Those who’ve spent any time at Surrey’s Round Up Café probably have a story to tell about the place, or heard one while having a plate of eggs or cup of coffee there.
The landmark diner has stood witness to more than six decades of change in Whalley, on that mid-block lot at 10449 King George Boulevard, in the old Goodmanson building constructed in 1949.
Now, the history of the tiny, single-storey eatery is chronicled in a new book called Stories From the Round Up Café, a project led by Jude Campbell and the Flamingo Square Arts Society team of Val Watson, Shara Nixon, Lucie Matich and Pamela DeJong.
“Originally there wasn’t a plan to do a book,” Campbell explained, “but we had all these stories collected, and with the cultural grant we got from the city, for $5,000, we wanted to produce something about the project, a concrete thing, and we put it together. And here it is.”
A book-launch event and open house is planned for Sunday, March 1, from 2 to 4 p.m., at the very place Orest and Goldie Springenatic bought in 1959.
Sadly, Orest died a couple of decades ago, after years of involvement in Whalley Little League baseball, leaving Goldie and other family members to continue operating the diner, to this day.
The 53-page, soft-cover book is dedicated to the Springenatic family, diner staff and “the Whalley community they have served for 60 years.”
Parts of the book were pulled from interviews and also from events organized for people to recall their memories of having Canadian-Ukrainian meals at the Round Up over the years.
Lucie Matich moved to Surrey the same year Orest and Goldie did, in the late-1950s.
“I got married, and my husband (Nick) already knew the restaurant,” Matich recalled. “It took me awhile to learn to eat perogies and cabbage rolls, and I still can’t believe I had to acquire a taste for that,” she said with a laugh. “My husband passed away, but we used to share a plate of that. He liked cabbage rolls more than me so he’d take more of those and I’d get more of the perogies. That’s a good memory.”
Shara Nixon said she used to work at the Dell Hotel “for a really nasty cook” who gave strict orders that no employee dare venture across the street to the Round Up.
“It was competition, right, and I used to threaten that I’d quit there and go work for the Round Up,” Nixon said. “We had dust-up fights. I don’t know why (the cook) hated this place so much, but we’d sneak over and grab some food. Back then the Round Up was open 24 hours, and we’d get off work and come here. This was the place, where the real people from Whalley came.”
Val Watson’s connection to the café dates back to 1960. “We used to live in New Westminster, and never came to Surrey – only to eat here, pretty much,” she said. “This was a good place for truck drivers, which my husband was. It was one of the few places open all night at the time. We’d have breakfast here almost every other Sunday.”
Campbell first ventured into the Round Up in the early 1990s, and became fascinated by it.
“My daughter was born in Vancouver and we moved to Surrey and started coming here shortly after that,” Campbell recalled. “It reminded me of the diners in Saint John, New Brunswick, where I grew up, and I just loved it…. It’s authentic – that’s a word I like to use, and it feels like a very real place, and the people here are kind and generous. I only recently got to know Goldie, who is fabulous.”
These days, the Round Up is open for breakfast and lunch only, and Goldie isn’t around all the time – “just hit and miss,” she said.
Goldie says she doesn’t like being in the spotlight, but she was more than willing to tell the book project team about the place she’s owned and operated for 60 years.
“I know people like to know about it,” she said with a smile.
“My girl there, Tanya (Abendroth), she’s been the manager for quite a few years,” Goldie said without missing a beat. “She was 17 or something when she started.”
Later, while serving breakfast, Abendroth clarified: “I’ve been here 45 years,” she said.
Such loyalty is not uncommon among Round Up customers, including members of the book project committee.
Photos of the restaurant through the years are featured in the collection, designed by Kevin van der Leek.
“He offered to design the book for us, which was a huge bonus, and the book would look like nothing without his help,” Campbell raved.
“We’re giving copies to anyone who was part of creating the book, and the Archives will have it and we’re also applying to have some copies in the library,” she added. “We’ll have some copies for sale here as well, for $15.”
The book’s initial press run is 300 copies, for budgetary reasons.
Said Nixon: “We can do another run if we need to, and demand is strong, but we’d had to raise some more money for that, another $3,000 or something.”
As the invitation for Sunday’s open house suggests, the book celebrates a café that has been “the heartbeat of Surrey for 60 years.”
That’s the past.
As for the future of the Round Up, that story is yet to be written.
“It’s kind of in my kids’ hands now, and I’m backing off a bit – do what you want,” Goldie said. “It’s been good – very good. I loved it, and I still enjoy coming here. I love the people.”