Though he seldom gets the recognition accorded to other members of Burns Lake’s early business community, Anthony M. (Andy) Ruddy played a key role in the town’s development.
Prominent and popular, Ruddy came to Burns Lake from Hazelton in 1920. His business enterprises were many and varied; shortly after his arrival, he formed a partnership with Omineca Ed Sullivan and purchased both the Lakeview and the Cheslatta hotels, renaming the latter the Omineca and adding a dance hall to it.
That hall hosted a variety of entertainment. In 1923, the St. John’s Anglican Church Women’s Auxiliary held two plays there, one of which was called “Billy’s Chorus Girl”.
Ruddy’s barn and stables, built nearby in 1924, were sometimes used as a morgue. A gentleman who stabled his horse there once opened a long trough to get some oats, but instead found a frozen corpse that police officer Percy Carr had picked up in Decker Lake.
Ruddy brought the first radio to Burns Lake, and despite the fact that reception was said to be poor and punctuated periodically by loud squawks, it was popular with the locals. He also purchased a power plant in 1923 – Burns Lake’s first – which initially supplied power to the Omineca Hotel, but later expanded its operations to provide the town with electricity ‘round the clock.’
In 1926, Ruddy sold the Lakeview Hotel and purchased a partnership in Burns Lake’s first garage. He sold the Omineca Hotel to Harry Little in 1928 and, again in partnership, operated a garage and the town’s Ford Car Sales and Service. After the garage burned to the ground in March 1932 (taking with it, ironically, the village’s fire apparatus), he opened Ruddy Motors Ltd. in what is now a vacant lot beside Burns Lake’s Canada Post outlet. He operated the garage until 1942, and then sold it to William (Bill) Bickle of Grassy Plains.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Ruddy then bought into a sawmill at Pendleton Bay.
Yet Ruddy was more than just an entrepreneur. He was a member of the Burns Lake Citizens’ Association, the organization largely responsible for seeing Burns Lake incorporated as a village, and periodically served as a village commissioner (the equivalent of today’s councillor) from 1924 until at least 1939. He helped raise funds for the new hospital, played on the town’s first hockey team with Ernie Stanyer, Carr, Gordon Wood, Ira Short, and other Burns Lake notables, and despite being perhaps the worst skier in town, was a founding member of the Omineca Ski Club.
When Ruddy passed away on Sept. 20, 1944, the town lost one of its biggest boosters.
© 2018 Michael Riis-Christianson and the Lakes District Museum Society