Tag Archives: summer

Summer Getaways at Alta Lake

Summertime in Canada, especially for children, is often portrayed as a series of long, carefree days spent exploring the outdoors, playing in and on the water and spending time with friends and family.

While this is certainly not how the season plays out for everyone, the Matheson children of Vancouver would seem to have close to the quintessential summer vacation from 1927 to 1934.

In 2011, the Whistler Museum received an account of their summers at Alta Lake from Betty Jane Warner, the youngest of the three Matheson children.  Every year the Matheson family would spend two months renting one of William “Mac” MacDermott’s three cabins (the same cabins later lived in by Bob and Flo Williamson and the descendants of Grace Woollard).

Alta Lake was an amazing summer retreat for the Matheson children, who spent a good part of the time in and on the lake. Philip Collection.

The final days of June would see Betty Jane, her siblings Jack and Claudia, her mother Violet and, in some years, a maid board the Union Steamship in downtown Vancouver bound, eventually, for Alta Lake.  The family did not travel light – they brought a steam trunk and five bags – but unfailingly, Mac would meet them at the PGE station and see them and their luggage across Alta Lake to what Betty Jane called their “summer cottage”.

This cottage consisted of a sleeping porch, a small sitting area, a kitchen complete with wood stove, and two bedrooms.  Mac provided use of a shared outhouse and woodpile and each of his three cabins came equipped with its own outhouse.

Mac at the cabin on Singing Pass en route to Red Mountain. During his time at Alta Lake Mac took many people hiking through the valley and some of his cabins are still standing today. Philip Collection.

As Betty Jane recalled, “We loved Alta Lake and looked forward to our happy times each summer – no matter how basic our living conditions were compared to our city living.”

It’s easy to see why they looked forward to summer.  The three children took walks around the lake picking ripe blueberries, rowed among the water lilies and dragonflies, and joined Mac on treks to Lost Lake and Green Lake where “there were always rotting old logs to climb over and the threat of lots of bees!”

Over the years they got to know their summer neighbours and packed picnics for train excursions with permanent Alta Lake residents.  With the nearest store at Rainbow Lodge, even going out to get groceries could be an adventure.

Baths in the copper tub were reserved for Saturday nights and few days required dressing up.  Once every summer Betty Jane and Claudia rowed up the lake for tea at Mrs. Harrop’s tearoom, requiring them to “shed our blue denim coveralls for something a little more dressy to wear for the occasion.”

Every summer, Betty Jane and Claudia visited the Harrop’s tearoom where they had a floating cottage right on Alta Lake.

The Matheson family chose Alta Lake after their father, Robert, met Mac and the Philips while staying at Rainbow Lodge with Violet and became “enchanted with the area.”

He was unable to join his family in the summers and remained in Vancouver where he worked as an architect.  His firm, Townley & Matheson, designed quite a few buildings still standing in Vancouver today, including Vancouver Motors, the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, Point Grey Secondary and Vancouver City Hall.

It was after his death in 1935 that the Matheson family stopped coming to Alta and, according to Betty Jane, “our happy summers came to an end.”

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This Week In Photos: July 19

We’ve got quite a few photos for this week – that’s because we happen to have this week represented in almost every year of the Whistler Question Collection!

1978

Kayakers are dwarfed by the Daisy Lake Dam.

Werner Furrer (third place K1) explodes over waves, heading for gate 28.

The finished product – a distinctive Zurbrugg chalet.

First the chasm over the river…

… then the stringers.

Asphalt oil heater is lifted off a lowbed at Malloch & Mosley on Friday as Doug Muir looks on.

1979

The new municipal waterworks tank above the Town Centre.

FIRE on Blackcomb! The scene from Alpine Meadows at 11:30 pm on Sunday.

The Whistler Volunteer Firemen practice – John Howells up a ladder.

Architect’s drawing of the new Whistler Tri-Service Building.

1980

Parcel 16 will have a clock tower rising from the right hand side and will feature retail outlets on the first floor and residential on the second.

