HI…TO THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN READING MY EPISODES….NOW AT 239
Dan and Thom and Marjorie (of course) and Rosalind and Pat and John and Owen and Dirk and Rooter…so many others … have sent me notes saying they were sad to see the Yukon Diary is coming to a close. What a nice thing to say. Sometimes I worry that my writing is a little too earthy for sensitive ears. Writers should write about what they know and that is what I have tried to do. There are still 6 or 7 more Yukon Episodes so the Yukon will continue. And then afterwards…perhaps Slovakia in the year when the Soviet Union collapsed or South Korea whose people may have hopped from island to island to North America by boat while others crossed the Bering land bridge thousands of years ago…or my First Class journey with big Red Stevenson…no end to the stories.
My diary is so explicit that at times I feel my comments go too far. Your support is very important to me. Several of you think I am writing a book. I am not. Books are not read often. And the work writing a book often kills the spark…dampens the fire…puts out the fire. Writing Episodes is better for I actually know my readers. And, yes, I know those of you who do not read the Episodes…I do know but send them anyway.
Years ago I was co author of a particular Canadian history book. My assignment was Quebec in the 1950’s. I was in Chibougamau on my first survey job when I was in Grade eleven. I saw hatred that summer… in the form of a butcher knife vibrating in front of me at it was slammed into a table….I saw a young girl my age about to launch into a career of prostitution…I saw what made the Quiet Revolution. I wrote about that summer. Guess what happened? Right! The real gutsy stuff that had meaning was edited out… scraps on the cutting room floor. When asked to write part of the second edition, I refused. They did not want me anyway.
I much prefer to write to you.
Many of you are still stuck in those goddamn isolated homes, rooms, condominiums…I hope my stories allow your minds to fly elsewhere … to be with me on different facets of life’s journey.
Thanks for hanging around. You do not really have much choice. The Pandemic has got you…like a twist in your underwear.
P.S. Sometimes just a couple of words can trigger a verbal avalanche…mammoth tooth, pebbly conglomerate, Daisy the Labrador, Grandma’s triumph over Parkinson’s, fanning mill, butterfly, snapping turtle, childbirth, Sikorsky S52 helicopter, Bunmahon copper caves, North Bay romance, Halifax Blonde Bomber, Arnold Red Skeoch…no end to these word triggers. Events that harbour both humour and tragedy. That is not just true of me…it is true of each of you.
Begin forwarded message:
From: ALAN SKEOCH <email@example.com>Subject: EPISODE 234 YUKON DIARY SUNDAY AUUST 26, 1962 TO sept. 9, 1962Date: January 27, 2021 at 10:54:40 PM ESTTo: Alan Skeoch <firstname.lastname@example.org>
EPISODE 234 YUKON DIARY SUNDAY AUGUST 26, 1962 TO Sept 9,1962alan skeochJan. 2021
Each camp needed a kitchen which I got good at constructing. Hope you agree. When we
I cannot be sure where this kitchen camp was located. My green and black bush shirt was with me in the Yukon. But this camp
kitchen looks too well stocked for the Yukon job.
Sunday August 25, 19628 a.m. Had coffee at Luigi’s and drove to Silver Titan where Dick, the Japanese cook,insisted I have bacon and eggs with all trimmings.A very dreary day with no one around. I unloaded part of the Turam gearthen continued on to Rio Plata where Bill Scott made me another hot rumand we continued packing the Turam gear. Axe and I then drove on upto Jack Acheson’s to pick up the huge Mammoth tooth.We got into a fierce rainstorm back at the Rio Plata camp. Dumped allthe Turam gear at Silver Titan and then drove to town for supper anda shower.Hans Bahr is very excited about the anomalies we found on their property.Axe and Bill Scott are still very sick. Axe paid back the $30 he borrowed in Whitehorse.Monday, August 27, 1962Packed my crate full of antlers and ancient miners tools…shipped to Toronto…100 poundscost me $33.00…had supper with Gilroys then drove back north to Silver Titan campusing Ruth McGurlay’s truck, Nice supper cooked by Dick.Got boys together…Terry Doubt and Bill Andrechuck. Bill Dunn showed me hisnew dog…part wolf. And his new car, a 1951 Pontiac, How can he afford a car even if11 years old? Amusing character.We drove into a new property North of us and began assembling the equipment inanother new camp…a loose term as a camp is always short term and not pretty.Andy brought a bottle of Lindemsn’s Port to celebrate our new location.Expenses meals $3.50. tape $2.20Tuesday August 28, 1962Up at 7.30 with long day ahead of us.Terry and I packed grounding rods and reel of cableto the south end of Base Line #1. Back to camp to do same for North end of BL #1.Built a table then settled down by candlelight. Traded stories in evening as usual.Seems that bush camp workers have a never ending number of stories some of whichmight even be true. The hookers of Keno City in the 1920’s are favourite subjects.Wed. August 29, 1962Up at 6, out by 7.45 in pouring rain. Managed to get 12 lines done which is half the property.Both Terry and Andy are good men in the bush…no complaining. The wet bush makes workreally miserable. A big fire and billy can of tea was nice at lunch. (Billy can is just a fruit can with wirefor hanging over open fire).
