A job well done

Clara and Art Nolan are like a living history book. To sit at their kitchen table, drinking coffee and eating Clara’s homemade cookies, listening as they talk and laugh, sharing some of the events of their lives, is to marvel at the resiliency, the amazing adaptability.

Clara and Art Nolan are like a living history book. To sit at their kitchen table, drinking coffee and eating Clara’s homemade cookies, listening as they talk and laugh, sharing some of the events of their lives, is to marvel at the resiliency, the amazing adaptability, and the spirit of the human race.

They grew up in Doe River, on the BC side of the border, and attended the same school. Art was on his own at age 13, working and going school when he could, between jobs.

“I worked on farms, driving horses, and I worked skidding logs, again with horses,” Art says. “When we were kids the grain from the farms was hauled in wagons, by horses.”

Not only did Art work with horses, his play time involved horses. He was a rodeo rider; bucking horses and bull riding were his favourite events. He raced his own chuckwagon.

“We were kids in the Dirty 30s,’” Clara says. “No one had any money and if there was work, there were lots of people lined up for it.”

In 1944 they married, moving to a small farm on the Alberta side – East Doe River, and started their family. Over the years, they had eight children, six boys and two girls. At Clara’s insistence, Art gave up his rodeo hobby;

Clara had witnessed a really bad accident at a rodeo and didn’t want to have to worry about her husband getting killed or maimed while “having fun.”

Art drove the school bus and drove trucks. “The school bus job paid $132 a month,” he recalls.

“We had everything we needed,” Clara adds. “The only food we had to buy was stuff like flour and sugar; we had cows, pigs, chickens, and a big garden. You can’t get food that good any more. It was a good life and good for

our kids.”

As the children grew up, Clara, too, worked outside the home, taking over the school bus route as well as becoming a driving instructor.

“I loved that job,” she says. “I loved teaching driving. I sure didn’t want to leave when Art wanted to move north. He’d been driving truck at Summit Lake on the Alaska Highway. I went there for two weeks to check it out and it

was OK, but I didn’t want to leave the farm, and my job.”

“The work was steady, and the pay was good” Art says. “To me those were good reasons to move.”

There were two children still living at home when they came north. Art was working at Iron Creek by then, and they bought a place in Watson Lake so the kids could go to school.

Again, Clara worked. On the highway, she was labour foreman for a few years, and helped out in the lodges at Summit Lake and Iron Creek. In Watson Lake, she worked clerking, in restaurants, and at the hospital.

“The kids still like to go to Summit,” Clara says. “It was a beautiful place to be. We hiked all the mountains around there and enjoyed the wilderness. It’s a special place for us.”

In 1980, they went into business for themselves; Nolan’s Trucking was born and carried on till just a few years ago, providing steady work for Art.

Along with surviving tough economic times when they were young and raising a family, they have had more than their share of tragedy: one of their boys died at age eight, and two sons died of cancer in their 50s. The pain of

those losses never goes away. “It’s just not right for parents to have to bury their children,” Clara says. “You never stop missing them.”

They are retired now, in the way that people of their generation retire – staying busy maintaining their two properties in Watson Lake, doing community work, and travelling to visit friends and family, particularly family; they

have over 50 grandchildren and great grandchildren.

The family, and access to them, is Art’s reason for saying he would move from Watson Lake, going somewhere less isolated, somewhere where he can go and see people without such a long drive.

Clara doesn’t want to leave the memories of her adult sons who died.

“They are all around me here,” she says, gesturing to the property adjoining theirs. “Dennis did all that landscaping and fixing up the place.”

Art still drives an old truck one of his boys rebuilt, the vinyl interior is now faded and peeling but the fancy windshield trim still glitters with sequins, and the engine sounds smooth and strong.

Art distinguished himself in 2008 by being, at 84 years old, the oldest participant in the Emperor’s Choice cross-country race in Tumbler Ridge. It’s a grueling 20-kilometre trek with creeks to ford and some of the climbs so

steep in spots one needs a rope. He did it the year before, too, and did both races under the five hour limit.

When asked his training routine, Art said, “Well, I shovel snow in the winter; I chop wood and I walk every day.”

Asked about how they feel about their lives to this point, did they live their dreams? Art wishes he’d had more schooling, though he acknowledges he did well with what he did have, running his own business.

“We didn’t think about travelling to other countries, or being movie stars – stuff like that;” he says. “You just wanted to be able to have work and take care of your family. We did that.” He looks fondly at his wife, “I had a good

partner.”

“We don’t want to go anywhere exotic,” Clara agrees. “We like to visit our kids when we leave here. And in town, we have friends over and we go and visit friends.”

This comfortable couple had modest dreams for themselves, and they accomplished them and are content. They have all they need and their children are doing well – what more is there to ask for?

Their steadfastness, their commitment to one another and to achieving their goals are qualities rarely seen in these new, faster times of big dreams and small efforts. Clara and Art remind us of the quiet pleasure, the

satisfaction, of a job well done.

Tor Forsberg is a freelance

writer who lives in Watson Lake.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Crystal Schick/Yukon News
Calvin Delwisch poses for a photo inside his DIY sauna at Marsh Lake on Feb. 18.
Yukoners turning up the heat with unique DIY sauna builds

Do-it-yourselfers say a sauna built with salvaged materials is a great winter project

d
Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

g
Yukonomist: School competition ramps up in the Yukon

It’s common to see an upstart automaker trying to grab share from… Continue reading

The Yukon government responded to a petition calling the SCAN Act “draconian” on Feb. 19. (Yukon News file)
Yukon government accuses SCAN petitioner of mischaracterizing her eviction

A response to the Jan. 7 petition was filed to court on Feb. 19

City councillor Samson Hartland in Whitehorse on Dec. 3, 2018. Hartland has announced his plans to run for mayor in the Oct. 21 municipal election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillor sets sights on mayor’s chair

Hartland declares election plans

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

The Yukon government says it is working towards finding a solution for Dawson area miners who may be impacted by City of Dawson plans and regulations. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Miner expresses frustration over town plan

Designation of claims changed to future planning

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Housing construction continues in the Whistle Bend subdivision in Whitehorse on Oct. 29, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Bureau of Statistics reports rising rents for Yukoners, falling revenues for businesses

The bureau has published several reports on the rental market and businesses affected by COVID-19

Council of Yukon First Nations grand chief Peter Johnston at the Yukon Forum in Whitehorse on Feb. 14, 2019. Johnston and Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn announced changes to the implementation of the Yukon First Nations Procurement Policy on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Third phase added to procurement policy implementation

Additional time added to prep for two provisions

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

Most Read