Interview with Holger Nielson
Interview with Mr. Holger Nielson and the interviewer is Mrs. Penny
Draper. Today's date is March 26, 1987.
Draper: Could you tell us?
Nielson: In a snow storm.
Draper: In a snow
storm, that's right, at the end of March. Could you tell us your full
Nielson: That's my full name, I only have two, Holger
Draper: Where were you born?
Nielson: Copenhagen, Denmark,
Draper: 1902, that's awhile ago. Can you tell me a little bit about
Nielson: My dad worked in a shoe factory. He was in the shoe
business and so was his dad. The conditions in Denmark where they had
unions all over. The unions had the old political organization which
was socialist and you vote for a man that is over here in Canada. You
voted for a party and then for every so many votes he get in, the
parties get a member in so there is nobody that is in one place like
in all of these strikes. In that way he would take out the best he had
the party. Here you elect somebody who knows nothing because you vote
for a man.
Draper: So that system worked a little bit better
Nielson: Yes, the working class is good you know. Sometimes the
factory got them out, the ones who docked them half a cent, no. You had
lots of money in those days. You had eight dollar day and six days a
week. Sometimes you went on strike to get a half a cent more. It sounds
Draper: That's right , but then that was many years
Nielson: You asked how the accommodations were. We lived up on the
sixth floor, right underneath the roof. You could take a room down in
corridor an the roof because they were the cheapest. They had no
elevator, no plumbing. That was before the First World War. I went to
school before the First World War.
Draper: And that was in Copenhagen.
Nielson: Yes. You were taught evolution in the school and I found that
each year to understand the religions. I never become
Draper: When did you leave Denmark?
Nielson: I left in 27. They
say I read a lot of books. Jack London, H (?) (?wood) all from the
country. That's what got me interested, that's why I come over.
see, so you picked Canada because it was a north country.
had to have twenty five dollars in our pocket when we landed in
Canada, or else they send us back again at that time. I had a thirty
dollar cheque I cashed when I got to Winnipeg. You could live a month
for that in a boarding house. It would be a cheap room and you had your
bed and everything for thirty dollars.
Draper: Things have changed a
little bit haven't they? That's right. Did you stay in Winnipeg or did
you keep coming west?
Nielson: I stayed for about a week or so. Then a
Mining Engineer from Ontario called me. He wanted somebody in Ontario
working on mineral claims. We were a few Danes who come on the same
ship, the Norwegians and Swedes. We went by train to Hudson, Ontario.
stayed overnight in the hotel, then by boat to Gold Pine and from there
we traveled by canoes. Then you got to the end of the day you (....)
know, carried the canoe and you carried two hundred pounds in a (...)
on your head, from one day to the
next day. That
was a nice life, I liked it.
Draper: What was the mineral claims like?
Were they gold?
Nielson: We drove trenches about the claims just like
you do for when they park up the hill, cut the trees down, then dig
down to bedrock. If
was anything (....) by hand and by blasting to see what there was.
Draper: How long did you
Nielson: They laid us off because you can't work in the
winter time. Then I got to a mine on another dig, a Jackson men and a
mine deal started off cutting wood for the boilers, but you didn't have
the equipment. They hauled it in that winter. It took five days from
the railroad in there by teams.
Draper: Were they
Nielson: No, the farmers from Manitoba, and Ontario. He come
out and he got paid, I think it was forty dollars a month for a single
team. He fed the
horses and the guides got forty dollars and a double team
got sixty dollars. That's how they hauled in those days. Every twenty
miles or so was stopping place. There was a cook shack, a cookhouse and
place to put in the horses.
Draper: Did they rest up and keep on going
Nielson: No, they changed that. What they (...) we had in the bush, a
tea, and fed the
horses. The ones coming up after we got, started, they took the empty
sleigh going down and the one
going back to the camp. Then
the next morning another one would walk to the next place and that's
the way you went so the horses
worked half a day and half a day they
had the empty sleigh.
Draper: How did you make your way out to B. C. Doing more mining
all the way across?
Nielson: In 29 the crash came on Wall Street. We
found some good stuff, just yellow with gold but you couldn't make any
more money so we got laid off. I went to Winnipeg, that was the closest
spent the money. I should have come out to B. C. but didn't know about
it then. I should have gone to the Yukon. Finally I had no money. I
started to jump on the trains. In 1930 I got a job in International
Nickal twenty six hundred feet underground. That's
half a mile down. I only worked six weeks and I quit. I bought a
suitcase in Winnipeg and in 32, got a job in the harvest. We worked for
a. a dollar a day
at that time. So I made fifty four dollars and transferred that to a
Winnipeg and jumped on the train. The people I worked for used to
be like family. The
farmer's wife cooked some potatoes, chicken, eggs so I had something to
eat on the
train. Then I went out to a relief camp that winter when they, the 11th
of November and we crossed on the
lake on ice, right along National park. We closed the camp in May. You
could still walk across on ice. It was that cold. We had a good
cook house and camp section so that's why I stayed that long. It
was too cold to jump on the train. I had to wait a week before I got
my pay and got out to Winnipeg and got in the soup kitchen again. Then
heard about placer mining in British Columbia. Two other guys and
together, jumped on the train on (... ) Avenue, the C.P.. We went to
Calgary. In the middle of the night we went down the street. there was
a lawyer. You could tell he had this dress on, that he had in court.
