Category Archives: Arts & Artists

This Week In Photos: June 21

This week in the 1980s was apparently all about the kids of Whistler, with the majority of the photos having to do with the Myrtle Philip School sports day, ballet recitals and the Whistler Children’s Art Festival.

1980

Refuse lies scattered all over the Rainbow substation bin site as a result of crows, people and bears. Council has promised to put a compactor in this location.

The buildings and chairlifts on Blackcomb begin to take shape. The mountain is set to open for skiing this winter.

The female half of the 58-member Kildala choir from Kitimat. The school group sang a number of popular tunes.

Carol Fairhurst (left) and Cathy McNaught plan to continue their education – one in Mexico and the other in Calgary.

A classic example of the Gothic arch home. Though not as common today, houses like these can still be found throughout Whistler.

It’s not clear if this is a Whistler Question staff meeting or staff meal. The best part, however, may be the “No Smoking” sign on the table that threatens those who try will be hung by their toenails.

1981

Whistler’s new mascot (the as yet un-named marmot) shows off for students.

John Reynolds, co-owner of Tapley’s Pub, presents Robert Miele, treasurer of the Whistler Athletic Association, with a cheque for $1000. The donation will go towards funding amateur athletics in the valley.

Myrtle Philip Elementary School principal Alex Marshall is surrounded by his Angels at his ‘roast’ on Wednesday night.

Whistler Ballet students who performed in Garibaldi School of Dance production of “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” and “Little Matchgirl”. The performance on Sunday, June 21 at The Centennial Theatre in North Vancouver was a complete sell out. Left to right: Brie Minger, Corinne Valleau, Jodi Rustad, Rachel Roberts and Melanie Busdon; Peaches Grant sitting.

Hot Wheels – Students at Myrtle Philip Elementary School show off their creative talents in the bike decorating contest. The event was scheduled in conjunction with Sports Day which was moved inside because of the weather.

A beer bottle was thrown through the window of the information centre.

1982

Competitor in the First Annual Whistler Off-Road Bike Race soars over a bump en route to Lost Lake and 25 miles of heavy pedalling.

1983

Captain Beckon rings out the good word on the Children’s Art Festival.

Isobel MacLaurin shares her sketching talents with larger artists during one of the many workshops.

Martial arts are also included in the Children’s Art Festival at Myrtle Philip School.

The Pied Pear duo, Rick Scott and Joe Mock, perform with a little help from some members of the audience.

Three Whistler divas (l – r) Melanie Busdon, Jodi Rustad and Corinne Valleau took part in the Garibaldi Shcool of Dance performance of “The Sleeping Princess” in Squamish and North Vancouver June 17 and 18. All shows, directed by Lynnette Kelley, were sold out.

Clearing in by a mile Sean Murray (11) heads back to each leaving the high jump pole standing at 100 cm. It was a dripping wet sports day for students at Myrtle Philip School Wednesday but all events went on without a hitch under the eaves and in the school gym instead.

Champion of the Tournament of Champions Brian Sandercock (right) accepts the trophy for low gross score from organizer Don Willoughby. The match first competition on Whistler Golf Course, which opened three days earlier, was held in drizzling rain June 17 and drew 140 swingers.

1984

The Extraordinary Clown Band was one of the highlights of this year’s Children’s Art Festival held Saturday and Sunday. While the band entranced youngsters with feats of juggling and slapstick, 65 workshops featuring pottery, break dancing and writing as well as many other artistic pursuits took place in Myrtle Philip School.

Harley Paul and Bryan Hidi were just a ‘hanging’ around Friday in between events at the Myrtle Philip School sports day. Sports day events included a three-legged race for parents, nail-banging contest, long jumping and, of course, balloon sitting.

A team of BMX freestyler cyclists added to the weekend’s festivities and gave Whistler just a taste of what things will be like here next summer when the BMX World Championships come to town. Two young performers on BMX bikes travelled from Pitt Meadows to represent the Lynx factory team.

