Tag Archives: pioneer

Lam Shu and Sam: The Culinary Gods of Rainbow Lodge

Whistler provides more than ample selection in fabulous food – far more than you would find in any other town of 10,000 permanent residents. However this area had a reputation for good food long before anyone had conceived of constructing a mountain village on top of a garbage dump.

Myrtle Phillip was known as an excellent cook – her pies and preserves were legendary.  However, she was not the full-time cook at Rainbow Lodge. When the Phillips ran the Horseshoe Grill in Vancouver, before moving to Alta Lake, Alex Phillip employed a young Chinese man by the name of Lam Shu.  Alex and Lam Shu became friends and when business started booming at Rainbow Lodge, Alex invited the young man to work full-time at the Lodge.

Rainbow Lodge staff with Skookum the dog, approximately 1919. The man in the middle of the photograph is presumed to be Lam Shu.

By 1916 Lam Shu was living and working at the Lodge. It took a few years, but he eventually became a terrific cook and created such desserts at “Divinity Pie” which was made with peaches and a custard meringue.  Visitors flocked to the dining room of Rainbow Lodge for the excellent food to be had.

Lam Shu shown outside Rainbow Lodge in 1926.

During the 1930s Lam Shu went back to China for a visit.   It seems, although it is a little unclear, that when he came back he also brought his younger brother Sam with him.  Unfortunately, Lam Shu also brought back a chronic case of Influenza with him.

Portrait of Sam. Circa 1940.

It appears that by 1934 Lam Shu had permanently returned to China.  However his brother Sam remained at the lodge and was the head cook there until 1948, when the Phillips sold the property.   Other than these few basic details, we know very little about Lam Shu and Sam.

In an interview with Vera (Barnfield) Merchant, the picture of Sam becomes a little clearer. Vera worked at Rainbow Lodge as a young woman from 1934-1936.  During that time she got to know Sam a little.  She remembered that her father, who owned, a dairy farm, would make sure to stop everyday and have tea or coffee with Sam.

In the interview Vera commented on Sam and his cooking “ He was just so loveable…and could he ever cook!  And those cakes he used to bake!” Vera would often sit with Sam for a cup of tea and he would tell her stories of his childhood in China.

Sam always made sure that the staff of Rainbow Lodge could sit down to a plentiful meal after serving the crowded Rainbow Lodge dining room. He would also make lots of special cookies and put them in big metal tins and order the girls to help themselves, which of course they absolutely did.

The Mysterious Harry Horstman

One of the most mysterious Whistler characters is Henry ‘Harry” Horstman.  The details are pretty slim.  We know that he moved to Alta Lake sometime around 1913 from Kansas.  He pre-empted two pieces of land – one between Nita and Alpha Lakes and another at the end of Alpha Lake.

He came to the area with dreams of striking it rich through mining.  He mined on Sproatt Mountain for copper, but always had a hope of finding gold.  Horstman had a small farm near Nita Lake on which he raised chickens and grew vegetables. He would haul his goods on the train tracks using a cart he built himself.  Harry would supply fresh produce and eggs to Rainbow Lodge and was of course willing to sell to anyone willing to pay.

Harry Hortsman on Sproatt Mountain, probably not far from his mining claim. Harry first came to Alta Lake with dreams of finding a rich copper vein. Unfortunately, this dream never came true.

Jack Jardine recalled visiting Harry and having bacon and eggs with him – Horstman kept his greasy frying pan in the woodpile, of all places.  In an interview conducted in 1991 Jack recalled:

[…] we’d go to old Harry Horstman’s place there and he’d be having bacon and eggs for breakfast or something like that and he would just take his frying pan and he’d walk over and he turned it upside down on the woodpile, that’s what he did to his bacon grease.  He just turned it upside down on his kindling pile.  And then when he used his frying pan he just picked it up and put it in the stove. […] I mean the bacon used to hang on the wall on a piece of string!  You went to hang it from the wall, the same as a ham would hang from the ceiling, three or four hams hanging from the ceiling!

