Sunday, 27 February 2011

Luseland: Ryans Reign at the Royal George Hotel

Royal George Hotel in Luseland, 1946. Bertrand G. Brown photograph, Western Development Museum

Sixty-two years -- must be a record for hotel ownership!

After a difficult delivery, the Royal George Hotel in Luseland has had a long and successful life. When it was first built in 1911, it immediately burned down. The owners, Smith and Gardner, sold their holdings in the hotel to William Engelbrecht. According to the first issue [1911] of the Luseland Despatch, “the townspeople were much relieved when the final arrangements were made public as the need of a good hotel at this point is most urgent, the only public-sleeping quarters being bunkhouses. A full force of men will be put to work at lathing the building Monday. As soon as the first floor is completed the plasterers will follow and then the finishers and, should no unlooked-for delay occur, the hotel will open February 1st [1912].” 

Dennis and Margaret Ryan, 1910
In 1915, Dennis Ryan and his wife Margaret began what would turn out to be a 62-year-long run of Ryan family management of the Royal George Hotel. Born in Ontario, Dennis worked for a time in the hotel at Scott, Saskatchewan, where he met and married Margaret in 1910. The couple homesteaded for a few years before they and their two little daughters moved to Luseland and bought the Royal George Hotel. “The hotel was a haven for many bachelors,” the Luseland history book recounts. “Maggie tried to cater to them as much as possible whether it be a stack of pancakes, a crisp dandelion salad or fresh doughnuts for the priests that stayed there because there was no Roman Catholic church or rectory in town. The first masses were held in a room upstairs.” Three Ryan children were born in the hotel – Laurence in 1917, Albert in 1918, and Leo in 1923. 

Operating the hotel in those days was a 24-hour-a-day, 365-days-a-year job. The ‘Dirty Thirties’ were especially difficult at the Royal George. “The dust blew so hard that it was necessary to spread wet cloths on the window sill to try to keep it out," Kay Ryan Heffner recalls. "It was also a chore to keep all the lamp globes clean and the wicks trimmed to provide light for all the rooms. In the winter it was a full time job to keep all the stoves going to keep all three floors even moderately warm. When the coal stoker was installed and the boiler provided steam heat to all the floors, conditions were much more comfortable.” Dennis Ryan passed away in 1936, and his widow Margaret continued to run the hotel. All the Ryan boys went off to war in the 1940s, leaving one of their sisters to help their mother look after the hotel operations. When Leo returned from his stint in the Navy, he worked for his mother until 1950 when he and his wife Kay took over the Luseland hotel. 

Leo and Kay Ryan, 1949. Luseland Hub and Spokes (1983)
The 1950s brought new prosperity to the Ryans and the Royal George Hotel. The Saskatchewan oil boom and pipeline operations were in full swing. Unfortunately, it was not until 1955 that flush toilets, sinks, showers and bathrooms were installed in the hotel. Before that, each room was provided with a basin, a pitcher, and “a slop jar.” In 1952, the Ryans purchased the first clothes dryer in Luseland which made drying the hotel sheets a lot easier. The average cost of a single room at the Royal George Hotel was $2. “ This was not very profitable when, say on July 1 a ‘cowboy’ would rent a room for $2, invite two dozen more friends to join him and make a big mess,” Leo Ryan’s wife recalls. “Needless to say the yearly stampede was not looked on with joy.”  Hunting season was also a busy time for the hotel – every room would be full. 

In 1960 the hotel industry in Saskatchewan underwent a big change. Women were allowed to enter hotel beverage rooms “making the atmosphere much more pleasant for both guests and workers,” in Kay’s opinion. At this time women started working in the beverage room and Kay was able to help there, too. Leo Ryan passed away in 1977, and the Luseland hotel was bought by Hopfner Holdings. Thus ended the Ryan family reign at the Royal George Hotel. In 1995, Luseland’s old hotel had to be shut down for five months to repair damage done by a fire. Today,the hotel still operates with eight semi-modern rooms available on a daily or monthly basis for $18 per night.

Royal George Hotel, Luseland, 2010.  Courtesy of Gregory Melle

Watch video showing the town of Luseland, misspelled "Luceland," August 2009, including the hotel (20 seconds in): YouTube link

© Joan Champ, 2011

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1 comment:

  1. I heard, not that I would, some under age people used to go there from Kerrobert to purchase beer at the pub. Those were the days when you had to sign a take out slip before you got the beer. I also heard, John Smith drank a lot of beer!!