Sunday, 20 November 2011

Viability of Rural Hotels - How Many Rooms?

Snowmobilers stop for a brew at the Pioneer Hotel in Wiseton (pop. 96), 2006. Joan Champ photo

While hotels are one of the oldest and most common forms of business enterprise in small-town Saskatchewan, today, in most cases, they are hotels in name only. They do not rely on room rental for revenue. The rural hotel business is all about the beverage room. The sale of alcohol – mainly beer – is the primary source of annual operating revenues – or at least it was until the introduction of video lottery terminals (VLTs) in 1993.

VLTs at the end of the bar, Delisle Hotel, May 2011. Joan Champ photo

Since the 1970s, beverage rooms have been continuously renovated. Steak pits and other amenities have been added, and a wide variety of entertainment – shuffleboard tables, pool tables, karaoke machines and live bands – have been featured in bars across the province. In 1993, the VLT program was introduced, providing an additional source of entertainment – and revenue – for liquor-permitted hotels in rural communities.

Typical rural hotel room
Nevertheless, the small-town hotels still need to have a minimum number of rooms in order to qualify for a liquor license. In 1987, according to Sean Kenny’s report on the viability of rural hotels for the Saskatchewan Liquor Board, licensed hotels in communities with less than 200 taxpayers had to have a minimum of seven (7) rooms. Even at that, the hotels in these small towns had an occupancy rate of only 10 percent. Kenny estimated that only about two (2) percent of total rural hotel revenue came from the provision of accommodation. (Sean Kenny, “Viability Study of the Rural Hotel Industry in Saskatchewan; Project Report.” Regina: Saskatchewan Liquor Board, August 31, 1987, p.10)  

"Please go to bar next door for room rentals, thank you!" Sign in the lobby of the Delisle Hotel, May 2011. Joan Champ photo
On June 22, 1988, Graham Taylor, Saskatchewan’s Minister of Tourism and Small Business, told the Saskatchewan Legislature that he did not think it was necessary for rural hotels to have rooms. “The day of the rooms in the rural hotel, I think, in many cases has somewhat passed,” Taylor said, “and therefore it may be an advantage to hoteliers to not have it [the liquor license] tied entirely to rooms.” (Hansard, Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly, June 22, 1988) 

Room at the Delisle Hotel, May 2011. Joan Champ photo

Today, according to the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority’s “Commercial Liquor Permittee Policy Manual” (2009), to qualify for a beverage room license, a hotel in a rural community must have a minimum of six (6) guest rooms. Sustained largely by off-sale revenues and VLT income, most of Saskatchewan’s small-town hotels are now just a shadow of their former glory days.

Budget Rooms - Daily, Weekly, Monthly - at Melville's Waverley Hotel, June 2006. Joan Champ photo
© Joan Champ 2011

Monday, 14 November 2011

Two More Century-Old Hotels Burn: Stenen and Young

Stenen Hotel on fire. Trudy Scebenski photo. Image source

They’re going down fast. 

On October 26th the 100-year-old King George Hotel at Stenen burned to the ground. “It was one of the better hotels down the line. Other communities hardly have a hotel and this one was run real well. It was a good place for friends to meet,” said Merv Secundiak, former mayor of Stenen and owner of the town’s general store. “It was a popular place in the community.” Mr Secundiak told the Regina Leader-Post reporter that with the historical building and bar gone, he was planning to close his store and retire. “I’m not going to have anything in this community. It’s terrible. I feel so bad. Why [do] things like this have to happen to a small community?” Click to read full story

Stenen Hotel, July 2006.  Photo courtesy of Ruth Bitner

Young Hotel

Less than two weeks later, another old hotel in rural Saskatchewan was destroyed by fire. Sometime around 2:30 a.m. on November 13th, volunteer firefighters were called to a blaze at the Young Hotel.  Within an hour, flames had completely consumed the building.

The fire was started by two sisters ages 10 and 12 who snuck out of their parents' house at 2:00 a.m. They gathered papers from the Young post office and then went into the front porch of the empty hotel where they started a fire to keep warm. When they returned home, they left the fire unattended. The 12-year-old was charged with mischief, but would be dealt with through an alternative measures program. The 10-year-old was too young to be charged. Both girls apologized.

Young Hotel fire. Photo supplied by Cordelia Ciesielski and Tany Deneiko. Image source

The Young Hotel, formerly called the Manitou Hotel, was built by Thomas Murphy in 1910.  Murphy also built the hotel at Allan that same year.  In 1911, Robert (Bob) Barry bought the hotel and made extensive alterations. The following year, Barry built the Barry Hotel on the corner of Avenue B and 20th Street in Saskatoon. 

In 1918, the Manitou Hotel was sold to Fred and Katheryne Harpold who had emigrated from the USA in 1912. Their son, Ernest, was born at Young in 1915. Katheryne passed away on November 22, 1918 during the Spanish Flu epidemic. A couple of years later, Fred married Myrtle Pearson, a teacher from Indianapolis. After selling the hotel, the Harpolds moved to Melfort and then, in 1936, to Crooked River where they were again in the hotel business.

Mr. Feader owned the Manitou Hotel in Young from 1923 to 1927. Under his management, it was, according to the Young local history book, “recognized as one of the best hotels between Saskatoon and Melville. It was quiet and a homelike place run on a European plan [hotel rate covered the room charge only, but not meals]. Large sample rooms in the Annex of the hotel were at the disposal of travelers.” Footsteps to Follow: A History of Young, Zelma and Districts, 1981, p. 22.

