Tag Archives: logging

Parkhurst Before the Ghost Town

Parkhurst may now be known primarily as a ghost town, but it was once the site of the first large and permanent mill operations in the valley.

Mr. and Mrs. Parkhurst pre-empted the land on Green Lake in 1902 and built a small house where they lived with their family.  It is unclear whether they ever operated a sawmill on the property, which was sold in 1926 after the death of Mr. Parkhurst.

The property was purchased by the Barr brothers of Mission who had been looking for a new source of timber.  William, Malcolm and Ross Barr built a mill and a camp for their workers and began operating Parkhurst Mill, named for the previous owners.

A mill at Parkhurst operated on the shores of Green Lake from 1926 to about 1956. Barr Collection

In 1928 Malcolm drowned after falling into Green Lake and then, due to the effects of the Depression, the mill went into receivership in 1930.  William moved on from the valley while Ross and his wife Alison stayed on at Parkhurst as watchmen hired by the bank until the property could be sold.

Logging operation at Parkhurst, late 1920s. This photograph shows a railcar, a spar tree and the steam donkey. The man standing on a log in the foreground is Ross Barr. Barr Collection

In 1932 Parkhurst was sold to B.C. Keeley and Byron Smith who reopened the mill under the name Northern Mills in 1933.  Ross Barr and Denis DeBeck were hired by Keeley to manage the mill and worked together until it burnt down in 1938.

Norm Barr and neighbour Jack Findlay in 1936. Barr Collection

The museum recorded two oral histories in 2011 that include many stories and a lot of information about Parkhurst during this time: one with Norm Barr, the son of Ross and Alison Barr, and another with Betsy Henderson, sister of Denis DeBeck.

Betsy Henderson had a very different experience at Parkhurst than those who worked and live there.  She, her mother and two more of her siblings stayed near Parkhurst at what had been the Lineham’s mink ranch during the summers of 1936 and ’37.  Her three older brothers, Denis, Ward and Keary, were all working for Northern Mills and, as Betsy recalled, their mother decided she’d like to stay with all six of her children for the summer.

As she was not working, Betsy was able to explore the area around Parkhurst and got into some rather potentially dangerous situations, such as taking a dip in fast-running Fitzsimmons Creek and crossing the Blackcomb glacier with her brother Keary.

The glacier was full of chasms and on one crossing, Keary asked her to take a picture of him on the upper side of a huge crevasse.  Betsy maneuvered around to set up the photo and, as she remembered, “when I looked up to take the picture I found that Keary was sitting on just a shelf of ice.”  Needless to say, the picture did not get taken.

The Northern Mills operation on Green Lake before it burned down in 1938. It was later rebuilt at the same site. DeBeck Collection

After the fire Northern Mills moved to Lost Lake for a year before deciding to rebuild at Parkhurst.  Though the mill would continue to operate into the 1950s, neither the Barrs nor the DeBecks went back to the mill.  This was not the end of the DeBecks’ association with the area, however, as Denis DeBeck continued working in what is today Whistler until 1945, when he followed the Barrs to settle permanently in Squamish.

Over the next few weeks we hope to bring you more stories from the DeBecks, the Barrs and others who worked in forestry in the valley.

This Week In Photos: June 7

This week begins and ends with Myrtle Philip in the Myrtle Philip School gym, with quite a lot that happened in between.

1980

Myrtle Philip, the valley’s long-time resident, met Dana Parker-McLain, one of the valley’s newest, at the Community Club’s Potluck dinner.

Logging truck and cargo lies strewn along the highway after sliding over 150 yards around a corner only 1/2 mile south of the Gondola area.

Whistler Parlour Group… Beth Pipe, Diane Smith, Candy Rustad, Brenda Dunbar and Pat Beauregard.

Heather Muir and Morag Marshall with ‘Safety Bear’ Hansen at the school.

Big office… small desk! Blackcomb’s accountant Larry Osborne sits behind his temporary desk in a deserted Blackcomb trailer.

1981

Hello! Macauley Nicolls Maitland manager Debbie Teigen smiles as she finally gets her office phone after 5 months of waiting.

New Fire Chief Wayne Schepull stands with the Whistler Volunteer Fire Department at their first meeting together on June 4.

Looking down on the Village Square and some of the 70 motorcycles that were parked there on Sunday.

Craig Tomlinson playing one of his hand-crafted dulcimers.

This is the first motorist to miss the approach curve to the Culliton Creek Bailey bridge. The accident occurred on June 6.

