Though his name has come up several times in recent columns, we recently realized we haven’t specifically written about Dick Fairhurst’s story yet. It was a promise to Dick and Myrtle Philip that led Florence Petersen to found the Whistler Museum & Archives Society in the summer of 1986, as they worried that the stories of life at Alta Lake would be forgotten as skiing became the dominant activity in the valley. Both had lived at Alta Lake for decades and had already seen many changes.
Richard “Dick” Fairhurst was born to Richard and Elizabeth Alice Fairhurst in 1914, the third of five children. His parents had come to Canada from Lancashire, England in 1906 and at the time were living in East Arrow Park, British Columbia. Dick’s father was a miner and so Dick grew up in mining towns in the Kootenays, moving first to Michel and then to Sandon before settling in Silverton in 1929.
After graduating, Dick spent a short time working underground in one of the silver mines before he secured a job building tramlines for hauling ore. In 1940, Dick moved to Vancouver to work at the shipyards in North Vancouver during the war, a job he later said he hated.
Dick’s first trip to the Alta Lake valley was for his honeymoon with his wife Doreen. The pair stayed at Jordan’s Lodge on Nita Lake. According to Dick, “I came up here on vacation once in 1943 and I thought, well, this is the place for me.”
Dick and Doreen bought two lots on the west side of Alta Lake the next year and Dick began working for Alf Gebhart at the Rainbow Lumber Mill Company, both in the mill and on the boom. He supplemented his income by trapping, taking over some of the traplines of Bill MacDermott and Bill Bailiff on Rainbow, Blackcomb, and Whistler mountains and catching mostly marten and beavers.
Life at Alta Lake was very different from city life and was not to Doreen’s tastes. The couple divorced in 1948 and Doreen left the valley while Dick remained and decided to try his hand in the early tourist industry. He began by building two log cabins, a workshop, frames for two more cabins, a storage shed, and a garage. Bert Harrop, who was well known in the area for his carpentry skills, taught Dick to build cedar bark furniture. Some cabins were rented by loggers so they could bring their families from the city.
In 1954, Dick purchased an adjoining property (formerly known as Harrop’s Point), adding three existing cabins and a tearoom to his business. He changed the name to Cypress Lodge on Cypress Point and began accepting guests, while continuing to work in forestry in the valley. The next year, Dick secured the water rights to install a wheel and generator on Scotia Creek, providing mostly reliable power for Cypress Lodge, except when something plugged the nozzle and the lights would go out.
In 1955, two people came to Alta Lake who would play a large part in the next stages of Cypress Lodge and Dick’s life in the valley. We’ll be bringing you more about Dick Fairhurst, Cypress Lodge, and life at Alta Lake in the 1950s and 60s next week, so be sure to check back!
Have you ever written about the kids in the 60’s and 70’s that lived at Alta Lake, Whistle area! Mr Walker was our bus driver. We went to school in Pemberton.
and we seemed to get a lot more snow.
It would be interesting to see if that info is noted in the museum.
Teresa Thorne. ( Weberg )
During the ’60’s at Whistler, would you have visited, dined at the Cheakamus Inn ?? – I first visited Whistler in 1967, then returned in Jan 1969, where I worked at the Cheakamus.
My question is I am trying to contact Mr. Rodney Roberts who was the Inn’s manager at the time.
Have you by chance heard of Rod (forget his nick name) or know of his current whereabouts
Many thanks for your time
As I remember him, Dick was a man of boundless energy and a jack-of-all-trades (as one had to be, living in what was then a relatively remote valley that was accessible from Vancouver only by boat and train, a full day’s journey). He also was someone who was unstintingly generous with his time and expertise, often dropping whatever he was doing to come over and give my dad advice and help with whatever was currently stymieing his project of building our family cabin. I first knew him as the proprietor of Cypress Lodge, where my family stayed for the first time in, I think, 1956. We stayed in one of the original rustic cabins on the point (which Dick later rebuilt). One of my earliest memories is of waiting at the kitchen door of Harrop’s Tea Room for Grandma Fairhurst to produce a tray of her deservedly famous butter tarts. We stayed there two or three summers until our own cabin was ready to be occupied, but even afterward, much of my time was spent playing around “the point.” Among other things, Dick built a 5-meter diving tower on one of his docks that we loved to jump off. He also owned I think the first speed boat on Alta Lake (powered by a 25-horsepower Evinrude, if I recall correctly). It was sufficiently powerful to pull at least some of the kids on skis, and that was the first time I ever waterskied. Dick was also responsible for my becoming a snow skier, after he built his rope tow up on the mountainside more or less directly behind our cabin (where previously I had tobogganed). His was the first ski-doo I ever saw or rode on, and he created the ice rink on the lake in front of the lodge where we sometimes skated. All in all, he was a formative part of my growing up (I remember helping him dock the tails of a brood of Springer spaniel puppies); I truly admired and looked up to him, and, I think, so did all of the adults.
It’s so nice to hear your memories John – many of these qualities of a person are what get lost over time when only photos remain. He passed away suddenly in 1983, and at that point was still as active and outgoing as ever.
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