Staff of The Whistler Question, who recently received word that the newspaper has won a first-place national award for the second year in a row, are: (bottom row, l to r) Janis Roitenberg (office manager); Shannon Halkett (typesetting and graphics); Pauline Wiebe (typesetting and graphics); (top row l – r) Stew Muir (reporter); Glenda Bartosh (publisher); Kevin C. Griffin (editor).

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Rocking Howe Sound

You wouldn’t expect a pulp mill, a pop-rock band and 20th century settlers to have a lot in common, but in the Sea to Sky corridor you can find the unlikeliest of connections.

In 1909, the Conroy family moved west from Ontario and preempted 380 acres of land in the area around Brandywine Falls, including the falls themselves.  The area had previously been used as a rest stop for northbound mule drivers on their way to settlements and gold fields.  Charles Conroy, one of the Conroy sons, made a reputation working 30 to 60 string muletrains.

Brandywine Falls, now a provincial park, was once the Conroy family homestead and then a bustling resort. Photo: Whistler Mountain Collection

The Conroy family saw the area through the arrival of the PGE Railway and the construction of a supply road by BC Electric in the 1950s.  Before the highway was finished in the 1960s, Charlie Conroy sold the property to Ray Gallagher but remained close to Brandywine until his death in February 1972.

The Poppy Family was a Vancouver-based music group formed by Terry Jacks and Susan Pesklevits in the mid 1960s.  According to Garibaldi’s Whistler News, February 1968, the group got together “almost by chance.”  Susan needed an accompanist for a performance in Hope and asked Terry.  The Hope show went well and the two decided to form their own group and brought in lead guitarist Craig McCaw to complete the group.  In 1967 Terry and Susan married and through 1968 the Poppy Family performed regularly at Whistler Mountain.  Satwant Singh later joined the group on tablas and they put out their first album, Which Way You Goin’ Billy? in 1969.

The Poppy Family as they appeared in 1968 when featured in Garibaldi’s Whistler News.

Terry and Susan Jacks stayed regularly at the Brandywine Falls Resort.  This is presumably where they met Charlie “Whitewater” Conroy.  Despite an almost 60-year age difference, Terry and Charlie became close friends and fishing buddies.

Sixty years earlier, in 1912, the Woodfibre pulp mill opened a little south of Squamish on the western shore of the Howe Sound.  Accessible only by boat, the remote town site built around the mill housed workers and their families until the 1960s when they began commuting to work by ferry from nearby Squamish and Britannia Beach.  Woodfibre was one of the oldest pulp mills in British Columbia before it closed in 2006.

The Conroy family, the Poppy Family and Woodfibre have a surprising connection – a song, released in 1972 and only just over two minutes long, named “The Ballad of Woodfibre”.

Terry provided the music and the vocals were performed by 82-year-old Charlie.  “The Ballad of Woodfibre” was a comment on the pollution caused by the Woodfibre pulp mill and the smell that lingered along the Howe Sound from Lions Bay to Squamish.  The first verse encourages visitors to Woodfibre by claiming, “If you don’t mind the smell you can have a good time.”  The chorus begins “Woodfibre, Woodfibre, our little town/You’re turning the water all brown in Howe Sound,” and forecasts the mill’s closure due to the pollution of the water. (You can hear the recording of “The Ballad of Woodfibre” here)

This evening (Saturday, April 28) Julie Gallagher, whose parents Ray and Ruth Gallagher bought the land around Brandywine Falls from Charlie Conroy, will be at the museum for Growing Up at Brandywine Falls: From Resort to Provincial Park.  Doors open at 6 and the talk begins at 7.  Tickets are $10 or $5 for museum and Club Shred members.  Julie will also be hosting guided walks through Brandywine at noon both today and tomorrow (Sunday, April 29).  For more information check here.

