The life of Clyde “Slim” Williams in the Okanagan

A look back in time: The famous Clyde “Slim” Williams

Slim was known for wanting to connect the unchartered coastal range with the Canadian road system

Clyde “Slim” Williams arrived in Alaska on his 19th birthday and spent the next 30 years searching for adventure. He trapped, guided and bred his famous sled-dogs; those mostly wolf sled-dogs.

Slim was a huge proponent for an automobile link with the rest of the U.S., and spent a great deal of time lobbying local officials to support the plan. He found a cohort in Senior Engineer, Donald McDonald, of the Alaska Road Commission who advocated a land route along the Pacific Coast. Slim approached him with an idea to drive a sled team south along the unchartered coastal range and hook up with the Canadian road system at Atlin. He would then head south and take his highway plan to the Chicago Worlds Fair of 1933. He was laughed at and ridiculed by the other sourdoughs and on a bet, he made his plans to go.

Undaunted, he left Copper Centre, Alaska in November of 1932. He drove his dogs over the frozen mountains using only crude maps and vague descriptions. It took him 5 months to reach to northern-most road of the British Columbia tundra. From that point it was quite easy going and he traded his sled runners for wheels from an old model “T”. He began to be a celebrity.

Along the route, folks asked him to stay over; they fed him and women made leather boots for his dogs. The press followed his progress throughout the trip.

Arriving in Kamloops in the spring of 1933, he headed down the Nicola and ended up in Princeton. There he met Salvation Jim. Their photo is above.

Jim was a retired Yukon Sourdough and he and Slim really hit it off. Jim insisted he stay with him and have a couple of drinks. Jim got the local photographers out for press photos and Slim ended up staying several days. When Slim finally got back on the road, he was sent off with a hail of shots from Jim’s six-gun that was always strapped to his hip and headed down the Okanagan River Valley then turned east.

Fan mail rolled in and by October 1933, there was a crowd waiting as he entered the World’s Fair grounds. He and his dogs had completed 5600 miles, the longest dog-sled trip in history.

The theme for the fair was “A Century of Progress”. Slim took over the Alaska Pavilion and it became the most popular feature of the fair. Mrs. Roosevelt told newsmen that she enjoyed her visit with “the tall young man from Alaska, with blue eyes that looked far away.”

On invitation from the President, Slim had several interviews in Washington, D.C. He was received by the highest officials of the capital, where he laid out his plan for the national highway.

His sponsors would have been proud of his ability to capture audience imagination when he spoke. The Adventurers’ Club found him sincere, rugged and straight-forward with a wonderful sense of humour.

The highway was not built until 1940 and did not take Slim’s route.

Missed last week’s column?

A look back in time: The sinking of Skookum I

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Central Okanagan school buses to remain parked through the summer

The board of education made the decision to nix bus services on Wednesday

Motor trike crashes into hole in Ellison area

A man was taken to hospital after crashing his trike on Anderson Road

Playgrounds to reopen across the Okanagan on June 1

After nearly two months closure, playgrounds are set to reopen

Kelowna’s Rock the Lake officially postponed until 2021

The new dates have been scheduled for August 6-8, 2021

Mission prison COVID-19 outbreak ends, 9 new cases in B.C.

New positive test at Port Coquitlam care home

Flood watch for Salmon River upgraded as high temperatures, rain forecast

Shuswap Emergency Program warns residents to prepare now for possible extreme flooding

Partial return to class for Central Okanagan students: COVID-19

School District 23 and the Board of Education have released a letter regarding returning to class

Man who bound, murdered Vancouver Island teen still a risk to public: parole board

Kimberly Proctor’s killer is still ‘mismanaging emotions,’ has had ‘temper tantrums’

VIDEO: Humpback whales put on quite a show

The ‘playful’ pod lingered by a Campbell River tour operator’s boat for quite some time

RCMP request public’s help in locating missing Salmon Arm man

Ken Derkach is a familiar face to many, one of the city’s residents who is without a home

Booze on Kelowna beaches? Mayor says ‘not at the moment’

Mayor Colin Basran says alcohol in public spaces is not on council’s radar right now — but that could change

Getting hitched at historic B.C. gold rush town still on table during COVID-19 pandemic

Micro-weddings, online visits, offered at Barkerville Historic Town and Park

VIDEO: Police look for suspect seen tripping elderly woman in Burnaby

The elderly woman was walking near the SkyTrain station when she was randomly tripped

Most Read