This Saturday marks the end of an era in Mission as the Bellevue Hotel changes ownership for the first time in nearly 80 years.
Patrons, friends, and family of the Fletchers will gather for a day of nostalgia to reminisce over Mission’s first neighbourhood pub. Three generations of Fletchers ran the hotel, beginning with George and Mildred, who started the hotel after borrowing $100 to put a down payment on it. It then passed on to their son Bob, followed by his son Brad.
“It was a little box of a hotel with an area north of it where they often had a carnival,” remembers 90-year-old Larry Reid, a lifelong friend of the Fletcher family and best man at Bob’s wedding in 1949.
When the Bellevue opened in 1935 there were 12 rooms, a dining room, and a kitchen where you could get a meal for between 45 and 50 cents.
For years, the Bellevue operated as a hotel and cafe, but like most towns in B.C. there was a dearth of liquor. George had the townsfolk sign a petition to try and get a beer license and worked out delivery from a Vancouver brewery.
When the hotel was completely rebuilt in 1948-49 to its present state, they got the license and the Bellevue took off.
“Georgie was a pretty savvy guy,” said Larry. “I liked him and he was a good host. He would walk around in the hotel there — they called it the beer parlour — and he would sit down and buy a beer for them.”
Lorne Rockwell says when he first started visiting in 1967, the bar had two entrances, one for women and one for men.
“It was the law of the land that single guys couldn’t sit with women,” he said, adding there was a wall inside the pub separating the genders. The wall came down around the time former waitress Betsy Shaw began in the late ‘60s.
A single mother, Betsy raised five kids and one grandchild in an establishment known primarily as a hangout for working men.
“I remember Noris [Bedford the manager] was away when Bill Rourke [the bartender] hired me and when Noris came back he said, ‘No way, we don’t have girls working in here.’” But Bill urged him to give her a chance and she was soon a fixture.
She remembers one time as a young waitress a man was aggressively making a pass at her and she didn’t know how to handle it.
“Bill just looked at him and he said, ‘Hey! You stay away from her. That happens to be my niece and you do not happen to pass muster with me, fella.’” After that everybody thought they were related and she even took to calling him Uncle Bill, which she does to this day.
Lorne says the Bellevue was always a supporter of local sports. Back in 1971 there were about 10 fastpitch baseball teams in Mission who would play at the fairgrounds where the water park is today. After the game, the players would head to the Bellevue for 20-cent beers.
Lorne has been a member of the Bellevue breakfast club for 30 years. It started in 1980 as a group of business and working people who would meet every morning and take turns buying each other breakfast. To encourage generosity, Bud McLeod created a trophy to honour anyone who spent more than $50 on breakfast.
The mix of songs and suds and a late closing time of 2:30 a.m. gave the Bellevue a bit of a reputation. But Betsy doesn’t remember it that way.
“I’d say, ‘Hey, listen. We can do this two ways. I can get really mad and tell you to go away. Or I can say hey, I’ll walk you to the door and we’ll part as friends.’”
And she said usually the customers would smile and say, “See you tomorrow, Betsy!”
Nostalgia day happens this Saturday at the Bellevue with live music, old photographs, speeches, and more.