Came across 20 blue geese as tame as chickensIn the evening Terry and I made beds from long poles. Cooked by candlelight…not good.Got some custard ready and we all ate from the pot.Picked up large anomaly…largest yet in the Yukon.Thursday August 30, 1962UP at 7, out by 8…finished B.L #1…12 lines. A wet long day. Terry tells some damn goodstories…i.e. the bear that nearly got him on a glacier….and the girls he had success with.Went to bed at 6.30 … telling each other stories in the dark.Bill Scott is working in the other tent using our Coleman lantern. Andy decided to cook applestonight but pot boiled over. Bit of a mess. Applesauce was edible. Overall things are fine now that we have a tin woodstove in the tent as nights are getting colder.Terry regaled us with with story of a woman he met in Haileybury, Ontario. Funny. Sensitive. Terryknows my friend Bob Tyson back in Ontario. Laughed a lot in the darkness.
Friday August 31, 1962Slept late…9.30…then got fellows up for a hasty breakfast. Ice in the water bucket . Rolled up Base Line #1and laid out Base Line #2. Packed in the motor generator and got everything working …even managedto do 4 lines finishing at 6.30 pm. Not pleasant. We are not tourists…work to do.Extremely cold weather. We needed a big fire at noon just to get warm.Andy is really bitching today as he wants to get back to Mayo Landing tomorrow evening ashis First Nations woman wants him back fast. Not sure how true that is…he drinks a lot.Terry gave a whole load of tips on women. True? Maybe. Bill Scott gave all of us Hot Rumdrinks while Terry read poetry of Robert Service.The Northern Lights lit up the night sky tonight…flashing across the darkness like lightning bolts.Our dinner plates were frozen to the table before we had time to dry them. Now that is cold.Stacked up pile of firewood in our tent. We will try to keep stove going all night. Must be careful asstove is just tin plate…could get red hot and very dangerous.
Saturday Sept. 1, 1962Up at 6 and got out in bush by 7.30. Finished C.L. # 3 by noon. Had good lunch of cold frenchtoast and bacon…and hot tea over the bush fire.Andy is determined to get to Mayo Landing … decided to hike over the mountain to Silver Titanleaving us at noon. Terry and I pulled ground rods and coiled cable. Bill Scott helpedcarry out some of the load. Terry and I heard a scream and rushed down the trail thinkingBill was in trouble. Instead we met Bill and Mr and Mrs. Gilroy drinking beer. Bill gaveme a can of beer and a pile of mail.We put our food up in a cache where bears could not get it then packed out several loadsof the heavy equipment. I ripped the ass out of my pants again so had to keep facingMrs. Gilroy.Terry and I hopped in the back of the Gilroy truck…a bitterly cold northern night. We stoppedat Elsa for beer then drove on to Mayo Landing…delighted the little girls there…so cute…thendinner at Luigi’s and a drink with Andy and Ted in the Silver Inn. Quite tragic to see Andy’so drunk…and Ted sitting there in his own urine as it trickled down his leg to the floor and out the door.Met Henry Robachuk who offered me a set of caribou antlers. Amazing how many friends i nowhave in Mayo Landing…end of third month here.(Note: I got the Antlers from Henry and not from Moses as previously mentioned…ormaybe they were both involved in the gift(Expenses $1.85 mealsSunday September 2, 1962Packed some of our gear. Visited Mrs Moses and bought moccasins….$20 for two pair…Tookload of waste to the dump. Gilroys…then visited Mrs.Robachuk and got the caribou antlers.Bob Gilroy bought a case of beer from the bootlegger and gave each of us a can. Poor BobGilroy is an alcoholic which is very hard on Mrs. Gilroy who is a very kind and extroverted FrenchCanadian lady. Bob is great guy…charismatic…but wonder about his future.Drove back to the Silver Titan camp where Dick, the cook, fed us all … seemed surly today.Too much alcohol around today. Mrs. Gilroy and the little girls Patricia and Susan fled in tears.(*Note: As mentioned earlier Mrs. Gilroy committed suicide around Christmas time in 1962.I was informed by some of the boys still in Mayo Landing. Alcohol would not be a reason…but would be a complicating factor..I wondered what would happen to those two little girls)
Monday Sept. 3, 1962Dick had great breakfast for us today. Then I washed 8 pair of dirty socks before startingwork.Terry and I packed motor generator, 2100 feet of coiled wire, 4 rods, sledge, etc. into theold C.L. #2 of Silver Titan in preparation for a day of Turam work.tomorrow. Too manyswamps to slosh through…water is icy.Northern lights are spectacular.
