“That’s how we used to fight back then — the good old days,” says Lionel Wheeler. The King Eddy Hotel as it looked in the 40s, about halfway through a long and eventful 98-year-life. The Hug n’ Slug saw many renovations—whether intended or not—which changed the facade of Second Street just behind City Hall. This winter will mark 23 years since a kitchen grease fire destroyed the building.
** READER ADVISORY: Coarse language. **
THE KING EDWARD HOTEL (A.K.A. HUG N’ SLUG)
So named since you either went to hookup or fight, the ol’ “Hug n’ Slug” was the handle of beloved, now long gone King Edward Pub a.k.a. the “King Eddy,” a.k.a. King Eddy beer parlour.
“You’d go in hugging, come out slugging,” chuckles modern-day Grizzly Pub owner Claudio Brunetti. He remembers being 16, waiting on the corner outside the bar for a bootlegger, when two guys spilled out the side-door to square up. One hit the other who went down hard, hitting his head on the curb. “I remember the sound it made like a coconut. The guy died.”
“A lot of shit went on there,” he said. For example, one chair-smashing incident killed someone who he won’t say. “And the smoke. You could smoke like a mad man in there.”
Even 96-year-old Lionel Wheeler remembers throwing down. “It was a very friendly bar,” he said, “but never a dull moment, someone would be getting beat over the head with a pool cue or whatever.”
Once, Wheeler and a bunch of brakemen got off a trip and an argument carried over to the bar. “So, we took it outside and went back in and had a beer,” he said. “That’s how we used to fight back then—the good old days.”
The King Eddy was probably at its roughest and toughest around the late-1980s, early-90s, when the dam and Macdonald Tunnel were being built and the sawmill going full-bore. Loggers, miners, railroaders and—“just so many dam men,” Kathy Devlin puts it. Her rank of some of the bars on a scale of dangerousness: “They’re all so different … At the King Eddy, guys would fight, but by then they were all just so hammered.”
FOR MORE, PLEASE VISIT THE HUG N’ SLUG’S FACEBOOK TRIBUTE PAGE.)
The Climax could “top” a list of Revy’s skuzziest bars. PHOTO COURTESY OF REVELSTOKE MUSEUM & ARCHIVES
Going back 100-or-so years brings us to the hotel skuzzily named the Climax, which “was as bad as it sounds” writes historian Cathy English.
At least one man, Frank Stewart, died at the Climax in the early 1900s after being hit by the hotel manager. Stewart recently came to Revelstoke but lost his job due to heavy drinking. He was hired with the CPR, and again, started drinking heavily.
“It was as bad as it sounds.”
The coroner declared his death to be from a concussion. His nose was broken and cut, possibly due to a blow from a fist with something on it, likely a ring.
The manager and bartender both had some complicity in his death, but with conflicting stories and insufficient evidence, charges were dropped.
There is was another story about the Salvation Army singing outside of the Climax. The hotel manager came out with a hose and soaked the missionaries, who were always trying to scrub the place clean: Climax Hotel, 1 — Common Decency, nil. The Climax Hotel burned down in 1916.
JIMMY “THE BEARS” SALOON
For this one, we have to go back to 1886, to one of Farwell’s most popular hangouts: the poker table at Jimmy’s.
Most guys who went to Jimmy’s were Easterners, but a few were Westerners with different clothes, speech and, “a fearless freedom the Easterners did not possess,” as reminisced by Edward Picard long ago.
One such Westerner was a short, sturdy man with “quick actions, snappy blue eyes and a deceptively cherubic face” known as Three-Fingered Frank. How he lost two fingers on his right hand was not known, but that summer had seen him involved in two or three shooting scrapes at Rogers Pass.
During one high-stakes, winner-take-all, 48-hour-long poker game, the pot grew to $320. Three-Fingered Frank was down to his last opponent, Paul “Has-His-Fingers” Henderson, who drew to three aces and two Jacks—a full house.
Jimmy leaned over the table and growled to Paul: “Well, you opened, it’s your bet.” Paul slowly stripped four $50 bills from the roll in his pocket and threw them on the table. The three players who had dropped out of the game watched tensely. Then, as the bartender passed the tray in front of Frank for his empty glass, Frank placed the glass on the tray with his left hand, and with his right hand whipped his gun out of his hip pocket and shot the coal oil lamp, grabbed the money and tried to make a run for it. But the others caught him, took his gun and he was eventually ordered out of town at gunpoint.
He took the next train, and stole some CPR supplies.
