Sunday, 15 May 2011

Sasko: The Hudson Bay Hotel's Pet Moose

Alcide Marcotte with Sasko, 1911. Source: Valley Echoes (1980)
In the winter of 1911, lumberjacks brought a baby moose to Marcotte’s Hotel at Hudson Bay Junction located in north-east Saskatchewan. They had caught the moose calf in the woods surrounding village. The hotel owner, Alcide Marcotte, obtained a government permit to enable him to keep the moose in captivity. ‘Sasko’ became the family pet. Every day, it would climb the steps of the Marcotte’s Hotel to be fed. It basically had the run of the hotel.

Rosalie Marcotte with Sasko, 1911. Valley Echoes (1980)
By the summer of 1911, Sasko must have outgrown the Marcotte’s hotel. The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix reported on July 13th that the one-year-old moose had arrived at the CNR station from Hudson Bay Junction, packed in a piano box.  “Saskatoon is to have a little zoo of its own opposite the Flanagan Hotel [now the Senator Hotel on 21st St.],” the newspaper stated.  “Sasko … is turned loose inside a small run on 20th Street, and seems quite at home.” Mr. G. A. Wilding, the new owner, stated that his intention was to present Sasko to the street railway company when it opened up a park after the system had started, as a first donation to their zoological department.

None of this ever happened. Saskatoon Municipal Railway did not begin operating until 1913. It is not known what happened to Sasko.

Marcotte's Hotel 

Alcide Marcotte came from Quebec to the Prud’homme region of what is now Saskatchewan with his parents and eight siblings in 1897. Alcide was well-educated and became an entrepreneur, dealing in real estate. He was always building, buying and selling hotels. When the Canadian Northern railway line came through around 1905, he owned hotels in Warman, Osler and Vonda. 

Marcotte's Hotel, c. 1910. Valley Echoes (1980)
In 1907, Alcide and his father, Joseph A. Marcotte, built the hotel at Hudson Bay Junction (called Etomami until 1909; “Junction” was dropped in 1947).  “There was a long bar with a brass rail and beautiful big mirrors over it,” Alcide’s daughter Elsie wrote in the Hudson Bay history book. “The customers were nearly all lumberjacks from the woods and they had every kind of liquor [in the hotel bar] they wanted.”

Alcide and Rosalie Marcotte. Image source
Alcide married Rosalie, 20 years his junior, in Duck Lake. They had four children, Donald, Wilfred, Maurice and Elsie, who were raised in the hotel at Hudson Bay Junction. “I sure did love that hotel,” Elsie recalled. "It brings back so many memories. In those days we didn’t have plumbing or electricity so everything was a lot of hard work.  My father really built Hudson Bay Junction and owned most of the town at one time. He was a real business man and very smart.  He treated mother like a princess. She was never allowed to work around the hotel, only to dress and look pretty for him.  He was so proud of her and of course, she was never allowed to worry about business.  When he died in 1920, she knew nothing of money matters or the hotel business." (Valley Echoes: Life along the Red Deer River Basin, Saskatchewan, 1900-1980)

When Alcide passed away in 1920, Rosalie managed Marcotte’s Hotel with the help of her sons. In 1928, she was doing all the cooking for the hotel and needed help. A young woman named Josephine from Gimli, Manitoba, came to work in the kitchen. “The chambermaid and I became good friends,” Josephine recalled, “and we would often go for walks but not too far away from the buildings because the bush with wild animals was so close by.” (Valley Echoes) Josephine married Donald Marcotte in 1929. In 1935, Maurice Marcotte took over ownership of the hotel when his mother and sister, Elsie, moved to Los Angeles, California. A beer parlour opened in the hotel that same year.

Marcotte's Hotel, 1953 Source

The Marcotte family operated the hotel until 1955 when they sold it to a Mr. King. Not long afterwards, Ovide Desrochers and Arthur Kelm became the owners, changing its name to the DesRochers Hotel.

DesRochers Hotel in Hudson Bay, 2007.  Ruth Bitner photo

© Joan Champ 2011

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