 Other residents didn’t really get to know Hortsman very well – often referring to him as an odd man, or only every seeing him and his beard from a distance.

Harry Hortsman at his cabin.

Horstman often led a solitary life, which is probably why we know so little about him.  Pip Brock, who often visited Alta Lake, remembers passing Horstman’s cabin on a hike one day and Harry remarked “ Gosh all Dammit. This hiking is getting to be quite a fad.  You’re the second party this year!”

In the summer of 1923 the Alta Lake Community Club held their fist official gathering at Rainbow Lodge.    It was an informal picnic and Horstman was designated as the official coffee provider.  He took this position of responsibility so seriously has actually wore a suit, tie and fedora to the picnic!

First official meeting of the Alta Lake Community Club in 1923. Harry is pictured here on the right carrying the coffee pot, as part of his duties as ‘Official Coffee Provider.” Check out the full suit and fedora!

Although Harry dug many tunnels on Sproatt Mountain, looking for copper, there of course came a time when he just couldn’t take the physical labour any longer.  He retired to his cabin on Alpha Lake.  Eventually he moved to Kamloops to live the remainder of his life in a nursing home.

While we don’t really know much about Harry Horstman, his memory lives on in the name of the Horstman Glacier.  In fact, the remnants of his cabin at the 5300-foot level on Sproatt Mountain can still be found.  Harry would no doubt be very impressed indeed by the number of hikers passing by these days.

Image of the Hortsman Glacier on Blackcomb Mountain.

Exploring Parkhurst, Whistler’s “ghost town”

If you hike into the former site of Parkhurst on Green Lake today, you will find a few falling-down log cabins, and some rusted pieces of machinery that barely hint at its past as a booming logging community. There are also some more recent relics, including a once-white corvette with red leather seats, left behind by those that squatted at the site in the 1970s.

In November, Sarah Drewery, the Museum Collection Manager, interviewed Norm Barr, whose parents owned Parkhurst Mill from 1926-1930 and then stayed on to manage it until 1938. Although he was born in 1932, and was just six years old when they moved on to Brackendale, he was able to provide some interesting pieces of information to help fill out the story of the mill and settlement at Parkhurst.

Norm Barr and neighbor Jack Findlay in 1936

Alison and Ross Barr were married in 1923, and lived in Mission, where Ross and his brothers William and Malcolm were running the Barr Brothers’ Logging Company. When they ran out of available timber, they began looking for suitable property elsewhere. Initially, they went to Vancouver Island, but ultimately found there was more potential in the area around Green Lake.

As luck would have it, there was a prime piece of land available right on Green Lake – the property had a point jutting out into the water, making it a perfect location for a steam-operated mill. This land belonged to the Parkhursts, who pre-empted the property in 1902. When Mr. Parkhurst passed away, Mrs. Parkhurst put it up for sale, along with the small log house they had built on the point. In 1926, it was purchased by the Barrs, who got to work building a mill and a camp for workers (including both bunkhouses and a few family homes).

When the mill opened, they named it after the former landowners. It had three crews, with the total number of workers fluctuating between 60 and 70. Due to the snow, the mill had to close from two to five months of the year, resulting in seasonal work for the crews. Workers came from Vancouver and elsewhere, but most stayed only temporarily.

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.

The Barr’s Parkhurst Mill was a very successful business, shipping lumber as far away as Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. However, when the Great Depression hit, the price of lumber plummeted, making it impossible to cover the cost of transport. In 1930, the business went into receivership. According to Norm, the receiver hired Ross and Alison to remain on as watchmen while he worked to get the property sold. They were able to stay living in the house, but all they got for their work was $50 a month and a barrel of coal oil to burn for their lamps.

They were the only ones that stayed. All of the crew members left immediately, hoping to secure other work at a time when jobs were extremely scarce. As for the Barr brothers, Malcolm had met an unfortunate end in 1928 when he fell off of the boat they used to pull logs around into Green Lake and drowned. William moved to Vancouver when the business went under, worked some odd jobs, and got married.

