Nowadays I’m sure we all feel a little disappointed that because of changing times, All Sooke Day no longer leads our community celebrations, but in its glory days it brought fame and pride to Sooke in abundance.
Begun in 1934 as the annual celebration of the Progress of Sooke, it soon became All Sooke Day and attracted visitors here in the thousands. Standing timber chop, bucking, springboard chop, axe throwing, climbing, log birling, peavey log-rolling, chokermen’s race and much more, the day was a whirl of excitement.
Sooke loggers threw their burly muscles into gear against competitors from around the world that traveled the international circuit vying for Canadian and World Championship titles. This scene showing the logging sports arena in 1985 came to the museum from Jan Farquhar, one of the many loyal fans supporting the big event. In my memory, the largest crowd on the Flats ran to 13,000.
While we can’t pick him out in the photo, the announcer here was Bob Waters, a transplanted Aussie who made Sooke his home after World War II and made the Sooke Community Association his passion. The year before this photo was the 50th anniversary of the event, and the Sooke Region Museum teamed up with a lot of sponsors to produce a movie documenting the spectacular tradition. Now in video format, it can be seen at the museum.
Good thing we made the film (Sheila Whincup did a great job as director), as the tradition is now gone, with the 2002 All Sooke Day becoming the swan song for the extra-ordinary logging sports teams that truly put Sooke on the map. It took hundreds of volunteers to put the gigantic show together and to produce enough succulent salmon and traditional Leechtown beef to feed the hungry hordes as well.
Eying up the two 80-foot climbing poles in the photo, just imagine the heart-stopping thrill of watching a climber buckled into his belt and spurs, running up the tree, clanging the bell at the top and descending again so quickly his spurs barely touched the pole. For myself, I remember watching each year and scarcely breathing until the climber was safely down again. There were times that an ambulance was needed.
Our Ed Johnson of Sooke became the World Champion, running up the pole and back down again in the unbelievable time of under 30 seconds!
Elida Peers, Historian
Sooke Region Museum