Gerald Priest took this photo of his family…powerful photo. Yukon in June…spring time.
EPISODE 256 WHO WAS GERALD PRIEST? HE FOUND OR STOLE 70 TONS OF SILVER ORE, (Story 2)
(subtitle THING ONE AND THING TWO)
Gerald Priest was believed to have stollen 70 tons of silver ore worth upwards of $200,000 from United Keno Hill Mine
company. Stollen from the mine and hidden various places. This was not some nickel / dime theft. Big time.
He denied the charge stating that the ore came from a boulder that had rolled onto the Moon claims which he
and a partner owned.
Who was Gerald Priest? No-one really knew much about him until his youngest daughter wrote A Rock Fell on the
Moon in 2013…fifty years after the event;
I think her description of her father reveals that Gerald Priest was quite a normal guy. Nice father. Could have
Gerald Priest on the right with the roll your own cigarette and rifle. Dark Glasses.
THING ONE AND THING TWO (from Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, 1957)
“Ring…Ring…Ring! “ sounded the newly installed telephone at the Priest home in Elsa.
“yes, yes…Alicia is here.” said Alicia’s mother Helen.
“Phone call for you Alicia.” , a little girl at the time.
“Hello, who is this?”
“This is the BIG BAD WOLF, and I am coming to eat you up.”, said Gerald Priest from his
assay office at United Keno Hill Mine in the company town of Elsa, Yukon Territory, one of
the largest silver mines in the world in the late 1950’s and 1960’s. Alicia was either terrified
or consumed by giggles and laughter. She never said which. I prefer the latter.
Why tell you this story? First, I found the story amusing. The kind of story my dad might
have told Eric and I when we were very small and easily frightened. Secondly, I want
my readers to try and understand Jerry Priest, a man who changed from an idyllic husband
and father into a master criminal.
Alicia Priest, his youngest daughter, draws a wonderful picture of Jerry. Her prose is faultless
revealing, touching, sometimes unforgiving, at other times warm and loving. I think you need
this biography. It will help you understand his story. Jerry was a nice guy. A little private but all the same a nice person to share
a beer with if given the chance.
Jerry was born on August 27, 1927 in Edmonton. His parents dirt were poor and remained so all
their life. They never owned a home but rented places in communities across western Canada.
Three boys. Jerry was the middle child and resented his father’s favouritism of his older brother Bill.
His mom, Alice, was disowned at 18 when she loved and married Bertrom, a printer by trade.
Out of sync with his times in that he remained wedded to cold type.
As I read these descriptive words I thought of Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath families.
They moved around a lot. Depression family…dirt poor. Powell River, Nelson, Prince Robert, Kimberley,
Kitimat, Williams Lake, Maple Ridge, Slocam City, and others. “Occupational Nomads.” Poor with no
prospects of anything better.
He finished High School in Nelson, enrolled in the University of Alberta in chemistry for a short time
then took a short course in assaying techniques…i.e. determining the mineral content of
“Dad grew into a quiet, clever, well-read and well-spoken young man” with all the attributes of a gentleman
who could preside over business meetings. Flip side … Jerry was at ease leading a string of
pack horses through the Rocky mountain wilderness. But when his guard was down “he squirmed
in his own skin…a fretter, a finger kneeder…out of step with his times.” Shy in that he “disdained parties,
crowds, and gatherings of more than three or four and was most at home when seated at a kitchen
table with a dog at his feet, a cup of coffee or a freshly rolled cigarette in hand and one agreeable
companion across the table, preferably female.” (P.16,17, A Rock Fell on the Moon)
He had a cruel streak. “he could trigger my tears by scowling in my direction” when Alicia was two or three
years old. “Mom would say ‘Stop it, Jerry’ and he would lean over and kiss me.” Jerry was witty,
affectionate and ” original” most of the time. He would give us the “works” which entailed
tickling us “until we screamed for mercy”. In winter, when the snow was deep he would throw us
“full force into snowbanks.”
Jerry loved practical jokes and once persuaded his wife to drink a full spoonful of Tabasco sauce. She
choked and spat and did a full Ukrainian cossack dance then “collapsed in a fit of breathless giggles.”
He pulled off the “let me put a string around the tooth trick” successfully “Don’t worry, I won’r pull
the string.” followed “Yank!” Tooth out. I did this trick with my own brother. String from his loose tooth
to our bedroom doorknob. “Don’t want this done.” Eric said. So I exited in a huff and firmly closed the
door. Wham! Tooth came out; His trust in me however was another matter. The story made me
see Gerald as a normal person. No comment required from readers.
Helen’s story is powerful. A great mother…seamstress. She made clothes
for the family…in this case deerskin jackets. Her story comes next. Global
in its reach. Tragic in its consequences. Loyal to the end.
He was an outdoorsman. For four summers from 1958 to 1961 he ventured through the Rocky
Mountain wilderness on a horse with a pack horse in tow. Helen went with him on some of
these jaunts while her mother babysat the kids. A solid marriage. A camera buff, he photographed these
trips with joy and then turned his lens of his wife Helen and daughters Vona and Alicia both
of whom were born in the Mayo Landing clinic, not far from Elsa. They were children of the northland
with a father that fitted into his home and his surroundings.
Jerry loved sing cowboy songs while picking his guitar and puffing on a mouth organ strapped
to his mouth. The Priest’s subscribed to Book Clubs. Obviously the children were up to date
since Gerald called his girls ‘Thing One and Thing Two’ . Names he took from Dr. Seuss’s
Cat in the Hat which had just been published.
He was indeed an ideal father. How could Jerry become one of Canada’s great con men?
A mega thief?
I suppose the simple answer is that people change. Is greed our fatal flaw?
I want you to know Jerry as we explore his heist.
What are facts about Cat in the hat?
Dr. Seuss was asked to write a children’s story in 1957 using only
words on a list that children …new readers …would be expected
to know. He was given a list of 438 common words. He wrote
The Cat in the Hat using 223 of those words…which included
’Thing One and Thing Two. (three words)
THE CAT IN THE HAT
“I think I will call them Thing One and Thing Two”
you will see something new.
two things. and i call them
Thing One and Thing Two.
these Things will not bite you.
they want to have fun.’
then, out of the box
came Thing Two and Thing One!
and they ran to us fast.
they said, ‘how do you do?
would you like to shake hands
with Thing One and Thing Two?’
and sally and i
did not know what to do.
so we had to shake hands
with Thing One and Thing Two.
we shook their two hands.
but our fish said, ‘no! no!
those Things should not be
in this house! make them go!
they should not be here
when your mother is not!
put them out! put them out!’
said the fish in the pot.
‘have no fear, little fish,’
said the cat in the hat.
‘these Things are good Things.’
and he gave them a pat.
‘they are tame. oh, so tame!
they have come here to play.
they will give you some fun
on this wet, wet, wet day.’
Next Episode: Helen Preist