Challenge of the Yukon was a long-running radio series that began on Detroit's station WXYZ (as had The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet), and an example of a Northern genre story. The series was first heard on February 3, 1938.
The program was an adventure series about Sergeant William Preston of the Northwest Mounted Police and his lead sled dog, Yukon King, as they fought evildoers in the Northern wilderness during the Gold Rush of the 1890s. Preston, according to radio historian Jim Harmon, first joined the Mounties to capture his father's killer, and when he was successful he was promoted to Sergeant. Preston worked under the command of Inspector Conrad, and in the early years was often assisted by a French-Canadian guide named Pierre.
Preston's staunchest ally, who was arguably the true star of the show and indeed often did more work than he did, was the brave Alaskan husky, Yukon King. Typical plots involved the pair helping injured trappers, tracking down smugglers, or saving cabin dwellers from wolverines. Sgt. Preston's faithful steed was Rex, used primarily in the summer months, but generally Yukon King and his dog team were the key mode of transportation (as signalled by Preston's cry of "On, King! On, you huskies!."
There is some confusion regarding King's actual breed. The producers seemed to use malamute and husky interchangeably. At least once, Preston answered "malamute" to the question from another character. In the early radio shows, the cry of "On, you huskies!" would alternate with "On, you malamutes" from show to show.
Von Reznicek's Donna Diana Overture was the pulsing theme music, and the episodes ended with the official pronouncement, Well, King, this case is closed.
Following the success of The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet, George W. Trendle, the station owner, asked for a similar adventure show, but with a dog as the hero. According to WXYZ staffer Dick Osgood, in his history of the station, Trendle insisted that it not be "a dog like Lassie because.. this must be an action story. It had to be a working dog." Writer Tom Dougall, who had been influenced by the poems of Robert W. Service, naturally chose a Husky. The dog was originally called Mogo, but after criticism by Trendle, Dougall re-christened the canine King. Dougall likewise created Sgt. Preston and the French-Canadian guide. Fran Striker, who wrote for The Lone Ranger, also contributed scripts.
However, Trendle's criticism of Dougall may have had another reason behind it. Shortly before the two Trendle series aired ( The Lone Ranger and Challenge of the Yukon), popular author Zane Grey had a book in circulation (Lone Star Ranger) about a Texas Ranger like The Lone Ranger and a comic book series in circulation (King of the Royal Mounted) about the adventures of Sgt. King, a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman like Sgt. Preston. It could be that Trendle borrowed both ideas from Grey's work and wanted to retain the name "King" as a tribute to Grey, who died after a long illness one year following the first airing of Challenge of the Yukon.
Challenge of the Yukon began as a 15-minute serial, airing locally from 1938 until May 28, 1947. Shortly thereafter, the program acquired a sponsor, Quaker Oats, and the series, in a half-hour format, moved to the networks. The program aired on ABC from June 12, 1947 to December 30, 1949. It was then heard on The Mutual Broadcasting System from January 2, 1950 through the final broadcast on June 9, 1955. The title changed from Challenge of the Yukon to Sergeant Preston of the Yukon in November 1951, and remained under that name through the end of the series and into television.
NOTE: Updated Release! New Episodes and corrected sound variances (29-Dec-2011).
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January 7, 2016 Subject:
One of the best
I listen to this show everyday I love it
June 17, 2015 Subject:
Good job Archives
I would like to say, first and foremost , I found this site about 8 years ago,, and I listen every single night of the week. I have had numerous back surgeries, and so makes a lot of time for me to enjoy all of your material. I could go through the pages all day, and still not find everything you have to offer. Thank you so much for the endless hours of entertainment.. It brings me back in time, and makes me appreciate the old time shows all the more. Very Sincerely Yours:: Russ Horcher,,, Cambridge Mn.
April 12, 2013 Subject:
Cold and Gold
The series DOES deserve more credit. Coming out of Detroit radio with cast similar to their other bigger hits, Lone Ranger and Green Hornet, it was vastly underrated. The true to life setting and special effects as well as a "hero" huskie and good scripts make this worth the time to listen. Of the old-time-radio shows, this belongs near the top.
April 1, 2011 Subject:
The mental picture!
I love the Yukon Territory and have been to some of the towns depicted that are along Hwy 1. Someday we'll take Hwy 2 and see some others! Having been in the region I can picture the scenes described, the desolation, the beauty, and vast emptiness. Robert Service is also one of my favorites.
March 26, 2010 Subject:
This is a hidden gem.
I really enjoy this show. I remember listening to it when I was a kid. (I'm 55 yrs old) The portrayal of the cold wintery scenes are very well done.
I give this show 5 stars!
May 15, 2009 Subject:
Sgt. Preston of the Yukon (Challenge of the Yukon)
It's hard for me to believe that no one, to date, has written a review about this mainstay of young people's (and many adults') radio listening. Even today, at age 64, I find myself chilled at the descriptions of the sub-zero temperatures that this low-paid but gallant hero and his wonder dog King faced during the Klondike gold rush in the Canadian Yukon Territory late in the 19th Century.
Also, no mention is made here of the man who portrayed Preston during much of its long run which went well beyond the coming of television. He was Paul Sutton who in real life looked nothing like the man we would imagine our hero to be. Sutton usually played heavies in budget movies and during the mid-50s tried to get into Michigan politics. He's not getting the credit he deserves.
When I listened to the show during the late 1940s and early '50s, the sponsor was Quaker Puffed Wheat and Quaker Puffed Rice — announced as "the only cereals shot from guns" followed by simulated gunfire. I've read that the slogan came from an ad man who was touring the Quaker plant. He observed that these cereals were cooked in a tank that resembled a cannon (exploding like popcorn?), hence the claim and the picture of a cannon shooting out cereal on the cover of each Puffed Wheat and Puffed Rick box.
The gun on the box has disappeared, but the products taste the same, just as this vintage program today can still entertain anyone with an imagination and a sense of adventure.