By Sarah Drewery, Whistler Museum.
Usually, if you’re looking for a laugh, you don’t seek out your local newspaper. Of course, Whistler is no ordinary town. We’re blessed with more out-of-the-boxers, more tricksters, and more contrarians per capita than most small towns, and their presence has coloured our history remarkably.
The Whistler Answer was the voice of alternative culture in Whistler. Running from 1977-1982 with a second run in 1992-1993, the newspaper was the expression of the ski bum population of Whistler in its early days as a ski resort.
The Answer was so-called because the only serious local paper in the area at the time was the Whistler Question. The Answer aimed to be the alternative voice to this paper, billing itself: “For those tired of questions – the Whistler Answer.”
The original run from 1977-1982 was hand-drawn, hand-lettered and hand-pasted by the light of kerosene lamps in a local squat. The Answer was a labour of love. The idea was dreamt up, when, in Editor Charlie Doyle’s own words, “[We] were in Robin’s cabin in the woods deeply under the influence of Ben’s killer weed when the idea struck. You see 1977 was a bad year for snow. The postcards form Hawaii were piling up and we figured it would be easier and more fun to send the latest gossip in a newspaper format than answer the postcards separately.”
The content is witty, creative and cherished by (almost) all who were around to read the originals. Few publications could have managed to fit in so much censor-maddening drugs, nudity and profanity while maintaining such a consistently hilarious and good-natured tone.
Among my favourite articles is one on the phenomenon of “Whistler time” – something still very much alive and well today. The piece claims that the Municipality had actually been running 72 minutes behind Pacific Standard time. This discrepancy was attributed to the malfunctioning of the clock in the local beer parlour from which the local residents set their watches by. The article goes on to claim: “The correction was finally brought to the attention of the town’s Chamber of Commerce by logging truck driver, Bert Backup, 46, of Pemberton. Mr. Backup first noticed the discrepancy about three years ago during the normal course of his job which takes him through this town twice daily, but claims he had a hard time finding anyone who cared.” Of course, the whole story is entirely fictional, but I think anyone who knows Whistler will agree that there is more than just a grain of truth in this tale.
The Answer provides a window into the oft-remembered “Old Whistler,” an idyllic era that pre-dates our valley’s hyper-development and fast-paced urban atmosphere. A playful browse of the Answer back catalogue is perfect fodder to debate whether Whistler’s free spirit is truly long gone, or alive and well.
The entire run of the Answer is available to peruse on the Whistler Museum’s website.