The Dark Side of the Alcan Highway…

Mother Goose continues her research about life in 1942, working on the Alcan Highway up there in the Yukon territories, ya know. If you have been following along these past few days, then you too have learned more than you ever thought possible about the road crews, the soldiers, the adventurous women and the somewhat uncomfortable if not downright dangerous living and working conditions these brave folks faced daily. We talked a little bit yesterday about the social side of this hard life — we began a discussion of “fun and games”. Well, dear and gentle reader, Mother Goose is warning you right here and now that this report will be taking a good hard look at some unpleasant situations up there in the Yukon.

First of all, these men and women had to contend with some monster mosquitoes as they worked day and night to build the great Alaska highway. Obviously, these men had forgotten to pack their can of OFF!

Holy Mackerel, look at that mosquito...

And by the looks of these next two pictures, I’d say the guys were doing a lot more fishin’ than bulldozin’ and road buildin’. I might even suggest that they had caught more than their legal limit of those walleyes.

But what is most shocking of all to Mother Goose is this: the women who came to the Yukon to work legitimate jobs on real projects were expected to “entertain” the troops and the civilian workers. Let’s just let that sink in for a minute….

Gettin' all spiffed up for his hot date.

We are not talking about the USO shows with Bob Hope and friends. The guys invited the girls to dances and movies, to skating and tobogganing parties, to picnics and country get-togethers expecting “entertainment”. I’m sure they were not looking for a song and dance and some light comedy. Not expecting juggling or magic acts either…

Here’s what I’ve learned from the Alaska Highway archives website: “Military authorities tried to control moral and social behaviour, but it was almost impossible to police soldiers on leave and civilian workers. Sexual activity was not openly condoned, but WOMEN WERE EXPECTED TO “ENTERTAIN” THE MEN as evidenced by these organized social activities.” There it is in black and white, my friends.

And what was the result of this entertainment? The birthrate in the Yukon Territories jumped sharply during the road construction years, especially amongst the First Nation’s population. Everybody loves babies… And not only that, but “VENEREAL DISEASES REACHED EPIDEMIC PROPORTIONS causing the Yukon Government to introduce “The Venereal Diseases Protection Ordinance” which allowed WOMEN WITH VENEREAL DISEASES TO BE JAILED until they were cured. However, MEN WERE NOT CHARGED under this law and it had little effect on controlling the problem.”

The dark side of the Alcan Highway. The women who were diagnosed with VD had to go to jail until they were cured? What? And the men were not charged with any crimes? What? Hence the Venereal Disease Protection Ordinance had little effect on controlling the epidemic… Hello? Anybody home? I’m sorry but even Mother Goose in all of her glorious silliness is seeing the injustice and the inhumanity of this situation.

Good thing we all live in modern and enlightened times now where women are no longer publicly shamed for illicit goings on behind the bulldozers and in the lean-to’s of road construction workers and lonely soldiers…

Anyway, Mother Goose is just learning so much about the life and times of Grampa Lawrence — NOT that he ever got involved in this whole entertainment business. After all, he had a pretty wife and four children waiting for him back in Nimrod, Minnesota.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Bunn
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 15:43:33

    The dark side that’s just crazy! Jailing the women until they were cured?? Hopefully after they were cured they could stop entertaining these men! Too strange!
    Thanks again for the history lesson!

    Reply

  2. Natalie
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 16:33:50

    I had an after thought… do you suppose that alcohol consumption played any part in these dark situations?

    Reply

  3. Mark Cramer
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 16:50:09

    All i know is that it takes two to tango.

    Reply

  4. Dianna
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 23:17:10

    Hmmmm. V-e-r-y interesting….

    Reply

  5. Three Well Beings
    Nov 17, 2011 @ 01:42:32

    This is really fascinating! You have certainly done your research. Your comments about the entertainment business, ahem!, are really right on! It does amaze me to think about how it was more important to punish and shame then it was to solve the problem in the first place. It’s good to have the backstory, and it’s wonderful for a family to have a Grandpa that bucked the tide. This is a very delightful series! Debra

    Reply

  6. eof737
    Nov 21, 2011 @ 06:54:41

    Those photos are terrific… Sadly, what you shared wasn’t so uncommon. Great stories from the past. 🙂

    Reply

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