The Whistler Question, published from 1976 to the beginning of 2018, was Whistler’s first official newspaper. The municipality only came into being in September 1975 and Pique wouldn’t begin publishing until 1994. Well before the first edition of The Question, however, the valley’s first newspaper was put together by a small group of students at the Alta Lake School.
The Alta Lake School first opened in the early 1930s with only 10 students spread across Grades 1 to 9. In 1939 some of the older students established the Alta Lake School Club and the Club then sponsored The Alta Lake School Gazette. The Gazette ran from February 11 until June 5. The paper’s first editor, Bob Jardine, donated an entire run to the archives and the six editions give a valuable insight into the everyday happenings of the small Alta Lake community.
The staff list of The Gazette includes many names that are familiar from stories of Alta Lake’s history. Bob Jardine and his brother Tom Neiland both acted as editors for the paper and Jack, Helen and George Woods were all involved in reporting. Helen also held the position of the secretary for the organization.
The first editorial of The Gazette stated the paper’s purpose: “to give a current account of happenings each month as seen by its editor and his staff, it shall try to tell the facts and only the facts.” The short editorial also thanked those who built the Alta Lake School for allowing the students to start this paper.
Following the editorial of each edition is “Local News Of Interest,” an interesting combination of observations, opinions and local gossip (which may not have been entirely in keeping with the paper’s goal of reporting “only the facts”). The “Local News” reports on the activities of Alta Lake residents and visitors, whether it is something everyday, such as Mrs. Harrop holding a tea which school teacher Miss Bedford attended, or something a little out of the ordinary, such as William “Mac” MacDermott’s first ride in an airplane in May 1939.
Alta Lake around the 1930s was not the easiest place to live. There was no real road or reliable electricity, and families worked hard to make a living in logging and other industries. What could be thought of as hardships are reported in The Gazette as part of daily life in a small, somewhat remote, community. For example, on May 28 Bob Jardine and his mother Lizzie Neiland left their home at 11 am to walk the 40 kilometres to Cheekeye, where they stopped for the night. Mrs. Neiland had received word of the death of her brother and, having missed the Saturday train, was resorting to “shanks mare” (her own legs) to get to Vancouver.
Over its six editions The Gazette grew to include letters to the editor, boxing news and even an essay on the state of the Canadian Navy and unemployment in British Columbia alongside the results of the latest Cribbage Tournament.
The Alta Lake School Gazette may have lasted only a few months but it provides a snapshot of the daily lives of the Alta Lake residents. Its “Local News Of Interest” also supports the idea that in a small community, your neighbours always know what you’re up to.