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Whistler picking up pieces of its past

Museum and Archives Society chooses mementos from Boot Pub for community



The Boot Pub may be gone by the summer but its legend will live on.

The last day of operation is April 30 as owners, Cressey Development Corporation, move ahead with plans for a townhouse development on the site.

But before the old pub is torn down, Whistler will have a chance to preserve a unique part of its past.

After a walk-through of the pub last week, Whistler Museum & Archives president Alex Kleinman said they have asked for a number of artifacts that will help them tell the Boot’s story and establish its rightful place in the history of Whistler.

"The objective was to examine elements that were left there or that have been there for a number of years and may, or may not, be appropriate to preserve to keep the story of what the Boot was, or what it meant to the community," said Kleinman.

Among the things the museum wants are the old band pictures, which once lined the entrance walls and chronicled the pub’s colourful musical history.

There are also pictures at the Boot of old familiar Whistler faces – John ‘Rabbit’ Hare and Seppo Makinen – and old Boot signs, which mark different periods in the pub’s past.

Kleinman said they intend to dig through municipal records to find the old construction and development permits.

The idea is to reconstruct the Boot’s past and the role it played in the community.

"We tell stories," explained Kleinman. "So our job now is to amass elements that help us with the story."

The story of the Boot Pub begins with Irene and David Andrews in Vancouver.

It was Irene and her husband David who were convinced to put up the money to buy a 10-acre site along the Fitzsimmons Creek. It was 1967. David was in his 60s, his wife roughly 10 years younger. They had just sold their long distance trucking company. Their friend and former employee, Don Devlon, convinced them to invest in Whistler.

Rumours were abuzz that this would be an Olympic site and, by all accounts, the skiing was unrivalled, although David and Irene were not skiers.

"Because they had been talking about it being such a great mountain and the Olympics should get up there, we thought well maybe if that was the case then it was worthwhile investing some money," recalled Andrews this week.

In September 1967 they began the construction of The Ski Boot, a place where anyone could lay their head, some for as cheap as $1 a night, if you were willing to share a room with 10 others in bunk beds.

Three years later the Andrews expanded the Ski Boot to include a "beer parlour" and a dining room with some extra rooms upstairs. The couple lived in an apartment suite above with their young daughter.

But it was challenging, said Andrews.

"It was too much for two people and so we eventually decided to get right out of it," she said. "You’re dealing with a lot of people that don’t want to work, a lot of ski bums. It just got too much ski bum and not enough people that wanted to work."

They sold the Boot in 1973.

And while it has changed hands over the years, the Boot has always remained "too much ski bum" – a landmark for residents and guests to hear live music and one of the cheapest places to stay in Whistler.

Andrews laments that the Boot won’t be around as a place for cheap accommodation anymore.

"It’s so expensive for anybody to stay up there that the average person can’t afford to stay there and the Ski Boot was the only place that was reasonably priced," she said.

The new plans for the now six-acre site include market townhouses of more than 2,000 square feet along with 36 employee townhouses, to be sold to the first in line on the Whistler Housing Authority waitlist.

Cressey Development Manager David Evans said he hopes to see the project approved this winter, allowing construction to start in the summer and the project to be completed by 2007.

The company plans to sponsor a one-day music festival fundraiser on Saturday, April 29.