Tag Archives: Whistory

A Vision in White

It’s always nice when you come across a story in the archives that shows you how human nature doesn’t change despite the passing of the years.  When we came across this tale of teenage humiliation recently, it felt like it could have happened yesterday.  A letter from Gordon Cameron outlines his moment of shame, brought on by that eternal bringer of teenage blushes – his mother.

The venue of the incident was the Alta Lake Hotel. This establishment was burnt down in an accidental fire in 1933, but before that time it was situated on the southwest shore of Alta Lake.

Alta Lake Hotel

Alta Lake Hotel in its heyday.

When the Cameron family stayed at the Alta Lake Hotel it had seen better days. Gordon writes: “every time you slammed the door to your room, there was a cloud of moths that flew all over the room”. Despite the run-down conditions and despite being out the middle of the backwoods (as Whistler was in those days), Gordon’s mother wished her son to be smartly dressed on his vacation.  I will leave Gordon to describe what happened next in his own words. “Nothing would do but be attired in white shirt, white pants, white socks and white tennis shoes. Now, the picture was simply this: here was almost everyone else attired in anything that did not find itself into the rag bag, and out of nowhere arrives this veritable vision in white.” Gordon’s entrance into the dining room was met with gales of laughter from everyone present. One of the other guests acted out a “stage-door swoon” much to the amusement of all but poor Gordon, who was naturally mortified. “I was so embarrassed that I scuttled back into the room, and donned some rough-and-tumbles. When I arrived back on the scene, the hooting was louder, my mother glowered at me all through dinner; my dad has a smirk that would not wipe off.”

Poor Gordon! At least he could laugh about it decades later when he wrote to the Whistler Museum. It certainly goes to show that when it comes to teenagers being embarrassed by their parents, some things never change!

wa_1988_005-betts

Casual dressing is not a new concept in Whistler

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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! 

The Philips’ Fly Fishing Tackle

Although contemporary fly fishing gear is full of high-tech advancements like graphite rods and synthetic fly materials, the sport also has a strong traditionalist bent. For many anglers, the romance of bamboo rods, hand-tied flies, and other vintage tackle has almost as much allure as the fish themselves.

Fly fishing at Myrtle and Alex Philip’s renowned Rainbow Lodge was the Whistler Valley’s first tourist attraction, so the Museum naturally has a lot of fishing gear in our archives, not to mention hundreds of photographs.

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To better understand these artifacts we recently had Brian Niska and Scott Baker-McGarva from Whistler Fly Fishing give us their take on some of the fly-fishing gear in the Philip collection. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that both Brian and Scott are true historians of the sport, providing tons of  insight into our collection drawing from their impressive knowledge of the evolution of fishing tackle design.

2 of the Philips fishing rods, and Myrtle’s beatiful leather carrying case. The case still contains a travel tag dating to the Fall of 1961, likely the last time she used it.

We have several old cane and bamboo rods, some for fly fishing, some for casting and trolling.

The handle of one of the Philip’s fly rods.

They mostly demonstrate design features from the 1920s and 30s, the heyday of Rainbow Lodge, but the most obvious feature is the amount of use they have all seen. They appear to have been re-varnished multiple times and have many replaced eyes. This makes sense considering that the Philips and their guests were out on the water almost every summer day (and some winter days as well) for decades on end.

Considering most rods had to be shipped from the U.K. or the eastern U.S., the rods were irreplaceable workhorses whose lives needed such prolongment.

The tag on Myrtle’s leather fishing rod travel case.

Alex Philip’s fishing hat

Here we have Alex Philip’s stylish felt fishing hat, a Fedora made by Adam Hats of New York with a special water-repellency treatment for rainy day fishing.  Note how the crown is full of an array of traditional wet flies suited to trout fishing in small lakes like Alta.

Brass P.D. Malloch fly fishing reel.

Made by P.D. Malloch of Perth, Scotland, Scott thinks this particular reel could predate World War One because it is made of brass, and most reels were made of alloys after the war. It resembles some of the reels we see in early photos of Alex Philip, and could potentially be one of the earliest fishing reels used at Rainbow Lodge. We contacted the manufacturer for more information but unfortunately their records were destroyed in a fire in 1986.

Other interesting odds and ends include the large reel in the top right of this photo, an Ocean City brand fortescue-style reel. Scott described it as a “multiplying salmon reel” best suited for larger fish than we typically find around Whistler. The Philips were dedicated anglers that took annual trips every autumn to Canim and Mahood lakes, northeast of 100 Mile House in  the Cariboo region. This reel, which was appears to date from the 1930s or 40s, was likely used on these trips.

Mucillin and Lineflote (in the small red and yellow tins, both still half full) were grease-like substances used to give silk lines and/or flies buoyancy. Although synthetic lines are much more common now, Mucillin is  actually still sold today in packaging nearly identical to our examples from the 1930s.

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Although the lakes don’t provide our valley’s main draw anymore, there is still great fishing to be had. When I was bringing some of our artifacts  over to the museum from our off-site storage I actually encountered several people who were on their way to the lake, rod in hand. They were naturally curious about my odd-looking gear, and I’m certain Alex and Myrtle Philip would be equally excited to see their life’s passion alive and well in the Whistler Valley, more than a century after there fateful first casts in Alta Lake.

Whistler Backroads is putting on their 12th annual Fishing Derby this Sunday, June 17th at Lakeside Park. All are welcome, registration is free, and they even have some complimentary gear to use on a first-come, first-serve basis. Happy fishing!

