Updated: Jan 12, 2019
Robert Main was sometimes referred to as the poet laureate of the Kootenays. In the 1920s, he ran a small roadside stand at Beasley called the Pop Inn, which sold, well, pop, plus chocolates, cigarettes, and fruit from local orchards. For 10 cents you could also buy his publication, The Pop Inn Annual, filled with poems, ads, and nonsense.
Robert Main (left) is seen offering refreshments at the Pop Inn at Beasley, 1927, the same year he issued the publication seen below. At right is Charles Clark, driver of the Patricia, which is advertised within the pages of the Pop Inn Annual.
(Arrow Lakes Historical Society)
Touchstones Nelson has three copies of the 1927 edition, along with the 1926, 1928, 1929, and 1931 editions, seen below.
Below I have scanned the 1927 edition, which is probably a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy that belongs to Al Craft of Beasley. I didn’t realize at the time that Touchstones had original copies.
I love The Pop Inn Annual for a lot of reasons. Main devotes page 5 to a poem exalting the virtues of Glorious Kootenay — and immediately follows it with the note: “We have noticed quite a few dead animals on the highway, including snakes. Motorists seeing snakes should slow up at once, and keep their elbow down.”
Page 13 features questions frequently asked of Main, quite a few of which have to do with booze.
Do you sell beer? Yes – Ginger beer.
Do you make that Ginger beer? Yes.
Have you any cider? Yes.
Can we get liquor in Nelson? Yes.
You don’t have any here? No.
Why don’t you do a bit of bootlegging? Too much competition.
There is a poem devoted to John Learmonth’s Marjorie, one of the buses that passed the Pop Inn daily.
Then there are the ads, which include such curiosities as the Pinehurst Inn at South Slocan, the Maple Leaf Grocery in Nelson (which I have written about before), the motor coach Patricia, the Masloff Lumber Co., Wilson’s Volcanizing [sic] Works, and Gridley’s Electric Bakery, all of Nelson, plus the Arrow Lakes Hotel of Edgewood.
The pen sketches are by Nelson photographer George Meeres, who also has an ad.
I don’t know exactly when the Pop Inn opened or closed, and was not sure of its exact location — Robert Main was described variously as a Bonnington, Beasley, and Corra Linn resident — but the Internet soon came to the rescue:
Click here to see the property on Google Street View. The house that is there is from 1961.
According to his obituary, Main was born in 1873 at Edsel, Scotland and worked as a young man for a London seed company. He came to Canada about 1909, first to the Ottawa area, then headed for the Kootenays and began fruit ranching at Thrums. He also spent time on Bowen Island and worked on land surveys on the Arrow Lakes.
In 1916, he married Ethel Long at Vancouver and enlisted in the 102nd Battalion at Nelson, after which he trained at Comox and served in France and England. After being discharged, he resumed fruit ranching at Bonnington and worked for the Department of Public Works as a road foreman. He moved to Nelson in 1951, where he lived at 309 Richards Street.
Besides The Pop Inn Annual, he published Happy Times for Boys & Girls, a booklet of children’s poems. Touchstones has copies of two slightly different editions, seen below, with illustrations by J.C. Ingram Rogers, to whom I will soon devote a separate post.
Main also published a chapbook simply entitled Poems, dedicated to his only child, Robert Lindsay Main, who was killed in 1943 in Edmonton while serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force. Touchstones has a copy of this as well. Main once won a Family Herald and Weekly Star prize for best Canadian patriotic poem, entitled Come Along Canadians, which turned into a song.
He was honorary president of the Nelson Cricket Club and belonged to the Nelson Golf and Country Club. These interests found their way into The Pop Inn Annual:
WHAT WE SHOULD LIKE TO SEE
The green fee at the Golf Links so much a round
A good live Cricket Club in Nelson
A bridge to replace the ferry at Castlegar
More cars to stop at the Pop Inn
Robert Main died in Nelson at age 84, survived by his wife.
Updated on Jan. 12, 2019 with details of Touchstones Nelson’s holdings of the Pop Inn Annual.