THE REVELSTOKE MOTOR INN
(A.K.A. RMI, A.K.A. THE REVELSTOKE)
The Hug n’ Slug sounded bad, but it isn’t the most dangerous bar in Revelstoke history; it wasn’t even the most dangerous bar in town at the time. That honour must go to the RMI, the town’s last experiment in nude entertainment.
The RMI was mostly a biker bar and described as “a continuous bar fight” by Kathy Devlin who worked as bartender, housekeeper and “everything else” for about six years. It was a famously chaotic peelers bar.
“I lost my keys to lock the door,
but there was no door—
it got torn off.”
“I remember strippers whipping ashtrays at some of the guys,” she said. “One of my first shifts I was covered in blood. A man had been beaten out against the women’s bathroom door and I’m on the phone saying, ‘Look at my Cheezies!’ I had blood all over me.”
Her uncle Joe was another colourful patron known to frequent the Revelstoke. You’d know if he was there because he would ride his horse. Joe had a few impaired driving charges, which incidentally never stuck in court because the cops kept giving Joe back his keys.
One night, Devlin remembers the pool table was turned over and the jukebox on its side. “I lost my keys to lock the door, but there was no door, it got torn off … [It was] scary shit. I just hid behind the bar.”
This might not look like a secret biker hangout and that’s because it’s not; it’s just a car wash. But before it was NOT so squeaky clean … “It was dangerous … I’ve seen guns pulled and knives pulled,” says Claudio Brunetti.
THE BIKER HOUSE
(A.K.A. THE HOUSE)
First rule of the House: “Don’t talk about the House.” Be that as it may, the Biker House, formerly up on Hwy 23, has to be talked about when it comes to a list of deadliest bars in Revelstoke history (in spite of it not technically being a bar at all) and its stories kept strictly hush-hush.
It was an open secret in town—an under-the-radar place locals could go at almost anytime for a drink, especially after bars closed for the night. Only certain people were allowed in and prices varied depending on who exactly you were. Loud bands played under a ceiling plastered in signed paper bills. The House was more of a flophouse for bikers and crazy biker parties, Harley Davidsons parked on the lawn and a legal age restriction loosely enforced: “I don’t think it was so much for girls as the boys,” Kathy Devlin remembers of the place. It was run by local bikers and rumoured to be Hell’s Angels affiliated but (on good authority) was not. “The Angels wanted to be affiliated, but it was an independent after-hours party house,” confirms Devlin. Nonetheless, it was used as a pit stop for bikers in-between Alberta and Kelowna (etc.) to fuel up. So sprinkle in a few ambiguous turf wars with Golden or Sicamous or whoever and the after-hours biker Bacchanalia could turn into a bona fide powder keg.
“It was dangerous. Guys got slapped out. I’ve seen guns pulled and knives pulled,” said Claudio.
A quick survey of the horseshoe at the Grizzly Pub confirms his assessment.
“All of us were there, all throughout our 20’s and 30’s. It was there for years,” says Devlin. “There were lots of big fights. Ugly. Some guys got beat up bad. But that was all the bars.”
“Lots of fights during the dam days,” seconds Claudio, who’s “been in a few brawls in [his] day” he says.
For reasons that can only be surmised, police more or less left the House alone. Maybe it kept presumed troublemakers in one spot. The house was in fact built by above-mentioned Cathy English’s husband’s uncle, Dick English. “They sold it in the 1970s and moved to Sicamous, and were appalled at what it turned into,” she said. The house eventually fell apart—it wasn’t exactly up to code—and as people got older, it sold and was torn down and replaced by the R Carwash today. “You’re glad you lived through it but you’re glad it’s all done,” said Devlin.
SO, NOW WHERE?
Really brutal bars soon gave way to the somewhat less brutish Brass Rail, Love Boat Cabaret and Rock Pit, which Brunetti owned. But that legendary violence is all a distant historical hangover. “It totally mellowed out,” he says. “Bikers left and now it’s just granolas. It used to be you go to the bar you had to be tough. You had no idea. It was wild. It was scary.”
So, where’s the most scandalous spot today? Is there some new under-the-radar biker house? “There might be,” shrugs local RCMP Staff Sergeant Kurt Grabinsky. “If there is it’s working under our radar. What we see mostly are house parties…We don’t have time to go chasing after things no one is complaining about.”
In other words, Revelstoke is changing dynamics. The town has a transient population, but people come to ski, not build a dam and beat each others’ lights out.
“Times have changed. People want to go and be social and they are less angry,” he says. “They get their frustrations out on social media.”
Revelstoke is also far more pro-community these days. “The stories you hear about the Hug n’ Slug just don’t happen anymore. Revelstoke is evolving.”
NOW, FOR A GREAT PLACE IN TOWN TODAY WHERE YOU WON’T DIE …