1983

A semi-permanent abode graces the shores of Green Lake in a makeshift campground on private property. Bottles, remnants of campfires and dirty pans litter the ground in this otherwise beautiful setting.

Weigh, hey, up she rises… Cranes hoist the 18-ton concrete spans into place over 19 Mile Creek June 1 in preparation for the new bridge. December ’81 floods washed out the old wooden bridge, severing Valley Drive in Alpine Meadows.

Pause awhile in Whistler Village the next sunny day and you’ll hear this group of young musicians perform a wide variety of selections. (L-R) Jennifer Porter, Cal McConnell, Connie Carver, Dan Cushing, and Frank Mallany are a part of a federal government student employment program run by the WRA. In addition to displaying their musical talents these young people will be offering village tours, working at the new information booth and helping at special events.

Ray Lyman, band director of Seaton Secondary School from Vernon, was pleased to present Whistler’s Molly Boyd with a band booster award for the services she rendered in bringing the group to Whistler. Band members and audiences alike braved cold winds to share a top-rated concert of big band sounds.

Chips fly where they may as Jud Forster (left) and Stan Hammond prepare red cedar logs for a carport in Whistler Cay Heights being built by Hammond and Davies Log Builders.

Mike Sweeney (seated) of Vancouver’s Whitecaps soccer team signs a few autographs at Myrtle Philip School sports banquet Thursday.

1984

Thirty-one students graduated from Pemberton Secondary Friday night, including Scott Logue of Whistler who received the Governor General’s Bronze Medal for academics from school Superintendent Trevor Harris. More than 500 people attended the commencement ceremonies at the Pemberton school, making it the second largest annual event in the town next to the Christmas concert at Signal Hill Elementary. Logue, also class valedictorian, was among three local students who received awards. Rob O’Keefe was awarded the Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation bursary, and the Alta Lake Community Club picked Rob Boyd as this year’s recipient of its bursary.

Whistler’s branch of the North Shore Community Credit Union opened on Friday, just two months after it was approved. By 11 am Friday a line-up was formed, and on Saturday the credit union had 150 new members. Credit union President Susan Burdak (left) spoke to the crowd at Saturday’s official opening.

Cecile Valleau is Whistler’s newest postmistress. She was promoted to the position May 22, taking over from Debbie Cliffe, who was transferred to the Agassiz post office. Valleau has worked at the Whistler post office since 1979 and is a 15-year valley resident.

Skiing may be over for the year, but work on Whistler Mountain still continues. At the end of each season all the chairs, including those on Olive Chair, are taken off the cables, checked and then moved to a different spot to prevent metal stress. As well, the metal clamps holding the chair to the cable periodically undergo magnetic tests for cracks.

The venerable Myrtle Philip drew the winning ticket Thursday in a draw for a Molson World Downhill poster signed by the Canadian downhill team. Assisted by Glen Rustad (right), Whistler’s grandmother chose Bill Carson’s ticket. Proceeds from the draw went to the Whistler Singers, which performed Thursday at the elementary school accompanied by the students. The show, which ended in a standing ovation for orchestrator Molly Boyd, featured musical performances by kids on recorder, guitar and ukulele.

The Origins of Whistler’s Interpretive Forest

After the arrival of the Great Eastern Railway in the fall of 1914, logging and other industrial activities started to develop in and around the Whistler Valley.

Logging was a vital industry in the Whistler area throughout the 20th century and evidence of its impact can be found throughout the valley, from the abandoned Parkhurst logging town on Green Lake to various patches of forest in different states of regrowth.

The forestry industry has a long history throughout the Whistler valley and many of the valley’s early settlers worked in logging. Photo: Fairhurst Collection

The Whistler Interpretive Forest, located off Highway 99 adjacent to Cheakamus Crossing, was created in 1980 as a joint project between the British Columbia Forest Service and Pacific Forest Products Ltd. to provide forest interpretation and education opportunities while demonstrating integrated resource management.  The area is approximately 3,000 hectares.

The earliest logging in the Interpretive Forest began in 1958 and continues into present day.  The area now consists of old growth stands plus a variety of plantations of differing ages.  The Forest Service manages this area to provide benefits for large numbers of people with diverse interests.  Many things are considered in planning for human needs in the forest: hiking, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, biking, as well as continued logging operations.

This photo was taken by Don MacLaurin during his time working in BC’s forestry industry. Photo: MacLaurin Collection

The Whistler Interpretive Forest became part of the Cheakamus Community Forest (33,000 hectares) in 2009.  The Community Forest is managed under an ecosystem-based management approach and run jointly by the Lil’wat and Squamish First Nations, the Resort Municipality of Whistler, and the Ministry of Forests.  This means that indigenous flora and fauna are given a chance to flourish and recreational opportunities and expand, while new sustainable forestry practices are explored and refined.  Under this management regime, an average of 40 hectare per year is harvested.

