Tag Archives: summer job

Summer Jobs at Rainbow Lodge

The Barnfield family is best known in Whistler as the owners of a dairy farm that once operated where the Barnfield neighbourhood is located today (read more about that here).  The farm was moved south to Brackendale in 1926, though the family continued to bring the cows and chickens back to Alta Lake for the summer tourist season.  Vera Merchant, the only daughter of the Barnfield family, continued to come up for summers even after her family had stopped bringing up the farm and worked at Rainbow Lodge for three seasons.  Her recollections provide a unique view of Rainbow Lodge and Alta Lake during the mid-1930s.

Daisy Barnfield (Vera’s mother) feeds the chickens with some help from the children.

Although Vera worked at Rainbow Lodge in 1934, ’35 and ’36, her experiences seem familiar to anyone who has worked in Whistler’s busy tourism industry.

During the summer, employees at Rainbow Lodge didn’t get many days off.  Vera was paid $25 a month and was provided with room and board.  This meant that she and another girl (also coincidently named Vera) shared a small two-bedroom cabin at the lakefront.

Though we don’t know which cabin, Vera and other employees at Rainbow Lodge were lucky enough to get lakeside accommodations during the summer.

Vera’s work included cleaning cabins, setting and clearing the dining room and leading activities such as hiking and horseback riding with guests.  On Sundays, the Pacific Great Eastern Railway ran excursions where passengers could come to Alta Lake just for the day.  These excursions were dreaded by Vera and her coworkers as they would have to rush to set up the dining room for lunch for guests and then again for day trippers and then reset the tables in time for dinner.  The staff did not eat until after the guests had finished their meals and the tablecloths, dishes and food had been put away.

Though most of the guests at Rainbow Lodge kept their cabins relatively clean, Vera remembered some cabins were left “an awful mess.”  A few times cabins were covered with “lemon peels and gin bottles and… no broken glass, but liquor all over the floor.”  When Vera showed the cabins to Alex Philip, who she suspected of being in on the previous evening’s party, he assured her that she would not have to clean up the cabin and that he would have the guests take care of their own mess.

Vera Barnfield (far left), Alex Philip and two unidentified women, possibly Rainbow Lodge employees, wait for the train at the station.

Despite working hard in the cabins and dining room, Vera enjoyed the work at Rainbow Lodge.  She and the other girls she worked with would go to the dances at the schoolhouse and the next day employees and guests would ride to the Green River for a picnic breakfast on the bridge.  Mason Philip, Alex Philip’s nephew, would go ahead with the faster riders and the horses with the supplies and Vera would bring up the rear with the guests less comfortable on horseback.  By the time Vera and her group arrived the table was set, the fire was going and food was already being prepared.  A full breakfast was provided, including eggs, bacon and hotcakes.  Vera loved being surrounded by the trees and the glacier water of Green Lake (her personal record for swimming Green Lake was five minutes).

Vera only worked at Rainbow Lodge for three years before her marriage but her summers at Alta Lake, both as a child with her family’s dairy and as a young woman with the Philips, provided memories that stayed with her until her death in 2014, just seven weeks before her 99th birthday.

Helicopters, Hats & Hummingbirds

By Jaimie Fedorak, Summer Collections Assistant

While looking through our artifact collection this summer we stumbled upon a familiar item: an Okanagan Helicopters baseball cap in the trademark orange and blue. We recognized the cap’s distinctive hummingbird logo because a helicopter enthusiast we know [Editor’s note: Jaimie’s father] has the exact same hat, but we were unsure why this hat would be part of our artifact collection.

The hat in all its orange glory.

The hat in all its orange glory.

Heli-skiing in the Whistler area has long been a popular activity, since the choppers provide access to the glaciers and backcountry areas for skiers looking for prime powder skiing. Pamphlets from the museum’s research files reveal that a bevy of helicopter companies were involved in providing heli-skiing tours, including Canadian Helicopters Ltd (one of the companies which Okanagan Helicopters became when it was restructured in later years, who also had a hummingbird logo).

Franz Wilhelmsen and unidentified man with an OK Heli, 1960s.

Franz Wilhelmsen and Willy Shaeffler with an OK Heli, 1960s.

Issues of the Garibaldi Whistler News going back as far as 1970 also prove that Okanagan Helicopters was the one of, if not the, first company offering heli-skiing services in the Whistler area. The company was allied with skiing superstar Jim McConkey, who was the Director of the Garibaldi Ski School at the time and acted as the guide on heli-skiing trips.

Early heli-skiers, near Whistler. Yes, winter is coming.

Early heli-skiers, near Whistler. Yes, winter is coming.

But the connection between Okanagan Helicopters and the resort goes back even further. Photos in the Museum’s collection show many Okanagan Helicopters machines, and the earliest photos from the Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation collection reveal that Okanagan Helicopters was the company that took Franz Wilhelmsen and company on tours of the area during the early 1960s to scope out the viability of developing a ski resort.

Touring around the Whistler Mountain alpine, early 1960s.

Touring around the Whistler Mountain alpine, early 1960s.