Tuesday Sept. 4, 2021Up ar 6…cook provided6 slices of bacon, 2eggs,2 pancakes, 3 cups of orange juiceand coffee.Terry Doubt, Jim Coyle and I packed carried rest of Turam equipment in to C.L.#2 atSilver Titan. Started motor generator and read lines 10, 15, 17, 20 on East side of loop.Left off line 18 because 10 degrees off proper grid. Survey error.Packed equipment uphill to the road. No easy matter as each of us had 60 to 70 poundpacksacks. Poor John Coyle had just come off a two to three week bender…drunk in otherwords. We really thought he would have a heart attack, We Left packs at side of road and hikedinto town.Bill Dunn reported we can expect snow any time…for sure next week. Bill Scott gotus another hot rum drink … for all crew.Nights are getting very cold.Wednesday Sept. 5, 1962Snow. All pipes and pails with water now frozen. Steve drove us to job site. Then Jim Coyle,Jack Gillis, Terry Doubt and I packed Turam equipment in to the new prperty which is very wet…swampy.Did lines 132, 134, 134, 128, 126, 122….all west lines.Feels like December back home. Ice on all the small ponds, snow flurries most of the day.Did all my washing in the wash basin in evening. Two letters from Marjorie Now starting toget serious about plans to return home..the long way rather than the direct flight from Whitehorse.I want to get the full Yukon experience which means Skagway…need to know more about the
Treadwell mine disaster on Douglas Island near Juneau. Know so little about these big events
Thursday Sept. 6, 1962Motor trouble today…likely dirty gas. Cleaned the carburetor. Broke the governor by accident.scraped carb with a spoon. Walked out to road and borrowed Hans Buhr’s Land Rover thenon to Elsa for repairs. Had the master mechanic do some spot welding on the governor..excelent job.Hard drive back to camp then walked down Proctor’s Road to site…not much of a road, more like a track..
put things back togetherand completed the layout…116, 118, 120, 124, all on west side of base line.I feel relieved..proud of myself getting repairs done and survey done But my legsare very sore.I hope I can get some work on the side for the next few days…tagging claims for Hans Buhr…I willneed the money for my escape route from the Yukon. It will be a tight trip. Have some money butnot enough. Will take a chance anyway…be a shame to miss Dead Horse Pass, Skagway,Juneau…all landlocked places…mysterious places.Friday, Sept. 7, 1962Muggy day…reclaimed cable from BL #3 and talked with Hans Burr in morning. Read book in pm.Our last day and Silver Titan was slow and uncomfortable.Pleasant feeling now job is over and the weight of the world off my shoulders.This has been fascinating job but very stressful at times. Yukon hills are not hills. They are
6,000 foot mountains.
Drove to Mayo Landing with Steve Rudnicki … slept on floor of the Tim-o-Lou Motel basement.Visited Bob Gilroy and got job tagging claims for a day…a little extra money.Had a Tom Collins at the bar and later a glass of sauterne white wine and shot ofrye with Bob Gilroy…hard on my stomach I fear…gut ache.Have got really attached to Mayo Landing and all the characters I have met…eventhe drunks. Often drinkers have nice personalities.Saturday Sept. 8, 1962My idea of sleeping on he floor was not a good idea….bad night. Had breakfastat Luigi’s. Dirk and Ray were there. Dirk put on quite a show by vomitting…foodpoisoning…mild.Bill Scott and I went to the airport to make sure the bags got away. Cold, bleakday in the Yukon. Later we went back to the Gilroys and jointly presented a bottleof sauterne ($4.50) which may not have been a good idea. Perhaps better thana bottle of rye whisky though.I arranged to take the little girls, Patricia and Susan to the movies after oursupper at Luigi’s The show was terrible…John Wayne at his worst…killing Indians.Patricia fell asleep. Susan seemed happy about the movie.Bob Gilroy showed us his new discovery on Silver Titan…good stock marketopportunity for us but we had no money. Stock tips are to always accurate.Expenses $5.50Sunday Sept. 9, 1962My last Sunday morning in Mayo Landing. Had biscuits for breakfast, read a little…inafternoon I helped Bob Gilroy cutting brush.Made arrangements to do the tagging of claims.…What a nightmare that turned out to be…ice about an
inch or two thick in the swamps where claim posts were located.