Manitou Hotel, 1937. From Footsteps to Follow: A History of Young, Zelma and Districts, 1981.
From 1927 until 1946, the Manitou Hotel in Young was owned by Charles Jimsie and George Kaw. In 1935, a beer parlour opened in the hotel, replacing the restaurant and ice cream parlour.  In 1946, Otto Renner and his son bought the hotel and built an addition for a restaurant.

Joseph and Katherine Fornalik Prince Albert bought out Renner in 1955.  Patricia Button (nee Fornalik) recalls: “When our family lived in the hotel, it had a verandah and a balcony on the second floor at the front.  .. The cafĂ© owned by a Chinese couple was next door to the hotel.” Footsteps to Follow: A History of Young, Zelma and Districts, 1981. 

When mixed drinking was allowed in Saskatchewan in 1961, Earl Nicklas bought the Manitou Hotel, turning the beer parlour into a beverage room suitable for “Ladies & Escorts."

Young Hotel Cafe, 2006. J. Champ
Joe and Doreen Freyling owned the Young Hotel for 27 years – from 1981 to 2008. “We enjoyed our time there," Freyling told the StarPhoenix on the day after the fire. "It was a booming place when we bought it. It was a young crowd who'd come out and party at the bar and we'd get right in there too.”  During the years the Freylings owned it, the hotel had a 100-seat bar a 27-seat dining room, a living quarters for the owner, and seven non-modern guest rooms. The people of Young used the hotel as a meeting place. “In a place that's small like Young, when you lose your bar and your restaurant, a sense of community starts to be lost as well,” Darcie Hellman, a former resident of the village, told the CBC. “When the people don't have a place to get together, you start to feel less like a town, right? It's just really sad.”

Giselle Begrand, owner of the Young Hotel for the past three years, was devastated by the loss. "My three kids and I put our blood, sweat and tears — literally blood, sweat and tears — for as long as we could manage here, so everything we owned and everything that we had was put into this," Begrand told CBC News. She was just weeks away from selling the hotel and had no fire insurance.

Young Hotel, April 2006.  Joan Champ photo
Rear view of the Young Hotel, April 2006.  Joan Champ photo
After the fire. Photo courtesy of Meshell Fedrau

 © Joan Champ 2011

Monday, 10 October 2011

Violence in Small-Town Hotels

Illustration by Eric Deschamps, 2003 Image source

My friend Ruth asked me when I was going to post an article about barroom brawls and other violent incidents that occasionally happen in small-town Saskatchewan hotels. Here's a sampling of some of the sad and sordid stories I've come across in my research.

Murder-Suicide at the Commercial Hotel 

The bodies of A. Willis Armstrong and his wife Hannah, owners of the Commercial Hotel in Blaine Lake, were found by their daughter Dorothy in their living quarters at the hotel on June 20, 1925. Mrs. Armstrong had a bullet hole behind her right ear. Her husband had shot her with a .45 calibre revolver and then turned the gun on himself.   

The Commercial Hotel in Blaine Lake, 1919.  Nicholas F. Zbitnoff photo Image source
The coroner’s jury concluded that the tragedy was caused by the effects of homebrew obtained from a bootlegger. “Being of the opinion that the late A. W. Armstrong might have kept sober and thus refrained from committing this awful crime … we feel that public opinion demands a searching investigation into the matter of the source of homebrew in this district….  Should the investigation bring to light the party or parties who supplied the homebrew to the late Mr. Armstrong, we ask that they should be prosecuted.”  “Home Brew is Death’s Cause, Opines Jury,” June 23, 1935, p. 1.   Click to read full story

Dorothy and her brother Leslie (about 10 years old) went to live with relatives in St. Catherines, Ontario. 

Jealousy at the White Fox Hotel

At 9:10 PM on April 10, 1959, White Fox hotel keeper Albert Boscher was shot dead by Frank Schoenburger. Albert left behind his wife, Isabel and their five children, Jeanine, Denis, Anita, Rita, and Terry. Mrs. Edith Schoenburger, estranged wife of the killer, was severely wounded during the incident. She had been living and working at the White Fox Hotel. She and Boscher, her employer, were sitting together in the hotel dining room when her husband, a labourer in town, burst in and shot them both with a heavy calibre rifle.

John Wankel, an engineer boarding at the hotel, was sitting in the hotel lobby reading the paper when he saw Schoenburger walk in carrying a rifle. Wankel said the man ripped out the wires of a pay telephone, and then disappeared into the hotel dining room.

Boscher was shot first. As Mrs. Schoenburger struggled with her husband for possession of the gun it fired again, shattering her right arm. “That wasn’t meant for you, Edith,” Schoenburger said after the bullet struck his wife. Her arm later had to be amputated above the elbow.

L. J. Vickers was drinking beer in the hotel beer parlour at about 9:00 PM when he heard the sound of gunshots. Vickers opened the door between the beer parlour and the hotel lobby only to run smack into Schoenburger who was carrying a rifle. “Get out of here or I will shoot you, too,” Schoenburger said. “Accused Seen Carrying Rifle,” Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, October 30, 1959 

The killer then disappeared into the bush surrounding the village of White Fox. RCMP searched unsuccessfully for him all night. At 645 the next day, a nervous and haggard Schoenburger turned himself in to the RCMP at Nipawin, saying he couldn’t remember anything about the night before. He denied knowledge of having killed a man and asked to see his wife.

