So here we are with Christmas past again and we are heading to the time of a New Year again. I do think it is that time of year when we all recede into our own little worlds after the holidays and reflect.
It is the time when those resolutions are made. Some are kept and some are forgotten. It is our human nature as we fall back into our old ways. It does take a concerted effort on our part to live them through. As for me I have only made a resolution a few times. If anything thois year I am trying to be more compassionate with people.
Today is a quiet day, our weather has changed and we are sitting -25 and the air is very dry and cold. Add in a few miles per hour wind and well you just want to stay home by the fire. Help yourself to something hot to drink and some baking... as always welcome to the Fireside.
Sadly I do not have a photo of Queenie so in her honour I have placed a picture of a rose soon to come into bloom. They were her favourites, I was told at one time her rose gardens gave fragrance off for an entire block in each direction.
I never did see her gardens but certainly heard about them. She was always the life of the party and the party just followed her throughout the Yukon, especially in Whitehorse.
Queenie was known for her sense of humour and way of life. Lets just say that Queenie was yet another character but at the same time could be considered a proper lady.
On the other hand she could be very to the point and one rough and tumble lady of the north. You see one drink was never enough for her. Find the bar her white Grand Torino was parked at and you would be entertained just by watching her.
She would sit at the bar and maybe buy her first drink, after that they just seemed to flow the night through. Several times I watched her as she would take but a sip and the rest she would dump into a quart sealer in her handbag. She would just laugh and say that is for tomorrowShe would just smile and say "Honey no sense letting the stuff go to waste."
I spent a fair amount of time around her as she was employed by a bookstore in the hotel I looked after. She would rarely talk seriously and would often joke around with anyone.
I did get her to open up on a few occasions about her life. As it turned out she had been a war bride, she married a man sight unseen as soon as she arrived in the north. He passed away within a year and left her with a small amount of money but a beautiful home on prime real estate. She would often joke that she could wear out any man. I once told her I was going to find her an eligible man. Her response was "Make certain he had lots of money and a very weak heart."
Her childhood had not been great, her father was a staunch Baptist Minister who held her on a firm grip. No matter what she did her father condemned her. Often she said he would take her out back and whip her with a switch she had been forced to pick herself. He would try and beat Scripture into her, it was a rough upbringing.
One memory I have of Queenie was the grace she carried herself with on the dance floor. She was a fairly heavy lady and yet when she danced it was like she was a cloud. Light footed and agile, by the end of any night in the bar this little lady could get up on stage and tap dance. She just had the rhythm as they say.
Queenie was another of the colourful 5% in many ways. I think what made her stand out was just the way she spoke. Her laughter could be heard from anywhere in the room or the bar. You walked into the bookstore and she would talk your ear off.
Once we devised a plan to spray paint dried up old raisins with gold paint. We would take a half dozen and spread them near the entrance of the hotel as the tour buses came in. Under her watchful eye we would bet who would pick one up. A small side bet was placed as people came off the bus. She would always win as her sense of people was amazing. Even though she suffered with Macular Degeneration and had glasses that resembled the bottom of a glass pop bottle she was amazing.
I would have to say that she was as much a tourist attraction as what the Yukon had to offer. If she took to someone she would entertain them for hours on end with her excitement, it would always hold them captive. Often her tales would be stretched somewhat but never the less she was entertaining.
She was a generous lady who shared her talents and gifting. One of which was her ability to bake her own sourdough bread from starter she claimed was 100 years old. I can tell you it was bread to die for. Often I would make a meal of bread only covered in butter while it was still warm.
She had asked me once if I could escort her to the annual Premiers Yukon Ball. Not particularly a beautiful lady but that night as I arrived to pick her up she became the bell of the ball. She had all the period clothes from the Gold Rush Days, some of the finest dresses and jewelry. This particular night she wore a full length evening gown, a soft bright red with white lace. Finish the attire with perfect makeup, hair, jewelry and of course a stunning hat. It was the only time that she would abstain from drinking as this was a major function and the highlight of the year.
I had a small strip mall in the hotel which housed some small commercial gift shops. Queenie's was one. It was a crazy set up with only two thermostats, a very poor installation. It would have been a major retrofit as Queenie was always cold. I would turn up the heat and someone in the other section would shut it off. As the Maintenance Engineer for the hotel I slipped into the store and mounted a new digital thermostat on the wall and gave her instructions. Little did she know that the wires led nowhere. That afternoon she was wearing a dress and a white blouse, no sweater or jacket and she was so thankful for the separate heat. I never did tell her it was a dummy.
I never did learn her real name but I found out later it was Nora May Christie (Nee Lewis). She passed away peacefully in May of 2001 at the age of 85. Something else I learned is she had a daughter I had never heard of.
The name Queenie was synonymous dating back to the Klondike Gold Rush era of the late 1800. The largest gold rush in history. The Queenie of the day ran a common body house and catered to select cliental. Queenie would often tell people she was the original. Anyone who took the time to do the math understood she was not old enough.
She did dress and carry herself on occasions such as these balls and could mingle with the finest. She was very well versed in the ways of the world yet she kept in her own small world. Years later the once elegant home she had inherited was sold and she moved into a seniors complex. It was said that wives would hang onto their men as she had a reputation of being a home wrecker but that same accusation proved to be unfounded. One could say she was an old flirt who forgot she was 60 and pretended to be 30. Yes she could flirt with the best and yet she held herself in high moral standard.
If nothing else Queenie left me with a far better personality than I once had. Thanks Queenie for all the lessons in life. If you taught me anything I would have to say it was in her words. "Just be whom God created you to be." I so valued my time with her and yes she was a true Yukon Lady with character to be never forgotten.
© Rolly A. Chabot
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