A Dawson City elder was arrested on Sunday, June 21st by RCMP on his 90th birthday.
John Gould, who was relaxing at home about 6 p.m., was arrested by Cpl. Karina Watson who, after frisking the nonagenarian, placed him and his wife Madeleine in handcuffs, and carried them through the Klondike capital with lights flashing and siren wailing.
It wasn’t for any criminal activity that he was clapped in iron.
The Goulds were taken directly to the Dawson City Museum, where a large contingent of family and friends was waiting to throw a not-so-secret surprise birthday party. An estimated 150 local residents and visitors dropped in to wish him well.
John, who was born in Dawson City, has lived in the community all his life, except for a few childhood winters in Burnaby, BC, and overseas service during the Second World War, when he served as a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
At various times, he has been a gold miner, taxi driver, mail carrier and business operator. For several winters, he helped haul supplies by Cat train to oil exploration camps on the Eagle Plains in northern Yukon.
For nearly 20 years, John worked for the government of Canada; in later years, he was curator of mining technology for Parks Canada.
He has been an active member of numerous community groups, including the Royal Canadian Legion, the Dawson City Museum, the Yukon Order of Pioneers, and the Klondyke Centennial Society.
Over the decades, he has done much to chronicle and celebrate Dawson City’s colourful history.
After retiring from Parks Canada, he and Madeleine operated a seasonal tourist operation in town.
His Book, Frozen Gold, a treatise on early mining technology, was published in 2001.
John and his wife were immediately taken to a place of honour in the museum, where he was introduced by museum director Laura Mann. Various individuals then paid tribute to his contributions to the community.
Akio Saito presented a certificate of congratulations from Member of Parliament Larry Bagnell.
Mayor John Steins read out a proclamation, on behalf of mayor and council, pronouncing June 22nd to be John Gould Day in Dawson City. In it, John was recognized as Dawson City’s pre-eminent historian, and for his willingness to share his knowledge with others. He was also recognized for decades of service in the Yukon Order of Pioneers.
Myrna Butterworth acknowledged his contributions to the local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion.
Rob Watt, the retiring superintendent for Parks Canada’s Dawson operation, commended Gould for his encyclopaedic knowledge of local history. Watt then went on to acknowledge John’s involvement with the Klondike Centennial Society at the Discovery Claim National Historic Site on Bonanza Creek.
Numerous others stepped forward to share their reminiscences of John over the decades, especially in the field of Yukon history.
Characteristically, when he was allowed to speak, he talked about his wife of 63 and a half years, rather than himself. Madeleine, he said, came north to this small town and lived for 20 summers in a small cabin on Nugget Hill on Hunker Creek with no amenities, while raising three growing children and feeding a hungry mining crew.
He concluded with the observation that after all this, she still isn’t a pioneer, a reference to the case which was taken all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada over the refusal of the Yukon Order of Pioneers to accept a woman as a member.
A large meal of one of his favourite dishes, macaroni and cheese, and a large blueberry pie, was served to the gathering. This was followed by a big birthday cake decorated with a gold pan and an inscription honouring “one of Dawson’s favourite antiques.”
During the course of the evening, John was congratulated by so many people shaking his hand, or in the case of the ladies, giving hugs and kisses, that a liberal application of Chapstik was required after the event was over.
Gould has five grandchildren and four great grandchildren, all of whom, except those currently living on the other side of the country in Nova Scotia, were able to attend.