The Hills Were Alive… With the Sound of Music

In September 1988 an article written by Joanna MacDonald about a performance by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra appeared in The Vancouver Sun.  This might not seem noteworthy or appear to have anything to do with Whistler’s history except that the concert written about took place 1850m above sea level on Blackcomb Mountain.

This was not a typical concert for the VSO, nor was it a typical year.  From January to July of 1988 the organization’s growing deficit had halted VSO performances.  In July, after creditors had forgiven the deficit and financial assistance was acquired by the symphony, the VSO began a series of outdoor concerts.  Their summer performances included concerts at Ambleside, English Bay and Granville Island, but none of these required transporting a $500,000 sound system, a 14-tonne stage and two tonnes of instruments up a mountain.

While the first performance on Blackcomb took place in the heat of summer, the VSO also played in the rain some years. Whistler Question Collection.

The weather made the stage on Blackcomb Mountain an interesting venue to perform on.  The VSO had though about the implications of wind and low temperatures, but didn’t expect 32 degree heat at the top of the mountain.  While the musicians were under cover and didn’t get too hot (despite wearing formal dress) audience members were encouraged to bring hats and sun screens.

Concertgoers on the mountain sat on hay spread around a 1.4-hectare site within an alpine meadow, a ver different arrangement than the Orpheum Theatre, the VSO’s usual venue.  According to Nancy Spooner, a VSO spokesman, “One family had the full red and white checkered tablecloth and a wine bucket with glasses.  There were families with grandparents and kids, and people were wearing everything from bathing suits to hiking gear.  Some people even brought up some mountain bikes and went riding before the concert.”  5,238 people were recorded as attending the performance.

A mountaintop performance on Whistler, 1995. Whistler Question Collection.

The VSO continued to perform annually on top of the mountain, first on Blackcomb Mountain and then switching to Whistler Mountain.  In 1998 their concert on Whistler was postponed as the mountain was closed for the summer due to the construction of the new Roundhouse Lodge.  This postponement lasted fourteen years.

In 2012, after an absence of over a decade, the VSO returned to perform in Whistler.  Instead of the top of a mountain, performances took place in Olympic Plaza over a weekend in late July.  In 2014 the VSO began performances on Canada Day and announced the creation of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestral Institute at Whistler, both of which have continued each summer.

The VSO performs in Olympic Plaza. Photo: John Alexander

Unlike the first performance in 1988, today’s VSO performances in Whistler are not held in an alpine meadow and the audience does not pay to attend.  In other ways, however, the concerts are still very similar.  The VSO still attracts of crowd of thousands and a mix of visitors and residents.  Groups still bring picnics, families attend with kids and grandparents, people wear bathing suits and hiking gear, and quite a few people look like they just got off their bikes.

Opening this Friday: A Photographic History of Whistler!

Our scanner can finally breathe a sigh of relief (if that were possible), after over a year of hard work digitizing 35,000 photographs from The Whistler Question’s collection of negatives spanning 1978-1985 (made possible by funding from the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre).

Over the last year and a half we have scanned many photos of construction sites as the Village was built. Photo: Whistler Question Collection

With most of the images already uploaded to our online gallery, we have now set our sights on an opening night for the exhibit.  We have planned to feature the cream of the crop of all the scanned Whistler Question photos.

Photos were chosen for the exhibit based on how well they encapsulate the people, places and events in the community during Whistler’s transitional years, as well as on their pure aesthetic qualities that showcase the artistic side of The Whistler Question’s early photographers.

Whistler on a snowy night in December, 1979. Photo: Whistler Question Collection

Founded in 1976, The Whistler Question is Whistler’s longest-running newspaper and these early photographs document significant milestones in Whistler’s development, such as the construction of Whistler Village, the opening of Blackcomb Mountain and the Molson World Cup Downhill.

Everyday events experienced by the growing community also feature strongly, including sporting events, school plays, weddings, local government meetings and rowdy parties that express the spirit of the people living in our mountain town.  The Whistler Museum’s temporary exhibit room will showcase many of these week-by-week photos on the walls and will also host a slideshow screen that displays over 100 other photos from the collection.

