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Hazy memories of the Bruin Inn brought back to life

The museum celebrates St. Albert's most famous drinking establishment with pictures, stories, and a night at the pub.

DETAILS

The Bruin Inn: 70 years of St. Albert’s Social Life

Until Sunday, August 21

Musée Héritage Museum

A special event called the Reminiscing Gathering is planned for Saturday, April 30. The public is invited to meet at the museum at 3 p.m. to view the exhibition, then re-gather at 4 p.m. at the Thirsty Rooster Pub, 388 St. Albert Trail, for pub trivia, reminiscing, and good cheer.

Call 780-459-1528 or visit museeheritage.ca/whats-on/exhibitions for more information.

The Bruin Inn has been a blurry memory for more than 20 years now, but you can soak in some of its former glory for the next few months. The Musée Héritage Museum has assembled a collection of photos, furniture, stories, and a recognizable animal statue for its new exhibit. To help attendees get in the spirit of celebrating one of the city’s most prominent establishments, it will also be hosting a special event where one can tip a glass or two.

The Bruin Inn: 70 years of St. Albert’s Social Life is a loving look at the watering hole that helped to put St. Albert on the map in many respects. When the St. Albert Hotel burned down in 1928, the Bruin Inn rose up a year later and became the gathering place for the larger region for decades to come.

It earned much of its reputation during the late 1940s when provincial rules prevented men and women from drinking alcohol together — in any city. Since St. Albert was still a town at the time, the rule didn’t apply. With the expansion of its beer parlour, it held as many as 600 in the crowd on a Saturday night. Some said it was such an attraction the population of the town doubled for those happy hours. That continued until the law changed in 1967.

After its popularity flattened, it went through other incarnations as a night spot variously called Amnesia’s and Total Recall, and another plain ol’ bar called the Desperado Saloon. It even lived for a short while as this fair burg’s only strip club, a joint called Pinky’s 2. Nothing brought back the heyday, however. For lack of better phrasing, the popularity of the Bruin Inn was like lightning in a bottle. After an attempt to save the landmark, the structure was demolished in 2000.

For all that entertaining history, the museum is bringing out the bear: the large fibreglass bear that stood sentinel on the roof for just the last several years of the Bruin's existence. 

"It is more than just the big bear. We've actually made a mockup of part of the outside: the window and window box area," began curator Joanne White, in agreement that the exhibit is long overdue.

"It's a fun thing. We have furniture from the bar from a couple different eras. This is a big, fun group of objects," she continued. "We do talk about the Bruin Inn from time to time in other exhibits. This is purely focused on the Bruin."

Many people know the famous story of Mark Messier, fresh off the Oilers' Stanley Cup win, who brought the silver chalice along to celebrate with the regulars at the Bruin. The inn has its own storied life, and many of those patrons had stories of their own to share. For the last several months, the museum has had a call out to the public to share their stories and other memorabilia. White calls them reminiscences, and they'll likely help spark the memories of any attendee who doesn't remember so much of their beery nights.

"It served the larger community, not just Edmonton and St. Albert. A huge amount of its success was the original liquor law issues, and their proximity to Edmonton because [if] had it been in Westlock, it probably wouldn't have been. People wouldn't have driven that far."

To help bring the public some Bruin-styled cheer, the museum is hosting a Reminiscing Gathering. The public is encouraged to meet at the museum at 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 30 to first view the exhibition before gathering an hour later at the Thirsty Rooster Pub for some convivial reminiscing and sudsy trivia.


Scott Hayes

About the Author: Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns, and profiles on people.
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