In 1932, the operation was sold to Byron Smith and B.C. Keeley, and it was renamed Northern Mills. The Barrs remained on as managers of the thriving company until a spectacular fire burnt the mill to the ground in June of 1938. Although the mill was rebuilt and eventually reopened, the Barrs had moved south to Squamish by November of that year.

Immediately following the fire, what remained of the mill itself was moved to a site at the north end of Lost Lake. This was a somewhat shortsighted maneuver, and after 1939 it was moved back to Parkhurst, since the location next to the railway was significantly more convenient. The new mill was as big as the original one, and the settlement grew with more family homes added, a small store, and eventually a school. The mill operated until the 1950s.

If you want to get a glimpse of the past, we recommend paddling a canoe across Green Lake and spending some time exploring – while you’re there, imagine what it was like when the mill was operational. For more details on the later years of the mill, see the article “Family Life at Parkhurst Mill” here.

Name Whistler’s history!

Local historian Florence Petersen has been quietly working away on her book on Whistler’s pioneers for the last three years and with the help of the Whistler Museum, she hopes to get it published in the next few months. There’s only one problem…. it doesn’t have a name!

Whistler’s pioneers searching for a good name.

The book tells the story of Whistler before skiing came to the valley. Myrtle Philip and Rainbow Lodge are of course featured, but there are many other early residents whose tales are told here, including trappers, loggers, prospectors and summer cottage owners. It covers the period from about 1900 to 1965, the year the ski-hill was built.

The book can’t be published without a title, so we are running a competition in the hope that you lovely people in internet-land might be able to help us out.

If you have a good idea for a title then we would love to hear it.

There are lots of ways to enter!

–       post a comment on our blog post here

–       email collection@whistlermuseum.org

–       write on our Facebook wall at http://www.facebook.com/WhistlerMuseum

–       tweet us at @WhistlerMuseum

If we select your title you’ll win a free museum membership and a copy of the book signed by the author, and, of course, the GLORY of naming a book! Closing date for entries is March 1st.

Love and romance — Whistler style

As Valentine’s Day approaches, we thought we would share one of Whistler’s lesser known love stories.

Bob Jardine first came to Whistler around 1921 with his family. He spent his childhood here, attending the first school in what was then Alta Lake. Later, at the age of 21, he joined the Air Force, where he spent the next 28 years. It was during his time with the Air Force that he met Stella Stracken.

Bob Jardine: quite possibly the handsomest Whistler pioneer

Bob worked in the fire department and Stella worked in the air man’s canteen as a steward. Although Bob knew Stella slightly, they never really spent a lot of time together.

One day, Bob received a telegram from his brother, which stated that he was going to be in Vancouver and asked if Bob would be able to go and meet him. The Jardine brothers hadn’t seen each other in five years, but the Air Force wouldn’t give Bob the time off.

During an argument with his superior over the matter, he was asked if he wanted a discharge. Bob said yes and he was given $100 for clothes and 30 days leave. So Bob went to Vancouver and had a month-long party with his brother. However, Bob became lonely and began looking for some work to fill up his time away from the Air Force. He ended up getting a job as a telephone lineman with the PGE Railway.

One day he went to work on a telephone pole near Function Junction. His boss asked him to climb the pole and make sure the lines were properly hooked up by calling the Vancouver operator and then ask to be connected to an outside number. Jardine pulled out his address book and happened across the name Stella Stracken. He couldn’t even remember who the girl was.

Bob decided to call the number anyways and her mother happened to answer the phone. He asked where Stella was and was informed that she had gone to work. He asked Stella’s mother to inform her daughter that he was coming to Vancouver that weekend and intended to take her out to dinner. That’s right — Bob Jardine scored a date with a girl he barely knew from the top of a telephone pole without even speaking to her directly.

So, Stella showed up for the date and Bob took her to a café. Not long into the date, Bob said, “This is a helluva time to mention this, but why don’t we get married?” At Stella’s justifiably shocked expression, Bob went on to say that they were never going to make a better connection with anybody else like the one they were making at that very moment, with each other.

