Sergeant Preston and Yukon King
Sergeant Preston is an heroic North West Mounted Police officer, who polices the wilds of the Canadian frontier during the Yukon gold rush of the 1890s. Preston joined the Mounties to capture his father’s killer, and when he was successful he was promoted to sergeant. Preston works under the command of Inspector Conrad, and in the early years was often assisted by a French-Canadian guide named Pierre.
The character Sergeant William Preston is a fictional Canadian North West Mounted Policeman created by Fran Striker and George W. Trendle for the long-running radio serial Challenge of the Yukon.
How Preston Became a Mountie
Bill Preston moved from the United States to the Yukon at age six with his parents. His father hoped to make a living trapping. Young Bill spent the long winter evenings studying, and his days were filled with the chores that would toughen his muscles. His father also taught him outdoorsmanship and respect for the Native peoples. At 17, Bill Preston left the Yukon for college in the United States. At the end of Bill’s senior year, his father was murdered, and the murderer escaped. Determined to see his father’s killer brought to justice, he joined the North West Mounted Police. After completing training, Constable Preston was tamed with Corporal Ryan to gain experience. Preston’s probation ended a month later, when he captured a robber.
Challenge of the Yukon Radio Program
Challenge of the Yukon began as a 15-minute serial, airing locally on Detroit radio station WXYZ from 1938 until May 28, 1947, when 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. In November 1951, the title changed to Sergeant Preston of the Yukon.
Each episode has Sergeant Preston and Yukon King battling a new crisis, whether it be tracking down a murderer, a gang of thieves, or claim jumping miners. Yukon King, is, at times, a central character, with several episodes revolving around an event centering on him. During the course of the series, Preston successfully puts down a rebellion, and captures assassins.
The most prominent radio actors to play the role of Sergeant Preston were Paul Sutton and Brace Beemer. The barks, whines, and howls of Yukon King were supplied by one of the station’s sound effects men, Dewey Cole, and following Cole’s death, by actor Ted Johnstone.
Sergeant Preston of the Yukon Television Show
In 1955 the television series Sergeant Preston of the Yukon began, starring Richard Simmons. Running for 78 weekly episodes over three seasons from 1955 to 1958, the series had only two characters, Preston and King, who appeared in all 78 episodes, with no other single character appearing in more than 20 episodes, and most appearing in less than five. The half-hour adventure series — which was shot in color at a time when most viewers still had black-and-white televisions — became a popular, snowbound version of the sagebrush sagas that dominated the era’s airwaves.
The theme music for both the radio and television series was Emil von Reznicek’s overture to Donna Diana. The show’s episodes ended with the official pronouncement, “Well, King, this case is closed.”
Richard “Dick” Simmons
Richard “Dick” Simmons was a onetime MGM contract player who had small parts in more than 50 films by the mid-1950s. The handsome, square-jawed actor with the pencil-thin mustache did not become a star until he donned the broad-brimmed hat and red uniform of a Canadian Mountie. Simmons beat out 40 other actors for the starring role, which called on him to ski, snowshoe, drive a dog team, ride a horse, swim, wrestle, fistfight, paddle a canoe and climb mountains. Although his producers wanted him to use a double, the still-athletic actor refused.