Wednesday is quart sealer night, someone said.
That didn’t seem to make much sense at first, but as we walked into the Last Chance Saloon in the Rosedeer Hotel, we saw a couple dozen people drinking beer from quart sealers – the kind you would normally use to make dill pickles.
Dave Arsenault owns and operates the hotel in the tiny community of Wayne, Alberta, a place which we heard referred to as an almost ghost town. Dave purchased it from the Dayman family in 2013. Fred Dayman took the business over from his mother thirty years ago, and his great uncle ran it before that.
One day about 28 years ago, Dayman was cleaning out the basement of the hotel and came across a few boxes of sealers. “My mother did a lot of canning,” he said. He first considered throwing out the jars, but then thought that they might be a useful gimmick for improving business on an otherwise slow night. So every Wednesday evening draft beer is served in the sealers at a special price.
There was musical entertainment that Wednesday evening we were there. Bobby Hoy was playing the old upright piano and he was accompanied by Ling Munroe who tapped two bones together in time to the music. They are purported to be dinosaur bones.
Half the fun of a visit to Wayne is getting there. The tiny village is about 8 miles southeast of Drumheller. After travelling a short distance along the Red Deer River Valley, another road heads south through a narrow valley beside the mighty Rosebud River. Known affectionately to locals as the 11 bridges road. You will find the Saloon located between bridges 9 & 10.
The Rosedeer Hotel is one of the first buildings you see in Wayne sandwiched on a narrow piece of land between the railway track (track was removed 2014) and the hills. It looks like something that belongs in a wild west movie. A western movie, Running Brave was filmed here and the rock and roll band Northern Pikes filmed a part of a video here. Numerous music videos and commercials have been shot at this location, including Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” & Jackie Chan’s “Shanghai Noon”. The Canadian Pickers Antique Show was filmed here in August 2010, and aired in 2011.
Wayne has a colourful history. Directly across the road from the hotel is the site of the Rosedeer Coal Mine. There were 2000 miners here in the early days and in Drumheller. “They used to feed about 250 men here a day”, said Dayman. “About 60 slept upstairs in the rooms. In the back there used to be a dining room and two big kitchens.
Wayne was an isolated town before the road was built. Everything and everybody came in by railroad. It was often a wild place. The Communist Party was quite strong with the mine workers, and in the 1920’s the Ku Klux Klan burned their crosses in the hills.
“In the 1920’s this bar was called the Bucket of Blood because of the fights the miners got into”, Dayman said. “My mom says the miners were pretty good because they would go outside to fight. They’d sit and drink and get arguing, then they’d go outside, beat the hell out of each other, then come back in and drink some more. They were friends again”.
Dayman tells another story about three strangers who walked in the hotel and ordered drinks. When the bartender brought their drinks, they refused to pay. So the bartender calmly walked back to the bar, pulled out a 45 calibre revolver and fired three shots in the wall, one over each of their heads. The recalcitrant customers wasted no time in leaving. This sounded like a story from the 1920’s but according to Dayman, this happened sometime in the 1970’s. The bullet holes are still there with a frame around them above the piano.
A picture frame around the bullet holes doesn’t look out of place on the walls of the Last Chance Saloon. They are already decorated with old black and white photographs of Wayne and the Coal Mines, a collection of mining gear and antiques. There’s also a photograph of Dayman’s pet horse ~ Tinkerbell.
“We got her as a colt” said Dayman. She was a little Shetland about the size of a dog when she was born. The colt used to wander around, not tied up. She wandered in the bar and of course somebody tried to give her a little beer. We found out that she liked beer and it got to be a habit to come to the back door and give it a couple wacks with her foot until it opened. One day a local lady phoned the health board and they said “no more horse in the bar”.
It seems that Tinkerbell was good for business. Customers would not only buy beer for themselves, they would often buy one for the horse.
The piano is another long-time fixture dating to 1927. It originally sat in the hotel lobby. In the early days, there was no music or dancing allowed in bars. A bar was not supposed to be a place where you enjoyed yourself; it was meant for drinking. But that regulation didn’t dissuade the relatively isolated Rosedeer Hotel. The piano was on caster wheels, and was rolled into the bar. If someone spotted a strange car approaching the piano would be wheeled out the door and into the lobby again. “That old piano has seen many miles”, said Dayman. In the early 1970’s Mrs. Dien Dayman was solely responsible for convincing government officials to change the existing laws to allow dancing in taverns. Music is now an integral feature of the Last Chance Saloon. Besides the piano, folks are welcome to play the guitar or washboard. On a warm summers evening the party might move to the outdoor patio in the back.
When asked what businesses there are in Wayne….you’re always advised “You’re In It”. There used to be a post office, school and several other businesses but now only the hotel remains. The town almost died. In the early 1970’s it was down to about 15 people, mostly old timers who retired. Now there are 28 people.