Testifying in court in November, 1959, Schoenburger described a week of drinking in beer parlours and of hearing insinuations involving his wife and Boscher before the night of the shooting. On November 6th, he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to be hanged on January 26, 1960 at the provincial jail in Prince Albert. The hanging was delayed when an appeal was launched.

Over 30 grounds for appeal were listed by defense lawyer D. L. Tennant of Melfort during a two-day hearing in February 1960. Schoenburger’s conviction was quashed on appeal, and a second trial was opened in June, presided over by Mr. Justice Stewart McKercher.

During the retrial, Mrs. Schoenburger described her 22-year marriage, during which her husband would go on drinking binges that lasted several days. He would do things during these binges that he could not remember later. Eventually, Mrs. Schoenburger left her husband and went to live in the White Fox Hotel, where she also worked. Her husband had tried to get her to stop working at the hotel, mainly because of the rumours about her and her employer, Mr. Boscher. “Pitiful Tale is Related,” Regina Leader-Post, June 20, 1960:   

Frank Schoenburger was convicted of manslaughter for the murder of Albert Boscher on April 10, 1959, and sentenced by Judge McKercher to eleven years in the Prince Albert Penitentiary. Click here  and here and here to read more.

Fight at the Pennant Hotel 

21-year-old William Zeller of the Pennant area was charged and found guilty of stabbing and wounding Arlyn Jamieson, 29, of Cabri during a fight outside the Pennant Hotel.  Jamieson had been drinking in the bar for almost eight hours prior to the fight, and had consumed at least twelve drinks. 

The trouble started when Jamieson repeatedly used an accent to pronounce the name of Zeller’s brother Raymond, who was sitting at the same table. Zeller became angry, and after about three quarters of an hour they went outside to fight. The men wrestled on the ground in front of the hotel and Jamieson was quickly pinned to the ground by Zeller, who had been in the hotel for about two hours. After being allowed back on his feet, Jamieson wanted to continue fighting. Zeller pulled out a knife and said "I’m going to get you, boy." He cut Jamieson on his left forearm, his chin and his left armpit. Zeller testified that he pulled out the knife because he wanted to scare Jamieson away from the hotel, where he was "being a nuisance.” “Men Sentenced in Swift Current,” Leader-Post, June 10, 1980, p. 20 Click here for full story

“I Think I’ve Killed My Wife” 

Arthur Charles Colton, 63-year-old owner of the Village Inn hotel in Candiac, was charged with the second-degree murder of his wife, Doris Colton, 54, on August 29, 1981. He later told the RCMP he “just grabbed a goddam knife and let her have it.” 

Colton and his wife had been arguing and fighting during the early morning hours. She left their bedroom in the hotel for a while but came back again and started arguing all over again. Colton finally got out of bed and found his wife in the hotel bar pouring another drink. That’s when he "went nuts" and grabbed the knife. 

A transcript of a taped telephone conversation quotes the caller as saying, "RCMP, this is the Village Inn at Candiac, ah, better send the police down here and an ambulance. I think I’ve killed my wife." The caller went on to explain, "Well, I, she’s been drunk all night and she just kept on pestering and pestering. And I got so god dam mad that I just, well, I lost my temper. And I think I stabbed her to death." 

Shirley Fayant of Lebret, a guest at the hotel, testified she discovered the body on the floor of the beverage room in the middle of the night. She had been sleeping but got up and went into the nearby beverage room in search of a washroom. When she saw Mrs. Colton's body, Fayant backed into the kitchen and found Colton there, holding the telephone receiver in his lap. "Officer Says Man Told Police He ‘Let Wife Have It’ With Knife,” Regina Leader-Post, June 19, 1982, p. A5 Click here to read full story

Death at the Broadview Hotel Bar 

Matthew Troy McKay, age 18, was stabbed to death during a barroom brawl at the Broadview Hotel on the night of October 30, 2009.  Jordan Lee Taypotat, 20, received severe lacerations to his face during the same incident. McKay was from the Ochapowace First Nation, while Taypotat is from the Kahkewistahaw First Nation, both in the Broadview area. An argument apparently broke out which got out of hand. A 20-year-old man turned himself into the Broadview RCMP detachment a few days later. Click here and here to read more.

Broadview Hotel.  Image from Google Street View, 2011

© Joan Champ 2011

Saturday, 8 October 2011

The Shellbrook Hotel

Shellbrook Hotel, c. 1912. Image source

On a crisp September day in 1912, a shooting party had just returned to Shellbrook. Mrs. J. B. Stirton, wife of the proprietor of the Shellbrook Hotel, had been out with the party. The group was taking their guns out of their car when a .22 calibre rifle accidentally discharged. Mrs. Stirton was shot through the heart and killed instantly. She had been standing on the running board of the automobile when the gun went off. Click here for story.

George Stalker
Not long afterwards, the Shellbrook Hotel was taken over by George Stalker, originally from Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. His father Robert Stalker was the founder of Great West Saddlery Company. In 1896, Stalker came to Prince Albert where he worked in for a time the harness-making business. He married Alice Oram in 1897 in Prince Albert. Two of their three children died in childhood. After Alice died, Stalker married Anna Stewart in 1913 and they had one daughter. 

In the early 1900s, Stalker got into the hotel business. He and W. E. Gladstone took over the Queen’s Hotel in Prince Albert; he later acquired the Royal Hotel in that city. In 1905, Stalker and another partner by the name of Hudson spared no expense building the grand three-storey Kinistino Hotel.  Later he acquired hotel in Shellbrook and eventually disposed of all his hotel interests except the Shellbrook Hotel. Stalker served as the overseer of the village of Shellbrook since its incorporation in 1909. He died in 1931 at age 56, and his widow, Anne Stalker, continued to run the hotel until 1941 when she sold it to James Bowles of Netherhill, Saskatchewan. 

Shellbrook Hotel, c. 1920. Image source
In March of 1935, the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix reported that the “commodious” Shellbrook Hotel was well known for its general comforts and conveniences. ”The hotel is operated on the American plan [meaning that meals were included in the room rate] and has some 30 guest rooms, well-furnished and lighted, warm and scrupulously clean. … The meals and dining room service are all that could be desired. A specialty is the steam-heated bath. There are also sample rooms for commercials. Mrs. Stalker and assistants do everything to make the hotel ‘a real home away from home.’” Star-Phoenix, March 9, 1935, page 6.

Main Street, Shellbrook, c. 1945.  Hotel on right. Image source
Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King stayed at the Shellbrook Hotel during the May 1945 federal election campaign. King recounted his stay at the hotel in his diary:  “After dinner I went to my room and prepared the outline of a speech … It was like old times to look out of the window and to see motor cars ranged on both sides of the road on which the hall was situated. To hear a band strike up in the distance. I rested a few minutes on my back then went on to the hall, shaking hands with many people on the way.” Click here to read the diary of William Lyon Mackenzie King, May 21, 1945, Library and Archives Canada.   

Hon. Mackenzie King with children in Ottawa, 1942. Image source
Across the street from the Shellbrook Hotel, little Bobbie George, age 4 1/2, took in all the excitement with eyes agog. Bobbie, son of RCAF Sgt. Douglas George, wandered over just as King was turning to re-enter the hotel. “Hello,” said Bobbie with his big eyes. The Regina Leader-Post reported that the prime minister smiled down and asked: “Have we shaken hands?” Bobbie shook his head, and Mr. King shook his hand. “Now you turn around here and make a speech,” Mr. King said. Standing behind Bobbie, the prime minister took the little boy’s arms and waved them to the small crowd on the Shellbrook street corner, saying, “I want you all to go home and tell your parents to vote for Mackenzie King.” The Leader-Post concluded, “Bobbie made a record Monday afternoon for Canadian youngsters – he became the youngest campaigner for Prime Minister Mackenzie King.” Click for story

Shellbrook Hotel, c. 1965. Image source
Shellbrook Hotel, May 2011. Joan Champ photo
In 2011, the Shellbrook Hotel was owned by Lucien (Lou) and Donna Dupuis. The hotel featured Luigi's Steak Pit & Ribs restaurant as well as a beverage room on the main floor. Accommodation included four double rooms with bath in the rooms, ranging from $34.20 & $38.20 per night and two single rooms with a bath in the rooms, for $30.20 per night. 

Shellbrook Hotel, April 2006. Joan Champ photo
© Joan Champ 2011

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Saturday, 17 September 2011

The Daintrees of Dilke

Eliza Daintree prepares soup in the kitchen of the Dilke Hotel, 1946. Image source

“If you take a knuckle of beef, simmer it four hours, then throw in some barley, diced carrots, turnips, onions, celery, leaves as well, salt and pepper, you’ll have soup, but 10 to one you won’t have soup like Mrs. George Daintree of Dilke makes,” writes Marjorie Jones in her special to the Regina Leader-Post on March 8, 1946. “That’s her recipe for the kind of soup that has made her name a byword to the travelling public and she doesn’t mind giving it to you. ‘But,’ she says, ‘you can’t make a good soup by just having a good recipe.’ The trick is knowing in just what way to put those ingredients together, but she has been at it since she was 17 and she knows.”  Click here for full story

George and Eliza - A Love Story

Eliza Bruce Dewar was born in Scotland in 1884. She started cooking as a kitchen maid as one of 17 servants on a large London estate. At one time, Eliza took lessons from a French chef who taught her the art of sauce making. “There’s really nothing to French culinary,” she told the Leader-Post reporter. “It’s all in the seasoning.”

Sometime between 1900 and 1905, Eliza met her future husband. Charles Hall George Daintree, born in London in 1883, had been a Barnardo boy - one of the hundreds of "Home Children" sent to Canada in the1890s. George worked on a farm at Elkhorn, Manitoba for four years before returning to London to work, first as a driver of a furniture delivery wagon, and then in a pub. Perhaps George met Eliza (whom he affectionately called Isa) while delivering furniture to the home in which she worked, or perhaps they met in the pub. Whatever the case, the two fell in love. George returned to Canada in 1905, first to work on the farm at Elkhorn, and then to Saskatchewan, where he worked at the Bethune hotel. 

In June 1906, George filed for a homestead nine miles north of Bethune. He worked hard to prove up the homestead and once he received the land title in 1909, he sent for Eliza. She arrived in Canada in November 1910, and married the man she hadn’t seen in six years at St. Chad’s Chapel in Regina.

Happy Years at the Dilke Hotel

In 1921, after ten hard years of farming, George and Eliza decided to move to Dilke with their two children, Robert and Gwendoline. One of the greatest hardships the Daintrees faced on the farm was getting their children to school, four miles away at Kedleston on the shores of Last Mountain Lake. With their past experience in food and beverage service, they traded their farm for the Dilke Hotel, owned at the time by W. J. Hepburn.  

The Dilke Hotel, c. 1912. Source: Ploughshares & Prairie Trails (1982)
The two-story Dilke Hotel had been built in 1909 by John Henry Clifford and son who hired a carpenter from England to head the construction. The hotel had changed hands several times before the Daintrees took over the operation. The family settled in and operated both the Dilke Hotel and the general store in the village for forty years.

Gwen (Daintree) Bathgate provides the following account of her parents' experiences running the Dilke Hotel in Ploughshares & Prairies Trails (1982): “Their days were long for there was much to do in serving the travelling public, washing, ironing, bed-making  preparing meals, bread-baking, dish-washing, lamps to fill, [lamp] chimneys to shine and wicks to trim, and a large establishment to keep clean.  Everyone had their jobs to do. Grandfather [Robert Dewar] cranked the washing machine, Grannie [Mary Jane Dewar] ironed, made beds and did dishes; Mother was the cook; Father was the waiter and cashier.” The hotel was steam-heated by a coal furnace, and there was no electricity. Gasoline lamps were used on the main floor; kerosene lamps lit the upstairs. “I remember a table on the landing on which stood sixteen lamps,” Gwen recalls, “ready to be taken to a bedroom. It was a marvel the place wasn’t burnt.” In 1924, George purchased a Delco light plant and had the hotel wired for electricity.

The Dilke Hotel was a busy place in the 1920s.  Source: Plooughshares & Prairie Trails (1982)
Dilke was on the railway line between Regina and Colonsay, and in the 1920s four trains went through the village daily – two in the morning and two at night. Commercial travellers made good use of this train service during the winter. “It was not uncommon in those early years,” Gwen writes, “to see ten or more men, brief cases in hand, parading from the train to the hotel hurrying to the register to get the best room if they had not booked ahead.” If the place was full, a family member might have to give up their room, or travellers would double up. Business grew so much that by 1924 the Daintrees found they could not keep up. The hotel laundry was sent across to the Chinese laundry; later it was sent to Regina. Bread was bought and extra help was hired.

The Dilke Hotel became well known for its hospitality and for Mrs. Daintree’s cooking. “My mother never turned anyone away hungry” recalls Gwen. “Often she had to hurry a meal along for an early customer, or make an afternoon or evening lunch. On two occasions she was asked to feed passengers on a stalled train. Undaunted, she accepted the challenge, called boarders and family to action, brought out the food and went to work.”

During the forty years that the Daintrees ran the Dilke Hotel, it was more than just a place of business. It became a warm and friendly home, not just for the family, but for teachers, businessmen and students. Doctors and dentists used the hotel rooms to see their patients. Miss Marion Kyllo used the dining room for many years to teach piano lessons. Gwen recalls that the kitchen area was the social hub of the hotel. “I remember Mother, Grannie and the Aunties sharing a cup of tea with their friends,” she writes. “In here, too, Mr. Mortin brightened the afternoon once a month when he called to collect the phone bill and tease ‘the girls’ over a cup of tea. There wasn’t private home with a happier kitchen.”

In the fall of 1945, things got tough for Eliza Daintree. Her mother became seriously ill, and this burden, combined with the constant daily routine and Christmas celebrations, taxed her strength. One day in her haste, she tripped over the family’s big St. Bernard dog and broke her shoulder. Gwen and her husband moved in to help with the hotel operations while her mother recuperated for six weeks in the hospital. 

Eliza Daintree with her grandson, Brian Bathgate, and the family dog, Rough, 
on the steps of the Dilke Hotel, 1947.  Source: Ploughshares & Prairie Trails (1982)
The fall of 1945 was also the ninth year that the Daintrees catered to American hunters. George supplied a car for the hunters and either chauffeured them himself or hired a driver to take them to the hunting areas. One fall, the Dilke Hotel hosted seven different groups from the States, including a Virginian had come for seven years i a row to hunt fowl in the district. “They required a lot of attention and kept us busy from three o’clock in the morning until they went to bed at night so we decided not to have that many again,” Eliza told the Leader-Post reporter in 1946. “We have nothing fancy, just plain ordinary cooking, but they must like it,” she said.  

In the 1950s, Eliza’s health began to deteriorate. The Daintrees sold the Dilke Hotel in 1962 and retired to Regina where Eliza passed away in 1967. George became an active member of the Regina Senior Citizen Centre, and married again in 1971. He died in December 1980 at age 97.

After the Daintrees

John and Dorothy Smith bought the Dilke hotel from the Daintrees in 1962. The 26-year-old parents of four children under the age of seven found the experience of moving from Regina into an old hotel in dire need of repair a bit scary. For one thing, the hotel had no sewer or water. With the help of volunteers from the village and area the Smiths renovated the hotel and opened it – complete with a beverage room which opened its doors to women.  The Smiths continued to modernize the hotel over the ten years that they owned it. The hotel changed hands many times between 1972 and present day. 

