The good times have been rolling along for so long at Whistler that newcomers to the valley sometimes take our economic bull run for granted. But those “oldtimers” who lived through the infamous 1981 recession know better.
“It was definitely a tough chapter in the Whistler story,” says Bonnie Munster. And then she laughs. “I think back on those days sometimes and just shake my head. Our parents thought we were crazy…”
Far from looking like an oldtimer, Bonnie has the youthful mien and the go-getter energy of a woman half her age. But make no mistake — she and her builder-husband Andy lived through some of the most tumultuous times in Whistler history. From hippie ski bum to school board trustee, from homeowner wannabe struggling with 21 per cent interest rates to designer/builders selling $8 million alpine castles — the Munster family has seen it all.
Indeed, their story is a reflection of the overall Whistler story — and in many ways, illustrates perfectly the unique blend of people and environment that came together in the early 1970s and changed this lonely mountain valley forever.
But back to 1981 and trying to survive one of the worst recessions in B.C. history. “We were renting a 10-acre farm in Pemberton in those days,” explains Andy. “We had a substantial garden and raised chickens, cows and pigs and lived pretty much off the land. In fact, we barely had any cash to speak of. And most of what we had went to paying the interest on our mortgage for the lot we’d just bought in Whistler…”
Another burst of laughter from Bonnie. “Other than that, we pretty much put off paying the rest of our bills. Every time the B.C. Hydro guy would come around knocking, I’d meet him at the door with my newborn twins at my breast, put on my most sorrowful expression and beg him not to cut our power off.”
Anybody who is familiar with Bonnie understands what a force of nature the B.C. Hydro guy was dealing with. Not surprising then that the electricity was never cut off at the Munster farm…
Not surprising, either, that this is the same woman who was recently heard correcting an overly-enthusiastic Fortress executive who’d announced he’d just bought the town. “You didn’t buy Whistler,” she told him. “You bought Intrawest — there is a difference.” She smiles. “He looked genuinely confused,” she recalls.