In our small part of the Cariboo, one of the places with an interesting and colourful history is the Rose Lake Lodge.
Rose Lake is named for Fred Rose, who was a prominent community member of 150 Mile House in the 1880s. Not only was he the town’s sheriff, he was also the telegraph operator, jailer, assistant government agent and a rancher.
After he retired as sheriff in 1893, he bought a lot on the lake that would be named after him and moved there with his wife, Emma.
By the late 1920s, the gold rush was long since over, Williams Lake had become the centre of commerce for the area, and the whole country was heading into a difficult financial time.
People were turning back to homesteading and the self sufficiency that came with farming.
In 1932, a man named Frank Hill preempted a beautiful piece of lakeshore property on the south facing slope of Rose Lake.
He, his wife and five children built a large, log house along with a barn.
They farmed there quite successfully for the next 12 years or so before selling out in 1945 to Harry Hunison and his wife, Rene.
Harry had a vision to turn the place into a hunting and fishing lodge.
He built a large addition onto the house, making a great room downstairs on one side, with a kitchen, lobby and sitting room on the other side.
Upstairs were seven bedrooms and one bathroom.
Several small cabins were also built around the property. Unfortunately, Hunison’s dreams did not turn into reality, and he struggled to make a go of it.
The Tribune reported in April 15, 1948: “Mr and Mrs. Harry Hunison made a quick trip to the district. They were accompanied by … prospective buyers of the Rose Lake Lodge. They had to dig their way into the lodge, and fortunately Harry found the fireplace in good working condition.”
Later that year, the buildings and property were sold to Clarence Singer, a Second World War veteran and former manager of the Lakeview Hotel.
From the Tribune of Aug. 21, 1948: “Rose Lake Lodge, closed this year due to other business activities of the owners, will reopen next Monday for the fall hunting season. Clarence Singer … has taken over the popular resort, and expects to have it ready for business by Monday. Besides providing accommodation for hunters and sportsmen, Mr. Singer is planning to hold the occasional Saturday night dance in the Lodge.”
Where Hunison had big plans for the lodge, Singer’s plans were over the top.
During the next three years, he turned it into a fly-in destination for the rich and famous. Not only was it a fishing and hunting lodge, under Singer’s shrewd management it became a gambling casino as well, with card games, tables, and roulette wheels.
It was furnished with beautiful hand-made leather and wood furniture.
Depending upon who you talk to, it also appears that drugs (opium), alcoholic drinks and ladies of the evening were also available through the expensive, but all inclusive membership fees.
Apparently, what happened at Rose Lake stayed at Rose Lake.
Ellen Nevalainen, who lived as a child in the lodge in the early 1970s, recalls finding old playing cards and poker chips in the basement.
Other owners have found whiskey bottles, opium pipes and receipts for expensive weekend stays.
There is also a story about a lady of the evening who went missing without a trace during those halcyon days. Ellen tells of finding a woman’s dress shoe discarded on the dirt floor of the basement. A possible connection?
There is also the unsubstantiated rumour about a diamond robbery in the U.S.
Allegedly, the perpetrators flew up to Rose Lake and hid the loot in the lodge or in one of its cabins.
They never returned to reclaim the diamonds, and they have never been found, even though the Nevalainen children spent may hours searching.
Could this be a true tale? If the lodge could talk, who knows what stories it could tell!
Those wild years lasted only until 1952, when the Lodge was purchased by Norm and Gladys Palmer.
Gladys was a high school teacher in Williams Lake, so it just wouldn’t do to be running a questionable operation.
Under their management, the facility returned to a family-oriented hunting and fishing resort and restaurant.
They also opened it up to the community, and over the net 26 years or so, the lodge became the centre of the surrounding community’s life, hosting all sorts of meetings, social events and dances.
It also became a dependable seasonal employer, and many local teenagers worked summer jobs there.
It was not until 1980 when the present Miocene Community Hall was completed, that the lodge began losing its place of prominence among the locals.
In 1968, the lodge was bought by two brothers, Elaf and Ed Jacobsen, who sold it after a couple of years to Elaf’s daughter and husband, Sonia and Arvo Nevalainen.
They and their young family continued to operate it for the next 10 years. The Miocene Community was growing at the time, so the lodge was a busy place, with paying guests as well as a myriad of local activities.
In 1980, Art and Joyce Schellenberg purchased the facility, but they found the workload of raising a young family, operating the lodge and holding down a full-time job to be too much, so they sold it 18 months later to Bill and Martha Downie.
By that time, the place was beginning to show its age and needed considerable renovations.
The hunting and fishing had fallen off, and the restaurant was not well patronized.
The Downies opened up the lodge to retreats and conferences, but the business was in decline.
Then, in 1993, the Bradshaw family became owners of the lodge, and it is still in that family today.
It is used now as a private resident and for family gatherings, no longer a restaurant or a resort.
It still stands, however, grand and stately, a continuing reminder of an eventful and memorable past which we will not see again.