was half drunk. He asked what is this noise about. I said we just got
off the train. Oh, you're going to B.C. He asked if we wanted
a sandwich and a cup of coffee. "Sure", we said. He took us in
sat down and got us sandwiches and coffee. A policeman came in the
door, he had a (?) and he said "Beat it flatfoot" but he knew the cop
you know. So he
asked if we had any particular place to go in B.C. I said "No". He
said he had a chum up in Prince George. We were chums during the war,
the First World War, this was in 33. He gave us an introduction
so that's how I
to Prince George. We came in a snowstorm on the 10th June. We were in
sand house. At that time they had steam engines. They had a box in
of the wheels where sand was running down on the rails so the wheels
That's why they had the sand house, to dry out the sand. For that
purpose. It was warm in there. The railroad
cop came in and told us we couldn't stay there. It was a dirty night
kick us out he said but if you want to take a chance on jail, I'll take
you over there. Five of us said okay. He took us over to jail. That's
Government Building where Kresges is now, that was a big building. The
were underneath in the basement. The jail was down there so I got a bed
anyway. Then we had breakfast. There was a policeman he called
Smith". I got to know him later. He asked if the bulls (railroad
police) see you get off the train and
said no. He said there is a chance you will be just charged with
tresspassing. He was a good
policeman, a fine cook. Each of us had to appear before the judge.
Before going in he said, "When the judge ask guilty or
not guilty, you say guilty, your honor". I was the first one up. The
asked, "Do you fellows see why you shouldn't have a long sentence?" We
said nothing. Then the railroad cop, he stood up, and said, "Your
honor, these are decent guys looking for work. They're not the tough
looking hobo". The judge looked us
over and said two dollars or one day. We got back in and had our
dinner. Pussyfoot Smith came in, asked if we were going to pay
the fine. We said, "No". He said you had your dinner so get the hell
here. That was on a Saturday afternoon. We thought we were going to
there until Monday, and get a few meals. I got to know the police. They
were all nice people. We demonstrated on the street, about two hundred
of us. They had an organization at that time called the Canadian Naval
Defense League. They came in touch with us. We stayed across the
Fraser. There was a bunk house from the time they built the P.G and E
before the First World War. So they told us to come over. So we
demonstrated opposite City Hall.
(..) a dollar twenty. We marched back
again. They had the hall down in Chinatown at that time. There are only
a few Chinese there now. The head of the organization said that
when three days are up, you come over again
and we will go up again. In the meantime he had about seventy
from businesses in town to put us on relief steady because they got the
money and there was
business so they were in favour of it. We come up again and the clerk
at City Hall said you didn't have to come. It
was all fixed up for you. That's just balogney. When you come up on
your own, he send yours
to the Government Building. He sent us back again to City Hall, just
going forth and back. That's where you (...) They called us trouble
makers and we got called from Moscow. I never saw
any Moscow (...) I began to study up on philosophy and
(polotick-ing?) to begin to
and wonder why I was unemployed. I got something out of it
anyway. There was a fellow called me from Blackwater. It took two days
to walk down there. They wanted three guys to put up hay for
them. I got
months work down there and came back here again. The next spring I
bought a pick shovel and a gold pan and started washing gold from the
Draper: Were you washing gold right in this area or down ...?
Yes, right from South Fort George down to the Canyon, the Fort George
Draper: Were there a lot of prospectors doing that at that
Nielson: There were a few guys. If there had been any more, you
wouldn't have made anything at all. There wasn't that much gold.
wasn't really enough to make a living?
Nielson: You made a living. You
got twenty five dollars an ounce for gold at that time and you could
live for about eight dollars a month. I had fish lines out, night
in the river. It didn't cost much to live.
Draper: Did it take long to get
an ounce of gold from panning?
Nielson: Oh yes, sometimes it did. The
first four I only made an ounce and a half. Then in '35 I made my
to Vanderhoof. I went into Fort St. James and got up (?) creek but I
anything there worth panning for. I came back again in the fall.
( ...)the bridge in
South Fort. I made one hundred and sixty dollars in three weeks. Then I
met a fellow
the next spring. He and I bought a gas engine, one horse power, and a
that way you could keep on shovelling. Before you
put in a box, then you had a bucket on a stick and stood there keeping
water on it. That was kind of slow.
