SOOKE HISTORY: Girl Guides on the Beach

It’s unclear whether this particular photo was taken in 1926 or 1927.

It’s a small world, and so great that we all reach out to help each other.

This photo was in the hands of dentist Chris Bryant, when he flagged me down on the street – he is a man who loves collecting history. Next thing, we circulated copies of the photo among a group of knowledgeable fellows in the community to try to figure out its location.

By chance we had recently made the acquaintance of Teresa Howden, a Girl Guide leader connected to Camp Jubilee at Kirby Creek and so we asked her for help. The back of the photo is inscribed “With Christmas greetings to Miss Kidd from the Lady Douglas Co. Victoria B.C.”

Teresa reached to her archival contact, Joan Ruskowski, and confirmed there was indeed a Lady Douglas Guide Company in Victoria – kind of neat to think the Company would be named to honour the wife of Sir James Douglas.

It’s unclear whether this particular photo was taken in 1926 or 1927 and whether the campers were from Lady Douglas or from 4th Gonzales Company.

Guiding records show that the usual Girl Guide camp visit to Sooke Flats was diverted that year because of fire hazard and this camp was situated near the beach at the western end of Sooke Basin.

This camp would have been reached via Kaltasin Road, and would be just south of the site of today’s Beachcomber Apartments. Just a few years after this photo, a beachfront area on the Basin close by was secured by a philanthropy, and the Fred Landsberg Sunshine Camp was established to host summer visits of less-privileged city folk for two-week stints.

While Douglas-fir (and possibly spruce?) backdrop this scene, and the salt flats are seen in the foreground, the bell tents sheltered the young Girl Guides from Victoria on their Sooke adventure.

Because the beach itself was rampant with barnacles, rubber or canvas footwear was needed to traverse the route to where the salt water was deep enough for swimming. Incidentally, for those who haven’t tried, salt water tends to keep beginners afloat much easier than fresh water.

Sooke’s own Girl Guide organization was initiated in 1921 by Kathleen Wright (later Madsen) daughter of Frances Wright for whom Wright Road was named.

Many Sooke women have taken turns as Guiders and Brownie leaders over the years, with the current local Harbours District Girl Guide Co-Commissioner roles filled by Rebecca (Wilford) Sutherland and Jill Wark.

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Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.