Bob Cameron calls it a “treasure trove” of Yukon aviation history.
The small, unassuming building in Carcross was once the head office of Northern Airways, a pioneering Yukon company that operated in the 1930s and ’40s.
Cameron — a pilot and history buff — recently cracked open the vault to begin sorting through what’s there. It’s a lot, and Cameron is now hoping to turn the disused office into a small museum.
“I can tell you that I now know that [Northern Airways owner] George Simmons did not throw away a single scrap of paper. Believe me, everything he scribbled a note on — everything — was kept,” Cameron said.
Cameron has already found some interesting stuff, including piles of old telegrams. He’s even found one from Hollywood star Lana Turner, hoping to book a flight from Carcross to Dawson City.
“I think it was 1947. I have not found anything else to indicate whether the flight took place or not, but that caught my eye,” he said.
The office is like a time capsule.
Cameron said it’s mostly been left alone over the decades since Northern Airways folded. Occasionally, over the years, someone would stash some more boxes inside but it appears little was ever removed — including the racy 1950s pin-ups that decorate what was Simmons’s office.
“You can see he had some unique decor on the walls, which so far we’ve not disturbed at all,” Cameron said.
“I’m sure there’s a lot of interesting items in the drawers of that desk. Certainly all the, you know, Northern Airways stamps, the rubber stamps for stamping documents, are all laying there. It’s just as if [Simmons] got up and walked away from the desk.”
‘Yukon’s first reliable air service’
In its heyday, Northern Airways was the only airline operating in Yukon, and offering regular passenger and freight service between Carcross and Atlin, B.C.
Eventually, Simmons had some competition, and a road was also built to Atlin so there was less demand for air service to the community. Simmons sold all his airplanes by 1950, but stayed in business for years as a trucking company.
A few years ago, Cameron and some other aviation enthusiasts formed the Carcross Aerodrome Society to advocate for preserving the air strip in that community. Now the group is keen to turn the Northern Airways office into a museum.
Along with the contents of the Carcross office, the group has piles of old photographs and other artifacts from the airline’s heyday.
But there’s still something missing.
“Right now, the only thing we need is money,” Cameron said.
“We’ve got, you know, a lot of enthusiastic support but we don’t have any money.”
With files from Dave White
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: History in the North: Selected reports, Eye on the Arctic
Norway: Walt Disney Animation Studios to release Saami-language version of “Frozen 2”, Eye on the Arctic
Sweden: Can cross-border cooperation decolonize Sami language education?, Eye on the Arctic
United States: American cartoonist says his new book on Canadian Indigenous history helped decolonize part of himself, CBC North