‘tween Whitehorse & Skagway

I find old photos pretty regularly. The majority feature people and places that would be mainly of interest to the family who presumably tossed them. Others have broader appeal, and a rare few tempt me to scan them.

I found this collection last spring. They appear to have been shot by an RCAF airman who was stationed near Whitehorse around the end of WWII. The photos were likely sent with letters to his partner, who added an extra caption on one of the shots. The photos themselves are great, but its the captions that really make them special. They provide neat little windows into the local people & terrain, as well as the day-to-day life of a 20-something airman living up north.

I transcribed the captions as they were written. Anything in [brackets] is an interjection by me (often because I don’t know for sure what was written), and [sic] means the word was originally misspelled. The scans are of fairly high quality, so click on the picture and zoom in to see the finer details. I’ve also added links to some of the various places, people, and things mentioned in the captions.

I’d like the thanks my mom and sister for helping me with this little project. We all did it for free, so if you particularly enjoy this post consider donating to the blog (I’ll split any proceeds three ways). Otherwise, there’s still plenty of pictures without captions and stories to tell, so please feel free to share them in the comments!

Anyways, without further ado…

 

Bottom left: “Peace River District. Land around here is quite flat and is good for farming.”

Bottom middle: “Lancaster ‘Aries’ prior to take-off”

Middle left: “Lewes River [later renamed Yukon River] Whitehorse Yukon”

Top left: “Bob Calis + I, Fish Lake Yukon Aug ’45.”

Top center: “U.S.A.A.F. Norseman taxiing past Standard oil refining co for a take-off. July 45.”

Top right: “Lews’ [sic] River]

Middle right: “Rifle party for LAC Patrick McCanney, drowned in Lewes River Whitehorse Y.T. 11/8/45″ [There seems to be a notable discrepancy between the funeral date offered on these photos and the date of death (May 31 1945) I found online. I’m not sure why that would be, but perhaps there were reasons to delay the ceremony].

Bottom left: “L to R: Frank Braun, Dave Slobodian, Ear Lake Y.T. June 45″

Bottom right: “Whitehorse Y.T.”

Top left: “Bearer Party for Patrick McCanney 11/8/45”

Top right: “Japanese balloon bomb” [Interesting photo! These were the first intercontinental weapons, though they weren’t very effective].

Middle left: “Dave Slobodian, Frank Braun, Ear Lake Y.T. July 45”

Bottom left: “Peace River” [I spent a bit of time in the Peace region years ago. It’s quite nice.]

Bottom middle: “Nov 14/44, Edmonton Atla. [Rin?] Gassner, Louis Truly, Sam Moore.”

Bottom right: “Indian burial ground. Whealthier [sic] Indians build little shelters for over the graves”

Top left: “Indian village on shore of lake at Aishihik Y.T.”

Top right: “Klondike and Aksala awaiting turn at loading pier at Whitehorse.”

Middle left: “23/Sept/45, Miles Canyon Y.T.; L to R Bob Simpson, me, Jim Switzer”

Middle right: “Burial party for LAC Patrick McCanney. Drowned in Lewes River Whitehorse Y.T. 11/8/45.”

Bottom left: “Burial party for LAC Patrick (Irish) McCanney. Drowned in Lewes River Whitehorse Y.T. 11/8/45. (Firing Party)

Middle: “Climbing up to Alcan [I think short for Alaskan] highway from Miles Canyon, Yukon.”

Right: “Nov 14/44 Edmonton Alta.”

Top left: “Coming into Watson Lake Y.T. Visibility unlimited. Looks serene, but is the flying ever ropey [sic] around here. Lots of [down?]-drafts caused by high mts and deep valleys. Death valley N.W.T, few miles east of here.” [Death Valley likely refers to Deadmen Valley, an area in the Nahanni region that is subject to many legends.]

Middle left: “Halfway mark ‘tween Whitehorse + Skagway. Forget name of place off hand. Just a few shacks, one a trading post, and a small church. ‘Trail of the 98’ gold rush starts here. Note narrow gauge single track rails.”

