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The Yukon Flag

It flies proudly throughout this land - a symbol of the rich heritage of the Yukon. Yet what do its parts mean? The Yukon’s flag came into being as the result of a contest sponsored by the Royal Canadian Legion back in the '60s. Yukon students were asked to submit designs for what would become the official Yukon flag.

When the contest ended, a design by Lynn Lambert of Destruction Bay was chosen. Some modifications were made for heraldic purposes, since things as official as a flag must follow certain rigid specifications. There are, for example, very specific colour code numbers for the green and blue panels on either side of the flag. But the basic elements remain. So the next time you see the Yukon flag flying in a stiff summer breeze, consider the following:

The green panel adjacent to the mast stands for the forests, the white centre panel for the snow and the blue outer panel for water. The centre white panel has the Yukon crest above a symbolic representation of fireweed, the Yukon’s flower.

Dawson City, 1962

The Yukon flag adopted, 1967, Click for larger view.

The shield symbolizes the history of the territory. The wavy white and blue stripe represents all the rivers of the Yukon. The red triangles are for the mountains, while the gold-coloured discs inside the triangles depict mineral resources.

The red cross on the shield is the Cross of St. George and refers to early explorers. On the top of the shield, stands a proud-looking malamute husky, the animal whose stamina and loyalty was vital to all Yukoners in the early days.

The Yukon flag was officially adopted by the Council of the Yukon Territory on December 1st, 1967.

A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin



The Centennial Range

The Yukon has always been a special place for mountain climbers. The vast landscape of the St. Elias has provided challenges for mountaineers around the world. In 1967, Canada was involved in all manner of special projects to celebrate 100 years of confederation.

David Fisher of the Alpine Club of Canada, Monty Alford with the Yukon Water Resource board and David Judd of the Yukon Territorial government administration presented a plan to climb peaks in the St. Elias Range. The Yukon Alpine Centennial Expedition was born.

The idea was to have 13 teams, of four climbers each, scale 13 unnamed peaks and name them after each of the 10 provinces and two territories. 1967 also marked 100 years since the American purchase of Alaska from Russia. It was decided to have a team of four Canadians and four Americans climb the highest unnamed mountain, and call it Good Neighbour Peak.

The Canadian climbers were led by Monty Alford while the American leader was Vin Hoeman. Good Neighbour Peak, rising 15,700 feet, was conquered on June 25. The second part of the project, the climb of provincial and territorial mountains was scheduled to begin on July 8th. None of the mountains had been climbed before. A support staff of more than 250 people assisted in this massive operation.

The actual ascents took place between July 13 and July 25. Nine of the peaks were conquered. Climbers attempting the other four were unable to reach the summits. The event captured the imagination of Canadians during that special year back in 1967.


A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin



Animal Names

There are a number of Yukon place-names which pay tribute to animals.

The Slim's River which flows into the south end of Lake Kluane can be raging torrent of water when the spring run-off from the glaciers begins to flow. Or it can be a shallow stream dotted with mud bars in mid-summer. When Slim enountered the river back in 1903, it was the former - a raging torrent. Slim was a horse belonging to a prospector who was going to stake in Kluane goldfields. While crossing the river, Slim drowned. His grieving owner named the river for his horse.

Joseph Keele was an expert in the bush. He had to be. He joined the Canadian Geological Survey in 1898 and spent the rest of his days mapping in the Pelly and Ross River regions. There's a little lake on the Upper Ross river called John Lake. It's named for Keele's faithful pack dog, John.

Charles Sheldon was a rich American sportsman and amateur naturalist who studied the Pelly and Lapie River systems in the early days of this century. Joseph Keele named the beautiful Sheldon Lake and Sheldon Mountain to honour Charles. Charles got in on the act, too. He named a small stream, which flows into the Pelly River, Danger Creek. Danger was Charles Sheldon's horse.

There's a little creek, which flows into the Little Salmon River, that you just might want to steer clear of in the summer. It's called Bearfeed Creek, and was named in 1925 by William Cockfield of the Geological Survey. The creek's banks are covered with berry bushes, and the berry bushes are filled with bears.

Finally another name for horses. In 1947, the noted Yukon surveyor and naturalist Hugh Bostock was conducting surveys in the Klondike River district. One day, half of his pack horses decided to take the day off and disappeared into the bush. When Bostock finally recovered the wayward pack animals, he named a creek, which flows into the Little Klondike River, Lost Horses Creek.


A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin



Morley River

There was always something magical about the Morley River lodge on the Alaska Highway. We always felt good when we reached the place after a long drive from Dawson Creek over the then-dusty, unpaved road.

It probably had a lot to do with the milepost at Morley River. It was 777.7. Lucky eh? Clyde Wann was the Yukoner who started the lodge at Morley River. In fact, until his death in 1967, Clyde had been one of the Yukon’s busiest businessmen and lodge owners.

In 1927, he formed Yukon Airways and the post authorities in Ottawa gave the company permission to fly mail. He also owned the Swift River Lodge at Mile 733, built the Beaver Creek Lodge at Mile 1202 in 1958, and operated the Destruction Bay Lodge at 1083. He also owned the first Chrysler dealership in Whitehorse. Clyde Wann was a busy guy.

Maybe he was too busy to wonder or worry about how his lodge at 777.7 - Morley River - got its name.

Well, let’s worry about it for a moment. Morley River is perhaps one of the few places in the Yukon named for a person's first name. I can’t tell you why that is, but I can tell you who.

