Tag Archives: Toad Hall

Everything is Connected

You never know when you’ll find a connection in Whistler’s history between two seemingly unrelated subjects.  A recent donation to the museum showed an unexpected connection between the Chateau Whistler Resort and the topic of last week’s post, Toad Hall.

While clearing out some offices, staff at the Chateau came across a large book full of press clippings dating from 1987 to 1993.  This book was donated to the museum and provides a pretty comprehensive picture of the proposal, development and opening of the Chateau Whistler Resort, as well as Blackcomb Mountain, Whistler Village and the resort in general (it even includes an article on the historical bus tours that used to run in Whistler).

From the contents, the book appears to have been compiled by Debbie Williamson, then the director of sales at the Chateau.

In 1987, when the clippings begin, Intrawest Properties Ltd. was actively developing the 254-acre (103-hectare) site at the base of Blackcomb, now known as the Benchlands.  As part of this larger development, Canadian Pacific Hotels had plans to build what would become Whistler’s biggest hotel.

The Chateau Whistler Resort in 1996, after the addition of 221 rooms and the well-known Macdonald Ballroom. Whistler Question Collection.

With a budget of $50 million, the Chateau Whistler Resort was to include a ballroom, banquet room, meeting rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, six tennis courts (including two covered courts), a dining room, restaurant and a 200-seat discotheque, all scheduled to be open for the 1989-90 ski season.  An 18-hole golf course was also to be built, though it was not expected to open until the summer of 1990.

The Chateau Whistler Resort was officially given council’s conceptual approval in August 1987.  Despite some problems with the asphalt tiles of the roof (John MacKenzie, in the Whistler Question, thought that “The roof looks like it was designed by Jimi Hendrix, with the mottled green and white”), the Chateau was ready to open on schedule in November 1989, with almost everything from the original plans (unfortunately there was no discotheque).

The Chateau’s opening on November 17 was well covered by The Province, and it is here that the connection between the grand hotel and Toad Hall appears.  The first guest to be presented a key by general manager Dave Roberts was a Mrs. Winnifred Mather Hillman, who was given the stay at the hotel as a surprise birthday gift by her husband Charles.  Charles Hillman (as mentioned in last week’s article) was the owner of the first Toad Hall, a small cabin originally built by Alf Gebhart.

The first Toad Hall, 1969. Benjamin Collection.

The clipping continue on until 1993, including a piece from August 1990 about the issue of the roof.  There had been concerns about the use of asphalt tiles instead of slate or another material from the beginning, and council was not too happy with the resulting “mottled green colour”.  The Chateau had been ordered to re-shingle, but the process was deferred and the hotel was later given the option of paying a “fine” of $140,000 to be used for community projects instead.

The museum would like to thank the Chateau for their donation.  If you find a piece of Whistler’s history while clearing out an old office, garage or attic come visit us at the museum.

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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.

The Story of the Toad Hall Poster

Although the Toad Hall poster’s infamy has persisted through the years, it became harder and harder to get your hands on one. Until 2013, when  Toulouse himself came into the museum with a box of the original, 1973 print, posters that are still in mint condition. You can now get yourself one of these absolute classic pieces of Whistler history for yourself, available exclusively from the Whistler Museum!

(Warning: Nudity Alert)

This is the story of Whistler’s most famous photo, created on a whim one care-free spring afternoon four decades ago. 1973 in Whistler was another era. Less than a decade earlier, the construction of ski lifts on Whistler Mountain had put the previously quiet fishing resort on the map,  attracting an influx of youthful, free-spirited ski bums.

Meanwhile,  Whistler Village, Blackcomb Mountain, the Olympics and other major development remained little more than a pipe dream. Heck, many locals still lived without electricity or running water. Throughout the valley the ski bums lived in a wide variety of hand-built cabins, and conveniently vacated structures, perhaps none more revered than Toad Hall.

Toad Hall volleyball

Enjoying an idyllic volleyball match along the shores of Green Lake.

With a mere $75/month lease (for the property, not per person), this collection of wooden shacks near the north end of Green Lake, formerly known as the Soo Valley Logging Camp, came to be a focal point of the revelrous ski bum community. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that by the spring of 1973 tales of debauchery left local powers wholly unenthused with this shag-carpeted Shangri-la.

Toad Hall was slated for demolition later that summer. One sunny spring day, whoever was milling about was asked to convene out front with their ski gear, but wearing nothing else.  The photographer, Chris Speedie, orchestrated the photo simply to provide residents with a memento before Toad Hall met its demise. The completely uninhibited and playful posing perfectly captured the spirit of the times.

Later, sensing the image’s iconic potential, a few “Toadies” scrounged together some cash and printed off 10,000 posters. At 2 or 3 bucks a pop, guerilla poster sales funded abundant “apres” sessions for years to come. The poster’s mastermind, Terry ”Toulouse” Spence, also worked for the Canadian National Ski Team.

During the height of  the Crazy Canuck era, Toulouse brought boxes of posters along for the ride on the World Cup ski circuit. To this day it  can still be found decorating the walls of some of the world’s most cherished ski bars. Despite the annotation in Kitzbuhel’s famed Londoner Bar, this is not “Canada’s National Ski Team”. The poster simply provides an unencumbered gaze back in time at early Whistler’s care-free lifestyle. And yes, some of the “models” still call Whistler home, but good luck getting any of them to admit it!

Chris Speedie's original photograph.

Chris Speedie’s original photograph.

 

Toad Hall:Bradley

The museum’s gift shop, with the Toad Hall display poster on the left.

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A Ski Bum’s Christmas

Digging through the archives we’ve uncovered a few gems from Whistler’s Christmas past. First, here’s a few photos from our George Benjamin collection of a 1969 Christmas celebration at Whistler’s most infamous ski bum hangout, Toad Hall. The photos have a wonderfully nostalgic, yet timeless feel.

