Murray Lintick’s life in Yukon: hard work and quality times

Retired since 1989, Lintick, is fighting some serious health problems. "Cancer is hanging in there, but when you're 84, you can't complain. Yukon has been

‘Geez, I’ve been having a good retirement,” said Murray Lintick.

Retired since 1989, Lintick, is fighting some serious health problems.

“Cancer is hanging in there, but when you’re 84, you can’t complain. Yukon has been good to me and I have been good to Yukon”

Lintick, originally from Daulphin, Manitoba, arrived in Whitehorse in the spring of 1947 and spent his first night in Yukon at the old Canadian Pacific staff housing building on Fourth Avenue.

He had been working in Vancouver for Rogers Sugar Refinery for 69 cents an hour.

Not really enjoying Vancouver or the wage, he began to look around.

He read about a work opportunity in the North and, within a couple of days, with a ticket paid by the employer, he headed for the airport.

With a laugh, Lintick thought that he was actually going to Dawson Creek, not Dawson City!

Lintick remembers looking out of the plane and seeing many old Klondike buildings, some leaning close to collapse.

“If I hadn’t been flat broke, I would have left on the next plane,” said Lintick. He made his way to the Westminster Hotel and checked in.

When inquiring about a key, the desk clerk said, “We don’t have any locks on the doors, you can leave money and valuables in your room, but don’t leave any whisky, it will be gone.”

Lintick was impressed with this, and quickly warmed up to this hospitable reception.

Not having any clothes, except for those on his back, he ended up at Chappy Chapman’s Store and was outfitted for work at Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation.

Again, Lintick was taken with the honesty and friendliness of this community, as Chappy accepted a postdated cheque.

Lintick being a “pay as you go” type of person was not used to credit, but appreciated it at this time.

Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation was the main employer in Dawson City. Some 1,500 men came back from Outside in the spring to work on the 12 huge gold dredges on the creeks around Dawson.

Lintick spent five seasons working the dredges. His brother Ed spent 13 seasons working with him on Dredge No. 4. In recent years, this dredge has been restored by Parks Canada on Bonanza Creek.

Brother Ed was the last winch man to work on the dredge when it was permanently shut down in 1959.

“It was a good job and good money, I started at $1.05 an hour, worked seven days a week for seven months,” said Lintick. “If you stayed for the whole season working to the shutdown at freeze up, you were rewarded with a $100 bonus.”

In the fall of 1947, Lintick with an unprecedented bankroll of $2,700 headed back to Dauphin.

Flat broke at the beginning of 1948, he hitchhiked with a friend to Edmonton and eventually made it back to Dawson City.

For the next 10 years, he worked in and around Dawson, Elsa and Mayo. Lintick never went Outside for another 14 years.

The Spell of the Yukon had done it’s magic on him.

In fact, during this time, he only went to Whitehorse on one occasion.

Working all summer did not give any free time to take a paddlewheeler up river.

“I never took the boat trip, and wish that I had,” said Lintick.

The life of a miner often means working in various locations. Lintick was no exception, spending time working for Bell Keno and United Keno Hill in the Elsa region.

Working underground was new for Lintick, and he liked it.

The pay and working conditions were good, but Lintick was afraid that he might just get hooked and would end up working the rest of his life underground, so he moved on.

Lintick remembers doing seismic work on Eagle Plains before the building of the Dempster Highway.

It was here that the mercury dropped to minus 56 Celsius and the men in camp only went outside to the cook tent, being too cold to work.

He traveled into the area by cat train and spent two six month stints working with the “cold in the winter and mosquitoes in the summer,” said Lintick. “In those days there was no such thing as two weeks in and two weeks out.”

Lintick and two pals rented a house and spent a winter in Dawson. He remembers living on Unemployment Insurance and receiving $16 every two weeks.

This was one of the rare occasions in Lintick’s life when he took some time off.

In 1953 he got married at Bear Creek. “God it was cold, minus 66 Fahrenheit,” he said.

He and his wife raised two boys and one girl.

“Two have moved outside of Yukon and one lives in Whitehorse.”

Dawson City has had many colourful and notable characters over the years.