Somehow, over the next two hours Bob convinced Stella to marry him. They were married for 58 years until Stella passed away.

Bob and Stella on their wedding day.

Family Life at Parkhurst Mill

One of the greatest criticisms of mainstream and academic history is that it focuses on, and thus legitimizes  “dominant” narratives from the perspective of societies most powerful figures such as politicians, business leaders, and so on. A lot of this has to do with the materials that historians have traditionally used to craft their stories: written and printed documents.

To correct this imbalance social historians began employing different sources and methods, most notably oral history, to help preserve and interpret the perspectives of society’s more marginalized and oft-forgotten members such as ethnic minorities, working-class families, and women.

The Whistler Museum is fortunate to hold in its archives dozens of oral history interviews and written correspondence conducted since the early 1980s that tell important and insightful aspects of our valley’s history that would have otherwise been lost with the passage of time.

Between 1948 and 1956 Olie and Eleanor Kitteringham, along with their children Ron, Jim, and Linda (born Valentine’s Day, 1949), called Parkhurst their home. Thanks to a 1989 letter written to the Whistler Museum by Eleanor entitled “Our Family Life at Parkhurst” we have insights into the tight-knit community.

Eleanor’s recollections are full of details about the seemingly endless work it took to raise a family in this remote mountain outpost, but she clearly looked back fondly upon those trying years.

Surviving three changes in ownership and one full-fledged fire, a lumber mill operated more or less continuously from 1923 to 1966 at the Parkhurst site (named after the original landowners) on the north-east shore of Green Lake. Afterwards, the remaining structures were occupied by ski bums during Whistler’s squatting heyday, and the collapsed remains of a dozen or so houses (along with a few decaying vehicles and the squatters’ garbage heap of broken bottles, rusty tin cans and the like) can still be found on the largely grown-over site.

Of the roughly 30 men who ran the mill from May to November, (up to fifty had worked at the older, less efficient mill), only about one third were family men, and at first, the Kitteringham’s were the only ones who lived at Parkhurst year round. While daily life entailed constant labour, even more challenging was dealing with the inevitable illnesses that come with raising three young children. Unconventional healthcare strategies became essential, as Eleanor recounted:

I always said to the family, if you are going to get sick it has to be on Wednesday, Friday or Sunday, that’s the days the passenger train went on through from Lillooet to Squamish… (Once) Ron was delirious for 3 days with a very high temperature. My doctor book said it might be bronchial pneumonia, so I phoned the doctor [there was a hand-dial phone in the mill office] and asked that I have some Penicillin thrown off by the next freight train at our station – it worked.

Winters were isolated, but not completely alone. Their nearest neighbours were the Greens, 2 miles to the north, and the MacKinnons, roughly the same distance to the south. Along with the Greens the Kitteringhams formed a band called the Valley Ramblers, often playing benefit dances around the country to raise money for the Squamish Hospital. Musical get-togethers with their neighbours were a weekly highlight on the Kitterringham’s social calendar:

We walked the tracks in the winter with [baby] Linda in a clothes basket tied onto a sled … We played canasta, drank homebrew. Pretty hard to have to wake the kids and walk the two miles back. Those nights were quite beautiful though, when you can touch the stars and everything sparkles and glistens and that “crunch” of dry snow.

Schooling for the children was a makeshift affair. Only in 1956, their last year at the mill, were there the requisite 11 children for a proper school to run at the mill. In other years the children were home-schooled by Eleanor, while for a few years the boys made the daily trek to the trek to the Alta Lake schoolhouse. The day started with a 6am ride on the Queen Mary tugboat down to the end of Green Lake – often driven and docked by the eldest brother Ron! After moving back to Vancouver, Eleanor proudly reported that all three children graduated high shool with “high standards” despite ” a somewhat sketchy education.”

Middle child Jim later settled in Emerald Estates – the only original Parkhurst resident to live in Whistler. He took his mother for a tour of the old mill site three decades after they lived there. By then most of the site had been flattened by neglect and and persistent winter snowpacks, but she could still identify the remains of the family chicken coop, rabbit pen, children’s playhouse and the single-log wharf they swam from in the summers.

