The truth about Toad Hall

Whistlerites to reveal rare stories of the past at Friday event

With a photo as famous and fascinating as the Toad Hall photo, with its naked, hippie ski bums, there are bound to be some rumours and juicy stories floating around about the circumstances under which it was taken and exactly who bared it all for the camera.

Depending on who you talk to, you might hear a certain former municipal councillor is in the photo. Most people aren't even sure who was behind the camera.

Well, one person who's not afraid to admit to being in the shot is Terry Spence, known to most around town as "Toulouse." Spence said there are four people in the Toad Hall photo who still call Whistler home, and he's one of them.

Perhaps if you ask him nicely or buy him a drink at Friday's (March 6) fundraiser for the Whistler Arts Council (WAC), he might tell you who else is in the photo or answer any other questions you have about that fateful day. Spence is one of 11 long-time Whistler locals who will share stories from the past at the event, called Our Whistler: Celebrating Our History.

Though he didn't want to give away his stories before the event, Spence said he's planning to talk about why he showed up in Whistler in the first place in 1971 - what brought him here and what made him decide to stay. He said he'll tell some tales from the Soo Valley days, when a group of local skiers lived in the cabins at an abandoned lumber camp. One of the cabins was Toad Hall.

Spence said the rent at the cabins was "very modest," but they were small and they weren't insulated. He and others would line the walls with cardboard and Spence said he would sleep in three sleeping bags, one inside the other.

"We froze to death in there," he said.

There were all kinds of salacious rumours going around about the wild behaviour out at the camp, and in 1973 the people living there were told it was being shut down and they had to leave, Spence said. That's when someone had the idea to immortalize the Soo Valley experience on film.

"We decided to leave a memento," he said.

As for who was behind the camera, Spence said it was a guy named Anthony, known to them at the time as "Kiwi," who has since passed away.

Life in Whistler was different in the '70s, even if you just consider the designs of the skis and other winter sports gear being used at the time. Spence said he thinks Whistler's history is worth celebrating.

"It's nice to go back and take a look at some of the characters who made up the valley," he said.

Others who will share some of their stories at Friday's (March 6) event include ski patroller and community leader Cathy Jewett, mountain planner and former Soo Valley resident Paul Mathews, municipal Councillor and active volunteer Tom Thomson, and the always-entertaining Maureen Douglas.

The intimate reception, dinner and storytelling gathering gets underway Friday (March 6) at 6:30 p.m. at the Four Seasons. A few tickets are still available for $100, which includes a $50 tax receipt. Tickets can be purchased at the WAC office in Millennium Place or by phone at (604) 935-8232. The event is also a celebration of WAC's 27th anniversary.

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