The Gai Paree Supper Club was established in 1947 by the Morin family on Kingsway at Sperling. Anne Marie and R. P. (Rene Pierre) Morin were born in France, later moving to the Channel Islands in the U.K. where they worked as farm laborers, met and ultimately married in 1903. They migrated to Bonnyville, AB — a French-Canadian community NE of Edmonton — in 1912. “Dad” Morin served with the Canadian Forces overseas and, upon returning to Canada, worked for the CNR until taking his pension in 1943. Meanwhile, Mom was busily operating her own community grocery and buying three houses which she rented, all the while raising a family of four (Sun 12 Jun 1954).
In 1942, Mom left Bonnyville with her ailing daughter, Adele, and settled on Sperling Avenue in Burnaby. (Adele died in 1945 at age 38 of Addison’s Disease). Mom had a real entrepreneurial flare, as she soon had her eye on the corner of Kingsway and Sperling and had an idea for establishing a food service business there. At that time, her eldest boy, Rene, was managing the Spokane Spartans’ hockey team. And another son, Rudy, had his own band in the Kootneys, the Rossland Ramblers (Sun 12 Jun 1954). The family was called together in Burnaby.
Mom sent Rudy and another son, Severin, out to learn the food business. They moonlit with Nat Bailey’s White Spot restaurants for awhile. Everyone pitched in with the construction of the Gai Paree until it was completed in November 1947.
The Gai Paree Supper Club was born! Every Friday and Saturday night, from 10 ’til 2 a.m., there was dancing. All other nights, the Paree was available to be booked for corporate get-togethers, wedding receptions, birthdays or any other catering occasion. And on Saturday nights, the Gai Paree Party Bus brought folks from Vancouver into the Burnaby location and took Paree-ers back to Vancouver at 2 a.m. There was also a nightly (except Monday) drive-in service provided at the Paree until 1 a.m.
There was a band, of course. Early on, music was supplied by Arne Moller and his Band. Later on, it was supplied by Pierre and His Gai Paree Orchestra. “Pierre” was, in fact, Rudy. He doubled as “Pierre the Arteest” who drew cartoons of guests on their souvenir photos. Photos were taken, in 1953, by Bart Van Den Beld.
In 1976, the Gai Paree became Severin’s, named after the manager of both establishments: Severin Morin. There was a dining room, and adjacent to it a room called “That’s Entertainment”which featured live entertainment, no cover charge, and no reservations. And there was a club upstairs that paid tribute to local radio host, Jack Cullen, called Jack’s. Severin’s was open every night from 5 p.m. (Province 5 Aug 1976).
Severin’s quietly disappeared in 1985 and, in its place, Diego’s was established. But the Morin family had nothing to do with Diego’s. Today, there is a condominium residential tower where The Gai Paree/Severin’s once were.
The eldest son, Rene, died suddenly in 1954 at age 49. The Morin family contributed to the establishment of the Rene Memorial Playground in 1956 just behind the Gai Paree at Sperling and Balmoral; it is still there. Mom passed in 1956; Dad in 1963; and Severin in 2014.
Many thanks are due to Maurice Guibord for his assistance with
details pertaining to the Morins and the Gai Paree.