Tag Archives: Whistler history

Valley of Dreams Walking Tour has Moved!

We’re excited to announce that with the reopening of Gateway Loop the Valley of Dreams Walking Tours will now meet at our regular location outside of the Visitor Information Centre!

Walking tours begin every day at 1 pm and run for about an hour.  All tours, as well as entry to the Whistler Museum, are by donation.  Whether you’re visiting, new to the valley or a seasoned local, you’re sure to discover something new about Whistler’s history.

Walking Tour Season Begins

Ever found yourself lost in Whistler village? That unique flow of Whistler village was actually one man’s specific intention! This tour will help you can learn more about him and many others who have helped to shape Whistler as it is today. As we wander through Whistler village you’ll uncover the pioneer history, tales behind the mountain development, and hear Whistler’s story about the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The tour is approximately one hour long, and is for all ages, young and old. Each tour is led by a long-time local, each with their own personal knowledge of Whistler’s story to add. Whether you’re visiting, here to work for the season, or a long-time local we guarantee you’ll be sure to learn something new. Do you know why Whistler and Blackcomb mountain are named as they are? Or when the first Olympic bid was placed? This is your chance to find out the answers to these questions, and so many more!

Valley of Dreams Walking Tours occur every day in at 1pm in June, July, and August. Meeting at Armchair Books, the top of the steps at the village entrance, these daily tours are offered by donation. We are more than happy to provide private tours outside of these times or for groups. Simply contact the museum to book a private tour, preferably at least two weeks in advance. With sufficient notice we can also customize content and routes—to include public art and architecture, for example—to meet your group’s specific interests and needs.

For all tour-related inquiries please call the Whistler Museum at (604) 932-2019, 0r visit us behind the library.

 

Remembering Don MacLaurin

On May 7th, a dear friend to the museum and an influential figure in Whistler, Don MacLaurin, died peacefully with his family by his side. Our Executive Director Sarah Drewery had the pleasure of knowing him well, and in this week’s Whistler Question Newspaper she shares a commemorative piece:

On May 7, Don MacLaurin passed away peacefully.

Don made substantial contributions to the development of Whistler for over 50 years and was truly part of the fabric of this town. His loss will be felt deeply by so many in our community.

Don first came to Whistler in 1951 and visited several more times while working for the BC Forest Service before deciding to buy land here for a summer cabin. He and his wife Isobel walked all over this valley to find their perfect location. In 1961 they finally settled on a beautiful spot overlooking Alpha Lake, where their original (albeit, extended) A-frame cabin still sits today.

Don, who later worked in education, teaching courses in forestry, recreation and parks management at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), was a passionate outdoorsman. He strongly believed in the value of getting out into the mountains and was one of the first people to champion summer enjoyment of our alpine, creating trails on Whistler Mountain, Rainbow Mountain and all around the region.

don-maclaurin copy

In 1973, he organized a volunteer group to build cairns on Singing Pass. He was the instigator behind building the Russet Lake and Wedgemount Huts, and drew probably the first hiking trail map for Whistler Mountain in 1973.

He was also the driving force behind preserving Lost Lake as a park. The area was under timber licenses that were due to expire and a slew of developers were standing by, ready to build on the premiere lakeside property.  Don saw the value of this area and with the help of his contacts in BC Parks, was instrumental in ensuring it was preserved as the park that we all enjoy today.

He also initiated and designed the Whistler Interpretive Forest; the suspension bridge over Cheakamus River is named “MacLaurin’s Crossing” after him.

All this activity earned him the nickname “Parks Planner,” which seems more than apt.

Alongside all the work he did for our community Don knew how to enjoy himself. He and Isobel got up to countless adventures together. In their youth they would spend their weekends touring B.C. in Don’s red 1951 MGTD. They travelled the world together and got in many amusing situations over the years.

