My wife Kathy recently acquired an interesting photograph from the Alaskan collection of the late Candy Waugaman. A group of hockey players are posed on what appears to be an ice rink, with a number of onlookers behind them. It is outdoors, but the men do not seem to be suffering from the cold.
Below the photograph is typed a caption: “Dawson, Y.T. Hockey team/ ———— Annual Fairbanks Ice Carnival – 1936.”
Would it be possible to find more information about this hockey team and what was going on? Having the year helped, and I assumed that the photo must have been taken as spring approached, perhaps February or March of ‘36. I started to search the newspapers to see if they could reveal any information, and eventually found what I was looking for, in early March, in the Fairbanks and Dawson newspapers.
Several articles listed the names of the Dawson team members, and by a process of deduction, I determined that the tall man in the centre of the photo wearing the goalie’s pads was Roy Butterworth. The tall blond player at the extreme left looked like Helmer Samuelson who worked at the Dawson News. Thanks to identifications from several members of the Facebook page “Dawson City, Blast from the Past” I was able to put names to three more faces. Thank you all for your help!
According to the Dawson News on Feb. 27, 1936, George Jeckell, the comptroller of the Yukon (the Yukon’s senior government official), received an invitation by telegraph from Fairbanks mayor, E. B. Collins, inviting the citizens of Dawson and the Yukon to join Fairbanks in celebration at their forthcoming Ice Carnival. Collins had been a guest in Dawson during Discovery Day the previous year.
Jeckell responded the following day stating that he greatly appreciated the invitation and that he would be accompanied by the Dawson Queen and her attendants as well as hockey and curling teams.
A week later, Jeckell and 11 others, including the Dawson ladies’ curling team, boarded a Ford Trimotor airplane piloted by Noel Wien and winged their way to Fairbanks.
A short time later, a Pacific Alaska Airways Lockheed Electra took flight from Dawson carrying eight members of the Dawson Hockey team along with coach James K. Johnston and John Dines. Team members were: Roy Butterworth (goalie), Helmer Samuelson and Reg Wynes, (defence) R.E. “Sox” Troberg, Ralph Zaccarelli, Jack Cunningham, and Norman Reid (forwards). Also playing for Dawson but not on that flight was Ken Owen.
The Electra returned later in the day to pick up a second load of passengers that included Miss Dawson Bernice Ann Kazinsky and her attendants. In total, some 50 to 75 Yukoners were reported to be flying to Fairbanks, including a planeload from Whitehorse.
When the Ford Trimotor carrying Jeckell and others landed in Fairbanks, they were met by Collins and R.J. McKanna, president of the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce (as well as the Ice Carnival). Jeckell told them that this was the first time in the 34 years he had lived in the north that he had been in the Alaskan City and expressed regrets that his wife, who had many friends in Fairbanks, was unable to join him.
Jeckell and others were whisked away to the Nordale Hotel, where they were treated royally. In fact, Fairbanks rolled out the red carpet and the Yukoners were treated well everywhere they went. Everything was free for the visiting Canadians.
In a display of cross-border diplomacy, the Saturday of the carnival was declared ‘Dominion Day’ and the Yukon took centre stage.
“The Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes fly side by side everywhere throughout Fairbanks,” declared the Fairbanks News-Miner.
Bernice Kazinsky reigned as carnival queen for the day, while Miss Alaska reigned over the other days of the carnival and Jeckell presided over the Grand Ball Saturday evening.
There was plenty of activity to keep everybody entertained. There were carnival dances every night. Miss Alaska was crowned on Thursday evening at the Moose Hall amid 10 acts of vaudeville, which was followed by the dance at the Eagles Hall serenaded by an orchestra from Anchorage.
On Friday, there was the dog derby starting under the bridge on the Chena River. The grand parade, with 43 floats and “marching units,” took place early in the afternoon followed by a wrestling match, high school basketball tournament and moving pictures at the Empress Theatre, where admission was free to pioneers.
One of the featured events was the ice hockey tournament, which included teams from Anchorage, Dawson and the University of Alaska (Fairbanks).
Credit was given to Ed Holbrook, of Dawson, for getting hockey started in Fairbanks the year before. During a January visit in 1935 Holbrook, the newly elected president of the Dawson Amateur Hockey League, challenged the Alaskan city to a series of hockey games later in the winter.
Fairbanks rose to the challenge and rustled up a team and established an open air rink on the Chena River ice. Holbrook returned to Dawson and, after making boasts in Fairbanks about the Dawson hockey teams, had to hustle to get the ice ready for the Dawson team to practise on.
James, “Jimmy” Johnston and Charley McLeod coached the Dawson team for the next month before flying to Fairbanks to take on the newly minted Alaskan team. Dawson took the crown in 1935, so they were back in Fairbanks to defend their title in ‘36.
The Dawson team lost their first match to the university squad by a score of 6-5. Ernie Somerton, who accompanied the team, reported on the game. At the end of the first period Dawson was leading by a score of 5-2, but that was all they could muster. The score was tied at the end of regulation time, and their opponents scored the winning goal in double overtime.
Dawson went on to defeat the Anchorage team. The coastal crew held their own in the first period, allowing only one puck between the pipes, but in the last period Dawson rallied, putting four more shots into the opposing net and winning in a shutout 5-0.
The final match of the tournament had the largest attendance of any game during the carnival. The university squad scored two unanswered tallies in the first period before forward Norman Reid brought the score within one goal in the second period. By that time Reg Wynes had been carted off to the hospital with a concussion and an arm injury after colliding with a goal post.
In the third period, Zaccarelli put a second puck in the net, tying the score. With only 35 seconds remaining in regulation time, Zaccarelli clinched the game by flicking another shot past the Fairbanks goaltender. After the ice settled, Dawson and Fairbanks had tied the series and shared the glory.
Reflecting on what was in the newspapers, I noticed how much had changed in the years since that Dawson hockey team flew to Fairbanks. First of all, air travel to Fairbanks would not have been contemplated a decade earlier. Aviation was still in its infancy at the time, but with the advent of air travel the Klondike region was no longer cut off from the Outside world during the winter as it had once been.
Next, we no longer fly the Union Jack but the red maple leaf, a clear sign that Canada is no longer a British colony. Dawson City is no longer the capital of the Yukon.
Finally, in the same issue of the Fairbanks News-Miner with a headline about the Ice Carnival was another less prominent headline that announced that German president Adolph Hitler commenced the remilitarizing of Germany and the dissolution of the Reichstag. “German Soldiers Re-Occupy Rhineland,” stated the headline in the News-Miner. Within a few years, Britain (and as a consequence, Canada) was at war with Germany, followed two years later by Japan. These were events which would reshape Yukon society in the second half of the 20th century.
Michael Gates is Yukon’s first Story Laureate. His latest book, “Hollywood in the Klondike,” is now available in Whitehorse stores. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org