Discovering Alex Philip (Part One)

As a person coming from an Anthropological background, I am drawn to the narratives surrounding ones life. Outside of this I am also very interested in Canadian fiction; therefore, I was fascinated to hear that Alex Philip was not just the co-founder of Whistler’s first resort, Rainbow Lodge, but was also an author (for more information on Alex’s books, visit our previous blog post here). This intrigued me to dig further into the life of Alex Philip, as being both pioneer and author seems like an odd combination of attributes. As J. Butterfield said in his column “The Common Round” in the Daily Province, Vancouver “…when you found a man who ran a tough restaurant all day and sat up to write poetry at night, you simply had to take notice.”

Alex Philip on the boardwalk in front of Rainbow Lodge, ca. 1920. Philip Collection.

Alex Philip on the boardwalk in front of Rainbow Lodge, ca. 1920. Philip Collection.

While doing this research I have read and heard many stories about the kind of man Alex was, but I will keep this blog post to two news articles talking about Alex’s public life. The first is an announcement of his leaving Bangor, Maine in 1906 for Vancouver. The second is an article announcing his return to Bangor for the first time in 50 years.

In the 1906 article, published by the Bangor Daily News, the author refers to Alex Philip as Alec, as that is how he was known during the five years he worked as a night man at Frey’s Central street restaurant. A patron of Frey’s, who happened to be a journalist with the Bangor Daily News, published this article as a farewell present to Alec. It is a very flattering portrayal of Alec, stating, “He was the acknowledged super-superba, past-master, expert extraordinary lunch-bar man of Bangor. He was in a class all by himself. He got all the votes.” The article goes on to say, “Nothing phased Alex. He made no mistakes, no false motions and never lost his grip on the situation…Maine never sent out a brighter, cleaner more honest young man, who can be depended upon to make good wherever he goes–the kind which makes friends and keeps them.”

Alex Philip and friends in Maine. The annotation on the reverse reads "Alex Philip in his 20s, Bluehill Maine, 2nd from left, about 1906." Philip Collection.

Alex Philip and friends in Maine. The annotation on the reverse reads “Alex Philip in his 20s, Bluehill Maine, 2nd from left, about 1906.” Philip Collection.

Flash forward 50 years to the Bangor Daily News article dated August 30th, 1956, on Alex’s return to Bangor for the first time since he departed for British Columbia. In this article we learn that Alex carried the 1906 article with him for the 50 years and the clipping was one of his prized possessions. He even used the 1906 article to help him get a job at the Horseshoe Café in 1907. “He still carried the NEWS clipping, yellowed and tattered after a half-century of travelling. He hadn’t discovered gold, he said, but, proudly explained how that same newspaper article had been his ticket to a successful career as a resort owner and author.”

Alex Philip, Blue Hill native, popular Bangor counterman and successful British Columbia resort owner, is shown looking over a Bangor Daily News clipping which detailed his departure from Bangor in 1906.  Mr. Philips returned to visit Bangor in August 1956. BANGOR DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO BY SPIKE WEBB

Alex Philip, Blue Hill native, popular Bangor counterman and successful British Columbia resort owner, is shown looking over a Bangor Daily News clipping which detailed his departure from Bangor in 1906. Mr. Philips returned to visit Bangor in August 1956. BANGOR DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO BY SPIKE WEBB

It was in the Horseshoe Café that Alex met trapper John Millar, who described Alta Lake (at the time called Summit Lake) to Alex, convincing him and his wife Myrtle to travel north and see the area. This trip inspired both Alex and Myrtle, and soon after this first trip they settled in the Alta Lake area to begin construction on Rainbow Lodge.

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