The Hougen Group of Companies - A Yukon Tradition
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Boyle Yukon Motor Machine Gun Company

Frozen in time. A picture of Dawson's finest young men. All in uniform. Fifty young men off to Europe to fight for King and country. The sign on the building behind them reads Dawson to Berlin 7460 miles. For most it would be a one way trip.

Of all the dashing and daring characters who lived and worked in the Klondike, none had more verve or nerve than Joseph Whiteside Boyle. His wheeling and dealings in the gold fields had made him the undeniable King of the Klondike. He even financed a Dawson City hockey team and challenged for the Stanley Cup back in 1905.

Now on August 4th, 1914, Britain declared war against Germany. This automatically meant that Canada too was at war. Canadians by thousands were signing up to go overseas. Boyle was determined the Yukon would not be left out of the action. He wired Sam Hughes, the minister of defense, saying he could assemble a 50-man machine-gun company from the Yukon to assist in the war effort. On September 4th, 1914, the offer was accepted. The Boyle Yukon Motor Machine Gun Company was established.

Within a week, 50 men had signed up. Since there was no money from the war effort to pay them, Boyle took each man on as an employee of his Klondike Mining company. Then, on October 4th, 1914, there was a rousing parade and send-off for the soldiers from the Yukon. The patriotic event took place at the Arctic Brotherhood hall. The Dawson Daily news reported that the streets were black with people from the city and the creeks. Under a blaze of lights and with a band playing and the populace shouting, the boys of the Boyle Yukon detachment stood at attention on the Dawson wharf. When the last whistle blew, 50 Yukon soldiers stood on the deck of the SS Lightning, bound for Whitehorse, and then on to Victoria where they were formally sworn into the Canadian army.

Joe Boyle was not among those on board. That very day, his Canadian dredge took on water and sank in its pond near Bear Creek. Boyle had to remain in the Klondike to take care of his massive and now problematic business enterprises.

There were many ordeals for the military contingent as well. They didn't arrive in Europe until late 1916. By this time, Boyle's legal battles in the Klondike gold fields got the better of him. In mid-July of 1916, he quietly slipped out of Dawson and headed for England where he was made an honorary colonel in the Canadian army. But he was not in charge of his Yukon machine gun company.

However, the company fought fiercely in combat on the European front and became one of the most decorated units in the Canadian army. But it paid dearly. In August of 1919, just three of the 50 men returned to the Klondike. Joe Boyle didn't return either. He spent his last days in England, where he died in 1923.


A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin


Joseph W Boyle, 1867 - 1923.
From the book "In praise of a Canadian Hero".
Click for larger view.

Brotherhood House
A view of the corner of Fourth Avenue and Queen Street in Dawson showing the Arctic Brotherhood Hall. Date: ca. 1920.
Yukon Archives. Claude & Mary Tidd fonds, #8355.
Click for larger view.

Yukon History Hougengroup Joseph Boyle
J.W. Boyle's Yukon Machine Gun Detachment.
Yukon Archives. Oxford Historical Society, #34.
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Yukon History Hougengroup Joseph Boyle
The J.W. Boyle Yukon Contingent, First Muster, Dawson, October 1914. Joe Boyle 7th from right. [probably 8th from left], October 1914. Joe Boyle 7th from right. [probably 8th from left].
Yukon Archives. Oxford Historical Society, #112.
Click for larger view.


Pantages theatres (Vancouver)

The tentacles of the Klondike gold rush reached across the world like some gigantic primaeval octopus leaving in their wake both success and failure for those involved. A Greek immigrant experienced both during his colourful life and one of his legacies is still in the news today.

It’s a building. But not just any building. It is Vancouver’s Pantages’ theatre, a historic edifice spawned by the money generated in the Klondike. Today that theatre on East Hastings street - a landmark of history in Vancouver - is about to meet the wrecker’s ball.

Alexander Pantages was an emigrant from Greece who at age 28 ended up in the Klondike in 1898. There, the small man standing just over 5 foot six and with no land or interest in mining, became involved in the theatre business.

In Dawson, borrowed money from the famous Klondike Kate to open a vaudeville theatre on Front Street called the Orpheum. They became partners and Kate became Pantages’ mistress. Later she discovered that he was married. Then he skipped town without paying her back. But for three years things were great for the Dawson theatre couple as Pantages learned the vaudeville business in entertainment starved Dawson. And he put those lessons to good use. Pantages moved to Seattle in 1902 and opened his first vaudeville theatre outside the Klondike,

By 1907 he had opened a third theatre in Seattle. Then in January 1908, the budding entrepreneur opened a state of the art Pantages Theatre on East Hastings.

Another Pantages theatre in Vancouver built in 1914 on Hastings was later called the Majestic and then the Odeon Theatre. The Pantages theatres in Vancouver headlined stars like Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laurel, Jack Dempsey and baseball star Babe Ruth who is shown in a photo on the Pantages stage with Vancouver mayor L.D. Taylor crouched behind him as catcher. This Pantages theatre was demolished in the 1960s.

In the 1920s, Alex Pantages was a name to be reckoned with in the motion picture industry By the late 20s, Pantages owned or operated more than 70 stunning theatre buildings throughout Canada and the US. But his empire began to crumble with the great depression. The first Pantages theatre in Vancouver is still standing on East Hastings, the oldest remaining Pantages theatre in North America. But not for long.

The current owner of the now run down building failed in a bid to have the city take over the building and renew it as an historic site so in all likelihood it will be demolished bringing to an end the colourful theatre story of Klondike entrepreneur Alexander Pantages.


A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin