Glen Mofford

Author pens book on local watering holes

Glen Mofford is no stranger to the saloons and hotel bars in downtown Victoria.

Glen Mofford is no stranger to the saloons and hotel bars in downtown Victoria.

For the past 17 years, Mofford has spent time talking to people, and combing through Royal B.C. Archives and documents at the public history room at the library in search of the stories behind some of the downtown core’s most popular saloons and hotel bars that operated prior to prohibition.

The end result is Aqua Vitae: A History of the Saloons and Hotel Bars of Victoria 1851-1917. The book offers a combination of true stories behind Victoria’s drinking establishments in their heyday between 1851 and 1917.

“It’s an aspect of social history that has been ignored,” said Mofford, who grew up in Victoria but now lives in Port Alberni.

Originally, it was a story Mofford didn’t expect to tell.

After graduating from Simon Fraser University with a degree in history in the 1980s, Mofford planned on teaching or archiving. He eventually fell into a government position in Victoria, which, 14 years later, he was still at.

Every so often as a way to blow off steam, Mofford and his co-workers would go to local pubs, such as the Tally-Ho and the Ingraham (a hotel on Douglas Street, which closed in 2013). Over the weeks, Mofford quickly got to know some of the regulars at the bar, who would tell him stories of when their dads used to go to beer parlours around the city and what they looked like.

“After a while, I found this stuff interesting so I asked if I could pull out my notebook,” he said. “I would ask about a certain person or a certain bar or I would simply say do you remember your time at the Drake?”

Those conversations led Mofford on a 17-year-long hunt to research the stories behind some of Victoria’s most notorious bars and saloons — the murders and suicides, along with the more lighthearted aspect of the bars that were usually open 24/7.

One such story that Mofford found of particular interest occurred in the 1880s. Workers were ripping up the floor boards at the back of the Omineca Saloon, when they discovered a skeleton under the floor boards. A doctor came in and it became clear it was the skeleton of a man who had been murdered and stuffed under the floorboards of the office.

“The book isn’t just about a bunch of guys sitting and drinking in a saloon. It’s a real combination of things. It goes from the very roughest part of town, which was Johnson Street, where yes there were a lot of fights and bizarre things such as raffles and rat races, right up to the Victoria Hotel and even the Empress is mentioned,” said Mofford.

In the future, Mofford hopes to publish a follow up book on the beer parlours that sprang up in Victoria after prohibition in 1954.

Aqua Vitae: A History of the Saloons and Hotel Bars of Victoria 1851-1917 is available online or at most local bookstores.

 

 

Just Posted

Overworked and understaffed: More than 300 vacancies in Vancouver Island nursing

Tentative deal with province includes ‘working short premium’ to encourage hiring

Victoria city council seeks authority to tax empty homes

Council is asking the province for the authority to invoke a vacancy tax

Backyardigans, Max & Ruby stage shows add to Family Day in Sidney

Bodine Hall shows make room for kids to sing, dance, enjoy Family Day weekend

Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes says municipality will re-group after Rowing Canada decision

Haynes said he is “quite disappointed” but also respects choice of North Cowichan as national centre

CRD committee proposes ending livestock payouts to farmers

The bylaw has existed since the creation of the CRD’s animal control service in 1979

VIDEO: Excessive speed on the Malahat captured by dash cam footage

Poster calls driving ‘dangerous, obnoxious and disrespectful’

Condo rental bans may be on way out with B.C. empty home tax

Many exemptions to tax, but annual declarations required

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 15

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Should people have to license their cats?

The Victoria Natural History Society has sent letters to 13 municipalities in… Continue reading

Olympian snowboarder Max Parrot diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Each year in Canada, approximately 900 people are diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma

‘Prince of Pot’ Marc Emery accused of sexual assault, harassment

Emery denied the allegations, but a Toronto woman says she is not the only one speaking out

Vancouver Island photographer makes National Geographic’s 2018 elite

Rare double honour for Marston from the 36 best Your Shots out of nearly 19,000 photos

Ex-Liberal candidate in Burnaby, B.C., says volunteer wrote controversial post

Karen Wang dropped out following online post singling out NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s ethnicity

Asteroids are smacking Earth twice as often as before

The team counted 29 craters that were no older than 290 million years

Most Read