Current and former employees of Jasper Park Lodge will gather together this weekend for a reunion commemorating the resort’s 90th year.
Like any other reunion, it will be filled with memories, laughs and plenty of reminiscing.
Cheryl Johnston, the president of the JPL Staff Alumni Association and a former JPL nurse, has been organizing these reunions since 1991. There have been four in total, with this year’s celebration being the fifth.
“The reason I do this is it gives me great pleasure to bring people back together,” she said on the phone from her Ontario home. “Reunions are about getting together, talking over old times and sustaining the relationships and the friendships you developed all those years ago.”
Johnston was a nurse at Jasper Park Lodge during the summers of 1971 and 1972. When she started at the age of 22, she was the youngest nurse to work there – a record she may still hold, since the lodge no longer had nurses after Canadian Pacific Hotels bought it in the late 1980s.
Along with being the youngest nurse, Johnston was probably also the only one to go on a date with Tommy Smothers.
Smothers, a comedian in the 1970s who had a television show with his brother Dick, called The Smothers Brothers, was visiting the lodge in April of 1971.
After cutting his finger, he found himself in the care of Johnston in the nurse’s station.
“I got to put a Band-Aid on his finger,” she said with a laugh. “And then he said to me, ‘What is there to do around here?’ And I said, ‘Well you can come to the staff pub.’
“So I went to the dining room with him for dinner because that’s where the nurses ate and that’s of course where the guests ate, and afterwards I took him to the staff pub.
“It was really hilarious because as the evening progressed, he got drunker and drunker and drunker and everybody was just baiting him. But he wound up passing out,” she said while laughing.
Johnston said she always enjoyed it when celebrities came to the lodge. But even when they weren’t there, she had good times with her friends and co-workers, either hanging out at the pub or going out for BBQs.
She said she’s really looking forward to an opportunity to reconnect with all of those old friends.
“A lot of them I haven’t seen for 20 years and some of them I haven’t seen for 40 years, so it will be really nice to see those people again,” she said.
Johnston said there is special bond between former JPL staff, whether those people worked together or not.
“We all share the same kind of spirit,” she said. “People that worked there in the 20s or 30s or 40s or 50s and all the way up, we all have a great sense of camaraderie.
“When we listen to people talk who worked there, say in the 40s and the 50s, the kinds of things they did are the same kinds of things that we did later on. Actually I think they got away with a lot more than we would have,” she said with a laugh.
This weekend’s reunion begins on Friday night with a reception at the Golf Clubhouse. Johnston said there are more than 70 people registered to take part in the weekend already, with some people coming from as far away as New Zealand and England.
Johnston said included in those 70 people will be one of JPL’s longest standing employees, if not the longest, golf pro Ron MacLeod who worked for the lodge from 1952 to 1993.
For people who haven’t registered, it’s not too late, she said. To participate in the weekend, attend the reception, which begins at 8 p.m., and register there.
On Saturday, April 21, there will be a group photo of all of the participating JPL alumni in the morning. And there will also be property tours between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., so people can see how the site has changed over the years, and a memorabilia room in the lower lobby. That evening there will again be a reception, this time in the Mary Schaffer Ballroom from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., followed by dinner and dancing.