In 1974 we abandoned Calgary for a new life in Whitehorse with Henry the ’51 Ford pickem-up, a homemade camper, a crap no-name trailer, a 70 Dodge Dart named The Prairie Chicken, and a 4 month old baby boy named Kiyoshi.
Oh yeah. And no jobs.
We did have enough savings to survive for two months and my mum loaned us enough for one more.
This was no idyllic sightseeing trip. The first issue was an engine mount that came loose. We wondered what the saw-like noise was on left hand curves. Apparently the engine was moving just enough for the fan to start chewing the radiator hose. No leaks, but what to do about the motor mount? Memory is a little vague on this point. After all it was almost 50 years ago. I think I must have scared up a shim or two.
A few miles short of Prophet River the trailer axle broke. Just broke in the middle. Rust. Painted- over rust.
I jacked the trailer up onto some firewood stumps and dropped the axle. A good samaritan from Washington came by with a pickup and hauled the axle to Fort Nelson for us. We followed in our vehicles and over nighted in a motel. I got the axle welded up and headed back for the rest of my trailer.
It was GONE! The trailer with all our worldly goods!
I finally found it at the Prophet River 66 station with the fenders knocked off. “Oh we were doing you a favour getting it of the highway.” was the line.
I did not thank the bastards. I put it all back together with help neither offered or solicited.
I will always wonder what the RCMP said to them, if they said anything. And yes, I did report it.
Anyway, on to the next crisis: one of the spring hangers pulled out of the rust-rotten frame on that goddamn trailer. As I recall this was on the downhill side of Steamboat. I found my solution in the ditch. It was a foot long stub of a road sign post. The kind that has holes every two inches.
One of the things I had in my toolbox (boy is that gilding the lily! More like a junk box.) was a hacksaw. I was able to cut the stub in half and sandwich the spring hanger to the frame with a couple of bolts and reamed out holes in the frame.
I’m still in awe of the fact that it held all the rest of the way to Whitehorse.
Henry lasted several more years. Later that winter of ’74-’75, he dragged a ’67 International 4×4 whose differentials were frozen, its tires dragging, until everything let loose and it finally started. All thanks to a Chevy 283, a truck four-speed and tire chains. BTW, in the summers Henry could also blow your doors off on the Two Mile Hill. Sold him twice and only bought him back once.
I miss him.
But this isn’t all about a truck in spite of the fact that he taught me a lot about mechanics
Eventually we arrived in Whitehorse and stayed with a couple of friends, one of whom worked for CP Air. Through him we found a rental house owned by another CP Air guy and within a month I hired on as a ramp monkey with CP Air.
Also within a month, Lillian got a job with the Whitehorse YWCA and worked for a woman who became a life-long friend.
Oh oh! Daycare. Hard to find in those days and all but impossible to find for an infant.
New neighbours to the rescue! A woman in the next block took care of Kiyoshi. Her three young daughters doted on him. I think they saw him as a live doll. Or perhaps their own baby boy. Or maybe their baby brother. In any case he was given such good care and attention that I’m surprised they let us bring him home at the end of the day.
A year later we got a pass on CP Air and took the family to Japan for 20 bucks!
A new life in Whitehorse. No kidding!