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Mayor has fond memories of Bowden Hotel

Former manager did everything he could to fill the bar, Bowden Mayor Robb Stuart recalls
MVT Bowden 4
Innisfaill firefighter/pump operator Johnathon Schneider and probationary firefighter Adam Dingman battle the final hot spots of the fire that levelled the abandoned Bowden Hotel on New Year's Day. The pioneer building was then demolished later the same day. Johnnie Bachusky/MVP Staff

BOWDEN — Mayor Robb Stuart has some personal memories of the now-demolished, fire-ravaged Bowden Hotel. 

The hotel, located at the corner of Highway 2A and 20th Avenue, caught fire on New Year’s Day, just after midnight. Fire crews from Olds, Innisfail and Red Deer County fought the fire for about 15 hours, but were unable to save it. 

Eventually, the decision was made to demolish it. Safety fencing was erected around the remaining rubble.  

The hotel was originally built in 1904, then burnt down for the first time in 1925. It was rebuilt and reopened in 1930.  

Over the decades, several different people owned and/or ran the hotel. 

It was abandoned in about 2015. 

Town officials say for the past decade or so, it’s been unclear who owns the property. That was still unclear last week. 

"It’s sad. It’s a piece of history,” Stuart said Tuesday. 

“It used to be a booming business, back in the day; like even when I started going to the bar, which was 40 years ago,”  

He described the manager, Roy Rogers (not the country and western star from decades ago) as “quite an entrepreneur.” 

“He would send a school bus to the Olds College and load it full of college kids and they’d come to Bowden and he’d give them one free jug of beer per table,” Stuart recalled. 

“And it was packed, I’ll tell ya. Even as locals, we had a tough time getting in there. They’d sit there and drink all night and the bus would take them back at closing time.” 

Stuart said decades ago, Rogers brought in Marg Osborne of Don Messer’s Jubilee to sing at the hotel. 

“Like I said, there was no such thing as overcrowding for Roy. He would put a piece of plywood over the pool table and put chairs all the way around it," Stuart said with a short laugh. 

“You couldn’t even breathe in there, it was so packed. A lot of seniors. And in those days, you could smoke in there too, so it was (that much worse). 

“But no, it’s got a lot of live history. A lot of sad thoughts about the good times that were in there,” Stuart said. 

 "It was a going concern. A lot of memories.”