Dawson City, Yukon Territory, 1899 (E.A. Hegg)
last Yukon trip was to Dawson City - the "city of gold"
- the place that embodies the essence of the nineties gold rush. At
the time we visited it, in 1961, restoration to its nineties state
had begun but had not progressed very far. Dawson City was still almost
completely a ghost town.
Dawson City, Yukon Territory, 2003 (www.yukoninfo.com/dawson/maps/dtwnmap.gif)
Dawson City campsite, 1961
reached the Dawson City campsite, beside the tailings of an old mine
just outside town, about nine o'clock in the evening - since it was
July it was, of course, bright daylight - set up our tent and drove
into town. "Klondike Night" was on at the Community Centre
Hall on Fourth Avenue, and we were anxious to see the program. On
the way there we met our Whitehorse friends Bonnie Garvice, who usually
directed the drama club plays, and her daughter, Penny. We went on
together and enjoyed the Dawson City version of The Shooting of Dan
McGrew. Dancing to a band and gambling (with make-believe money) were
part of the entertainment. The local inhabitants, dressed in costumes
of the nineties, did their best to entertain us tourists and recreate
the atmosphere of gold rush days.
Dawson City, Yukon: view from the Dome (July 1961)
next day we drove up King Street to the top of the Dome, the high
hill overlooking the town, and marvelled at the spectacular view of
Dawson, the Yukon River beyond, and the rolling hills across the river.
On the way back to town we stopped at a bleak cemetery on the hillside,
its modest headstones preserving the names of former citizens of the
town, and recording the deaths of many young men at far too early
an age. The rainy, overcast day seemed appropriate for such a sad
Dawson City, Yukon: Robert Service's cabin (1961)
of the main attractions of the town was Robert Service's cabin on
Eighth Avenue. It had been built opposite the Canadian Bank of Commerce,
where he worked as a teller (its nearness to the bank must have been
a great convenience in those miserably cold winters). Maintaining
his cabin seemed an appropriate way to remember perhaps the most famous
of Dawson City's citizens. His verses still keep memories of the gold
rush days vivid, although I couldn't help wondering what he would
have thought of our Officers' Mess version of "Dan McGrew"!
Dawson City, Yukon: Fifth Avenue, with Mme Tremblay's Store (centre)
and the old post office (right), July 3, 1961.
in the day we visited the Garvices, who were staying in an old apartment
above "Mme Tremblay's Store." In the gold rush days, Madame
Tremblay would sell $500 French gowns to the local ladies.
Bonanza Creek, Yukon: Harry Leamon's cabin, with Ian in front (July
few old prospectors still remained in Dawson City, emerging occasionally
from the Old Men's Home on Front Street to mine a little more gold
from their claims. One such was Harry Leamon, whose cabin and claim
near Bonanza Creek, where the first discovery of gold was made, were
open to visitors. When we reached his site we found that Harry had
gone into town, but we were able to visit his mine, a dark tunnel
entered through a wooden door in the hillside. We could feel the cold
and see by candlelight the ice sparkling on its walls.
a little further brought us to Hunker Creek, where we saw one of the
dredges that operated along the creeks to extract any gold still remaining.
The dredge looked like a huge floating factory, advancing imperceptibly
as it extracted and processed the gold, leaving a trail of tailings
Dawson City, Yukon: Yukon Hotel (July 1961)
Shortly after we left Whitehorse, Parks Canada began its restoration
of Dawson City. The Yukon Hotel was the first building to be restored
to its former glory.
City Radio Station
Dick Watts outside Dawson City R.C. Sigs radio station (July 2, 1961)
Management of the Dawson NWT&Y radio station had been transferred
to the Department of Transport on February 15, 1960. We found the
building at the corner of King Street and Front Street, facing King
Street. A side window looked out on to Front Street, the Yukon River,
and the dock where the SS Keno had found a home after its arrival
from Whitehorse in 1960. The station had a long and famous history.
It was the second of the system's original two stations established
in 1923, the first being in Mayo. Dawson City's first message to Mayo
on October 20 of that year signalled the birth of the Northwest Territories
and Yukon Radio System.
seeing the old radio station, we dropped into the Service Motel so
that Dick could vet it for a proposed visit by the brigadier. The
owners were Chuck Gray and his wife, Tommy, and it turned out that
Chuck was a former member of NWT&Y Sigs. Naturally, a long and
interesting exchange of news, stories, and histories ensued.
  
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