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June 6th – “Authors On 8th Avenue”

Today was the first rainy day I have experienced on my travels. And did it ever rain!! One thing I have noticed about Dawson, is that when the sun is gone it feels like the Arctic, but as soon as it comes out, it feels like the tropics.

Despite the rain, I had a few “must see” things on my list, and thankfully things seem to run in Dawson regardless of the weather.

My first stop was to 8th Avenue. Some of Canada’s finest writes are represented on this road at the back of Dawson. I made a brief stop at the cabin where Robert Service lived and wrote some of his most famous poems such as “The Cremation of Sam McGee”.

I then went to the museum dedicated to Jack London. I didn’t know much about him. He was an American writer who as a young man seemed to have little success. He kept writing stories all of which were rejected by publishers. Getting nowhere with his writing, he gave up. He went to work in a factory putting pickles in jars. It was then he heard about the Klondike Gold Rush. Like thousands of others seeking fortune, he made his way over the Chillkoot Pass, and down the Yukon River to Dawson, to stake his claim. Also, like the majority of prospectors who came to the Klondike in 1897, he found no gold, and decided to return home. He didn’t make it out before winter settled in. He had no choice but to hunker down in a tiny cabin that he built with his own hands and try to survive the long, lonely months ahead. He did, although got very sick with Scurvy. He finally made his way out of the Yukon and back to California. The experience changed him, and he said the stories started to flow out of him. It took him a month to write, “The Call Of The Wild”, and a short time later he wrote, “White Fang”. He went on to write 80 books and he became the most published author of his day. He died at the age of 40 from Kidney failure, a result of having scurvy while in the Klondike.

I then stopped by the home of Pierre Berton. Pierre Berton was a big part of my reason for coming to Dawson. He is my favourite author and his book about the Gold Rush entitled, “Klondike” was what inspired me to come north. His home (picture below) is very humble. Before he died, he made it clear that he didn’t want his home turned into a museum but into a writer’s retreat, where people can come and spend time in Dawson crafting stories and writing books. Every three months a different writer from across Canada takes up residence in the home to write.

From there I took a guided tour of Dawson called, “The Strange People And Strange Events of Dawson”. It was a behind-the-scenes tour of old buildings that told some of the amazing stories of the characters who called Dawson home. We learned that one of Dawson’s most revered citizens of the early 20th century was Ruby Scott. She was a charming, kind, compassionate woman who was well respected. Kids and old people alike adored her. The kids would come to her back door where she would give them little cakes and treats. It was said that her best friend was the local Catholic priest. Her job there was not a teacher, or missionary or librarian, but she was a Madam who ran the local brothel. So loved was she, that a blind eye was turned to her profession, and when she died it was said that hundreds of people mourned her passing. So yes, I spent time in Dawson in a brothel!!

I ended the afternoon by driving to the top of the Dawson Dome, the mountain overlooking the town. The view was the most incredible thing I have ever seen. I have posted a picture below but it hardly does it justice.

Let me end this blog with a quote from Jack London that I am beginning to think applies to many of the amazing folks I have met who call Dawson home; “I came to the Klondike in search of gold, what I found, was myself.”