Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Rockcliffe Hotel

I took a detour today from my regular cottage chore route. Normally I stay on Highway 35 and pick up groceries at the Valu-Mart and head right back to the cottage. Today I was on a mission to find window curtains and decided to venture right into the heart of Minden to go to Stedman’s.

Much to my amazement there was a big for sale sign on an old Minden establishment, the Rockcliffe Hotel. How sad the place looks. Paint fading and looking rather lonely on the corner of a busy street during the beginning of cottage season.

Long ago, as a university student, when everyone was starting to wear harem pants, big hair and leggings, there was also a core group of us who stuck to the basic T-shirts and jeans wardrobe. Every where I looked on campus were kids wearing Rockcliffe Tavern T-shirts. I remember distinctly the blue shirt with the red and white rings around the top of the arm and the front emblazoned with “Rockcliffe Hotel, Minden Ontario”. At the time I had never even heard of Minden, but I knew those T-shirts were cool.

Fast forward about ten years and I am now married with children and the proud owner of a cottage in “cottage country.” I soon discovered Minden. I had long forgotten the treasured T-shirt until one day we went into town for something and we drove up Main Street Minden and there it was…………..the Rockcliffe Hotel! I was so excited, until we drove around the corner and saw the hotel from the front. There in big tacky letters was a big sign advertising strippers. This was not the hot night spot in cottage country I envisioned.

I swallowed my disappointment and pretty much forgot about the Rockcliffe until I was on a trip to Kamloops, British Columbia. Anyone who visits B.C. soon discovers no one is actually from B.C. It became my habit to investigate everyone I met to find out where they were actually from. I met a fellow teacher originally from London, Ontario and we soon discovered our cottages were actually only a few miles from each other………and yes, the Rockcliffe Tavern. He told me stories about the Rockcliffe’s heyday when it was THE place to go and hang out and listen to bands. I told him my secret desire had always been to own a Rockcliffe T-shirt. He disclosed he actually had one! In fact, following his university days he had worn it while backpacking across Europe and had many people stop him to say they had the T-shirt as well!

While I have never actually stepped into the Rockcliffe I feel like it is a piece of my history as well as those of my generation. Wouldn’t it be amazing if whoever buys the new place restores it to its glory days? I can picture my university aged children hanging out there and enjoying another perk of cottage country.

I don’t think I will ever venture into the place. It couldn’t possibly be as wondrous as my imagination thinks it is.


Jenn Jilks said...

A lot of places found that last year's rainy July was bad for business. A lot of people are not doing the research, and checking out the market.

It is a tough go: hosting such a place. Up here we find it tough finding people to work on a seasonal basis.
Maybe this is a new career for you?!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... my band is booked to play there in a coupe weeks. Does this mean I'm going to have to deal with nasty mullets and share the stage with skanky women ? LOL

Rod Lahay said...

I can't believe I found this site!

MY FAMILY OWNED THE HOTEL FROM THE EARLY 60's until the 70's. I worked there - with my Dad, Uncles and two Aunts - serving beer while going to University in Toronto.
WHAT A HOT SPOT - LOTS OF BANDS - great food - fun people of Minden and yes - a few bad fights as I served beer on many weekends

LETS HOPE there is a new owner that will bring back the good times at ther Rockcliffe!

Rod LAHAY in Ottawa, Ontario

ps - anyone have one of those T shirts to sell me? I NEVER DID get one!

Anonymous said...

Used to go to the Rockcliffe in the early '8o's when staying at my sister' cottage on Big Hawk Lake. Great bands in those days including SAB who is still rocking the north. I used to have a Rockcliffe T-shirt with a cartoon fox on the front that said "For Fox Sake Stop Hunting" Great Times!!

Anonymous said...

Used to party at the Rockcliffe in the early '80's when visiting my sister' cottage on Big Hawk Lake. Great bands including SAB who is still rocking the north. I used to have a Rockcliffe T-shirt with a cartoon fox on the front that said "For Fox Sake Stop Hunting" Great Memories!!

Anonymous said...

My parents went there when it was owned by the Lahay's. My brother and I flooded the place, we were very young. Never did tell my uncle and aunt about it. My parents rushed us out of there.

Anonymous said...

Lots of Great memories of the Rockcliffe. My Brother, Bill O'Brien, owned it from the early 70's until Spring of 77. He was the one who put that place on the map with selling T-shirts that said, "I'm a Rockcliffe Beer Nut". They were the Best! The around 1976 or 77, the Liquor Control Board told him that he couldn't see those shirts anymore, because they were advertising beer. What a joke! He took it to Court in Toronto and lost. Then he came up with a shirt that said, "Rockcliffe University".
Worked there for a couple of summers after Bill sold it to Dave Willis. While up visiting the folks on weekends in the summer, i would work behind the Bar. Now that was a blast! Murray Beetlestone was a Great Manager to work for, and a Great friend.

Anonymous said...

Oops, messed up a sentence. Liquor Board told him that he couldn't SELL those shirts anymore.

Anonymous said...

as a Mother with daughters and a cottage at Halls Lake, I have stories to tell of Sat. nites when girls and young boys had to be at the Rockcliffe Hotel before 7pm if they wanted to get a seat (teenagers) I should say, I even dressed up in my snowmobile suit and hat and went in to check things out one nite. It was a great place for the young people to gather,I remember also playing Bridge with Bruce Willis at the Stanhope Hall. Food was always great from the takeout at the Rockcliffe. I only recently gave away my Rockcliffe University Tshirt

Anonymous said...

Would love to connect with you! we are at Saskatchewan Lake just up 35 from you. Can't believe you gave away your Rockcliffe T-shirt!!! lol

Anonymous said...

Hall's Lake? We too had a cottage on Hall's Lake. In the Bay by the island. Lots of great memories from there and met and still know some great friends from around the lake.


Terry O'Brien

Unknown said...

Does anyone have a more detailed history on the Rockliffe Hotel? My Gr-Gr-Gr-Gr-Grandfather built it supposedly; however, I think he actually built a smaller log structure which stood in its place before a fire and the Rockliffe was built. Any information or pictures are appreciated; James Sawyer