The Pavilion General Store, which was located 25 miles west of the junction with Highway 97 on what is now Highway 99, billed itself as the oldest general store in the province: it was claimed that a store and roadhouse had been built on the site adjoining the original Cariboo Wagon Road from Lillooet to Clinton in 1862. More ominously, it was also claimed that the building was haunted.
The claim that it was built in 1862 appears to mix up two roadhouses that were close together. The 22 Mile roadhouse was built on the Marble Lake Road in 1862; but the nearby 20 Mile roadhouse, which appears to have been at or near the Pavilion store site, was not built until 1870. The land on which it stood was pre-empted in 1862, but was then abandoned, until it was taken up in 1870 by a miner named Michael Gillen who—along with his wife—built and operated a roadhouse and store there for a year, before selling out to Philip Garrigan, who continued to operate the business.
A large stone fireplace within the building—which was much added-to over the years—almost certainly belonged to an older structure. Does the 1870 date put it out of the running for “oldest general store” in the province?
The point is moot now, for in January 2000 the store caught fire, leaving only the fireplace—which is still standing—behind. Ken Havinga, who was a locomotive engineer with BC Rail, drove past the store on his way to work the evening it burned. “Fast forward roughly two hours; I was operating a northbound (Lillooet to Williams Lake) freight train on the Lillooet subdivision. The conductor and I noticed the very prominent fiery glow ahead of us, in the Pavilion Valley. Our patrol vehicle alerted us to the burning store ahead.
“Given that the train I was operating was carrying ‘empty’ tank cars that previously contained flammable substances, I took the appropriate action to stop the train before passing the site of the now fully engulfed store, which [sat] no more than 100 feet from the railway tracks. We sat for two hours watching the store burn to the ground.”
Over the years the store changed hands a few times. Jessie and John Leavens operated it until the mid-1950s, when it was purchased by Florence and Andrew Hayes, who owned it until the late 1960s or early 1970s. They sold the business to Kathleen Essex (née McElwain), who became the store’s proprietor, as well as postmistress of the small post office located in the store, until 1975. A couple named Tony and Trudy Takacs owned the store until 1992, when they sold it to Barry and Nadine Schanehorn.
Marilyn Allison (née Murray), who worked at the store when it was owned by Florence and Andy Hayes, recalled that “It was a wonderful general store selling everything from china tea cups to cowboy hats. It served as a postal outlet as well as a gas station, a bed and breakfast, a five table restaurant frequented by hunters, and was a stopover for travelling salespersons and travellers alike. Florence and Andy Hayes at the Pavilion Store were the hub of the activities.”
Shirley Allen (née Hughes) also worked at the store in the 1950s, starting there as a clerk when she was 14 years old. “It was truly a ‘general store’: clothing, shoes, food, hardware, and some medicines and horse liniment. There were old gas pumps that I had to pump gas into a reservoir to the ten gallon mark. The gas was then gravity-fed into a car’s gas tank and the amount of gallons assessed on the marked reservoir and charged at fifty cents a gallon. I was paid fifty cents an hour.”
Tony and Trudy Takacs appear to have been the first owners to notice strange, unexplainable events in the store. On one occasion, all the packages of cigarettes on a shelf tumbled to the floor for no reason, even though they were secured in place by a lip at the front of the shelf; they would have had to fall up and over the lip.
On another occasion, Tony went to bed before Trudy, and woke up in the middle of the night with his arm around his wife. He got up to go the bathroom and saw that the TV was on. Thinking Trudy had left it on by accident, he went to turn it off, and found his wife asleep on the couch.
When he asked if she had just got up from bed herself, she replied that she had fallen asleep there some time before, leaving Tony to wonder who—or what—he had had his arm around.
It did not take Barry Schanehorn long to feel he and his wife were not alone in the house. Their dog also seemed to sense something strange: it would often go to the base of the stairs leading to the second floor and stare at them, the fur on the back of the dog’s neck standing on end as it watched the stairs.
During a visit from Barry’s mother, the Schanehorns were downstairs in the store speaking with a customer when they heard footsteps along the hallway upstairs. Nadine thought it was Barry’s mother; but her husband replied that his mother was asleep on the couch in the living-room next door. A search of the upper floor revealed no one was there.
Other strange events included windows that were left open at night being found closed in the morning, and curtains closed in the evening being open next day. One corner bedroom was reported to be exceptionally cold, even during the summer.
Was the Pavilion General Store haunted? And if so, by whom? One theory is that the ghost was Florence Hayes, who loved the building and community, and who was reluctant to leave it in the 1970s. But we shall probably never know the answer.