A celebration of the discovery of an old bake oven was held on Sept. 12 with (l to r) Sooke Mayor Wendal Milne

Historical bake oven discovered at Potholes

Bake oven speaks of the flow line and the men who toiled on it

One hundred years ago life was a lot different for the men and women who built this country. Sooke was a place where a lot of things happened, much of it as a support system of sorts for the larger community of Victoria.

Hundreds of men were employed in the building of a concrete flow line for water coming from Sooke Lake and ending up 27 miles away in Victoria. Four foot diameter sections of four foot long sections of concrete pipe were fabricated at Cooper Cove. It took 35,000 sections to bring water to the Goldstream Reservoir. That meant hundreds of hours of often backbreaking labour to get the flow line laid.

It was considered one of the most challenging feats of engineering seen in the province at the time. Twenty-seven miles, 400 men, a railway and numerous field camps along the stretch from the lake to the reservoir was necessary.

Recently one of the bake ovens used by the field camps was discovered in an area around the Sooke Potholes.

The Sooke Region Museum acted on a tip from outdoorsman Ed Earl and found the moss-covered bake oven. The oven itself is made of rock leftover from blasting for the flow line.

On Thursday, September 12, a group of 68 invited guests made the trek to the top of a hill on a plateau where the back oven was discovered. The bake oven was built using no mortar, igloo-style with a smoke hole at top and covered with earth.

Sooke historian Elida Peers, in speaking about the find, said the men who worked along the flow line would be greeted with the smell of fresh baked brown bread when they returned to camp at the end of the day.

Oldtimer Wilf Carter had first contacted the museum historian (Elida Peers) in 1976 to make her aware of a “sister” oven in the woods at the Sooke/Metchosin border. This oven was relocated to the museum and is used at the annual open house to bake biscuits.

On hand for the ‘unveiling’ and ribbon cutting were a number of dignitaries and locals including Juan de Fuca Electoral Area Director Mike Hicks, North Saanich mayor Ted Daly representing CRD Parks, Acting mayor for Langford Lanny Seaton, MLA John Horgan, Sooke Mayor Wendal Milne, and T’Sou-ke representatives Frank Planes, Shirley Alphonse and Larry Underwood.

Mike Hicks congratulated everyone on a “good find,” and Jack Planes stated that they were there to “witness what’s going on.”

The most words came from Ted Daly, who spoke at the site of the bake oven and said, “We have it so easy today, we just turn on a tap… at times I think we’re luck we didn’t live in that era and at other times I feel we missed something.”

Historian Elida Peers spoke of how the oven operated 100  years ago. She attained much of her information from Wilf Carter who lived through that era in Sooke.

The ceremony ended with a lunch which would have been typical for the era, baked beans, brown bread, cheese and water… a fitting repast for those gathered at the historic site.