“I worked for Black Mike and became a foreman overseeing a crew of men for a few weeks,” said Lintick. Mike spent considerable time at the Westminster, enjoying his favorite beverage while Lintick and his crew did renovations to Caley’s Store.

The building had shifted off the foundation and needed to be made right again.

“Black Mike was quite a character but somebody could write a book on the lives of Pat and Pete Brady,” said Lintick.

He remembers being scared out of his wits when driving to Dawson from Flat Creek, he met a vehicle coming at him in his lane.

Apparently, the young miner newly arrived from England just didn’t have the hang of driving on the right hand side of the road. He has a good laugh remembering this story and hears that the driver now an old timer” has moved to Whitehorse.

He has fond memories of Madame Liberty who, along with her “girls,” looked after the lonely single miners.

There were hundreds of men working for YCGC and all living close to Dawson City.

Lintick remembers that the rules were very clear.

“If you were married or had a girlfriend, you were only allowed to drink in Madame Liberty’s establishment. You were also expected to buy a round for anybody in the bar upon entering through the door.”

The single men, on the other hand, not only could drink, but also enjoyed “additional privileges” provided by Madame Liberty’s staff.

Ten dollars for 10 minutes of “comfort” with one of the girls upstairs was the going rate.

Lintick laughs, “I worked briefly for Madame Liberty as a timekeeper. When 10 minutes were up, I pounded a broom stick on the ceiling to signal quitting time.”

In 1958, Lintick sensing a need for change, headed to Whitehorse and found employment with White Pass and Yukon Railroad.

This was the lifeline to Whitehorse for goods being trained and fuel being piped in from Skagway.

“I spent 12 years on a section gang at White Pass,” said Lintick.

Lintick worked with some longtime Yukoners such as Neil Wright, Red Hull and Paul Cyr.

Legendary stories are still told of Cyr’s remarkable nerves of steel and ability to drive a Cat.

In blinding blizzard conditions, Cyr could be counted on to clear the tracks even on the highest trestles.

“They were good men to work with and had lots of skills,” said Lintick. The image

of the great rotary snow blower being pushed by several locomotives stays with him. This monstrous piece of machinery kept the track open in the winter until it was retired in 1962.

Over the years, Lintick rose to the position of foreman of the section gang.

On a lighter note, Lintick said he is a movie star.

“I was in a tourism movie one time which featured the railroad. I didn’t like it as it showed me leaning on a shovel.”

Leaving the isolation of White Pass, Lintick transferred to the former fuel tank farm which used to be in Valleyview. His job was to monitor the flow and level of different types of fuels coming up the pipeline from Skagway to Whitehorse. He worked 21 years here and spent the last 11 years of working for wages on the graveyard shift from 11 p.m. until 7 a.m. This suited Lintick just fine as he could be his own boss being the only employee on the site during the night.

“Now that I stop and think about it, I have had a lot of jobs in my life,” he said. “I started at a $1.50 a day at the age of 14 working during the harvests in Manitoba. I retired in 1989 making a wage of $18 an hour. I had a lot of jobs in between.”

Lintick has lived by his father’s advice of not buying anything until you had the money in your pocket.

He remembers his wife saying in 1970, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a new truck.”

Twenty years later, in 1990, with $18,000 in hand, he bought his new truck for cash.

“I paid cash for my place here at Marsh Lake in 1978 and the same goes for the well and hydro.

“Been up here a long time and I can say that I am a Yukoner by choice,” said Lintick. He appreciates how well senior citizens are looked after by “all those goodies” that they give us.

“That’s OK, because I’ve paid my dues,” concludes Lintick.

Recently he needed medical attention and two ambulances were at his door in no time at all.

“I like it out here in my cozy cabin and I know I may have to move to town. I sure as hell don’t want to,” said Lintick. “If I had to move into an apartment it would be the end of me.”

In the meantime, Lintick reads everything he can get his hands on, enjoys the peaceful surroundings of his meticulous cabin and neat grounds located on the shores of Marsh Lake.

He is forever grateful that his airplane ticket from Vancouver some 62 years ago brought him to Dawson City and not to Dawson Creek.

Mike Craigen is a local

freelance writer.