A Toad Hall Christmas, 1969.

A Toad Hall Christmas, 1969.

All necessary precautions were made. "Slippry when Slippry" (sic) was painted on the front steps.

All necessary precautions were made. “Slippry when Slippry” (sic) was painted on the front steps.

The hairstyles, fashion, and fisheye lens clearly date the images, and the fact that they’re cooking their turkey in a wood stove reminds us of the pioneer lifestyles endured by Whistler’s early ski bums. The living room shot, however, with its cozy ski cabin ambiance, feasting circle of friends huddled in from the winter cold, and the surfboard hanging from the roof, feels as if it could have been taken last weekend in an Alpine Meadows A-frame.

ARCHIVE-BENJAMIN-1_35

John Hetherington, Toad Hall staple, former Whistler Mountain ski patroller, and current Whistler Museum President reflects fondly on those days:

“Christmas at Toad Hall was great… Of course, there was no electricity, so it was just Coleman lanterns and the old “Master Climax” wood stove. One year we used candles to decorate the Christmas tree. We only had birthday candles so they burned quick and we had to keep replacing them. While they were burning it looked amazing, but we were terrified of burning the whole place down.”

Toad Hall did, in fact, meet a fiery end, but it wasn’t Christmas, or carelessness for that matter, that did it in.

Master Climax Turkey Glory!

Master Climax Turkey Glory!

horrorscopeContinuing in the spirit of Whistler’s seventies era, we push forward to 1977 and  the Whistler Answer‘s special holiday-themed horoscope. While this bit of soothsaying may not exactly jive with traditional Christmas spirit (there was nothing “traditional” about the Answer, after all), it manages to find some humour in the sometimes stressful and challenging nature of the season.

santa squattingAnd in a slightly less cynical turn, we leave you with some long-forgotten, but nonetheless important investigative journalism, also courtesy the Answer. It turns out Santa Claus may not be as “on the level” as is commonly assumed.

We’re especially excited to be sharing this great Whistler Answer content with you this holiday season because we’ve just finished (a couple of hours ago, actually) the digitization of the irreverent and iconic newspaper’s full run (both of them). We’re now working on the software and formatting, and hope to have every single issue of the Whistler Answer available online for your reading pleasure early in the new year. Stay tuned to this space for updates.

The Whistler Museum wishes you a safe, snowy, happy, tasty, playful, stress-free. May all your wishes and none of your horrorscopes come true!

Nudity? Heavy Metal? Canada Day Done Right!

We’ve been extremely busy at the museum of late, preparing for a number of events and new projects. We were especially excited for this year’s Canada Day Parade, a Whistler mid-summer staple. After some enthusiastic brainstorming, ever-changing plans, and frantic, last-minute costume gathering, we were able to put together what we thought was a pretty strong entry.

The theme for the parade, “Celebrating Whistler’s Vibrancy, Lifestyle and Achievements,” was perfectly suited for the museum. In our interpretation of the theme, we dressed up as a disparate cast of characters representing as many of the Whistler Valley’s different eras as we could. The approach was summed up by the banner “100 Years of Dreams,” which is also the title of a major festival occurring this August to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Myrtle and Alex Philip’s fateful first visit to Alta Lake.

The team.

Our motley crew consisted of Alex and Myrtle Philip from the 1910s (Don and Isobel Maclaurin), a (rather fashionable) trapper from the 1920s (Alix), a mountaineer from the 1930s (Jeff), a car from the 1950s (the MacLaurin’s beautiful 1953 MG convertible), a ski-area developer/business dude from the 1960s (Brad), a pseudo-nude Toad Hall frolicker from the 1970s (Sarah), a retro ski bunny from the 1980s/90s (Anna), and an Olympic torch runner from 2010 (Bridget).

Don, Isobel, and Anna ham it up for the crowd. Jeanette Bruce photo.

The parade featured loads of great entries from local businesses and clubs, so we were excited and honoured to find out that the Museum was awarded “Best Interpretation of the Parade’s Theme”!

Whistler's care-free spirit is alive and well.

Sarah’s costume certainly got the most reaction from the crowd. From the front of our group I could hear a steady progression of people’s laughter–and sometimes shocked reactions–as we made our way along the route. We especially enjoyed a comment from a local fireman that was a little too PG-13 (though good-natured) to print here.

An unexpected highlight that not many parade viewers were privy to occurred at the very start of our route. The marching band was right in front of us, and had been playing some catchy renditions of pop classics like Tommy Tutone’s “867-5309/Jenny.”

Brad reppin' GODA... Like a Boss! Jeanette Bruce photo.

But just as the parade crossed Blackcomb Way and headed into the Library’s underground parking, they broke into a full-on cover of “Paint it Black.” The heavy reverb, especially from the drums and brass section, was out of this world. This marching band was metal! Our resident noise-nerd Brad described it as some of the coolest sound he had ever heard. Needless to say, we were pretty pumped by the time we returned above-ground to be welcomed by the crowds on Main Street.

I found no cairn on the summit, so I'm claiming the first ascent of the Lot 3 retaining wall. Jeanette Bruce photo.


Some added flare in my climbing outfit was my personal highlight. As a mountaineering history buff, I’ve dressed up like this before for costume parties and other events. This time, however, I had the added bonus of some authentic props. Little did I know that Don, a retired forester, was an active mountaineer as far back as the 1950s. He leant me his original ice axe and climbing pack, both now more than fifty years old! Thanks Don!

All in all we had a great time, and can’t wait to defend our title next year. Thanks to everyone who came out to cheer us on, and a special thanks goes to Don and Isobel MacLaurin for contributing their beautiful car, some great props, and, most of all, themselves! Happy Canada Day!