Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Resurrecting "The Cave"

Last week there were announcements about TWO Winnipeg landmarks being reopened. One, of course, was the Wagon Wheel. The other Winnipeg-born institution being resurrected is Vancouver's The Cave.

WFP Oct 3, 1935

The Cave was a chain of three nightclubs. The first was opened here at Ellice and Donald by Gordon King (likely where Giant Tiger is now) in 1935, then Vancouver at 626 Hornby in 1937 and, finally, Edmonton.

Cave Interior, Wpg Tribune Dec 18, 1944

According to the interview in the Vancouver Sun the clubs went from being kitschy, decorated to look like caves complete with faux stalactites and featuring an odd mix of entertainment, to a force on the Canadian entertainment scene:

"The list of people who played there from the late 1940s to the 1970s is staggering, from Tony Bennett to Bette Midler, Johnny Cash to Count Basie. The Fifth Dimension and the Supremes played there in the '60s; Doug and the Slugs played there in the '70s."

Winnipeg Tribune, August 4, 1942

A dig back through newspaper archives shows that Winnipeg's The Cave never got as far as that star-studded era. Line-ups often consisted of flamenco dancers, contortionists and magician acts, (see above, also here, here).

Some notable names did come through, though:

Hattie Noel, the larger than life singer, comedienne and, the live action model for Disney's Hyacinth the Hippo, came through at least twice. (Read the Trib's review !). Also, June Lang headlined for a while in 1941.

In 1943 "due to the difficulty of obtaining acts from the U.S." the floor shows at The Cave were discontinued (Trib, Apr 20 1943). The final show consisted of: singer and vaudevillian Thelma White, (mistakenly referred to in the Trib as a Winnipeg girl, she was one-time dance partner Marjorie who was from Winnipeg); a dance duo called the Todds; and Crawford Price, a "colored midget" trumpet player and singer.

In December 1944 while Max King, son of the founder, was manager, the club's jute and plaster interior caught fire and smoldered overnight causing extensive damage to the walls and ceiling. The club had to be extensively renovated and soon reopened.

The Cave always had a house band.
They included, (put "and his orchestra" after each name): Arthur G. King (1937); Doug Ferguson (1939); Harold Green (1941, 42); Marsh Phimister (1942, 43); Lloyd Semers (1946); Johnny Bering (1947).

In spring 1947 manager Vic Hamilton announced that The Cave's lease was not being renewed and that the place would be closed effective May 24, 1947. From the ad below, however, it appears that The Cave's run ended earlier than expected.

Winnipeg Free Press, May 2 1947

That appears to be the end of The Cave in Winnipeg. There have been a couple of establishments that have used that name since but I found nothing to indicate that they had any association with the original club, or the Vancouver version that carried on.

In the early 1960s the Westwood Inn on Portage called their club the Cave Lounge and Dining Room. 

Arlington and St. Matthews

At at the corner of Arlington and St. Matthews, there was also a cave-like building called "The Cave". It appears to have morphed out of a grocery store called Trevi's foods (ca.1969) that became a store / restaurant then a restaurant / lounge called Fountain of Trevi:

Winnipeg Free Press, December 11, 1974

From the mid 70's onward, however, there is no advertising or write-up for any club, Trevi OR the Cave. The Cave had its contents auctioned off in 1995 and is now a residence.

Vancouver's The Cave was closed in 1981. 

The Cave, Vancouver
The Gothic Cave Supper Club (B.C.) Google Books

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