Early days in Whitehorse were recalled recently in an interview published in the Niagara Falls Review. Subject of the nostalgic interlude was W. S. Martin, QC, noted lawyer of the Niagara District. His father was steamboat Captain Paddy Martin.
Mr. Martin, who was born in Whitehorse in 1903, lived in the Yukon until his elementary and secondary sehool education at Whitehorse and further studies at Mount Angel College in St. Benedict, Oregon.
He graduated trom St. Michael's College and the University of Toronto, prior to entering Osgoode Hall and his call to the bar in Ontario.
"From a boy's point of view, the Yukon is the ideal place to grow up - it affords limitless experience in outdoor life," said Mr. Martin in describing cold clear glacier-fed lakes nestled among the mountains of the territory, its millions of wild flowers, and the clear blue northern sky so often called "the gateway to space."
"The scenery is magnificent on river trips," he said, "you never get tired of it. And when the leaves turn in late August, the countryside presents an almost unbelievable sight. They remain among my happiest recollections of the Yukon," he
Mr. Martin's father, the late Captain Paddy Martin, originally a Newfoundlander, operated the steam vessel "The Canadian" on the Yukon River between Whitehorse and Dawson for many years.
Whitehorse, the home of the Martins, was a town of about 350 people at that time.
Mr. Martin's first job was as a "printer's devil" with the Whitehorse Star. He worked on his father's vessel each summer while enrolled at the Oregon and Ontario colleges.
Baseball was his most popular sports activity recalls Mr. Martin. Senior teams from Alaska journeyed to the Yukon annually for a two-day series with teams from Yukon communities. On the fourth of July, the Yukon groups would go to Skagway to meet teams from Alaskan towns, in a reciprocal move.
Tennis, snow-shoeing, dog-driving and fishing all went to round out the extra-curricular activities of the youths of the Yukon, Mr. Martin related.
"Hunting was tops on the list," he said. "When rabbits and grouse were plentiful, you
could shoot 50 to 60 every day. They were never wasted though - they were always stored for food - usually in the 'natural refrigerator' of the snows atop sheds."
"Moose were also plentiful in the hills surrounding Whitehorse," he asserted. "Meat was usually brought in by the Indian hunters and sold to the towntolk for five to ten cents a pound, as I recall."
Arctic Grayling, a small fish weighing from ½ to two lbs. was fished for in the Yukon River," states Mr. Martin. "We used a light bamboo rod with
four flies on the leader. When they're biting you could get a fish on every cast, two fish
on every fifth or sixth cast, and not infrequently, four fish would seize the four flies on the leader as it hit the water."
"The Yukon is bountiful with fish and game," said Mr. Martin. "It is hard to grasp this idea unless you remember that the territory in almost as large as Texas, 207,076 square miles, and only 3,000-people inhabited the entire area at that time. There are only 12,190 inhabitants now," he said.
"During World War I," he noted, "the Yukon sent more men per capita, and spent more money per capita, than any like region in Canada. A frequent visitor to our home was Corporal Pearkes of the Royal North West Mounted Police. He enlisted as a private in the first war, rising to the rank of lieutenant-colonel at the termination of hostilities. During the Second World War our former house guest attained the rank of lieutenant-general," he said. "He now serves in the federal cabinet as minister of national defence - he is Lieut-General G. R. Pearkes, V.C, D.S.O., M.C.
I also see from time to time two qentlemen who are of the Anglican Church in Whitehorse, the Rev. Cecil Swanson who is now dean of St. Paul's in Toronto and one of the finest after-dinner speakers I know, Rev. C. R. Nicoll, now minister of the Presbyterian Church at Oakville.
"We also had a Roman Catholic Church and the First Church of Christ Scientist at Whitehorse," he said.
"In thinking back to the days when I worked as a mess boy on the SS. Dawson plying the waters of the Yukon River," said Mr. Martin, "I recall that the first mate of the ship had also been the first mate of my father's vessel, The Canadian, when he purchased the steamer in 1898."
Although I thoroughly enjoyed boating in the rugged beauty of the northland," said Mr. Martin, "it was adventure tinged with tragedy for the entire crew of 24, except for myself and the 2nd cook, took their last passage on the ill-fated CPR liner Princess Sophia in what was the greatest marine disaster in the Pacific Northwest."
"Years later, the Chinese second cook operated a restaurant in Seattle where I visited when the opportunity prevailed," Mr. Martin noted, "and each time and every time I was royally received by my former shipmate."
"I recall the large barracks square of the Royal North West Mounted Police at Whitehorse," continued Mr. Martin, "about 20 log buildings with the mounties' drill and parade area in the centre. They were all fine men and maintained the finest
traditions of their splendid force. They were extremely popular in the community, and
always in demand at teas, dances and other social functions."