It’s been almost 15 years since Carole Elgert was last in Whitehorse. But she’ll never forget her first trip up here in February 1973. She spent much of her few days here sick.
“I was so ill when I was there, and I had no idea what was wrong with me, and I could barely eat anything,” she recalled last week from her ranch in Ta Ta Creek, B.C.
Nerves would have easily explained the situation: she and her then-husband, Georg Hauschild, spent much of their time dining with local dignitaries and territorial politicians. Carole was “sicker than a dog,” Hauschild said. Neither of them could figure out why – they wondered if it was nerves, or excitement.
The Hauschilds, then living in Penticton, B.C., were guests of honour, along with Joe Winkelaar. The three had won a national contest to write an original song to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Klondike Gold Rush. Their number, simply entitled “Yukon,” beat out 53 entries from across Canada. The rhythm of the four-four-timed ditty draws to mind the gait of horses. And it’s easy for people to hum it or sing along – the range of notes used in the song is less than an octave. CKRW and the Department of Travel and Information sponsored the contest. Along with the trip, the winners received $1,000 in cash, delivered in a golden pouch. The Hauschilds performed the song live for the first time at the Klondike ‘73 dance.
After the couple returned to British Columbia, they learned why Carole had been so ill: she was pregnant with the couple’s first child, Ryan.
“It was like a double bonus,” Elgert said of learning about the pregnancy. And music runs in the family: Ryan, and his younger brother, Dustin, both work in the industry.
As for the actual cash bonus the couple received, “I can’t remember what the hell we did with it,” said Hauschild. “Probably paid off bills.”
At the time, the two were just beginning their careers as songwriters and entertainers. A few years before they wrote the music for “Yukon,” they composed the official song for Penticton, B.C. When Winkelaar approached them with his lyrics, they were running a guitar shop. The song came together pretty quickly. It took about an afternoon to write the music, said Elgert. After reading Winkelaar’s poem, she decided to change some lines to make it flow with the music better.
They recorded the song and sent the tape off to Whitehorse by air express, two days before the Dec. 31, 1972 deadline. Early in January, they found out they were one of six finalists. They were declared the winners at the end of the month.
“We were happier than hell,” said Hauschild. Neither of them had been to the Yukon before. When they arrived, they realized how accurate Joe’s lyrics about the “land of the midnight sun/Where the glacial waters run/Staked from sixtieth parallel/North to meet the Arctic swell” were.
“Everything came together, just all the places I’d read about, like the dog sledding, and all the activities. I kind of knew what it was going to be like, but it was just even better,” said Elgert, who had done some research on the territory while working on the song’s lyrics. “It’s always like that. You can research a place where you might take a holiday, and then when you get there, it’s either worse or it’s better, and that was just spectacular.”
Despite the prestige of winning the contest, especially for two young musicians, the song remained in relative obscurity until late last year. According to a newspaper article from February 1973, “Yukon” was to be used as the official song for the territory. Winkelaar and the Hauschilds signed away all the copyrights to the song to the Yukon government. A vinyl record of the song has been kept at the Yukon Archives. And Elgert has a few hundred copies in her house, she said.
But it’s not clear if the song has been used much in the last 40 years, said Karen Keeley, spokesperson for tourism and culture. She only found about the song after Hauschild emailed her a few months ago to introduce himself and ask what had happened to the song.
Hauschild first became interested in the number again one afternoon when working at his real estate office in Langley, B.C., feeling nostalgic. A quick Google search later, and he was again listening to his winning song. “They have everything on the Internet,” he said. “They have all sorts of interesting things.” Soon after contacting Keeley, he found himself looking at his old sheet music again.
“The more I listen to it, the more I just love it,” said Elgert, who has watched the interest grow among her friends on Facebook.
“Except I feel, of course I was very young then and my voice was just developing, I listen to it and I think, ‘Oh, I sounded like such a little girl.’”
A lot has changed since then. She and Hauschild worked as performers on the Princess Patricia cruise ship for CPR. They wrote the song “Alaska” for the ship. The ship did the Alaska-Yukon route, and the couple performed “Yukon” a few times during their time as entertainers, said Hauschild.
And while their award-winning “Yukon” song beckons listeners to “Come where tangy northern air/Holds the friendship warm and rare,” the two have gone their separate ways. They divorced in the early 1980s, not long after their time with the cruise ship ended.
Both have since remarried. Elgert lives with her second husband on a ranch where, among other things, they fix-up and sell houses. Hauschild, a realtor, sells condominiums in Langley, B.C.
The two don’t talk much anymore, but they’ve exchanged some emails back and forth about the song, said Elgert.
“We were joking that, wouldn’t it be funny if they asked us to come up again and do it? So we could bring our new spouses with us.”
The couple wasn’t asked to come up and perform the song, but she would have if she were asked, said Elgert.
For now, it seems the song that celebrated “Canada’s great beyond” will continue making its rounds, this time as a digital recording.
“Time just moves on,” said Hauschild.
You can listen to the song at www.tc.gov.yk.ca/archives.html.
Contact Meagan Gillmore at