1928 Yukon Nuggets
In the fall of 2010, the Vancouver Opera Company will present its first full-length commissioned piece for its main stage. The opera is based on the real-life story of Lillian Alling. You probably never heard of her, but if she were around today, reality television would be all over her story. Alling was a European immigrant who arrived in New York City in the 1920s. She may have been of Russian origin.
In the summer of 1927, homesick and compelled to perform menial tasks for a living, she decided to go to Russia via Siberia. She saved her money in the winter of 1926, planned her route, and started her incredible walk in the spring of 1927. Alling carried a small amount of money, some food and an iron bar for protection. Thus, began perhaps the strangest overland journey of all-time. Alling walked from New York to Chicago, to Minneapolis, to Winnipeg and just kept on walking.
There were reports of her journey in various newspapers across the Prairies and into British Columbia. When she reached Hazelton, BC she turned north and followed the Yukon Overland Telegraph Trail. A telegraph operator, concerned for her safety, sent a message to the Provincial Police at Hazelton.
A local Justice of the Peace charged her with carrying a concealed weapon, and she was sent to Oakalla Prison near Vancouver. After a short stay there, she apparently got work in a Vancouver restaurant for the winter.
But in the spring of 1928, she was on her way again - walking northward towards Alaska. Alling again hiked along the Overland Telegraph Trail and ended up in Atlin where she bought a pair of boots. She then walked to Whitehorse and spent some time there before walking the overland trail to Dawson City. Lillian Alling arrived in Dawson City in the fall of 1928 and spent the winter working as a cook. In the spring of 1929, she launched a small wooden boat into the Yukon River right behind the outgoing ice. The Whitehorse Star ran some stories of her incredible journey through the Yukon.
It is known that she eventually reached Nome, Alaska and later was seen by Alaskan Eskimos on the shores of the Bering Strait. She was last heard from in 1930, bartering with the Eskimos for boat passage across the strait to Siberia.
So if you get a chance to see the Vancouver Opera Company presentation of the story of Lillian Alling in the fall of 2010, don’t miss it. The Yukon plays prominently in her incredible journey which is steeped in mystery for the ages.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.