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Alaska Travel Magazinenext

Trail of '98, Mush on, Poke, Sourdough, Bonanza, Steamboats, Diamond Lil, Nugget, Palace Grand, Husky, GOLD — we have arrived where it all began. And ended. Dawson City.

Names and words I first read, as a boy, in "Call of the Wild,"or first heard on the "Sgt. Preston of the Northwest Mounted Police" on a radio programs 25 years ago. I can still, remember the theme song, and the announcer beginning every Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30 p.m. with . . . "Gold, gold, discovered in the Klondike! "

I can also quote old Sourdoughs I met while working after school hours as an office boy for my mining lawyer father.
"Son," a Mr. Landau told me, "Shake the hand, that held the hand of Klondike Kate."

Kate. I delivered a Portland newspaper for a couple of years before I realized that an old love struck sourdough's Klondike Kate was one and the same as our own "Aunt Kate" —front page news anytime that she would so much as roll her own Bull Durham cigarette in one of Portland's finer restaurants. "Queen of the North marries in Vancouver, — again, " the headlines said one day as I rolled my papers with a hand that shook a hand that held her hand.

Here I am sitting on Klondike Island, a sandbar, with the Yukon River, Lousetown, White Chapel, and the Klondike surrounding our campsite. And I reminisce of my youth.

With a turn of a head I can see from the old Northwest Mounted Police barracks to the Palace Grand, Theater. Sgt. Preston to Klondike. One make-believe, the other very real. What do I expect? Just that. Illusions, reality and memories. Dawson.

This afternoon, I took Bernadette and Colette to tour the Palace Grand. Possibly an illusion, as the building has been completely reconstructed —though painstakingly —by Canada's Parks Service. There, I, confessed to my girls, that I at one time too thought I was in love —with Klondike Kate. But, it was necessary to explain that she was a dance hall girl and she did occasionally ''entertain" free spending, poke-heavy miners upstairs in the balcony boxes of this rough-cut lumber copy of a European opera house.

Reality.

Last night I took my wife, Bernice, to Diamond Tooth Gertie's Hall to see a floor-shaking Klondike can-can. The money that passed hands at the Roulette wheel, the honky-tonk bar hustlers, and the ice cube some just-out-of-the-bush miner slipped down the low-cut bodice of a '98 costumed dancing girl —were very real. In other ways, all was just an illusion of what really was.

And that leaves memories. Perhaps the dog that pulled a ton-loaded sled one hundred feet to win his master a thousand dollar bet disappeared long ago. But the young writer who lived in a tiny log cabin on Eighth Ave, which is now on the outskirts of a town that once went 42 avenues and a population of 30,000.

That young writer? Jack London. I could have been thinking about his neighbor, Robert Service, the poet most often quoted on monuments in the country.

This town really doesn't need plaques on the tumbledown building to tell a tale or a monument marker such as the one on the spot on Rabbit Creek (soon changed to Bonanza) where George Carmacks, and Yukon Natives) Skookum Jim and Taggish Charlie. found wealth 77 years ago that made them Kings of the Klondike. Over 300 million in gold was taken out of an area 30 miles square. Pro-rated to each of the 30,000 making up this mining camp, each miner would have been 10 thousand dollars richer for his trouble encountered following the trail of '98.

However, most arrived broke and left broker. Except perhaps, richer for the experience of holding the hand of Klondike Kate
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