Community Memories from Otto Bindle

Otto Bindle was one of Thompson’s earliest residents, arriving in June, 1959, as part of a group of hotel entrepreneurs based in Saskatoon.  He was designated by the group to take on management of the Thompson Inn.  At that time, he was completely unaware of Thompson’s existence.

The Inn, Thompson’s first, was under construction, with the beer vendor, serving area and a few rooms completed. He recalls that the rest of the building was a beehive of activity at the time.

As the only hotel in town for several years, the premises were very much in demand for community functions, banquets, wedding feasts, and so on.  Otto tells of the first New Year’s dance.  The serving area was to be used for dining and dancing, so the liquor license had to be suspended in order to decorate and ready the room for the occasion.

Many stories of the early days of the Thompson Inn abound, some of which have been slightly exaggerated with the passage of time.  One of the favourites was that customers would buy a box of beer and then sit on it while the contents were imbibed.

In the beginning, the Royal Bank operated from the Thompson Inn. When it was time to move to another location, a crane was hired to move the safe. Unfortunately, the weight of the crane plus the safe were more than the floor could take and it collapsed, causing extensive damage.

The Inn hosted many dignitaries over the years.  Of course, some of these visits required extra security.  While Pierre Trudeau was a guest, he apparently wasn’t too happy about having his every movement restricted.  He had sneaked out of the hotel through the kitchen and went for a walk, causing great consternation for those who were in charge of guarding him.

Because of the town being in the middle of the Boreal Forest, fires were always dreaded. Otto remembers being on the roof of the hotel armed with a hose to extinguish any wayward sparks.

Otto was a founding member of the Rotary Club in Thompson and was very active in other service clubs, such as the Legion and Elks.  His efforts gained him the Paul Harris Award for exemplary community service.  The Spirit Way Slide has been named after him.

When his work at the hotel ended, Otto started a second-hand store, Bargain Furniture, which he felt served the needs of many families who arrived in Thompson with not too much cash in their pockets. Otto retired following his used furniture venture, spending most of his time at the family cottage at Paint Lake.

Otto was a curler, but his first love was fishing.  He commented that conservation officers didn’t do too much checking in the early days. 

When asked about the changes that he had observed in the community, Otto said he had no wish to go back to the way things were. He appreciated the many amenities that were added as the town grew and progressed. 

Otto passed away in February, 2009.  He will always be remembered for his sense of humor and his true pioneer spirit.