The official blog of the Whistler Museum & Archives Society
Collecting, preserving, documenting and interpreting Whistler's natural and human history.
Museum Website: www.whistlermuseum.org
E-mail us at:
4333 Main Street
Whistler, BC V8E 1B3
@WhistlerMuseum on TwitterMy Tweets
Tag Archives: Whistler AnswerImage
“Ever wondered what the Province newspaper would be like if it were published in Whistler, and every story was written by world renowned reporter John Colebourn? Wonder no more.”
Usually, if you’re looking for a laugh, you don’t seek out your local newspaper. Of course, as we’ve made clear over and over again in this space, Whistler is no ordinary town. We’re blessed with more out-of-the-boxers, more trixsters, and more contrarians per capita than most small towns, and their presence has coloured our history remarkably.
Back in 1977 a group of free-thinking and creative souls began publishing the Whistler Answer. In its first iteration the Answer ran until 1982, and it made a short revival in 1992-1993. The Answer provided an alternative voice for a growing community full of ski bums, squatters, hippies, and other counter-cultural types. Even its title was irreverent, a playful response to the Whistler Question, the only serious local paper at the time.
The Answer’s content was witty, creative and cherished by (almost) all who were around to read the originals. Few publications could have managed to fit in so much censor-maddening drugs, nudity and profanity while maintaining such a consistently hilarious and good-natured tone.
With that said, we are extremely excited to announce the launch of the Whistler Museum’s latest on-line exhibit, the full digitization of both runs of the Answer, Whistler’s original underground newspaper. It can be found at www.whistlermuseum.org/whistleranswer, or from anywhere on our main website under the “Exhibits” drop-down menu simply click on “Whistler Answer.”
While it often featured stories that weren’t covered elsewhere, due to its heavy satire and quirky record-keeping the Answer’s main historic value stems less from its recorded facts than from its expression of the spirit of the times. The Answer provides a window into the oft-reminisced “Old Whistler,” an idyllic era that pre-dates our valley’s hyper-development and fast-paced urban atmosphere.
The guerilla newspaper’s content was inherently iconoclastic and irreverent, and when we look back upon that era in Whistler’s history, quite often the youthful, free spirit of the “ski bum” community is considered just as important as the more conventional historic figures: politicians, developers, business leaders, and so on. A core element of Whistler’s historical narrative is that many of the rebellious, counter-cultural youth went on to fill these more “serious” roles in later years.
With the benefits of hindsight one can see the extent to which those counter-cultural elements that the Answer represented actually became the mainstream in Whistler. With that in mind, a playful browse of the Answer catalogue is perfect fodder to debate whether Whistler’s free spirit is truly long-gone, or alive and well.
Either way, times have clearly changed. Consider how the Whistler Answer is now digitized, text-searchable, tablet-friendly, and has been given a permanent on-line home, but the original 1977-82 run was hand-drawn, hand-lettered and hand-pasted by the light of kerosene lamps in a local squat. That, in its own right, is an apt summary of Whistler’s mind-numbing rate of change in recent decades.
The original idea to digitize the Answer was born from a conversation between Whistler Museum staff and original Whistler Answer editor Charlie Doyle in 2011. Funding for the project was generously provided by the University of British Columbia’s Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, as part of their British Columbia History Digitization Program.
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.
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.
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.
Continuing 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.
And 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!