Yellowknife 1980’s

Moving to Yellowknife was hard for W. because suddenly going to work meant riding in an elevator to the eighth floor of the city’s one and only high rise and sitting in a cubicle at a desk all day.  Definitely an outdoor-type person’s conception of hell.  It was a long and hard transition for him.  I suppose the kids and I didn’t make it any easier for him by being practically jubilant about everything. 

The house was great.  Nice open concept living/dining/kitchen area, three bedrooms and full bath;  then down four steps to the back door, half bath, laundry room and rec room with patio doors that opened onto the fenced back yard.  We had a crawl space, and no basement.  We had grass.   About a block and a half behind us was a Catholic school, which the kids could have walked to, but they had it in their heads that they’d be riding on a bus, so we chose a school down town.  It turned out to be an awesome choice. Great teachers, nice modern school.  They made a lot a friends.   My first job in the city was at YK Drug Mart, 5 days a week, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.  It’s the only job I’ve ever worked at where you were there 9 hours and got paid for 7.  Our boss gave us two half hour coffee breaks and an hour lunch which all of us would have gladly given up to go home earlier.  It made the evenings with my kids rather short but it did foster a whole lot of organizational skills on my part and a lot of independence on theirs.  And I must admit I was ecstatically happy to be back working, out of the house, making my own money, and talking to adults.  I don’t know how stay at home moms do it.  The pay was the pits of course, with no increase for taking on more responsibilities.  And cleaning and stocking shelves and running a cash register can become mind numbing.  I wasn’t really sorry to leave.

Meanwhile, W. went crazy getting the kids into extracuricular activities.  That first year D. was in brownies, gymnastics and jazz dance.  K. was in beavers, judo and hockey.  Absolutely crazy trying to co-ordinate getting both of them to everything – plus I decided to try yoga,  and W. took up trap shooting.  And then we put both kids into swimming.  Eventually we were all burned out and had to make more sane choices, and slow down so we could actually have the energy to enjoy whatever we were doing.

Speaking of sanity, I think what saved W.’s was his RCMP friends.  We did have some of the best friends we ever had while we lived in Yellowknife.  We had a big party at our house one weekend, with the guests being predominantly off duty police officers.  They do love to party we’ve found.  Maybe because they have to be so sensible and sober at their jobs that’s why they go so completely the other direction when they get an opportunity.  D. told her little friends across the street that there was a party at our house, and her friends’ dad said jokingly that if it got too noisy he’d call the police.  She told him he might as well call our house because they’d all be there.  It’s quite a strange sight to see grown men chugging a drink, then falling to the floor onto their backs and waving their arms and legs in the air.  They called this the initiation into the ‘dead bug club’.  They all found it hysterically funny.  Canada’s finest. 

I think I had worked at the drug store less than a year when I got a chance to work for Outcrop, a small publishing company that had just started putting out “Up Here” magazine.   The circulation department (whose name was Barb – hahaha) (it was a small operation) hired me to help process subscriptions.  In hindsight, I think that might very well have been the best place I ever worked.  I think it was much like what I imagine working at a newspaper would be like – we had advertisers, and writers and photographers and typesetters.  We had deadlines.   We had little exhausted celebrations when the copies were hot off the press.  I did some proof reading, but never got into the writing aspect of things – I did accounts receivable and the billing for advertisements, some reception, helped with accounts payable.  Wherever I was needed.  It was never boring.  There was a lot of staff turnover, but that’s to be expected in such a transient community.  So we met a lot of people.  There were some very talented people who left because they couldn’t adjust to life in the north.  At one point they downsized and let about half of the staff go – that was a gloomy day.  The rest of us were too stunned to grumble for fear of being booted out the door too.  We just worked harder. 

This picture is on the back cover of the last issue of “Business North”, a magazine we published for a year that didn’t go over very well, so it was discontinued and more effort put into “Up Here” instead.  What a fiasco, getting everyone into a t-shirt, all in one place at one time, and posing for this silly picture.  I’m front row on the left, beside the two women who were responsible for it all.  A frozen moment in time – the next day any number of these people could have been gone and replaced.  The magazine is still in publication, although I think it’s been taken over by I have no idea who.  I don’t subscribe to it anymore.

It’s nice to see it’s still around.  Even if the people who created it originally are no longer involved.  I got an absolutely glowing letter of recommendation from them when I left – I think I may still have a copy of it somewhere.  I really had no idea they liked me that much.  Either that or it was complete B.S.  I prefer to believe the former.  They did seem truly sorry to see me go. 

Our transfer to Yellowknife was a stepping stone to finally heading back south.  I’m really glad our kids had this transition experience to get them used to urban life – going directly to Edmonton from a small northern community would have been a huge culture shock for them.  I think we all had our fill of moving around all over the place.  Time to put down some roots somewhere.  When the opportunity came, we took it and moved here.  It’s been almost 20 years, so I guess we like it here.  Or we’re stuck in a huge rut – one or the other.  Alberta is definitely where our kids call home, and no doubt where our grandchildren will grow up.  We keep saying we’re going back to Ontario, but neither of us seem to be in any hurry.