Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Bjorkdale Hotel - Good for the Spirit

The Speddings

The Bjorkdale Hotel was built in 1935 by William (Bill) Spedding.  He had emigrated from Blackburn, England to Quebec in 1905, and moved to Saskatchewan in 1907 with his wife Esther, and their two children, John and Nellie. Spedding filed on a homestead in the Bjorkdale district in
John, Esther and William Spedding, c 1935. Source: A Season or So
1910, and became the first postmaster of Bjorkdale the following year. After serving overseas during the First World War, Spedding was the Massey Harris dealer in Bjorkdale before building the hotel. In 1935, the sale of beer was finally legal in Saskatchewan, so Spedding’s plans for hotel included a beer parlour. “The general public regarded this innovation with mixed feelings,” the Bjorkdale history book records. The original hotel had six guest rooms upstairs, and a lobby, small dining area, kitchen, and beer parlour downstairs. Only draught beer was sold – 10 cents for an 8-ounce glass. Source: A Season or So, Bjorkdale Historical Committee, 1983.

 The Bates

In 1937, Spedding sold the hotel to Charles and Esther Bates. The Bates had been travelling around Saskatchewan in search of a small business. Along the way, they met a friend
Esther Bates and son Sydney, c. 1940
who told them there was a hotel for sale in Bjorkdale “It is a good business and I can recommend it to you,” said their friend, who just happened to be a hotel inspector. In 1942, something happened which changed the Bates’ lives forever. Two young ministers were invited to hold church services in the living room of the hotel on Wednesday evenings. These services were well attended. Charles, who was serving as the bartender in the beer parlour, heard the music in the living room. He wouldn’t go in to hear the preachers, but he couldn’t help wondering just what they were talking about. So no one would know, Charles filled the beer glasses in the parlour, and then sneaked out through the kitchen to listen through the keyhole in the door. “On March 17, 1944, while I was putting on a novelty dance (proceeds to go to the Red Cross), Charles thought things through and went into the living room and had a private talk with God.” Three days later, the Bates advertised the hotel for sale, and set off for theological college in Winnipeg. In the early 1950s, Rev. Charles and Mrs. Bates founded, built and served as the superintendents of the Bethel Haven Rest Home for the Aged at Nipawin. Source

The Harpolds

The Harpolds
Fred and Murial Harpold bought the Bjorkdale from the Bates in 1944. The Harpolds had formerly owned the hotel at nearby Crooked River. They turned it over to their son Ernest, opting to run the smaller hotel in Bjorkdale as Fred’s health was failing. After two and a half years, they sold due to poor health.  
The Harpold Hotel, 1944.  Source: A Season or So

The Courchenes

Andrew (Andy) Courchene was the son of Joe and Blanche Courchene, hotel operators in St. Benedict, Saskatchewan. He had married a Bjorkdale girl, Evelyn Duchesneau, in 1944, and after serving overseas during the Second World War, bought the Bjorkdale Hotel in November of 1946. Along with their sons Denis and Donald and daughter Diane, their stay as operators of the hotel lasted 27 years.  

Denis, Diane, Andy, Donald, and Evelyn Courchene, 1953. Source: A Season or So
 “Those first five years in Bjorkdale were busy ones, as Highway 23 was being built, and the government opened up the Bjork Lake agricultural project,” recalls Evelyn Courchene, who, in addition to serving as the hotel’s proficient cook, wrote about Bjorkdale events in the Tisdale Recorder for 22 years. “We boarded and fed engineers and surveyors, construction foremen and labourers.” By the standards of the day, the Bjorkdale Hotel was fairly well equipped. Water was the most important factor, with a pump installed at the kitchen sink. “No doubt I was the envy of many women, who had to carry water for all their needs from an outdoor well,” Mrs. Courchene writes. “I cooked on a wood stove for years.” The hotel had always been heated with hot air – one large register above the furnace. “It was necessary for Andy to get up at least once during the night during the real cold weather to stoke it up with tamarack.” Electricity came to Bjorkdale in 1951; prior to that the hotel had a 32-volt power plant for lighting. “Coal oil lamps were kept ready in case the plant failed which it did with regularity!” Food was kept in an ice-box; beer kegs were kept cold during the summer months by chunks of ice cut from the nearby Bjork Lake and packed in sawdust.  

