“I’ve had a lot of frostbite and killed a lot of mosquitoes, but I wouldn’t trade one second of it for what we enjoyed when we lived here.”
A couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary took a trip back to Yellowknife this past week, to visit the place where they first met.
Martin and Lorraine Doyle met in Yellowknife 52 years ago while Lorraine was working with the correctional institute and Martin was working for Northwest Territorial aviation.
Martin remembers Lorraine that night, at the Yellowknife Inn bar, quite clearly.
“She had on this kind of a green sweater with green pearl-drop earrings and, I got to tell you, her smile and her laughter got my attention immediately,” Martin told Cabin Radio. “She’s got a very vibrant laugh and a great smile.”
Martin came up to Yellowknife in 1967, eventually moving with Lorraine to Norman Wells and then Inuvik.
“I love the North,” he said. “These were the best years of our lives.”
Lorraine ended up in the Northwest Territories after following her dad’s suggestion to apply for a job at the territorial government, just as Yellowknife was being named the territory’s administrative capital.
In a few weeks, she was on a plane flying into town.
“It was just an incredible experience,” she recalls.
Eventually, the Doyles moved south to Edmonton, Kaministiquia, and Calgary, where they have been living for the past 30 years.
‘Totally different here’
Martin said one of the big differences he sees in Yellowknife is its progress.
“This city! I mean, when we lived here, there were only 2,000 people and I remember when they put the first set of red lights in here. Everybody felt we were being invaded,” he said from his campsite at Fred Henne Territorial Park.
“Now, we come up and we’re just stunned with the growth and the quality of the city.
“It’s the care that’s being given to the city – and the way it’s being built, I think, is commendable for the organizers and the residents here.”
The things Lorraine liked the most about Yellowknife were the sense of community and the local sports teams.
“What I loved is the baseball in the summer and the curling in the winter,” she recalled. “It was just so much fun. I’ve played ball down south, but it was a totally different feeling up here, like more community.”
Through the ice
Martin told the story of the time a Bristol Freighter broke through the ice at Snowdrift – now Łutselkʼe – leading to a salvage operation.
“We salvaged everything we could and took it over to Snowdrift, there was still enough ice on the lake,” said Martin.
Fred Henne – the namesake of the campsite hosting their anniversary celebration – came to the rescue with a barge to load all the supplies they salvaged from the lake.
“We discovered that we had to keep two pumps running all the time because the barge had so many leaks in it, it was threatening to sink,” Martin recalled.
Before the crews started loading the barge, they dug into the home-cooked meal Fred Henne brought with him.
“Fred had the good foresight … to bring enough food for all of us, because we had been going for quite a while,” said Martin. “I won’t say who it was, but someone had the good sense to bring along a couple bottles of rum which we got into.
“I remember coming around into Yellowknife Bay with those two bilge pumps making all kinds of smoke and two huge engines on this barge. It was about six o’clock but it was full daylight and I know we made a sight coming into the harbour.”
Martin and Lorraine are heading back home to Calgary now, but Yellowknife left a lasting impression on them.
“I think Yellowknifers are among the luckiest people on Earth to be able to live up here,” repeated Martin, numerous times.
This is not the first time the couple have visited Yellowknife since they left, and Lorraine said it certainly won’t be their last.
“We hope to make a family trip up here and bring our daughters, and son, and grandchildren,” she said.