Tag Archives: Alpha Lake

The Early Days of Creekside

The community of Alta Lake, which attracted visitors and families with cabins in the summer for hiking, hunting and fishing along the lakefront, was forever changed in 1960.

That year, the Garibaldi Olympic Development Agency, led by Franz Wilhelmsen, chose the valley as the site to bring the 1968 Winter Olympics to Canada and British Columbia.  The failure of this first Olympic bid, while discouraging, did not dissuade the group from deciding to build a world-class ski resort.

A very optimistic sign at the base of Whistler Mountain. Photo: Whistler Mountain Collection

The Garibladi Lift Company installed the first gondola-accessed ski area in North America and opened the ski resort in January 1966.

With the ski resort in operation, the newly formed Chamber of Commerce operated as the local government overseeing the sporadic development surrounding the gondola base. The Garibaldi Lift Company did not have the financial resources to purchase the property around the gondola base allowing others to purchase the land.

With the lack of an official community plan or recognized local government, development went unchecked.  Ski cabins were scattered around the base along with a gas station/grocery store and a telephone exchange.  The Garibaldi Lift Company built an interdenominational skier’s chapel, complete with bells and a memorial stain glass window.

The Cheakamus Inn, the Highland Lodge, Rainbow Lodge and other Alta Lake lodges housed visitors in what had normally been the off-season for the Alta Lake community.  A large development was planned near the shores of Nita and Alpha Lakes.  The development would have included residential and commercial properties as well as more recreational areas such as a curling/skating rink, swimming pool and tennis courts.  A condominium development called Alpine Village sat above the gondola area on the slopes of Whistler Mountain.  The UBC Varsity Outdoor Club began constructing their new club cabin near the gondola base.

Alpine 68 newly constructed in 1968. Condos such as these sprung up around Creekside and Nordic.  Photo: Whistler Mountain Collection

The popularity of skiing also brought long waits to ride the gondola up to the mid-station.  The wait times would sometimes exceed three hours just to get on the gondola, prompting the Garibaldi Lift Company to offer free skiing to those willing to hike to the mid-station.

The parking lots at the base of the gondola were consistently full.  Highway 99 was finally blacktopped between Squamish and Whistler, but the drive was still full of hairpin turns and single lane bridges.  This didn’t stop skiers from driving up from the city.

A full (and colourful) parking lot in Creekside. Photo: Whistler Mountain Collection

The popularity of the ski resort also attracted another group of people to the valley: “hippies” and those involved in the counterculture movement.  Those unable to afford to purchase land or build their own ski cabin would squat on Crown land.

With the RMOW established on September 6, 1975 the chaotic nature of development in Whistler’s early years was over the focus on bringing about the well-planned Whistler Village began.

The Mysterious Naismiths

File this under “people we wish we knew more about.”

We can’t even find Dr. Baldwin’s birth or death years, and he is referred to as both “A.G. Naismith” and “Baldwin Naismith.” Records indicate that his wife Grace Hilda passed away in Victoria at the age of 83 on August 9 1977, but we don’t know her maiden name or place of birth. Yet we have over a dozen photos of them, they owned a cabin in the valley, and they appear to have been close friends to Myrtle and Alex Philip for close to 50 years.

Grace and Dr. Baldwin Naismith, circa 1920.

Grace and Dr. Baldwin Naismith, circa 1920.


These tantalizingly incomplete stories can be amongst the most fascinating, and frustrating, subjects for historical researchers. Let’s review what we know…

Our earliest record comes indirectly through another Alta Lake pioneer Tom Neiland, who claimed to purchase land from Dr. Naismith on Alta Lake in 1921 in order to set up his own logging business. Then in 1927 Myrtle Philip sent a postcard to her sister Jean Tapley in Seattle, which included the line “Dr. & Mrs. Naismith are here – look fine – send love to you” so by this point they were well-known to the Philip/Tapley clan, but it is not known whether they had a cabin in the valley or were just regular visitors to Rainbow Lodge.

Grace Naismith at Rainbow Lodge holding a wood carrier inscribed

Grace Naismith at Rainbow Lodge holding a wood carrier inscribed “To Myrtle / Many Happy Returns / from Grace” with a rendering of Rainbow Lodge (presumably, a birthday present). A smiling Myrtle looks on from the Rainbow Lodge porch, circa 1940s.

