‘Frank Slim: the last of the steamboat pilots,’ and the SS Keno

I always enjoyed talking to the late Frank Slim. I knew him for many years; he saw many changes in the Yukon during his lifetime. Born near Marsh Lake in 1898, he later moved to Lake Laberge.

I always enjoyed talking to the late Frank Slim. I knew him for many years; he saw many changes in the Yukon during his lifetime. Born near Marsh Lake in 1898, he later moved to Lake Laberge. He began working on boats in 1912. Frank Slim was known as one of the best riverboat pilots in the North, piloting many boats including the Yukon Rose, which carried freight for Taylor & Drury stores. On the steamer Keno’s last trip from Whitehorse to Dawson City in 1960, Frank was the pilot.

Photographs are from the Jim Robb Collection.

Thank you very much to Pat Ellis, Whitehorse writer and researcher, for the following information:

Your picture of the SS Keno with the dark, straight-up smoke brings to mind sweaty firemen, industrious woodcutters and muscular deck hands dashing up steep ramps with loaded carts. The covered barge no doubt was loaded with silver-lead ore.

She was built in 1922 at the BYN Whitehorse Shipyards using the engines from the old Norcom especially for the lucrative silver-lead ore haul from the rich mine in Elsa. Stockpiled sacks of ore in Mayo were hand loaded onto a barge and pushed up the Stewart 180 miles, then transferred to another boat on the Yukon, a profitable back haul. The long trip to US smelters was known as the Silver Trail.

I clearly remember the last voyage of the Keno in 1960, an exciting story caught on film by CBC and worth watching. The moving of the boat brought a lifetime of memories for the crew, especially for the two Historic Sites engineers: supervisor Tom Fenton, who, at the last minute, had to hire a replacement pilot for Emil Forrest, who died. Fenton chartered a PWA plane to a hunting camp where, after walking two hours, he found Frank Slim for a replacement.

Clarence Post got the old girl in shape with a complete overhaul to the engines with scrounged parts. At Dawson they decided on a site. More than 20,000 board feet of lumber was used for the ways and three tractors were hired to haul her up. First Mate Henry Breaden was left to supervise the installation and Bob McCrae supervised the carpentry. So that is how the unglamorous Keno ended her days in glory.

Pat Ellis

Whitehorse

Anyone with information about this subject, please write Jim Robb: The Colourful Five Per Cent Scrapbook—Can You Identify? c/o the Yukon News, 211 Wood Street, Whitehorse, Yukon,

Y1A 2E4, or e-mail through the News website, www.yukon-news.com.

Just Posted

Silver rules out HST, layoffs and royalty changes

Yukon’s financial advisory panel has released its final report

City of Whitehorse budgets $30M for infrastructure over four years

‘I think we’re concentrating on the most important things’

Yukon community liaison for MMIWG inquiry fired

Melissa Carlick, the Whitehorse-based community liaison officer for the national Missing and… Continue reading

Yukon man holds no grudge after being attacked by bison

‘The poor guy was only trying to fend off someone who he knew was trying to kill him’

Straight and true: the story of the Yukon colours

Michael Gates | History Hunter Last week, I participated in the 150th… Continue reading

Get ready to tumble: Whitehorse’s Polarettes to flip out at fundraiser

‘There’s a mandatory five-minute break at the end, just so people don’t fall over’

Alaska’s governor goes to China

There are very different rules for resource projects depending on which side of the border you’re on

Yukon survey shows broad support for legal pot

But there’s no consensus on retail and distribution models

Yukon government releases survey on the territory’s liquor laws

Changes could include allowing sale of booze in grocery stores

Get family consent before moving patients to other hospitals: NDP critic

‘Where is the respect and where is the dignity?’

Bill C-17 passes third reading in House of Commons

The bill, which will repeal controversial amendments made to YESAA by Bill S-6, will now go to Senate

White Pass and Yukon Route musical chugs on without director

The cast and crew of Stonecliff are pushing forward without Conrad Boyce, who went on medical leave

Most Read