In 2010, the Dilke Hotel was for sale for $98,000.  By then, there were eight guest rooms on the upper floor with a common bathroom. The rest of the second floor was living quarters for the proprietor. The main floor had a 64-seat bar, a kitchen and office. A 40-seat patio off the bar was used in the summer months.  

Dilke Hotel, October 2011.  Joan Champ photo

The Dilke Hotel, 2008.  Photo courtesy of Ruth Bitner
Dilke Hotel, 2010. Source: Google Street View
 © Joan Champ 2011

Friday, 2 September 2011

Elkhorn Hotel at Morse

Elkhorn Hotel seen from Main Street in Morse, 1962. Walter Reed photo. Image source

Thanks to Kristine (Montgomery) Flynn for helping me with the research for this article, and for the use of her photographs.

The Elkhorn Hotel at Morse burned down twice before it finally put down roots. Jack Webster built the first Elkhorn Hotel in 1907 directly opposite the CPR station at the corner of Railway and Main. Three years later, in 1910, Webster’s hotel was destroyed by fire. Shortly afterwards, J. A. McAvoy came to Morse and erected the second Elkhorn Hotel which burned down in 1912. McAvoy was undeterred. He rebuilt the third Elkhorn even bigger than before, with steam heating, good lighting and the “finest sample rooms on the line” for commercial travelers.

Elkhorn Hotel, 1913. Image source
The Sodini Brothers bought the hotel from McAvoy in 1913. The Sodinis also owned hotels in Swift Current and Leader, Saskatchewan. While maintaining the good appearance of the Morse hotel, the Sodinis also enlarged the bar and put in a large stock of liquors. According to the Morse News, January 22, 1914, “This stock they kept increasing until it had attained the importance of being as complete a stock as carried by most wholesale houses.” Brando Sodini operated the Elkhorn for 25 years. His obituary in 1938 stated, “Brando, as he was best known by the travelling public and local citizens alike, was a great public-spirited  citizen, always ready to back any civic enterprise that was worthy of a name.”  His funeral service was held in the Elkhorn Hotel prior to the removal of his remains to Minneapolis for burial. Click to read obituary in Leader-Post  

Albert Lyone took over the hotel from the Sodinis in 1914 for a short period. The Morse News expressed a great deal of confidence in Lyone’s management of the hotel. “Mr. Lyone is but a short time in our midst but in our talks with him has impressed us with being a very capable man for this house. He has high ideals that he intends to try and establish once he gets the house into operation which if put into effect should make this hostelry one of the most sought after in the west.” Whether or not Lyone was able to put his high ideals into operation is not known.  Most likely, all dreams for the hotel crumbled with the imposition of Prohibition in July 1916.

By 1918, the Elkhorn Hotel was a place of some ill repute. On November 23, 1918, the Regina Leader-Post reported that the provincial police had raided the hotel at Morse and found several kegs of liquor “of the very worst variety of the Montana make.” Police also found all the necessary items for bottling the stuff in order to do a bootlegging trade. “The whole outfit was taken by the police,” the newspaper states, “and the proprietor [name not provided] was brought before the justice of the peace and fined $200 for transporting the liquor and $50 for having the liquor in a public place.”

Things hadn’t improved much by 1934. The Leader-Post reported in August 23rd that a disgruntled patron, William Bender, upset because he had lost some money in a slot machine at the Elkhorn Hotel, broke into the hotel the next day and stole the offending one-armed bandit. Bender was given a suspended sentence in RCMP court at Moose Jaw, when it was explained that he had returned the slot machine and all the money that was in it to the hotel. Click here to read full story Slot machines were banned in Saskatchewan in 1935.

Ken Doraty, the "Rouleau Flash"
In the early 1940s, the Elkhorn Hotel had a relatively famous owner, NHL hockey great, Ken Doraty. Doraty grew up in Rouleau, Saskatchewan, and played hockey for the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1932 to 1935. Known as the “Rouleau Flash,” Doraty had a couple of major achievements during his NHL career. When the Leafs played the Boston Bruins during the fifth and deciding game of the Stanley Cup Semi-Finals in 1933, Doraty scored the winning goal at the 166:48 mark of the sixth overtime period. Click for full story  At the time it was the longest playoff game in NHL history – a record that has been surpassed only once. As a result of his history-making shot against the Bruins, Doraty was declared a hero of the Toronto-Ranger series. 

Doraty's other big hockey achievement came during a game between Toronto and Ottawa on January 16, 1934 when he accomplished the rarest of all hat tricks in hockey history, scoring three goals in seven minutes and 30 seconds during the overtime period  (in the days before sudden death overtime). Doraty’s NHL career ended around the beginning of WWII and he moved to Morse. He operated the Elkhorn Hotel for a few years, then got into the billiards business in Moose Jaw.  He coached the Moose Jaw Canucks in the 1940s, and a Junior Hockey League team that made it to the Memorial Cup finals in 1947.

Elkhorn Hotel, 2011.  Photo courtesy of Kristine Montgomery
Today, Morse’s Elkhorn Hotel has a tavern and steak pit. It offers a menu which includes pizza, charbroiled items and chicken wings. There’s a pool table, shuffleboard, jukebox, cribbage tables, and other games of chance. On occasion, the bar features live entertainment – everything from country bands to hypnotists.

Elkhorn Hotel, 2011.  Photo courtesy of Kristine Montgomery

© Joan Champ 2011

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Saturday, 9 July 2011

"Ladies and Escorts:" Saskatchewan Liquor Laws in the 1960s

“The most unfortunate feature of the present system is the social discrimination against women, who are looked on as incapable of making their own choices.This business regarding women and Indians, more than half the population, as irresponsible, should be ended.”
- Prof. J. M. Naylor, University of Saskatchewan, Star-Phoenix survey on Saskatchewan's liquor laws, May 8, 1958, p. 3 Source

When Jack Morrow and his son John opened the Shell Lake Hotel on November 15, 1957, only men were allowed in the beer parlour. On Saturday nights, while the farmers were enjoying each other’s company in the bar, their wives often had nowhere else to go. The Morrows made a tiny room in the hotel basement available to women where they could visit without disturbing, or being disturbed by, the men. [Pages of the Past: History of Shell Lake-Mont Nebo Districts, 1983, p. 423] There was a long-standing prairie conviction that women and the public consumption of alcohol did not mix. [James H. Gray, Bacchanalia Revisited, 1982] Saskatchewan beer parlours were men-only enclaves until the early 1960s, when provincial liquor legislation permitted mixed drinking in newly christened “beverage rooms.”

The issue of mixed drinking was briefly debated by the members of the Hotels Association of Saskatchewan at their 22nd annual convention in May 1953. Some felt that allowing women into parlours would create a “more polite” atmosphere and would cut down on drinking in cars. Most, however, were opposed. “If you’re looking for trouble, open ladies’ beer parlours,” one delegate said. Two women hotel operators stated that they felt “that the woman’s place should be in the home and also that they wouldn’t care to look after a woman’s parlour.” In the end, it was decided to leave the decision to “outside organizations.” ["Ladies’ Beer Parlors Discussed by Hotelmen,” in Regina Leader-Post, May 20, 1953, p. 4Click for source 

Gradually, the case built for more liberal liquor laws in Saskatchewan. Veterans of the Second World War had fond memories of spending a happy hour or two with their girls in English pubs or European bistros. After the war, Canadian women were only permitted to drink with men in Legion halls and private clubs. In 1954-55, Manitoba's Bracken Commission investigated the liquor control system and recommended that all provinces hold plebiscites and let people decide if they wanted to widen drinking provisions, including the opening of public drinking facilities to women. This was welcome news to Norm and Sadie Jacklin, owners of the Climax Hotel close to the US border. Many times an American husband and wife travelling through and stopping at the hotel would have to be discreetly taken aside and told about the Saskatchewan liquor law. [Prairie Wool: A History of Climax and Surrounding School Districts, 1980, p. 35] 

In 1958, calls for mixed drinking increased. Regina Police Chief A. G. Cookson, speaking to the local branch of the Associated Canadian Travellers in March, said that men-only bars encouraged rowdyism and vulgarity. “Inject a little dignity into beer parlours by permitting mixed drinking,” he said. “When women are allowed into the parlours it restricts the activity of men.” ["Police Chief Raps Saskatchewan Liquor Laws; Advocates Mixed Drinking, Special Club Licenses," Star-Phoenix, March 8, 1958, p. 3]  

Liquor Sales Outlet Inquiry 

Throughout 1958, Saskatchewan’s Liquor Sales Outlet Inquiry Committee conducted a short but highly energetic investigation. Guided by the Bracken Commission, its ten members visited liquor outlets in Manitoba, Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and North Dakota, received 40 written briefs and heard 80 oral submissions from various organizations. The brief from the provincial hotels association showed it had softened its position. “Women are capable of looking after themselves,” said association president George G. Grant, “and should be allowed to take a drink along with men if they want to.” ["Hotel Association Brief Advocates Mixed Drinking If Liquor Laws Revised," Star-Phoenix, May 2, 1958, p. 3] On the other hand, Norman McGillivray of the Saskatchewan Temperance Federation expressed strong opposition to women in beer parlours. “There are many nice women who would like to have a drink, no doubt,” he said, “but there are many of the other kind, and it would provide them with a nice, warm office.” ["Temperance Group Gets Thorough Quiz as Liquor Outlet Probe is Launched," Star-Phoenix, May 2, 1958, p. 14]

In July of 1958, the committee released its detailed findings. Click to read full story  Three of the main recommendations concerning Saskatchewan’s liquor laws were:  Beer parlours should be improved; the liquor act should be more strictly enforced; and there should be mixed drinking outlets. During the brief debate in the provincial legislature, Attorney-General Robert A. Walker defined the beer parlour as “an outlet which caters to the lowest common denominator of depravity.” He supported beverage rooms with mixed drinking, believing they would end “the obscene kind of drinking” that is done in beer parlours. ["Bars. Beverage Rooms Debated," Star-Phoenix, March 17, 1959, p. 3] 

Liquor Licensing Act

On April 1, 1959, the Liquor Licensing Act established a process of local options votes whereby licensed dining rooms, cocktail bars, and beverage rooms could be established in Saskatchewan communities. Women were allowed into these new liquor outlets. Regulations required that hotel make renovations to convert their beer parlours into beverage rooms in order to accommodate mixed drinking.  Men-only beer parlours could continue to operate, but no beer parlour licenses would be issued to hotels not already licensed at the beginning of 1959. 