From several sources we do know that Dr. Naismith worked as a pathologist near Kamloops, some recollecting that he was a lung specialist at the now-defunct Tranquille tuberculosis sanatorium on the north side of Kamloops Lake. Jenny Jardine, Tom Neiland’s step-daughter, stated that the doctor “was an Ontario returned soldier and she was a war bride. They had a Chinese foster son.” When local pioneer Harry Horstman, who lived near to the Naismith’s cabin on Alpha Lake, became too infirm to carry on his bachelor lifestyle they arranged a new home for him at a care facility in Kamloops, where he passed away in 1946.

This photograph shows a house on a point at Alpha Lake during wintertime. The house is almost certainly that of Dr. & Grace Naismith. Annotations in pen on the reverse of the image read:

The Naismith’s cabin on Alpha Lake, on what is known today as Pine Point, circa 1930.

By 1930, if not earlier, the Naismith’s owned a cabin on the shores of Alpha Lake, where Pine Point Park is now located. Also beginning in the 1930s we have several photographs of Myrtle and Grace together at Rainbow Lodge, in sophisticated dress on the streets of Vancouver, or looking quite casual around Mahood Lake, east of Quesnel, where the Naismith’s had another cabin.

Myrtle Philip and Grace Naismith in street clothes in a sidewalk in Vancouver. Photographer's stamp on verso :

Myrtle Philip and Grace Naismith in street clothes in Vancouver. A Photographer’s stamp on the back of the print reads : “MOVIE SNAPS / 541 Granville Blvd / ‘Souvenir of Vancouver, B.C.'” According to web research, Movie Snaps was a Vancouver photography business specializing in street photography – where photographers solicited pedestrians offering to take their photos for a fee (like an urban version of what Coast Mountain Photography does on Whistler-Blackcomb).

As early as 1929, the Mahood Lake cabin became a regular fall retreat for the Philip’s, where they could unwind after the busy summer at Rainbow Lodge. In an upcoming blog post we’ll go into a bit more detail about the Philips’ frequent fall visits to the Cariboo.

Another glamorous

Another glamorous “street photography” capture of Grace and Myrtle, this one appearing to be taken during the 1960s.

For now, that is the extent of our knowledge. We will have to be content placing the Naismith’s in a long line of visitors to our valley who became dually charmed by the landscape and by the Philip’s gracious hospitality. Of course, if any readers out there can share more of this story, we’d love to hear it.

Just in case these glamorous city shots were giving you the wrong impression of Grace, we’ll leave you with this interesting little snippet from the August 3rd 1962 edition of the Prince George Citizen that suggests that Grace was equally comfortable in the bush as she was in the city.

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Swimming Through the Ages

With the sun hopefully returning to Whistler to stay the local lakes are once again teeming with those who prefer to cool off in the water.  Looking through photos in our archive it’s easy to see that swimming has always been a popular summer pastime in Whistler, one that has changed relatively little in the past hundred years.

Swimming at Rainbow Lodge on Alta Lake

While Alex and Myrtle Philip operated Rainbow Lodge Alta Lake was the most popular summer destination for days spent in the water.  Not only did the lake make a hot summer day tolerable but with views such as those seen from the shore it would be hard not to enjoy your surroundings.  Like today, guests and residents alike could be found splashing around the docks, though for some the idea of a cool swim doesn’t appear to have been such an appealing one.  Although diving boards have disappeared from Whistler lakes the water is still cold enough to cause hesitation in some people.

Diving board and a hesitant swimmer on Alta Lake

The only glaringly noticeable difference between swimming in the early twentieth century and swimming now is the bathing costume, or swimsuit.  Though the same strokes are used to move through the water it is rare to find someone on the beach in apparel similar to that modeled by Jean Tapley, Katie McGregor and their friend.  Though not covering quite as much as the popular two piece suits of the nineteenth century which included a knee-length gown and trousers to the ankles, these suits are still very modest compared to those found today.

Jean Tapley, Katie McGregor and friend

Alta Lake, along with Lost Lake, Alpha Lake, and others, is still a popular place to spend a day, whether you live here or are visiting.  Though Rainbow Lodge is now gone (apart from a few cabins still at Rainbow Park) it is still possible to have the same swimming experience as the first guests to Whistler.

Swimmers and boaters enjoy the docks at Rainbow Lodge

 

Hard Times in Whistler: the Jardine-Neiland Family – (pt.2)

This is part two of a post on the Jardine-Neiland family. For part one, please click here.

In early July 1922 the export log prices of cedar logs collapsed and so did Thomas Neiland’s business – he had to file for bankruptcy. The family pulled up stakes and went back to North Vancouver. Later that month, Lizzie gave birth to their son, Thomas Neiland Jr. at the age of 40. For three months, Thomas looked for work in Vancouver. Eventually persuaded by both a lack of employment and his wife’s desire to return to Alta Lake, he gained financing under her name.

