The Mad Trapper Pub recently closed its doors, but it’s fair to say the current version had little in common with the original, which opened in a different building and under different ownership back in 1975 and became an instant hit with locals and tourists alike.
Jim Oseychuk helped his dad build the wood, lodge-like building, which is now the Wolf’s Den. The building was originally a deli and gift shop run by his mother. After her passing, Oseychuk decided to convert the shop into a pub and he hired Wendell Johnston to help him with the inside furnishings.
Laws opening up neighbourhood pubs had just come into affect at the time and Oseychuk jumped through the necessary hoops to obtain a liquor license for his pub at the age of 23.
“We started cutting up bar slabs and the original table tops…that’s also what gave it a completely unique flavour. There was nothing quite like it…the warmth of the place was just incredible,” Oseychuk said.
“It was truly a Canadian pub,” Johnston said. “All of the wood and all of the furnishings were built by the Oseychuks and I helped. It was all local wood.”
Several months later, the Mad Trapper Pub was officially open for business.
Ray Gillies claims he was the first one through the doors on that fall evening after an avalanche cut short his climbing day.
“We ended up downtown and my friend told me that there’s a pub opening today…it wasn’t quite open when we arrived so we banged on the door and they let us in.
“I should (have) owned the Mad Trapper with the money I spent in there,” Gillies joked.
At the time, bars in Golden attracted a certain crowd and were a little rough around the edges. That wasn’t the case for the Trapper, which strived to provide a welcoming, wholesome environment for people of all walks of life.
“When we opened up that place…people who had never set foot in bars would come,” Oseychuk noted.
“I didn’t allow any bad language. I had a swear box and everybody had to be ladies and gentleman. We brought people out to that pub that wouldn’t normally drink socially because they could be comfortable that somebody wasn’t going to sit beside them and say the ‘F’ word all night,” Johnston said.
A simple menu was enhanced by a classic selection of ‘70s folk and rockabilly classics and the Trapper quickly evolved into Golden’s living room, a place where everybody knew everybody else, and if they didn’t, they soon would.
“You could go in there as a stranger and you’d never feel weird,” Oseychuk said.
Because it was designated as a neighbourhood pub, the Trapper would close much earlier than the bars in downtown Golden. As a result, patrons who weren’t ready to call it a night would have the unique opportunity to hitch a ride on the train behind the pub and ride it downtown in order to save themselves a walk.
Oseychuk’s original idea was to have guys fill most of the serving roles, but he laughs that his plan was quickly abandoned. His wife Lee, Johnston’s wife Shari and Suzette Dunphy were among the serving staff in those early days.
“It was a great place to work, Jim and Wendell were great to work for. I really enjoyed it,” Dunphy said.
The pub was also well known for two annual events, its renowned Halloween parties and the exceptionally detailed floats it would construct for the annual rodeo, with the Trapper taking home first place every year it entered.
After five years in the industry, Oseychuk decided he’d had enough of the pub life, preferring to spend as much time as he could on his quiet property south of town. He sold the bar in 1980. Johnston got out of the business at the same time, choosing to pursue a commercial plane business instead. While neither regret their decision to sell, they both look back on their time at the Trapper with an acute fondness.
“It was one of the most fun times of my life because I was really proud to be there…I really cherish those days and I think about them often,” Johnston said.
“Everybody misses it for sure…It was one of the most creative and fun times of my life,” Oseychuk said.