Andy Courchene in the hotel's beer parlour, 1953. Source: A Season or So
In 1961, after the provincial government permitted mixed drinking, the Courchenes built an addition on the side of the hotel to accommodate more patrons. The old beer parlour was converted to a kitchen, bedroom, and private family room. The new beverage room, complete with washrooms and refrigeration space, was called the Dell Room. “The classier surroundings, carpeted floors, attractive
The Courchenes, c. 1970.
drapery, comfortable seating, and softer lighting, created an atmosphere of respectability and congeniality – at last,” the Bjorkdale history book remembers. “The presence of females was not only a novelty but an asset in this respect.” The hotel received a facelift in 1966, with exterior aluminum siding in white and rust, and new sliding windows. Another addition was built onto the hotel by the Courchenes in 1972.  The beverage room could now seat over 90 people, with a pool table, two shuffleboards, and a juke box providing entertainment. By this time, the sale of hard liquor was permitted, as was the sale of sandwiches and packaged foods.

The longer business hours and larger premises created more work for Andy and Evelyn Courchene. They were growing weary after 27 years of public service. “The decision to sell wasn’t easy,” writes Evelyn, “but none of our children were interested in the demanding life of the small-town hotel.” They sold the Bjorkdale Hotel to Jack and Muriel Pearson of Kelvington in 1973. Source: A Season or So, Bjorkdale Historical Committee, 1983.

Bjorkdale Hotel, 1981. Source: A Season or So

© Joan Champ, 2013

Monday, 16 September 2013

Kindersley's Seymour Hotel

The Prairie Trail Hotel, formerly the Seymour Hotel, in Kindersley, 2007.  Joan Champ photo

In October of 1909, when town lots went up for sale in Kindersley, the Canadian Northern Railway realized sales of over $60,000 – the most expensive of which was a lot on the corner of Railway and Main that sold for $1,200 the lot for the Seymour Hotel. Source  Construction began on the hotel that year, and by the spring of 1910 there was a fine looking, three-storey wooden structure standing on the street corner.
The Seymour Hotel on the left, Kindersley, 1910 Source

Charles C. Rogers, the former proprietor of the King Edward Hotel in Saskatoon, bought the Seymour Hotel in 1913 for $85,000 – an increase of $25,000 over the price paid for the hotel ten months earlier. Source  The Canada Census for 1916 shows that 60-year-old Charles and his 49-year-old wife, his daughter (age 26), his son Eska (age 33) and his daughter-in-law (age 27) were living in Kindersley's Seymour Hotel. Five years earlier, they had all been living in the King Edward Hotel in Saskatoon. The Seymour Hotel staff in 1916 included a bookkeeper, a chambermaid, a restaurant keeper, a cook, and three waitresses. Fourteen guests were staying at the hotel when the census was taken. Two years later in October 1918, Eska E. Rogers died, possibly from the terrible Spanish Flu that raged through the world that year. His father Charles died in 1923.

