Tag Archives: Tapley’s Farm

Trick or Treating at Tapley’s

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Legends of Whistler… tell the stories last week!

Quite a few of the stories took us back to a time when Whistler was much smaller, and had us thinking about how Whistler has grown over the last few decades.  This growth can be seen in almost every aspect of the community, including the celebration of Halloween.

Jane Burrows and her class show off their Halloween costumes. Whistler Question Collection, 1980.

Tapley’s Farm has been a popular place to spend Halloween since the 1980s.  What had begun as an idea in a real estate office in 1979 had (with a lot of hard work) become a neighbourhood by the mid-1980s.

According to Francois Lepine, this neighbourhood was different from other subdivisions in Whistler in that, “It was the only subdivision that looked exactly the same on a Saturday night or a Wednesday night.”

John Robinson puts final touches on his MDC home with help of wife Diane and daughter Kristal.  Whistler Question Collection, 1983.

Tapley’s was lived in by full-time residents, while other subdivisions had a mix of residents and second-home owners.  This made Tapley’s Farm an ideal area for trick or treating.

Like most traditions in Whistler, Halloween in Tapley’s began as an unofficial neighbourhood event.  In 1985, the decision was made to close the streets to cars during the evening so that kids could trick or treat without worry.  This was so successful that the neighbours continued putting up roadblocks and families from other subdivisions came and joined in the fun.

Houses received more than 100 trick or treaters in 1986, and Lee Bennett, a Tapley’s resident who organized the event in 1987, expected about 125 as the populations of the valley grew.  By this time, donations of candy were sought from those bringing their kids to the neighbourhood to lessen the cost for residents of Tapley’s.

Donated candy is sorted and then distributed throughout Tapley’s Farm. Whistler Question Collection, 1994.

Bennett attributed the popularity of Tapley’s to both the proportion of occupied houses and the layout of the houses.  As she told The Whistler Question, “They also don’t have to climb 100 stairs like in some other subdivisions.  It’s easy for the children to get around.”

By the mid-1990s, more than 600 kids were trick or treating in Tapley’s Farm annually and it had become known as Whistler’s “designated haunted neighbourhood.”

A trick or treater heads down Easy Street. Whistler Question Collection, 1994.

Residents took an active part, decorating their houses and handing out treats in costume.  A competition had even been introduced for the best decorated house.  Donations of candy for the event could be dropped off at Myrtle Philip School, the Whistler Children’s Centre, or at the house of one of the organizers.

A fireworks display in the lower field, presented by Whistler firefighters and Nesters Market, was the grand finale of the evening.  According to Keith Mellor, one of the firefighters who volunteered for the show, more than 1,000 people were expected to attend the fireworks in 1998, as Halloween fell on a Saturday and Tapley’s was expected to attract Vancouver visitors as well as Whistler residents.

Crowds gather on the field for the Tapley’s Farm Halloween fireworks display. Whistler Question Collection, 1994.

As the full-time population of Whistler has grown over the last 30 years, other neighbourhoods have started hosting their own Halloween trick or treating, including Millar’s Pond and Cheakamus Crossing.  New traditions have developed, such as the annual Cheakamus Zombie Walk.

As of last week, however, Halloween at Tapley’s Farm is still going strong.

The story of Tapley’s Farm (yes, it involves farming).

With the sun coming out and vanquishing the snow from the valley, and next week’s Green Talk all about growing your own food in Whistler, now is as good a time as ever to look into the history of agriculture in Whistler. Last fall we featured a post providing a bit of an overview of the topic, so this week we’ll take a more focused look at Whistler’s most well-known farm, Tapley’s Farm.

Yes, that Tapley’s Farm: the quiet residential neighbourhood which also holds the distinction of being the Whistler Valley’s first attempt at employee-designated housing. Although the area didn’t get it’s nickname “Mothers, Dogs, and Children” (a play on the acronym for Mountain Development Corporation, which developed the subdivision in the 1970s), there was a family with far more animals than just dogs living off the land along the northeast shore of Alta Lake.

