Yukon Nuggets

  • 1946 photo by Rolf Hougen's Ltd. The White Pass Hotel, H.G. MacPherson Drug Store, D.B. Ryan Hardware, Home Bakery & Café, Seeleys Pool Hall. Fire Hall across Front Street.

1945 Yukon Nuggets

Carnival Days in the ‘40s


The year was 1945. Six long years of war in Europe and the Pacific were coming to an end. Most of the military and civilian construction workers who had built the Alaska Highway and the Canol pipeline had left the Yukon. Whitehorse was once again a quiet little riverboat town. Something had to be done to stifle the boredom of another long winter. So the fore-runner of the Sourdough Rendezvous was born.

Kent Fuller was an American from Idaho who had worked on the Canol pipeline. In 1945, he was the resident engineer for Standard Oil in Whitehorse. He had also been a dog-derby organizer back in Idaho before the war. Fuller suggested that Whitehorse would be an ideal site for dog-sled racing. But his ideas didn’t get very far because – of all things – a federal election loomed on the horizon.

The All Union committee, representing the Labour Party, saw the carnival idea as a way to swing votes away from long-time Yukon MP, George Black, and to their candidate, Tom McEwan. In early January, the committee put an ad in the paper, announcing they would spend 15 thousand dollars to sponsor an International Dog Derby and Yukon Winter Carnival to be held March 4-11.

The Carnival would feature a Queen contest, ski jumping, an amateur night at the Capital Theatre, dances at the 98 Hotel and, of course, the Dog Derby. Five contestants opened the ski-jumping event held at the Punch Bowl in the hills behind the hospital.

Arne Anderson emerged the winner. Doris Lesanko was crowned Carnival Queen. The chief attraction, however, was the dog derby. Three days of racing covered a 40-mile track. John Brown and his team of dogs from Champagne won the event in a total time of 4 hours and 36 minutes. He also pocketed $500.

Young Andy Smith of Teslin, who would, in later years, take part in Sourdough Rendezvous dog races, finished second. All in all, the Yukon Winter Carnival of 1945 was quite a success - except for one thing. All the hoopla generated by the All Union Committee failed to help their federal candidate. Tom McEwan lost the election to the venerable conservative George Black.


A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.

Les McLaughlin

Les McLaughlin

As storyteller, radio man, and music producer, Les proved a passionate preserver of Yukon heritage throughout his life — nowhere more evident than as the author and voice of CKRW’s “Yukon Nuggets,” from its inception until his passing in 2011.