Tsawwassen brothel owner & bootlegger, Pansy May

The following story was originally published by the Delta Heritage Society, originally the Delta Museum and Archives Society….

 

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Delta Stories

Tsawwassen’s Pansy May “Cabaret”

 

The prohibition of alcohol in British Columbia began in 1916 and ended in 1921. In the United States prohibition ran from 1919 to 1933, making bootlegging liquor from Canada into the USA a lucrative, but illegal, business.

Prohibition produced one of Delta's most colourful characters, Pansy May Stuttard. Pansy May was an unusually rough and ready woman for her time.

She had become Canada's first female sea captain in the early 1900s operating ships up and down the coast of BC delivering goods to small communities.

In the mid-1920s, Pansy May leased a 27 acre plot of land at the south end of English Bluff Rd (where Tsawwassen Heights is today) and built a small house there right up against the Point Roberts border. She brought liquor there, which was now legal in Canada, from Vancouver to smuggle into the U.S.

As well as passing cases of liquor across the border, she and a friend built a cable and pulley system to carry cases of booze down to Tsawwassen beach where US bound boats waited in the dark of night to take it further down the coast.

At this time south Tsawwassen was nearly completely forested and English Bluff Road was only a dirt track.

The location was very isolated and a perfect place to quietly move liquor across the border.

As word spread about her operation, the seasonal fishermen and cannery workers at Point Roberts started to show up at Pansy May's door.

She would literally hand the bottles of bootleg liquor out her back door on the Canadian side to her customers on the US side.

delta bootlegging

When B.C. government introduced prohibition, every province in Canada, with the exception of Quebec, had also introduced the legislation. Bootlegging, of course, became a booming trade and Pansy May took advantage of the opportunities

 

Business became so good by the late 1920’s she decided to build what she legally called a “cabaret" but in reality was a brothel.

Or, as she clandestinely advertised at the time “a place to bring a girl for a drink and if you don't have a girl, we’ll supply one".

The new building was built opposite her house, which she had already enlarged to contain a bar, it was about 150ft long with a dance hall and 16 small rooms to rent.

Her “cabaret” was shut down several times by the Delta authorities. She'd be hauled off to court where she would pay her fine and then go back to her business as usual.

This all ended in 1933 with the end of the US prohibition.

The “cabaret” was torn down but Pansy May continued to live in her small house at the end of English Bluff Rd until about 1936, when the owner of the land wanted to develop it.

Pansy May's old house was dismantled and moved up the road to where Fred Gingell Park is today.

She lived there until the mid-1950s when B.C. Hydro bought the land from her to install the power lines across to Vancouver Island.

She died in 1963 in Cloverdale at the age of 87.

 

If you have a Delta Story to share please contact the Delta Heritage Society at info@deltaheritagesociety.ca

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