While Alex and Myrtle Philip are widely recognized as the founders of the the community of Alta Lake (even though they were not the first settlers), fewer people are aware that Myrtle’s family, the Tapley’s were here from the beginning as well.

Myrtle's brother Phil Tapley, looking very much like a farmer.

Myrtle’s brother Phil Tapley, looking every bit the farmer that he was, July 1967.

When construction began on the Philip’s Rainbow Lodge in 1913, they were assisted by Myrtle father Sewall, and her sisters Jean and Margaret, and her brother’s Frank and Phil. Once Rainbow Lodge was completed, Sewall moved in with Alex & Myrtle, Phil returned to his home in Squamish (he had first moved there from Maine in 1912), and Jean and Margaret moved further afield, though they returned often for visits.

In 1925 Sewall purchased a large parcel of level land running along the north shore of Alta Lake, including the marshes surrounding the River of Golden Dreams, from a trapper named George Mitchell. That same year Phil Tapley married Dorothy Disney of Squamish and together they moved north to clear and settle Sewall’s land (first, Myrtle had to convince her father that he was getting too long in the tooth to try clearing his own farm).

In ensuing years Phil, Dorothy, and eventually their daughter Doreen (born in 1926) cleared, developed and managed a productive farm with various grain and veggie crops, an orchard, plenty of cows, chickens, horses, and plenty of hay. In addition to producing the majority of their own families needs, they were able to provide plenty of milk, veggies, and eggs for other settlers and lodge guests throughout the valley, as well as hay for their livestock.

What appears to be Phil Tapley (on the wagon), Alex Philip (at right) and an unidentified helper haying along the shores of Alta Lake. Note the Blackcomb Mountain backdrop, with Couloir Extreme and Chainsaw Ridge plainly visible near the righthand skyline, and a far more extensive Horstman Glacier at middle.

What appears to be Phil Tapley (on the wagon), Alex Philip (at right) and an unidentified helper haying along the shores of Alta Lake. Note the Blackcomb Mountain backdrop, with Couloir Extreme and Chainsaw Ridge plainly visible near the righthand skyline, and a far more extensive Horstman Glacier at middle.  Circa 1920s.

In every sense the Tapley’s were a model, self-sufficient pioneer family. In winter Phil also operated traplines in the surrounding mountains, and he was a keen adventurer. Dorothy was the only resident of the Whistler Valley to receive a Canadian Centennial Pioneer’s Medal in 1967.

Together they continued eking out a living through traditional means, pumping water from a well, and deriving heat and light from fire well into the 1960s, when the rest of the Valley was turning to modern conveniences such as electricity and plumbing. Dorothy passed away in 1968 at the age of 81, and Phil stayed on the farm for 3 more years until his death in 1971 at the age of 83.

Myrtle, Dorothy, and Phil in front of the Tapley farmhouse.

Myrtle, Dorothy, and Phil in front of the Tapley farmhouse, circa 1960s.

The Tapley’s exemplify perhaps better than any other Whistler Valley residents the potential to draw sustenance from the Earth, even in harsh climates such as our own. They should serve as inspiration to any Whistlerite frustrated by their inability to grow a ripe tomato, or a crisp head of lettuce.

Times certainly have changed; no doubt the Tapley’s drew from extensive farming knowledge passed on through the generations, and favourable (more precisely, non-existent) zoning–try raising chickens, let alone cattle, in Whistler today.

While waiting out changes to local agriculture by-laws (don’t hold your breath), you can beef up on your cultivation knowledge this Wednesday evening at the Whistler Museum, as AWARE hosts a series of short presentations all about overcoming the many present-day challenges of growing your own food in Whistler: from soils and sunlight, to selecting seeds, maximizing your growing space, and bear-proofing your crops. Hope to see you there!