Tag Archives: Soo Valley

George Benjamin’s Candid Whistler

The Whistler Museum’s archive houses many documents, printed material, films, oral histories, and photographs from Whistler’s rich cultural past, from the arrival of Whistler’s earliest pioneers to the journey of hosting the Olympic Games.  It’s a treasure trove of interesting facts and unique stories that are unapologetically Whistler.

One of the first major collections I (Brad Nichols, Executive Director/Curator) catalogued while working in the archives as an intern at the Whistler Museum in the summer of 2011 was the George Benjamin photograph collection.

George Benjamin, originally from Toronto, Ontario, first came to Whistler in 1968 on a ski vacation, staying at the infamous Toad Hall.  George, on “Benji,” as he was more commonly known, would move to Whistler in 1970.

George was a semi-professional photographer.  His family back in Ontario owned a photo-finishing business, and this allowed him to develop his photographs for free – a handy asset in the days before digital photography.

George Benjamin himself holds his catch at the dock of Tokum Corners. Benjamin Collection.

The George Benjamin Collection consists of 8,236 images from the late 1960s to the early 1980s.  Photos in the collection include images of early Whistler Mountain Ski Patrol, Soo Valley Toad Hall, Gelandesprung ski jump competitions, summer days spent at many of Whistler’s lakes, parties, and everyday shots of living and working in Whistler.  This might be the most candid representation of Whistler during this era in our collection.

Photos don’t usually get more candid than this. Benjamin Collection.

Folks living in Whistler during this time would have had more in common with Whistler’s early-20th century pioneers than with the Whistler of today.  Many residents were still using outhouses, had little-to-no electricity, and relied on wood stoves for their cooking needs.  George’s photos capture this pioneer lifestyle, but with the added element of the counterculture movement of the 1960s and 1970s – and, of course, people that loved to ski.

George’s residence in Whistler was the infamous Tokum Corners.  This cabin – which was once home to Whistler Museum Board Chair John Hetherington, had no running water, and was often repaired with found materials – would become one of the cornerstones of social life in the valley.

Tokum Corners, as seen across the tracks in 1971. Benjamin Collection.

George, who had access to 16mm film equipment, would often shoot on Whistler Mountain, capturing his days following ski patrol blasting and partaking in avalanche control.  These film vignettes would be screened at Tokum Corners, usually with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon playing over top to ever-growing crowds.

The Photocell, covered in snow. Benjamin Collection.

George opened the Photo Cell photography store in Creekside around 1973.

He later became a commercial fisherman in the late-1970s.  He moved from Whistler back to Toronto in the early 1980s and now lives in Port Perry, Ontario.

George generously donated his collection of photographs and negatives to the museum in 2009.  The bulk of George Benjamin’s photos are available on the Whistler Museum’s website here.

If you  have any interesting stories, films, or photographs from Whistler’s past, we would love to hear from you.

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Toad Hall: The Poster Returns

With the holiday season fast approaching we’ve started taking particular notice of holiday-themed photos in our collections.  These photos can vary from Whistler Mountain ski instructors dressed up as reindeer to Santa finding hidden powder to Season’s Greetings from the Philip family.  One of the more interesting holiday photos shows a roasted turkey in a wood burning stove called “Master Climax” (so named for the make of the stove).

Master Climax Turkey Glory – Christmas Dinner at Toad Hall in 1969! Benjamin Collection.

This stove was part of the kitchen set up at the first Toad Hall, one of Whistler’s most famous (or infamous) lodgings.  This Toad Hall was built by Alta Lake resident Alf Gebhart, who first came to live in the area in 1936.  In the mid-1960s, Alf sold his property to Charles Hillman, a high-school teacher working in Vancouver.  Charles, in turn, rented his property to a “respectable-looking” father with two daughters.  The rent was paid consistently and on time, though after a while the names on the cheques started to change.

By the time Charles Hillman decided to start using his cabin to ski, unbeknownst to him, the property had been renamed Toad Hall and was gaining a reputation across the country.  Charles arrived to find a young resident from Montreal cooking breakfast, evidence of a campfire in one of the bedrooms, and sleeping quarters set up wherever possible, including the chicken house.

The first Toad Hall, 1969. Benjamin Collection.

With help from the RCMP in Squamish and a court order, the residents of Toad Hall were amicably evicted, with enough time given for a farewell party.

By the 1970s, the Soo Valley Logging Camp, near the northern end of Green Lake, was no longer in use by the forestry industry.  This became the second incarnation of Toad Hall.  Perhaps the best known image of Toad Hall, the Toad Hall Poster, was taken here.

The second Toad Hall was scheduled for demolition in the summer of 1973.  (Though no buildings remain today, some photos of Parkhurst donated by the Clausen family show the in-use camp across the lake.)