Despite the hard work and the obvious lack of modern creature comforts (Eleanor singled out disposable Pamper’s diapers and a TV for the children to watch Sesame Street as wished-for items), Eleanor sums up her 8 years on the quiet shores of Green Lake fondly: “Life was very peaceful, no traffic, crowds, etc., beautiful country all around us. [We had no idea} that anything like Whistler and Blackcomb would develop.”

The Story Behind “100 Years of Dreams”

*Note: this post was originally published in July 2011*

While deep snowpacks, sprawling ski lifts and downhill dirt made Whistler the international mega-resort it is today, it was actually fish that brought the valley’s first fun-seekers. And it was 100 years ago, this summer.

In a community as young as Whistler, 100 years is nothing to sneeze at. In celebration of the centennial of the Philip’s fateful first visit to this valley, the Whistler Museum and partners are hosting a 5-day series of free events, entitled “100 Years of Dreams.”

John Millar in front of his cabin, where you could get a plate of steller’s jay pie for 50 cents.

Around the turn of the twentieth century, the Whistler Valley–then known as Alta Lake–was home to a handful of trappers, prospectors, and loggers. Life was rough and the only connection to the outside world was the Pemberton Trail, a rugged path leading from Squamish (then Newport) to Lillooet and the interior goldfields.

In the spring of 1911, a local trapper named John Millar (for whom Millar Creek in Function Junction is named) was in Vancouver selling some of his furs and picking up provisions. One day a hungry Millar stopped by Gastown’s Horseshoe Bar & Grill where he struck up a conversation with the restaurant manager, Alex Philip.

Millar’s description of his secluded mountain valley struck a chord with Alex, who had recently moved to BC from Maine with his wife Myrtle. It was the Philips’ dream to one day open a fishing retreat in the Canadian wilderness, so they were enthralled by this string of glacier-fed lakes teeming with trout. They took  Millar up on his offer and made the 3-day trek to Alta Lake that August.

The Philips on the Pemberton Trail, en route to Alta Lake, August 1911.

It was perfect. They fell in love with Alta Lake, instantly recognizing that this was the place to pursue their fishing-retreat dreams.

In 1913 they returned and purchased 10 acres of land on the west side of Alta Lake from another local trapper, Charlie Chandler. To raise money Alex returned to managing the Horseshoe in Vancouver, while Myrtle’s family, the Tapleys, moved out from Maine to help build their lodge.

The next summer Rainbow Lodge–named after the bountiful rainbow trout in Alta Lake–was ready to go. That same year the PGE railway, running from Squamish into the BC Interior, opened up, making Rainbow Lodge a much more accessible day-trip from Vancouver.

Rainbow Lodge

The Philips jumped at the PGE’s offer of running “fisherman’s excursion” packages in partnership with Rainbow Lodge. The first such trip brought 22 men up from Vancouver, who returned to the city raving of the great fishing and grand mountain views. From that moment on the Philips had little trouble attracting business.

Rainbow Lodge quickly became the centre of the Alta Lake community. By the 1930s the Philips had added 45 outbuildings to support their growing operation, including a general store, a horse-stable, tennis courts, and a dedicated railway station. Rainbow Lodge advertisements boasted that it was the most popular tourist resort west of Jasper.

An expanded Rainbow Lodge and surrounding facilities, ca 1930.

It may seem modest compared to the excess and grandeur of Whistler today, but Rainbow Lodge and the Philips deserve credit for recognizing Whistler’s unique beauty and promoting it to the outside world. They’re one of the biggest reasons why you live here today (or wish you did).

Alex and Myrtle Philip were the first in a long line starry-eyed visionaries to visit the Whistler Valley and encounter a landscape grand enough to fit their dreams. 100 years later, the Whistler Valley continues to be re-shaped by the Philips’ special brand of hard work and bold ambition.

3 remaining guest cabins at Rainbow Park. Jeff Slack Photo.