Carpenters recognize lifetimes spent building the Yukon

When Douglas Rody moved from Yellowknife to the Yukon in 1975, Whitehorse only had a handful of traffic lights, there was no paved road to Skagway, and only few subdivisions existed.

When Douglas Rody moved from Yellowknife to the Yukon in 1975, Whitehorse only had a handful of traffic lights, there was no paved road to Skagway, and only few subdivisions existed.

“I can’t remember any rural residential lot like MacPherson,” Rody said.

“South on the highway, there was MacRae industrial (zone) and the only built up area was the Carcross cutoff.”

Not only did Rody get to see all of the city and the territory be completely transformed, he was involved in that transformation.

On March 4 the Yukon Carpenters Union awarded Rody gold and silver plated pins for his work as a carpenter in the territory.

He’s been a member of the carpenter brotherhood for 40 years.

Rody worked on building the Fraser customs station on the B.C-Alaska border when an official road was finally completed. He’s worked on schools, houses and industrial buildings.

For him, being honoured by the carpenters union for four decades on the job is more than a simple work recognition.

“My association with the carpenters union has been a significant part of my life,” he said. “Most of the friends I have, I’ve met through the carpenters union or being on the job.”

Rody remembers meeting former Yukon premier Piers Macdonald on a picket line in Mayo. Macdonald was running for office at the time.

He also remembers working on the Faro mine mill expansion. He is most proud of working on the Tagish bridge in the early 1980s.

And while Rody still has his own shop where he can practise his skills, he hasn’t worked in construction for a long time.

“I’m too old. It’s a young man’s game,” he said. “It’s hard on the body.”

In a world dominated by meetings, emails and spreadsheets, Rody recognized there was something deeply satisfying about being able to see the fruit of his labour.

“At the end of the day, you can stand back and see what you’ve accomplished,” he said. “There is something physically there.”

After his construction career, he became the carpenters union’s business agent, before moving on to the Yukon Teachers Association.

The Yukon Carpenters Union also awarded Gordon Burnett, 78, his 60-year pin.

Burnett came to the territory in 1957 to build Takhini Elementary School. He also worked on the initial rebuild of the Palace Grand Theatre in Dawson City.

The union also marked the 10-year anniversary of Frederick Reese and Tytus Hardy as Yukon carpenters.

Reese worked on the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre, the Canada Games athlete’s village camp and most recently the Whistle Bend continuing care facility.

Hardy worked on the KDCC and the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. He is currently the union’s president.

The union is part of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, and its role is bigger than public sector unions. The union works on getting its members trained so they can be hired for big Yukon projects.

But it also make sure to pass down skills, Hardy said.

In the recent years the brotherhood worked with Yukon First Nations who wanted to try building tiny houses.

The brotherhood ended up partnering with them.

“The First Nation identified tiny homes and wanted to do (housing) programs with the union,” Hardy said.

“Now the First Nations are able to drive the programs they want.”

Contact Pierre Chauvin at pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

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