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Museum Musings: Tokum if you got ‘em

'When searching for a place to hold a film screening, a cabin in the woods is probably not the first venue that comes to mind...'
Tokum Corners in the snow in the early 1970s.

When searching for a place to hold a film screening, a cabin in the woods is probably not the first venue that comes to mind. Tokum Corners, however, hosted multiple screenings of films captured by George Benjamin in the 1970s.

George Benjamin first came to Whistler Mountain on a ski trip in 1968 before moving to the area in 1970. He briefly stayed at Toad Hall before moving into Tokum Corners with Rod MacLeod and John Hetherington. Though they bought the building from Daisy Barnfield for $1,100 (about $8,600 today), they leased the land from BC Rail, as it was right beside the train tracks on the southwest end of Alta Lake.

Tokum Corners had no running water and no electricity when they first moved in. Within the first couple of years, they managed to connect the property to the power lines running through the valley, followed soon after by the addition of a well and water system, though Tokum Corners was never connected to any kind of sewer system. The building itself was once described by Hetherington as “a shack sort of in the woods,” and was reportedly often repaired using found materials, creating a somewhat hodgepodge appearance.

Thanks to Benjamin, who at the time was a semi-professional photographer, we have quite a few images of Tokum Corners in the archives. He donated more than 8,200 images taken during his time in Whistler to the archives in 2010, all of which have now been digitized and many of which have been shared in social media posts, articles and more. The collection, which includes shots of ski patrol, baseball games, and trips to Squamish to do laundry, provides a candid look at life for some Whistler residents in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Along with thousands of photographs, Benjamin also shot 16mm films during his time in the area. He was able to tag along with ski patrol on Whistler Mountain while they worked on avalanche control, and captured some impressive slides on film, as well as events and happenings in the valley. These films would be screened at Tokum Corners, usually with a soundtrack (at least one person has told us Pink Floyd’s 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon was a fitting accompaniment to avalanches), and viewers crowded in.

Tokum Corners was dismantled by the early 1990s, and no trace of the building remains on the site today. Evidence of its importance as a cornerstone of social life in the valley, however, remains in photographs, films, memories, and even “Tokum,” the ski run on Whistler Mountain that got its name from the residence.

Recently, the museum was able to acquire the Benjamin Film Collection and, thanks to the support of the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation, purchase equipment to digitize 16mm film. Last summer, our collections student Liam McCrorie digitized the Benjamin films along with other 16mm films in the archives, such as the collection of Jim McConkey’s films he donated in 2016.  This spring, the museum will host a couple of different events to share these films, so be sure to keep an eye out for upcoming announcements soon!