This 1956 photo of Sooke’s first bank was supplied courtesy of CIBC Archives in Toronto.

SOOKE HISTORY: Sooke’s First Bank, 1956

Sooke’s first bank, what a red-letter day for our little town.

Sooke’s first bank, what a red-letter day for our little town!

The year was 1956 and the Canadian Bank of Commerce had undertaken the business venture of establishing a branch here. It stands at left, in a building shared with an insurance broker.  We’re told the automobile parked in front is a 1954 Buick, and David McClimon recalls that it belonged to Dal Elder.

Before the bank came, many working men were accustomed to cashing their pay cheques at Gibsons’s Cottage Store, centre of photo.  Owner Bob Gibson laid in a supply of cash on Fridays as a convenience to Sooke folk.

If you were standing at the right hand lower corner of this scene today, you would be approximately at the corner of Townsend Road and if you looked straight down the road you would now see the traffic light, Sooke’s first, installed in 1983 at the corner of Otter Point and Sooke Roads. (We thank Linda Gabriel for confirming this date for us.)

In time, of course, a number of changes took place to the bank building, and it amalgamated with the Imperial Bank along the way.

In the very centre of the photo there is a large house, once the home of the Benjamin Acreman family, and probably home to the Olmsteads at the time of photo. This is the corner of Sheilds Road, that leads to the Sooke Community Hall, though the hall can’t be seen in the photo.

Right at that Sheilds corner, of course, today you would see the three-storey Sheilds Business Centre building.  The block running between the Sheilds building and Otter Point Road, is where Cedar Grove Shopping Centre was built.

A house originally built by Eustace Arden stood in this block, later becoming home to the Mandus and Winnie Michelsen family; it’s hidden by the Gibson store, so you can’t see it in the photo.  Eric Phillips and his sons were running the B/A station at the right on the corner.

But back to the bank – which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this month – the first manager was Doug Archibald, who became a community leader, starting off as president of the Sooke/Jordan River Chamber of Commerce.

He was much appreciated for spearheading a fund drive to acquire an ambulance for Sooke. Doug and Jean Archibald raised a son Peter and daughter Jeannette, and built a home on the waterfront way out West Coast Road.

The insurance broker who shared the building initially with the bank was Walter Conder, and shortly thereafter, as the bank expanded, Doug Hedges took over the Conder insurance business.

An interesting note is that first bank manager Doug Archibald’s son Peter married his high school sweetheart Anne, daughter of Bob and Julia Gibson who owned the Gibson’s Cottage store, and the couple have lived in Coquitlam for many years.

•••

Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.