Treatment for a TV series or feature film.  

                                           KLONDIKE KATE

by

PETER SHILLINGFORD

                                ufindshill@btinternet.com

 Alaska!  The Yukon!  The Klondike!

For more than ninety years these words have thrilled the people of North America with a sense of adventure and the challenge of an untamed frontier.

It all began in midsummer, 1897, when the steam schooner EXCELSIOR docked in San Francisco with a mysterious cargo. Within hours, news of a magnificent opportunity flashed across the United States and Canada.

Deep in the Canadian Yukon, thousands of miles from any major human habitation, prospectors had found incredibly rich deposits of gold on a tributary of the Klondike River.

Never had the promise of instant wealth fallen on a more receptive public. The United States was floundering in economic depression. Jobs were scare. Strikes convulsed the country. Free homestead lands, which had drawn millions of immigrants to the North American frontier, were exhausted.

Within weeks, 100,000 men, women, and children were on their way to the strangest boom town in history: Dawson City, on the boggy flatlands where the Klondike meets the Yukon River. 

Sailing north in reeking, jam-packed steamers, the stampeders poured into the rowdy Alaskan ports of Skagway and Dyea, hunting grounds of the king of confidence men, "Soapy" Smith, and his gang of thimble-riggers and bandits.

Only the strong survived the grueling passes, the snow covered almost perpendicular Chilcoot, the quagmired Dead Horse Trail. Still fewer completed the 800-mile journey downstream to Dawson in handmade boats. 

For everyone who took part in it, read about it, or dreamed of it, this was the Last Grand Adventure, the ultimate human saga in the conquest of North America. Schoolteachers and gamblers, missionaries and dance-hall floozies struggled side by side up the icy trails and downriver to Dawson's wild successor, the Arctic harbor of Nome, Alaska, where gold lay free for the taking on the storm-battered beaches of the Bering Sea.

A few made their fortunes as miners, traders, builders, or gamblers. Others went home poorer than they came. An uncounted number died in the icy rapids of the Yukon, the 70-below blizzards, or the epidemics that ravaged the flimsy gold camps. 

This is the story of those people and of one lady in particular: Klondike Kate.

SAN FRANSISCO 1951 

Kate, a frail but energetic senior citizen of some 80 years of age is entertaining her two grandchildren. 

As they constantly race around the quaint old house we see Kate's collection of memorabilia, her bric-a-brac brought home from the time she spent in the Yukon at the turn of the century. 

Each child returns with a photograph, a book, a memento that begets a question and an answer. Kate is delighted to tell her story as a good time girl during the Gold Rush. 

As the two children, Amy and David plie her with questions, Kate sits back into her rocking chair and begins her story. "When I was a young girl..." 

THE YUKON 1898 

From a battered river steamer, Kate and her husband Jack, carry their possessions ashore, the freezing water up to their waists. 

Along the beach, men and women work the mud and sand through the hastily rigged sluices; often a shout goes up as a gold nugget is found, the excitement is contagious. 

Jack drops to his knees on the beach and runs the gravel through his fingers. Kate sees the gold fever in her husband's eyes. 

After setting up Kate in a tumbledown shack, Jack loads up a mule and takes off into the wilderness, vowing to return in 3 months. 

Kate entertains the other abandoned wives and she hears the stories of the dance halls, bars and brothels in the nearby town of Skagway. 

Next day Kate is inspecting the Main Street and its tumbledown buildings. Being a bold and pretty girl she walks bravely into these rather dubious places and makes herself known and welcome.

Kate hears word that her husband has struck gold some months before but was last seen drinking and throwing his money around. The rumor has it that he had shot his partner the moment they made the gold strike. 

Back at her cabin, Kate is selling off her possessions, the other women in the same predicament join her. Kate becomes their spokesperson, the leader. 

Confronting an owner of a run-down dance hall, Kate strikes a bargain, she will bring the ladies in every afternoon for tea dances; no sexual hanky-panky; the girls will be paid per dance and the owner will make his money on the drinks ordered. 

The dance hall is an immediate success with Kate as the leading force and the town takes Kate and her ladies into their arms, literally. 

Offered the same deal at a larger hall, Kate strikes a deal with the original proprietor and accepts part of the dance hall as ownership. 

Kate proves very adroit at dealing with the men who get out of line. Kate also takes on the leader of the prostitutes, one Diamond Tooth Lil; they seal their friendship after a magnificent mud fight on the Main Street. 

Lil is convinced the girls aren't whoring and Kate promises to send the more rampant men to her brothel when they become too boisterous for the ladies and their tea dance. 

The returning miners soon drunk and unconscious with pure whiskey are astounded when Kate hands them back their bankroll the next morning. They in turn ask her to hold it safe for them as the only bank in town is owned by Soapy Smith a known gangster. 

This also brings the miners back as regular customers and the reputation for honesty spreads. 

Late one night in the bar a man is savagely pistol whipping two girls he is accompanying and a local man, attempting to stop the brutality is shot at close range. 

Kate appears and is confronted by Jack her husband of six months previous who is now drunkenly waving two six-guns around.

Incensed, he begins to shoot up the dance hall, one bullet hits the chandelier, and it falls, crushing Jack to death. 

Kate throws a wake to wake the dead.

With the dance hall a raging success, Kate opens up a hotel; the dance hall attached has a stage and a fancy bar. Again she is a resounding success. She is the toast of the town. 

Soapy Smith comes to proposition her as does every miner in town with gold on his belt. But Kate refuses them all, what she does get is their respect. She also has the law on her side in the guise of Sgt. Steele, a visiting R.C.M.P. officer and another ardent admirer.

At this particular time Kate needed to be friendly with the law because her girls had now formed two separate, but friendly groups, those that only danced, and the others that danced and went upstairs to the boudoir. 

Kate left the Yukon in the nineteen twenties to return south to an offered marriage that did not take place. 

Kate's success story includes the following true incidents culled from Yukon history: 

1. The arrival of the first piano carried over the snow covered rocky passes by a dozen stout men.

2. The ritual of collecting all the sawdust off the floors, the yield of gold resulted in the precious metal falling off the miner's clothes as they danced the night away.

3. The wonderful evening when Mollie Few Clothes auctioned off herself as a wife for six months making a grand total of $5,000.00 in the lottery. 

4. Confidence tricksters outsmarting the miners with card games and pick-pocketing. 

5. Boxing matches on stage to settle an argument. Kate would be the referee. 

6. The return of husbands and lovers, some rich, some poor, all looking for the little girl they had left behind. 

7. Kate's "ladies" doing hospital work with Father William Judge. 

8. The arrival of author Jack London to chronicle the adventures for his successful series of books. 

9. Katie's departure and her impending marriage in the "lower 48". 

Conclusion: The story of Klondike Kate and the time she spent in the Yukon, a brief span of some 20 years. A turning point in North American history.

CONTACT

Peter Shillingford

2 Creefleet House

280 Kew Road

Richmond

TW9 3EE

0208 940 4507

0778 66 42171

ufindshill@btinternet.com