Tag Archives: Whistler Museum and Archives

Saying Goodbye to Whistler

The Whistler Museum’s Collection Manager Alyssa Bruijns will be saying goodbye to Whistler and the museum (temporarily, we hope) at the end of this month.  In her own words:

People arriving and people leaving – that’s one of the constants in Whistler.

In the past three years I’ve worked at the Whistler Museum, I’ve had countless friends leave, return, leave again and return as again.  As a result, I’ve been to many going-away parties, but I did not expect to be attending my own so soon!

After a successful and enjoyable few years working at the Whistler Museum as the collections manager, I will be stepping down at the end of September.  The time has come for me to adventure around the world a little more and finally visit the homeland of many Whistler residents – Australia.

Collections Manager Alyssa Bruijns at work in the archives.

I’ll admit my departure has been partly fuelled by the common Whistler fairytale – Canadian girl meets Australian boy with a visa ending all too soon.  I can thank the community of Whistler for introducing me to so many friends and a wonderful significant other from across the pond.  I will be back to the amazing town – it’s just a matter of when and for how long.

In the time that I’ve worked for the Whistler Museum, I’ve gotten to take part in many amazing projects.  Just last Thursday, I had lots of fun planning our first “Naming Night” which saw the community come together to name places, people and events from photos lacking information in our catalogue.

Just one of the photographs whose subjects got named. All of the names and dates provided have now been added to our information in the archives. Photo: Whistler Question Collection, 1984

I was also privileged to take part in planning our first and second annual Mountain Bike Heritage Week.  With the help of many student interns, I have overseen the cataloguing of vastly interesting collections – including Petersen, MacLaurin, Griffith and more – and the uploading of many collections to our online gallery.  Completing a mass inventory of the collections was one of the larger tasks, which allowed me to get to know Whistler intimately through the archives and artefacts that have been donated since the museum’s opening year.

Just a few of the photos from the Whistler Question Collection that have been catalogued, scanned and are now on display.

There has been one project that I have been working on for my entire time at the Whistler Museum.  When I was a bright-eyed summer student, just dipping my toes into the museum world, my task was to catalogue The Whistler Question negatives from 1978-1985.

Months later, when I returned as the collections manager, I honed my grant-writing skills in order to obtain funds to digitize those same photos.  Once granted, I oversaw more than a year of scanning and eventual uploading of 35,000 photos to our online gallery (click here to take a look).

One of Alyssa’s favourite photos on display as part of The Whistler Question: A Photographic History, on at the museum through the end of November.

Finally, I co-curated The Whistler Question: A Photographic History, 1978-1985 exhibit, which features just over 200 of these photos.  It was a roller coaster of a journey seeing these negatives go from boxes, to website, to our walls, but that journey has been massively rewarding.

The highlights of my time at the museum will definitely be the magnificent people I have worked with during my time here.  I count my co-workers as friends and have been surrounded by a supportive contingent of board members and locals that always make me feel that my work is worthwhile and important.

A community’s historical collection needs this support and engagement from the community.  I have heard comments from countless visitors to the museum that Whistler is a special place with a unique community, and I wholeheartedly agree.

Whistler’s celebration of its own past is necessary to understand what makes our town different and how we can maintain our uniqueness.  I am confident my co-workers Bradley Nichols, Allyn Pringle and John Alexander will work hard to ensure Whistler’s past is not just remembered by the community, but actively consulted when making the tough decisions for the future of this town.

Museum staff, plus summer students and volunteers – we are few but mighty. Left to right: Lauren Smart, Allyn Pringle, Danielle Winkle, John Alexander, Sierra Wells, Alyssa Bruijns, Bradley Nichols.

I thank everyone who made my time here memorable, especially Bradley Nichols for taking a young archivist on board.  Whistler, I’ll miss you dearly!

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LEGO Competition 2017 Recap

Last Saturday the Whistler Museum was happy to welcome 41 children for our 21st annual LEGO Building Competition. Because of the smoke in the valley, we had to bring the kids inside to build their creations. This didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s sprits or creativity!

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The kids in the 9-11 age group begin to build their LEGO transportation creations.

After a short presentation and introduction, the kids were given 45 minutes to build their best interpretation of the theme. This year’s theme was “Imagination Transportation”, to showcase how much transportation has changed in the past 100 years of Whistler. The children were asked to build anything to represent their ideal form of transportation, real or imaginary. We had some really inventive interpretations of the theme, including spaceships, a hover-board, and an impressive black submarine from a talented 8 year old.

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A colourful flying car built by a 6 year old named Peter.

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Gregory’s jet engine and Marie’s hover-board powered by rockets, both from the 9-11 age category.

