EPISODE 251 YUKON DIARY MY LAST ENTRY…BUT NOT MY LAST STORY: A BIG EVENT WAS HAPPENING BENEATH MY FEET
FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 14, 1962
THIS IS MY LAST DIARY ENTRY…
IT IS NOT MY LAST YUKON STORY, HOWEVER, MY BIGGEST, MOST
FASCINATING YUKON STORY WAS HAPPENING AROUND ME BUT
I HAD NO IDEA WHAT WAS HAPPENING UNTIL ALICIA PRIEST, A LITTLE
TEN YEAR OLD GIRL IN 1962 LIVING IN A PAN ABODE COMPANY HOUSE IN
ELSA PUBLISHED HER BOOK TITLED ‘A ROCK FELL ON THE MOON’
IN 2013. HER STORY COULD BECOME ONE OF THE GREAT MOTION PICTURES
OF OUR CENTURY. HER STORY…AND MY STORY…INTERSECT. AS YOU WILL
SEE IN EPISODE 252.
BIT FIRST I HAVE TO GET OUT OF JUNEAU ON FRIDAY SEPT. 14, 1962
UP early and out walking the streets of Juneau. Wondering why in hell i came here
…sensing there was some reason…some hidden reason. (Which turned out to be the Treadwell
Mining disaster on Douglas Island in 1917…I would not know that reason for many years.)
Lots of art shops here. And many more novelty shops for tourists fascinated by Pacific
Coast First Nations legends printed on tea towels and plywood slabs and cheap pottery.
Bought two prints for $6.00. Tourist stuff but nice. Saleslady was very nice and recommended
I read ‘Cry The Beloved Country’…not pushing me to buy just saying it was a good book.
Confirmed my exit flight with Pan American Airways. Strange how links to the Yukon keep
surfacing. In a clothing store I got in a discussion with the manager. He knew Jack Acheson…
the placer gold miner who gave me the mammoth tooth. Strange that the Yukon keeps coming
up. How does that happen? Do I look like a prospector? Or is it just that I am alone and ready
to meet people? We talked mining for a bit.
Then caught the limousine service to the Juneau airport. Turned out to be a decrepit old bus.
But the takeoff was terrific. Juneau is in a deep valley on edde of a fiord. The airport runway
is short so the big 707 had to accelerate fast and then tip up equally fast or else we would
scrap metal and flash glued to a rock face. As we rumbled and got speed I could hear
Gordon Lightfoot singing, “In the early morning rain…big 707 set to go” and I thought,
‘Jesus, Garden Lightfoot has been here when he wrote the song. Not true of course but
I felt the same as he must have felt only I was in the 707 while he was only watching the takeoff.
(Jet service had just come to Juneau with a 2,000 foot runway extension. In 1963, however, Pan
Am terminated service to Juneau…so my flight was unusual…seemed the 707 needed extra
power to clear the mountains but that could have been my imagination))
Met forest ranger Dan Henny, nice chap. We flew to Ketichikan from Juneau together on
a big Boeling 707. Music in my mind. Lightfoot was depressed. I was not depressed. Quite a
difference. Service was superb. I was heading home to meet Marjorie….full beard and all.
Nicegin and tonic…fine meal…and free cigarettes which I did not want.
Eventually we set down in Seattle and I scoured around for a flight to Vancouver. Waitred
a bit then boarded for short flight to Vancouver. Booked into theGeirgian Towers hotel as usual
Had supper alone aboard the Royal Alaska (ship). …Not great supper…would rather have enjoyed my
cold can of pork and beans, wasted $3.50.
honed to confirm my flight reservation with CPA and was alarmed when told “no chance, flight is full”
I raised hell because I had booked this flight long ago. My costs would increase…my plan was unravelling.
They booked me aboard a DC8 Vanguard with about same time arrival in Toronto. Relieved. had a
nice hot shower, listened to radio and went to bed. My plan seems to be working out.
Expenses food $3.50
Saturday Sept. 15, 1962
Up early and double checked flight with CPA just in case of trouble. Walked uptown and paid CPA $99.00
Nothing much to do so took walks through Hudson’s Bay store then over to Stanley Park. Rented a bicycle
for .50 cents an hour …cycled to the Stanley Park Zoo,
Lo and behold I met Bill McAdam from Mayo Landing while at the Zoo. What a small world. What a great
collection of friends I had made in the Yukon. Walked back to hotel, had s bath, packed my little handbag
and caught limousine to the airport.
Jet fight 1, DC8 direct from Vancouver to Toronto.
Greeted by Marjorie, mom and dad. No one is impressed by my red beard. Took all summer to
grow it. “keeps mosquitoes away”…”no mosquitoes here…makes you look old” AND I was a bit
nonplussed on my first day at the Faculty of Education. Nobody knew who the hell I was.
