Tag Archives: Whistler Museum and Archives

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

Hard Times in Whistler: the Jardine-Neiland Family – (pt.1)

www.whistlermuseum.org

In Whistler, history is still being re-shaped- with every new oral history and piece of information the story of Whistler’s past becomes ever richer. While editing Florence Petersen’s upcoming book on Whistler’s pioneers, Sarah (the museum’s collection manager) connected with long-time Museum member Louise Betts (née Jardine) who has provided a great deal of insight into her family’s history. The Jardine-Neiland family was involved in early logging in the valley, and their life was not an easy one.

Although Rainbow Lodge was Whistler’s first incarnation as a tourist destination, beginning in 1914, other families faced tremendous hardship as they carved a life out for themselves in the Whistler Valley. The Jardines were no exception.

John Jardine and his friend Thomas Neiland had been working for the Pacific Great Eastern Railway in Squamish after they returned from World War I. John met an unfortunate end when a speeder he was travelling on was hit by a train in 1918. He left behind two small children and a heavily pregnant wife. John had been working 10-hour days, earning $2.50 a day, a total of between $50 and $60 per month.

Photograph of John Jardine, approximately 18 years old, taken in Scotland before he immigrated to Canada.

Since her husband had been killed in a work-related accident his widow, Lizzie, was given a $35 per month compensation, while the children received an additional sum of 25 cents a day for each child until the age of 16. When John died, Thomas Neiland helped Lizzie to pack up her house, and she moved with her young children, Jack and Jenny, up to Kelowna to stay with her parents. While they were in Kelowna, she gave birth to Bob.

Before long, Tom Neiland offered her work, keeping house for him in North Vancouver, and the family of four was once again on the move. Tom had spent many years working as a conductor for the PGE Railway, but he had always wanted to work for himself.  When the opportunity arose in 1921 to purchase a good cedar wood and start his own logging business in Alta Lake, he jumped at the chance. The land he acquired at Alta Lake was owned by two men – Dr. A.G. Naismith, a Kamloops pathologist, and Harry Horstman (for more on Horstman, click here).

At first the family lived in the Alta Lake townsite, but after eight months they moved down to a house built by Thomas Neiland by Alpha Lake; logging cedar logs to be exported to Japan.

Lizzie continued to work as a “housekeeper,” ostensibly to keep her compensation, which she only retained so long as she didn’t remarry. It appears that when she became pregnant by Tom Neiland, they decided to marry, likely due to the social pressures that existed at that time. Although she lost all of her compensation, the children retained theirs. Lizzie Jardine and Thomas Neiland, who was in his fifties, were married in the spring of 1922 in North Vancouver.

Formal portrait of Thomas and Lizzie Neiland taken in the 1940s

Part two of the Jardine-Neiland family’s story will be posted next week.

Name Whistler’s history – Florence Petersen’s book has a title!

We have a name!

After lots of entries from all over the community, a title for Florence Petersen’s new book has been chosen. In the end, Florence combined one of her own ideas with one of the titles entered.

The new title will be…

First Tracks: Whistler’s Early History

Congratulations to winner Stephen Vogler – a signed copy of First Tracks will be coming your way.

We hope to get the book published by June this year, so watch this space for more information nearer the time.