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MUSEUM MUSINGS Reporting on Alta Lake

The first source of news published in Alta Lake came from the Alta Lake School in 1939
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The cover of the February 1969 Garibaldi’s Whistler News shows Tex Rodgers and Jordi Bright, son of Jack Bright, in the Whistler Mountain parking lot.  Photo submitted

This evening (Thursday, March 25) the Whistler Museum’s second virtual Speaker Series is set to take a look at journalism in Whistler since the 1970s. Our guests, Paul Burrows, Charlie Doyle, Bob Barnett, and Clare Ogilvie, have worked with and founded some of the best-known publications in the valley: The Whistler Question, The Whistler Answer, and Pique Newsmagazine. Before we explore recent journalism in the area, let’s look back at earlier sources of news.

The first source of news published in Alta Lake came from the Alta Lake School in 1939. Older students at the school created the Alta Lake School Club, which sponsored The Alta Lake School Gazette. The Gazette published six issues from Feb. 11 to June 5, 1939, and was staffed by names that may sound familiar: Bob Jardine, Tom Neiland and Helen, George and Jack Woods. The stated purpose of the Gazette was “to give a current account of happening each month as seen by its editor and his staff.” 

Its column “Local News of Interest” included a mix of opinions, observations, and gossip about the residents of the Alta Lake area and their comings and goings. The Gazette did include a few pieces about news outside of Alta Lake, such as a boxing match and an editorial on the Canadian Navy, which were most likely put together with information from the radio or The Vancouver Sun, which was available at the store at Rainbow Lodge.

In 1958, the Alta Lake Community Club (ALCC) began publishing a newsletter to which members and friends could subscribe. The newsletter went by various names between 1958 and 1961: The Alta Lake Reminder, Community Weekly Sunset, the Alta Lake Echo, and the Alta Lake Owl. As a community newsletter, it wasn’t necessarily known for its serious reporting but did keep people up-to-date on the travels of residents and frequent visitors to the area, community events such as dances and clean-ups, and the weather. The newsletter also included a series about the local environment by then-club president Bill Bailiff and an abridged version of Hamlet (sadly, the museum does not have a complete retelling of Hamlet from the ALCC, which is far more humorous than Shakespeare’s version). In 1961, the newsletter was taken over by the Alta Lake Ratepayers Association and then ceased publication. 

A lot changed in the area between 1961 and 1967, when Garibaldi Lifts Ltd. began publishing Garibaldi’s Whistler News (GWN) in November. Early editions of GWN were put together by Jack Bright and Lynn Mathews, who described the publication as a “good news” newspaper meant to promote Whistler Mountain. 

GWN reported on developments in the valley, such as new lodges and businesses, and some years included a column by Ray Gallagher of Brandywine Falls Resort similar to the community news reported in earlier newsletters. However, as the purpose of GWN was, as Lynn stated, “to get people up that road,” few stories said anything negative about the area and the development happening around Whistler Mountain.

Outside of the Alta Lake area, local news could be found in the newspapers of Squamish. The Squamish Times, owned by Cloudesley Hoodspith from 1957 to 1992, and the Squamish Citizen (also published by Hoodspith) included Alta Lake/Whistler news, but their primary focus was not on this area. It was not until the ‘70s that the newly formed Resort Municipality of Whistler would be represented by an official local newspaper.

To learn more about journalism in Whistler from the 1970s to the present this evening, visit our website at whistlermuseum.org/events or contact us at the Whistler Museum. n