Morley was Morley Ogilvie, son of the famed Yukon surveyor and politician William Ogilvie. In 1897, the young Ogilvie had a job on a dominion land survey as they were laying out the boundary between BC and the Yukon. They were also surveying a wagon road from Telegraph Creek to Teslin Lake.

When the survey party reached Teslin, Morley Ogilvie was given the task of surveying the east shore of Teslin Lake, and then ordered to continue his work down the Teslin River to the Yukon River.

For his formidable task, survey boss, St. Cyr, recommended that a nameless river at the start of Teslin Lake be named for him. So it became Morley River.

Morley River
Destruction Bay Lodge.
Yukon Archives. Clyde Wann Motors Ltd. Fonds, #7.
Click for larger view.

Then, between the 1930s and 1950s, the names Morley Lake, Morley Mountain and Morley Bay were added to the list of Canadian place names that honour the son of the famed William Ogilvie.


A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin



Whitehorse Firehalls

Walking around the streets of Whitehorse can be an interesting and informative experience. You just need to take a little time. Sure, life moves at a rapid pace these days. Slow down and head down to Front Street and Main.

Stop and look at the finely restored first - well almost first - Whitehorse firehall. It was built at this location after much talk about whether the town needed a fire department at all. That was back in 1900. Well, the town did need a firehall and, finally, it was built in 1901. Four years later it burned in the great Whitehorse fire of 1905.

The White Pass station right next door went up in flames, as did most of the business district. Although much of the town was destroyed, the firehall partially survived the fire. Ironically, the volunteer fire department had just received its new firefighting equipment the day before, but the fire engine broke down after only a few minutes of operation. Yep, the town needed a fire department, but it also now needed a new building with better equipment.

The second firehall was built shortly afterwards on the same site and was part of the Yukon Electric power plant. It had a second floor that was used to house the volunteer staff.

Amazingly, until the town bought a real fire truck in 1942, the fire department operated a two-wheeled hose cart. It consisted of a long hose that drew water from the Yukon River by an electric pump. The fire department also used a chemical engine, which consisted of a hose attached to a 40-gallon tank containing chemicals. When the tank was tipped, the chemicals mixed and created a gas, thus forcing water through the hose.

Whitehorse hit the big time in 1943 when the town hired a full time fire chief and two assistants. That year a firehall was built on Wheeler Street near the present day Whitehorse Elementary School .

Although it was built to serve the Dowell Construction Camp working on the Alaska Highway, it served the downtown area as well. The Canadian Army took over this firehall in 1945, and worked with the town fire department by providing two additional trucks, twenty paid staff, and an ambulance service. Both my Dad and brother Fred were firefighters and worked at this long-gone building. So was the former Mayor of Whitehorse, Bill Weigand.

In 1962, the Army moved its firehall to Camp Takhini, and the city had to increase its own staff and buy a second fire truck. The Takhini firehall was then turned over to Department of Public Works and, eventually, to the Whitehorse fire department.

Fire Hall
Army Fire Service RCE, Dowel Area,Whitehorse
Frontrow (from L to R ): Bill (Red) Weigand, Lt. Gillespie, Chief Dunlop, Major Paris, Phil Baily, Reg Walsh
Backrow (from L to R): ?, Fred McLaughlin, Earl Jensen, Donald MacDonald, Stan Walsh, Stan Wilcox, Lorne McLaughlin, Joe?
Photo by Bill Weigand.
Click for larger view.

Fire Hall
Fire Hall (across from 98 Hotel)
Yukon Archives. Yukon Historical Museums Association #6.
Click for larger view.

Fire Hall
Old Fire Hall.
Yukon Archives. Yukon Historical Museums Association #12.
Click for larger view.

The present Whitehorse firehall, next to the City offices, was opened during Canada’s centennial year in 1967.


A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin



Hide a Case of Whiskey

Liquor played a significant role in everyday life in the Klondike during the gold rush. Saloons were scattered around Dawson like Bonanza Creek nuggets, and finding the booze was usually easier than finding the gold. But not for a moment in the sixties. In 1967, Hiram Walker, the maker of Canadian Club rye whiskey, launched a unique advertising project.

It was called the "hide-a-case" campaign. Cases of the company’s signature brand, Canadian Club, were planted in exotic places around the world - like Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, Mt. St. Helen’s in Washington State, the Swiss Alps and in the Yukon. Then, magazine ads invited CC drinkers to try and find the whisky.

The cases were carefully hidden so that they would likely be found and weekly clues were provided in sports sections of daily newspapers. In all, twenty-two cases were hidden between 1967and 1981.

It was worth the hunt. Anyone who found a case won an all expenses-paid trip around the world. A case hidden on top of a skyscraper in New York City was found in three months, while the Mt. Kilimanjaro whiskey was not discovered until the mid-70s when a Danish journalist stumbled on it while on an unrelated expedition.

Five of the 22 hidden cases have never been recovered. They are near Lake Placid, New York, in Tanzania, at the North Pole, on Robinson Crusoe Island in Chile and somewhere around the King Solomon Dome near Dawson City.

In keeping with strange things done ‘neath the midnight sun, Hiram Walker had to hide two cases in the Yukon. The first case of whiskey was hidden somewhere in the Klondike in 1969, but a group of Boy Scouts found the booze before the contest officially started and before any advertizing had begun.

So another case was planted somewhere in the vicinity of King Solomon Dome on the Bonanza Creek road. It was never found and there is no guarantee that this Yukon case is still anywhere to be found.

But if you do find a case of Canadian Club whiskey somewhere around the King Solomon Dome, the people at Hiram Walker in Walkerville, Ontario would like to hear from you even though the contest ended back in 1981.