Alta Lake School

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Corporate body

Authorized form of name

Alta Lake School

Parallel form(s) of name

  • Alta Lake School Board
  • Myrtle Philip Elementary School

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Dates of existence



In 1931, a school assessment appeared on the tax notice even though there was no school. Mrs. Lizzie Jardine Neiland who lived at Mile 34½ (railway measurement from Squamish) in today’s Function Junction area had three sons and one daughter of school age. Her son, Bob said: “When she got the tax notice of $7.50 she got real worked up as money in those days was tight. She started a movement to look into the possibility of building a school.” Mrs. Neiland, along with Mrs. Dorothy Tapley, Mr. and Mrs. Gebhart, Mrs. Law, Mr. and Mrs. Woods, enlisted Myrtle Philip’s assistance in contacting the provincial government with regards to hiring a teacher and to obtain furniture - a job which Myrtle continued with commitment for over thirty years’ service as a School Trustee.

Fundraising began and donations of lumber and building supplies were collected. Elizabeth Woods and her husband Fred, who worked on the PGE Railway, had three school-age children and enthusiastically assisted in raising money. Alex Philip donated $5 and Fred gave $3 himself.

Chris Spencer, owner of a big grocery-department store in Vancouver and a director of the PGE along with Ernie Carson, the local MLA and Blake Wilson, another director of the PGE each contributed $20. When all the money added up the total was between three and four hundred dollars.

It was decided that a community hall that could be used as a school should be built. Bill Bailiff drew up the plans, and the Excelsior Lumber Company in Vancouver sent the lumber at cost. A shingle company followed suit and the PGE cancelled the freight expenses.

Bob Williamson quotes: “The building was built entirely by volunteer labour. Everyone pitched in. Some of the more knowledgeable were responsible for the safe construction…among those were Bill Bailiff, Bill ‘Mac’ MacDermott, Fred Woods, Phil Tapley, Ed Droll, Charlie Lundstrom and Jack Jardine.”

Margaret Partridge, an ex-Rainbow Lodge waitress, was the first teacher at the Alta Lake School, teaching for three years and greatly impressing the community. She was devoted to her small class of pupils, encouraging them with their studies so that some completed seven years of schooling in only four. Ten students had to be enrolled at the end of September to allow a teacher to be hired by the Department of Education in the BC Government. The pupils were: Helen, Jack and Pat Woods, Doreen Tapley, Dorothy Thompson, Wilfred Law, Howard Gebhart, Tom Neiland and Bob Jardine. Jack Jardine attended one half-day a week to make the quota. Ed Droll's janitorial work included cutting wood for the potbellied wood-burning heater, sweeping the floors, filling the gas lamps and keeping the outdoor ‘biffies’ spiffy. The second teacher was Betty Woollard, the daughter of Grace Woollard, who had preempted land in 1912 on the east side of Alta Lake. Betty boarded with the Harrops along the Lake, as Margaret Partridge had before her. She also taught for 3 years and contributed much to the community.

The Alta Lake committee maintained their own school house, financed by the Board of Education in Victoria, for 11 years. Then the areas from Britannia Beach to D’Arcy amalgamated to form the Howe Sound School District. The school carried on with various teachers until, in 1942, due to an insufficient number of pupils, the school closed. During the next nine years children either did their lessons at home by correspondence, or lived elsewhere with family or friends in order to attend a school. In 1951, the school re-opened and classes resumed there for five years until the second Alta Lake School was ready.

In October 1956, Dick Wagner, the teacher, walked his class south along the trail to the new Alta Lake School, still located in the townsite area. Located above the Alta Lake Railway Station, its construction was similar to the cottages of that time - under-insulated and plain. But it was bright, had a covered play area, an oil furnace, and, to the delight of the pupils, the luxury of indoor plumbing. The small, uneven playing field, monkey bars, swings, tetherball, hockey sticks and nets allowed the children to have more fun outdoors. A teacherage was also built which provided convenient living quarters nearby. Mel Carrico taught from 1958-1961. He jokingly assumed he was hired because he had three school-aged children who were vitally needed to keep the school open. This family of seven, plus a dog, lived in the two-room teacherage. Only the school building still exists today as a cabinet maker’s shop.

Once skiing began on Whistler Mountain and settlements developed on the east side of the valley, a bigger school was built where today’s Cascade Lodge exists. It opened in 1976, and the name was changed to Myrtle Philip Elementary School in honour of this early pioneer.



Legal status

Functions, occupations and activities


Mandates/sources of authority

1) Petersen, Florence. "First Tracks: Whistler's Early History."

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Dates of creation, revision and deletion

Revised November 2017.




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