The Seymour Hotel in the 1920s Source

In 1944, William Dobni purchased the Seymour Hotel. Originally from Austria, Dobni came to Canada in 1909 and by 1916 was living in Kindersley. William operated the hotel along with his wife Anna and their six sons until his death in 1955. After his death, Anna and her sons continued to run the hotel until 1975 when they sold the business. One of his sons, James Dobni, served on the Kindersely town council for many years, including as mayor for a time. Source  

Main Street, Kindersely, in the 1940s. Hotel on left Source

Kindersley in 1953 with the Seymour Hotel on the left Source

Marvin and Pearl Gilbertson bought the hotel in Kindersley, now called the Prairie Trail Hotel. The Gilbertsons, originally from Saskatoon, had owned the hotel in Meath Park before moving to Kindersely. In 1981, they moved to Swift Current where they bought their third hotel, the Imperial. Source

Demolition of the hotel, March 2011 Source
By 2011, the old Seymour Hotel known as the Prairie Trail Hotel was Kindersley's oldest building. That year, a public health recommendation led to its demolition. The building, no longer deemed safe, had been closed for a couple of years. Source

© Joan Champ, 2013

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Unfair Play at the Windthorst Hotel

Windthorst, c. 1910. Hotel in distance on left. Source

In 1907, Albert E. Playfair from Whitewood, Saskatchewan, and John Berglund built the three-storey Windthorst Hotel. It opened in 1908. By 1911, William Williamson was the hotel keeper. He lived in the hotel with his son Finlay, and his daughters Iva and Elda. According to the 1911 Canada census, nine other people lived at the hotel as well, including the bartender, the cook and her three young daughters, two waitresses, a housekeeper, and a chambermaid. Williamson sold the hotel to Tom Henry after Saskatchewan introduced Prohibition in July 1915. 

Windthorst Hotel, c. 1910. Source: Windthorst Memories, 1980.
The 1916 Canada Census shows that owner Thomas Henry, age 58, was living at the Windthorst Hotel along with his 13-year-old daughter, Vivian. There is no mention of his wife, although he is listed as married. Other residents include hotel employees: the Chinese cook Duck Lee, a 21-year-old Polish kitchen girl, a 20-year-old waitress from Russia, a 64-year-old porter, a stableman, a chauffeur, and a Danish engineer, age 33. 

Tom Henry got into some trouble of a personal nature. Census records for 1916 show that 21-year-old Alice Ellen Playfair, daughter of Albert Playfair, the builder of the Windhorst Hotel, was working as the housekeeper at the hotel that year. Alice was living with two of her brothers in a private home in the village. Alice and Tom must have had an affair, because genealogical records show that Alice eventually became his second wife. Source Tom's first wife, Ellen or Nell (Robinson), is listed in the 1916 census as a residing, unemployed, in a separate residence from the hotel with her seven-year-old daughter, Ethel.

Tom Henry also got into some trouble with the law while operating the Windthorst Hotel. In the spring of 1919, he was convicted of perjury and sentenced to a year of hard labour in the Regina jail. This resulted from his appeal of his previous conviction for hiding liquor in with his stock of soft drinks at the hotel in Windthorst - a no-no during Prohibition. Source

In 1918, Jack Johnson and his wife Olga bought the Windthorst Hotel and ran it until 1945. According to the Windthorst history book, Jack had started out building and driving race cars in the early 1900s in Iowa. He came to Canada in 1903 and settled first in Findlater, and later in Riceton where he operated a cafĂ©. "Mr. and Mrs. Johnston made their hotel business an asset to the community in many ways, opening their doors freely for public functions and making the hotel a gathering place of the district. It was a ‘home away from home’ for the young people who were employed in the village," the town history records. "Social functions which included weekly card parties, bridal showers, and wedding receptions were held at the hotel." (Source: WIndthorst Memories; A History of WIndthorst and District, 1980)

The Johnstons, who had no children of their own, opened their hearts to three children of the Lenius family, following the death of their mother in 1920. Annie, Frank and Joe Lenius were foster children of the Johnstons, who gave them a happy home while they continued their schooling.  

