The Arnets of Tofino
When Les Eve asked on the phone if I’d noticed the obituary for Edgar Arnet of Tofino, both of us were thinking of the years the Arnet family members spent in Sooke. It was in the closing years of World War II that we all got to know Edgar and his sister Beverly when we were going to school together, first at Sooke and then at Milnes Landing High.
Jacob Arnet was the patriarch; born in Trondheim, Norway, he fished with his father in the Lofoten Islands and as a young immigrant pre-empted a homestead in Tofino in 1893. His sweetheart travelled out to join him and the couple raised six stalwart sons and a daughter. All of the sons, Edgar, Harold, Karl, Bjarne, Trygve and Walter became well-known fishermen, and four became officers in the Fishermen’s Naval Reserve during World War II.
As there were no canneries on the coast when Jacob Arnet started fishing, the fish had to be salted down in barrels, which the family made themselves. The nets they used for seining, and cedar floats, were also fashioned by their own hands. The Arnets were recognized as one of the leading fishing families of the BC coast, and until the road to Tofino was opened in 1959, they operated in a relatively remote area, packing their fish to Vancouver markets. The second generation Arnets owned several boats, fishing primarily for halibut, besides salmon seining.
Brothers Bjarne and Trygve were the men I had the opportunity to meet, (from afar only, I was just a little girl) as the two had married sisters, the daughters of Vancouver Island historian and entrepreneur Major George Nicholson. The two vivacious Nicholson girls had attended school in Sooke years earlier when their dad was a businessman here (think of the Belvedere Hotel) so it was a bit of old home town for them.
Bjarne and Bonnie Arnet set up a home on Sooke Road (later sold in the mid-1950s to the Jim Owen family) and their two children Edgar and Bev joined the school and social scene. Trygve and Gretel Arnet made their home in Vic West, and their daughter Lorraine went to Vic High, at the same time as Sooke’s own Pat Forrest was attending there. Pat, who has spent his lifetime fishing, says that the two Arnet brothers that he got to know well, Bjarne and Trygve, were among the finest men he ever met.
When Beverly Arnet finished school she became a dance teacher, with reviews and performances held at Sooke Community Hall. She married the son of an old Sooke family, Nelson Cook, and the couple left Sooke for Nelson’s work up-island. While Edgar moved back to the old family haunts of Tofino, and Beverly Cook lives there today, the Arnet chapter of Sooke’s history added a bit of dash and glamour for us all.
Sooke Region Museum