Most work in town centre is construction but some is destruction. These two workers pound away at steel-reinforced concrete. A day long job for sure.

The giant twin-propellor Canadian Forces Rescue helicopter used to help rescue crews get to the crash site of a small plane on Whistler Mountain.

Roof gone and the rest going, this old mill is deteriorating along the Green River north of Whistler. Only ghosts and rodents inhabit it now.

1981

Whistler Village parking! Wagon misses the parking lot on Wednesday evening, ending up in the newly landscaped garden.

Herb and Jean Hepburn of Okanagan Produce, Vernon, managed to get in a few fruit sales before being asked to leave by municipal authorities.

Bob Dawson and Neil Mawdsley unsuccessfully try to get a fly ball.

Chris Green, Laura d’Artois and J.G. Luckhurst at the Fireplace Inn opening party.

And here he is! The mysterious Mr B.A. Bell of Whistler slowly unpeels his talent – much to the giggles and appreciation of his audience at the first Jock Contest held at Mountain House, July 20. With competition from Fast Eddie and Schultz, things looked mighty tough – but then Peter Lamare took the floor and the $100 first prize.

Annette Ducharma, accompanied by Jamie Boyd, strummed out many a fine tune at JB’s July 16 – 20 while Betsy Chaba took a temporary leave to entertain folks at the Folk Festival in Vancouver.

Crews replace railroad crossing on the highway by the Whistler Industrial Park.

1982

Workers repair damage done to the Lillooet bridge, which received unwanted alterations Tuesday from a truck too tall for a bridge too small.

Hanging high, window washers polish up the Delta Mountain Inn for its July 23rd opening.

Rotarians enjoy their Bravery Luncheon July 16. They were guests of Delta Mountain Inn, which was giving its Twigs Restaurant staff a taste of the dining room in action.

Virginia Meachin enjoys an early morning cup of java with two hikers who joined her Saturday hike down Whistler Mountain.

Whistlerites enjoy some of the gourmet treats served by the Gourmet, which recently completed its patio eating area outside of the Rainbow building in Sunshine Place.

Halt! A barrier blocks the drive of an Alpine Meadows residence after the ditching crew passed by.

Fresh off the assembly line is the Municipality’s 4×4 multi-purpose truck. Among other chores the vehicle will tackle the job of plowing Whistler streets this winter.

1983

Sunny skies and the colourful show put on by the Estonian Folk Dancers of Vancouver brightened up the Whistler Village Sunday, July 17.

Paul Gibson of Selkirk Cable Vision turns a final screw to get Alpine Meadows booked into Whistler Cable Television’s system. Besides six channels, subscribers can now enjoy a host of FM radio stations.

When weekend temperatures soared to the mid-20s, sun worshippers who had been denied their pleasure for nearly six weeks flocked to Lost Lake like the swallows to Capistrano. The new forecast, after four days of sun? Get out the ark, and don’t ask again.

Isobel MacLaurin.

Thuy Read admires a shirt from Whistler Tops in her role asa shopper in “Getaway to Whistler”, a promotional film being made by Curtis Petersen of Petersen Productions.

1984

You put your knees up and you toss the cool drinks down when the sun comes out at Whistler. Temperatures climbed as high as 30.4 C in the past week. Even at the Toni Sailer Ski Camp there were hot times. On Monday at noon the temperature at Midstation on Whistler Mountain was 21 C.

Despite their best efforts, Stoney’s lost 14-1 to the Suds squad.

It was the annual Rotary Installment last Wednesday at Sid Young’s house in Alpine Meadows overlooking 19 Mile Creek. Rotarians and guests were feted with steak prepared by Rudi Hoffmann and lobster, flown in from Nova Scotia, boiled by Ted Nebbeling. District Governor Ralph Crawford also installed Sid Young as the service organization’s new president, taking over from Geoff Pearce. As well, Floyd Eclair becomes vice-president, Doug Fox secretary, Nick DiLalla sergeant-at-arms, Walter Zebrowski treasurer, Arv Pellegrin club service director, Brian Brown youth and international service director and Jon Paine vocation service director.

