Many of the people we learn about at the museum are introduced to us through the stories of others. Sometimes these stories are told as oral histories and others come from documents in our research files at the museum. One of these documents is a collection of stories, aptly called “Whistler Stories,” from Dick Fairhurst, in which he describes the area during his early years at Alta Lake and provides tales of some of the characters he got to know, or heard about from others.
Dick Fairhurst first moved to Alta Lake in 1943 and began working fro Alf Gebhart at the Rainbow Lumber Company Mill by the Alta Lake Station. He later opened Cypress Lodge and continued to work in logging. Because he worked in both the resource and tourism industries, Dick got to know a lot of the people who called the area around Alta Lake home in the 1940s and ’50s.
While some of these people, such as Alex Philip and Alex Greenwood, are well known to us, others we don’t know much about. One example is a man named Josef “Joe” Janousek. Dick recorded two stories about Joe, both involving a cold winter, one shifty individual, and examples of Joe’s accurate judge of character.
Though originally from Czechoslovakia where he worked as a game warden, Joe worked at Parkhurst, the logging and sawmill operation on Green Lake, in the 1950s. In the winters, when most of the seasonal workers had departed for the cold, snowy months, Joe would look after the sawmill.
One winter, a member of the crew from the logging camp was staying in one of the cottages by the sawmill, but Joe didn’t think he was entirely trustworthy. This man was supposed to be looking after the house of Olie and Eleanor Kitteringham (you can learn more about the Kitteringhams and their family’s days at Parkhurst here and here) while they were in Vancouver for a couple of weeks. In order to keep the pipes from freezing, the Kitteringhams had left their heat on and their taps running just a bit. Unfortunately, the man entrusted with looking after their house didn’t check on it once, and Joe never got the chance to look in. By the time the Kitteringhams returned to Green Lake, the oil for the heater had long run out and the water had kept running, welcoming the family home with snow to dig through outside and a thick icy covering inside.
Joe’s impression of the man was confirmed again when the man decided to leave the mill. Tools had been going missing around the camp and the mill and Joe and a couple others decided to check this man’s trunk before he left. Sure enough, when they opened the trunk they found all sorts of expensive gear that did not belong to him. Instead of confronting the man who would soon be gone, they decided to refill his trunk, using heavy rocks. As Dick put it, “He must have felt good when he found out he paid freight for all that!”
Apart from these stories, we know very little else about Josef Janousek. According to Dick, he earned the nickname “Rocket Fuel Joe” by keeping the residents supplied with alcohol (presumably homebrewed) when their own supplies ran out, he was an experienced fisherman, and he was an excellent shot, even shooting a couple of wolverines around Green Lake. Sadly, Joe died from drowning in Green Lake at the age of 48.