THE CARIBOU HOTEL
John Firth/Caribou Hotel (2019)
Reviewed by Jan Freeman for Reader Views (3/2020)
John Firth’s “The Caribou Hotel” is a remarkable book. It introduces the owners of the hotel throughout the years, an ill-tempered (male) parrot named Polly, and the many changes made to keep the building going. It is a wonderfully written history of the hotel.
When the hotel was first built in 1898 to house gold rush miners, it was the Yukon Hotel in Bennet, B.C. It underwent many changes over the years, including name changes and being floated down river to relocate in Carcross. Polly, who had outlived two of the owners, remained and was an attraction for guests. This paragraph about the parrot is pure comedy:
“Bessie placed his cage in the café, on a table close to the door leading into the bar and he quickly developed a taste for scotch. Bar patrons, mostly miners, sneaked over from the bar and poured drinks into the water bowl in the bottom of the cage. He drank until he fell off his perch and passed out lying on his back with his legs sticking into the air, snoring softly.”
There are two chapters about Polly, both of which are hilarious.
There are tales of hauntings and strange occurrences of electrical malfunctions, among other sightings believed to be ghosts of two of the deceased owners, who died exactly five years apart. Even the current owner has had some encounters.
Mr. Firth has provided a large number of pictures and illustrations for “The Caribou Hotel.” It enlivens the stories and shows that there are real people involved in this very fine account of individuals involved with the hotel. History was made in Bennett and it continues today in Carcross.
This is a book for everyone who likes to read. It’s entertaining, keeps the reader’s attention, and brings the past alive in a very enjoyable story of this landmark hotel, which is part of U.S. and Canadian history. The Yukon Gold Rush, destructive fires, World War II occupation, Prohibition, railroads, hotel name and owner changes, and so much more, are all threaded through the story of the hotel. I recommend it to all readers – it’s a page turner and Mr. Firth really did his research.
I hope the hotel is open again or will open soon. I would surely put a visit to Carcross and the Caribou Hotel on my bucket list!