Bob Smart's Dream, by Robert Service
One hundred years ago, in 1906, Robert Service was invited to a going-away banquet for J.P. Rogers, the Superintendent
of the White Pass and Yukon Route. It was held on March 19 at "the club". Everyone who was anyone in the small town's
social circuit was at the affair.
The poet, who had yet to become famous, was noted for penning poems for almost any occasion, and for freely using the names
of local characters.
This time, he centered his poetic creation in the mind of Bob Smart, then a government assayer, who had a dreamlike
premonition of what Whitehorse will be like fifty years hence, in 1956.
This is my dream of Whitehorse
When fifty years have sped,
As after the Rogers' Banquet
I lay asleep in my bed.
I tottered along the sidewalk
That was made of real cement;
A skyscraper loomed above me,
Where once I remembered a tent.
Smart discovered a vastly different Whitehorse from the frontier town he knew. The poem reflects a vista of a technologically
Smart envisaged that in 1956 there were manufacturing plants and a smelter where the airport lies today. The Whitehorse
Rapids had been dammed.
He hears the roar of a trolley car while crossing the Yukon River on a large steel bridge. Smart walked along a cement
sidewalk that had replaced the old wooden boardwalks, and looked up at an 18-storey skyscraper where once there had been
He marvelled at "Taylor and Drury's colossal department store." And watched "the Flyer" leaving for Dawson, and "the
bullion express" coming in, a reference to a fast passenger train departing for the heart of the Klondike, and a freight
train bringing more gold from the creeks.
The names in the poem present a slice of life that existed in Whitehorse 100 years ago. We meet J.P. Whitney who owned one
of the two largest general stores in town at the time.
So I thought I'd go to Ear Lake Park
Where nature was fresh and fair;
('Twas donated by J.P. Whitney,
Others include Bob Lowe, who was a member of the Territorial Council, Bill Grainger, who owned mining property in the
Copper Belt, and the Deacon, the nickname of local lawyer and territorial councillor Willard Phelps.
And everywhere were strangers,
And I thought in the midst of these
Of Old Bill Clark in his homespun,
And debonnaire Mr. Breze:
And Fish, and Doc and the Deacon,
And the solo bunch at the club -
Now grown to a stately mansion
That would make the old place look dub.
The "club" was the North Athletic club housed in a clapboard structure at the corner of Third and Main street.
When Smart emerges from his dream, it is apparent that he spent too much time and had too much fun at the banquet.
It was all so real, so lifelike,
I awoke like a man in a fog,
So I shed a few tears in the darkness,
And groped for the hair of the dog.
This was my dream of Whitehorse
When fifty years have sped,
As I lay asleep in my bed.
Robert Service wasn't far off in his predictions for Whitehorse fifty years hence back in 1906.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
There were many cheechakos in the Klondike who made the most of their brief time to develop a taste for fame and glory. They included a future Premier of British Columbia, who learned the art of hard-ball politics during his stormy eight years in the Yukon.
Thomas Dufferin Pattullo was born in 1873 in Woodstock, Ontario. His father ran the Galt Reformer, a Liberal newspaper. For a time Duff worked as a columnist, before the lure of the west called.
Through its father's connections with the Liberal government of Sir Wilfred Laurier, he was hired as the principle secretary to Major James Walsh, a former Mountie who was appointed in 1897 to lead a special government commission sent to the Yukon to bring law, order and good government to the burgeoning Klondike district.
The party of fifty well-equipped officials left Ottawa by train in September, 1897, bound for Vancouver, where they boarded the steam-ship Quadra for the journey up the Inside Passage to Skagway.
Pattullo, a young man of twenty-four, seemed to enjoy the good life afforded his lofty position, and more than once had to wire his well-to-do father for additional funds, although his government salary and perks were enough to support a person of more modest tastes.
Arriving in Dyea at the foot of the Chilkoot Pass in late October 1897, the party began the long climb to the summit while the bitter winds, freezing rain and pelting snow raged around them. It was here, on the so-called "golden stairs" near the Chilkoot summit, that young Duff Pattullo realized the coming hoards of miners were in for something far more brutal than anyone could imagine.
"Every man who comes here must be willing to take life risks and be willing to withstand every imaginable hardship," Pattullo wrote.
He soon realized that, even late in the season, the Chilkoot was not the worst obstacle. In early November the government party set sail down raging
Lake Bennett, a time of year when no sane person should be on the water. They continued across Tagish and
Marsh Lakes, ran the forbidding Miles Canyon and the Whitehorse Rapids, and then entered the
Yukon River proper as ice began to form.
