Sunday, 29 March 2015

The Raymore Hotel

The Raymore Hotel, 1911. Source

On an April day in 1908, Archibald G. MacLean set out on a long walk. MacLean had arrived from
Archie MacLean and family
Prince Edward Island a few years earlier and was working as a clerk in the Govan general store. Ambitious, he wanted more. When he heard that the Grand Trunk Railway line was being built from Melville to Saskatoon, he walked 46 kilometres from Govan to the site chosen by the GTR for the town to be called Raymore. MacLean acquired several lots, and set up business in a tent. By 1908, he had built a general store, and by 1911, he had constructed a three-storey hotel. To finance the hotel, MacLean set up the Raymore Trading Company with two partners, whom he later bought out, becoming the sole owner. MacLean also served as Raymore’s first postmaster, a position he held until 1950 when he retired. [Source: From Prairie Wool to Golden Grain: Raymore and District, 1904-1979.]

The lobby of the Raymore Hotel, 1913. Source: Raymore local history book, 1979.

The Raymore Hotel's bar, 1913. Source: Raymore local history book, 1979.

By 1916, according to the Canada census, William “Bill” Baker, age 55, and his wife Ida, age 48, were the owners of the Raymore Hotel. The Bakers ran the hotel with the help of two Chinese cooks, a waitress and a porter. Dances and fancy dress parades were held in the hotel, presided over by Bill Baker, smoking an ever-present cigar. 

Raymore, c. 1920. Source

When Prohibition hit, the Bakers quit the hotel business, selling the hotel to Mah Yuen and Ping Sam.The Chinese owners ran the hotel throughout the 1920s and into the 1930s. They sold soft drinks and ice cream, and featured the Raymore Moving Picture Show in the hotel every Friday and Saturday nights.

In 1935, the year the provincial government allowed the sale of beer by the glass in hotel bars, Mah Yuen and Ping Sam were unable to obtain a license to open a beer parlour at the Raymore Hotel. Chinese people were excluded because the law required that an applicant for a liquor license had to be a person who was entitled to vote. The Chinese in Saskatchewan did not receive the provincial franchise until 1947.

The Raymore Hotel was taken over by John “Jack” and Vivian “Vi” Morrow, formerly of Yorkton. “Raymore welcomes the new manager at the same time that they regret the departure of the genial Chinese gentlemen who for 16 years have been consistently good citizens of the village,” the newspaper reported.

From Prairie Wool to Golden Grain: Raymore and District, 1904-1979.
Jack was born in North Dakota in 1890, and came to Saskatchewan in 1908. He went overseas during the First World War, and was later hospitalized for three years, suffering from shell shock (now known as post-traumatic stress disorder). In 1925, Jack met Vi in Regina, where she worked as the manageress of the Hotel Saskatchewan coffee shop. They married in 1928. Violet Jane Roe, born in Manitoba, took her first hotel job at age 14, when she became a waitress at the Shaunavon Hotel. Two years later, she was employed by the Hotels Division of Canadian Pacific Railway. Vi worked for ten years at CP hotels in Banff Springs, Lake Louise, Saskatoon, and Regina. After her husband Jack died in 1957, Vi continued to operate the Raymore Hotel with the help of her son, Bob. Prior to her retirement in 1967, Vi was awarded a life membership in the Hotels Association of SK. She was the second woman to have spent 50 years in the hotel business. [Source: From Prairie Wool to Golden Grain: Raymore and District, 1904-1979.]

Shortly after Jack and Vi Morrow arrived in Raymore, they applied for a liquor license for the hotel. A local option vote was required by government liquor regulations, and the town vote was affirmative – by a narrow margin. A beer parlour was incorporated into the Raymore Hotel. Vi was never able to enter, or work in, the beer parlour until the 1960s, when provincial liquor laws finally permitted women to drink in bars – with escorts.

In 1937, a severe hail and wind storm tore the metal roofing off the Raymore Hotel, hurling it across Main Street. Heavy rain soaked the hotel rooms on the third floor, seriously damaging the interior which had recently been redecorated.

With the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, the Morrows faced a new challenge at the Raymore Hotel. So many people left to join the war effort that it became impossible to find employees. Jack became the bartender and Vi became the cook. Their two oldest children, Jack Jr. and Imelda were enlisted to wait on tables, make beds, do the laundry twice a week, and myriad other chores. The youngest Morrow child, Bobby, had to stand on soft drink cases and wash dishes in the hotel kitchen. The family still managed to hold regular Saturday night dances at the hotel throughout the war years. These dances came to an end following the war, when the beer parlour was expanded due to an increase in business.
Raymore in the 1950s. H.D. McPhail photographer. Source

In 1956, fire broke out in the Raymore Hotel. Fourteen guests in the 33-room hotel had to be evacuated when flames were discovered at 9:00 in the morning. Some guests lost their belongings, but fortunately no one was injured. The Raymore Volunteer Fire Department managed to extinguish the blaze, but the third floor of the hotel had to be removed from the building as a result of the fire.

The Raymore Hotel in 2014. Joan Champ photo.
Raymore Hotel in 2012. Google Street View.

© Joan Champ, 2015


  1. I look forward to each new posting for its insight into the otherwise lost histories of small towns that themselves may soon disappear. The photos you choose ring with authenticity, as I have been at some point to most of these places and can vouch for them. My last visit to Raymore was some 40 years ago. The story behind the beer parlour was completely unknown to me and I had been a patron. Sadly this post adds another chapter to the well written post you made earlier as regards the treatment of the Chinese. Thanks again and I am looking forward to your next missive.

    1. Thank you! I appreciate your interest and your comments very much. This is the first post I've made to my blog in 2015. I'm afraid my work and other diversions take me away from researching and writing about small-town SK hotels. I hope to have more articles ready to post before too long. Thanks again.

  2. I appreciate this very much. My grandfather, Max Lang's band played for the dances in the hotel for a number of years, especially during the war. I believe there was a bear skin in the lobby of the hotel in the very early years, as my grandfather shot a bear on his farm, south of Raymore, around 1912 or later, which was a very rare event. He told us that he had the bear skinned and that Archie Maclean bought it for the lobby.

    1. What a great story! The Allan Hotel had a stuffed bear in the lobby at one time. A bear skin rug or wall hanging would be less scary! My grandfather played in a dance band, too, but in Ontario.

  3. What a nice article and history. My daughter sent me this link. You see my mom Laura Caskey (maiden name) was raised in Raymore and actually worked at the Raymore Hotel probably in the early 30s. She often told us stories of working there during the dirty 30s. She wouldve been one of the workers that headed east to work for the war effort in Ajax Ontario. This has brought back a lot of memories of my mom who would've been 100 this August. She passed in 2015. This has given me a desire to visit Raymore. She was born in Nakomis SK but raised in Raymore.

    1. Jean Shindelka12 June 2018 at 13:37

      My sisters and I just made a visit to Raymore. The town is still alive with new stores, and new houses, but the mix of history and new is very clear. My father ran the barbershop as did his father before him. I hope they never remove the grainery. It has a historic place in the town, a marker of sorts, for all the incredible families that lived there.

  4. Your blog is wonderful, thank you for your hard work, I look forward to your additions