Challenge of the Yukon began life as a local radio show in the 30s. It told the adventures of Sergeant Preston of the Northwest Mounted Police and his dog King as they battled evildoers during the Yukon gold rush. It proved to be very popular program, was turned into a comic in 1951 and made it’s way onto TV in 1955.
In 1947, the radio show gained Quaker Oats as a sponsor and this lead to a very successful ad campaign — well, successful for Quaker, but maybe not for their customers. As a tie in with the show, Quaker began adding deeds to one inch of land in the Yukon as prizes in their boxes. Imagine that, owning a piece of paradise. If I had been around at the time, I can guarantee my 10-year old self would have been all over this. I would have eaten Quaker Oats at every meal just so my Mom would buy more.
By the end of the campaign, Quaker had given away 21 millions deeds. Unfortunately, they failed to pay their taxes and the land was eventually repossessed by the Canadian Government, so no deed holders actually got their land. This story is told in the 2006 documentary film Cereal Thrillers. I haven’t seen it, but NPR has small piece on it.
So, the deeds didn’t bear fruit, but we still have the radio program. The Old Time Radio Researchers group has collected a number of episodes and made them available for download. When my kids are a little older, I can see us sitting around the campfire, listening to episodes and dreaming of the North.
Lantern Rock, Challenge of the North, October 16, 1943