Whistler's past is full of fascinating stories

Sometimes I think of the pioneer era in Whistler as a sleepy period during which nothing much happened.

But when you start digging for information, for say, writing a weekly column, all kinds of things start to come out of the woodwork. For instance, there were some pretty strange, exciting and tragic events that took place around Alta Lake.

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According to an interview with J.A. Betts, there was a mysterious death in 1937. Apparently there was cabin not far from Rainbow Lodge in which a man and a woman were living. One night, the man came running down to the lodge in a panic. He said that his wife had taken strychnine and he had tried to save her by pouring raw eggs down her throat. Unfortunately, the raw egg method didn't quite work out and the woman passed away.

Perhaps one of the saddest things to have ever happened at Alta Lake was the Brock Plane crash in 1935. Dean Brock and his wife, along with David Sloan of Pioneer Mines and the pilot, all perished in a tragic accident. Brock was the dean of applied science at UBC.

The plane took off from Alta Lake and started to head south. At the south end of the lake the plane attempted to turn north, but (according to eye witnesses) the pilot had not given quite enough take-off room and so was forced to climb too steeply. The plane lost altitude and crashed on the old Pemberton trail, about 400 yards south of Mons Creek.

Dean Brock and the pilot were killed instantly. Mrs. Brock was seriously injured and was put on the train in an effort to get her to a hospital. However, she died on the train when it reached Horseshoe Bay, just hours after the crash.

According to an interview with Bob Williamson in 1988, David Sloan lived for 10 days after the crash before succumbing to his injuries.

Alta Lake also saw new life enter the world. For instance, Williamson also related a story about a woman who had been travelling by train from Pemberton to Vancouver, as she needed to reach a hospital. She was heavily pregnant, and therefore in a bit of a hurry.

As luck would have it, she got stuck at Rainbow Lodge and of course went into labour. The woman ended up having twins - a boy and a girl.

The boy was named Phillip after Alex Phillip and the girl was named Grace in honour of Grace Woollard, a retired nurse who was living at Alta Lake and helped deliver the twins.

Who could ever think our heritage was boring?

Leah Batisse is curator and executive director of the Whistler Museum.

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