Pontoon bridge helped bring spectators to All Sooke Days.

SOOKE HISTORY: Bridge across the river

Many of the All Sooke Days organizers were loggers, and were used to finding solutions, in this case building a temporary bridge.

Back in the days when All Sooke Day was Sooke’s highlight event, attracting many thousands to the July celebration each year, organizers often found ingenious ways to meet the challenges.

It seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same, and in 1963 it was parking, like today’s parking issues in Sooke, that caused concern.

In 1963 there were no SEAPARC arena, and no Sooke Region Museum; the areas where they became established in the 1970s, were at that time forested.

While buses brought load after load of visitors out of Victoria for All Sooke Day, and shuttle busing took place locally, there were still a lot of cars to park. Newspaper accounts record 10,000 visitors to the one-day event that year.

Let’s face it, many of the Sooke Community Association organizers were loggers, and generally they are used to finding solutions, creating access roads and bridges, so that’s what they did here.

They approached Fred Milne, owner of the Milne farm, in the 1950s. He agreed they could create a temporary road down the hill from Sooke River Road, and park cars on his fields. The footbridge for visitors to reach the Sooke Flats on the west side of the river was laid on barges at first, and by 1963, it was a pontoon bridge, as in the photo, which was removed after each season.

So vehicles approaching the All Sooke Day celebrations were directed up Sooke River Road. You can barely discern the hundreds of cars in the background of this photo which was shot from the west side of the river.

In the 1960s All Sooke Day hosted the International Roleo Log Birling events, and that year Ardy Wickheim was the birling winner.

Winner of the tree chopping was Alan Woodrow, winner of the bucking was Hugh McKenzie, winner of the square timber chopping was Marshall Smith, and Ron Pappenberger took one of the high rigging prizes. And the winner of the baby contest for Best Sooke Baby that year was our own Elden Smith (the burly guy who runs Crab Shack).

Not only do we hear about parking problems today, but also there are many comments about needing another bridge to cross the Sooke River – one can imagine that today’s power people would be glad if the issue was as simple as it was in the summer of 1963.

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Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.