Draper: Was that
helpful when you got that?
Nielson: Oh yes, the day you could work
something, you wouldn't make anything on. Then you had to pack it all
the water (... )
Draper: How long were you involved in the gold panning?
Nielson : '41 was the last year. In the spring I bought three
a shack in South Fort George. I lived over on the other side of the
Fraser at that time when I was washing gold, in a log cabin over
Draper: Up on the other side of the cutbanks.
Nielson: On the
flat. There was a cutbank and also the flat. There was a cabin that I
just moved into. The guy had died so I just moved in. I stayed there in
the wintertime. In the summertime was up and down the Fraser.
Draper: Other than this cop named "Pussyfoot", were there any more
people in Prince George around that time? Do you remember'?
There was much more fun in those days. Nobody had anything. George
Europe Hotel. He was crazy when he saw gold. He would just
start shaking. He had been in the Yukon in the early days. There was
Walter (Henderson/Anderson), the shoemaker. He had made a nugget,
painted it with goldleaf and then he put a piece of quartz in it,
he showed it to me. I
him why did you put that quartz in for. It had sharp corners on
it. A nugget would be smooth. There wouldn't be any quartz. It
have been smashed up long ago. Oh, they fall for that, he said. (...)
came by and there
was a young fellow in there who just got a letter. His mother was sick
south. He had no money. The shoemaker called out, "Come in and see what
guy come in with." He showed him this nugget. He looked like man
made gold you know. He
should have known better. He wanted to buy it then but the guy said he
wouldn't sell it so after he was gone, Walter Anderson, he said "Here's
go into the beer parlor and get a glass of beer." He went in and
he wanted to see the nugget again. Someone sitting at the next table
that was worth about one hundred and fifty, so he offered him one
hundred dollars for it. The guy took the money and got out and came
back to the shoemaker, wanted to give him half the money. He said no to
keep the money and go and see your mother. He went out then. In the
evening the police and (... ) came over to our house and we lived in
Fort George. He got suspicious and told a fellow by name of Skinner,
who had a Jewelry shop on George Street. He put acid on, and it stood
the acid test. But then he scraped it with a knife. He was an
Englishman so he said "By jove that's (...) The police said
they can't do anything because he
signed the piece of paper. He sold a metal knob? but he didn't
say gold. He
just said metal. The next morning the Swedes hung a sign over the hotel
said Gold Nugget Hotel. They were laughing about that for months.
There were a lot of funny characters around in those days.
Draper: Do you
still see some of them around?
Nielson: No, they are all gone. Most of
the people that were here when I came are gone, whereas the younger
ones, Ted Williams, (...) He shows pictures, slides of the early days.
a store in South Fort and one in Prince George. He bought gold too. I
(delt?) with him. I usually (...). When I lived across the river, he
over nights and had some beans in dented cans and gave it to me. He did
to other guys who didn't have much. There was two boys, Chase and
Chuck, I haven't seen for a long time. I saw Chase on TV the other
Draper: There is a group of people in Prince George, the
University Women's Club. They are trying to so some research into the
street names in Prince George. Do you have any information?
I haven't got that map. I had the map before. The streets in what we
the Millar Addition. They have the same names as they have down
on First Avenue. Then they changed it to Birch, Ash and all those
different names, ABC from the Fraser. They started names of persons who
had been here. Alward Street, that was Montreal Street before when I
come. Alward, he was a member of parliament. He was a Conservative. He
dentist too. He was really good. He used to pull in the tongue like
and the tooth was out. Burden Street, his nephew, was the
Postmaster,(...)he was the surveyer,
that's how they got the names from different people here.
Draper: Did you
know any other people who had streets named after them?
Nielson: I knew
Ernie Burton, the dentist. Freeman, he was an electrician for the city.
had that old power plant down by the bridge. It's nearly falling down
now. I knew most of them people.
Draper: What about Ewert Street? Did you
know the person who is?
Nielson: Yes, that was Dr. Ewert. He was my
doctor. He has a son that is a doctor here now. That included Prince
George, Peden Hill, South Fort George, and everything around. What you
call Seventeenth Avenue now used to be Bowser Street at that time. They
had a sheriff by the name of Bowser. That street was named after
him. That was the city limits at that time.
Nielson: Yes, then they extended it later on to Twentieth
Avenue. That was Edison Street.
Draper: The same Edison who did
Nielson: I don't remember all the names now. I always was in favor
of joining the city after I moved over to South Fort George. I built a
house in '48 and tore the shack down. I was in favor of joining the
and they didn't like me on that account. Taxes go up and everything. I
didn't mind paying taxes. We had more protection. When I first come to
South Fort George for fire fighting, they had a two wheel tank, a tank
on two wheels. You
pulled it by hand, then somebody poured water and now they put in some
powder. That's what they used for fighting fires.