The Toad Hall Poster.

That spring, knowing their time there was limited, residents gathered with their ski gear and little else for a memorable photo shoot set up by photographer Chris Speedie – 10,000 copies of this poster were printed and sold for two to three dollars each.  Copies were distributed along the World Cup ski circuit by Terry “Toulouse” Spence.

Over the decades, copies of these posters became harder to obtain.  Then, in 2013, Terry brought a box to the museum.  The museum officially sold out of the original run of Toad Hall posters this past January, almost 45 years after it was first printed.

The first official reprint of the Toad Hall Poster is now available to purchase at the Whistler Museum.

This Week In Photos: August 30

While every year is different, some weeks have a recurring event or theme that shows up year after year.  For this week, it would seem Whistler used to be taken over by Porsches and those who love them.

1978

The Chilliwack Motorcycle Sports Club visited Whistler this weekend and got some sunny weather for their travels.

An iconic Whistler structure: the Whistler Post Office.

And the Whistler Firehall.

Whistler Mountain was well represented at this recent tradeshow…

Which also featured the Avalauncher, a tool no ski hill can be without.

1979

Whistler Creek Lodge rises up as construction forges ahead.

Myrtle Philip casts her referendum ballot, supervised by Kris Shoup at the school on voting day.

New faces in the valley – Editor’s assistant Bob Este…

… and BC Ski Co-ordinator Dan Mathews.

“Porsche Party” at Alpine Way on Sunday!

1980

Windsurfers head out across Alta Lake as summer’s last few waning rays dapple the mountainside.

Don Willoughby puts out the remainder of a small fire in Blackcomb Estates.

This youngster visiting Pemberton’s favourite swimming hole is trying to forget that summer vacation is almost over.

1982

Murray Coates, marathon runner, and Myrtle Philip, Whistler legend.

Whistler’s in stride, Willie Whistler arrives at the awards ceremony for the First Annual Whistler Marathon Sunday, where he presented medals and prizes and entertained a crowd of over 200 runners and volunteers.

A slick new coat of asphalt has been a welcome addition to Alpine Meadows in recent weeks. Except for a few roads in the subdivision, paving will be completed by mid-September at a cost of $535,000.

Porsches, Porsches everywhere. Crowds of people wandered through more than 100 Porsches that congregated on Whistler Village Saturday for the Western Canada region of the Porsche Club of America’s Concours d’Elegance.

1983

Jack Jorgensen took the People’s Choice award for his immaculate 1957 Porsche 1600 Speedster. Jorgensen did all the restoration work on his car.

The Gambling Gourmet of Whistler got a first for costumes but placed out of the money for their chili during the 1983 Canadian Chili Championship at Westin Bayshore Saturday. It seems a picky judge didn’t like vegetables in chili. Oh well, there’s always next year. Congratulations to the Gambling Gourmet Team! Pictured here: Chef Ted Nebbeling, Susan Howard and Valerie Lang.

Kathie Hicks takes a break from dealing blackjack to the throngs of chili aficionados around the Whistler booth.

An Alpine Paving bulldozer tears up pavement on Village Stroll in preparation for drainage work. The paving company has promised the road will be reopened in time for the Fall Festival September 9.

1984

The Whistler Canoe Club hosted a brigade race on Alta Lake during the weekend with the women’s squad (Connie Kutyn, Trudy Alder, Margo Mathews, Sue Davidson, Bev Downie and Tracy Morben) beating the Richmond Fire Department Women’s Brigade Team by six minutes. The Whistler Men’s team (Ken Hardy, Mike Jakobson, Tim Malone, Frank Bartik, Preston Fritz and Brian Allen) came second to a Vancouver team.

Incumbent Conservative MP Lorne Greenaway passed through Whistler, and Tapley’s pub, Friday. Greenaway spent part of the morning and afternoon campaigning for Tuesday’s election.

Mayor Mark Angus was busy campaigning last Tuesday at an informal open house at Jan Holberg and Ted Nebbeling’s home on Alta Lake. D-Day for Angus and all the candidates is next Tuesday.

Friday’s Chamber of Commerce dinner dance at Dusty’s attracted just about every business person in Whistler for a night of socializing and dancing to the tunes of the Peter Carson Trio.

This car has been peering into the Soo Valley stream for a few years now.

District firemen sharpened their skills over the weekend in a course given by the Vancouver Fire Institute.

Porsches from all over the Pacific Northwest visited Whistler for the 4th Annual Porsche Weekend and Concours d’Elegance.

And you thought kids only carry ghetto blasters on their shoulders these days? This racoon was spotted roaming the village Saturday.