The Other Side of the Mountain
The Story of West Lake Lodge on Hollyburn Ridge
by Florence E. Brewis
Twenty-three feet of snow! No one could believe it. This was not the snowy summits of the Rockies nor the remote heights of the Andes - this was within sight of the city of Vancouver,. B.C. Twenty-three feet of snow fell at the 3000 foot level on Hollyburn Ridge during the winter of 1932-1933. Such a depth had never been recorded before nor since and this was the year that Mr. R.D. Brewis elected to build the West Lake Ski Lodge.
It all began with his discovery of a large tract of land on Hollyburn- four hundred acres made up of five eighty acre blocks. The owner had been paying taxas on it for many years" not a great amount in those days, of course, but he had never decided what to do with it.
In the spring of 1932, Roland Douglas Brewis, a resident of West Vancouver and a man of imagination and vision, had an idea. He approached Mr. Edward Mahon/ the owner of the property and suggested the building and promotion of a ski lodge, as it lay at a suitable elevation and there was already access to the existing Hollyburn Ski Camp from West Vancouver.
Mr. Mahon, though seventy years old at the time, was intrigued by the idea. It pleased him to think that this seemingly useless tract of land could be developed into something worthwhile. He agreed to finance the proposition if Mr. Brewis would handle it.
Mr. Mahon had been something of a promoter himself in the days prior to the 1920's. He was a well-known and respected pioneer in Vancouver and owned much of North Vancouver at that time.One of his projects was the developing the Grand Boulevard into a beauty spot. He imported many trees from different countries to plant there. Mahon Park and Mahon Avenue are named for him. He resided at Burrard and Hastings Streets in Vancouver and eventually sold this home to developers vho constructed the Marine Building on the* site.
As a point of interest, the decoration and artwork in the Marine Building were created by Mr. Charles Marega, a prominent sculptor in the city in those days. He designed the courthouse lions and roany other projects as well as teaching sculpture at the Vancouver School of Art. About the middle of June 1931, Mr. Brewis started work on a trail from the top of 15th Street in West Vancouver. He employed F. Barr and Alan(Bus) Young to help. They all worked right through July (it rained continually the entire month) and finally reached West Lake, so named because it was the most westerly of the three main lakes on the property. The other two, one quite near West Lake and eventually called Blue Gentian Lake because of the profusion of these lovely alpine flowers on its shores; the other named Lost Lake, was indeed almost lost, lying close to the east boundary of the property overlooking the Capilano River far below.
The first view of West Lake was not particularly enthralling. A typical mountain tarn, it was disappointingly small with a large marshy area to the west, to the north tall evergreens grew on the steep slope right to the shore.(Later, this proved to be ideal for the C class jump hill.) The other shores were much less steep and on the south, a large level area mostly blueberry bush and smaller fir trees, sloped down for about forty feet to the edge of the lake. This appeared to be an ideal site for the proposed lodge.
Mr. Brewis saw immediately that by building a simple dam at the outflow of the lake, a much larger body of water would be created. This was the first project after complet ing the trail and a very worthwhile one, for instead of a shallow mountain tarn, it became a beautiful lake about two acres in size. Lovely to look at in the summer and a pleasure for the skiers later on.Sometimes it froze early enough to allow excellent skating, but usually the snow came to soon to count on skating every season.
September arrived and Mr. Brevis had recruited the services of three men. Finlanders, who had been cutting wood for a living in West Vancouver. As it was now the thirties, even the proceedsfrom this occupation had dwindled disastrously, so that they agreed to take on the job of building the lodge. He had also located a place for his crew to stay/ a cabin about half a mile east of Hollyburn Ski Camp. Its owner not intending to use it that season, agreed to rent it to Mr. Brewis.
The trail that had been cut in July was too difficult to maintain in the winter and much too long (it became known as the summer trail later.) So the trail used for that winter was the established 22nd St. trail from West Vancouver, or sometimes the 27th St. trail- though this was very steep.
