Klondike Korner: What is Dawson Time, Anyway?

About a decade ago, the Yukon’s Department of Tourism had a slogan that was supposed to entice people to extend their stay in the territory by another day or two.

“Stay Another Day – On Yukon Time” was the wording of the program, and it was kind of a play on a phrase that’s common to a lot of our communities.

In the Klondike we often speak of things running on Dawson Time. You can fill in the name of your community before the word “Time,” and I imagine most places do. The phrase seems to be intended to mean that we’re all kind of laid back and don’t have our lives dominated by clocks and schedules.

In reality, however, it generally seems to mean that most of us arrive late for everything.

There are only a few things that begin on time in Dawson City. City council meetings start on time by legislation, though we sometimes suspect that it’s a ploy to make the folks who want to be in delegations arrive late. Fire practice on Wednesday nights start pretty much on time. Church services start on time.

The Robert Service School tries very hard to start classes on time, but tardiness of students was a major problem for all the years I worked there. The same people who arrived 15 minutes late were also the ones who were clock-watchers for the rest of the day and started packing up their books five minutes before the end of each period, so it wasn’t that they couldn’t tell time.

Event organizers in Dawson are aware of this community malaise and usually schedule events so that there’s a half-hour of mingling time before anything actually happens.

Sadly, what seems to be happening lately is that the announced time for the event, whatever it might be, is the time when a lot of people feel that they need to leave their homes to head for the venue.

We had two very nice performances at the Oddfellows Hall on the last Sunday in September, and audiences turned up late for both of them, inconveniencing the organizers, the volunteers who were staffing the concession, the performers and those people who actually turned up at the scheduled time for the events.

Arrive – Our Northern Succession was a delightful half-hour celebration in dance of the Yukon’s seasons. I was initially concerned that there wouldn’t be any audience beyond the dozen or so that were there when I arrived. Thankfully about two dozen more folks strolled in about five minutes after the performance was scheduled to have begun. The room filled up pretty quickly after that, and things got underway a mere 10 minutes late.

Gordie Tentrees, Sarah MacDougall and Ken Hermanson braved some pretty nasty roads to get to Dawson and offer us some great music later that evening. It was embarrassing that there were so few people – perhaps three dozen – who made it to the concert. More annoying were the two guys in hoodies who crashed in through the fire escape door midway through Sarah’s stellar set and were fairly loud at the ticket desk at the back of the ballroom after they stomped their way back there.

I may be conditioned to being on time after 32 years of teaching, but I think there is a difference between not being anal about clocks and just being disrespectful. Running on Dawson (or Yukon) Time ought to be about something more than just arriving late.

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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