Think you know history? Powell River’s two oldest businesses
No matter how many big smoke-stack industries may provide the raison d’être for our small towns, it’s the small businesses that historically provide the backbone of the community.
Just landed on the most remote western frontier of the continent to carve out a place for a paper mill and a new town? Within months, there will be barbershops, bath-houses, billiards parlours and bars to serve those hardworking construction workers and loggers!
The two oldest, continuously operating, least changing businesses in all of Powell River are the Patricia Theatre, opened September 15, 1913, and City Motors, opened in 1926 by the town’s druggist, Charlie Long.
The Patricia Theatre
Cosgrave and McDonald built the first cinema and vaudeville house where the Cenotaph now stands, and it was named in a community wide contest in honour of Princess Patricia.
It’s rumoured that Bobby Scanlon won it in a card game, but whatever happened, the Pat became the hub of entertainment for the whole town under the management of Bobby and Myron McLeod.
Movies, trunk shows, talent contests, boxing matches, vaudeville acts: you name it and if the thrice weekly steamship could bring it in, Powell River got to enjoy it at the Pat.
Under Myron’s management, the new building was commissioned in 1928 and built where it now stands, 103 years later and still delivering movies, vaudeville shows, parlour concerts, weddings and more: it’s become Canada’s oldest continuously operating movie theatre business.
Myron bought out Bobby’s interests and operated The Patricia Theatre until 1978, when he sold it to Bruce and Vi MacDonald, who sold it to Michael Scott in 1999, and then it passed into the stewardship of Ann and Brian Nelson in 2002.
Although City Motors was started by Charlie Long, it quickly passed into the hands of Kenny Macken (Marjorie Henderson’s husband) who operated it for 39 years, until the Raimondo’s purchased it and they operated it until 1981, when Bert and Marg MacLean took it over.
Finally, in 2010, it passed to Scott and Julie Mastrodonato, and another family dynasty has started.
Originally, the few vehicles in Powell River were pretty much all taken care of by “backyard” mechanics, but it wasn’t long before there was a demand for glamorous new vehicles to buy, for gas and mechanical services, and for the driving lessons that were part of the purchase price of those new cars.
Ninety years later, City Motors is still providing the same reliable and professional service, but just not selling any vehicles or lessons.
By Ann Nelson