Draper: South Fort was
a village on its' own.
Nielson: Yes, I knew everybody over there at that
time. When I came across in the winter time or come in the boat in the
you always said the fellow across the river.
Draper: The fellow across
the river and that was you.
Nielson: That was my name.
Draper: It sounds
like South Fort was a really close community.
Nielson: That was the
first town here, South Fort and Central Fort George were here. They
each had a post office. When the railroad came in, they built the
station down at the back, called Prince George. There was three post
offices when I came here. Each one had a postmaster. They had their own
I should have kept some of those envelopes. South Fort George had a
Central and Prince George.
Draper: Could you tell me a bit about your travels? What
made you decide to travel the world?
Nielson: The first trip I made,
that was in '54, a couple of guys were going to the Yukon. They asked
if I would come along up the Alaska Highway. We went in to Dawson City.
There was no roads, wasn't graded or anything. If it had rained, we
wouldn't have got out. It was just gumbo then. We made it out anyway.
over night in Whitehorse. The next morning we went to Carcross. And
then on a sternwheeler
down Tagis Lake, we entered B.C. to a place called (...) The Scots
that in the 1800's, a beautiful garden, buildings and everything. We
came back the next day and we took the train out to Skagway Alaska. The
next year I
arranged with the travel agent to get me a ticket on the C.P.. to
Whitehorse and a ticket on a sternwheeler from Whitehorse to Dawson
flew in and the next day I left on the sternwheeler for Dawson City.
took two days going down and four days coming back. I have pictures in
there if you want to see pictures.
Draper: Sure, I would like to.
It took four days coming back up. The next year I went to Vancouver on
P.G.& E to Sqamish. It wasn't going
through Vancouver yet, but it did come to Prince George then. We had to
go by boat from
Squamish to Horseshoe Bay, then bus from there to North Vancouver. That
was in '36. They had to mail the cheques back. He kept on
mailing the small cheque, the Canada Pension. I only paid in two
months to it.
Draper: Venezuela, lots of places
Nielson: '71, that's '56. In '57,
I guess I only went to Vancouver. I was over to Victoria.
Nielson: In '70 I made a trip from Vancouver on the
inside passage to Skagway Alaska. The way I have them put in, they open
this. I did this all myself. That's the house I live in South Fort
George. Over on the other side there, that's Bijou Falls. That's my
you said that's a lake up the highway. I guess you've seen that,
you've been up the highway. That's (... ) We
stayed in the motel. They had that electric motor , the moter that
makes electricity running all night
so you couldn't sleep. We left early in the morning. We stopped, made
breakfast, washed and shaved. The other one over there is Munchaw
Lake. This is the old shack I had in South Fort before I built the
house. We had a lot of flowers.
Draper: Is that South Fort
Nielson: Yes, that's up on top of the hill. These are the hot
springs up at Liard, up the highway. Coming back, we camped there at
night. There is a
big lake further back up here. We walked up there. Out in the middle it
bubbled up. I though maybe it was boiling so I swam out there, but it
was not warm it was just gas coming up.
Draper: Here's the paddle wheelers.
Nielson: That's in
Whitehorse. That's Watson Lake. All those are burned up here. Somebody
set fire to it. They are all gone.
Draper: Is there no more
paddle wheelers going there anymore?
Nielson: There is only the one I
made the trip on. This one here, Keno. That's in the water, but the
next year I come, it was pulled up on land. The machine in Dawson City
up. They took this one down to Dawson City to have at the museum. The
wheel house and the smokestack they had to lay down to get underneath
the bridge They had put a bridge up. They could have taken one of those
big ones down. That's across the (...) They had
ferries to Carmacs but the
bridges were built since I was up there. There's Stewart River. There
only take. On this one you took three of them big ( ...) cars from Keno
Hill. There's Dawson City. That's what you call Moose Hide Mountain.
They say that slide looks like a moose hide. That's the first time I've
seen a fire engine like that. We had them in Copenhagen when I was a
kid. That's a boiler. The boiler was running the pump. The first time I
saw one over here was in Dawson City. That's the old auditorium where
you paid a dollar for dancing around the floor. That's torn down. They
up a new one, fire proof. There's Robert Service's cabin in Dawson
next time I went up all this was torn down because they have perma
frost. (...) This is
what you call the fire fingers. There
is four small islands across
and that makes five channels. It is only this channel here the ship can
go through. I have pictures on the next when I went down by boat. This
is the one we made the trip on Tagis Lake. The (?). That's who lays up
bank. They don't use it anymore. That old Indian there was giving
lectures. His aunt was married to a white man. He had (...) with
Indians. They went down to the Yukon to the Klondike, where the
Klondike comes into the Yukon. Him and his
went down looking for them, stayed there overnight. They were going to
stay there for the winter at their daughter's. They caught fish for the
dogs and everything. The white man that was married to his aunt, He was
the gold in the Bonanza River. There was another prospector, Henderson,
who had told him there was gold there. Later on he was mentioned too as
a co-discoverer. There was two of them.
