After reading last week’s YK Mythbusters about the Gold Range and its possible per capita beer sales record, reader and ex-Yellowknifer Dorothy Mellor wrote us a fascinating follow-up:
“The nickname ‘Strange Range’ was originally given to the Gold Range bar which existed before the one that is there now. By way of background, my sister Eileen and I drove up to Yellowknife from Toronto in 1971. Eileen worked for Ernst & Ernst, Chartered Accountants, and I worked for Orval J.T. Troy (a Crown Attorney, also known as the “Tiger of the Tundra”). Orval was and is one of the North’s legends… another story.
“We both worked part-time at the old bar for Harry Pysmenny, who, along with three silent partners, owned the bar. It was a hole-in-the-wall, somewhat scruffy but very busy bar. The new Gold Range was built in 1972 and the first draft beer was introduced into the Territories.
“Eileen and I worked at the opening, and for quite some time after that. Harry’s philosophy was for women to run the bar, including keeping the peace and breaking up fights etc. His bar manager, Milly, was a 5-foot ball of energy who kept everyone under control. One of the bartenders, Maureen Hall, known as Squeak, became one of the North’s characters. (Sadly, she passed away earlier this year.) We all became very adept at intervening in fights, with the confidence of knowing that every man in the place had our backs.
“The beer was only sold in glasses. Jugs were not introduced until much later. In addition, the liquor legislation required that shot-glasses of liquor had to be poured into the mix at the table. Waitressing in those days required a lot of skill and a very strong arm!
“It was definitely the place to be in those days, and one of my memories is chatting to Adrienne Clarkson while serving her. I think she worked for the CBC in those days, long before she became Governor General. Duncan Pryde was a frequent customer who regularly had to to be put in his place!
“Your contact Harvey worked for Sam Yurkiw, who succeeded Harry. Harry lives in Edmonton with his wife Marg, and Eileen and I visited them about 3 years ago. The references to the most beer served in Canada per capita were likely true for the early ’70s after the introduction of draft beer. “We were paid $1.50 an hour to work in the bar and made the most incredible tips.
“We now live in England but lived in Yellowknife for 27 years. We also worked for Sam at the Gallery and finally moved to the Elks Club before giving up bar work for good.
“The last days of the old Strange Range and the early years of the new Gold Range were extremely interesting and great places to work. Eileen and I were in our middle/late 20s when we worked in these bars. Fascinating times in Yellowknife.”
Thanks for the memories, Dorothy!
Yellowknife historian Ryan Silke contacted us regarding the Range’s thirsty ways, as well: “I also don’t know where the reference to highest beer sales in 1988 comes from, but I do have reference to the Gold Range having the third highest beer sales per capita in 1989, and second highest in 1991. The legend may have started from these reports, and increased over time.”