ExploreNorth, your resource center for exploring the circumpolar North

Return to the Home Page The ExploreNorth Blog Arctic & Northern Books About ExploreNorth Contact ExploreNorth

Search ExploreNorth

The Two Decker - a Yukon outhouse tale

a poem by Cam Smith, 1943

The "Commercial Hotel" was built in the days of the Klondike Gold Rush at Whitehorse, Yukon Terr. The hotel burned down and this two-story outhouse was the only part saved from the fire. Being in litigation, it could not be dismantled or moved for a number of years, therefore, proved to be a very conspicious object in this little northern town.

The 2-story outhouse at the Commercial Hotel in Whitehorse, Yukon

No doubt many Whitehorse people
Read that book by old Chick Sales;
The one he called The Specialist
And filled with humorous tales.

Where he glorified the outhouse
Till it became a work at art;
Then sold more'n a million copies.
I'll say that guy was smart.

But here is one he overlooked
And that was right at our door:
It's that great big high two decker
Down past the N. C. Store.

Built in the days of the gala rush
And considered something swell;
It really was an asset
To a pioneer hotel.

The hotel was ravished by fire;
The whole thing burned to the ground,
But left this two story privy
In the limelight safe and sound.

It stood there like a monument;
Of course, was noticed by all,
Because it was unusual
To see one so nice and tall.

The upper part had been to serve
The guests of the said hotel;
They used the one on the ground floor
For the bar and public as well.

The tourists thought it a dandy;
Took pictures from every side;
One even asked how long it had been
Since the place was occupied.

He said, "It's the one and only;
There couldn't be any more;
I've traveled this whole world over
And have never seen one before."

"Was it a real success?" he asked,
"Or was there trouble within?
Was the public really careful?
Was the upper one lined with tin?"

He claimed he was a specialist,
And the only fault he found
Was the upward draft to the top one;
It was so far from the grounad.

I could see he knew his business
For it's just the way it did.
The wind would blow the paper back
Before you could shut the lid.

In the early days most things were high;
Two-bits was the smallest change;
Two-bits for a roll of paper;
It did seem all out of range.

So they subscribed for the Herald,
And after the paper was read
They'd cut it up in handy squares
Which hung on a nail instead.

They did not use the funny part;
I'll tell you the reason why;
The colored ink would rub right off
Just as though it wasn't dry.

One poor girl said she was tattooed
And claimed the ink was to blame;
She would not tell just where it was
But vowed it was there just the same.

She really seemed like a nice girl;
Sort of patriotic too.
But she would not show her colors
Whatever you'd say or do.

In each door they cut a diamond
Just to make the thing complete;
The moonlight shining through this hole
Cast a square upon the seat.

A drunk used this spot for paper,
And then he let out a roar;
Said he'd wiped on most everything
But never a moonbeam before.

This guy was sort of comical
And took it all as a joke:
He did not get the least bit sore;
I knew from the way he spoke.

He rushed right into the bar room:
"I'm buying the drinks," said he,
"But none of you can drink a drop
Till you've heard this toast, from me.

"Here's to a man on his way outside,
Who should have gone south before,
'Cause he can't even tell paper
From a moonbeam on the floor."

I've wiped on stage brush in Texas,
A duckling on Grandad's farm,
And I've used the old rough corncob
Without doing bodily harm.

On ships I've used a piece of rope,
In the trench a buddies sock,
In the shipyard we all used oakum,
On the beach a nice smooth rock.

Up north we used the Caribou moss,
One time a malamute's tail,
Even tore off my parka skirt
When caught out on the trail.

And how well do I remember
How cold it was one fall,
Just pulled up my old suspenders
And didn't use nothing at all.

In Oregon, tried a pine cone
That felt like a crosscut saw;
In fact, used every thing I should
Except my Mother-in-law.

Now boys will you up with your glasses
And drink to my health once more,
To that guy that can't tell paper
From a moonbeam on the floor."

Diamond Tooth Lil was here one spring,
A very charming young dame,
Her teeth were studded with diamonds,
That's how she got her name.

She was heading north to Dawson
To work in the dance halls there,
Dolled up like a million dollars
And plenty of "IT" to spare.

But she had to make a visit
To this mansion of grunt and groans,
When Johnnie peeked through a knot hole
To find the source of the tones.

He was glued right to that knot hole
Just as a copper passed by;
Said the cop, "Now Johnnie you're peekin',
Getting an eyefull on the sly."

"I'm tellln' you this ain't peekin'!'
John yelled in a frightened scream,
"If you don't believe me, just look yourself,
You can't see nothin' for steam!"

They also had a patent seat
On a weight that raised it high,
Which helped to keep it nice and clean,
At the same time kept it dry.

Now this seat was sure a dandy,
And the hole was cut so neat
You could tell it was to sit on
And not intended for feet.

But one time poor old Bucksaw Jim
Had to answer nature's call;
He rushed out to this work of art
And he had no time to stall.

'Twas on a real cold winter night
And so dark one could not see;
Now Jim forgot the seat was up
And sat where the seat should be.

Now Jim, he really took a fall,
But said it could have been worse,
'Cause had it been anyone else
They'd hauled him off in a hearse.

He did not blame another soul
For all that mess on his clothes;
He said it surely must be his
'Cause all the rest was froze.

But here's the thing that puzzles me
And I don't know what's to blame;
It took place twenty years ago
But poor Jim still smells the same.

It has been a grand old building,
Relieved munch suffering and pain,
Caught things before they made a mess,
done it time and time again.

Now it's outlived its usefulness;
Last week they hauled it alway.
You'd have thought it was a funeral;
No one had much to say.

It has really been a landmark,
That's a thing we can't deny;
Being right there on our front street
Where each one passes by.

Should old Chick ever hear of this,
He would surely rant and rave.
To think he'd missed this work of art
He would turn right in his grave.

A Guide to Whitehorse, Yukon

"The Specialist" by Charles "Chic" Sale