By mid-September, the entire crew, Mr. Brewis, F. Barr and the three Finlanders were settled in the D'Aoust cabin. To reach it from the Hollyburn Ski Camp, the trail led across the dam at First Lake directly past Pollough Pogue's cabin. Once a columnist for the Province Newspaper, Pollough had retired to this simple one room cabin on Hollyburn Ridge, where for a time, he continued to write. He was a most generous friend to all who came his way. Many a welcome mug of tea was shared by weary hikers after a long pack up the trail.
In retrospect, the whole operation was one to marvel at. To embark on the construction of a large log building is an undertaking at any time, but here, as the first snow began to fall, the men were felling trees, peeling off the bark, hauling them by hand and working every day under very difficult conditions.
The fall of 1932 was sunny and pleasant. The three Finlanders worked with a will and the early stages of the building progressed well. It was fortunate that they were experienced woodsmen, understanding log construction as well. Mr. Brewis and F. Barr did all the backpacking of the supplies.
It seemed as if all we did was hike up and down that, 22nd St. trail! We got to know every rock and root on it. Rain or shine-(later- snow-snow!) we ran down and plodded back, puffing and sweating. The packboard became a part of us. It usually took Z\ to 3 hours to climb from Marine Drive in West Vancouver to Pollough Pogue's cabin at First Lake. 'Old Pogue” was a blessing. We would ease the weight off our shoulders and slump down on his doorstep while he put the kettle on and wiped out a couple of chipped old mugs with a dark grey cloth. (Dry cleaning method, we used to call it.) Two days beard, like frost on his cheeks, his kind brown eyes and welcoming smile always gave us heart for the last half hour's trek to the cabin. I can still see him wearing the ancient woolen toque that he never seemed to remove, the heavy grey loggers shirt open at the neck, showing a glimpse of soiled Stanfields, thick brown wool pants held up by broad suspenders as well as a wide belt and loggers moccasin style boots. He was the only person who didn't tell Mr. Brewis he was crazy.
In no time it seemed, it was November, bringing snow flurries at first then the heavy snowfalls that were to continue all winter. The crew of three and Mr. Brewis (when he was not packing up the trail) worked in the snow, often having to break trail from the cabin down to the site, ten minutes or more away. They worked under very difficult conditions, striving to keep ahead of the snow. Yet as long as they had the weekend to look forward to with a few dollars in their pockets, they remained cheerful enough. Axel Nordman, the oldest, a small stooped man with wispy dark hair and a shaggy moustache, became known as 'old Axel' though probably was not more than fifty years old, had proven that he was the most knowledgeable. Emil Ronn, about thirty years old, with dark hair and an unusually long narrow face with close-set brooding dark eyes, seemed to follow along amiably with only an occasional argument. Another Emit, surname unknown, and nicknamed 'Shorty' was short of stature as indicated, squarely built, with a broad face, lank light brown hair and pale eyes and a very upturned nose. Although all three understood English quite well. Axel was the spokesman for the most part.
Old Axel'- a gentle soul, always teased by the others for his frugality- he kept trying to persuade them not to run downtown and spend all their money. He himself seldom did so. I remember how they laughed as they watched him turn the heel of his sock to the side of his foot when it wore out. He just smiled and shook his head. “You learn dese t'ings; when you are poor,'
As an evening project, Axel decided to make a three-legged stool out of yellow cedar which grows at elevations of over 1500 feet. The beautiful close-grained light yellow wood is wonderfully easy to work with. He cut the necessary pieces and hung them in the cabin to season. Again, Ronn and Shorty teased him. 'Make the stool! Don't take so long.’ Axel grinned at them. ‘Young guys know everyt’ing.' he said to Mr. Brewis. 'I make stool, you see.'
