Historical headline: ‘Beatrice Day saw Yukon gold rush days’

Such was the headline in the Colonist magazine section, 40 years ago. Some 70 years after she went to the Yukon, scene of the fabled Klondike gold rush, Beatrice Day was again a resident of Duncan.

Reason for her being in the North, 1906-13, was because her husband Athel, the government assayer, was stationed in Dawson City. There, much to her astonishment, as she told interviewer E. Blanche Norcross, she immediately regretted not having packed, of all things, her evening gowns.

It hadn’t occurred to her that Dawson would have an active social life, with government galas and champagne, the ladies wearing white kid gloves and Parisian dresses. "The dances always finished promptly at midnight," she recalled. "Then we went to one another’s houses and had refreshments."

That was after an evening of almost non-stop dancing for the ladies who, outnumbered by unattached males, had no end of partners. A notable exception was a young bank clerk and aspiring poet who didn’t dance. She’d known Robert Service in Duncan when they both participated in amateur theatrical productions. Upon publication of his bestselling Ballads of a Cheechako in 1913, he gave her an autographed copy with a cover photo of him sporting a beard. Beatrice, who’d never known him to be unshaven, thought that the publisher probably thought the beard better suited the image of someone writing about the Klondike gold rush.

With a chuckle she told how Dundas Thwaites, a clerk who lived in the bank, had almost ended Service’s writing career before it began. Service often used the bank’s typewriter after hours by entering with his own key. One night, Thwaites heard someone moving downstairs and, convinced it was an intruder, almost opened fire before he recognized him.

She noted that Dawson was known for the fact that the Bank of North America employed "Scots boys" and the Bank of Commerce favoured "mainly Canadian boys."

During her husband’s many absences on business, she could count on these young, single and far-from-home bankers, or a Royal North West Mounted Police constable, to take her out for dinner, in return for Sunday afternoon tea.

Sometimes the Days rented a house in Whitehorse, requiring that Athel commute to Dawson by horse team in mid-winter and that Beatrice follow with their baby daughter by river steamer in June – if the ice had broken up. She recalled the high cost of living in the far north where meat cost two and a-half times as much as in the south, eggs sold for an outrageous dollar a dozen, and the smallest coin in the territory was a quarter.

Dawson City had peaked by the time of the Days’ hitch in the Yukon. But it had been a great seven years, filled with social activities and their participating in and observing firsthand the throes of the Klondike gold rush, one of the greatest in history. By 1913, with two young children, she and Athel decided it was time to return to civilization. But not for long; after operating the Buena Vista Hotel at Cowichan Bay for a time, Athel returned to assaying which required his moving about the province and that Beatrice, their two sons and daughter accompany him.

Perhaps life on the northern frontier wasn’t that great a departure for Beatrice, daughter of William Penn Jaynes, pioneer Cowichan merchant and postmaster. At the time of her interview, a month short of her 91st birthday, widowed and visually impaired, her hearing also failing, she lived with her son.

www.twpaterson.com

Just Posted

Tim Schewe
Drivesmart column: Not securing your load could cost you big

An object of any sort falling off of the vehicle in front of you is definitely a surprise

Jared Popma recently streamed a live concert from the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre. (Ashley Daniel Foot photo)
21-year-old jazz artist talks favourite tunes and joys of music theory

Jared Popma recently streamed a concert from the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre

Vetch cover crop beginning to flower. (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Vetch and crimson clover to the rescue of soil fertility

I add dry organic fertilizer as plants use up what is in the soil.

Sarah Simpson
Sarah Simpson column: A shift in perspective can sometimes change everything

Have you even been forced to wake up at 5:30 on a Saturday

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Most Read