Tag Archives: Myrtle Philip School

Myrtle Philip: School and Community Centre

Looking through the photographs of The Whistler Question one thing that sticks out is how many of the photographs were taken at the same venues.

It makes sense – the Village was still under construction for many of the years covered by The Question Collection and indoor venue options were limited in the late 1970s.  One of the locations that shows up again and again is the first Myrtle Philip Elementary School.

The first Myrtle Philip School at the beginning of the school year, 1978. Photo: Whistler Question Collection

Myrtle Philip School, originally located about where the Delta Suites sits today, first opened its doors in 1976.  Prior to its opening, students from the Whistler area attended school in Pemberton after the Alta Lake School closed in 1970.

Unlike the Alta Lake School, which in 1956 had excited students with its indoor plumbing and uneven playing field, Myrtle Philip School was a modern elementary school.  It had six classrooms, a gym, lunchroom, library, computer lab, offices, a full-size playing field, tennis courts and an ice stock sliding area.

It was obviously built with room to grow; in 1976 the school had 57 students and three teachers (including Roger Griffin, who was also the principal).

The new school had also been built with the growing community in mind.  The Squamish Lillooet Regional District contributed $300,000 to the school for a larger gym and common facilities that were to be used by the community as a whole.  From the photographs, it certainly looks like these spaces were put to good use.

The Community Club Craft Fair held in the Myrtle Philip School gym, December 1978. Photo: Whistler Question Collection

As well as school activities, such as Christmas and spring concerts, the annual science fair, awards ceremonies and sporting events, Myrtle Philip School also hosted meetings (of the business, political and Brownie varieties), art exhibitions, dances, performances and even elections (you can see Myrtle Philip vote in Myrtle Philip School in the Week of November 26, 1978).

A community meeting in the gym gets a unanimous verdict in January, 1979. Photo: Whistler Question Collection

Before the construction of the conference centre, the gym was the setting for the European Dinner Dance as well as performances by the Squamish Youth Chorale and Dave Murray’s retirement party.  Some events were both school and community events, such as Myrtle’s Hoedown Showdown held in 1991 to celebrate what would have been Myrtle Philip’s 100th birthday.

A spring baseball game on the field of Myrtle Philip School in May, 1980. Photo: Whistler Question Collection

As Whistler is generally a pretty active community it’s not surprising that the school and its facilities were often used for soccer matches, baseball games, ice stock sliding practice and dance classes (photos of both Debbie Gurlach’s jazz dance class and the Squamish Youth Chorale’s performance of The Day He Wore My Crown can be seen in the Week of April 18, 1983).  The school gym was also the site of Whistler Mountain Ski Club ski swaps and community markets.

By the late 1980s enrollment at Myrtle Philip School had grown to 250 students and by 1991 the school had eight portables, a type of classroom many Whistler students would be familiar with through the early 2000s.

In 1979 Myrtle Philip School and the firehall were two of the few finished buildings in the Village. Photo: Whistler Question Collection

In 1987, only ten years after the school had opened, the Howe Sound School Board had already begun plans for a site evaluation for a new school.  The second Myrtle Philip School on Lorimer Road opened in September 1992 and also included community spaces.

Although the first Myrtle Philip School only operated for fifteen years it provided an important space for a growing community to gather and many classes, community groups and community programs continue to operate out of school spaces today.

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Why Curl When You Can Ice Stock Slide?

Over the decades Whistler has been home to clubs and teams for pretty much any sport you can name – skiing, swimming, squash, soccer, hockey, field hockey, baseball, tennis, rugby – you name it and someone in Whistler has likely played it.

Ice stock sliding, a sport more commonly associated with European countries such as Germany and Austria than a Canadian ski resort, was introduced to Whistler during the cold and dry winter of 1976/77 by Stefan Ples, a long-time resident and member of the Tyrol Club who started skiing Whistler Mountain before Franz Wilhelmsen even envisioned it as an Olympic venue.

“Ice Stock Sliding” on the River of Golden Dreams (Whistler News Winter 1979-80)

Ice stock sliding (also known as esstock sliding or Bavarian curling) is similar to curling, though an ice stock and a curling stone differ in weight and ice stock sliding uses a different kind of running surface.  Ice stocks are made from wooden blocks with an iron band and a handle on top.  Teams of four slide ice stocks over a surface (usually ice though asphalt can also be used by adding a special plastic surface to the bottom of the stocks) aiming either for a target called the daube or for the longest distance.

In Whistler ice stock sliding began, as many thing have, on Alta Lake, which was particularly smooth and clear due to the weather that winter.  Ice stocks were supplied by Ples, who built them himself.  The sport was enthusiastically received and became so popular that a tournament was incorporated into the Whistler Winterfest events of 1977 and the Whistler Ice Stock Sliding Club (WISSC) was formed to organize and control the growing sport.  Games continued as long as the ice on Alta Lake was suitable and floodlights enabled play to go on into the nights.

Ice stock sliding on Alta Lake in the 1970s.

Though one might assume that the coming of spring would have meant a dwindling interest in the sport, members of the club continued to play using an area of blacktop at Valleau’s logging camp that was set aside for them.  That spring the club applied to the school board to have an area for two rinks paved by the tennis courts at Myrtle Philip School.  The asphalt rinks were approved and constructed for September 1977.

The old master, Stefan Ples, who introduced ice stock sliding to the Whistler area, sending one of the “rocks” down the recently blacktopped course next to the school at Whistler. (Garibaldi Whistler News Fall 1977)

The WISSC incorporated as a society in October of 1977 (three years before the formation of the Canadian Ice-Stock Federation) and included many long-time residents and visitors to Whistler, such as Kay and Pat Carleton (Whistler’s first mayor), Paul and Jane Burrows, Dick and Kelly Fairhurst, Hans and Margaret Kögler, Bill and Elaine Wallace and Andy and Florence Petersen (founder of the Whistler Museum) in addition to Stefan Ples.  The mission of the society was to “develop, maintain and manage all kinds of activities of the Whistler Ice Stock Sliding Club which may benefit in anyway the residents of, and visitors to the Resort Municipality of Whistler.”

In their first year the WISSC played regularly twice a week, sent representatives to Vernon to demonstrate the sport at the Vernon Winter Festival (and were even invited back the next year) and organized tournaments through the winter and spring.  The club continued to be active into the 1980s but we have no records of the sport being played in Whistler in the past few decades, perhaps partly due to the relocation of Myrtle Philip School (and the demolition of the asphalt rinks) in 1992.  During a winter without much snow, however, ice stock sliding provided a welcome alternative to skiing for residents and visitors alike.