Klondike Korner: We Shutter to Think of Winter

I’m baaack. I hadn’t been in town a day before someone asked me if I’d given up this column. The answer is no. It’s just hard to do a coming events essay when you’re not at home to know what’s coming.

Our little vacation took us to Calgary, Ireland and Toronto, extending the range of the late summer season, and giving us a peek at some red leaves for a change.

There are all sorts of things I could write about the trip, and I probably will, but not here.

There was snow in Whitehorse when I landed on October 12, and enough slush in the high country the next day to send me into four-wheel drive for a while on the way home.

Dawson had just begun to get ready for winter when I left on September 20, and it isn’t surprising to see how much more progress had been made in that direction this week.

Shutting down for the winter used to be a matter of slapping old plywood over the doors and ground-floor windows, and heading south, leaving the town full of sloppily nailed shutters and a general sense of abandonment.

This was not only depressing for those of us who spend our winters at home, but also bad advertising for the trickle of tourists which continues to run through the town.

There was a point at which the chamber of commerce and the town council spent a lot of time complaining about this state of affairs, but very little got done until a group of citizens took the matter to heart and put some time and thought into changing the situation, going so far as to volunteer to help businesses prepare something attractive for their shutters.

One of the legacies of the now defunct Klondike Improvement Action Group, (which also started the waterfront renewal project I covered over the summer,) has been that most businesses now boast shutters that make their buildings look like someone cares and will be coming back.

Doors and windows are now covered with boards that are about the right size for the openings. Some are a solid colour, black or gray. Quite a few have window panel-style vertical and horizontal markings on them.

Klondike Kate’s boards are black with red panel markings, the red matching some of the detail trim on the rest of the building. The window boards look like old-fashioned multi-pane windows, and the doors are very clearly doors.

Goldrush Campground has probably the fanciest boards in town. The base colour is grey, which goes well with the two-tone blue of the building, and each panel features an illustration in white.

White-framed windows have curtains in them. Washroom doors show windowpanes and doorknobs and are labelled “Ladies” and “Gents”. In the largest window you see curtains, a vase of red flowers on the left and the silhouette of a woman in period clothing ironing.

Both of these leave the sort of image that a winter visitor may very stop to snap a photo of, and when they show it to their friends the place won’t seem to be a winter ghost town. That’s a big improvement, and everyone involved deserves a pat on the back.

Next week I’ll get back to telling you about coming events.

After 32 years teaching in rural Yukon schools, Dan Davidson retired from that profession but continues writing about life in Dawson City.

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