Munn's Lumber mill employed Sooke locals.

Munn’s Lumber ran for 15 years

Elida Peers writes about the history of the Sooke region

When Munn’s Mill was operating from 1941 to 1956 alongside the mouth of Ayum (Stoney) Creek, not only was it a busy and noisy enterprise, but it took crews of loggers to supply the logs that would be fed into the giant saw blades. Today the site looks abandoned, situated between the Shell Station and the highway bridge over the creek.

The men in the woods crew pictured here in 1954 are in front of a gasoline powered donkey engine yarder at Glinz Lake. Left to right, they are Alf Haywood, Fred Zarelli, Herb Blythe, Art Pedneault and Laurence Laberge. Of this group, Fred Zarelli, though retired, is still active as a firewatch for a company operating further to the west in the Sooke hills today, Timberwest.

It was the Chu family that ran Munn’s Lumber, and in the 1950s it was the second generation, brothers Jimmy, David and Eddy who ran the show. Among other men supplying the logs were Buster Buxton, Lyman Young and the Valleau brothers. Tuck Vowles, so instrumental in building the museum in the 1970s, recalled years ago that he got his start in the woods with Munns when he was only 15, became a high-rigger and was still doing salvage logging with that company when he retired.

A spectacular aspect of the Munn sawmill was the screaming 9 ft diameter fly wheel. The 250 hp diesel powered Petters engine ran a yard wide drive belt travelling in excess of 60 mph that was mounted on a line shaft that drove the flywheel and all the saws and conveyor belts. Weighing 10 tons, this engine was kept running by chief engineer Jamieson.   It wasn’t unusual for men to come by just to watch the show.

Others working at the mill included Bill Eddy, Marshall Smith Jr, “Hammy Hamilton”, Bobbie Mee, Grant Soutar, Tom Dingle, Adam Duncan and Lionel Laberge.  Some of the lumber was trucked to Victoria, while some was carried by a “Ross carrier” along the Sooke Road for half a mile to the Saseenos station of the Canadian National Railway, where it was loaded onto flatdeck cars. The carrier driver was Bill Marr.  In 1956, the saws stopped screaming, for the mill burned to the ground.

Should any reader have a photo of a “Ross carrier,” please contact us, we would love to have a copy of it.

Elida Peers,

Historian

Sooke Region Museum