Middle right: “This ship is beached at docks at Whitehorse. Used to be a smuggler (liquor) but Yanks threatened to sink her with gunfire if ever seen again in Alaskan waters. Used to have parties aboard. Infested with gophers.”

Bottom left: “Casca tied up at pier at Whitehorse, getting ready for trip up Lewes to Dawson City.”

Bottom right: “Indian boy at village. Lake La Barge [sic, probably Lake Laberge] Y.T. July ’45.”

Top left: “Dec/44 Whitehorse Yukon.”

Middle left: “Pete Thomas Dec/44”

Middle: “Champaign [sic, probably Champagne] Y.T.”

Top left: “Lews’ [sic] (Yukon) river.”

Top right: “Ear lake Yukon. Saw many mallards here. Tried a sten gun and .303 on ’em, but couldn’t hit the side of a barn door.”

Middle left: “Nov 14/44. Edmonton Alta. [Ain?] Gassner.”

Middle right (top): “Lake Carré St Faustin Que.”

Middle right (bottom): “Standard Oil refinery from air, Whitehorse Y.T.”

Bottom left: “Wild dog – Miles Canyon Yukon.”

Top left: “Sun. March 11/45.” [I’m not sure why I think this now, but when I found these I had the notion that the 113 address was right across the street from my old house on Villeneuve Ouest near St Urbain in the Mile End. If so, the other Montreal street view shots might have been taken nearby.]

Top right: “Bob Calis R.C.A.F. Station , Whitehorse Y.T.”

Bottom left: “American army ordnance butler huts in town of Whitehorse. Huts were completely wrecked when we tangled with Yanks. So were the Yanks.”

Top left: “Dead Man’s Rapids Y.T.”

Middle left: “Whitehorse Y.T.”

Middle right: “Benny, St Faustin Que”

Bottom left: “Lancaster ‘Aries’ preparing to take off from Whitehorse Y.T. on record breaking flight across the Magnetic North Pole to England. July ’45.”

Bottom right: “Burial party for LAC Patrick McCanney, drowned in Lewes River Whitehorse Y.T. 11/8/45.”

Top right: “Lews river [sic], looking down from the mess hall. W.H.” [In pencil, different handwriting] “Lee likes this one! Wish I were there.”

Middle left: “Indian Villiage [sic] from the ‘loon’ on Lake La Barge [sic]. June ’45” [Different pen, same writing?] “Good lake trout fishing here and lots of copper deposits in mts.”

Middle right: [Looks like a shot of Montreal from the top of Mount Royal].

Bottom left: “Burial party for Patrick McCanney 11/8/45.”

Bottom right: “The Aksala. Gasoline driven engines, drive paddle wheel. All supplies – Heavy machinery, non perishable foodstuffs, petroleum etc., move to Dawson by boat.”

Top right: “Standard Oil refining company from the Lewes River, July 45.”

Middle left: “Jennie Hoochie, Champaign [sic] Y.T.”

Bottom right: “Double rainbow after heavy rain. Never had any electrical storms. Must find out why.”

Top left: “Burial party for LAC Patrick (Irish) McCanney. Drowned in Lewes River 11/8/45. Whitehorse, Y.T.”

Top right: “Frank Braun, Dave Slobodian, Johnny Pilon. Ear Lake Y.T., June ’45.”

Middle left: “Indian burial ground at Champaign Yukon. All posetions [sic, possessions] are placed in grave with deceased.”

Bottom left: “Low ceiling Whitehorse looking west.”

Bottom right: “Bearer party for Patrick McCanney 11/8/45.”

Top left: “Dec/44 Whitehorse Yukon.”

Top middle: “Miles Canyon, Y.T. Lots of wild dogs round here.”

Middle: “Dave Slobodian, Frank Braun, Johnny Pilon; Ear Lake Y.T. June 45.”

Bottom left: “Alaska Highway, Summit B.C. Taken while hitch hiking hiway [sic]. Got lift with R.C.A.F. convoy for 900 miles. 3 days and 3 nights from Fort St John B.C. to Whitehorse Y.T.”