DonM

In an interview in 2007 Don recalled a time when he and Isobel got stranded up on Whistler Mountain in the dark. When their flashlight fell in the creek they had to cut their losses and wait it out till dawn. Isobel’s mother was looking after the children that night, so the two made their way back down the mountain at first light and at 4 a.m. snuck into bed like naughty teenagers. Isobel’s mother never knew!

This is just one of many hilarious tales that Don would tell. There are many, many more — anyone who knew Don could not doubt that he lived life to the fullest. He did so much for Whistler and he was a wonderful, knowledgeable, intelligent man. He will be greatly missed.

A Bear, a Cougar and a Boisterous Myrtle Philip

Every now and then a long term and frequent visitor of Whistler will grace us with their stories of this valley’s past. Gordon Cameron is one such character. As a young man, Gordon (also known as G.D.) would spend summers at Alta Lake with his family. A few years ago, Gordon wrote two letters to the museum outlining some fascinating stories from his childhood here in Whistler. One story he recalls involves a cougar, a bear, and a boisterous Myrtle Philip.

Alta Lake from Rainbow Lodge, 1944. Photograph by G.D. Cameron. Philip Collection.

Alta Lake from Rainbow Lodge, 1944. Photograph by G.D. Cameron. Philip Collection.

Firstly, to paint a better picture of Gordon and Myrtle’s relationship, Gordon explains Myrtle’s unorthodox method of teaching a young G.D. how to ride a horse. Basically, Myrtle tied Gordon’s feet together underneath the horse’s belly and let boy and animal be! The horse reluctantly traipsed around Alta Lake with the boy strapped firmly astride for most of the day, until it finally managed to shake loose the ties and buck the young Gordon into the River of Golden Dreams.

Myrtle with saddle horse and workhorse, ca. 1915. Philip Collection.

Myrtle with saddle horse and workhorse, ca. 1915. Philip Collection.

In 1934, a few years after Gordon’s unconventional horseback riding lesson, Gordon and some other boys in the area were recruited by Myrtle to fix a trail that often flooded in high run-off years. The crew got to work slashing the bushes to make the trail wider, while one of the boys held the horses. All of a sudden, one horse bolted; everyone stopped to see what was happening only to observe that just down the trail was a mean looking black bear sniffing the wind. The crew turned to their escape route and had the unpleasant sight of a large tawny cougar stalking towards them. Whilst the boys were scrambling their thoughts into some sort of action, a “whoop and a holler” was heard coming up the trail “in a slightly off-key feminine voice that would have curdled the milk.” Faced with such a vision, the bear took off straight up the mountain and the cougar took one look at the apparition coming charging down the trail and disappeared. Myrtle was so mad, she let off steam in a language that was certainly not “ladies chit-chat.”

Myrtle on a white horse, ca. 1940. Philip Collection.

Myrtle on a white horse, ca. 1940. Philip Collection.

As if we didn’t have reason enough to adore Myrtle and her courageous ways!

Postcards of the Whistler Museum Archives – Pt.1

There’s something undeniably intriguing about old postcards and the stories behind them. This week and next we will be featuring some of the postcards found in our archives, and we invite you to comment and offer your own interpretations of their contents. Next week’s post will cover correspondance between members of the Tapley and Philip families.

First up is this fascinating postcard with a bit of a mysterious background we like to call “One big tree!”

A 117-year-old mystery

Although this photograph doesn’t show a tree near Whistler (and possibly not even a tree near Vancouver), it is in the Philip collection, and was given to either Myrtle or Alex at some point.

The photograph in this postcard is purportedly from 1895, and shows several people posing on a giant felled fir tree (again, according to the postcard). The caption reads, “This fir giant measured 417 ft. in height with a clear 300 ft. to the first limb. At the butt it was 25 ft. through with bark 16 in. thick. Its circumference being 77 ft.; 207 ft. from the ground its diameter was 9 feet. Felled near Vancouver in August ’95 by George Cary, who is seen upon the ladder.”

This is one mysterious image – there appears to be a great deal of folklore surrounding the “Cary Fir” which even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records. Read this article and response for yourself and decide what you believe: http://www.spirasolaris.ca/DouglasFir.pdf.