YUKON DIARY to Sept. 9, 1962..END OF THE JOB.
NEXT EPISODE: PERSONAL PLANNED ESCAPE FROM THE YUKON
Correction of error in episode 23e
where I say poop, it should say pool (WHAT A STUPID ERROR)
EPISODE 235 YUKON DIARY THE “SPORTING GIRLS” OF KENO CITY (I.E. PROSTITUTES)
‘The men did not come to the Yukon for the gold; they came to see me,” Klondike Kate Rockwell, perhaps one of the most well-known dance hall girls during the Klondike Gold Rush, is quoted as saying.
Klondike Kate was born Kathleen Eloisa Rockwell in Kansas in 1876.
It was a date she would often forget throughout her life, claiming to have been born in 1880, 1882, and even 1892.
As a young woman Kate was beautiful and full of life.
“My father showered luxury on me,” Kate told a biographer, May Mann, later in life. “How could anyone imagine that his beloved and indulged stepdaughter, who was being groomed to take her place as a society leader in the city, was destined to become a variety showgirl and a Yukon dance-hall queen?”
She was expelled from a number of boarding schools because of her behaviour.
Kate loved to dance and flirt, especially with older men.
In New York City, Kate took the name ‘Kitty Phillips’ and got a job as a chorus girl in a variety theatre.
There, Kate got her first taste of what the job entailed: “I was told to sit in one of the boxes. An old schoolmate joined my table. ‘Will you have a bottle of wine?’ he invited. ‘Oh, no, thank you,’ I replied. ‘I do not drink wine. I only drink lemonade. A bottle of wine cost five dollars and the box waiter almost fainted. My commission would have been $1.25 a bottle.”
Later one of the girls told Kate that between acts she was expected to sit and drink with the customers on a percentage commission.
“She also showed me how to pour the drinks into the spittoons when the customers were not watching,” said Kate.
She worked in Washington and Oregon before coming north to the Yukon in 1898.
“I shall never forget my first sight of Dawson,” said Kate. “Front Street, facing the Yukon was a solid line of saloons, dance halls and gambling houses.”
During her first year in Dawson City, Kate made $30,000. One night, while wearing her $1,500 gown from Paris, Kate was crowned Queen of the Yukon. The men fashioned a crown from a tin can, and stuck lit candles on the jagged points. The boys went wild as Kate danced with wax dripping into her hair.
While in Dawson Kate fell in love with a Greek waiter named Alexander Pantages.
She supported him for five years as he worked his way up in the theatre.
He sent Kate to Texas for a year to perform and make money. While Kate was gone Alexander met and married a younger girl from the “right side of the tracks.” Heartbroken, Kate sued Alexander for breach of promise to marry her.
“The woman declares that by her earnings as a vaudeville performer in the Klondike during the early strike she enabled Pantages in five years to jump from poverty to riches, from a waiter in a dance hall in Dawson to the position of theatre magnate,” reported the Dawson Daily News in June 1905.
The case was settled out of court, leaving Kate with a settlement of between $5,000 and $60,000, depending on the source.
In 1933, she married John Matson and the pair returned to Dawson City for their honeymoon.
Matson remained in the Klondike and continued mining; he and Kate rarely saw each though they wrote two letters each year.
In 1946, one of Matson’s letters did not arrive on schedule Kate began to worry and soon after his body was found frozen about 12 kilometres from his remote cabin.
Later, Kate settled in Oregon and married twice before passing away peacefully in 1957, at age 80.
The MacBride Museum has a dress, purse and wrap that were owned by the legendary dance hall girl in its collection.
This column is provided by the MacBride Museum of Yukon History. Each week it will explore a different morsel of Yukon’s modern history. For more information, or to comment on anything in this column e-mail email@example.com.