We were a strange menage, crammed into a poor excuse for a cabin. Not larger than I2 x 16 feet, it had no windows, though this did create more wall space! Only an opening in the front, not big enough for a door, yet rather too much for a window, perhaps about 5 feet x 30 inches. Not that we needed windows for air, there was plenty coming in between the logs. But during the day this entrance stayed open just so that we could see what we were doing, not wanting to waste the precious lamp fuel- (one gallon weighs ten Ibs. when one has to backpack it.) There were double deck bunks in the corners and a minimum of rough-hewn furniture and the stove. This was no more than a two hole heater placed horizontally on strap iron legs with the door at one end for long lengths of wood. I think my mind has blanked out my efforts at cooking on this contraption- I can't remember much. I think we must have eaten a lot of stew! Though I do recall a day when I was cooking liver and bacon in the large skillet and a Canada jay (the whiskeyjack) flew in the open door cum window, perched on the side of the pan and picked out a piece of bacon for himself and took off.
By the end of November it snowed day and night with few breaks. The only good thing about this was that the men could skid the peeled logs to the building and have no great height to raise them to the next level. They seemed to keep just one round ahead of the snow. Mr. Brewis and I continued packing as usual, though sometimes the snow made it difficult. The trail from 22nd St. was almost always firmly packed, as the skiers were going up to Hollyburn Ski Camp by now and the cabin population too, helped to keep the trail well packed. But between Pogue's cabin and ours was a sort of no man's land- anything could happen there. My first experience with snowshoes was on the homeward trip after going down for a load by myself. I stopped for a visit with Pogue, as usual and, fortified by his wonderful tea, I prepared to leave. I thanked him and shouldered the pack, stepped a few yards from the cabin and sank to my knees. Pollough, standing in the doorway, called out, ‘You'll never make it in that loose^snow. Wait a minute!' He disappeared into the cabin and returned with a pair of bearpaw snowshoes I had seen hanging on the wall. He strapped them on for me with some instructions. 'Be sure to lift one real clear of the other when you take a step. If you fall with that load on your back you'll have a time getting up, I can tell you.'
I made it alright, but it wasn't easy!
The days were very short now, well into December, and in the evenings the creative homecrafts were in full swing. Axel had put his stool together. Beautifully curved and bevelled legs, a solid three inch thick seat, the whole thing lovingly sanded to a satiny smoothness. It was a true work of art. Many years later, it remained just as it had been originally.
To tease the older man, Ronn had also made a stool in a matter of a week or two. A similar design, but he had turned the feet outward. There had been a heavy discussion about this. Also, he had hollowed the seat out, which meant if a washbasin were placed on it, inevitably water accumulated in the hollow, hastening splits and cracks. We found too that we were forever tripping over the outturned feet. So 'old Axel’ enjoyed the last laugh!
Shorty surprised us by blossoming as a craftsman, as well. He fell in love with the yellow cedar wood and decided to make a pair of skis for himself. This he proceeded to do very well with much care, finally steaming the tips clamped to a solid form to achieve the desired curve. But an unforeseen problem arose. He had no tool to make the necessary groove in the bottoms of the skis. However, during the next few evenings he astounded us all. He made a box plane from yellow cedar and inserted the smallest chisel, well honed, into it as a blade. He made the grooves in his skis, attached an old leather harness that Mr. Brewis had got for him and skied down to the job the next day.
The Christmas season arrived and still it snowed six feet in the days between'Christmas and New Year. Axel decided the weather was too much for him and left. The rest of us left too for a break.
By January 7 everyone was back except Shorty, who had decided to quit. However, there was a new man. Vie Whitfield, who had worked for Mr. Brewis a year or two previously. He was an extremely nice man of forty or so, pleasant and kind and a keen worker. Very nice for Mr. Brewis to have a kindred soul to discuss things and share ideas.
The weather was very changeable at this time. As mild as 34 deg. F and some dreadful downpours. By the end January the walls and roof rafters were finished with spaces cut for windows and doors. But the snow was as high as the walls- both inside and out! Here was a major problem- how to dispose of all that snow inside . Impossible to shovel out when the depth of snow was the same on the outside!
Mr. Brewis had an inspiration. There was plenty of wood available, particularly yellow cedar, which burns very well when the bark and sapwood are removed. His idea was to build fires just outside the walls to melt the snow, thus creating large craters into which the snow could be shoveled.
The men joked about this at first, but they were pleased when they saw that it worked. The main room was 40 x 20 feet and two wings, for kitchen and sleeping accommodation- these 18 x 18-and all. filled with snow!
