Dilapidated, abandoned, sorry-looking, pilloried, The Inn at Westview deserved a much different ending than the slow neglect that lasted for years.
Newcomers to Powell River have no way of understanding what a centre of the community The Inn was in the decades after it opened in the mid-1960s.
Its original developer was Peter Toigo, who grew up in Powell River and went on to found Shato Holdings that included White Spot restaurants and commercial real estate properties across North America. The family also owns Vancouver Giants junior hockey team.
For a time, the White Spot organization ran The Inn’s restaurant with all the favourite menu items people came to expect from the Vancouver-based company.
The restaurant was a place for business lunches and meetings, family lunches or dinners for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or just a day to be together. Community groups like Toastmasters and Rotary International held their weekly meetings at The Inn’s banquet rooms.
My husband Don and I attended weekend cabarets on Friday and Saturday, many of them ending with “Hey Jude” by The Beatles or “The House of the Rising Sun” performed by The Animals.
If we weren’t dancing upstairs, we were downstairs in the pub, a regular destination after Powell River Regals hockey and men’s softball games. One time we brought a family member in who was not of legal age. She put a cigarette into her mouth, thinking it would make her look older. Turned out a family friend of her parents was working a shift at that time. He took one look and said, “Get her out of here.”
The pub was a second home to numerous local characters who created memories like the night one of them was swinging Tarzan-like from the large wagon-wheel light fixtures.
Diamond Dinners hosted by Regals in the large banquet room attracted women from barely old enough to be of legal drinking age to grandmothers, all decked out in their finest attire. Players waited tables for the evenings that featured a full-course dinner and entertainment including male strippers.
Who in attendance can forget players dressed in drag singing “I’m So Excited” by the Pointer Sisters? I still see the guys dancing around when the song comes on the radio and I still laugh out loud.
Every woman’s name went into a draw barrel. One by one they came out with smaller prizes awarded every so often until the last few were revealed for diamond bracelets, earrings and necklaces. First prize, coming last, was always a diamond ring.
Weddings, celebrations of life, anniversary gatherings, milestone birthdays and sports banquets all added to the stories steeped into the walls of The Inn.
Grey Cup parties attracted a full house where it didn’t really matter who was playing, only that we were all celebrating Canadian football.
Halloween parties brought out a plethora of costumes from vampire brides, to cowboys and clowns.
Business people, hockey, softball and other sports teams, and visitors were happy to stay in what was their home away from home.
Ah yes, if only you knew what the Inn was like back then, before it became the ignored and vilified building that is being demolished. For those of us who do remember, we’ll think about all the happy times spent celebrating community, family and fun within those walls. And maybe we’ll lift a glass of libation in salutation.
Joyce Carlson was born and raised in Powell River and her older son was born the year The Inn at Westview opened.