What a shock it would have been for Eric and Jean Michelsen, the couple whose vision and energy created Broome Hill Golf Course, had they been here to know of the raging fire that engulfed the clubhouse on Otter Point Road last week.
While different names have been used for the place in recent decades, the Michelsens made it into a hub for both golfing and social activities for the entire region.
The first photo here (1948) shows the bungalow that formed the basis for the clubhouse developed by the Michelsens.
Owned by George and Gladys Waide at that time, it already had a history, as it had originated as a cabin built by Tom Hynds at the turn of the century. One story tells us that at a gathering of local bachelors, the homebrew they shared was so potent they all had to roll out the blankets and sleep it off. Readers will recognize the participating bachelor names of Pascoe and King, as they are remembered by local road names today.
From owner Hynds to owner George Cook to the Waides, it was a subsistence farm. Yorkshireman George Waide added another room to accommodate the granddaughter they raised, Faith (Osborne) Jacobsen. The latter was to become well known to many Sooke folk.
With the advent of the Second World War, which saw many army personnel stationed in our area, George Waide had another idea. He decided to try a nine-hole golf course, mainly hoping to attract the Otter Point Army Training Camp officers. The golf course idea seemed to be a good one, but probably before its time, and soon a sign was found on the gate: “Requiescat in Pace.”
Additions to the structure were made by carpenters Pete Wilson and Chris Baker, with the place passing to the Joe Jackmans.
In 1951, fisher Mac Comeau bought the property and built a schooner on site. While the Comeaus continued farming, in 1959, they sold to Eric and Jean Michelsen, and that’s when expansive and exciting changes began to happen.
When Eric Michelsen, his roots in the longtime Poirier family, came back from the war, he joined Royal Colwood Golf Club, becoming an ardent golfer.
Not one to let the grass grow under his feet, he decided to create his golf course, utilizing the property on both sides of Otter Point Road. Eric was married to a woman ideally suited to help him accomplish his dream.
Jean, who had lost her first husband in the war, was a Murchison from Galiano Island and was an aunt to Iona Campagnolo, former lieutenant-governor of B.C.
A hard worker, Jean had a warm, welcoming personality and began hostessing activities in the expanded clubhouse, which was enlarged to include a commercial kitchen, a lounge and a dance floor. On the lower floor of the clubhouse, a pro shop took shape along with a coffee shop and more, illustrated by the 1985 photo.
This all happened before the changes in provincial regulations began to allow the profusion of liquor licenses available today. It was quite a celebration when the clubhouse was officially opened with a liquor license in 1966. Innumerable golfing events took place, with many Sooke folks becoming dedicated golfers and attracting others from afar. Additional to the sport, the place became Sooke’s foremost social centre as well. I was thankful that my daughters got high school jobs with Jean, allowing them to learn from a master.
Up and working before dawn, the couple provided community leadership, with Jean Michelsen acting for many years as Akela for the Sooke Cub Pack. Eric served as president of Sooke Community Association, was a leader in the chamber of commerce, and supported youth activities. It was a sad time when Eric suddenly died in 1973. The Sooke Community Association remembers him with a bursary presented each year at Edward Milne Community School.
Jean carried on the Broome Hill Golf and Country Club management until others took it over in 1979. More recent owners were the Swinburnson family, who operated a restaurant called Windjammers. The restaurant facility was leased out as Mulligans and became a popular gathering place serving the community. Other offices were established below the stairs.
Sadly, during the Swinburnson time, a tragic accident on the grounds led to the property renaming as a memorial to John Phillips. In recent years, many changes have taken place on the golf course property through business decisions, political decisions, and a covenant.
The construction of Sooke 1966 Firehall No 1, named for W.J. Stephenson, which was expanded to include the CRD offices, was built on a northwestern section of the golf course land, many yards away from the building burned last week.
In 1999, after a successful incorporation vote, the imposing new structure designed by Jim Merrill began its life as our District of Sooke municipal building.
Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.