The Hougen Group of Companies - A Yukon Tradition
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Yukon Nuggets

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Clyde Wann

On the morning of October 25, 1927, residents of Whitehorse heard a sound which would set the stage for a revolution in northern travel. High over-head, a single-engine monoplane, carrying five aviation pioneers, headed for a clearing in Cyr's wood lot above the clay bluffs overlooking the town. The Queen of the Yukon had arrived.

Clyde Wann was a visionary, a Yukoner whose many business endeavours were geared to the future - none more-so than in 1927, when he established the Yukon Airways and Exploration company. He and pilot Andy Cruikshank had travelled to San Diego that year to take delivery of Ryan Brougham 1, a 5-seater aircraft. While in San Diego waiting for their plane to come off the busy assembly line, they met Charles Lindbergh who was there to buy the sister ship he called the Spirit of St. Louis. Lindbergh would fly his Spirit to Paris. Clyde and Andy would fly their 'Queen to Vancouver, dismantle the wings, ship it to Skagway - then fly it to Whitehorse.

When they took off from the beaches at Skagway, the weather was overcast. They had to circle upward through the cloud banks while trying to avoid the mountains all around them. They finally reached clear skies at 12,000 feet. The flight to Whitehorse took one hour and ten minutes. The next day, Wednesday October 26, Clyde and Andy left for Mayo and Keno, a trip which took two hours, and became the first commercial aircraft flight in the Yukon. The Queen of the Yukon operated for two years, carrying mail and passengers from Whitehorse to Mayo and Dawson, and to Carcross.

In 1929, the plane crash-landed at the Whitehorse airport and was damaged beyond repair. The Queen of the Yukon No. 2, a Ryan Brougham 5 monoplane was ordered to replace the first Queen. However, it had a more deadly fate, crashing in Mayo in 1932 with the death of the pilot and the end of the Yukon Airways. But, Clyde Wann had proven that air passenger and freight service would be an integral part of the Yukon's transportation system.


A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin


Click for larger view.
Clyde Wann
In this 1946 photo, Clyde Wann is seated next to Aubrey Simmons to his left.
From L to R: York Wilson (foreground), Bob Campbell, Charlie Taylor, Bill Hamilton, Wann, Simmons, Jack Elliott.
Click for larger view.

Wann 1
Andrew Cruikshank on snowshoes. Cruikshank was an RCMP officer in Dawson and Mayo from 1923 to 1927, then became one of Yukon's early aviators and pilots of the Queen of the Yukon.
Date: Nov. 1924.
Yukon Archives. Claude & Mary Tidd fonds, #7838.
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Yukon History Hougengroup


Roy Reber

Back in 1959, my last year in high school, I and three of my school chums played in the Whitehorse Senior men’s hockey league. We were all fresh out of Juvenile hockey, barely old enough to drive and had the good fortune of playing for one of the best hockey coaches ever to hit the Yukon.

Roy Reber was from the old time hockey school of hard knocks. He scheduled so many practices that our school work began to suffer, but the late night practices in the cold Civic Centre (later Jim Light) arena were making men out of us boys in a hurry.

He was yelling "hurry-hard" long before Russ Howard made the admonition famous at various curling championships. He taught us to keep our heads up and watch out for the other guy. For Roy, in hockey, defense was everything. Any player who didn’t like to back check would spend a lot of time on the bench. What kind of men did Roy Reber make out of us teenagers?

Well, the town Merchants team that year beat the older, tougher Army, Air force and Dawson&Hall teams to win the Whitehorse Senior men’s hockey title. Final score in the final game was 6-2, Merchants over Dawson&Hall. I still have the boisterous team photo to prove it.

Roy Reber was born in Lethbridge, Alberta in 1923. He moved to Whitehorse in 1948 and became very active in the sporting community. Sports were Roy’s life. He played hockey, basketball, fastball, badminton, golf. In 1967 he coached the men’s hockey team at the first Canada Games in Quebec City. In 1971 he coached the women's team at the Canada Games in Saskatoon.

Roy was an invaluable worker during the early years of the Arctic Winter Games. He attended the first games in 1970 as a basketball player. In 1972, he was the General Manager when the games were held in Whitehorse. In 1974 the Arctic Winter Games Corporation appointed him to the Steering Committee. He remained a member of the Board of Directors until 1978.

He served on the National Advisory Council for Fitness and Amateur Sports. In 1983, Roy Reber was inducted into the Sport Yukon Hall of Fame for his life-long commitment to coaching and promoting many sports.

I can still hear the sound of his voice echoing through the crisp air of the Civic Centre arena on any given cold winter night.

"Hurry-hard and keep your head up."


A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin




Yukon Quest

One thing is certain about Yukon Quest mushers: they respect their dogs. We all love our dogs, of course, but respect in a race like the Quest is key to success. When this respect is returned, the team of musher and dogs is complete. A sage once said that money will buy a pretty good dog, but it won’t buy the wag of his tail. If American humourist of the 1930s Will Rogers had been covering the Yukon Quest, he would quickly notice the bond between musher and dog. Rogers once accurately observed that if you are thinking you’re a person of some influence, try ordering someone else’s dog around.

The Yukon quest is as much about human-animal teamwork as it is about winning. Mark Twain, a colourblind humanitarian who wrote so eloquently about people of different racial backgrounds, was wise enough to note that if you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, his will not bite you. That is the principal difference between a dog and a man. Yes, the Yukon Quest is really a dog show. It began in 1983, as a dream of mushers and a Fairbanks saloon called The Bulllseye, and was dedicated to the vision of gold seekers, mail carriers, trappers and traders, all who knew the value of a good dog team. In the early days of the far off land good dogs were the difference between a life fulfilled, and a wasted youth. In the early days, Northerners learned quickly that dogs were their best friends – they learned it, or they failed. American President Woodrow Wilson said with much wisdom if a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.

The first Yukon Quest in 1984 tested both race, logistics and talent, as 26 teams left Fairbanks. At the races end, 1600km later, 20 teams crossed the finish line in Whitehorse. Sonny Linder became the first Quest champion, completing the race in 12 days and 5 minutes, and winning the $15,000 prize money. The purse soon grew to $25,000, as the race began to attract big-name sponsors and worldwide attention. Today, $30,000 goes to the winner, but most mushers will tell you they’re not in it for the money. The first Canadian to win the race was Bruce Johnson of Atlin in 1986. In 1984 Lorrina Mitchell was the first woman to finish the race. The fastest race was run in 1995 with Frank Turner’s winning time of 10 days, 16 hours, and 18 minutes. The longest time to finish and win was Bruce Johnson’s run of 14 days, 9 hours, and 17 minutes. But in a race of this magnitude records don’t mean much because conditions differ greatly from year to year. What doesn’t change is one the Quest’s main objectives, and that is commemorate the historic dependence of man and sled dog for mutual survival in extreme conditions, and to perpetrate mankind’s concern for his canine companion’s continued health, welfare, and development.


A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin