|Chinese immigrants in Canada, c. 1900. Image source|
“George Brennan built the first hotel and managed it until Prohibition came. When he could no longer get a license for the bar, he sold it to some Chinamen.” This line from Pennant’s history book describes a typical scenario. When Saskatchewan’s hotels hit hard times, the province’s small Chinese community stepped in to pick up the pieces, keeping those hotels in business. Many Saskatchewan hotels were owned and operated by Chinese throughout the Prohibition years of the teens and 1920s, and into the Depression of the 1930s. In his address to the annual convention of the Hotel Association of Saskatchewan in 1952, George G. Grant stated that, back in the early1930s, “the condition of hotels was desperate, and half the hotels were operated by Orientals.” (Saskatoon StarPhoenix, May 20, 1952, p. 3)
Chow Chow on right, with Robin Chow, n.d.
From A Link to Our Heritage: Lacadena and District (1989)
|The Wong Gin family of Herbert, 1940. Image Source|
|The Herbert Hotel in 1908.Image source|
|Edam Cafe and Hotel, n.d Image source|
Back in Pennant, Young Yenchew (aka Charlie) and Yok Yee (aka George), owners of the Pennant Hotel for many years, were considered “friends to all,” especially the children. The hotel café was a great place to meet for a 25-cent banana split, or an orange drink called “belly wash” for five cents. Charlie loved the sport of curling, and attended many bonspiels throughout the region. “When they left Pennant,” the history book reports, “a large crowd gathered at the Memorial Hall to say thank you for all the years of service to the community.”
Once economic conditions improved during the war years of the 1940s, the number of Chinese hotel owners in the province dropped substantially.