Pants? We got Pants!

Building and growing Rainbow Lodge into a bustling resort amidst the vast and isolated Coast Mountain wilderness, Myrtle Philip and her husband Alex had to draw upon an almost endless supply of resourcefulness, ingenuity, and old-fashioned hard work.

There was no shortage of tasks to be completed, much of it incongruous of the social expectations of a lady at that time. Thankfully, Myrtle wasn’t the type to be inhibited by such expectations, and she more than pulled her weight in the lodge’s year-round operations. Thus arose that eternal question: “What to wear?”

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Myrtle Philip in typical riding garb.

Well, as Myrtle recalled during a 1971 oral history interview that is preserved in the Whistler Archives:

“I used to try and wear dresses, but they weren’t practical. I had to go and do outside work, maybe harness a horse or something. You just can’t do these things in skirts.” When asked if she ever wore an apron, Myrtle bluntly replied “No. Never. To hell with it!”

And while Rainbow Lodge is generally remembered as a fishing lodge, as Myrtle explains, horseback riding quickly became a popular activity for lodge guests as well.

Fast-forward to late January and we were pleasantly surprised by a visit to the museum by Kristi King of Pemberton, BC. Kristi brought with her an old pair of leather riding breeches that had been given to her by Myrtle Philip! Kristi’s family had been close with the Philips, and since Kristi was an avid horse-person as well, Myrtle had decided to pass them on when she no longer had use for them.

Museum staff with Myrtle's overcoat and riding pants.

Museum staff with Myrtle’s overcoat and riding pants.

In the early days of Rainbow Lodge, Myrtle made most of her clothes herself, including her riding breeches. These leather pants, however, were made by the Berlin Glove Company, of Berlin, Wisconsin. Founded in 1869, B.G.C. specialized in high-end, western-style leather goods and apparel. While we are uncertain when Myrtle acquired these pants we suspect that it was later in Myrtle’s career, perhaps the 1940s or 1950s.

But wait, there’s more! A fascinating and under-appreciated aspect of the Philip’s life story is that, while they were certainly at home welcoming guests to this remote mountain valley, they were equally at ease donning formal attire and rubbing elbows with Vancouver’s social elite. They frequently entertained Vancouver’s well-connected and well-to-do up here at Alta Lake, and enjoyed trips to the big city to visit with their many friends.

Along with Myrtle’s riding pants, a formal overcoat that belonged to Myrtle was also included in the archival donation. Myrtle’s rugged, mountain lifestyle would have gone completely unsuspected by passersby while adorned in this full-length, black-sequined coat.

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We don’t have any photos wearing this specific overcoat, but here’s an image of her and Alex looking rather sophisticated at the Rainbow Lodge 25th anniversary celebration at Vancouver’s iconic Commodore Ballroom, 1940.

Considering Myrtle’s revered position in our community’s history—if anyone could lay claim to being the founder of the community of Alta Lake, it would be her—we were naturally thrilled to receive these new donations to our archives.

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