From Rum Running to Women’s Lib

Posted on: June 2nd, 2012 by Carla Johnson No Comments

“I went into rum running for the cash and I stayed in it for four years for the fun it gave me. There was money in the game — lots of it if you could keep it. Beyond that there was all the kick of gambling and the thrill of sport, and besides these, there was open sea and the boom of the wind against full sails, dawn coming out of the ocean, and nights under rocking stars. These caught and held me most of all.” ~ Bill McCoy, famous non-drinking rum runner who never watered-down his products, hence the name, “The Real McCoy.”

40 years ago, the sign outside the Hofbrau Room at the Walper Hotel in Kitchener said “Reserved for Men Only” during their lunch hours of 12-2 pm. The Hofbrau was a very nice, elegant place to eat and eleven young women in their 20’s, all office workers in downtown Kitchener, were frustrated by the exclusion and decided to challenge it.

On a spring day at lunch time, those 11 young women went in to the Hofbrau, sat down at table and waited… and waited. They sat for an hour being ignored by the staff and had to return to work with empty stomachs. Several male patrons supported them and offered them their food, but the women wanted to be served properly. A week later they went back again with a reporter. This time the sign was down and they were served a very nice meal.

Six of those women recently got together for a reunion to celebrate the success of that eventful day and our local paper The Record covered their story, Tackling an all-male sanctuary is worth celebrating. The women have long outlived the Hofbrau, so they had their reunion in the basement pub, the Rum Rummer.

Much discussion has ensued since the article about these wonderful women was printed. People are asking questions such as, “Are women-only sports club now discriminatory to men?” These issues are not easy to navigate and we need to constantly keep the conversation going, but for me it comes down to the one point the women made. That sign made them feel like 2nd class citizens. Women have come a long way in the past 40 years. At the time they were definitely treated like 2nd class citizens in many ways and full equality is still a long way off, but open conversation will certainly make things happen a lot faster.

The Rum Runner has its own interesting history. While the Walper Hotel was hosting nobility from around the world during Prohibition, Al Capone, the Seagrams and their ilk (I love the word “ilk”!) were exchanging liquors and discreetly handling their business in the tunnels and hidden places under the hotel – hence the name. The owners today have preserved the safes and many items from that interesting time in Kitchener history and I hear their menu is wonderful too!


These photos are from a post on eBay where someone is auctioning off a Hofbrau menu. The seller might appreciate a bid!

P.S. This post just happens to correspond nicely with the one on my person blog today “Girl Power Has Always Been Here To Stay.


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