Tagged with " dawson attractions"
Jun 14, 2010 -

The S.S. Keno

The S.S. Keno is a paddleboat that hauled cargo up and down the Yukon from the early 1920’s to the mid 1950’s. When the road to Keno City was built in the 50’s, paddlewheelers fell out of favour. For one thing, they were using wood at such a rate that there was a risk of running out of trees! The completion of the Klondike highway to Dawson City was the nail in the paddlewheelers coffin.

On August 23, 1960, the S.S. Keno began her final journey from Whitehorse to Dawson City where she would be dry docked forever and turned into a museum. Today, she is a National Historic Site.

My favourite part of the exhibit was the movie! It was filmed in August 1960 and documents the S.S. Keno’s final voyage. It answered one of my most burning questions about the Klondike: how did ships pass through Five Finger Rapids? The movie is also good for comic relief when a man waxes poetically about how much easier life was then compared to the 1920’s since modern technology had brought about DDT and mosquitoes were no longer a problem…

Visiting the S.S. Keno takes about an hour and fills in yet another gap of Dawson’s history.

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Jun 13, 2010 -

The Commissioner’s Residence

After the Robert Service program I headed back to Front Street for an ice cream, then went to visit the Commissioner’s Residence.

Territorial administration is a little different from that of the provinces and I’m not quite up to speed on it. If I understand correctly, the Commissioner of Yukon is the Queen’s representative in the territory, similar to the role of the Governor General.

At the time when Dawson was the capital of the Yukon territory, the commissioner resided in a grand house on Front Street. It was grander once upon a time, but burned down during a Christmas fire and was rebuilt much more simply.

Today, it’s possible to tour the house and grounds at your leisure. There isn’t much information provided, so it’s not the best value attraction in Dawson. I’d do it as part of the Pick-a-Pack and consider it the ‘free’ option.

Like many buildings in Dawson, the gorgeous bright yellow exterior of the house is a façade belying the fact that most of the interior is a wreck. The front bottom half of the house was restored to Edwardian splendour and reminds me of Rutherford House in Edmonton, decorated in the same era. The back bottom and top halves of the house are almost in ruins. This actually adds a level of interest to the visit. In the second incarnation of the home, it was used as a hospital run by nuns, so wandering through the house you can see all the layers of history associated with it. I loved that I could open just about any door and peak inside, but was disappointed that the third story is off limits. My favourite part of the house was the huge second story porch. I can just imagine sitting up there with binoculars and watching steamboats go up and down the Yukon River.

A notable resident of this home was the Honourable Martha Black, Canada’s second female Member of Parliament (MP) who took on the mantle after her husband died in office. Mrs. Black came over the Chilkoot Pass with her brother and is one of the most famous women associated with the golden age of the Klondike.

Thus ended by mostly free day and off to work I went. I still have several attractions to visit!

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Jun 12, 2010 -

Pierre Berton Home and the Robert Service Cabin

After touring the Jack London cabin, I ambled a block down 8th Avenue, plunked myself down on the boardwalk in the sun, and enjoyed my picnic of a sandwich, apple, and iced tea. I made some notes about London and contentedly waited the half hour or so before the start of the 1:30 Robert Service program. It had rained, hard, during the London presentation and more dark clouds were rolling in, so I savoured the brief moment of sunshine.

Lunch finished, I took some discrete shots of the Berton home. Pierre Berton is Canada’s best known writer of Canadian history, with his most famous books being Klondike and The Last Spike. He spent some of his childhood years in Dawson and had that home opened up and turned into accommodation for Dawson’s writer in residence. The unassuming green and white structure can be seen across from the Robert Service cabin and one block from the Jack London cabin, but there is nothing to visit.

Robert Service is known as ‘The Bard of the Yukon.’ A Scottish banker of English origin who came to Canada to be a cowboy and retired in the south of France a millionaire poet, he had an incredibly colourful life. While his best known poems, such as ‘The Shooting of Dan McGrew’ and ‘The Cremation of Sam McGee’, are about the Klondike gold rush, Service did not come to the north until a full decade past the rush.

After being transferred to the CIBC bank in Dawson, he quit and became a full-time writer. He spent some time living in a cozy log cabin on 8th Avenue. The cabin is just as it was back then and in the same location, and it is only the roof and birch steps which are not original. Or so our interpreter claims. 🙂

The program lasts an hour and is a mixture of fanciful retelling of Service’s life mixed in with a recital of his poetry. Our interpreter was perfect for the job. He was funny, obviously knew his stuff, and delights in it. This attraction is well worth the admission cost and makes for a fun afternoon.

Here’s my favourite Robert Service poem, which could have been written for me if you take the word ‘man’ as meaning ‘people of both genders. 🙂

There’s a race of men that don’t fit in,
A race that can’t stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain’s crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don’t know how to rest.

If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they’re always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new.
They say: “Could I find my proper groove,
What a deep mark I would make!”
So they chop and change, and each fresh move
Is only a fresh mistake.

And each forgets, as he strips and runs
With a brilliant, fitful pace,
It’s the steady, quiet, plodding ones
Who win in the lifelong race.
And each forgets that his youth has fled,
Forgets that his prime is past,
Till he stands one day, with a hope that’s dead,
In the glare of the truth at last.

He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance;
He has just done things by half.
Life’s been a jolly good joke on him,
And now is the time to laugh.
Ha, ha! He is one of the Legion Lost;
He was never meant to win;
He’s a rolling stone, and it’s bred in the bone;
He’s a man who won’t fit in.

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