Sooke and the Sooke River bridge back in 1947.

1947 — Then and now!

Sooke was a different place back then

The current Sooke River bridge, a bowstring arch steel structure, was built in 1967 to replace the wartime bridge put up in 1944, shown in this photo dated 1947.

The current bridge faces a bit more upstream on the western end than the bridge shown here. Mt. Brule overlooks us in the background as it does today. If you look closely, three buildings can be seen on the far side of the river: at left the pioneer Milne home, the Sooke Telephone Office, and on the right, the Milne’s Landing Store.

Bellevue Chalet in the foreground, at the western end of the bridge, was a pretty exciting enterprise at that time, attracting all the young folk who were looking to meet other young folk. It also served good food, and offered employment. Among the Sooke students who got summer jobs there was Audrey Sullivan (now Wilson).

Built by Arthur and Elaine MacFarlane on the frontage of their property, this restaurant followed a temporary hot-dog stand that had been placed there a couple of years earlier.  Island Building Supply was contracted to build the Chalet, and it is believed that two Sooke carpenters, Pete Wilson and Tom Money, were employed. Sadly, in 1948 the Chalet suffered an unexplained fire that completely destroyed it.

Alongside the Chalet, the photo shows a B-A garage, Bellevue Service. We have been told that this enterprise was begun by a mechanic called Laurie Phillips who had been working monkey-wrenching logging trucks in the shop at Munn’s Mill.

During the next years, Frank Erickson from East Sooke was connected to this service station, and we understand that Herb Caffery and Harry Montgomery leased it next.  Richard Andreychuk followed as the next operator, until 1966. It was at that point that the Highways Ministry required that the service station be demolished in order to accommodate a new alignment for Highway 14 when the current bridge was to be built in 1967.

When approaching the Sooke River bridge today, one would be driving approximately where the gas pumps are in the photo. While it might be easy to think that there is/was a “status quo” that applied to Sooke, in fact many of us have witnessed a community that has experienced constant change.

Elida Peers

Historian, Sooke Region Museum