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Whistler Christmases captured in photos

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With the holiday season fast approaching we've started taking particular notice of holiday-themed photos in our collections. These photos can vary from Whistler Mountain ski instructors dressed up as reindeer to Santa finding hidden powder to Season's Greetings from the Philip family. One of the most interesting holiday photos shows a roasted turkey in a wood burning stove called "Master Climax" (so named for the make of the stove).

This stove was part of the kitchen set up at the first Toad Hall, one of Whistler's most famous (or infamous) lodgings. This Toad Hall was built by Alta Lake resident Alf Gebhart, who first came to live in the area in 1936. In the mid- 1960s, Alf sold his property to Charles Hillman, a high-school teacher working in Vancouver. Charles, in turn, rented his property to a "respectable-looking" father with two daughters. The rent was paid consistently and on time, though after a while the names on the cheques started to change.

By the time Charles Hillman decided to start using his cabin to ski, unbeknownst to him, the property had been renamed Toad Hall and was gaining a reputation across the country. Charles arrived to find a young resident from Montreal cooking breakfast, evidence of a campfire in one of the bedrooms, and sleeping quarters set up wherever possible, including the chicken house.

With help from the RCMP in Squamish and a court order, the residents of Toad Hall were amicably evicted, with enough time given for a farewell party.

By the 1970s, the Soo Valley Logging Camp, near the northern end of Green Lake, was no longer in use by the forestry industry. This became the second incarnation of Toad Hall. Perhaps the best known image of Toad Hall, the Toad Hall Poster, was taken here.

The second Toad Hall was scheduled for demolition in the summer of 1973. (Though no buildings remain today, some photos of Parkhurst donated by the Clausen family show the in-use camp across the lake.)

That spring, knowing their time there was limited, residents gathered with their ski gear and little else for a memorable photo shoot set up by photographer Chris Speedie—10,000 copies of this poster were printed and sold for two to three dollars each. Copies were distributed along the World Cup ski circuit by Terry "Toulouse" Spence.

Over the decades, copies of these posters became harder to obtain. Then, in 2013, Terry brought a box to the museum. The museum officially sold out of the original run of Toad Hall posters this past January, almost 45 years after it was first printed.

Come visit us this weekend at our table at the Arts Whistler Holiday Market at the confrence centre. We'll have a selection of photos from Whistler's past, the Whistler colouring books, Florence Petersen's book First Tracks and more. This will be your first chance to buy a copy of the Toad Hall Poster's first reprint.

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