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‘T-shirt Al’ Davis passes away


One of the characters of Whistler’s early ski bum days, Al Davis, passed away Sept. 9 at the age of 81 after struggling with dementia and related health problems for two years.

Born in 1927, Alan Roy Montgomery Davis moved to Vancouver at the age of two, after his father had graduated from medical school at McGill University in Montreal. He grew up in West Point Grey, graduating from Lord Byng High School in 1945. He joined the Army in 1950 and served in Korea until April 1952.

After returning home he pursued a career in art and resumed his passion for skiing. In 1970 he moved to Whistler, where he became known as T-shirt Al for his original silkscreen shirts.

While in Whistler he got a job working on a film called McCabe and Mrs. Miller, an experience that changed his life. He worked in the film business until his health forced him to retire.

He is survived by his wife of 20 years, Janet (Goss) Davis, his step family and daughters and many grandchildren and great grandchildren.

A celebration of Alan Davis’s life will be held in Whistler at the Spruce Grove Park Facility on Sunday, Oct. 5th at 4:30 p.m. Potluck would be appreciated.

A part of Whistler’s history

By Charlie Doyle

Whistler has lost a true pioneer. Al Davis was, among many, many other things, Whistler's first commercial artist. In a Whistler time when there were precious few opportunities to sell any sort of art, Al's silk screening, signs and stained glass work touched everyone.

Indeed, his hand crafted T-shirts literally touched everyone. I don't know anyone who didn't own one and everyone had some sort of a connection to the shirt on their back.

You see, Al's shirts were not the standard tourist fare that are hawked in the village shops today. These shirts, if they were somehow bound into book form, would comprise a compendium of Whistler’s lessor mentioned history. Al celebrated the events that Tourism Whistler, were they around in that era, would certainly have tried to ignore or sweep under the carpet of market-speak.

During one particularly wet winter, Al came up with a "Pissler Fountain" design, which suitably satirized the Whistler Mountain logo of the day (If memory serves me, I think it was the "Big Old Softy"). In a day when Workers’ Compensation had little or no presence in Whistler, his "Take-a-Risk at Tamarisk" design was proudly worn by the ski bum carpenters who survived building the place. One that still resonates today was "Alta Lake-Valley of the Dogs" with a steaming dog turd front and centre. But the classic had to be the "U.I.C. Ski Team" shirt that faithfully reproduced the "yes, yes, yes, blank, no." check boxes that appeared on the form that guaranteed a good part of Whistler's GDP of that era.

In a day before Whistler was even on the maps (the closest it came was Garibaldi Station), Al was not only recording Whistler’s history, but part of it.