Tag Archives: Isobel MacLaurin

Legends of Whistler… tell the stories

We are incredibly excited to announce a three part speaker series cohosted with the Whistler Public Library and the RMOW!

Over three days, twelve very special guests will be sharing their own stories and knowledge of Whistler’s history, including the development of the mountains and the creation of Whistler Village.  Each event is free to attend.

A Glimpse into the Don MacLaurin Collection

As with many newcomers, I only know the basics of Whistler’s history when I moved here, and I hadn’t even though about the influence forestry has had – and still has – on the community, development, and economy of the area.  I have been working on the Don MacLaurin archival collection for the past few months, and it has shown me an important side of Whistler that I may not have discovered otherwise.  I know more now about forestry and sustainable ecology than I ever could have imagined, and it’s becoming very clear to me just how much MacLaurin and the rest of Whistler’s fantastic long-term residents have shaped the way the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) has developed.

For those of you who don’t know, MacLaurin was instrumental in the promotion of sustainable forestry and recreation within the RMOW and the Sea to Sky corridor.  He spent many years – decades, in fact – working on the development and maintenance of the Whistler Interpretive Forest, from creating interpretive signs and self-guided tour pamphlets, to organizing the installation of a suspension bridge over the Cheakamus River.  That suspension bridge is now known as MacLaurin’s Crossing in his honour.

Members of the Whistler Rotary Club working to fill remaining orders are, left to right: Bill Wallace, Don MacLaurin, Bob Brown, Paul Burrows, Richard Heine, Brian Brown, Sid Young and a visiting Rotarian from New Zealand. Whistler Question Collection.

MacLaurin also acted as a consultant for many other projects in the region, and was very involved in the Whistler Arbour Day Committee during the 1990s, which was responsible for organizing tree planting events and other environmental awareness activities during National Forest Week.

I could go on listing MacLaurin’s many accomplishments, but there’s not enough room for that in this article.  These are only a few of the many roles he took on (the entirety of his résumé could fill a very interesting book, I’m sure) and the documents in his archival collection are a brilliant, detailed illustration of his extensive involvement.

Among the donations from the MacLaurins over the years are a series of photos of the “highway” between Squamish and Whistler around 1959. MacLaurin Collection.

Archival collections (and donations to the archives, of course) are extremely important in the preservation of a community’s history, especially in a place as flowing and dynamic as Whistler.  Collections like MacLaurin’s are an invaluable resource for researching the industries, events, and programs that have influenced Whistler, even in recent history.

As of 2017, 23 per cent of British Columbia’s exports were forestry-related, so the documents in this particular collection are not only invaluable to the history of Whistler, but they also provide an important insight into the history of the province.  MacLaurin’s collection is a wealth of information on sustainable forest management that will aid forestry researchers for decades to come, and this is only one of the many magnificent collections housed within the Whistler Museum and Archives.

Don MacLaurin, Isobel MacLaurin and friends hiking in the mountains. Photo: MacLaurin Collection

If you’re interested in learning more about MacLaurin and his dazzling wife, Isobel, I would highly recommend checking out Pique’s online articles, as well as articles on this blog and the Arts Whistler website.  They are easily accessible through a search on each organization’s website, and paint a beautiful picture of these lovely Whistler locals.

Hailey Schmitke is the current Collections Coordinator summer student at the Whistler Museum and Archives.  She recently received a Bachelor of Arts from Memorial University of Newfoundland, majoring in Archaeology and Religious Studies.

This Week In Photos: July 19

We’ve got quite a few photos for this week – that’s because we happen to have this week represented in almost every year of the Whistler Question Collection!

1978

Kayakers are dwarfed by the Daisy Lake Dam.

Werner Furrer (third place K1) explodes over waves, heading for gate 28.

The finished product – a distinctive Zurbrugg chalet.

First the chasm over the river…

… then the stringers.

Asphalt oil heater is lifted off a lowbed at Malloch & Mosley on Friday as Doug Muir looks on.

1979

The new municipal waterworks tank above the Town Centre.

FIRE on Blackcomb! The scene from Alpine Meadows at 11:30 pm on Sunday.

The Whistler Volunteer Firemen practice – John Howells up a ladder.

Architect’s drawing of the new Whistler Tri-Service Building.

1980

Parcel 16 will have a clock tower rising from the right hand side and will feature retail outlets on the first floor and residential on the second.

Most work in town centre is construction but some is destruction. These two workers pound away at steel-reinforced concrete. A day long job for sure.

The giant twin-propellor Canadian Forces Rescue helicopter used to help rescue crews get to the crash site of a small plane on Whistler Mountain.

