Tag Archives: Fred Woods

Discovering Alex Philip (Part Two)

As briefly mentioned in our article “The Crimson Paradise Turkey” in The Question (coming out Tuesday Aug. 26th), depending on whose perspective you get, the ‘facts’ of history may be different. Below is a quote from an interview completed by Sally Mitchell with Pat and Lou Woods from 1989, in which they discuss how a donation from Myrtle really got the museum going.

Sally: She left us the entire contents of her house.

Lou: Oh she did, eh’?

S: That’s how it first got started, the museum. So we were a little, almost biased to begin with because we had all her things, and we didn’t have anything from anybody else.

L: Oh I see.

S: That’s why it’s so important that we get out and talk to other families.

L: Well in every human community for heaven sakes there’s pros and cons on everything.

S: Oh yeah.

L: It doesn’t matter what the issue is or what the point is, there’s always different angles.

S: As long as you get all those different angles, then you don’t get stuck.

L: Then you get, kind of, nubs coming in there. There’s touching lines, right? Yeah, then you say, “Oh that could have been fact.”

I bring this up because since I began working at the museum in June, I have been told of what kind of person Alex Philip was, and it has not painted the best picture of his character. However, while doing research, I have read many positive remarks about Alex (Alec to most people in the early days). This is not to say that young Alec and old Alex had the same personality, or that the traits that made him a likeable proprietor of Rainbow Lodge, and author, did not betray him later in life.

Alex Philip and his dog, ca. 1915. Philip Collection.

Alex Philip and his dog, ca. 1915. Philip Collection.

In the interview quoted above, Pat Woods discusses Alec a few times, stating, “He was a hell of a nice old guy.” Pat worked for Alec and Myrtle for a short period of time when he was around 13, bringing firewood into the cabins of Rainbow Lodge. In the interview clip below he tells a story about one time when he forgot to bring the wood into the hall.

Pat: I remember one time I forgot to put the wood in. They had a big fireplace in the… dining room. Then they’d move the tables to dance at night. And sometimes it’d get cold. My job was to pile the wood by that fireplace. I went to work the day. I don’t know what happened. They were delivering milk. And cut into some beer… The next morning packing wood into these cabins…(Run into Alec?)…I think there was a few people around. He said, “Pat, I don’t know what I’m going to do with you. I guess I’ll give you one more chance.” …He said can you imagine in front of 100 guests here’s Mr. Philip, the proprietor, with his while flannels and white shoes, silk shirt, packing wood into the dining room?” I said “Oh my God.” He said “Cause that’s what I did.” And then he started to laugh. And I says “You did it yourself?” “Well I found someone to help me.” That was his humour ‘eh. But I remembered not to do it again.

It seems that the Woods family had a close connection with Alec. Fred Woods, Pat Woods’ father, also had many positive things to say about Alec. In an interview conducted by Tim Cornish with Fred Woods in 1982, Fred states that “Alec was a very strange man, tall, but a very good-natured man, very kind. Although, he was considerate, mind you he never threw his money away. Just pleasant.”

Alex Philip on his boat, 1956. Philip Collection.

Later in this interview when asked to say more about Alec, Fred states:

“He was the one that attracted the tourists, because Alec’s got more stories than Carter’s got pills. And he was a clean living man. He enjoyed a drink, but that was all, he never got intoxicated or nothing, he was a pleasant man. There was an awful lot of B.C. telephone girls that would go up there on their’ holidays. It was close to home and quite reasonable in those days. And of course Alec would get them in a bunch and tell them stories; he could make stories up in his mind. They were all stories that the girls liked. That’s how Rainbow started.”

Throughout my research it has become clear that Alec was indeed a very well liked by other men. It seems from the archives, that those who knew him in the days of Rainbow Lodge knew Alex as a kind host, entertainer, storyteller, and the life of the party. However, there are many sides to every story.

A Christmastime Mystery: The Disappearance of Ernie Archibald

With Christmas closely behind us, ‘tis the season to recall one of Whistler’s most curious Christmastime mysteries – an event that took place over seventy years ago on a cold December night in 1938. I’m referring to the disappearance of Ernie Archibald. Aside from the mystery of Ernie’s disappearance, the story itself is somewhat inconclusive due to its varying accounts.

Ernie Archibald came to Whistler in 1912 and lived on the east side of Alta Lake. What we know for certain of this story is that on the night of his disappearance, Ernie had a guest, George Trites, staying with him at his home.  As Florence Petersen distinguishes in her book First Tracks: Whistler’s Early History, Ernie and George were heading to Fred Woods’ home located across the lake from the Archibald residence. However, in an interview in 2012, Glen Smith (Ernie’s grandson) recalls his mother telling him the story and stating that Ernie and George were actually on their way to catch a train to Vancouver. The two men – whether it be to catch a train or to visit a friend’s house for dinner – left Ernie’s house and attempted to cross Alta Lake. Prior to visiting Ernie, George had injured his leg and therefore, in order to cross the lake, Ernie had to pull George in a sleigh. The two men never made it to their destination.

Ice on Alta Lake, ca. 1935. Philip Collection

Ice on Alta Lake, ca. 1935.
Philip Collection

As days wore on, friends began to notice Ernie’s absence. As one story goes, Fred Woods noticed a lamp burning in the front window of Ernie’s home – at this time it was the custom to leave a gas lamp burning in your window before leaving your home so that you could find your way back after dark. Eddie Droll, a young man visiting Fred, offered to walk across the iced-over lake to find out if George and Ernie were home. The two men, of course, were not.

George’s sleigh was later found on top of the frozen lake, while George’s body was found in the lake. Ernie Archibald, however, was never found. This is where the story takes an interesting turn. First, some people thought it was strange that the sleigh had not also fallen through the ice with the two men. Secondly, George Trites had sustained a serious wound to his forehead.

Despite the strange plot twists, many believe that Ernie Archibald is still in Alta Lake. Of course, it is all speculation and hearsay. But it makes you wonder what really happened on that cold December night in 1938.

Believed to be Ernie Archibald's residence on Alta Lake, ca. 1930. Smith Collection

Believed to be Ernie Archibald’s residence on Alta Lake, ca. 1930.
Smith Collection