Beginning in 1926 with the purchase of the Royal Hotel from D.S. Dundas to Tom Berry Sr., the Berry family’s connection to the Royal would span seven decades. No stranger to the hotel business, Tom Berry Sr. had experience running other hotels including operating the Empress Hotel in Chilliwack as well as hotels in Vancouver, White Rock and Duncan before owning the Royal.
The Berry Family lived in the hotel – which was common practice at the time – despite the fact the family home was located only blocks from the hotel. Margaret Anne Berry was born in 1913 and her brother Thomas Henry Berry, known to all as “Buck” was born in 1916. Both siblings would later go on to run the Royal Hotel together with Buck’s wife Louise.
Buck excelled at many sports including golf, lacrosse and basketball. As a teenager Buck was sent to California to work at a golf course with golf pro Jimmy Warman, where he honed his golf skills. Returning to Chilliwack, Buck kept up with golf in addition to coaching youth basketball. This was the start of his many years of service to the community that would continue until his passing. Many sports teams held their team banquets at the Royal Hotel cafe.
Buck Berry married Louise Irwin on November 29, 1942. Louise Irwin was very familiar with hotel life– in fact she was born into a hotel family and grew up living in the Central Hotel in Rossland B.C, operated by her parents. In 1943 Buck left Chilliwack to serve Canada during the Second World War with the Seaforth Highlanders, returning home to Chilliwack after the war where he would continue operations of the Royal Hotel until 1995.
In 1950 the Royal Bank Building, built in 1906, was sold to the Berry Family and converted to a 300 seat beer parlour, with separate entrances for men and women with escorts, as required by provincial liquor laws until 1964. Beer parlours were also forbidden to serve food, or have televisions or games and the only beverage served was beer. It was here Buck could be found socializing with long-time friends and customers, often engaging in colourful discussions.
Buck could also be found most mornings seated at the round table in the front of the café, off limits to women, sharing stories and offering words of wisdom to whomever was seated at the table. Despite Buck’s outspoken personality he is most often remembered as someone who would never let anyone go hungry or be without a place to lay their head. He did this often without the expectation of repayment.
The Berry Family history remains alive at the Royal Hotel. Photos of various members of the Berry Family can be found throughout the 105 year old Royal Hotel. The Berry family continues to be an integral part of the history of the Royal Hotel Chilliwack.