 

We would really like to thank our judges Alison Hunter, Marie Holland from the Audain Museum, Julie Burrows from the Whistler Public Library, and Alyssa Bruijns from the Whistler Museum and Archives. We wouldn’t be able to hold the competition without your support! The winners they decided on this year were as follows:

Ages 5 and under:

  1. Michael M.
  2. Asher
  3. Cam H.

Ages 6-8:

  1. Isaac P.
  2. Ethan A.
  3. Joey J.

Ages 9-11:

  1. William O.
  2. Zachary D.
  3. Bronwyn D.

Ages 12 and up:

  1. Samuel L.
  2. Linus K.
  3. Dylan P.
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A little boy from the under five age group with his impressive DUPLO train adorned with a polar bear!

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The kids in the 12 and up table share their LEGO with a boy from a younger group.

 

 

Even if a child didn’t win a prize, they still went home with a loot bag fun of fun goodies.

This event wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the support we receive every year from our generous local businesses. This year we received donations from Armchair Books, Cows Ice Cream, Escape! Whistler, IGA, Meadow Park Sports Centre, PureBread, The Great Glass Elevator, Avalanche Pizza, The Old Spaghetti Factory, and Whoola Toys.

We would also like to give a huge thank you to every child and parent or caretaker that was involved in the LEGO Competition. We love to see everyone come out to have fun, and despite the relocation it was a success. See you next year!

 

Whistler Museum Celebrates 30 Years

It was the chance for a weekend get-away spot that spurred Florence Petersen and four friends to purchase a small cabin at Alta Lake in the mid ’50s.

Florence Petersen (founder of the Whistler Museum & Archives Society) and her friends (left to right) Jacquie Pope, June Tidball, Fido, Getty Gray and Eunice "Kelly" Forster at their Witsend cottage in 1955.

Florence Petersen (founder of the Whistler Museum & Archives Society) and her friends (left to right) Jacquie Pope, June Tidball, Fido, Getty Gray and Eunice “Kelly” Forster at their Witsend cottage in 1955.

At the time, the valley was a quaint summer fishing resort with only a handful of year-round residents.  In the years following, the valley would transform from its humble beginnings into the internationally renowned four-season resort we now know.

With so much change taking place in the ’70s, early pioneer Myrtle Philip and Cypress Lodge owner Dick Fairhurst confessed to Florence a worry that the early days would soon be forgotten.  Florence eased their fears by promising them that she would somehow ensure that their stories would be remembered and, true to her word, Florence started the Whistler Museum and Archives as a charitable non-profit society.

The Whistler Museum and Archives cookbook committee, April 1977: Janet Love-Morrison, Florence Petersen (founder of the Whistler Museum and Archives Society), Darlyne Christian and Caroline Cluer.

The Whistler Museum and Archives cookbook committee, April 1977: Janet Love-Morrison, Florence Petersen, Darlyne Christian and Caroline Cluer.

Since incorporating on February 12, 1987, the Museum’s basic function has been to collect and preserve the history of the Whistler Valley and to display, educate and disseminate information about Whistler’s history and its role in the greater society of British Columbia and Canada.

To that end, the Museum collects and preserves artefacts, archives and oral histories.  To date we have acquired some 275 feet of archival records, including documents and photographs.  Our collection includes 2332 artefacts; 80 oral interviews that have been conducted, digitized and transcribed; approximately 300,000 photographs, both negatives and prints; 150 hours of video (VHS, SVHS, DVD, DVcam, hi8 and U-Matic formats); and 13.5 hours of film in both 8mm and 16mm.

Our Collections Manager Alyssa strives to organize, catalogue and digitize our ever-growing archive.

Our Collections Manager Alyssa strives to organize, catalogue and digitize our ever-growing archive without being swallowed by it.

In order to make the Museum’s information easy to access there is a consistent ongoing project to organize, catalogue and digitize its collection.  The artefact collection is 99% catalogued.  150 archival collections have been catalogued and are available online at the Museum’s ICA-Atom archival database.  Approximately 42,000 photographs have been digitized to archival standards.  The Museum endeavours to interpret the history of Whistler and the Museum’s information collection for visitors and the community with its exhibits, walking tours, blog and programs such as our very successful Discover Nature Project.

2016 was the busiest year in the Museum’s history in terms of exhibit visits, with a 7% growth over 2015 (another record year).  We hope to continue our momentum in growing our numbers in regards to both our exhibit visits and the amount of material that we can make available to the public.

An original gondola from Whistler Mountain sits proudly as part of our exhibits.

An original gondola from Whistler Mountain sits proudly as part of our exhibits.

