Christmas at Sheilds Lake

Elida Peers writes about the history of the Sooke region

Christmas squirrel

It’s not often we find a Christmas theme among the 9,000 archival photographs in our collection, but this shot of Harry Vickers’ pet squirrel at Sheilds Lake just seemed to fill the bill. Harry Vickers was a naturalist who in the 1930s and 1940s acted as caretaker for the Alpine Club of Canada and for Claude L Harrison who owned a large tract of land between Harbourview Road and Mt Empress.

When as a youngster I hiked with my family up into those hills and lakes, we looked forward to visiting with Mr. Vickers, if we were lucky enough to encounter him along the trails and lakeshores. His quiet and patient nature and love of wildlife had resulted in a wonderful series of photographs of deer, raccoons, squirrels and birds. For artsy effect, he would patiently arrange to have the small animals photographed alongside a domestic scene, such as a pair of knitting needles half way through knitting a sock. Colour film was not yet available, so he used watercolours to tint his photos.

This image taken in the 1940s was shared with us by Bert Acreman who at that time was driving logging truck for Eric Bernard, who was logging for Harrison. On weekends Bert Acreman would take his wife Annie (the legendary school teacher) and his son John up to the lakes with him for canoeing and picnicking.

For a decade Bernard harvested poles and logs in the Sooke Hills, his truckers hauling down Mt. Shepherd Road and Harbourview Road to dump at Cooper’s Cove. At the museum we have often been asked the question, how come the logging road up into the lake country was paved? It was really simple. Eric Bernard did a lot of industrial hauling on the route, plus weekend trips to the lakes with his wife, so to save wear and tear the road was paved for easier vehicle maintenance.

Many years later, when Mr. Vickers was in a mobile home at Colwood, he allowed me to have his collection copied. I am sure that each of us who had the good fortune to know those hills and trails so well, treasure the memory of the kindly quiet gentleman, Harold Vickers, whose great joy was sharing the beautiful setting with his wildlife friends, and who left us his photographic legacy, celebrating not only summer but winter scenes as well.

 

Elida Peers,

Historian

Sooke Region Museum

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