And still it snowed! It blew a veritable blizzard for two days confining us all to our four walls. However, a beautiful morning on the third day made us all feel better. The men plowed their way down to the building and Vic dug out our water supply down at the little stream in front of the cabin. Then he and I left for Pogue's to pick up some stovepipe the packers had left there for us. I shall never forget that experience! The snow was waist high and as light as thistledown- or soap suds, as Vic said. We could see the slight depression where the trail wound between the trees and we could feel the solid packed snow of the trail under our feet, but we literally 'swam' the whole way!
A lot of fun and most exhilarating!
About the middle of the month, we had an unexpected visitor, Mr. James Duncan, West Vancouver's engineer, had been sent up to Inspect our building! He had spent the night at Pogue's, which was probably an experience in itself, and Pogue had dispatched one of his skier friends to inform us. So I went over on skis to meet him. Pogue had loaned him the bear paw snowshoes, which he handled very well. He was a very good sport. He spent the day with us - we were thankful it was not snowing!- plodding around with Mr. Brewis to view a building he could not see. That is, except for the gables and the roof rafters. He thoroughly enjoyed his assignment, unusual though it was, and was generous enough to give us his full approval.
A day or two later, and more snow coming down as hard as ever. It being Friday, the men left early for town. I too, went down to pay my rent for .my room on Denman Street. Mr. Brewis had an appointment to meet Mr. Mahon, thus leaving Vic to hold the fort.
I returned the following evening using my little 'bug' for a light. This was the accepted substitute for a flashlight whose batteries could suddenly let you down. You turn a jam can on its side and pierce a hole with a can opener turning the jagged edges inward so that when the candle is thrust in, it is held firmly. A couple of smaller holes punched in the opposite side (the top) for a wire handle, and that's it. We always carried a small tin of dry matches and a spare length of candleto be on the safe side. I was always amazed at the light that this simple device produced.
After a pause at Pogue's cabin and buoyed by the ever-welcome 'cuppa tea’ I floundered through a foot of new snow with the inevitable load on aching shoulders. About forty feet from the cabin the trail dipped down into a shallow draw. Here the worst was over; we would stop take a deep breath and adjust our packs. On that particular night, it was a heartening sight to see the lamplight gleaming through the chinks in the logs.
The next important project was locating suitable material tor the roof- namely, red cedar shakes. Yellow cedar, which was common enough at this elevation was a beautiful wood for some things, but impossible for shakes. Red cedar does not grow much above the 1000 ft. level, so the following week Mr. Brewis and I scouted around at the lower elevation hoping to find suitable trees. Luckily, we found just what we required directly south of the building. The crew broke a trail down to the site to give their approval.
Again, hampered by another extremely heavy snowfall, everything came to a standstill. Mr. Brewis decided that we should all do some packing, the men too. So Vic, Ronn and Ronn's friend Pantulin (who had come up in hopes of employment), Mr. Brewis and myself all trooped down to West Vancouver. It was a matter now, of other things than food and sundries. The time had come to transport many pounds of nails for the roof, windows , hardware, an airtight heater, a kitchen range. Vic himself packed this latter item. In due course this also included a large drum heater and a fireplace for the main room' Mr. Brewis' ingenuity came to the fore once again. He had this idea of a sheet metal fireplace that could be made in pieces, packed up and bolted together. He consulted a sheet metal expert in West Vancouver who agreed it could be done. The end result later turned out to be most satis factory. Not exactly a work of art, but certainly a 'roaring'
Early February saw an improvement in the weather - meaning that it was not snowing every day! Crisp and cold, even dropping as low as 3 degrees and 8 degrees below zero. However, the crew was now able to work at splitting shakes for the roof and sledding them up to the building. They had the roof completed by the middle of the month. This was indeed lucky, as for the next week or so, the snow came down again. At least now they could work inside, hewing and laying yellow cedar planks for the floor.
We had planned to move down to the building at the end of the month, but the owner of the cabin, Gil D'Aoust informed us that he wished to come up for some skiing before then, so we fixed a date of Feruary 25th.
