Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

COLLECTING VALUABLE HISTORY – Jim Robb is seen with some of his collection Jan. 21. Beside him is one of his portraits, Big Salmon George, and in back, a photo of Andy Hooper. The moose head and snowshoes used to be in the old Whitehorse Inn, which was demolished in 1979.

Book on colourful characters to be released tomorrow

Nearly 40 years after Jim Robb’s first cast of colourful characters was anthologized, he is compiling the fourth instalment of the series.

By Gabrielle Plonka on February 14, 2020

Nearly 40 years after Jim Robb’s first cast of colourful characters was anthologized, he is compiling the fourth instalment of the series.

“It’s a new age: the computer age,” Robb told the Star recently.

“They (the characters) have a different outlook on life altogether.”

The first of Robb’s soft-cover collections, The Colourful Five Per Cent Vol. 1, was published in 1984 to high acclaim.

The books are unique conglomerations of photographs, sketches, paintings and essays penned by Robb. They tell the stories of the Yukon’s most extraordinary inhabitants.

The fourth book will have much in common with the earlier versions, Robb said.

They will still shed light on the Yukon’s uniquest, although the tapestry of characters shine differently than those of the previous century.

“We’ve got characters with rings in their noses, and tattoos,” Robb said. “It’s not about their look; it’s about what they think about things.”

The release will take place from 1- 3 p.m. Saturday at the North End Gallery on Front Street. Robb will be on hand to sign books.

His criteria for interesting people has remained consistent through the years despite changes in the landscape.

“Colourful” subjects must be uncommon individuals, whether they be young or old, rich or poor, Robb said.

“Their outlook on life is a big thing,” Robb said. “A lot of people come up here because they love the history – the country inspires interesting people.”

One character to feature in the new version will be Whitehorse’s beloved Garbage Truck Santa, Wayne Henderson.

The story mirrors another personality paired with a unique truck from the ’84 version: Andy Hooper and his Second World War-era 4x4.

“The two most famous trucks in the Yukon,” Robb said.

He arrived in the Yukon from Quebec at 22 years old in 1956, and has rarely ventured south ever since.

He began sketching colourful characters in 1957, inspired by the sight of Wigwam Harry dancing in the Grill Café.

He has sketched hundreds of characters since that time. In 1971, he began a Colourful Five Per Cent column in the Whitehorse Star, which had two engagements of running every Friday, up until 2003.

In 2004, Robb was appointed a member of the Order of Canada for his work cataloguing the Yukon.

The first edition of the The Colourful Five Per Cent has become a sought-after relic of past personalities. With a small number remaining left in circulation, copies have sold for upwards of $200.

To meet the demand, Robb worked with Donna Reimchen to organize a reprint of The Colourful Five Per Cent, Vol. 1, last summer. Reimchen is the owner of North End Gallery and Rambles, two stores where Yukoners can now purchase the reprinted publication for $40.

Without a digital copy of the original 1984 publication to work from, Reimchen said, the reprint was labour-intensive.

“We had to go out to Alberta to get it reprinted. Nobody local could handle the work,” Reimchen told the Star.

So far, the reprint has been a success.

“We’ve had lots of people come in saying they’ve been looking for it and wanting it,” Reimchen said.

Robb said he is staying low-tech in his creation of the newest book. He plans to ask a colleague to help him digitize the work.

“I don’t know anything about digital,” Robb said. “I don’t even know how to turn on a television–– that’s about the size of it.”

Robb said he is hopeful another Yukon artist will follow in his footsteps in collecting characters for publication.

For now, though, he is content to continue cataloguing the colourful.

I’ve been here most of my life, and it’s been a life’s work,” he said.

Comments (8)

Up 1 Down 0

Jane Bradford on Feb 17, 2020 at 1:40 pm

I've been searching online (Amazon) for copies of any and all of the volumes - Amazon says unavailable. Does anyone know if/where they can be purchased, please? Kindly email me, thanks.

Up 26 Down 1

Groucho d'North on Feb 16, 2020 at 10:04 am

Chronicling the Colourful 5% of our community's population for all to appriciate and admire. Thanks Jim, your eye and ability to see the people many ignore provides the bigger picture of our communities, In time we will all be forgotten unless we are unique enough to be noted by Jim Robb and his paint brush.

Up 23 Down 3

Wilf Carter on Feb 15, 2020 at 5:06 pm

Great person and you did yourself proud, The people around the world know you and Yukon through your great work.

Up 13 Down 3

Joyce Derenas on Feb 15, 2020 at 11:03 am

Hi, Do any of your books include a portrait of Sam Smith? The first constable for Moosehide?

Up 11 Down 3

Pat Urano on Feb 15, 2020 at 9:42 am

An amazing man and great undertaking. I would love to get and read his book!

Up 12 Down 0

Linda McNeil-Bobb on Feb 14, 2020 at 11:48 pm

Thank You Jim for always remembering My Andy James Hooper...Love from Lindy

Up 13 Down 2

Jack on Feb 14, 2020 at 11:24 pm

I didn't know Jim Robb was also an accomplished Hyper-realist! The portrait of Big Salmon George in the background is fantastic!

Up 11 Down 0

Dick Hanscom on Feb 14, 2020 at 8:59 pm

Hi Jim, Good for you! I might have a first of Vol 1 laying around someplace, maybe even in Candy's stuff.
Dick Hanscom
Fairbanks, Alaska

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