After World War II was over and the rest of the country was returning to normal, the Alaska Highway was still under military control. Civilian traffic was restricted by both government regulation and the lack of services for the casual traveller.
In 1946, the British Yukon Navigation Company started a bus service from Dawson Creek, British Columbia to Whitehorse, Yukon. The company financed the construction of four highway lodges along the route to provide gas for their trucks and busses and refreshments for passengers. The early highway lodges varied greatly in appearance. These included hastily converted army barrack buildings, stout two-story log structures and a framed wall tent for serving lunches.
Rancheria was one of the first lodges to open. The original lodge was constructed of logs with the help of Bud Simpson. Simpson eventually bought the place and ran it with his wife Doris for 28 years. As the business grew, the building was enlarged using materials salvaged from the nearby abandoned highway construction camp. This was common practice at a time when lumber was expensive and hard to come by.
The highway lodges served simple meals and offered sanctuary from severe weather and road conditions. Doris Simpson served her first meal to a man and his son who arrived during a snow storm, on the night of October 9th, 1946. They feasted on ham and eggs. In 1948, a roast beef dinner with all the trimmings was $1. Gasoline was not so cheap, however, selling for 55 cents per gallon! Rooms were reasonably priced at $3 to $4 for a double. Mrs. Simpson can recall a few times, in bad weather, when strangers were forced to sleep two to a bed and even under the dining room table.
Many of the early lodges were destroyed by fire, usually caused by wood heat, faulty wiring, or temperamental generators. Also, many lodges closed down as the road improved, and there was less need for frequent stopping places. Rancheria is one of the few original Alaska Highway lodges still operating today.
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