Now the weather had changed to rain- a constant steady downpour. But the job had to be done, so we all pitched in to make the move, spending a couple of days packing our few personal belongings and all the items relating to the building, a dozen windows, the kitchen stove, tools etc. The mattresses we had to leave as they belonged to the cabin.
The men had already set up the airtight heater in the kitchen area some days b'efore and constructed the necessary double deck bunks there as well, as there was no floor in the bedroom wing as yet. Lacking mattresses, they had cut masses of small cedar boughs in the true outdoor fashion. ‘Ve do dis in ole country too,' Ronn told us.
So Saturday morning, the 25th, we said farewell to the little cabin that had become like a home to us. The men took off for the city lights and Mr. Brewis and I made one more trip to the cabin to leave it tidy for the owner.
It was almost dark when we returned to the building, cold and wet, as the rain had been nonstop. Looking forward to trying out the airtight heater, Mr. Brewis had just laid the kindling when we heard the most horrible cracking sound from the main room! Rushed in there to see a huge crack jerking its way along the face of the main beam that supported the roof truss! Nothing for it but to get out there pronto with the shovels to try to relieve the tremendous weight. There was a six foot depth of snow on the roof and saturated with so much rain it had to weigh a ton! The important thing was to get the weight off that main beam. The rain still poured down, but once you're wet through, you can't get any wetter, so we shovelled till our arms nearly dropped off, hoped for the best and staggered to the snow stairs that led down to the kitchen entrance.
We had already lit the gas lamp when we came down from the cabin and its warm glow was a comfort. Now to get a good fire going in that airtight heater ( Soaked to the skin and shivering by now, we could hardly wait. Mr. Brewis put a match to his kindling and yellow cedar sticks. They flared up beautifully - and smoke billowed into the room! Coughing and spluttering, ve realized that the stovepipe was filled with - you guessed it— SNOW?
Mr. Brewis had to take all five lengths of pipe apart , knock the snow from each one and put them back together. The kindling laid once more and at last, a crackling fire! Never had heat felt so good! I put a pot of stew on to heat while I changed into dry clothing.
The hot food was a blessing. By this time it was 10 o'clock and we were completely exhausted, so stoking up the stove to its limit, we called it a day. Mr. Brewis had the pleasure of trying the cedar bough bed, while I was the lucky one, using Shorty's camp cot that he'd had at the cabin.
The next day we understood why the beam had cracked. It was the only mistake the men had made. To begin with they had broad-axed the beam on both sides, thus weakening it to some extent. Then, instead of laying the log into a notch on the top wall log, they cut a deep notch in the beam itself to hook it over the top log.
I think the men were concerned about leaving just the two of us alone in such weather. They surprised us by turning up at noon the next day - Ronn and Pantulin. Mr. Brewis told them what happened, being careful not to attach any specific blame. 'Monday we fix,’ Ronn assured him/ with his wry grin.
He was as good as his word, although it was a temporary measure, as it would be impossible to replace the beam itself under present weather conditions. They simply cut two sturdy logs to use as props at each end of the weakened beam.
They accomplished many things that Monday. They broke a trail down to the lake and dug out a waterhole - we had been melting snow for water. This was a major task in such a depth of snow! They also cut a huge wood supply, packing much of it inside, put up the kitchen range, hooking it to the heater's stovepipe and bolted the 'tin' fireplace together. We were all thrilled to see how well it worked after they had built a roaring fire in it. We kept the fires going constantly to melt the snow still adhering to the inside of the logs. March arrived with a mad mixture of weather, punctuated by the odd glorious day which was a rare treat. By this time the outside world had found us. Every day brought a few skiers who were interested to see this fabulous log building that had been constructed under such stressful conditions.
The 22nd Street trail was now too remote to be practical, so that meant extending the trail from 15th Street in West Van that we had used the previous summer. Vic and Mr. Brewis worked on this when they weren' t packing skis. Mr. Brewis had purchased two dozen rental skis from the firm of Flaa and Hagen, in Vancouver. It was about this time that Vic had decided to leave. He'd had an offer of a job from a mining company he had worked for previously. We were indeed sorry to lose him, besides being a tremendous help, he was a truly fine fellow.