Draper: Did you try any prospecting when you
were up there?
Nielson: No, you didn't stay long enough. See, this is
Bennett Lake. Tagis is this way. At that time they were still useing
had diesel too. I have pictures of a diesel engine. That's out in
Skagway. I think that's the walkway. This is up on the summit.
can look down and see the Skagway and the salt
water down there. That's nine miles down but the railroad goes around
miles. This is up three thousand feet. You can see on this side trail
98. You can see where they walked up on that side. That's on the
summit. From the highway we walked up to take
pictures of it. There's a fellow who owned the car. See how big this
is. The (...) is worn down. That's how it wears down.
Draper: Is this Prince
George down here?
Draper: About when would these pictures
have been taken?
Nielson: Those were taken in '35, no '55. That's the old
skating arena that collapses. That's where the Simon Fraser
Draper: It collapsed.
Nielson: Yes, the roof just came down like
this. I have pictures later on of it.
Draper: Was anybody hurt?
No, the kids had just got out. They had been skating, a whole bunch of
kids. The only one who was scared was a lady walking on the sidewalk.
The city wouldn't give her any compensation. She was just outside the
building when it come down. She got scared. That was taken up on the
hill. This is in South Fort George. My house is here.
Draper: Is your
house still there?
Nielson: Yes. They have it painted white. I had it buff to match the
hill across the street and the roof
Draper: This must be Prince George here.
Nielson: Yes, that
was in the winter time. Some more from Prince George. The cutbanks are
End of Side One
This was taken when they had the army headquarters. That's
where all those buildings are, and the Nechako is down below. This one
you come up that hill.
Draper: What kind of social activities did you do
in South Fort?
Nielson: They had lots. They had it in the Fire
Draper: That white one that is still standing.
Nielson: The old one,
yes, which is down towards the Fraser. There was lots of activities
going on. Some had birthdays, some got married and some left.
many people were living there?
Nielson: I don't know. I don't know if they had any
count as they were coming and going. That's up the highway, the lake is
further back. That's the fellow that worked for Slade and Stewart. Him
and I went to Fort St. John for a couple of days. That's Victoria Day.
Look at all the snow. That is Victoria Day. We stayed over night in a
motel at a lake. This is the Mile Post in Dawson Creek. That's the
motel we stayed in.
Draper: Were there a lot of people moving around at
that point, moving up and back from Dawson Creek, traveling
Nielson: There was no highway when I came. It was built
afterwards. It wasn't graded either.
Draper: It was pretty tough then
to get around.
Nielson: Yes, we used to go to Summit Lake, down to the
Crooked River by boat before they got the highway.
Draper: How long would
it take you then?
Nielson: I don't know as I didn't get up there until
after the highway was in.
Draper: That would be quite a trip to go by
Nielson: This is the old bridge across the Peace River. They chopped
it down because the column on this side gave away and the anchor. Those
cables go down to a big cement block. They gave away. The bridge was
sagging and they had to take it down. I haven't seen the new one. That
was in '55. You can see the bridge here further down. And thats the old
Alberta railroad coming into Dawson Creek. That's the last
boat I built. I built my own river boats.
Draper: Is that what you used when
you were living on the other side to cross back end forth?
we stroked it with a pole pushing it up stream. It was easy going down.
That's how my finger got like this I guess. It froze ice on the pole in
fall. Finally it slipped through the fingers and you hold it down in
the waterand thaw it out and your fingers get red and start burning.
You don't feel
Draper: You could pole your way right across the riverthen? It isn't
Nielson: No, you paddle across. The closer you go to the
bank, the faster you go. If you are out
too far, it was slow. You have to go close when you push it up.
Draper: How did you go about
building a boat? You made yourself a mold.
Nielson: You cut all the
stuff out. You have the ribs and everything. You would nail the centre
piece on. You put the sides on and the bottom last.
Draper: It's all
made out of wood, the whole thing.
Nielson: Yes, all wood. They didn't
have plywood in those days. That's when I flew up to Whitehorse. That's
up in the Pine Pass. Here we are coming in to Fort St. John. I like the
country. I've been up by car but I recognize it from the air. That's
in Fort St. John. Some changed planes. They came from Edmonton. This
one from Edmonton. This one is the one I'm on going to Whitehorse. This
was the first sterbwheeler come up to
Whitehorse from St. Michael, the mouth of the Yukon. It was taken up by
ship, then they assembled it. But it draws too much water so they only
it one trip. They only draw three three feet of water because its that
Draper: So there it sits. Were there boats like
this coming up the Fraser to Prince George?