Top left: “The docks in winter. Building nearest ships (one with chimney) is [DONUT ?] restaurant. Lots of fights here. Mountie barracks off to right. Tough bunch.”

Top right: “Mar. 18/45.”

Middle left: “River boat rests at anchor on Lewes River Whitehorse Y.T. prior to long trip to Dawson City Y.T.”

Bottom left: “Taken by Ena Spinner on Aug/41. Corner Park + Mt. Royal.” [Not too far from where I live now]

Bottom right: “Nov. 8, 1943.”

Top left: “Somewhere in the States where I stopped to buy food for a picnic bench.”

Top right: “Aishihik Lake, Aishihik Y.T. Fell through ice here, while breaking trail hunting for grizzly. The boys pulled me out, and kept on going. Didn’t even catch cold. Am in good shape.”

Bottom right: “March 44.”

Top left: “Frank Braun, Johnny Pilon, me. Ear Lake, Y.T. July ’45.”

Top right: “Alaska Highway taken between Whitehorse and McRae [sic, probably MacRae].”

Middle left: “Taken 2:30A.M. in July. [?] taking off. Whitehorse.”

Middle right: “Whitehorse Y.T.”

Top left: “Dead Mans Rapids Y.T. Water very treacherous. Full of undertows and whirlpools. Lots of people lost lives here. Pat did too, just a few miles south of here. Was on his funeral party (firing). Had chance to go home to Ireland aboard the ‘Aries’ via the North Pole (first true magnetic flight in history) the day before, but refused.” [Based upon the information given in other captions we can assume that Dead Mans Rapids is a particular hazardous stretch of the Yukon River).

Top right: “L to R: Frank Braun, Dave Slobodian, Johnny Pilon. Whitehorse Y.T. July 45.”

Middle right: “Town of Whitehorse Y.T. American military establishment on right (#6 Service Command, 1462nd Squadron, Red Cross Hostel, Hospitals, CPA bldgs, etc) at left residential + commercial bldgs.”

Bottom left: “Burial Party for Patrick McCanney 11/8/45.”

 

12 thoughts on “‘tween Whitehorse & Skagway”

  1. Hello!

    These photos are terrific – like you, I love the captions too.

    Are you selling these photos? I’d be interested in the originals or in the digital copies.

    Cheers!

    Michelle

    1. I haven’t decided what to do with them. I would like to keep the collection together, however. I’m not in a rush to figure it out (they don’t take up much space) but you can send me an email and maybe we can figure something out.

  2. Dead Man’s Rapids was in Miles Canyon and it is just south of Whitehorse. You can see the stacked cliffs above the rapids in the middle of the image “Miles Canyon, Y.T. Lots of wild dogs round here” The rapids were made much safer by the creation of the Whitehorse dam on the Yukon River just downstream. The area is still a popular place to hike, with little trails all along the cliff tops on both sides, just as you can see in the images.

  3. What a valuable fine. I think the “Japanese balloon bomb” photo could go for a $100 by itself as it is an extremely rare photo to have. All of the boat and refinery photos are worth quite a bit also as there are avid collectors for them. Thank You for saving this bit of WWII history.

  4. Hi – I would be interested in the photo captioned “Top left: “The docks in winter. Building nearest ships (one with chimney) is [DONUT ?] restaurant. Lots of fights here. Mountie barracks off to right. Tough bunch.” if you decide to sell them individually. Thank you

    Helen

  5. Amazing- great work on the part of your family. Found myself quite moved by some of the photos. Thank you so much for saving and sharing these. I think “Louis Truly” is probably “Yours Truly”. Thanks again.

  6. I found a beautiful snowglobe in a black trash bag in Cote St.Paul near Jolicoeur metro and brought it home to my living room for decoration..It would have gone to the landfill had I not discovered it.Please do not forget the southern part of the city,including NDG,Ville Emard,Verdun west,etc.

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