“Goin’ to the Ronny-Boo…”
February 15, 2003
“…and Chris says that anyone who goes ‘on the floor’ at all, must be wearing
a Rendezvous costume.”
“Yeah but, I work mostly with the freight, Jan, so I that wouldn’t apply
to me, would it? Those couple times I answer the bell in Special Orders
wouldn’t count as being ‘on the floor’, would they?” My question was rhetorical,
I was pretty confident I didn’t have to go out and rent a costume for the
coming week of festivities. Jeez, that’s all I need, I thought, to be throwing
freight around, pulling books, hoiking parcels up for mailing, emptying trash,
all the while dressed up like a dog’s breakfast.
“Oh yes, Ellen, you too. All the rest have to. And so do you.”
“But gee, I’m hardly…”
Jan cut me off in mid-whine. “You’re here on Rendezvous Monday in costume. Chris
says everyone and that means no exceptions.”
I subsided, sulking as I rifled through my stockpile, looking for the perfect
box for the order I was shipping. Boy, talk about sartorial harassment,
first my beloved baggy old jeans had to go and now this. I brightened. Hey,
no one had said I had to gussy up in a dress; maybe I could come in shoe
packs and a parka. Yeah, right. Can’t even wear my favourite jeans, boots
and a beat up miner’s outfit would make me REAL popular with the boss. Ah
well, s’gotta be, s’gotta be… being duded up with few feathers and a bit
of lace won’t be the end of the world and besides, if we’re all dressed up,
what the heck, it’ll be kind of fun….
And that got me thinking of a long time ago when we lived at Johnson’s Crossing. We didn’t often get to come to town for the Rendezvous, not because it was so busy, just that we didn’t have enough help in the winter to fill in if
we were away. But we did participate, in a manner of speaking, following
the contests on the radio and listening to the dog races. I’d make a big
pot of clam chowder and we’d sit around the kitchen table slurping it down
as Pam Buckway and Terry Delaney and Ron McFadyen took us out on the trail
and gave us a blow by blow description of the teams as they came into view
down river by the dump and again as they rounded the corner down below the
old Yukon Laundry and baled into the home stretch. They made it sound so
real and so exciting, we didn’t feel we were missing a thing.
At least some of us didn’t.
Several of the younger members of our little group were not that captivated by the CBC commentators and spent Rendezvous week in a fretful state, agitating to go town to watch their friend Joe Loutchan win the fiddle contest, maybe
get dressed up and go see the Cancan dancers and the crowning of the Queen. One
year, all the stars and constellations were in a proper configuration, the
weather was a balmy 15 degrees F. and my parents in an expansive frame of
mind. Late Friday afternoon my father called from their home in Whitehorse.
“Get the kids ready, we’re coming out to get them and bring them to town
for the weekend.”
Toby and Jo came down in record time, packed and rarin’ to go. Their younger
sister, Lise, took a little longer and when she finally made an appearance, she arrived
in full dress-up regalia, complete with her Granny’s musty old muskrat muff,
a swath of grimy tulle wrapped around her narrow shoulders and a bedraggled
turquoise ostrich feather wedged behind her ear. “Whoa Nellie!” exclaimed
her Dad with a grin. “And where do you think you’re going, all dressed up
Lise answered Phil’s grin with a delighted little giggle of her own. “Well,
doncha know? Granny and Grampa are coming to get us and this what you wear
when you’re goin’ to the Ronny-boo!”
That was the same year that my father decided to go all out for the occasion.
My parents, Bob and Elly Porsild, loved a good party and to them, the Sourdough Rendezvous week was a great excuse to get out and have a good time. They were front and center for the Flour Packing and Corporate Challenge, took in the Queen’s tea and the Fiddle Contest, the dog races and the One-Dog
Pull. Ma, dressed in a turn-of-the-century costume, sold tickets, handed
out brochures and helped out in the concession stands. Dad let his lent
his presence, stature, and strong right arm where ever it was needed, his
usual concession to the style of the day a black Derby tipped elegantly over
one blue eye.
But that year, in addition to the Derby, Dad sported a beard and moustache. Neatly trimmed. Tidily clipped to follow the contour of his long upper lip. And a lovely rose pink, to match the hair on his head, but with some darker rosettes. Very fetching.
The thing was, of course, that over the years, the thick auburn curls of
Dad’s youth had thinned considerably and faded, leaving a rim and small top
thatch that was well-combed for maximum, if limited, coverage, of purest
silver. Unfortunately, his beard had not aged as evenly and had grown in
a variety of colours, rust and white and orange, much like a patchwork quilt.
Dad had been somewhat less than pleased with the overall effect but Ma had
convinced him to leave it. “It’s fine, Bubi,” she told him. “You look like
you did when you were a boy.” She laughed, kissed him, and hurried off to
help at the Rendezvous office, leaving Dad glowering at the image in his
Now, my father was impulsive and intrepid man, his motto a line from the
love theme of the old movie State Fair: “I know what I like and I liked what
I saw and I said to myself: That’s for me!”
And once he got an idea into his head, it was pretty much a given that he
would not rest until he had pursued it down all the avenues open to him.
So it was that fifteen minutes after my mother left the house that morning,
so did my Dad, the light of adventure in his eye, headed for the drugstore.
“I need a package of dye,” he informed the young clerk.
“Certainly sir. Here we have a great variety of colours, which would you
My colour-blind father regarded the chart that she handed him. “Red,”
he told her.
“It’s red,” he told my mother later as she stared at him in shock.
Ma picked up the small box that read Rit on the front. “You used this,
Bubi? But it’s clothing dye, how did you….?” Her voice faded at she regarded
her unrepentant husband, the one with the lovely pink hair. “Well, it said
to use boiling water and of course I didn’t, I let it cool and then just
poured it over and over. And now look,” he said proudly, glancing at his
mirror. “Just like when I was a boy…”
After the Rendezvous was over, Dad shaved off the beard. Eventually, the
colour washed out of his hair, Mom stopped walking two step behind him and
resumed her place by his side and we all stopped privately referring to him
as Pinky. “He did look pretty rosy, though,” I chortled a short time later
as I regarded a snapshot I’d taken when they had come to pick up the kids. Lise
came over to have a look. “I liked the way he looked with his pretty hair. And
he like my muff and my oshtrich feather.” She looked at the picture with
obvious pleasure. “Me and Grampa, we looked nice…”
So now, thirty-five years later, I’ve been over to Riverdale to visit the
nice lady who rents out costumes and I’ve got a vest and a hat with feathers
and a garter. With my black slacks and a white shirt and my hair dyed
close to its original colour, that will have to do. Lise, on the other
hand, will be all tricked out in green satin and braid and marabou feathers
and big earrings and all that fun stuff. For her, there was no discussion. ‘Cause
after all, doncha know? That’s what you wear when you’re goin’ to the