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The Tara Supper Club

Photos and information provided by Terry Simpson.
Information from Vin Coyne's article, Tara Times... in the August 1988 Semiahmoo Sounder.

Tara Supper Club opened its doors in mid–1946. It was located 100 yards south of the Elgin Bridge on King George Highway at the junction with Crescent Road. Set on a knoll overlooking the highway link between New Westminster and the border, Tara was the scene of parties, weddings, graduations and community events for over 30 years.

Aerial view of Tara

This aerial shot shows the Tara Supper Club at the corner of King George Highway and Crescent Road. The picture was taken in the mid 1950s as the Drive-in, which opened in 1953, is shown north of the Supper Club. The home across the highway belonged to the Connor's family, and at the top of the picture is Southway Service.

Pete Simpson returned from air force service and in partnership with Delbert(Del) Burch built Tara. Pete and Del felt that after the war people of the area needed a place just to have fun. They cleared the 7.25 acres and used the timber from the site to construct the facility. The timber was milled at the little sawmill near Elgin school.

Tara reservation

This was one of the early reservation cards used by the Tara Supper Club. The date stamp might be the date that Tara officially opened for business.

Pete sought reservations with the Cloverdale phone number 74R, by offering daytime dinners from 5 pm to 8 pm and then dancing from 9 pm to 1 am. The cover charge that year was $1.30 per person. The partnership only lasted 2 or 3 years before Del left. The business was left for Pete and his wife, Myrtle, a former Surrey teacher, to work as a team.

Simpsons and Burches

Pete and Myrtle Simpson are seated on the left, and Del and Margaret Burch are on the right. These couples built and operated Tara Supper Club, but the partnership only lasted 2 or 3 years. The Simpsons continued to operate Tara until 1957.

In its heyday Tara was a landmark as well as a fun place. Motorists would make their way south over the Pattullo Bridge, built in 1937, and onto the King George VI highway, opened in 1940. From the bridge south there were no traffic lights but a stop sign on King George gave the right of way to vehicles on the Trans Canada Highway. Preceding south the first of two neon signs to greet the weary traveler were those of Tara. They were a welcoming sight as the travelers proceeded over Woodward's Hill and down onto the Mud Bay flats. Directions to get to Crescent Beach were south on King George and turn right at Tara.

Front view of Tara Back side of Tara

The supper club was built on a slight rise with a drive through entrance. The dance floor was in the middle of the building with raised seating around the perimeter. Large windows faced north and gave diners a grand view of the hills and mountains to the north.

Tara was open every day including Sundays and holidays, and offered a varied menu, including porterhouse steak at $1.85, fried chicken in the basket for $1.10, ham and eggs at 85 cents and a side of chips for 15 cents. Soft drinks, such as Stubby, were 15 cents or two for 25 cents.

Dinner menu

Pete took the name Tara from "Gone with the Wind". He brought in a three piece orchestra and served up to 300 people at one sitting. People came from Vancouver, New Westminster and Bellingham as well as Surrey and they all helped make the good times. The Supper Club provided employment for many local ladies.

Myrtle and Pete Simpson

The Simpsons were featured in this Vancouver Sun photo of the 1950s. Myrtle and Pete Simpson faced 700 sets of dirty dishes after the New Year's Ball was over.

New Years at Tara

New Year celebrations drew a very large crowd to the Tara Supper Club. This picture shows the patrons at a typical New Years crowding the dance floor after a full course dinner.

Pete and Myrtle ran the dinner dances on the weekend, catered to banquets during the week, and also operated the drive–in restaurant which they opened on the adjacent property in 1953. Many local students got their first employment opportunities at the drive–in. Terry Simpson recalls his dad Pete saying "I must remember not to put the young Jack Cosens on the milkshake machine as he puts too much ice cream in them for his friends". The Tara Drive-in became a weekend meeting place for young people from White Rock and other parts of Surrey.

Tara was a bottle club. There was no liquor license available for Tara or the 22 similar clubs that were then operating in the Lower Mainland. Lack of a liquor license failed to deter party–goers of the day who provided the original meaning of the term brown bagging it. The hours of operation were never taken too seriously. Early patrons of Tara recall celebrating as late as 3 am, and the club was always ready to give a warm reception to members of the six-man Surrey Municipal Police Department who would drop by for coffee.

Pete ran a tight ship with his personal control of patrons. Only a few minor mishaps were said to mar the happy times at Tara. One lady had an argument with her husband and stormed out to walk home. When she got outside she remembered she had no shoes on, but too proud to return, she walked in bare feet to the east end of White Rock.

The Tara's dance floor

Tara's heyday was in the Big Band Era and dancing was a major form of entertainment. The Dance Floor at Tara could be viewed from all the surrounding dining tables. Here the Staff prepares for the evening activities.

Most of Semiahmoo High's graduation banquets were held at Tara over a 10 year period. For the grads of 1956, the dance program featured waltzes, fast and slow fox trot, and the French minuet. The 1956 graduation program was typical of the grads held at Tara.

The 1956 graduation program The 1956 graduation program

In 1957, the Simpson's sold Tara to Todd Spicer, a former chef on cruise liners and a U.S. restaurant owner. For ten years he catered at the Hotel Vancouver and became well known in south Surrey in the early 1950s as operator of Todd's Diner, later Don's Diner, next door to the Ocean Beach Hotel.

Pete Simpson and Todd Spicer

The photo shows Pete Simpson (left) congratulating the new owner Todd Spicer on the acquisition of the Tara Supper Club. The club took the name Tara Dine and Dance. Todd and Mary Spicer were business partners at the Tara even though they were separated.

Todd Spicer sold Tara in the early 1960s and its name was changed to The Turkey House. Ralph Wint and Tommy Bell, who had a turkey farm believed that this was a logical means of marketing turkeys. It seemed like a good idea at the time but it was not. The club was sold and became The Islanders and later Theodore's. Theodore's Steak and Schnitzel House was operated by Victor Frederick Kanuka for four and one half years before it was destroyed by fire.

Tara destroyed by fire

On Oct. 22, 1981 Theodore's Steak and Schnitzel House was destroyed by fire early in the morning. Eight fire department vehicles from three fire halls responded to the fire at 3601 King George Highway. The fire was reported at about 4 am and firefighters fought several hours to extinguish it.

The name Theodore's, said Kanuka, came from private memories. "Tara and many private memories", is what the old roadside joint, in the good old days, was all about.

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