Ups and downs at Morse’s Elkhorn Hotel

Railway & Main

Joan Chase

The Elkhorn Hotel in Morse burned down twice before it finally put down roots. Jack Webster built the village’s first hotel in 1907 directly opposite the CPR station on the corner of Railway and Main. Three years later, Webster’s hotel was destroyed by fire. Shortly afterwards, J. A. McAvoy came to Morse and erected the second Elkhorn Hotel which burned down in 1912. Undeterred, McAvoy built the third Elkhorn even bigger than before, with steam heating, good lighting, and the “finest sample rooms on the line” for commercial travellers.

The Sodini Brothers – Charles and Brando – bought the hotel from McAvoy in 1913. Originally from Italy then Minneapolis, the Sodinis also owned hotels in Swift Current and Leader. Their goal was to enlarge the bar and put in a large stock of liquor. According to the Morse News, Jan. 22, 1914, the brothers succeeded. “This stock they kept increasing until it had attained the importance of being as complete a stock as carried by most wholesale houses.” Brando Sodini operated the Elkhorn for 25 years.

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During Prohibition (1915-1924), the Elkhorn Hotel was a place of some ill repute. On Nov. 23, 1918, the Leader-Post reported that the provincial police raided the hotel and found several kegs of liquor “of the very worst variety of the Montana make.” Police also found bottling items necessary for a bootlegging trade. “The whole outfit was taken by the police,” the newspaper states, “and the proprietor [probably Sodini] was brought before the justice of the peace and fined $200 for transporting the liquor and $50 for having the liquor in a public place.”

In the early 1940s, the Elkhorn Hotel was owned by NHL hockey great, Ken Doraty. Born in Rouleau, the “Mighty Mite” had two major achievements during his NHL career. During the deciding game of the 1933 Stanley Cup semi-finals against Boston, Doraty scored the winning goal for the Leafs at the 104:46 mark during the sixth overtime period. It was the second-longest playoff game in NHL history. Doraty’s other big hockey achievement came during a game between Toronto and Ottawa on January 16, 1934 when he scored three goals in seven minutes and 30 seconds during the overtime period (in the days before sudden death overtime).

Knowing that his NHL career was coming to an end, Doraty bought the hotel at Morse in the spring of 1939. He operated the Elkhorn Hotel for a few years, then got into the billiards business in Moose Jaw.

On Jan. 4, 2019, Amarjit Singh Dhanju – known to everyone as AJ – bought the Elkhorn Hotel. In addition to a menu of standard bar food, the hotel also offers a full Punjabi (Indian) menu for truck drivers – posted on Facebook. The bar features a pool table, VLTs, and, on occasion, live entertainment.

An amusing review of the Elkhorn Hotel on TripAdvisor, August 23, 2017, reads: “The building is over a hundred years old, so it is no surprise that the floor in places resembles the hills and dales of the surrounding farmland. If you have a few drinks at the bar and head for the bathroom, you may wonder how many you’ve had as you navigate the floor.”

Morse is located 60 kilometres east of Swift Current on the Trans-Canada Highway.

 

 

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