Nielson: Yes, but I never
take a picture of them. They burn'y them all up. There's the other one
she gave me. This I've
seen several times on TV. This is the White Pass in the Yukon Station
Whitehorse. I stayed in the Whitehorse Inn. This building over here
burned down since I was there. This is on the stern wheel going down
stream. Here we are getting into
Lake Labarge. We hooked up on a sandbar. We had to turn the boat around
and the paddle wheel took the mud off. We went back into the lake.
That's a murder they had in the bar on the ship. I was the only one who
had a flash with me to take pictures of it.
Draper: To get the pictures
of the Klondike dancing girls.
Nielson : And the Can Can girls. I saw
that in Dawson City once and twice in Skagway, the shooting of
Daniel Magrew. I saw him shot three times.
Draper: It's just like a cat
with a lot of lives.
Nielson: This is the five fingers. I have better
ones coming over here. This is up Bonanza Creek. That's the dredge
working there. They float on the water. This part of the
chain keeps on going on taking the dirt off and goes through the sluice
and the tailings come out behind. That whole outfit keeps on floating
ahead. It floats in water. The only way they can move that, is if they
have another place to, is to dismantle it.
Draper: I t would be a lot of
work. Was it a successful ...?
Nielson : They made a few million
dollars every summer. There was a dredge there working before this one.
were the old timers. At that time, well they're still the same.
They built a fire
and thaw the ground out. Then they take it out and built another fire.
That's how the old timers did until he got down to bedrock They may get
thousand dollars or more on a hole like that at that time. It was just
gold on the bottom.
Draper: It would be well worth your time.
only got sixteen dollars an ounce at that time. That's Dawson City from
the Midnight Dome. They took us up. There was kind of a roof up there.
In the early days you walked up. You would sit there on the longest
day, and you would see the midnight sun. Along with the hills, you
can't see it. If you got up on the mountains, you could see the
midnight sun. It didn't go down. This is what they call Stewart City.
That was over one hundred feet from the river at that time when they
built it. When
I was up there in '55, they had to move the buildings back because it
keeps on crawling in. That's the five fingers. This was taken with
telephoto lens. I had two cameras. I had telephoto on one and the
lens on the other one.
Draper: You can see what they mean by the
channels. There's some more.
Nielson: This was taken with the (...) lens. The boat
goes across. This is the only way you could get up here. That's the
Klondike which is the one I made the trip on. These posts that they
have up here. In low water they rocked the boat over the bars. It was
too shallow. That was in the early day. It was the only transportation
they had. Then you let the poles down, jack the boat up. You start up
the wheel, push ahead a few feet. You go through the same again
taking them a few days to get over a bar sometimes. That's what a
person told me. I got to know him pretty good. He knew I was interested
so he told me about it. I didn't see that before. See those two guys
standing there. I didn't see that before I came home. That shows how
big the wheel is.
Draper: That wheel is really big, four times the size
of the men.
Nielson: This is at, where the Teslin River comes in the wintertime.
ice wouldn't go out of the lake. They lasted a month after it
went out of the Yukon. They freighted things down here. The ice was out
so they got an early start here. That's what they
call the (?) River. See how crooked that is. Going down, they
nose into the bank to turn the ship because it's kind of narrow. You
to know what you're doing on them. That's why the wheel house is up so
high. You have to read the water. This is from the Lake Labarge coming
had a wiener roast here. I walked up on the bush, thought it was a good
place to show the ship, and took a picture of it. You won't get that
more because they don't want any more boats. They had a big boiler
the person that was reciting the Cemation of Sam McGee. When they came
to the part
where he put Sam in the oven, he put a match in and the smoke was
coming out. Everybody got a kick out of
that. We had a wiener roast. Twelve o'clock midnight, we left for
Whitehorse. They don't get much (...) in there. There we are coming
you can see Whitehorse. There are the posts. That's the ones in Dawson
City. The last of them are all gone, burned up. There's a two story log
cabin. There's a three story one. I gave my slides away. When I showed
the picture of it, they said the guy who built it was too lazy. When
the snow got up that high, he moved up on the next floor. That's when
ship left in the afternoon for the next trip down. That's something
you'll never get again. It goes up stream so far, then turns and comes
back. They play, "This course along the Yukon". Everyone was standing
on shore watching. The same when we arrived in Dawson City. That's
where it turned. It lights pretty near across the Yukon. That's the
best one I got on it. This is Sam McGee's cabin in Whitehorse. That's
the Indian Cemetery.
Draper: Why do they have the little houses?
They build houses over. The ones that couldn't afford a house had a
canvas over. If there is a child, they have toys and everything in
there. The spirit comes up at night and prays with them.
Draper: That's how the
spirit is supposed to live with them in this little house or
Nielson: They are only four feet high. Here you can tell. If there
had been somebody on, it would have shown.