The Jardine-Neiland family, posing for a portrait in 1924. From left to right: Jack Jardine, Lizzie Neiland, Jenny Jardine (standing), Thomas Neiland Sr., Thomas Neiland Jr., and Bob Jardine.

The family returned to their Alpha Lake cabin, and in 1923 they moved into an old loggers cabin at 34 ½ mile that was being sold by the crown, and this became their home for the next 20 or more years. The house came with cases of milk, bags of dried beans, and slabs of bacon – according to Jenny, “the latter very much like a bit of leather.” Today, 34 1/2 mile is Whistler’s Function Junction.

Jardine-Neiland property at 34 1/2 mile (Function Junction)

Life for the Jardine-Neiland family was precarious. The children remember their mother saying, “It’s a case of feast or famine.” Sometimes business was booming, but at other times, particularly during the Great Depression, the family would have to survive on the damages payments paid to the children from the death of their father.

Jenny and Jack never went to school again after they left North Vancouver in 1921 – Jenny was eight and her brother was only six. They began working in the logging industry at the ages of twelve and ten. Although they did do lessons by correspondence, they rarely had the time or energy left to study. In her memoirs, Jenny recalls:

“I started to work out in the woods when I was 12, driving a horse – a big Clyde with a white face. Pa [Thomas Neiland] got a portable saw mill and set it up on the lower field…that meant log so many days and cut ties and lumber so many days. I lifted the slabs off as the circular saw slabbed them…We had correspondence school lessons to work on but somehow there was too many other things to do, so lessons were only done at night or if it rained.”

Life was somewhat easier for the younger children, Bob and Tom, as the school at Alta Lake opened in 1932, affording them a proper education.

The Jardine/Neiland children hauling logs to the portable sawmill at 34 1/2 mile with the aid of horses, 1926. From left to right: Jenny, Jack, Bob and Tom Jr.

They had their mother to thank, as she instigated the building of the first school in the area. In 1931, a school assessment appeared on the tax notice even though there was no school. Lizzie had three sons and one daughter of school age. Bob recalled: “When she got the tax notice of $7.50 she got real worked up as money in those days was tight. She started a movement to look into the possibility of building a school.”

Left to right: Jenny Jardine, Flossie the dog, Jack Jardine, Tom Neiland Jr. and Bob Jardine in Lizzie Neiland’s garden at 34 1/2 mile, about 1930.

In order to keep themselves fed, the family sometimes had to resort to shooting a “government cow” – the tongue-in-cheek name for a deer poached out of season. According to an interview with Bob Jardine in 1991, they weren’t the only ones – other Whistler pioneers, including Bill Bailiff and Charlie Chandler, went after “government cow” in times of desperation. It certainly didn’t make for a tasty meal out of season. In that interview with her brother, Jenny conceded, “…to tell you the truth, when I shot a deer, it was awful tasting.”

When Jenny got married in 1937 and had children of her own, life remained challenging. Her husband, Wallace, also worked in the logging industry and the couple moved around from place to place on various contracts – many of them in Alta Lake. They spent a winter in a “…tar paper shack with two rooms” at Parkhurst, with their year-old daughter, Louise. For more on the community of Parkhurst, see these earlier posts: “Family Life at Parkhurst Mill” and “Exploring Parkhurst: Whistler’s ‘Ghost Town’.”

Tom Neiland senior lived at 34 ½ mile until his death in 1949. Lizzie stayed on in Alta Lake for a few more years until it became too much for her, and she sold the property and moved on. She lived to be 102, passing away in 1984.

Jack Jardine left the Whistler area about 1940, and logged in various places. By the late 1940s he married a woman named Irma and built a cabin across the tracks from where his mother was living on her own. When Lizzie sold her property, Jack and Irma settled in Squamish.

Bob and Tom Jr. both served in the Air Force. Tom went on to marry a British woman, and eventually retired in Calgary. As for Bob, he married a woman from the Air Force after asking for her hand in marriage on their very first date (that story is truly worth a read, and can be found here). Bob and his wife Stella retired to Kelowna.

Bob Jardine standing next to a large felled tree on Harry Horstman’s property, 1940

In spite of the many difficulties faced by the family, life was not all hardship at Alta Lake – the children have many fond memories of the valley. When Jenny permanently moved away from the area she was terribly homesick for the mountains and wildflowers, while Bob recounted many stories of being a cheeky little boy. At the age of 71, he still recalled neighbor Mrs. Wood’s horror when her daughter Helen arrived home with hair saturated with lamp black after a friendly “hand grenade” battle