Many of The Whistler Question’s original captions form the newspaper will accompany the photographs, demonstrating how these photos were framed in print.

Myrtle Philip, aged 93, with the Grade 5 class from Myrtle Philip Elementary School at her home on Alta Lake Road, May 1984. Photo: Whistler Question Collection

We will be celebrating opening night of The Whistler Question: A Photographic History 1978-1985 and the completion of the digitization project on Friday, September 15 from 6 to 9pm.  We hope you’ll join us for a night of admiring these beautiful photos, reminiscing and mingling as we welcome special guests Paul Burrows, the found of The Whistler Question, and Glenda Bartosh, the second publisher and owner of the paper.

Paul and Glenda will share their experiences and stories of the early years of The Whistler Question and Whistler itself, providing context for the visual exhibit that will add even more to the already vivid photos on display.

The Whistler Museum will host refreshments, including snacks and complimentary tea provided by DavidsTea, as well as a cash bar to fuel the good times.

Admission for the evening will be free, so we hope that the community can join us to wander the exhibit and celebrate the archives of our local paper!  If you aren’t able to join us for opening night, please come view the exhibit during our normal opening hours (11am to 5pm daily, open late on Thursdays) until the exhibit ends on November 30, 2017, or browse the digitized Whistler Question photos online here.

The Whistler Question: A Photographic History

We are very excited to announce that The Whistler Question: A Photographic History 1978 – 1985 will open Friday, September 15!  To celebrate the opening of our latest exhibit and the completion of the Whistler Question Digitization Project (you can read more about that here) we would like to invite everyone to join us and special guests Paul Burrows and Glenda Bartosh for appetizers and drinks at the Whistler Museum.

Featuring photographs from the Whistler Question Collection, this new exhibit captures the town of Whistler during a time of transition and rapid change.  Come and view the development of the resort and the growth of the community through nearly seven years worth of photos!

The Whistler Answer Has Turned 40!

“For those tired of questions… the Whistler Answer.”

If you heard bursts of laughter and rad tunes echoing over Alta Lake on Saturday night, it wasn’t some high school house party – it was the sound of those early Whistler hippies and ski-bums partying the night away at The Point for the 40th anniversary party of the Whistler Answer.

Partygoers at The Point last Saturday, April 1 for the Answer anniversary party.

Marketing itself as the satirical flipside of the Whistler Question, the Answer was a local alternative newspaper dreamed up by Charlie Doyle, Robin Blechman and Tim Smith as a comedic response to the more serious Question.  The winter of 1977 was cold but desperately lacking in snow, causing many residents to head for warmer climates.  The Answer acted as a kind of letter from to travelling Whistlerites and catered to the town’s hippie ski-bum culture with a tongue-in-cheek style attributed by many to editor Robert “Bosco” Poitras (then Colebrook).  The early issues were created completely by hand at a local squat – hand-written, hand-drawn and hand-pasted with Scotch tape and white glue.

Publication began in 1977 and ended in 1982, although it was revived from 1992 – 1993.  Flipping through the Answer provides a window to the “Old Whistler”, an idyllic era that pre-dates our valley’s current hyper-development and insane visitor numbers.

In the same way, Saturday night’s Whistler Answer 40th Anniversary party at The Point was a wormhole to a Whistler in the days of the Answer, with all its lively local characters and a reunion performance by Foot in the Door, the band of Answer publisher Charlie Doyle, Mark Schnaidt and Rocco Bonito.

Charlie Doyle and band members perform at the Whistler Answer Benefit at the Mountain House Cabaret in 1981, during the Answer’s first run.

The night started out with a dinner of Bushwoman’s Chinese Cuisine followed by some hilarious tales from Doyle and others about the publication.  Several readers stepped up to share their favourite Answer passages – including an insightful book review of the local BC-Tel phonebook.  In the midst of these retellings, the party was crashed by three nude-suited hippies covered in bush and branch – supposedly the three individuals pictured canoeing in the Answer’s first issue front-page article: “Missing on Alta Lake”.  An auction was also held for original copies of the Whistler Answer and Whistler’s superhero comic “Localman” with proceeds going to the organizers of the event.

