When describing summers spent at Alta Lake, Florence Petersen (founder of the Whistler Museum & Archives Society) once explained how she, June Collins, Kelly Fairhurst, Betty Atkinson, and Jacquie Pope (her fellow Witsend residents) would plan their days: “You’d take a walk, and say ‘What’ll I do today?’ Something would happen that would lead to something else.” Sometimes these walks would lead to days that, though not necessarily the most productive, were still remembered by the Witsend group for their fun nearly fifty years later.
Florence remembered one walk in particular that ended with an elaborate prank being played on one of the seasonal forestry workers staying at Alta Lake.
She and Julie, a visiting friend, were out walking when Julia accidentally killed a grouse while tossing rocks down the path. As a biology teacher, Julie had with her all the necessary equipment to skin the bird, after which the pair decided to stuff the skin. They took it and poultry meant for their dinner with them to the forestry cabin. They suspended one bird above a door, to fall into the face of the next person to enter, and arranged the other on the table so that it appeared to be sitting cross legged while staring at the door. This might have been startling enough, but the pair went further and filled the bottom of the sleeping bag with the cabin’s cutlery.
The Witsend group was well acquainted with “the forestry guys,” and knew that the joke would be taken well. Unfortunately for the occupant of the cabin, his boss from the city happened to be visiting that day and his departure was delayed. The boss had to stay the night, and the forester kindly offered to take the couch while his boss used the sleeping bag. After being greeted by flying poultry and finding a fork with his foot while going to bed, this was a stay that the boss would remember. As Florence recalled, “Of course, all of the forestry kids knew who it had been, but they wouldn’t say.”
Perhaps the best story of a Witsend prank came from June Collins. The group used to ride horses at Alta Lake, often getting to take the spare horses on Rainbow Lodge trail rides. One day, there were only four horses and five hopeful riders. Kelly very kindly volunteered to stay behind and the other four happily went off to spend the day on the trail. According to June, when they returned to Witsend they found Kelly looking “like she was going to burst.” When asked what she had gotten up to that day, a sparkling eyed Kelly told them “Nothing.” When they tried to go to bed, however, the other four discovered just what Kelly had spent her day doing.
The beds had been apple-pied and filled with pop bottle caps, and Kelly had meticulously sewn their pyjamas shut an inch in, making them impossible to put on.
They never got mad at each other but took such practical jokes as the fun they were meant to be. Despite their antics, those who lived at Witsend could also be serious and practical. As June described it: “All of us had been the same kind of people. We worked hard, we had always worked hard. We all had jobs in the summer and we taught in the winter and we went through school. We did everything right and we never had time for fun. When we got up there, wow, what a difference. Why not have it? So we had a good time.”