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Museum Musings: Summer lovin'

e-museum musings 29.33
Childhood summers from the 1970s in Whistler could also be pretty fun, as these four kids taking part in the three-legged race at the 1979 Summer Recreation Sports Day show.

The months of July and August are highly anticipated by many children throughout the year as the time of summer vacation, when daily routines change (or are entirely discarded) and opportunities for adventures can be plentiful. Whistler can be a great place to spend summers as a child, whether as a visitor or a resident. This was also true 95 years ago, when the Matheson family from Vancouver began spending their two months of summer vacation at Alta Lake. These visits were still fondly remembered by Betty Jane Warner (the youngest of the three Matheson children) in 2011.

Beginning in 1927, Violet Matheson, her three children (Jack, Claudia, and Betty Jane), and often a maid, would board the Union Steamship in downtown Vancouver at the end of June.  After the trip by boat to Squamish, the family would travel to Alta Lake aboard the Pacific Great Eastern Railway. Once there, they would stay at a cabin they referred to as their “summer cottage,” owned by William “Mac” MacDermott, who became a good family friend.

The months spent at Alta Lake by the Mathesons were very different from their daily lives in Vancouver. The cabin had a “cranky” wood stove, coal oil lamps, a copper tub, and an outhouse. The children would go swimming, go hiking with Mac, pick ripe blueberries, row around the lake among the water lilies, spend hot afternoons reading in the shade, and visit Rainbow Lodge to pick up the mail and sometimes make purchases from the store. Claudia and Betty Jane had to get dressed up only once over the summer for their annual visit to Mrs. Harrop’s tearoom. They also looked forward to their annual picnic excursion with the Ford family, who lived at Alta Lake.

The Matheson family stopped coming to Alta Lake in 1935 after the death of Betty Jane’s father Robert, who had spent the summers working in Vancouver and visiting Alta Lake occasionally. Looking back on the summers spent there as a child, however, Betty Jane fondly recalled their “happy summers.”

There are still a lot of things to enjoy about summer vacations in Whistler today, which is why the theme for the Whistler Museum’s 26th-annual Building Competition with LEGO Bricks is “What do you love about summer vacation?”

We are very excited to be hosting our annual building competition in person this summer on Saturday, Aug. 27. While the past couple of years have seen the competition transition to building at home, this year we will be returning to our previous format where all competitors build their creations in Florence Petersen Park using the LEGO bricks provided. After the building time, our judges will evaluate the creations and award prizes donated by incredible local businesses for each age category.

To register for this year’s competition and share your creations highlighting your favourite parts of summer, contact us at the Whistler Museum. Ages three and up are welcome.