Friday, 4 March 2011

Simpson Hotel: The Bar Spells Success

Simpson Hotel, cafe entrance, 2006.  Joan Champ Photo

Eli “Tom” Tikotsky was tired of homesteading. He had lived for only a short time on the homestead he had filed on in 1906 – NE 24-29-26 – near Simpson. One day, he went over to his neighbours' house and told them he had decided to build a hotel in town. Even with the proceeds from the sale of his homestead, Tikotsky was not a wealthy man. He had to borrow some money, and in 1912 he built the Adanac Hotel – the same hotel that still stands today on the corner of Railway and Main in Simpson. The two-storey hotel provided accommodation for the travelling public, and it also had a small bar that sold beer, whiskey, even champagne. It became a meeting place for the men of Simpson and area. There were no seats; patrons stood up to the bar with a foot on the bar rail. Cuspidors (spittoons) were set on the floor for tobacco chewers. By 1915, Tikotsky's venture was a success. He sold the hotel, paid off his debts and moved to Edmonton where, it is said, he became the owner of several restaurants. 

With the advent of Prohibition in July 1915, the bars closed and, like all Saskatchewan hotels, the hotel in Simpson lost a lucrative source of income. The Adanac Hotel changed owners almost every year between 1915 and July 16, 1924, when Saskatchewan voters ended Prohibition in a province-wide plebiscite. In 1925, H. Leung and G. Yok bought the hotel in Simpson and renamed it the Royal Hotel. They operated the hotel into the 1930s. In 1935, when the government once again allowed hotels to serve beer by the glass, the Chinese owners were not permitted to hold a liquor license unless they were naturalized Canadians. Roger Cave of Simpson had to apply for the license in their place. 

Grants Hotel, Simpson, c. 1940.  From Down Memory Lane, 1986

The Simpson hotel bar, c. 1950
Cecil D. Grant owned the hotel from 1938 to 1944¸ calling it the Grants Hotel. Some improvements were made to the hotel, as financial circumstances improved during the years of the Second World War. According to Simpson’s history book (1986), “It comprised a small lobby which was seldom used, a good-sized café which served excellent and generous meals, and a beer parlour. The hotel was not blessed with running water in those days, but the Grants tried to make it as comfortable as possible, redecorating and refurbishing the rooms, and eventually having the outside of the building stuccoed.”  Grant’s daughter, Olive, remembered some of the people who frequented hotel during those years. “For a short time Dr. McFarlane, a dentist from Regina, came once a month and set up his practice in the upstairs parlour. Then there was Miss Margaret McCullip who came by from Liberty and gave violin lessons, returning home on the last train. Many people who worked in the hotel bring back pleasant memories:  our invaluable waitress, Elida Pederson who whistled like a bird when she worked; Rita French, Flunky (Elwood) Adams, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Ellams, Roger Cave, Percy Jarvis and many others.” 

While their husbands enjoyed a beer in the men-only bar of the Simpson Hotel in 1953, their wives visited in the cafe. From Down Memory Lane, 1986
During the late 1940s, Mrs. F. Borgonofsky owned the Simpson hotel. It must have been a management challenge for her, because, as a woman, she was not allowed to enter the bar of her own hotel. This at a time when¸ according to the Dominion Bureau of Statistics, two thirds of the gross income of Saskatchewan hotels came from the sale of beer in 1949.  Extensive renovations were made to Hotel Simpson during the 1950s by owners Morris (Mo) and Ruth Kliman. The kitchen was relocated, a walk-in refrigerator was added, running water was installed from the hotel well, and a new bar was added.  On April 1, 1959, the province’s Liquor Licensing Act was passed which allowed women into licensed dining rooms and beverage rooms. Regulations required that hotels make renovations to their beverage rooms to accommodate mixed drinking.  Other owners of the Simpson Hotel were:
1959-61:  Stan Gilley
1961-68:  Adolph Kopp; Daisy Tebay ran the hotel cafe
1966-71:  Cliff Hagen
1973-76:  Adolph and Frances Kopp
1976:  Jim and Sandy Zitaruk
2011:  Jean Robert Matte and Helen Wallas

The Simpson Hotel beverage room, 2006.  Joan Champ photo
Entrance to the bar, Simpson Hotel, 2006.  Joan Champ photo

Watch video of the main street of Simpson, October 2008: YouTube link

© Joan Champ, 2011

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  1. Simpson Hotel has an interesting history. Looks like not much have changed in it's outside appearance since it's Grants Hotel days.

  2. Thanks for reading my blog. Most of these old small-town hotels have changed very little from the early days -- other than stuccoing over the wood exterior, removing balconies and verandahs, and of course, sprucing up the beverage room.

  3. My grandfather was the proprietor around 1916-1917. Good to see it still
    stands. Some day I'd like to see it in person. It's on my bucket list.

    1. For sure do it! I work there now as my grandparents (Jean and Helen) own the place. It's a cute bar and they upgraded the kitchen so we now cook breakfast and burgers :) they have turned it into a pretty decent restaurant and even hid the vlts so kids can now come in

  4. Loved reading this! My great-grandparents and family lived in Simpson in the early days. I need to refresh my memory on dates and post again!!

  5. I have spent many memorable nights in there, and it never has changed much-same old pals sitting around enjoying a Pilsner and enjoying the ambience.

    1. Much the same as most small-town hotel bars around Saskatchewan! It's a bit like comfort food -- comfort beer perhaps?! There are rarely any surprises when you enter one -- beer logos and deer antlers on the walls, hockey game playing on a TV over the bar, and the ever-present codger corner!

  6. I have spent a lot of time in that place!! One of our favorite haunts, and the food there is excellent!

    1. So great that this hotel is still going strong! These old hotels are community centres in their own right.

  7. Family rumour is that Charles Francis " Frank" Quenette helped manage the hotel when he first came to Simpson in 1912 or 1914. He was my Great great grandfather.

  8. I worked here for Helen and Jean for a few months in 2016. I read the history of the hotel. It's amazing. What an interesting place.

  9. Hi

    I see your website mentions Mr and Mrs Jack Ellams and Daisy Tebay. I am a family historian and believe that Mrs Ellams (Lillian Ethel) nee Beck and Daisy Tebay, formerly McCrae nee Beck were possibly sisters and the daughters of Albert George and Edith Mary Beck nee Jenvey. There was a son, Albert John Beck, kia in 1945 and his records mention Daisy Ada Beck/Mcrae and Lillian E Ellams as full blood sisters plus Nesta Edith Dick and ???? May Archer (cannot decipher first name on records) as half blood sisters. Given that this was back in 1945, surnames may have changed over the years.

    Albert George Beck was a brother of my sister in law's grandmother which is what sparked my interest.