In spite of the huge amount of snow, the winter season was slipping away. As we found in later years, it didn't matter how much snow there might be, by the time April rolled along people became interested in other activities. The longer days and more sunshine brought out the gardener, tennis player, golfer in all of them, so Mr. Brewis decided it was now or never and declared an official opening, date, choosing the weekend of March 18th.
I had been making directional signs for the new trail, but now turned my attention to painting a couple of large cotton banners to hang at the West Van ferry landing and the Red & White store at 15th Street and Marine in West Vancouver. It was all very short notice of course, but it couldn't be helped. Otherwise it would mean waiting for months till the start of the next season. Besides,. Mr. Brewis was optimistic that a fair amount of summer business could be promoted.
We were quite well organized to cope with visitors on the opening weekend, but unfortunately,it rained, so there were not many people around. We did sell. some coffee and rented out some skis, so at last we were actually in business!
In April, Mr. Brewis made a deal with a defunct mining company to purchase a number of their metal double decker beds with mattresses. These were duly packed up with all the necessary bedding. This was indeed a breakthrough to introduce such comfort to skiers and hikers - to say nothing of ouselves! I still recall the bliss of sleeping on a mattress on a spring bed with cosy flannelette sheets and good thick grey blankets with the broad purple stripe, direct from Gault Bros. in Vancouver. There were 16 beds total for .the four rooms in the bedroom wing. One of my jobs, being a '.brush' person was sanding and painting the scarred metal beds with shiny blade enamel- a great improvement!
Although there was still a depth of ten feet or so, the snow was slowly disappearing - one indication being the need for steps down to the ground level from the kitchen door. Ronn and Pantulin set about digging away the snow and building the necessary six or seven steps. It seemed strange to be going down instead of up on the snow stairway to roof level as we had done for so long! Winter was reluctant to leave however. There were still many days of sleet and rain and sudden heavy snowfalls. In fact, on May 4th, six inches of snow fell overnight.
The red letter day that month was on the llth. Mr. Mahon made his very first trip up to the lodge. Mr. Brewis went down to meet him and to carry his knapsack for him. They took it slowly and Mr. Mahon quite enjoyed the hike through the snowy woods.
He was delighted to see the results of his investment. It was regrettable that he was too late to meet the rest of the crew, all of whom had worked so hard through that dreadful winter, but at least Ronn and Pantulin were there.
“I never would have believed it possible,' he told them warmly, shaking hands with them. 'You did a wonderful job!'
A pleasant kindly man, graciously putting up with the inconveniences such as no running water, outdoor plumbing, the cold, a limited menu and my amateur culinary efforts! The dear man even made his own bed!
We were pleased that he could see the place under these unusual snow conditions, as the ensuing years were quite different with average snowfalls of ten to twelve feet. One year there were only six feet of snow- just enough to get by!
The highlight of Mr. Mahon's visit was his first attempt on skis. He actually skiied down the slope to the lake, fairly steep and about thirty feet. He was able to stop slowly without falling, but not having any experience of climbing on skis, he took them off and hiked back up the hill.
He and Mr. Brewis went down to the city on the 18th, Mr. Mahon quite thrilled with his adventure. 'Haven't had so much fun in years,' he said to Mr. Brewis. As it fumed out, this was the first of many other visits in both summer and winter. I think he fell in love with his mountain project.
(from the original text written by Florence E. Brewis)
There were two very active ski clubs on the Ridge at that time, the Vancouver Club and the Hollybum Pacific Ski Club. Two members of the latter, Mickey Pogue and Irish Beaumont took on the contract to build a trestle for the *ski jump. The hill itself had already been cleared by Jack Summerfield of West Vancouver, who also helped with the backpacking of supplies at that time. The ski hill was ideally situated within view of the lodge. It had a grade of 38 percent and was approximately 275 feet in length. Later the expert ski jumpers rated it as second only to the championship hill in Revelstoke.