Once the decision was made to make the resort a reality, Okanagan Helicopters was called upon again. Construction of the lift towers was done before ground transportation up the mountain was feasible, and helicopters were thus  chosen the construction vehicle of choice. When the Garibaldi Olympic Development Association (GODA for short) was formed to promote Whistler Mountain as a potential host for the 1966 Olympics Glen McPherson, the president of Okanagan Helicopters, was on the committee due to the company’s important role in the construction of the resort.

The hat itself is most likely from the late 1970s or early 1980s – before Okanagan Helicopters became Canadian Helicopters Ltd and CHC in 1987- but the legacy of how it came to be in the collection goes back almost 20 years to the very beginning of the Whistler-Blackcomb resort.

LEGO in the Village!

This past weekend we had a great time building LEGO in Olympic Plaza! We had tons of visitors who sought the shade of our tents and built some amazing creations.

This builder was inspired by pictures we put up of some creations at LEGO Land, and built a very impressive bee! Photo by Robyn Goldsmith.

We have to give congratulations to the builder above, who actually stuck to the theme and built this impressive bee. Most of us (including the staff) didn’t really adhere to the ‘Natural History’ theme, but there were a few impressive ‘Natural History’ creations amongst all of the other amazing and creative things that people built. Our LEGO expert, Keith Reed, built a bear and a lady bug!

A lady bug built by our LEGO expert, Keith Reed. Photo by Robyn Goldsmith.

Whistler and Blackcomb from Alta Lake. Photo by Robyn Goldsmith.

There were many creative uses of LEGO, including 2D pictures, 3D structures, and a LOT of spaceships, pirate ships, cars, and airplanes. We had kids, teenagers, moms, dads, grandparents; we had people from France, India, the UK, and all over the world. Amongst a variety of people, one thing was clear: everyone loves LEGO! One of my favourite moments was when a I over heard a young boy say “Dad, I’m hot, can we go?” His father replied, “Hold on, just let me finish building this.”

Thanks to our LEGO experts, Keith and Jessica, our volunteer Kelly (and also Josh and Lucas), and the Whistler Arts Council, for helping to make our village LEGO event such a success!

‘Whistler Museum and Archive Society’! Thumbs up! Photo by Robyn Goldsmith.

We have a lot of LEGO… Photo by Robyn Goldsmith.

Writing with LEGO is a pretty clever idea! Photo by Robyn Goldsmith.

Safety first when playing with LEGO! Photo by Robyn Goldsmith.

A girl works on a treed scene. She claimed she wasn’t building, but was just helping her Dad. Photo by Robyn Goldsmith.

Even Museum Staff couldn’t resist breaking with the ‘Natural History’ theme – I made a hamburger!

Kyle Yuen from the Visitor Information Centre made an impressive Canadian flag. Photo by Robyn Goldsmith.

Kelly Paton with a fire breathing dragon. Photo by Robyn Goldsmith.

Pirates are always a popular LEGO theme. Photo by Robyn Goldsmith.

Allyn Pringle built this house, which took on many forms during the weekend. This boy used it as a pot for stirring LEGO. Photo by Robyn Goldsmith.

This boy took on the house with his sister, and turned it into a pirate house. Photo by Robyn Goldsmith.

We’re getting excited for our LEGO competition on August 25th! Keep an eye out for our upcoming ads and don’t miss this year’s event!

A Spectacular Parade Costume (or ‘How to paper mache a globe’)

We at the Museum take the Canada Day Parade seriously. Last year, we won a prize for ‘Best Interpretation of Parade Theme’, and this year we were thinking further along the interpretive theme. We spent several weeks trying to brainstorm a costume that would integrate this year’s theme, ‘Celebrating Whistler’s Multiculturalism’, and a historical theme to represent the Museum.

Last year our entry was popular due to some borderline nudity, which garnered laughs from the crowd. (Read about last year’s entry here)

After much thought, we decided that our multiculturalism is thanks in large part to the many visitors we have in Whistler each year. All of those visitors send their memories of Whistler home via postcards. So we collected a few postcards from our collection, as well as some we created specifically, and turned them into giant postcard costumes. That’s right; we dressed up as giant postcards.

Just dressing up as giant postcards didn’t seem to convey the message we were going for – what we needed was a globe to create a strong visual of postcards circling around the world. As we didn’t have a globe on hand, we had to figure out how to make one. Most of us had done some paper mache projects as kids, but the idea of making a giant paper mache wear-able globe was somewhat daunting. We quickly nominated Jeff to wear the globe. We figured he would be keen to wear a giant orb without being able to use his arms for an hour (he was the only staff member who wasn’t at work that day).

The postcards and globe from the back.

As we’re a pretty small organization, we needed volunteers to bolster the ranks of our staff. Fortunately we had a little help from Allyn’s family (thanks to Verity, Jennifer, and Alison) and our lovely volunteers Nadia and Kris. We handed out postcards to the enthusiastic crowd, so that they could continue to share memories of Whistler around the globe. As it turns out, anything free goes over pretty well at parades. We managed to hand out hundreds of postcards! (For some photos of the parade in action, as well as a shot of a couple of postcards, check out this post on Whistler is Awesome).

