Tapping our favourite sourdoughs for their take on the territory. The territory's pre-eminent businessperson, Rolf Hougen, shares thoughts on his home.
This story originally ran in the Summer 2014 (V8I2) edition of Yukon, North of Ordinary.
Name: Rolf Hougen
Place of Residence: Whitehorse
Occupation: Retired businessperson; founder of the Hougen Group of Companies.
How long have you lived in the Yukon? Seventy years—since 1944.
"... THE FACTS ABOUT THE MAGIC AND THE MYSTERY--THAT IS THE YUKON."
What brought you here? My parents. My father was a sailor who sailed around the world powered only by wind, but in 1906 he came to the Yukon. He spent three years in Dawson City, about five in Alaska, and then returned to Norway. He met and married my mother, immigrated to Canada, and always dreamed of returning to the Yukon. He did so in 1944.
What keeps you here? Originally it was business interests, but now it is also for family. I have six married children and 18 grandchildren. They are all settled in Whitehorse, but many are off to university currently. My wife, Marg, and I will never leave.
Settle the debate for us: What makes someone a “real” Yukoner? Someone who loves the Yukon and becomes involved, whether in the arts, sports, or contributing to making the Yukon a better place to live.
What’s the biggest tall tale you’ve told friends or family in the South about life in the North? No need to tell tall tales. Give them the facts about the magic and the mystery—that is the Yukon.
How do you get your friends or family in the South to come visit? Have you ever noticed that when Southerners are invited to the Yukon for a conference they come? Call and they will come!
Who is your favourite Yukon character of all time? How do you define character? I’ll give it a try. Wigwam Harry was frequently hired to dig septic-tank holes. He was fast and strong, and when an owner reneged on paying him the full amount he went back to the house that night and filled the hole in. And of course, there’s Buzzsaw Jimmy, but that’s a whole other story.
I wouldn’t change ____ for all the gold in the Klondike. Anything.
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had in the territory? Chris and Liz Van Oeveren ran a steakhouse called 202, located at 2nd Ave. and Steele St. in Whitehorse, in the 1950s. Outstanding steaks, memorable atmosphere,great service,and the hosts were exceptional.
What’s one thing about the Yukon that more of us should take advantage of?
Visit Dawson City and learn about the exciting gold-rush history. And if you’d asked for more than one thing, I’d say visit all the Yukon communities and drive the Dempster Highway.
What’s your favourite piece of little-known Yukon trivia? When the Canadian Army and Air Force took over from the American military following the building of the Alaska Highway, there were numerous black-tie events throughout the year. They were great for the community, and many of our citizens who live in Whitehorse today became Yukoners as a result of serving in the military in Whitehorse. I met my wife Margaret at the Queen’s Coronation Ball.
What do you wish more Canadians knew about life here? Some years ago a councillor in the territory suggested we erect a gate at the border to prevent too many people from coming to the Yukon. Y