Mr. Brewis created the Vancouver City Championships with a handsome cup the West Lake trophy. The cup would remain at the lodge with the winner's name inscribed on the base and the. winner would receive an exact miniature to keep. The champion ski jumpers, Nordal Kaldahl, Henry Sotvedt, and Tom Mobraaten were very much part of the West Lake scene in those days.
Another well-known jumper was Nels Nelsen - a quiet, kind man who delighted in teaching novices especially the children, the art of skiing. He had held the World Championship with a spectacular jump on the Revelstoke hill.
January 27 the following year (1934) saw the official opening of the West Lake hill. Nordal Kaldahl, the Northwest champion at that time, made two jumps and declared it excellent. He said he would do his training on it.
The first Vancouver City Championships were held that year on Sunday, March 11, almost the anniversary of the opening of the lodge the year before. An estimated 3,000 persons hiked up the trail which took off from the top of 15th Street in West Vancouver. Fortunately, Mr. Mahon was also able to enjoy the spectacular entertainment and the beautiful weather. He had come up on the 8th. Nordal won the event, claiming his miniature trophy, and Irish Beaumont, co-builder of the trestle won the B class jumping and the combined event.
The unsung heroes of everyday life on the Ridge must not be overlooked...the boys who packed up the supplies. Not just the groceries - every imaginable thing: bedsprings, stoves, windows, lumber, tools, fuel for lamps, and even the sheet metal fireplace that Mr. Brewis had custom made to be packed up in pieces and bolted together. It turned out to be a tremendous success. Jack Summerfield was one of these heroes, along with his friends the Osbome boys. Then Ted Russell, also of West Vancouver, who must have packed a ton of goods up to the lodge. He later became the highly respected ranger/first-aid man. Fred and Harry Jones did their stint - they owned the Bicycle Shop in West Vancouver. What young man of 18 or 19 years old today would consider such a proposition-to pack loads of 80 to 100 Ibs in all kinds of weather right from Marine Drive to the lodge at 2800 feet, for 3¢' per Ib.! But this was the Depression.
In the following years the main room of the lodge was extended to serve as more accommodation and a guests' kitchen where ovemighters could cook their own food if they wished. A further addition became the ski rental room, manned by Fred and Harry. The building had grown from 40 feet in length to 100 feet. It seemed that West Lake Ski Lodge was now established and would continue to be a popular resort.
On March 16, 1937, Mr. Mahon died and it was a sad loss indeed. He had been unwell for a long time and had not been to the lodge for eighteen months.
Mrs. Mahon and their son, Bryan, decided to sell. They asked Mr. Brewis to act as an agent. Unfortunately, he was not in a position to buy it himself and the Jones brothers tried their utmost to raise the required amount, but failed. The lodge operated for the season of 1938, closing permanently on May 1. A few months before, a buyer had been found. West Vancouver Municipality had decided to acquire the property for watershed! Brothers Creek which ran out of West Lake plus its North Fork which originated up in the Meadows, was actually West Vancouver's water supply at that time. Mr. Brewis had always been aware of this, so had done his best to keep the lake area unpolluted. Now that it would be a watershed, all buildings were to be removed, including the ski jump trestle. Everyone associated with West Lake was in a state of shock.
In lieu of a cash commission on the sale, Mr. Brewis requested that he have the two 80 acre blocks that sloped south and away from Brothers Creek. This was agreed upon. His plan was to develop cabins to rent on the property. Then Fred and Harry Jones approached him with the idea of purchasing ten acres on the north border of the block closest to the original West Lake site. This was settled and the boys took on the job of demolishing the lodge and cabins, skidding whatever logs they could use down on the late snow to their proposed location. With their father helping, they set about constructing a magnificent two storey log building. They named it West Lake Ski Lodge. Along with their parents and young sister, they operated it as a family for many years, eventually selling out.
It is sad to think that, through such unforseen circumstances, a successful enterprise was brought to an abrupt halt - the culmination of back-breaking work and effort simply vanished. Viewing the empty space on the shore of West Lake, who could guess that so much happened in those few years in the thirties.
Ironically, the day came when Brothers Creek was totally inadequate as a water source for West Vancouver. With the demands of an ever-increasing population, the municipality was forced to hook up with the Capilano system.