Our next postcard is a bit out of season, but we thought we’d share it regardless…

Leonard Frank’s Vancouver

This Christmas postcard showing an early view of Vancouver (sans skyscrapers) reads, “Wishing you a Merry Xmas and a happy and victorious 1943.” The card itself is signed by Leonard Frank, and the photograph is likely his, as he was a well-known photographer in British Columbia in the early half of the 20th century.

When this card was produced, World War II was in full swing, and wishing for a victorious year was a common sentiment.

Frank originally hailed from Germany, and was the son of one of Germany’s earliest professional photographers. Struck by gold fever in 1892, he traveled to North America – living first in San Francisco and then Port Alberni on Vancouver Island.

A camera won as a raffle prize shifted his direction entirely, and he moved to Vancouver in 1917, quickly becoming the leading commercial/industrial photographer in the city.

Frank also spent quite a bit of time at Alta Lake, and several of his photographs of the surrounding area can be found in the Museum archives. A frequent guest of Rainbow Lodge, he was also a friend of Myrtle and Alex Philip, to whom he sent this postcard.

For more information on Leonard Frank, see www.vpl.ca/frank/biography.html

This Sunday, keep an eye out for the Museum staff in the Canada Day Parade dressed as postcards from around the world! 

New Panels Installed in Rainbow Park

The Whistler Museum is pleased to announce that new interpretive panels have been installed in Rainbow Park. The panels detail life in Whistler’s early days, including the lives of Myrtle and Alex Philip and other early visitors to Alta Lake’s famous ‘Rainbow Lodge’. The newly installed panels have replaced the older panels that had been in place since the Whistler Museum was founded in 1986.

New panels adorn the historic cabins at Rainbow Park. Photo by Robyn Goldsmith.

The panels have been installed in the three remaining structures from Rainbow Lodge, which closed in 1974. Many of the buildings were destroyed in an accidental fire in 1977. These buildings have been moved slightly from their original location, but still sit in what was the original Rainbow Lodge Area.

The new panels were installed to continue the legacy of our 2011 ‘100 Years of Dreams’ celebration, which commemorated Myrtle and Alex Philip’s first visit to the valley in August, 1911. Whistler owes much of its development to these early visionaries, whose passion for the natural beauty of the area inspired them to build the first resort in Whistler.

Visitors to Rainbow Park can now read about life at the lodge, the history of transportation in the valley, the community on Alta Lake, and how the area transitioned from a busy tourism community to a quiet lakeside park.

A visitor to Rainbow Park checks out the newly installed interpretive panels. Photo by Robyn Goldsmith.

These panels are on public display to be enjoyed by any visitor to Rainbow Park.

This project was made possible by Canadian Heritage through their Community Anniversaries Program.

Hard Times in Whistler: the Jardine-Neiland Family – (pt.2)

This is part two of a post on the Jardine-Neiland family. For part one, please click here.

In early July 1922 the export log prices of cedar logs collapsed and so did Thomas Neiland’s business – he had to file for bankruptcy. The family pulled up stakes and went back to North Vancouver. Later that month, Lizzie gave birth to their son, Thomas Neiland Jr. at the age of 40. For three months, Thomas looked for work in Vancouver. Eventually persuaded by both a lack of employment and his wife’s desire to return to Alta Lake, he gained financing under her name.

The Jardine-Neiland family, posing for a portrait in 1924. From left to right: Jack Jardine, Lizzie Neiland, Jenny Jardine (standing), Thomas Neiland Sr., Thomas Neiland Jr., and Bob Jardine.

The family returned to their Alpha Lake cabin, and in 1923 they moved into an old loggers cabin at 34 ½ mile that was being sold by the crown, and this became their home for the next 20 or more years. The house came with cases of milk, bags of dried beans, and slabs of bacon – according to Jenny, “the latter very much like a bit of leather.” Today, 34 1/2 mile is Whistler’s Function Junction.