A special thank you to everyone who has volunteered, donated, visited our exhibits, attended our events, read our stories and helped spread the word about Whistler’s fascinating heritage over the past 30 years.

The Whistler Museum would like to invite you to our 30th Anniversary Open House on Sunday, February 12, 7:30 – 9 pm.  Join us for an evening of food, music and free admission to explore the museum, venture into the archives and meet our staff.  Everyone is welcome and we hope to see you there.

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.

Congratulations to Florence Petersen

Florence Petersen will be presented with Whistler’s highest distinction, the Freedom of the Municipality, Monday, June 4, 2012.

Florence Petersen (left) and Myrtle Philip (right) enjoying a joke together.

Florence founded the Whistler Museum and Archives Society in 1986 as part of a promise made to Whistler pioneers Mytle Philip and Dick Fairhurst to preserve Whistler’s pioneer history.  Florence has worked endlessly to share stories from before the ski hill when Whistler was a site of summer fishing destinations and logging camps.

Florence Petersen with the new sign for the Whistler Museum and Archives building in Function Junction, opened in 1988.

Florence and fellow recipient Joan Richoz, founder of the Whistler Public Library, will officially be awarded the Freedom of the Municipality at a special council meeting at the Whistler Conference Centre on June 4.  The meeting begins at 5:30 and a reception will follow the ceremony.

Florence Petersen and her friends (left to right) Jacquie Pope, June Tidball, Fido, Getty Gray and Eunice “Kelly” Forster at their Witsend cottage in 1955.

Sparks and speeders – death-defying days on the PGE Railway

Last September we received a visit in the Museum from Walt Punnett, who worked for the PGE Railway in the spring of 1946 in fire suppression. He was only 22 years old when he took the job, which entailed him and a partner riding along in a speeder (railway maintenance vehicle) behind trains and spraying water on any sparks created as they moved along the tracks. His route ran from what is now Darcy to Whistler, which was then known as Alta Lake.

A covered speeder traveling on the PGE tracks in wintertime

Rainbow Lodge was still owned by Alex and Myrtle Philip that spring, and Walt quickly proved popular with the owners and guests. According to Walt, “They were always running short in Rainbow Lodge, so I ran what I called a ‘beer run’ from Pemberton down to Alta. I would stop in…at the old Pemberton Hotel, pick up a couple of cases of beer and a breadbox so no one knew what it was…and we headed down to Whistler.”

Another type of speeder, with an open top

Walt was lucky enough to work with a partner – working alone on the railway proved particularly dangerous for the section crew members, who were responsible for repair jobs. Walt got to know quite a few of them that spring – and some of the horror stories that came along with the job. One man by the name of Pete Rebagliati was attacked by a grizzly bear, which buried him under some brush, presumably to save him for snack time later on. Amazingly, he was able to crawl out and make his way to Pemberton for help.

These one-man crews travelled in smaller “soap-box” speeders that could be manhandled off the tracks if a train happened to come along. According to Walt, “They just had a set of handles that slid out from one end of the speeder, you’d pick it up like a wheelbarrow and turn it sideways, and you could trundle it off the tracks.” A bit different from the pickup truck service vehicles that make their way along those very same tracks today.

Speeders weren’t necessarily the safest means of travel. While Walt was still working for the railroad, he narrowly escaped a collision with the front of a cowcatcher on an oncoming train, while attempting to help a millworker who had run the tips of his fingers through an edger. The accident happened on a Sunday, and Walt had the only form of transportation that could be used to get the injured man to medical care – his speeder.

A young man (Reg Shurie) stands in front of a PGE train in the 1920s - the cowcatcher is covered in snow, but you can still imagine how scary a close encounter with one of these would have been!

Walt was given the rundown on which trains were running that day, and off they went. With only one train that was still miles away, he wasn’t concerned about running into it. Near Anderson Lake, heading downhill and northbound, he rounded a bend and “there was a double-headed steam engine coming at full-bore uphill.” Moving too fast to jump, he held onto his passenger, threw on the one-wheel brake, and “watched the cowcatcher coming straight at me.” At the last second, they jumped off either side of the speeder, and watched as it flipped “about fourteen feet in the air.”

As if that wasn’t enough, Walt recalls, “I found out that day that cactus spikes go right through the upper portion of a logger’s boots – we jumped into a patch of prickly pear.”

Walt had already taken a job falling logs, and that fateful Sunday was his last day working for the railway (perhaps he should have put his notice in for Saturday). He started working for Blackwater Timber the very next day, and didn’t look back on his railway days.

These handcars (powered by pumping the lever at the front) were popular before speeders were introduced, and were sometimes used by those who lived at Alta Lake since they were much faster than walking

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