Roof gone and the rest going, this old mill is deteriorating along the Green River north of Whistler. Only ghosts and rodents inhabit it now.

1981

Whistler Village parking! Wagon misses the parking lot on Wednesday evening, ending up in the newly landscaped garden.

Herb and Jean Hepburn of Okanagan Produce, Vernon, managed to get in a few fruit sales before being asked to leave by municipal authorities.

Bob Dawson and Neil Mawdsley unsuccessfully try to get a fly ball.

Chris Green, Laura d’Artois and J.G. Luckhurst at the Fireplace Inn opening party.

And here he is! The mysterious Mr B.A. Bell of Whistler slowly unpeels his talent – much to the giggles and appreciation of his audience at the first Jock Contest held at Mountain House, July 20. With competition from Fast Eddie and Schultz, things looked mighty tough – but then Peter Lamare took the floor and the $100 first prize.

Annette Ducharma, accompanied by Jamie Boyd, strummed out many a fine tune at JB’s July 16 – 20 while Betsy Chaba took a temporary leave to entertain folks at the Folk Festival in Vancouver.

Crews replace railroad crossing on the highway by the Whistler Industrial Park.

1982

Workers repair damage done to the Lillooet bridge, which received unwanted alterations Tuesday from a truck too tall for a bridge too small.

Hanging high, window washers polish up the Delta Mountain Inn for its July 23rd opening.

Rotarians enjoy their Bravery Luncheon July 16. They were guests of Delta Mountain Inn, which was giving its Twigs Restaurant staff a taste of the dining room in action.

Virginia Meachin enjoys an early morning cup of java with two hikers who joined her Saturday hike down Whistler Mountain.

Whistlerites enjoy some of the gourmet treats served by the Gourmet, which recently completed its patio eating area outside of the Rainbow building in Sunshine Place.

Halt! A barrier blocks the drive of an Alpine Meadows residence after the ditching crew passed by.

Fresh off the assembly line is the Municipality’s 4×4 multi-purpose truck. Among other chores the vehicle will tackle the job of plowing Whistler streets this winter.

1983

Sunny skies and the colourful show put on by the Estonian Folk Dancers of Vancouver brightened up the Whistler Village Sunday, July 17.

Paul Gibson of Selkirk Cable Vision turns a final screw to get Alpine Meadows booked into Whistler Cable Television’s system. Besides six channels, subscribers can now enjoy a host of FM radio stations.

When weekend temperatures soared to the mid-20s, sun worshippers who had been denied their pleasure for nearly six weeks flocked to Lost Lake like the swallows to Capistrano. The new forecast, after four days of sun? Get out the ark, and don’t ask again.

Isobel MacLaurin.

Thuy Read admires a shirt from Whistler Tops in her role asa shopper in “Getaway to Whistler”, a promotional film being made by Curtis Petersen of Petersen Productions.

1984

You put your knees up and you toss the cool drinks down when the sun comes out at Whistler. Temperatures climbed as high as 30.4 C in the past week. Even at the Toni Sailer Ski Camp there were hot times. On Monday at noon the temperature at Midstation on Whistler Mountain was 21 C.

Despite their best efforts, Stoney’s lost 14-1 to the Suds squad.

It was the annual Rotary Installment last Wednesday at Sid Young’s house in Alpine Meadows overlooking 19 Mile Creek. Rotarians and guests were feted with steak prepared by Rudi Hoffmann and lobster, flown in from Nova Scotia, boiled by Ted Nebbeling. District Governor Ralph Crawford also installed Sid Young as the service organization’s new president, taking over from Geoff Pearce. As well, Floyd Eclair becomes vice-president, Doug Fox secretary, Nick DiLalla sergeant-at-arms, Walter Zebrowski treasurer, Arv Pellegrin club service director, Brian Brown youth and international service director and Jon Paine vocation service director.

Driving the Sea to Sky (when it was mostly dirt)

If you’ve ever taken a look at the Whistler Museum’s YouTube channel you might have seen a short film from the Petersen Film Collection that features the drive to Whistler in 1958.  The footage makes it clear that the drive was an interesting one, full of steep hills, narrow roads and bumpy track.  At one point the car obviously overheated, a problem solved with the help of a nearby river.

The footage from the Petersens is only one account of coming to Whistler by car when the area was still known as Alta Lake.  Another well-known figure in Whistler, Don MacLaurin, also made the journey up the “highway” in 1958.

At the time Don was working in the forest service and was part of a cruising crew staying in Pemberton (cruising crews measure volume and quality of timber before it is harvested).  In a 2007 with John Hammons and Karen Overgaard, Don shared photos of his trip that are now part of the Whistler Museum archives.  As Don recalled, it took “two crews, two land rovers, winches, prayers and eight hours to go from Squamish to Pemberton.”

