Santa arrives by helicopter on the roof of Gibson’s Cottage Store in 1958. The Christmas elf was delivered to Sooke by Bruce Payne on his wedding day. (Contributed - Sooke Region Museum)

HISTORY: Santa was special delivery on Bruce Payne’s wedding day

Payne brings the Christmas elf to Sooke before nuptials

Not many people get to deliver Santa Claus on their wedding day, but Bruce Payne did in 1958.

This photo shows Bruce at 11 a.m. on Dec. 13, landing on the roof of Gibson’s Cottage Store. You can see the crowd is standing on Otter Point Road, looking west, and that the peaked roof of Sooke Community Hall rises up behind the store.

This historic store building on the corner of Sooke Road and Otter Point Road was bought by Bob Gibson when he came to Sooke in 1946. Bob’s entrepreneurial nature led him to many innovations in Sooke, such as delighting villagers with this stunt.

MORE HISTORY: Wharf reflected simpler time in Sooke

It was 10:30 am when Bruce met his two passengers at Patricia Bay Airport and boarded them on Vancouver Island Helicopters’ Bell 47. Santa wasn’t alone on this exciting journey – he was accompanied by an attractive dark-haired elf dressed in a red outfit with white fur trim, which assisted him.

When I asked the elf recently who played the role of Santa Claus, she recalled it was one of the Acreman brothers, Reuben, who good-naturedly donned the Santa outfit. In that period, helicopters had only been around for a decade, and this was definitely not your everyday event. The charming elf was Lynda Shepherd, daughter of Ken and Hazel Shepherd. Many will know her today as Lynda Rose.

While his passengers descended from the store roof to carry out their duties, Bruce headed back to the airport and his home to shower and get all dressed up for his 2:30 wedding at St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Oak Bay.

His bride was a girl with a Sooke connection as well, Joan, daughter of Cecil Nicholson and granddaughter of west coast historian and author Maj. George Nicholson.

Joan Payne recalls that the papers took note of the Santa journey and the wedding all on the same day and mainly that the bride and groom cut their cake with a sword which had been given to Maj. Nicholson, who served as master of ceremonies by the King of Belgium.

As Christmas approaches again, 64 years later, Bruce and Joan Payne cherish these memories and their two children, four grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.


Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum. Email

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