A Visit with the Tyrol Ski & Mountain Club

This past week the Museum had the pleasure to head down to the North Vancouver home of Rolf and Lotti Frowein to discuss the history of the Tyrol Ski & Mountain Club with the Froweins and fellow Tyrolians Jim Brown and Walter and John Preissl.

The Tyrol Ski & Mountain Club was formed in 1952 by a small group of Vancouver skiing and hiking enthusiasts, most of whom were recent immigrants from German-speaking Europe. From the start, the Tyrol Club’s main purpose was to encourage people to get outside and take advantage of the beautiful mountains surrounding Vancouver. Many were North Shore ski instructors, and they were big promoters of the sport during the post-WW2 boom days of skiing.

Even though the Tyrol club’s membership has always been centered in Vancouver their Whistler roots run deep, and the club and its members have played a surprisingly important role in Whistler’s rise as a ski resort. Rolf Frowein, along with a group of Tyrolians, first came up to Alta Lake in 1959 and instantly began exploring the surrounding mountains, winter and summer.

Walter Preissl, Al Preissl and Erwin Kasiol ski down towards Glacier Bowl on Whistler Mountain, early 1960s. The days of skiing in shorts will soon be upon us again, too! Photo: Frank Grundig.

A few years later the club bought some land near Nita Lake and by 1966 construction was complete on Tyrol Lodge, which stands on that spot to this day.

A recently completed Tyrol Lodge, winter 1967. Photo: Frank Grundig.

That first winter after building the lodge the Tyrol Club decided to move their annual ski race, the Tyrol GS, from Seymour to Whistler. It was the first organized ski race ever held on Whistler Mountain. The race became a Whistler institution, running every winter until 1995.

Onlookers watch an early Tyrol GS race on Whistler Mountain, late 1960s. Photo: Frank Grundig.

Countless “ski-racer brats,”(to use John Preissl’s term) came up through the Tyrol Club’s racing league. Here is John’s brother Andy competing on Whistler Mountain in the late 1970s. Photo: Frank Grundig.

In addition to taking the time to talk to us about the Tyrol Club’s history, the Preissl’s have generously donated an impressive collection of documents relating to the Tyrol Club and skiing history generally, and hundreds of photos from their personal collection. Most of these were taken by their family friend  Frank Grundig, a professional photographer and ski journalist, so the images are of  consistently high quality.

Norwegian hot-shot Dag Aabye jumping off the roof of the Cheakamus Inn, 1967. Photo: Walt Preissl.

When club member’s like John Planinsic (pictured here) hiked up Whistler Mountain in the early 1960s, they looked down upon a very different valley than today. Photo: Frank Grundig.

Tyrol Club members conquer an “iceberg” in Lake Lovely Water, in the Tantalus Range. Mid-1970s. Photo: Frank Grundig.

Their large collection of photos leaves one with the impression that the more the valley has changed, the more the people stay the same!

We’ve only acquired a small portion of the photos so far, but already we’ve got some great shots that will help us to tell the history of our local mountains in greater detail, both inside and beyond the ski resort. Look forward to more stories from the Tyrol Club collection in the weeks and months to come.

Coincidentally, this evening the Tyrol Club celebrates their 60th anniversary in Richmond. We are excited to be partnering with such a great group of people, and we feel a congratulations are in order!

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

Lam Shu and Sam: The Culinary Gods of Rainbow Lodge

Whistler provides more than ample selection in fabulous food – far more than you would find in any other town of 10,000 permanent residents. However this area had a reputation for good food long before anyone had conceived of constructing a mountain village on top of a garbage dump.

Myrtle Phillip was known as an excellent cook – her pies and preserves were legendary.  However, she was not the full-time cook at Rainbow Lodge. When the Phillips ran the Horseshoe Grill in Vancouver, before moving to Alta Lake, Alex Phillip employed a young Chinese man by the name of Lam Shu.  Alex and Lam Shu became friends and when business started booming at Rainbow Lodge, Alex invited the young man to work full-time at the Lodge.

Rainbow Lodge staff with Skookum the dog, approximately 1919. The man in the middle of the photograph is presumed to be Lam Shu.

By 1916 Lam Shu was living and working at the Lodge. It took a few years, but he eventually became a terrific cook and created such desserts at “Divinity Pie” which was made with peaches and a custard meringue.  Visitors flocked to the dining room of Rainbow Lodge for the excellent food to be had.

Lam Shu shown outside Rainbow Lodge in 1926.

During the 1930s Lam Shu went back to China for a visit.   It seems, although it is a little unclear, that when he came back he also brought his younger brother Sam with him.  Unfortunately, Lam Shu also brought back a chronic case of Influenza with him.

Portrait of Sam. Circa 1940.

It appears that by 1934 Lam Shu had permanently returned to China.  However his brother Sam remained at the lodge and was the head cook there until 1948, when the Phillips sold the property.   Other than these few basic details, we know very little about Lam Shu and Sam.

In an interview with Vera (Barnfield) Merchant, the picture of Sam becomes a little clearer. Vera worked at Rainbow Lodge as a young woman from 1934-1936.  During that time she got to know Sam a little.  She remembered that her father, who owned, a dairy farm, would make sure to stop everyday and have tea or coffee with Sam.

In the interview Vera commented on Sam and his cooking “ He was just so loveable…and could he ever cook!  And those cakes he used to bake!” Vera would often sit with Sam for a cup of tea and he would tell her stories of his childhood in China.

Sam always made sure that the staff of Rainbow Lodge could sit down to a plentiful meal after serving the crowded Rainbow Lodge dining room. He would also make lots of special cookies and put them in big metal tins and order the girls to help themselves, which of course they absolutely did.

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