The road through the Cheakamus Canyon. MacLaurin Collection.

One shows a portion of the original road through the Cheakamus Canyon.  When asked to describe the drive, Don chose the word “precarious.”  The one-way road had a cliff on one side and, according to Don, “logs cabled through the road into the cliff… trying to hold the road in.”  Another photo shows a cable running back to a land rover.  It was a good thing the crews had two, as one would frequently be used to pull the other out when stuck.

A land rover is pulled up the road by another land rover – it’s handy to have two. MacLaurin Collection.

The road through what is now the Tapley’s Farm neighbourhood (and at the time would have been around the actual Tapley’s Farm) was “very, very wet and very soft and you were lucky to get through that as well.”  Once past Alta Lake the crews still had to get past what they called “suicide hill” which was located “under the power lines on the railroad side of Green Lake when you made the descent back down to the Green River.”  With a “so-called road” and “baseball-sized boulders” it’s no wonder Don described that section as “very, very tricky.”  Despite these challenges, the crews did eventually make it to Pemberton.

The “roads” in Whistler. MacLaurin Collection.

This was not the first time Don had come through the Whistler valley.  In 1951 he travelled through on the PGE on his way from Quesnel to Vancouver.  By 1961, when he returned with Isobel and a couple of neighbours, there was still no dependable road, and certainly not one that could sensibly be used in the winter, so again they came by rail.

Going through the Cheakamus Canyon on the PGE. It still has quite the drop. MacLaurin Collection.

By 1964 visitors to Whistler could come along a gravel road called Highway 99.  Two years later Highway 99 was paved from Squamish to Mons Station and to Pemberton in 1969.  With changes made over the decades and work done prior to the 2010 Olympics, the road Don, the Petersens and others travelled in 1958 is almost unrecognizable in the road we travel today.

Painting the Past – Artists History

Whistler is home to a variety of artists working in many different mediums. Many of the artists throughout Whistler come from all over the world but all of them now call this beautiful area home. The variety of artists include photographers, fine artists, sculptors,  digital artists, artisans, illustrators, and more, and are spread out all over the valley. There are hundreds of artists with different styles and who work in different mediums so you can find almost any type of art being produced in Whistler.

The most commonly celebrated theme, however, is easily the scenic views and beautiful nature that can be found all around the Whistler area. Whether artists literally depict scenes from the landscape or merely take influence from them, the natural wonder of Whistler has not escaped the artists who call this place home. As well, many of these artists have been featured in places outside of Canada not just outside of Whistler.

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Isobel sitting in her hand-painted coffin.

The first well-known artist in Whistler is Isobel MacLaurin. Her and her late husband Don have called Whistler their full-time home for more than 30 years (and a part-time retreat for decades before that) and they saw the town grow into what it is today, all while Isobel helped the art scene in Whistler get on its feet. In the days before the creation of the Whistler Arts Council (now known as Arts Whistler) Isobel was the only professional artist in town. That meant she was asked to do a lot of work for the mountains, which included signs that are still on the mountains to this day and all of which were painted by hand in Isobel’s studio.

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Isobel painting on her deck.

Among her more memorable jobs was being flown up into the alpine in a helicopter to sketch the landscape for many of her interpretive signs. Isobel often was not paid for her work, instead preferring an exchange for season’s passes to the mountain for her family. One drastic difference that Isobel herself notes is the budget for signage in the early days compared to now; in the early days of the village Isobel did up a handful of signs for the community and got paid $18 per sign, but nowadays Whistler has a multi-million dollar budget for signage every year!

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Each sign was painted by Isobel. She received $18 per sign.

Once the Arts Council was set up, other artists began to come to the area as well. The same year it started the Council also set up their first Children’s Art Festival in which Isobel helped lead free arts courses for the children. Isobel talks fondly about how attentive the children were and how well they all did learning to draw. Isobel MacLaurin has been in Whistler for many years, originally she was one of the only artists and now that number has grown into the hundreds. Whistler’s beauty lends itself easily to the inspiration for many a young artist who finds their way here.

By Michaela Sawyer

Family Saturdays at the Whistler Museum

The Whistler Museum and Archives Society looks forward to a summer full of family fun!  We would like to welcome the Whistler Sailing Association, Isobel MacLaurin, and Michael Allen to the Whistler Museuma s they guide our activities and share with us their knowledge of all aspects of Whistler’s culture and history.

Every craft activity is a great addition to your visit to the Whistler Museum, perfectly complementing our exhibits.  Fun and interactive activities will have your child curious and eager to learn more.  Activity included with admission.