The area has become a favourite amongst locals and tourists, with many of Whistler’s most popular trails located in the area.  The trail network includes the Riverside Trail, which explores the Cheakamus River with the help of the MacLaurin Crossing suspension bridge.

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

The bridge was named after Don MacLaurin, a local forester who helped develop, map and design the area to help people understand the forest and its importance.  Other popular trails include the Loggers Lake Trail, which climbs a rock bluff to a hidden lake and a wooden pier, and the Cheakamus Trail, which wanders through the forest to the glacier-fed Cheakamus Lake.

Scattered amongst the roads and trails in the area are interpretive displays about the local flora, fauna, geology and logging history, along with details about the forest types of the region and the replanting techniques used in the Interpretive Forest.

Peter Ackhurst and John Hammons at work in the Whistler Interpretive Forest.

The Whistler Rotary Club, with financial help from the Community Foundation of Whistler, have been updating the interpretation displays and signs in the Whistler Interpretive Forest over the past two years, as many have fallen into disrepair.  The Whistler Museum has been a supportive partner in this project, helping with the design and, at times, installation of these new signs.

More information on this project can be found at: cheakamuscommunityforest.com.

Building AWAREness

Great news for local green-minded folk. In the run up to their forthcoming 25th anniversary, local environmental group AWARE (Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment) has some exciting announcements to make.

As a recent AWARE release stated:

AWARE has traditionally been a volunteer-run organization and as such has faced the challenges shared by many similar organizations… Now on the eve of the 25th year the group is not only still going but has a fully active board of directors and has this month fulfilled a long-term aspiration of hiring an Executive Director.

Last month Claire Ruddy, who has long been involved on the AWARE board, was  hired as the new Executive Director. The board revival and new executive director means that leading into their 25th anniversary, AWARE is now able to take on and deliver more ambitious projects. As Claire Ruddy highlighted “this is a very exciting time to be a part of AWARE and with the 25th Anniversary year coming up we are trying to create lots of opportunities for people to get involved.”

Over the past 24 years AWARE has been a key player in the protection of wildlife habitat, education and awareness raising relating to the environment and sustainability as well as advocating for the environment.  Last year AWARE was able to expand the local debate around old forest logging in Whistler through holding an Old Forest Symposium with guest experts and a field trip to the Ancient Cedars.  A tree age study carried out by the group also found Whistlers oldest tree on record.  This year tree coring work continues and AWARE has started new projects such as starting a Zero Waste Station at the Whistler Farmers Markets to help educate around the issue of composting.

A recent AWARE gathering at the Ancient Cedars.

A recent AWARE gathering at the Ancient Cedars.

They have also been holding regular Green Talks at the Whistler Museum to promote awareness of pertinent environmental issues. Two upcoming events provide a great opportunity for interested individuals to learn more about the rejuvenated organization, its future direction, and the many ways to get involved.

First, on Wednesday  September 4th from 6-8pm a Green Talk will be held at the Whistler Museum, focusing on the presentation of AWARE’s new long-term strategic plan. 

Then, on Wednesday October 2nd, 6-8pm, again at the Whistler Museum, AWARE will be holding it’s annual general meeting, where new board members can be voted in and the group can continue to build its capacity.

If you can’t make the meeting but want more info please email info@awarewhistler.org.

Postcards of the Whistler Museum Archives – Pt.1

There’s something undeniably intriguing about old postcards and the stories behind them. This week and next we will be featuring some of the postcards found in our archives, and we invite you to comment and offer your own interpretations of their contents. Next week’s post will cover correspondance between members of the Tapley and Philip families.

First up is this fascinating postcard with a bit of a mysterious background we like to call “One big tree!”

A 117-year-old mystery

Although this photograph doesn’t show a tree near Whistler (and possibly not even a tree near Vancouver), it is in the Philip collection, and was given to either Myrtle or Alex at some point.

The photograph in this postcard is purportedly from 1895, and shows several people posing on a giant felled fir tree (again, according to the postcard). The caption reads, “This fir giant measured 417 ft. in height with a clear 300 ft. to the first limb. At the butt it was 25 ft. through with bark 16 in. thick. Its circumference being 77 ft.; 207 ft. from the ground its diameter was 9 feet. Felled near Vancouver in August ’95 by George Cary, who is seen upon the ladder.”

