Jack and Myrna Kingscote have played a huge behind-the-scenes role in the annual Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous air show.
“I came to the Yukon in 1977 from Vancouver,” Jack says.
“We went to Mayo for four years and I taught school. We moved from Mayo in the fall of 1981, and our first full Rendezvous was in 1982. We were just spectators, like everyone else.
“We had friends up from Vancouver, and we were at the Trappers Lounge in the KI.
“We saw two air force guys who were climbing up the banister, and they asked if we could hide them or the bouncer would kick them out.
“There was a lineup outside, and you’d never get back in, so they climbed up the side.”
The good turn bore some rewards.
“We were invited up to the airport with the kids to see the planes the next day,” says Jack.
However, the next day was so bitterly cold on the runway that Jack and Myrna decided to cancel the airfield trip.
But the pilots wouldn’t let it go.
“Then they called at 10 a.m. asking, ‘Where are you?’ So we went up, the kids got in the planes, and they fired them up. We met the two we had talked to — they were at the airport.”
“But what did the Rendezvous do for them?” Myrna adds.
“Nothing. They just came up on their own. So we asked them if they would like to come for dinner, a nice home-cooked meal.
“At noon on Sunday, they asked us, ‘Did you mean the two of us or the whole team?’
“There were 12 pilots, so we had dinner for 12. And again, they phoned us one hour later and said that the co-ordinators for the Snowbird demonstration team showed up, so we invited them.
“There were about 15 of them — so we got the neighbours over and had a party.”
That’s quite a story, but more astounding is the fact that this year marks the 25th Kingscote Rendezvous Soiree.
Myrna took on the air show and the cancan line in 1982.
Jack took on the air show in 1983 and Myrna stayed with the cancan line. Their combined efforts have helped ensure the continuation of these Rendezvous traditions.
“The show has grown from six planes and 12 guys to 30 airplanes and 200 guys,” says Jack. “We began putting a tent on the deck for the smokers, we moved all the furniture out. It was wall to wall with people, we even had to brace the floor.”
The party has grown so immense that, in recent years, the crews have celebrated the Kingscote soiree at the Legion.
Myrna reflects on past Rendezvous:
“When we got started they had the queens ball, and two others — you could buy one ticket and run back and forth between them.
“There was beer in the streets, and we would stay at what is now the Taku,” she recalls.
“We’d trip all over town trying to our find friends from Vancouver. There was entertainment in every bar. There was the barbershop quintet, the cancan girls and much more.
“From ‘92 onwards, the Americans started coming. There were the marine corporals, who we got to come to the Queens ball in their formal attire.
“There was one officer with a sword. So we had the leader of the NDP sitting next to the marine officer with his sword.”
No doubt it was quite a sight.
Rendezvous, while an integral part of Yukon heritage, has been changing gradually over the years, say the Kingscotes.
“At one point the rendezvous was attuned to the adult population,” says Myrna.
“We’d pop the kids in the hotel, load them up with Kentucky Fried Chicken and let them watch TV.
“We never had TV back home. Other than the Friday, there was nothing for the kids. Now it is more of a family event.”
“The numbers at the air show have been stable, about 6,000 per year,” says Jack. “I’ve seen it at minus 40, and people would still show up.
“And the streets are loaded with people — kids can get warm, watch a show. When the kids get cold, they go to the tent.
“The numbers haven’t changed, it’s just different. At one time you froze your tush off — you had gloves, a face mask, boots — it was as cold as sin.”
“Now more seniors go now, because they can sit and get warm,” Myrna says.
“It goes in cycles, up and down,” she says. “One year we had blocked from First to Fourth (avenues), there was chicken bowling, dog howling, tea roasting and the Mad Trappers events.
“The river would freeze from side to side, you could drive cars on it. People would go to watch the start of the dog races. It was a lot colder then.
“But there was all this activity from the river all the way up. Sawing, running up the bank, crossing the river, building a fire on Main Street with one match, rubbing sticks together and making tea.
“It really encompassed the whole era. They soon began introducing kids’ events. All the elementary schools had a mini Rendezvous the Thursday before, and we had kids events on Friday.
“Now it has disintegrated, though they are trying to bring it back to the way it was.
“I remember they put some prizes in ping pong balls and had a helicopter drop them in the streets — they just about killed the kids!”
A major component of the Rendezvous has been the commitment and participation of the community over the years.
Not ones to sit idle, Yukoners seem to have embraced the events and taken them as their own.
“Everybody dressed for the era,” says Myrna .
“The banks changed their insides. Can-can dances happened, there were Robert Service readings.
“All the banks dressed in costume, as well as all the stores up and down Main Street. We’re working on getting everyone back into it.”
“The teachers would have a broomball league, and they’d do it through the week,” says Jack.
“Each school squared off in Rotary Park. I think the government cut that out, since too many teachers booked off for injuries,” he adds.
Another event, that ended in disaster, of sorts, proved worthy of becoming a Yukon tradition.
“The beer-making contest — that’s how the Sourdough Shufflers got started,” says Jack.
“We had homebrew and wine at the legion. We talked Mary Fitton and Marj Eschak into a one-time performance, and it has been happening ever since — it was a hit.
“The beer contest fell apart though. I remember my son made some beer in some Fresca bottles.
“The contest needed some entries, so we gave them some of his old stuff. There was a famous artist who was judging — and we could tell whose beer he had w gave it a big ‘0’ — rotten to the core.”
But their other Rendezvous contributions have been better received. Jack and Myrna are, deservedly, honorary life members of the board of the Sourdough Rendezvous.