Friends who I had shared a glass or two of beer at the King Cole Room of the Park Plaza
walked by me without comment. My beard! Beard lasted a while then mom and Marjorie pinned me to
the ground beside the pump at the farm and proceeded to butcher my beard. Lots of laughs.
So ended the YUKON DIARY, I put the diary away for the last six decades and it likely would
have remained in the dark had not Covid 19 struck the world with such force. I would like to
thank the Virus for the chance to rescue my Yukon Diary and bring back so many fond
memories. On Sept. 15, 1962, I believed my days prospecting were over and a new career
was opening up. That made me feel bad. Working for HunTech for so many years was hard
to let go. As things turned out the adventures were not over. We spent two more years
working the bush trails. We? Yes, we, Marjorie joined me in the summers of 1963 and
1964. The last job was a seismic job for an open pit mine in Merrit, BC. Very amusing.
We flew to Vancouver. I had second thoughts. What would the geologists and mine
manager think when I arrived with my wife? “Best you stay in a hotel, Marjorie,
and come to the BC interior tomorrow…I can explain that to the miners.”
Well, that did not work out as planned. The hotel was bad news…in a slum
in East Vancouver. Marjorie got scared and hopped the night bus to Merrit…overnight.
When I got back to my motel with the geologists and mine manager for a discussion
about the seismic results first day. There was Marjorie asleep in my room.
What a joke! They thought Marjorie was a hooker I had hired in Vancouver
for the job evenings. No matter what I said, their minds were fixed. Sly grins.
“Marjorie, they think you are a hooker. No matter what I say. So you’ll just
have to accept that I guess.” She did.
Since my former boss, Dr. Norm Peterson, is reading this Episode, I must explain
that Huntech did not pay for Marjorie. I paid that part of the bill. Rather than fly
back to Toronto, we took the transcontinental train. One birth. Both of us in
a lower birth. Tight but fun.
Craigmont open pit, BC. Site was not as elaborate in 1964
This may not be the same mine but the only one I can
find in Merritt, BC, where we did the job.
And Norm, your advice about the FS2 seismograph was excellent. Remember I asked
what should I do if the damn thing did not work. “Alan, take these electronic boards.
If there is s problem, just slip the old boards out and the new boards in.” Well
the damn thing did not work on the first demonstration. All the big shots watching because
they feared their open pit mind was about to collapse unless the FS2 could find
a rock ledge deep below the loose ground. A hook. All watching. First explosive. BOOM!
Nothing registered. The moment of truth had arrived. I kept my calm. “Just let
me replace a few things” and I slipped a new board in the right slots. Signalled
for the forcite to be buried at the right interval. Cleared the site. Pushed the firing
button. And BOOM. The damn thing worked perfectly. In the eyes of the mine
manager I was competent…more than that…professional. And he would not
have to entertain me in the evenings because I had arranged my own entertainment
with a brothel madam in Vancouver.
Funny thing. About 10 years ago, Norm asked me to give a speech to a
bunch of his church friends in Clarksberg. He introduced me.
I was flattered. He used a big work that I still do not understand.
“Alan was a bit precocious.” Now what the hell does that mean?
Since then Norm has become quite a writer. Two books done and a
third underway. His first book deals with the science of geophysics and
the role of Canadian engineers in those post World War II decades.
Very scientific. An important piece of journalism. Norm left out one
piece of information that fascinated me since we both did jobs in
the Northern Quebec town of Chibougamau. There were no washrooms
in the bar. Outdoor facilities. Norm’s description of the difference between
the male and female washroom was a hoot. I might have enough nerve
to tell you the difference. Hey, maybe that is part of being precocious.
NOTE: THE NEXT STORY YOU WILL FIND SPELL BINDING AS I DID.
IN 2013 ALICIA PREIST’S BOOK “A ROCK FELL ON THE MOON”
WAS PUBLISHED BY LOST MOOSE PRESS. THE SETTING OF THE
BOOK IS 1962….THE PLACE IS KENO HILL, YUKON TERRITORY…
THE EVENT ? GERALD PREIST MAY HAVE STOLEN 700 TONS
OF SILVER ORE. I SAY “MAY HAVE STOLEN” BECAUSE HE INSISTED
THAT A HUGE ROCK FELL ON THE MOON…THE ROCK WAS SILVER.
LITTLE ALICIA PREIST WAS ABOUT 10 YEARS OLD WHEN I WORKED
THERE IN 1962. I MAY HAVE SEEN HER. HER DAD, GERALD,
WOULD NOT HAVE WANTED US TO SEE HIM..
TOO BAD I CANNOT TELL YOU THE FULL STORY.