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 name please?

Nielson: That's my full name, I only have two, Holger Nielson.

Draper: Where were you born?

Nielson: Copenhagen, Denmark, 1902

Draper: 1902, that's awhile ago. Can you tell me a little bit about your family?

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 in the party. Here you elect somebody who knows nothing because you vote for a man.

Draper: So that system worked a little bit better there.

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 funny today.

Draper: That's right , but then that was many years ago.

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 religious.

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 north country. That's what got me interested, that's why I come over.

Draper: I see, so you picked Canada because it was a north country.

Nielson: We 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. We 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 (....) 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 there was anything (....) by hand and by blasting  to see what there was.

Draper: How long did you stay there?

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 new 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 mule teams?

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 again?

Nielson: No, they changed that. What they (...) we had in the bush, a campfire, made 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 were 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 city. I 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 bank in 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 I heard about placer mining  in British Columbia. Two other guys and I went 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. He 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, that was the First World War, this was in 33.  He gave us an introduction so that's how I got to Prince George. We came in a snowstorm on the 10th June. We were in the sand house. At that time they had steam engines. They had a box in front of the wheels where sand was running down on the rails so the wheels wouldn't skid. 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 to 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 the Government Building where Kresges is now, that was a big building. The policeman 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 "Pussyfoot Smith". I got to know him later. He asked if the bulls (railroad police) see you get off the train and I 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 judge 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 out of here. That was on a Saturday afternoon. We thought we were going to stay 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 signatures from businesses in town to put us on relief steady because they got the money and there was no 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 understand 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 two 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 Fraser.

Draper: Were you washing gold right in this area or down ...?

Nielson: Yes, right from South Fort George down to the Canyon, the Fort George Canyon.

Draper: Were there a lot of prospectors doing that at that time?

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.

Draper: There 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 lines, 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 way to Vanderhoof. I went into Fort St. James and got up (?) creek but I didn't find 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 pump so 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 to the water (... )

Draper: How long were you involved in the gold panning?

 Nielson : '41 was the last year. In the spring I bought three dogs and 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 there.

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 interesting people in Prince George around that time? Do you remember'?

Nielson: There was much more fun in those days. Nobody had anything. George (...) had the 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 asked 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 would 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 down south. He had no money. The shoemaker called out, "Come in and see what this 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 a dime, go into the beer parlor and get a glass of beer." He went in and pretended he wanted to see the nugget again. Someone sitting at the next table said 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 South 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 outside. It 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. His dad had 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 came over nights and had some beans in dented cans and gave it to me. He did that to other guys who didn't have much. There was two boys, Chase and Chuck. Chuck, I haven't seen for a long time. I saw Chase on TV the other night.

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?

Nielson: No, I haven't got that map. I had the map before. The streets in what we call 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 was a dentist too. He was really good. He used to pull in the tongue like this 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. He 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.

Draper: Seventeenth Avenue.

Nielson: Yes, then they extended it later on to Twentieth Avenue. That was Edison Street.

Draper: The same Edison who did the

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 city 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 summer time, 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 stamps too. I should have kept some of those envelopes. South Fort George had a stamp and 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 me 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. We stopped 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 built 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 City. I flew in and the next day I left on the sternwheeler for Dawson City. That 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.

Nielson: It took four days coming back up. The next year I went to Vancouver on the old 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.

Draper: There's Stanley Park

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 up like 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 gardens. As 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 George?

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 burned 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 you could 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 put up a new one, fire proof. There's Robert Service's cabin in Dawson City. The 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 on the 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 the Indians. They went down to the Yukon to the Klondike, where the Klondike comes into the Yukon. Him and his mother 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 found 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 steam. They 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. You can look down and see the Skagway and the salt water down there. That's nine miles down but the railroad goes around nineteen miles. This is up three thousand feet. You can see on this side trail of 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?

Nielson: Yes

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 is now.

Draper: It collapsed.

Nielson: Yes, the roof just came down like this. I have pictures later on of it.

Draper: Was anybody hurt?

Nielson: 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 was green.

Draper: This must be Prince George here.

Nielson: Yes, that was in the winter time. Some more from Prince George. The cutbanks are still there.

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 Hall.

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.

Draper: How 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 around?

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 boat.

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?

Nielson: Yes, 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 the 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 anything.

Draper: You could pole your way right across the riverthen? It isn't very deep?

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 used it one trip. They only draw three three feet of water because its that shallow.

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 in 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 boxes 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. Then there 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 a thousand dollars or more on a hole like that at that time. It was just yellow with gold on the bottom.

Draper: It would be well worth your time.

Nielson: You 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 regular 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. The 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 have 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 back. We 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 any more because they don't want any more boats. They had a big boiler affair, and 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 back, 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 the 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?

Nielson: 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 tent.

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?

Nielson: No, 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 that 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.

Nielson: 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 upstream.

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 in 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?

Nielson: 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 so long.

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 on.

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.

Draper: Did 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 here.

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 steam here?

Nielson: I don't know what year it was. Those were taken in '56.

Draper: It would have been shortly after that. Has the area down around George Street changed very much. I recognize the hotel there.

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 maybe.

Nielson: That's the wife there.

Draper: Did she go traveling with you?

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 take 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 buildings now.

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 something.

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. They are just like boxes even Peru. There's a big square there full of boxes. I asked the taxi driver to slow down but he didn't slow down. I wanted to take pictures of it.

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, you 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 the 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 get 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 China.

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 get in.

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 beach 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 have 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 these things.

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 car 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.

Draper: That's quite a trip.

Nielson: I flew over to Denmark after that again for a few weeks.

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 Queen.

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 Red Sea.

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