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Impacts on Whitehorse

Impacts on Whitehorse

Whitehorse Airport, 1943 No community was transformed more rapidly than Whitehorse. With a population of a few hundred in 1941, the town was ill-prepared for the events of the spring of 1942. Over 6,000 troops were in Whitehorse by the fall of 1942, with thousands of construction workers and military personnel passing through the community each week. A year after the first American troops arrived, Whitehorse had a population of over 10,000, more than 85% of them Americans. Restaurants struggled to keep up with demand; long line-ups greeted patrons of the local liquor store and almost every eating, drinking and recreational establishment in town. Hotel beds were so hard to come by that men often rented them for eight hour shifts. The Army and the Public Roads Administration built new facilities - baseball fields, water and sewage system, a larger hospital, and dozens of office buildings and warehouses - adding significantly to the quality of life in the community. As with most boom towns, there was little long-range planning. The U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Pierrepont Moffat, visited in 1942, and observed:

Main Street, 1942
After lying dormant, a ghost town, for nearly forty years, it is again enjoying a boom. Prices are fantastic. Accommodation is pitifully inadequate. There are twenty males to each female and beards are coming back in fashion. All night long the airplanes drone overhead, and when in the morning you go out to breakfast - the dining room is in a separate shack - you pass a row of men sleeping in the "parlor." These are the unfortunates who arrived too late to be assigned a bed. The whole development of the town is "frontier." 1

First Truck, 1942 After the war, Whitehorse never lost the advantage created by this construction activity, even when the oil refinery constructed as part of the CANOL project was dismantled and removed from the Yukon (it was rebuilt at Leduc, Alberta and became an important part of that area's oil boom). The town replaced Dawson City as the business centre of the territory and, in 1953, became the capital of the Yukon

1 Coates and Morrison,The Alaska Highway in World War II, p183

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