We were disappointed that we didn’t win a prize in the parade this year, but congratulations to all those who did. Watch out for the museum’s entry next year – we’re sure to be a heavy weight contender for a prize!

A big thank you as well to In Biz Signs in Squamish, who helped with the postcard costumes!

Here’s how we made the globe:

1. We wired and taped three large hula hoops together (which we fortunately had sitting around from our events last summer.

Allyn Pringle lashes three hula hoops together with heavy wire.

2. We wrapped the hula hoops in chicken wire. We didn’t cover one section so we’d have a space for the globe’s legs.

3. We wrapped the chicken wire in plastic to fill in some of the holes.

Allyn wraps the orb in plastic.

4. We cut a hole in the top for the head.

Allyn cuts the head hole.

5. We tried it on and adjusted any wires that poked through.

Robyn models the globe, pre-paper mache.

6. We shredded copies of The Question, The Pique, and old village maps.

7. We paper mached using a classic flour and water mixture. When it dried, the paper mache shrank a little bit, so the globe was not quite the round shape we’d envisioned.

Robyn getting her hands dirty with paper mache.

8. We did a final layer of paper mache using toilet paper. We thought this would make a nice texture and would make the globe easier to paint. It absorbed so much water that it almost ruined the project. It did look cool, but to work properly it would be better to have the project hanging, or somewhere where the water couldn’t pool.

9. We spray painted the whole thing blue.

10. We tried our best to draw on the continents using chalk. It was difficult to get it accurate, but we were happy with the result.

11. We painted in the continents using tempera paint, and outlined them in white to make them pop.

Alix fills in the continents.

12. We painted over the tempera with gloss to make it water resistant, and inserted little laminated flags into the globe with toothpicks.

The globe with some flags inserted.

13. Jeff rocked the globe costume at the Canada Day Parade!

Taking history outside the classroom

This is a re-post of the June 23rd installment of the Whistler Museum’s weekly column in the Whistler Question newspaper, Museum Musings.

As Leah Batisse is currently frolicking around in jolie Paris, the arduous task of writing this week’s Museum Musings falls to me, one of those three summer students she mentioned in this column a few weeks ago. If this is what she had in mind by “diabolical plans” for us seasonal reinforcements, I’ve got more than a little sympathy for the devil.

If the whole point of summer job programs like Young Canada is to provide valuable on-the-job experience to complement our academic background, then my few weeks at the museum have so far exceeded expectations.

Studying history in university, I developed an appreciation for how important knowledge about the past is for socially engaged individuals and vibrant, healthy communities. And while I also believe that universities should serve as more than mere job-skills factories, the fact of the matter is that the basic skills taught in most Canadian history programs — reading, writing and archival research — have hardly changed over the last century. While I consider these to be valuable, under-appreciated skills, the curriculum is becoming a little old-fashioned for anyone who doesn’t intend on a career as a university professor.

In my first few weeks here at the museum my overlords have provided me with a good mix of pre-defined tasks such as writing PR releases and delivering walking tours (which we offer every day, all summer long, departing from the Whistler Visitor Center at 1 p.m.), as well as the opportunity to develop some self-directed projects such as designing and creating content for our new blog (blog.whistlermuseum.org).

In the process I’ve been gaining first-hand experience in how to make historical research more relevant beyond university, not to mention a crash course in a variety of practical, in-demand skills such as graphic design and web publishing. This experience will be crucial in my hoped-for jump from over-educated snowboard instructor/carpenter’s assistant to a challenging career that builds on the skills and knowledge I gained in school.

Meanwhile, Bridget (events) has been neck deep in crafts and event planning, while Brad (collections) has had a full run of archival work from transcribing audio interviews to poly-wrapping furniture in our super-secret underground lair. Glorified coffee runners we are not.

In other news, in the vein of community engagement we are excited to announce three upcoming events. First, the Whistler Museum’s annual general meeting will be taking place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday (June 29). Come get the inside scoop on what happened in 2010 and what we will be focusing on in 2011.

All are welcome, though only members have voting privileges. If you aren’t a member yet, you can always purchase a membership for just $25. Our AGM is a night to mingle with your friends, meet the museum staff and board of trustees, check out the exhibit, eat fantastic grub — there will be a free barbecue and a cash bar — and generally celebrate with us.

The festivities continue the following night (June 30, from 6:30 to 9 p.m.) during the ArtWalk reception. This is the best time to come see some great work by Pemberton-based action/landscape photographer Andrew Strain, but the art has already been mounted so you can check it out anytime, all summer long.

Our three-day bender culminates on July 1 with Whistler’s annual Canada Day celebration. As always, we will be entering a float in the parade, and we aim to win! Afterwards, come visit us at our tent in Village Square for an afternoon of arts and crafts. The museum will remain open all day long by donation in celebration of our national holiday.

Stay tuned to this column, our website, blog, Facebook page and Twitter feed for up-to-date info regarding upcoming events and our ongoing efforts to make the museum as innovative, engaging and relevant as possible for the local and global communities that we serve.

Jeff Slack is the summer program coordinator at the Whistler Museum.