Air Travel to Alta Lake

For most of the year floatplanes overhead are a common sight (and sound) above Whistler.  Today, these planes land and take off from Green Lake – an everyday occurrence.  But in the 1920s floatplanes were an adventurous way to arrive at Alta Lake.

The first record of a floatplane landing on Alta Lake was on August 31, 1922.  While floatplanes were not a common mode of transport, a fair number did arrive and take off from the lake.

The first plane to land on Alta Lake, flown by Earl Leslie MacLeod.

In 2011, Betty Jane (BJ) Warner (nee Matheson) shared her memory of a floatplane landing on Alta Lake in the late 1920s.  She was only four or five years old at the time.

The Matheson children and their mother spent the summers of 1927 to 1934 at a cabin on the south end of Alta Lake.  Betty Jane’s father Robert Matheson stayed in Vancouver to work but sent up letters and supplies, most notably marshmallows.  The cabin was rented from William “Mac” MacDermott and Mac became a close friend to the family.  In the summers he chopped their firewood, checked the oil in the lamps, did general repairs when needed and went hiking with the Matheson siblings Jack, Claudia and Betty Jane; in winter he would spend Christmas Day with the Matheson family in Vancouver.

Mac, Mollie Stephenson and Lena Hanson at the cabin on Singing Pass en route to Red Mountain.

One day, Mac had taken Jack hiking, Claudia was reading n the shade and Betty Jane was paddling by the shore of Alta Lake with the young maid who came to keep an eye on her.  What happened next is best said in Betty Jane’s own words.

Suddenly, a loud thunderous sound and something deafening roared across the sky.  It reached the far end of the lake, seemed suspended, turned, then menacingly approached us, skimming the water like a giant torpedo.  It came lower and lower and as it became closer caused all about us to vibrate and rumble.

I was terrified and along with Evelyn (the maid) and the dog we fled into the cabin, followed by my mother, who, fearful of an overhead crash, ordered us to protect ourselves under a huge canvas that covered our woodpile.

It was my father, of course, and his pilot friend who chose that day to surprise his young family on what was, proudly for him, his first flight… What a let-down it must have been for him to be met by the dismal sigh of his terrified children huddled under a tarp and an upset wife, tearful and near fainting, scolding him for traveling in such a dangerous contraption.  My brother missed it all.

This was the first time Betty Jane had ever seen an airplane, a memory that remained with her for over eight decades.  As she recalled, “The Space Age was upon us, but to this young person the marvel of it all was the gigantic tin of Moonlight Marshmallows that came with it.”

Alta Lake Live

We love to share the photos we have in our collections, but did you know that we also have a huge collection of video footage?  Not all of it has been digitized, and even less is currently available online, but we hope to remedy this in the future.

Today we’re sharing four films of Alta Lake from the Petersen Collection that show the lake in different years and seasons.

Up first is a film from around 1960 showing skaters on the frozen lake.  With a game of hockey going on, it looks a lot like winters on Alta Lake today.

While we have many photos of sail boats on Alta Lake most of them are black and white.  This film captures the sails in all their colourful glory.  Taken during a regatta, this footage may just be of the Alta Lake Sailing Club’s first “Regretta”.

Another film of boating, this time from 1970, gives a closer view of some of the cabins and other means of transportation along the shore.  As a bonus, the film also includes footage of the PGE moving a building from the side of the railroad tracks.

Last, but certainly not least, we have footage from the 1974 Regatta hosted by the Alta Lake Sailing Club.  Based out of Dick Fairhurst’s Cypress Lodge, the location may seem familiar to those who sail on Alta Lake today.  The full day event included a tug-o-war, pie eating contest, sailing (of course) and more.

Other films available online can be viewed here.  We hope to add more soon!