I received a wonderful letter from Angela (Tom) Carlick, an 82-year-old Kaska elder, telling me about her dad, the late Liard Tom, and her mother Eda.
Also, Carlick had a lot of interesting history about steamboat pilot Frank Slim, who you can see in the inset photo.
Frank died several years ago. He was the last of the steamboat pilots and was a good friend of mine.
Carlick mentioned that her dad “contributed a lot to the development of the Alaska Highway, and I want him recognized for this.
“Liard Tom was the guide for the army surveys and government people.” I certainly believe that she is right about this, and I showed Carlick’s letter to Janna Swales from the Yukon Transportation Museum.
I hope something comes out of it.
Carlick’s letter follows:
Re Frank Slim:
My name is Angela (Tom) Carlick and I am a Kaska elder from Good Hope Lake, BC.
I am 82 years old and was the baby of my family. My dad was Liard Tom and my mother was named Eda.
When I was a child we lived with my family about 18 miles up the Liard River from the Upper Liard bridge. This is where my dad had his trapline, in the Rancheria River area, where we trapped for a living in the bush. In the summer months, we would move to Lower Post, BC, near the Hudson Bay Trading Post and lived in a tent.
This is where I first saw Frank Slim and his family in August of 1942.
I used to visit his youngest daughter and we would play with dollies as children. Frank Slim and his family came down from Dease Lake, BC, with a sternwheeler and barges that were carrying a bulldozer and dump trucks to be used in the building of the Watson Lake Airport.
This was war time in the summer of 1942. I think the government flew Frank Slim by plane to Dease Lake from Whitehorse. Frank Slim worked on building a sternwheeler and barges on the shores of Dease Lake with his two sons and other workers. There were government workers who came with Frank Slim on the sternwheeler and barges. Frank Slim was one of the captains steering the sternwheeler and barges loaded with heavy construction equipment down the winding and narrow Dease River from Dease Lake to Lower Post.
Frank Slim and his wife and two sons, Tony and George, and youngest daughter stayed in one of the bunkhouses referred to as Taku, located beside the Hudson Bay store in Lower Post, BC. I think his daughter was about eight or 10 years old and that is who I visited to play together. The government workers on the barges drove the equipment of bulldozers and dump trucks.
As children, we were all sitting on the side of the hill by the Liard River in Lower Post watching the sternwheeler and barges land and the equipment being unloaded. There was one sternwheeler with a barge and two other boats with motors and barges. This is the very first time I had seen a truck and bulldozer.
The bulldozer drove off the barge and started pushing a road right away on the bank of the river. The bulldozer then started pushing through the bushes in Lower Post and worked on making a road to Watson Lake. The dump trucks were then unloaded and started following the bulldozer. We followed the bulldozer and watched it push trees down and were very curious about this because we had never seen anything like this before in our lives.
My dad moved us to Watson Lake after this and I think Frank Slim was still around Lower Post.
My dad started working on building the Watson Lake Airport for the government in the summer of 1942. Liard Tom contributed a lot to the development of the airport and the building of the Alaska Highway and I want him recognized for this.
All the history books written about the Alaska Highway never mentioned my dad’s contribution, or even had a picture of him. Liard Tom was the guide for the army surveys and government people. He knew the area from Rancheria to Teslin where he trapped and hunted and travelled by dog team to Atlin before the building of the Alaska Highway.
He also knew the area all the way down towards Fort Nelson and used to travel the trails in his younger years. My dad, Liard Tom, flew by plane with the government surveyors all the way down the Liard River to Fort Nelson area and even saw the great falls past the Liard Hot Springs. He also flew to the Upper Rancheria River area and landed in Pine Lake with the government surveyors and met with the army surveyors and native guides from Teslin who came there on horseback.
I also would like to mention the National Geographic magazine did a story on Liard Tom and his family in the Upper Liard-Rancheria area in early 1942. This story was to record what life was like before the army came and built the Alaska Highway. There was a picture of me in the magazine and also of my dad, mom, and brothers and sisters.
Thank you for listening to me.
Angela (Tom) Carlick
An added note from Jim Robb:
Please write if you support Carlick in her wish to have Liard Tom recognized for his contribution in guiding the army surveyors in the building of a significant portion of the Alaska Highway.
Anyone with information about this subject, please write Jim Robb: The Colourful Five Per Cent Scrapbook – Can You Identify? c/o the Yukon News, 211 Wood Street, Whitehorse, Yukon, Y1A 2E4, or e-mail through the News website, www.yukon-news.com.