Camping with Old Bill


As the end of summer approaches many people might make the most of it by going on one last camping trip before heading back to work and school.  To all those, the Museum would like to offer the advice of Old Bill, suitable for all seasons.

Waiting for the train at Alta Lake station, 1937. Left to right: Bill Bailiff, Mr and Mrs Racey, Ed Droll, Betty Woollard, Larry, Flo and Bob Williamson.

Born in Liverpool, Bill Bailiff moved to Canada and began working for the Pacific Great Eastern railway in 1913.  He soon quit over unsafe working conditions and walked up the unfinished track to make his home at Alta Lake.  Bill settled in a log cabin on the Pemberton Trail near Scotia Creek and kept a trapline up the Cheakamus and in Fitzsimmons Pass.  As the community around Alta Lake grew Bill became an involved resident so that at the time of his death in 1958 he had been serving as the president of the Alta Lake Community Club.

First Alta Lake Community Club picnic on the point at Rainbow.

Founded in 1924 the Alta Lake Community Club regularly held dances, card parties, and film nights, as well as constructing the first school building in the area.  The club also put out a weekly newsletter called the Community Weekly Sunset to which Bill, as president, contributed a column on life in the mountains.  Going through the archives I found one of these columns entitled “What Not to Do” and thought it was time to share the advice of Old Bill.

Original illustration from the Community Weekly Sunset.

1. Don’t ever make your campfire against a tree and in summertime don’t make it against a log or windfall.  make it where it can be controlled at any time.  Remember, fire is a good servant but a bad master.

2. If in company never carry a firearm loaded.  By loaded I mean a live shell in the chamber.  Be careful of that sharp axe, best to have it covered as anyone brushing against you could receive a nasty cut.

3. Don’t go sliding down a steep snowbank as you may not be able to stop and the rocks below are harder and sharper than your bones.

4. If on a glacier don’t ever attempt to cross on a snowbridge over a crevice as these are liable to give way anytime so leave that to the experienced mountaineers who rope themselves.

5. Don’t be a litterbug around a campsite clean it up as someone else might be along to use it and don’t stay too long on a snowfield without dark glasses on as you may get a terrific headache from partial snowblindness.

6. Remember your forest ranger is your friend and you’ll find him very nice and co-operative providing you are not a careless firebug who none of us has any use for.

7. Don’t go killing wild life needlessly as some species are nearing extinction from indiscriminate slaughter.  Much better to try a shot with your camera and picture them.

9. Don’t be an old grouch round the camp or on the trail as this has a bad morale effect on others.  If the going is tough take it with a smile and joke about it as it makes it easier and pleasanter.

From a different issue but still applicable. Original illustration in the Community Weekly Sunset.

Sound advice, 90 years ago or today. Happy camping!

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