, near the junction of the Yukon and Fortymile Rivers, was operated by the Cassiar Asbestos Corporation from 1967 until 1978. Asbestos was hauled from the mine site down the top of the world highway, across the Yukon River at Dawson City by ferry in summer, ice road in winter, and by a tram system in the spring and fall. At its peak, 500 people called Clinton Creek home.
During the life of the mine, Art Anderson was renowned as the #1 employee on the payroll. For good reason. Art's father, Pete, a Dane, had boated down the Pelly River to the Klondike in July 1898. Too late to stake good gold-bearing ground in the Klondike, he prospected around the Fortymile district. Pete Anderson married Mary Charles, who died giving birth to Art, on March 27, 1912.
Growing up in the remote corner of the Yukon, young Art Anderson intimately knew the Clinton Creek terrain. He made regular dog team trips from Fortymile to Dawson City to sell furs and buy supplies.
Art was twenty-one when he and his father left Fortymile in 1933 to farm the fertile Clinton Creek Valley soil. It provided a bounty of vegetables.
He and his father also found piles of fluffy fibres. Twenty years later, this fibrous matter, known as asbestos, was a coveted product. About 1955, Conwest Exploration, which owned the Cassiar Asbestos Corporation in northern British Columbia, was attracted to the Yukon asbestos find.
It is sometimes called the Caley deposit because Dawson City resident, Fred Caley, had funded Art Anderson in his search to locate the asbestos deposit.
In 1965, Conwest decided to go into production at Clinton Creek. During the mine's lifetime, an annual 100,000 tons of industrial-grade asbestos fibres were produced in the round-the-clock operation.
Transportation was a complicated affair. The skyline at Dawson required a lot of loading and unloading time, along with the maintenance of two-truck fleets on either side of the river. Six weeks were required to build an ice bridge. In the spring, when warm temperatures threatened to decay the bridge, drivers crossed with truck doors open - always ready to jump if the ice collapsed.
The mine's limited lifespan prevented the Yukon government from building a permanent bridge. However, now that the mine no longer exists, there is talk again about building a bridge across the Yukon River at Dawson.
Art Anderson, discoverer of the Clinton Creek asbestos find, died at age eighty-four, on October 4, 1996.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin