Tag Archives: George Benjamin

A Ski Bum’s Christmas

Digging through the archives we’ve uncovered a few gems from Whistler’s Christmas past. First, here’s a few photos from our George Benjamin collection of a 1969 Christmas celebration at Whistler’s most infamous ski bum hangout, Toad Hall. The photos have a wonderfully nostalgic, yet timeless feel.

A Toad Hall Christmas, 1969.

A Toad Hall Christmas, 1969.

All necessary precautions were made. "Slippry when Slippry" (sic) was painted on the front steps.

All necessary precautions were made. “Slippry when Slippry” (sic) was painted on the front steps.

The hairstyles, fashion, and fisheye lens clearly date the images, and the fact that they’re cooking their turkey in a wood stove reminds us of the pioneer lifestyles endured by Whistler’s early ski bums. The living room shot, however, with its cozy ski cabin ambiance, feasting circle of friends huddled in from the winter cold, and the surfboard hanging from the roof, feels as if it could have been taken last weekend in an Alpine Meadows A-frame.

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John Hetherington, Toad Hall staple, former Whistler Mountain ski patroller, and current Whistler Museum President reflects fondly on those days:

“Christmas at Toad Hall was great… Of course, there was no electricity, so it was just Coleman lanterns and the old “Master Climax” wood stove. One year we used candles to decorate the Christmas tree. We only had birthday candles so they burned quick and we had to keep replacing them. While they were burning it looked amazing, but we were terrified of burning the whole place down.”

Toad Hall did, in fact, meet a fiery end, but it wasn’t Christmas, or carelessness for that matter, that did it in.

Master Climax Turkey Glory!

Master Climax Turkey Glory!

horrorscopeContinuing in the spirit of Whistler’s seventies era, we push forward to 1977 and  the Whistler Answer‘s special holiday-themed horoscope. While this bit of soothsaying may not exactly jive with traditional Christmas spirit (there was nothing “traditional” about the Answer, after all), it manages to find some humour in the sometimes stressful and challenging nature of the season.

santa squattingAnd in a slightly less cynical turn, we leave you with some long-forgotten, but nonetheless important investigative journalism, also courtesy the Answer. It turns out Santa Claus may not be as “on the level” as is commonly assumed.

We’re especially excited to be sharing this great Whistler Answer content with you this holiday season because we’ve just finished (a couple of hours ago, actually) the digitization of the irreverent and iconic newspaper’s full run (both of them). We’re now working on the software and formatting, and hope to have every single issue of the Whistler Answer available online for your reading pleasure early in the new year. Stay tuned to this space for updates.

The Whistler Museum wishes you a safe, snowy, happy, tasty, playful, stress-free. May all your wishes and none of your horrorscopes come true!

Squatters and Ski-bums

This month sees the completion of the project to catalogue the George Benjamin collection.  This collection is definitely different to any other that I have encountered in my career in archives before, but it is certainly of great significance to the history of Whistler. George Benjamin moved to Whistler in 1970 and took up residence in “Tokum Corners”, a roughly made cabin with no electricity and no running water. Many of you will find the name “Tokum” familiar from the eponymous ski-run on Whistler Mountain – and this is no coincidence – one of George’s roommates at Tokum Corners named it while working on the mountain as this was his route home from a hard days work. “Tokum Corners” was also used to refer to a part of Dave Murray Downhill – the downhill ski racing run that was used during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.  As you can gather from these accolades, Tokum Corners was an institution in 1970s Whistler, and was host to many parties and a hub for the “ski-bum” population of Whistler.

George Benjamin outside Tokum Corners

George or “Benji” as he was more commonly known was also a semi-professional photographer. His family, back in Ontario, owned a photo finishing business and this allowed him to develop his photographs for free – a handy asset in the days before digital photography.

Awesome 70s skiing

In 2009 when I was working on the Museum’s new exhibit we were looking for material to use in our squatters and ski-bums display and it became apparent that there was actually very little material relating to that aspect of Whistler’s history in the Museum.  The pioneers were well covered, as was the history of the development of the ski-hill, but the history of the ‘counter-culture’ of squatters in the 1970s, which was actually more like the main-stream culture at that time was pitifully under-represented. This provoked a search for material and we were rewarded with the donation of a huge collection of photographs from Benji.  Although I was very excited to receive the collection I was also a little overwhelmed. Working as the Collection’s Manager for the museum is busier that I could ever have imagined and finding the time to sit down and catalogue five thousand photographs was extremely daunting. Luckily, a grant from the National Archives Development Program was forthcoming and we were able to hire Bradley Nichols for four months to catalogue the collection, re-house it in acid-free boxes to prevent deterioration and to digitize 50 of the photographs for our website.

Part of the Benjamin collection in its swanky new archival-quality housing

You can see these photographs on the Museum’s website at http://www.whistlermuseum.org/georgebenjamincollection and the catalogue is available to view on the museum’s own online database at http://ica-atom.org/whistler/benjamin-fonds;rad and on MemoryBC at http://www. http://memorybc.ca/

We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through Library and Archives Canada, and administered by the Canadian Council of Archives.