Draper: Do they still do
that up there, do you think?
Nielson :I don't know if they use it
anymore. It is down the hill from the highway. It is right on this side
coming down the hill.
Draper: Were there many Indians living in Prince
George at that time?
Nielson: Yes, there was quite a few.
Draper: Did they
live together in a group or were they part of the town?
they lived in different places. The Band had the reservation first
where the Prince George Park is. That was a golf course at the time
I came and the grave yards
were still there. All the tombstones you walked on them beside the
sidewalk. Then they moved the Band
out to Shelly, the first place up stream. They moved them up on the
reservation when they built the railroad. I knew the old timers here.
That was the Bird family. Their place is gone now over in South Fort
George. There was Seymours, I knew them too, Annie Seymour. She had a
sister married to a white man. He used to invite me over and listen to
radio. She was a good cook, clean and everything. She died years ago.
The other one got to be the oldest one. Her husband died younger too. I
have pictures of him and somebody else but never got one of Annie
Seymour. That was black and white.
Draper: What did he do?
Nielson: I don't know if he did
anything or not.
Draper: He just got an area named after him.
This was built especially for the Yukon. It's all closed in and
insulated. That's the Whitehorse and Miles Canyon up there. You
couldn't use that with the boats. It was too narrow. You would get in
where it widens and there's a whirlpool on each side. You get in there,
you just keep on going. I walked over that hill here. This is the head
of the canyon. First the Yukon coming. The ones coming in boats didn't
know. When they
got here it was too
late, they went right through and capsized. You can see how much it is,
straight up on both sides.
Draper: Some of these areas look like they
could be Prince George.
Nielson: That is Prince George. They still have
the old skating rink.
Draper: Is this South Fort here?
Nielson: Yes, that
is taken from the hill. That is down stream. This is
Draper: These are little docks in here.
Nielson: That's when you
had the old sternwheelers tied up over here. They were all burned off
38 and sent the scrap over to Japan. You got it back for nothing. There
is part of my garden.
Draper: Why did they stop using the sternwheelers
to come here?
Nielson: They got the highway in, then the C.N.. so they
didn't need the boats any longer. They didn't use them as long as they
did other places.
Draper: Is this where you're panning for gold?
I'm not panning. I just wanted a picture of it. I'm on the camera so I
could see myself.
Draper: What kind of people did you meet when you were
mining, like other prospectors?
Nielson: I was mostly along. Sometimes I
didn't see anybody for a month. When I met somebody and they started
talking, it sounded like my head was hollow inside. I hadn't talked for
Draper: You wouldn't know your own voice anymore.
Nielson: I met
the odd one but that's all we talked about, how much we made and so
Draper: . Did they share areas or did people keep that pretty much to
themselves if they had a good strike.
Nielson: No, there wasn't that
much. All they talk about was penny weights, twenty penny weights to
an ounce. That's from South Fort, the arena that collapsed. The roof
came down like that.
Draper: Did they have any idea that it was in bad
shape or was it very sudden?
Nielson : There was too much snow on
it. The weight of the snow was too heavy. The rest was all right.
other buildings lose their roofs that year?
Nielson: They were just lucky that the kids got out. They had been in
skating. I don't know
how long after. I worked not far away from there. I could hear the
banging when it came down. I always had a camera with me. When I had
my lunch in the restaurant, I walked over and took a picture. The post
office is right over here.
Draper: This is the post office over
Nielson: No, that was over here. This is the building here, the
other end of the building which was brick. I took some of the old steam
engines before they pulled them out .
Draper: When did they stop using
Nielson: I don't know what year it was. Those were taken in
Draper: It would have been shortly after that. Has the area down
around George Street changed very much. I recognize the hotel
Nielson: Yes, that burned down. That's over here now. That's the
Estoria. Here is the old City Hall at the end of the street. This is
on Third Avenue. A lot of that is gone. I didn't take many in town. I
don't know why.
Draper: Liked the outdoors a little bit more
Nielson: That's the wife there.
Draper: Did she go traveling with
Nielson: No, only to Vancouver. She didn't want to go anywhere
else. That's the first trip I made to Vancouver on the old P.G. (. . .
). They had a flat car with seats in the back where you could sit and
pictures. That's Britannia Beach. There's a mine down there. I
guess you've seen that. Here is Stanley Park. See what Vancouver looked
like. There's the (...) Building,
Vancouver Hotel and the B. C. ( ...). That's the only three tall
buildings. Now you can't see them anymore.
Draper: They are all small
Nielson: There's just a small train that they used to
have at that time in Stanley Park. That guy there built it. Now they
have a bigger train.
Draper: Yes, they still do have a train. I'm still
curious as to why you decided to go around South America. Why did you
decide to go all that way?
Nielson : I wanted to see
Draper: What did you see?