Jack Johnston had many interests. "His main hobby was taxidermy and he mounted birds and animals with an artist’s touch," states the Windthorst history book. "So much so that some of his specimens are in the Smithsonian Institute… and some are in the Provincial Museum in Regina." Johnston served on the Windthorst Village Council for eighteen years. After he retired from the hotel business in the mid-forties, he sold it to Joe Lenius,  He then opened a movie theatre in town called the Johnston Theatre which he operated from 1947 to 1954 when ill health necessitated his retirement. Jack Johnson died in 1957 at age 78. Source

Removing the third floor, 1966. Source: Windthorst history book
Jack's foster son, Joe Lenius and his wife Emmie ran the Windthorst Hotel from 1945 until 1950, when they sold it to Ron and Marg Morrison. The Morrisons renovated the hotel extensively between 1950 and 1976. The biggest change they made was to remove the third storey of the building in 1966. A lunch counter, and later a cafe, replaced the hotel's dining room.

The Windjacks became the owners of the Windthorst Hotel in 1979. Once again, renovations were undertaken, and a steak pit was added. A variety of entertainment was featured in the hotel bar.

Norm and Karen Jones bought the hotel in 1993 and changed its name to Norm's Place Hotel. The hotel was put up for sale by the Jones in 2009 - asking price: $235,000. The price went up to $350,000 in 2013. The real estate listing for the hotel in Windthorst stated that it had a 100-seat beverage room and steak pit; a commercial kitchen on the main floor; eight non-modern guest rooms; and an office and guest lounge on the second floor. The bar featured four VLTs, a lottery kiosk, and offered special promo nights -- wings, steaks, golf, poker, and pizza. The hotel had two full-time and six part-time employees.

Norm's Place Hotel in Windthorst, Google Street View, 2013
 © Joan Champ, 2013

View Larger Map

Monday, 5 August 2013

Quill Lake: One Family - Two Hotels

In 1906, Robert and Annie Florence Bannatyne sold their hotel in Oak Lake, Manitoba, and with their one-year-old son Herman, headed for Saskatoon. They planned to buy the Flanagan Hotel, but on the train they met Charles Volkes, a real estate dealer who persuaded them that Quill Lake was the place with a future. They bought a boarding house and enlarged it into the three-storey Leland Hotel. This was the beginning of the Bannatyne hotel “dynasty” that lasted until the 1950s. 

Robert Bannatyne was the son of a prominent Winnipeg family.  His mother was Metis woman Anne “Annie” McDermot Bannatyne; his father was Andrew Graham Ballenden Bannatyne, a fur trader, politician and “possibly the wealthiest, probably the most influential, certainly the most highly esteemed man in the Red River community.” Born in 1867, Robert grew up in one of the best homes in Winnipeg – a “noble mansion” on the banks of the Assiniboine River called Ravenscourt. The two hotels Robert Bannatyne built in Quill Lake were much humbler structures. Source  

Leland Hotel (far left), c1920. Source

The Leland Hotel

The Leland Hotel on the corner of Main Street was built in 1906 by Robert Bannatyne. A number of Quill Lake residents initially opposed Bannatyne’s license for a hotel. The hotel license commissioners of the day, however, felt the community needed a place of public accommodation, and the thirty-room, three-storey Leland Hotel, complete with sample rooms and steam heat, opened in the fall of 1906. One of the first functions held at the hotel was a banquet given by the Board of Trade on December 10, 1906 to celebrate the incorporation of Quill Lake as a village. The hotel did a roaring business until 1916 when the bar was closed due to Prohibition.

Leland Hotel, no date. Source

Leland Hotel, c1915. Source
Mrs. Bannatyne is reported to have been a jolly woman who loved having company despite the busy life she led. She often had her sister Ellen helping her with the chores of running the hotel and looking after the Bannatyne’s ten children. Source and With Quill in Hand; Quill Lake and District, 1903 to 1983, Quill Lake Historical Society, 1984.

