When you drive by the shop today where RAZU Welding and Sooke Backhoe have been doing business for 40 years, you probably wouldn’t believe that this was the scene 90 years ago when the garage first opened. No superhighway, that gravel/dirt road!
The garage, Sooke’s first, was built in the mid-1920s, and for almost half a century, brothers Bill and Ken Cains pumped gas (Imperial) out front and repaired vehicles in the pit. Going home for lunch was easy for them, as each brother had built a home on the north side of Sooke Road. The house built by Ken and Jean Cains still stands, now operated as a veterinary clinic, while the house owned by Bill and Irene Cains has been replaced.
Interviewed in 1976, Ken Cains recalled that in those days much improvisation was necessary in repair work. Mostly they devised repairs to faulty parts, rather than purchasing replacements, which became the custom later.
The Cains brothers came by their property naturally, as they were sons of Richard Cains, a Newfoundlander who came to this coast to work in the sealing industry, who in 1896 had married Margaret Charters. She was a daughter of William Bell and Louise Charters, whose pre-emption took up the seafront land from the Sooke River to where Sooke Elementary School is today. I can remember walking to school past the little one-room cottage of Richard (“Poppa Cains,” he was called) on Sooke Road, just west of the garage, out of range of this camera view.
As far as we know, the Red & White Store, still standing at the corner of Church and Sooke, (think Sooke Signs, etc), was next with monkey-wrench services; they had a bay at the rear and gas pumps in front. Out west at the top of Shirley Hill, Ted Banner ran a gas station and service bay in the early 1940s.
When Eric Phillips came to town and bought the burnt out shop at the n/e corner of Sooke and Otter Point Roads, a whole new enterprise was born as the Phillips family established a full service B/A garage in 1946, a property still held by the family.
At about the same time, another B/A service garage was established at the west end of Sooke River bridge, operated for a time by Frank Erickson, and later, by Dick Andreychuk. Again, in that postwar development era, a service garage and pumps were established in Saseenos, when Walter Bickford built alongside the general store his dad had built during WWII.
By the 1950s Rick Long had a service centre going on Otter Point Road where Jason Dumont is today. By the late 1950s Fred Henry had established a Shell dealership at the corner of Maple Avenue and West Coast, where Art Weberg ran the service garage.
Around 1940 motorists could stop for gas at Highway Grocery (corner of Gillespie and Sooke) at Kitching & Hardy’s Store, and at MacMillan’s Store, both on Otter Point Road in central Sooke, and in Jordan River there were Ted Lines’ pumps. This article does not include motorist services established in recent decades; but suffice it to say the industry continues to expand.
Sooke Region Museum