Local option votes were held in 195 Saskatchewan centres in November 1959. Surprisingly, the “dry” sentiment still ran strong throughout the rural areas of the province, and most of these communities voted “No” to the new types of liquor outlets. They would have to wait until 1964 before they could vote on the question again. ["Some Saskatchewan Communities Disapprove of New Liquor Laws," Montreal Gazette, Nov 16, 1959, p. 7] 

Leask was one of the few villages in the province that voted to allow a new liquor outlet in 1959. By February 1960, the Windsor Hotel owned by George Cuelenaere was operating one of the first beverage rooms in small-town Saskatchewan. The beverage room, which could accommodate 150 persons, had been decorated in shades of mocha, rosewood and aqua, with matching furniture. ["First Rural Beverage Room in Operation at Leask," Star-Phoenix, Feb. 11, 1960, p. 14] 


In 1961, the Hotels Association of Saskatchewan debated a proposal to hire women to serve beer and wine in beverage rooms. At the association’s annual convention, a woman delegate “received a hearty round of applause when she said that especially in smaller places women should be allowed to work in beverage rooms because a wife could then help out her husband.” George B. Stewart, chairman of the provincial liquor licensing commission, expressed concern about what the hiring of barmaids would do to "the breadwinner of the family." “Put yourself in the place of a person who would be displaced by employing a female,” he said. Stewart urged that the hotelmen study the issue more closely before making any recommendation. Stewart was pleased with having women customers, however. “Permitting the ladies in has made for a much happier operation,” he said. “God bless the ladies for that!” ["Waiters May Be Too Costly, Regina Leader-Post, May 18, 1961, p. 4] Click for source Women were finally allowed to serve beer in Saskatchewan beverage rooms in 1965. They were not, however, permitted to serve beer in beer parlours unless they were wives of hotel licensees or unless they were hotel owners and operators themselves 

Improvements Noticed 

Fields of Prosperity: A History of Englefeld 1903-19
In the early 1960s, a study conducted for the Government of Saskatchewan by research psychologists Robert Dewar and Robert Sommer found that the drinking habits of residents in an unnamed small town had changed very little in the two years following the changeover from a beer parlour to a beverage room in the local hotel. “The dire predictions that the new beverage outlet would sharply increase drinking in the community have not been fulfilled,” the authors reported. 
["Opening of New Liquor Outlet Failed to Change Drinking Habits," Star-Phoenix, May 1, 1963, p. 3] Click for source 

A questionnaire distributed to 179 beverage room operators in Saskatchewan by the provincial liquor licensing commission found improvements in the pattern of drinking behavior, stating that the overall trend was to more leisurely drinking. This improvement was attributed to the presence of women “who are more moderate.” [Sask. Drinking Habits Improve, Regina Leader-Post, May 18, 1961, p. 4] Click for source 

In 1962, Stewart told the 31st convention of the Hotels Association that, prior to the passage of the Liquor Licensing Act three years earlier, “the people of Saskatchewan were the most uncivilized drinkers in the world.” Since then, he asserted, the overall standards of beverage rooms were “magnificent,” saying women had lent the new drinking establishments “an air of decency.” “The Liquor Licensing Commission will be happy when every beer parlour in the province is converted to a beverage room,” Stewart said. ["Act Credited as Drinking Habits Better, Star-Phoenix, May 18, 1962, p. 5]
Mrs. Pauline Sopatyk, Mrs. Olga Wutzke and Mrs. Buzzy Lutzer enjoying a drink in Saskatoon's first mixed drinking beverage room at the Sutherland Hotel, Star-Phoenix, January 6, 1960. Image source
It would take another ten years before the last “Men Only” bars disappeared from Saskatchewan. In the meantime, millions of dollars were spent by the hotel owners of the province making improvements to their guest rooms, dining facilities and licensed outlets. Ab Montgomery, proprietor of the Tisdale Hotel, spent $60,000 enlarging and renovating his facility in 1964. Most of the changes were to the beverage room. Carpet, acoustic tile and inset lighting were installed and a new entrance was constructed. New tables and upholstered chairs were added. [“Hotel Changes Cost $60,000,” Leader-Post, Nov. 17, 1964, p. 2] Joe and Bernie Kaufman, owners of the Ponteix Hotel, began extensive renovations to their beer parlour in 1961 to accommodate the new liquor laws. The result was a more pleasant beverage room that included a fountain, a large aquarium, and carpeting throughout. [Ponteix Yesterday and Today, Volume 1, 1991, p. 345]

Last Men-Only Bastion 

Vic Lynn, proprietor of the Warman Hotel, had to wait until 1972 to have mixed drinking in his establishment. Warman residents had consistently voted against mixed drinking in local option votes. Amendments to provincial liquor laws in 1972 changed the status of beer parlours. Lynn could finally take down the “Men Only” sign and replace it with a "Ladies and Escorts" sign. He had to make a few changes, increasing the seating from 50 to 100 and constructing women’s washroom facilities. The Warman Hotel just north of Saskatoon and the hotel at Marchwell southeast of Yorkton were the last two beer parlours in Saskatchewan that did not allow women to drink in their premises. ["No More ‘Men Only'," Star-Phoenix, May 25, 1972, p. 10]  

Warman Hotel, last bastion of men-only drinking in Saskatchewn. Image source
 © Joan Champ 2011