Jardine-Neiland property at 34 1/2 mile (Function Junction)

Life for the Jardine-Neiland family was precarious. The children remember their mother saying, “It’s a case of feast or famine.” Sometimes business was booming, but at other times, particularly during the Great Depression, the family would have to survive on the damages payments paid to the children from the death of their father.

Jenny and Jack never went to school again after they left North Vancouver in 1921 – Jenny was eight and her brother was only six. They began working in the logging industry at the ages of twelve and ten. Although they did do lessons by correspondence, they rarely had the time or energy left to study. In her memoirs, Jenny recalls:

“I started to work out in the woods when I was 12, driving a horse – a big Clyde with a white face. Pa [Thomas Neiland] got a portable saw mill and set it up on the lower field…that meant log so many days and cut ties and lumber so many days. I lifted the slabs off as the circular saw slabbed them…We had correspondence school lessons to work on but somehow there was too many other things to do, so lessons were only done at night or if it rained.”

Life was somewhat easier for the younger children, Bob and Tom, as the school at Alta Lake opened in 1932, affording them a proper education.

The Jardine/Neiland children hauling logs to the portable sawmill at 34 1/2 mile with the aid of horses, 1926. From left to right: Jenny, Jack, Bob and Tom Jr.

They had their mother to thank, as she instigated the building of the first school in the area. In 1931, a school assessment appeared on the tax notice even though there was no school. Lizzie had three sons and one daughter of school age. Bob recalled: “When she got the tax notice of $7.50 she got real worked up as money in those days was tight. She started a movement to look into the possibility of building a school.”

Left to right: Jenny Jardine, Flossie the dog, Jack Jardine, Tom Neiland Jr. and Bob Jardine in Lizzie Neiland's garden at 34 1/2 mile, about 1930.

In order to keep themselves fed, the family sometimes had to resort to shooting a “government cow” – the tongue-in-cheek name for a deer poached out of season. According to an interview with Bob Jardine in 1991, they weren’t the only ones – other Whistler pioneers, including Bill Bailiff and Charlie Chandler, went after “government cow” in times of desperation. It certainly didn’t make for a tasty meal out of season. In that interview with her brother, Jenny conceded, “…to tell you the truth, when I shot a deer, it was awful tasting.”

When Jenny got married in 1937 and had children of her own, life remained challenging. Her husband, Wallace, also worked in the logging industry and the couple moved around from place to place on various contracts – many of them in Alta Lake. They spent a winter in a “…tar paper shack with two rooms” at Parkhurst, with their year-old daughter, Louise. For more on the community of Parkhurst, see these earlier posts: “Family Life at Parkhurst Mill” and “Exploring Parkhurst: Whistler’s ‘Ghost Town’.”

Tom Neiland senior lived at 34 ½ mile until his death in 1949. Lizzie stayed on in Alta Lake for a few more years until it became too much for her, and she sold the property and moved on. She lived to be 102, passing away in 1984.

Jack Jardine left the Whistler area about 1940, and logged in various places. By the late 1940s he married a woman named Irma and built a cabin across the tracks from where his mother was living on her own. When Lizzie sold her property, Jack and Irma settled in Squamish.

Bob and Tom Jr. both served in the Air Force. Tom went on to marry a British woman, and eventually retired in Calgary. As for Bob, he married a woman from the Air Force after asking for her hand in marriage on their very first date (that story is truly worth a read, and can be found here). Bob and his wife Stella retired to Kelowna.

Bob Jardine standing next to a large felled tree on Harry Horstman's property, 1940

In spite of the many difficulties faced by the family, life was not all hardship at Alta Lake – the children have many fond memories of the valley. When Jenny permanently moved away from the area she was terribly homesick for the mountains and wildflowers, while Bob recounted many stories of being a cheeky little boy. At the age of 71, he still recalled neighbor Mrs. Wood’s horror when her daughter Helen arrived home with hair saturated with lamp black after a friendly “hand grenade” battle