No one was under the illusion that they would make Dawson City before the river froze. And they did not. Instead, Pattullo and the others spent a difficult winter at Big Salmon, a native village about halfway between present-day Whitehorse and Dawson City, but not before he was forced to abandon his boat when solid ice cakes tipped them into the water. Pattullo made it to shore, but another man, J.J. Freeman, was not so lucky. He disappeared under the ice and was never seen again.
On the way down the river they encountered men coming out of the Klondike, and heard reports of food shortages so severe that everyone expected a
starvation winter in the Yukon for those foolish enough to stay. The government party, though it had lost supplies to the icy river, did have sufficient provisions to last the long, dark cold winter at Big Salmon, where Duff Pattullo spent his first Yukon winter.
In the spring of 1898, Duff Pattullo, was travelling with a federal government contingent that had spent the winter at Big Salmon, and now continued to Dawson.
In May of 1898, they arrived in Dawson City, a city clogged with men, material, and mud. Front Street was lined with clapboard buildings, many of which housed saloons. It seemed like total chaos, but Pattullo immediately took a liking to the street, with its carnival atmosphere and expensive booze.
Still, there was government work to do, and on June 13, 1898, the Yukon Act was proclaimed and Pattullo served briefly as Secretary to the first elected Yukon Council.
By mid-August, his boss, James Walsh, had become embroiled in a scandal over gold claims. Walsh left the Yukon and Pattullo went with him.
However, by late October Pattullo was back in Dawson carrying many official government documents from the powerful federal Minister of the Interior, Clifford Sifton. One of those documents was very important to Frank Nantuk, a native who had been convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to hang. Nantuk's sentence was commuted to life in prison.
Pattullo expected to be named as Principle Secretary to the new Commissioner,
William Ogilvie. The Commissioner, however, vetoed the idea and Pattullo was instead offered a civil service job in the Gold Commissioner's office. Ogilvie claimed that "the boy's drinking and rebellious spirit" did not amuse him, and ordered Pattullo to report to
Fort Selkirk as the government timber agent.
It was the spring of 1899 before Sifton became aware of Pattullo's fate and of Ogilvie's interference in the appointment. Bad enough that Ogilvie had overruled the powerful federal Minister, but when he complained to Sifton that such detailed management was better left to officials in the Yukon, Ogilvie's days as Commissioner were numbered.
In the summer of 1899, Pattullo was acting assistant Gold Commissioner. It was a job the 26-year-old budding bureaucrat took seriously, but he was consistently passed over for the top job - that of Gold Commissioner. In October, he quit the public service and went into private business selling real estate. However, the boom days of Dawson were over. He could barely eke out a living, but he developed a keen interest in politics. In February 1903, he was elected to the executive committee of the Dawson Liberal Club. He also declared himself a candidate for civic office and, in January 1904, finished third in a slate of twenty-four candidates for six positions on Dawson City Council.
The die was cast. Pattullo, now a city Alderman, became deeply embroiled in the ruthless Dawson game of federal politics. As a Liberal, he opposed the Liberal-appointed Commissioner Frank Congdon, who he felt had a complete lack of political finesse.
By now, the federal Liberals were taking notice. Pattullo wrote to both Sifton and Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier to vilify Congdon as "unreliable, unpolitical, weak and wholly lacking in ordinary judgment." Congdon's troops replied that Pattullo and his bunch were "a gang of bums."
When the federal election campaign began, the Yukon Liberal Association, controlled by Pattullo, withdrew their support for the official liberal candidate, Congdon, and endorsed the Conservative candidate, Alfred Thompson. On election day, Pattullo had reason to celebrate - Thompson won in a landslide.
Now, Pattullo was like a wolf on the chase, but there were no more chases in dwindling Dawson town. Young Duff had faced the rigours of the '98 trail, fought the bureaucratic battles and took part in the most bitter election campaign in Yukon history. In the summer of 1908, all this ended. But the political career of Thomas Dufferin Pattullo had just begun.
His move to Prince Rupert set the stage for his entry into British Columbia politics that culminated when he was elected B.C. Premier on November 15, 1933, a post he held until his retirement in December of 1941. Not surprisingly, Pattullo was the first B.C. Premier to suggest that the future of the Yukon lay in joining the Province of British Columbia. He died on March 30, 1956.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin