Gudrun Sparling explains why the Yukon is her place to stay
This story originally ran in the Winter 2014 (V8I4) edition of Yukon, North of Ordinary.
Name: Gudrun Ingeborg Erickson Sparling
Place of Residence: Whitehorse
Occupation: Retired hotel owner
How long have you lived in the Yukon? I was born in Whitehorse, in 1926, and finished school here. For 30 years I was back and forth to Edmonton and Vancouver for college, marriage, and raising a family. I returned permanently, in 1978, to manage the Regina Hotel, which my brother and I owned.
"IT'S MY HOME, AND I INTEND TO STAY FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE."
What brought you here? My father sailed from Sweden to Seattle in the late 1800s and came to the Yukon for the gold rush. He mined in Kluane and worked the mail run by horses from Dawson City to Whitehorse. He bought the Regina Hotel in 1925, and I was born the next year.
What keeps you here? It's my home, and I intend to stay for the rest of my life.
Settle the debate for us: What makes someone a “real” Yukoner? They always used to say that you had to see the river freeze over and stay until breakup in the spring.
What’s the biggest tall tale you’ve told friends or family in the South about life in the North? It's so cold in winter that
your eyelashes will fall off! But it's true—if you rub them when they are frozen, they will break off. Don't cry outside at minus 40!
How do you get your friends or family in the South to come visit? It helps to have Air North.
Who is your favourite Yukon character of all time? Wigwam Harry was a character that frequented the Regina Hotel in the old days. He would sometimes chase us.
I wouldn’t change ____ for all the gold in the Klondike. My pioneer days.
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had in the territory? My mother’s Swedish pancakes and waffles were fantastic.
What’s one thing about the Yukon that more of us should take advantage of? There are many cultural events and local
activities that people could volunteer their time for. Community is important, and we should help others.
What’s your favourite piece of little known Yukon trivia? In 1943, heavyweight boxer Joe Louis and boxing official Ruby Goldstein stayed at the Regina Hotel.
What do you wish more Canadians knew about life here? Winter is not as bad as it sounds. Yukoners participate in many
outdoor activities. Rendezvous is a popular event. Skiing has always been an activity here. Whitehorse now has world-class cross-country-ski trails, as well as Mt. Sima for alpine skiing and snowboarding.
Where is your favourite place in the territory? Whitehorse.
What’s the best up-close-and-personal encounter you’ve had with the local wildlife? A bear came in our yard while my brother was playing many years ago.
You’re on the phone to a friend from the Outside. No one from the government is listening. Do you say “Yukon” or “The Yukon”? The Yukon.
When the cold and dark gets to you, where do you go to recharge? Vancouver or Edmonton, but in the old days it was difficult to leave so we would have potluck dinners and dances.
Dog mushing or snowmobiling? Dog mushing. I intend to take a ride at Muktuk Adventures soon.
How cold is too cold? Minus 60.
What author, musician, band, or artist from the territory do you think should be more famous? Hank Karr.
You’ve just won a huge jackpot at Diamond Tooth Gerties Casino, and you have 24 hours to spend it in the Yukon. Where are you headed? Murdoch’s [in Whitehorse] because I love jewelry. I would also look for a new pink outfit.
Finally, what does “The Spell of the Yukon” mean to you personally? The midnight sun; the northern lights; beautiful sunsets; and friendly, smiling people who take the time to talk. Y