This is one mysterious image – there appears to be a great deal of folklore surrounding the “Cary Fir” which even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records. Read this article and response for yourself and decide what you believe: http://www.spirasolaris.ca/DouglasFir.pdf.

Our next postcard is a bit out of season, but we thought we’d share it regardless…

Leonard Frank’s Vancouver

This Christmas postcard showing an early view of Vancouver (sans skyscrapers) reads, “Wishing you a Merry Xmas and a happy and victorious 1943.” The card itself is signed by Leonard Frank, and the photograph is likely his, as he was a well-known photographer in British Columbia in the early half of the 20th century.

When this card was produced, World War II was in full swing, and wishing for a victorious year was a common sentiment.

Frank originally hailed from Germany, and was the son of one of Germany’s earliest professional photographers. Struck by gold fever in 1892, he traveled to North America – living first in San Francisco and then Port Alberni on Vancouver Island.

A camera won as a raffle prize shifted his direction entirely, and he moved to Vancouver in 1917, quickly becoming the leading commercial/industrial photographer in the city.

Frank also spent quite a bit of time at Alta Lake, and several of his photographs of the surrounding area can be found in the Museum archives. A frequent guest of Rainbow Lodge, he was also a friend of Myrtle and Alex Philip, to whom he sent this postcard.

For more information on Leonard Frank, see www.vpl.ca/frank/biography.html

This Sunday, keep an eye out for the Museum staff in the Canada Day Parade dressed as postcards from around the world! 

“Just Another Day in Paradise” – A Tribute to Seppo

Whenever nostalgia causes long-time Whistler locals to reminisce about the old days, the conversation invariably leads to Seppo. It says a lot about this community that one of the most cherished figures in our history was not a politician or “founder” in the traditional sense, but a generous and warm-hearted Finnish logger. Few could keep up with Seppo’s work ethic and zest for life, but countless people had a blast trying.

In commemoration of the remarkable impact that Seppo had on Whistler, both the mountain and the community, a new public art installation dedicated to Seppo will be installed this week. There will be an official unveiling ceremony this Thursday May 31st at 3pm, near the Passivhaus at the entrance to Lost Lake Park.

Seppo Jalmari Makinen was born December 6, 1928 in Vyborg, Finland, a small town near the Russian border.  One world war and twenty-five years later, Seppo stepped off the plane in Gander, Newfoundland, never to return to Finland. In the summer of 1963, while visiting Vancouver’s Pacific National Exhibition, he introduced himself to Franz Wilhelmsen. Wilhelmsen was selling shares for the fledgling Garibaldi Lifts Limited, a company he had formed to develop a ski resort on Whistler Mountain. Seppo was already familiar with the area so he proposed to Wilhelmsen that he would hire a crew to clear the ski runs. Eyeing up the burly Finn, Wilhelmsen didn’t need a job reference.

It was the start of a highly successful, life-long partnership between the two Scandinavian transplants. Seppo was an unstoppable workhorse who helped clear virtually every run on Whistler Mountain. In 1980 Seppo cut his last run. The wild, off-camber descent quickly became a local’s favourite on big snow days, and was named “Seppo’s” in his honour.

Meanwhile, Seppo built himself a massive log house that quickly became an unofficial community hub and the venue for many legendary parties. Sadly, the house burned down in 1998, and Seppo froze to death the following December while living in his camper van. He was two days shy of his 71st birthday. Seppo’s passing led to an unprecedented memorial service, with more than 800 people overflowing from the Whistler Conference Center to celebrate the gregarious Whistler icon.

The artist responsible for the new Seppo memorial, mixed-media sculptor Christina Nick, has fond memories of the local legend from attending some of the famous parties in his log home near Nesters, and serving him lunch at Auntie Em’s Kitchen in Marketplace, where Seppo was a regular. “I sketched several different versions of Seppo for his memorial sculpture,” Christina explains, “and I wanted to represent him with as much respect as possible.”

Ultimately, this led her to favour a simpler design. For the piece, Christina has employed her innovative “drawing with light” technique to etch a portrait of Seppo into a large sheet of steel that will be framed in-situ by rough cedar logs–a reference to Seppo’s long career as a logger. The thick steel panel has been cut with a plasma cutter, then ground down and finished with an acid and covered with a special penetrating protector to give it a beautiful sheen.

Christina Nick using her “drawing with light” technique on another piece.

With the sculpture’s installation, Seppo–whose hospitality knew no bounds–will be welcoming visitors to Lost Lake Park for generations to come. Stop by this Thursday for the unveiling ceremony including a short statement by artist Christina Nick.

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