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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6 comments:

  1. Great site..really enjoy the stories and look backs on history of these old small town hotels! Keep up the great work!!

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  3. My parents. Ron and Pauline Wills owned the Elkhorn Hotel in Morse Sask. from 1960 until 1972!

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    1. I would love to hear any stories you have about this interesting period in the Elkhorn's history. Please contact me at joanchamp@shaw.ca if you feel like sharing!

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  4. Spent many hours waiting in the truck while my older brothers were in the bar. I was too young to go in the bar, but old enough to be the designated driver.

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