(from the PioneerNews, Volume 18, Number 5, October/November 1995 published by the Hongkong Bank of Canada, Bank of British Columbia Division)
Bearing in mind that these were the early days of the Great Depression, one mustn't be shocked to learn that our crew was paid 1.25 per day, per man including board, such as it was. The three Finlanders had been reduced to living on potatoes at the time Mr. Brewis heard of them, so you can imagine what this offer meant to them.. The rent for Gil D'Aoust's cabin was 10.00 per month. Mr. Brewis tried hard to keep within the estimated cost of the project, but how could anyone hope to approximate it, especially under such near-impossible weather conditions. It must have worked out to at least double the estimate.
I myself subsisted on whatever my Dad could send me. He too was hit by the Depression. He worked as a hand driller in the copper/gold mines in the province and by 1934 the whole industry was dead. It was about that time I became an official 'employee' - receiving $10.00 per month from Mr. Mahon. We were all in much the same position - we didn't really need much money. As long as the men could have their little blow-out on the weekends and I could go to a movie perhaps once every three weeks or so with my old school friend who lived in North Van, it didn't seem too bad. Of course I had a lot of fun skiing, as well, which cost nothing.
My first skis were free too. A sample pair from Flaa & Hagen, one was ash and the other hickory (a pair?) carefully painted black to disguise the difference. Ski boots were practically unheard of. Everyone used their hiking boots strapped to the skis with a primitive leather binding.
Our first rental skis were of the same order. An old fashioned wooden ski, perhaps hickory, varnished a mahogany colour with these same clumsy leather bindings. 'Just like de ol' country,' Pantulin said. The raw wood 'soles’ of the skis were treated with pine tar, rubbed in while the ski was heated, either at an open fire or with the careful use of a blowtorch. This preserved the wood and created a base for the subsequent coat of ski wax.
There was a school competition one year with 20 or so youngsters involved. When they all crowded into the lodge after the race, I overheard several boys questioning the winner. 'Gee! What kind of wax did you use? Quite willing to share his magic formula, the boy replied, 'My Mom gave me some Johnson's floor wax.’
Of course my sample skis got broken as skis do and 1 moved up a notch to a handsome pair of ash skis with that unbelievable straight grain that gave them a striped look. I had them for a couple of years until the inevitable happened - nearly broke my heart as well!
My next skis were the ultimate. I bought them in 1936 from Hamish Davidson, of Vancouver who had been in the boat building business and was now venturing into the manufacture of skis. He was a pioneer in the industry, perfecting his own style of laminated ski. In those days he used to try out his creations on Grouse Mountain, which happened to be his venue. At first he had problems with the glues he was experimenting with, and there were amusing, possibly exaggerated stories of skis falling to pieces under his feet. But perseverance prevailed and his laminated ski became one of the best.
If I were still skiing it would certainly be on those beloved 'planks' with their bakelite edges. These were a feature of Davidson skis. Glued on instead of being screwed into the wood as in the case of the steel edges, there was less chance of weakening the wood. They were quite adequate for the average skier, but the professional competitive skiers preferred the steel edges as they really 'bite' into the snow especially under icy conditions.-
Incidentally, these marvellous skis cost only $36.00 plus the imported Austrian harness, called 'Arlsberg' if I remember correctly, whichmighfc have been 12.00. I used them one last time in 1965 for a brief run on Mt. Seymour ended any further thoughts of skiing. I gave them to Tom Askew for a decoration in his ski cabin.
Again, in 1936, I was fortunate to have a fine pair of ski boots as well. No one knew much about such things then, so Mr. Brewis went to the famous Pierre Paris boot factory in Vancouver and described the requirements. They turned out two pairs of beautiful, hand-made genuine leather boots - a sort of modified hiking boot with a square toe and wide strong soles protruding enough to slip under the metal cleat that kept the boot in place, plus a broad grooved heel for the harness cable. -These wonderful boots cost only $9.00 per pair! So although our dollars were few, it all came down to the purchasing power of the dollar at that time.