Robert and Annie Bannatyne with their ten children, c. 1925.  Source: With Quill in Hand (1984)
Bannatyne sold the Leland hotel in 1920, due, no doubt, to poor business during Prohibition. The
Source: With Quill in Hand (1984)
new owner was Edward A. Cunningham, an Irishman from Liverpool, England. Edward and his wife Jessie came to Saskatchewan in 1907 with their three children. In 1915, they sold their homestead and bought the Invermay Hotel which they operated for a short time. In 1922, the Cunninghams and their four children moved to Quill Lake where they bought the Leland Hotel. The the onslaught of the Depression spelled doom for many a country hotel, and in 1929 the Cunninghams retired to Saskatoon. 

Two Chinese men, including “Der Louie” took over the Leland Hotel in the late 1930s, but after Archie McLean was murdered in November of 1939, they left. The police may have given them a hard time. McLean, an elderly bachelor, had participated in a late-night poker game held in a room at the hotel. The following morning, he was found dead in his shack by the village watchman.  The old-age pensioner had been beaten to death with a piece of wood. Fred Zazula, a 31-year-old farm labourer, was charged with the murder, the motive being robbery. When McLean left the poker game at the Leland Hotel, he had money in his pockets, but when his body was found, his pockets had been turned inside-out, and only a few coins were found on his body. Source 

Leland Hotel in the 1920s.  Source: With Quill in Hand (1984)
Major changes were made to the Leland Hotel after Edward W. Walker bought the business in 1941. Walker, a barber originally from Winnipeg, removed the second and third floors of the building, which included 20 guest rooms. Walker then operated his barber shop and poolroom on the main floor. 

 Apparently, the hotel still had eight rooms and plenty of living space for Walker, his wife Irene, and their four children.  The balconies were also removed, the windows changed, and some partitions removed and a stucco job done on the front.  “Our old building, known as Ed’s Barber and Billiards, has quite a history,” Walker wrote in the Quill Lake history book. “It was the largest hotel in the district in the early days, an old-time bar, a liquor outlet, and later a restaurant before I took over in 1941. … Heating was always a problem. There was a leaky hot water system which I changed to steam to heat the front part of the building and I had a big barrel wood stove in the poolroom part in the back. Steam was later piped back there, too. A big threshing boiler – hand fed, supplied the steam for heat; later a stoker, then an oil-burning furnace, which was at last converted to natural gas. Gasoline lamps were used over my pool tables for the first two years. Water kept coming up in the basement and had to be pumped out twice a day at least. Finally sewer and water and inside plumbing was a wonderful change when it came to town. ….”  (Source: With Quill in Hand; Quill Lake and District, 1903 to 1983, Quill Lake Historical Society, 1984, p. 843) 
Photo by Ruth Bitner

Walker sold the Leland hotel to Mac Wilson and Thomas Scarfe in 1982. It was used as a game arcade, with pinball machines and a pool table. The building was torn down sometime after that, replaced by a park and the Quill Lake roadside attraction – a large Canada goose.

The Quill Lake Hotel 

After Robert Bannatyne sold the Leland Hotel in 1920, he turned to farming.  He kept his hand in with business in Quill Lake, however. He owned a store across Main Street from his old hotel. In 1929, the original O.C. King Hardware store was remodeled and opened as the Quill Lake Hotel by Bannatyne. He operated the hotel until he died in 1934 at age 70. The business was taken over by Bannatyne’s daughter, Mrs. Flo Piett, who ran it until 1940. Other members of the Bannatyne family operated the Quill Lake Hotel throughout the 1940s. Herman, also known as “Toots” because he played saxophone in the town orchestra for local dances, ran the hotel with his wife Jean until his brothers, Garnet and Jim, returned from overseas after the Second World War. Garnet brought with him a bride from Holland and their four-month-old daughter. (Source: With Quill in Hand; Quill Lake and District, 1903 to 1983, Quill Lake Historical Society, 1984)

Annie Bannatyne passed away on June 3, 1945. She was survived by all ten of her children. The Bannatyne’s Quill Lake Hotel was still standing in 2013.

Quill Lake Hotel across the street from the former Leland Hotel site, August 2013. Joan Champ photo

© Joan Champ 2011

View Larger Map