Nielson: I saw a lot which they
don't tell you on T.V. There is a lot of commentaries on thirteen which
the best channel we have for commentaries from the old days. They tell
it just the way it is. They don't give any political opinions. They
live in boxes on the mountain sides. They have posts in front so the
floor (?) the ground at the back.
are just like boxes even Peru. There's a big square there full of
asked the taxi driver to
slow down but he didn't slow down. I wanted to take pictures of
Draper: How many people would live in a box.
Nielson: I don't
know. There were all kinds, millions. That's how they live all over. In
Chile I was there the year after the overthrow of the Marxist
government. The CIA overthrowed them. In front of us was a cement wall.
On the other side was a naval base. Along that wall people were laying
on cardboard boxes. They would put the boxes over them at night in case
of rain. They wouldn't let us take our camera along so I didn't go over
there. In Buenos Aires, South America, I was talking to a young fellow.
I told him I came from Canada. He started talking to me. He said he,
know, the Americans come here and tell us how we live. I was born here
and I know how we live. I found out in Leningrad. We left (... ) in the
evening hours on the waiting ship, all first class. I was standing by
rail. There isn't much night there, mostly daylight, just as far north
as Whitehorse. An American came over and asked if we had any film in
your camera. I said sure. He said you better take it out. When you get
to Leningrad, the Russions will open it up and take
it out. Nobody opened my camera, but that's what they say down there.
They believe all that. They go with a preconceived idea all over. If
you say nothing, they hear nothing. They know everything before they
there. That's what I found out, the same in China.
Draper: China, that
would be exciting to be in China.
Nielson: I've been twice into
Draper: When did you go?
Nielson: In '77 and '78. In '77 I flew to San
Francisco, got on the Canberra. It doesn't come to Vancouver any more
because it takes two days from
San Francisco and not enough people to make it pay. From there we went
to Honolulu, Fiji Islands, and New Zealand. I went on that trip in '77.
We went into a storm the day before New Zealand,
fifty foot waves. The ship went off like this. The next wave come
right over. They had big waves. The ship was about a thousand feet
long. It is worse when it hits on the sides. That''s what it did in
'78 when we left San Francisco. I woke up at night and I had to hang
onto the bunk. It was rolling forth and back. We were in Sydney for
three days, a small island in New Guinea, Hang Kong and into China for
three days. I went in by train.
Draper: You had to go in a group then to
Nielson: Yes, that way there is nobody bothering you. You can
take pictures and everything because the guides said if we wanted
pictures, he would
stop so we could get out. When you are alone, they don't know what
you're taking. That's what makes it suspicious. I was in (...). The
when we come in had big signs that said not to take pictures. From Hong
Kong, we went to Singapore, and Sri Lanka. There we were told
not to open the windows when we stopped on the street. The natives
would jump in and take everything we had. I have pictures of that. I
so many that you can't see them all.
Draper: That's too bad. It sounds
like you have quite a collection. It's nice that you've recorded all
Nielson: On that trip l went through
the Suez Canal. I stayed on the ship as I had never been through a
canal before. We arrived in Italy. We went to Naples and by bus up to
Vesuvious volcano. The cable
wasn't running that day so I didn't get to the top. We went to Morocco,
Spain and Gibraltar. We got off in South Hampton, went by bus to
London, stayed there for three days flying back to Canada.
quite a trip.
Nielson: I flew over to Denmark after that again for a few
Draper: Did you visit your sister?
Nielson: My sister and brother. I call them every Saturday. My
telephone bill is about three hundred a
month. It's a dollar and a half a minute. The next year, that would be
my last trip, in '78, I flew to Vancouver, stayed over night, then to
Toronto. On the eastern to Fort Lauderdale, we stayed overnight in the
hotel. The next afternoon we
went by bus to Port Everglades where the ship was tied up. We got on so
I got to
see the Panama from
the other side. I have been through the Panama four times. Twice I went
to South America and twice around the world. We got to Acapulco. I
don't know if we stopped as you can't get in except the small boats.
There is nothing in Acapulco to see. I have been to other places that
is much nicer. That was on the ship around South America. It depends on
what port you can get in. There's a beautiful spot in Manzanilla but
Acapulco, I didn't care for that. There was
a small lake where they filmed the Queen of Africa.
Draper: The African
Nielson: The African Queen. He said they made that film on that
lake. We came to Los Angeles by bus. Los Angeles is a port, went by bus
to Hollywood. We saw the Universal Studio. They have a train to go on.
We were driving along coming to a small lake. When we got there, the
water parted. They had planks up on both sides. The guide said that's
where they make the picture of Moses who pulled out his stake at the
Draper: That's the Ten Commandments.
Nielson: That's where they
made the film. After we got across the water (...)
Draper: It's a good thing
they waited until you were near.
End of Tape