Friday, July 15, 2011

Dawson City, Yukon - 2

Friday, July 8

We spent a little time in the afternoon at the Palace Grand Theater. In order to bring more visitors to the theater, and to have something interesting for them to see, Parks Canada decided to create a "Greatest Klondike Canadian" contest. Three different characters (portrayed by Parks Canada employees) explain to the audience why they should be selected. There's audience participation--three people are asked to be judges, and another is a timer. I volunteered to be a judge--though it was the entire audience who decided the winner, not the judges. We were just there to ask each contestant a follow-up question.

This woman was our hostess for the evening, and she gave her "name,"0 but I forgot to write down who she said she was. I think she was the wife of one of the builders or owners of the hotel.

The first contestant was Nellie Cashman. Not really a Canadian, Nellie came from the US. Her first stop was in the town of Cassiar, British Columbia, where she ran a boarding house. During the winter one year, she and some others hiked 77 days into the wilderness to take necessary supplies and medicines to a group of sick miners. Scurvy was a common ailment, and she took many pounds of limes. She later left Cassiar and opened up a grocery store in Dawson, while she also mined for gold. She convinced many of her fellow miners to donate money to the hospital opened by the Anglican church in Dawson. She remained single and was NOT ever a part of the local prostitute population (she emphasized this point).

Also American in origin, Father Judge came to Dawson to both build an Anglican church and to a build St. Mary's Hospital. He also was responsible for devising a hot water system in Dawson. His hospital was response for saving the lives of many Dawson miners, who were often too focused on mining to take care of themselves. He was nicknamed "The Saint of Dawson."

The third contestant was Sam Steele. He was the Superintendent of the Northwest Mounted Police in the Yukon, who "ruled" with an iron fist. He was noted for organizing the prostitute of Dawson into one location along Paradise Alley, and devising rules and regulations for their business. He also managed to maintain law and order in a rough town. He was sent away in 1899, but we were not told the events surrounding his demotion and banishment.

Following the contestant statements, the judges asked questions, and thin there was a "free-for-all" period where they spoke to each other to prove their points. Then the audience voted by cheering and clapping, and it appeared to be evenly split between Father Judge and Nellie Cashman. We three judges were then asked to break the tie, and we chose Father Judge.

On our way back to our trailer we stopped by the cabin of Robert Service, a famous Canadian poet. Two poems that my students would be familiar with are "The Cremation of Sam McGee," and "The Shooting of Dan McGrew."

There's also a Jack London museum and a cabin built from the logs from his old cabin but I failed to take any photos. The museum was closed when we drove by and we didn't make it back.

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