The first issue of the Answer featured a photo of three canoeing individuals “lost” on Alta Lake.  Find the full issue online at the link below.

Foot in the Door then took to the stage to bring back some choice tunes from the days of the Answer, to the joy of the dancing crowd.  The show also included improv acts by Get to the Point Improv and more great music by Some Assembly Required and the Skunk Cabbage Revue.

Foot in the Door reunited to perform at The Point for the Answer’s 40th Anniversary.

The packed heritage lodge was full of hugs, laughter and old friends meeting again in what can only be called the closest we’ll ever get to reigniting the spirit of the infamous Toad Hall parties we at the Museum hear so much about.

To browse all issues of the Whistler Answer in full, check out the Whistler Museum’s digitized versions of the colourful local paper: http://www.whistlermuseum.org/whistleranswer

Christmas at Rainbow Lodge: The Musical

If you take a walk along the Village Stroll in December you’re sure to notice signs of the holiday season anywhere you look; there is snow on the ground, tree are lit up, wreaths have been hung, and beneath the voices of crowds of people strains of holiday music can be heard.  As in many communities, music plays an important part in Whistler’s holiday traditions, many of which began in the 1980s when the Whistler of today was still developing.  Events such as the Bizarre Bazaar (now the Arts Whistler Holiday Market) would not be complete without festive music in the background and for thirty-three years the Christmas Eve Carol Service has brought local residents and visitors together to sing carols as one community.  Though rarely performed, Whistler even has its own Christmas musical.

Molly Boyd with Myrtle Philip at the first performance of "Christmas at Rainbow Lodge".

Molly Boyd with Myrtle Philip at the first performance of “Christmas at Rainbow Lodge”.

“Christmas at Rainbow Lodge” was written by Bob Daly and Molly Boyd and first performed by the students of Myrtle Philip School in December 1984.  Daly was the principal of the school from 1981 to 1985 and returned to head the school twice more before retiring in 2002.  During her twelve years living in Whistler, Boyd was heavily involved in Whistler’s music scene and its holiday activities – she founded the Whistler Children’s Chorus, was involved in starting the Christmas Eve Carol Service and directed the Whistler Singers.  During December she could often by spotted leading the Singers caroling through the Village with here battery-operated keyboard balanced on a shopping art.  The two were inspired to create a musical by Myrtle Philip’s stories of her life as a pioneer in Alta Lake as told to them over tea and Myrtle’s famous rum cake.

The musical tells the shortened and somewhat fictionalized story of how Myrtle and Alex Philip came to build Rainbow Lodge, beginning with Alex’s chance meeting of John Millar in Vancouver in 1911.  The story includes their first three-day journey to Alta Lake and meeting with loggers, trappers, railroad workers, miners and hunters who already lived or were working in the area.  Each group of people the pair meets helps them in some way as they begin settling and building.  To thank all these people for their kindness they all are invited to share in the Philips’ first Christmas at Rainbow Lodge.

The dining room at Rainbow Lodge decorated for Christmas.

The dining room at Rainbow Lodge decorated for Christmas.

Unlike many holiday concerts, most of the music in “Christmas at Rainbow” is not about Christmas.  Instead, the majority are folk songs from the Pacific Northwest such as “Acres of Clams” and “The PGE Song”, many of which were collected by Philip J Thomas, a composer, singer, teacher and folklorist who founded the Vancouver Folk Song Circle and instrumental in collecting and preserving the folk music of British Columbia.

Since its inaugural performance in 1984, “Christmas at Rainbow” has been performed only twice more: once by the students of the current Myrtle Philip Community School in the 1990s and once by the intermediate students of Spring Creek Community School in 2012.

Happy Holidays from the Whistler Museum!