The airport in Beaver Creek, Yukon is small and if you don’t know what you’re looking for, there’s a good chance you will miss it. Many who know Sid van der Meer may recall him owning and operating a small aircraft in the 1970s. “I used to own a J-3 Cub. It was a ’45 or maybe ’47. I bought it in 1970-something and had it for about five or six years. We used to land on the (Alaska) Highway,” Sid tells us. “It was good smooth road,” relatively speaking, he adds. “It was just gravel in those days, no pavement like today.”
Sid and his family would travel from their old homestead at Mile 1128, Mountain View Lodge, and land in Destruction Bay so his children could attend elementary school. “I learned how to fly from Ken Shewchuk back in the ‘60s. He had a little Champion aircraft that we used to fl y around in.”
I ask Sid about the airports along the Alaska Highway and when they were built. “It was called the Northwest Staging Route,” he says. “They were all over the place. All the way from Great Falls, Montana up to Alaska. The first one built in the Yukon was in Watson Lake. The other locations in the Yukon were Whitehorse, Aishihik, Burwash, Snag, and then into Alaska. “Beaver Creek’s airport is fairly new compared to the Northwest Staging Route which was built in the 1940s for World War II. The closest one to us is Snag which is located 35 miles from here. 20 miles that way down the road and then 15 miles in. “Straight across over the hills maybe about fi ve miles away from Beaver Creek. It wasn’t until the late ‘60s when everybody was out of there. A few families lived at Dry Creek, but they all moved to Beaver Creek eventually.”
Sid has one main piece of Northwest Staging Route memorabilia, which rests on a wall in his cozy living room. The wooden mantelpiece is noticeably antique, with visible water damage.
Looking closely at the rather large, bulky object, you will see the signatures of several young men. The names are associated with a place, such as Vancouver, as well as a date. Many of the signatures are dated to 1943–1945. “It came from the airport store at Aishihik years ago. The builders of the airport wrote their names on it,” Sid explains.
For historians and antique collectors alike, it serves as a valuable document for tracing and recording the construction of the Northwest Staging Route. “Fred Cook used to own the store. I remember him. He used to be (notably known as) a gravedigger.” Sid was gifted the mantelpiece by a friend who had purchased Cook’s home.
Though Sid now focuses his time and energy on automobiles, there is still a part of him that loves flight. Come and visit Bordertown Garage & Museum and take a look at Sid’s historic salvaged mantelpiece.